June 4, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
The Trinity: Unity in Diversity
The concept of the Holy Trinity is hard for even the most academic of theologians, but this simple priest does love a challenge. Actually, the best expression I have ever done was with the help of 12 Sunday School children who made a circle that was constantly moving that broke up into three smaller circles and then made the larger circle again and then became three again but with different children in the smaller ones, all while constantly moving in relationship with one another. They were brilliant.
The church fathers took several centuries to work out a “reasonable acceptable” way to express the complex relation of Father, Son, and Spirit. The almost complete concept of the Trinity was announced in the year 381 in Constantinople. God is one being in three equal and consubstantial persons. That must have been hard for the 1st century Jewish Christians who had struggled to accept an uncompromising monotheistic God. Later Christians worshiped – as we worship – one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity. The term Trinity is from the Latin tri, “three,” and unitas, “unity.” Tertullian devised the term to express the mystery of the unity-in-diversity…
We still baptize in the name of the Trinity, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We cannot see the Trinity without seeing all three persons of God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is three in one. There are not three Gods, but different forms of the same thing. The three persons are not the same. And yet God is fully present in each of the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
We acknowledge the Trinity when we affirm out faith using the words of the Nicene Creed. We believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty… We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God… We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified … How we understand the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son is a newish way of expressing the Spirit.
I think the children had it right! The Holy Trinity is all about relationships – the relationship of the three persons of God that are all actively moving and working together to accomplish God’s work. The Trinity unites us in the work we do. As the community of St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea we come from different places with different points of view. And from our different perspectives we have forged a church with a nearly laser focused outreach ministry. Is working in the Blue Door for everyone? Hardly. There are many other ministries that keep this church alive. Together we make our church work, not in spite of our differences but because of them. The Trinity unites us in all our beautiful diversity to be the hands of the Trinitarian God.
 As the Episcopal Church glossary defines the Holy Trinity. See https://www.episcopalchurch.org/glossary/trinity.
 Tertullian was a prolific early Christian author (155 – 220 AD) from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He was the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature.
May 21, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
When we see someone waiting for the Lord, praying to the Lord, giving God that precious moment, do we think that they are just wasting time? The remaining eleven disciples and the other followers – which included many women – went back to the upper room to wait as Jesus had told them. They waited and prayed and experienced true joy. They were still. They did not argue, they did not pour over the details of the last week, they did not cry, they did not lose patience, they simply waited as Jesus had told them. They waited for power to come upon them. They prepared for that power – for the Holy Spirit – to come.
There is a time to wait on God and a time to work for God. The waiting is a time of preparation to be able to do God’s work. Without preparation, our work will fail. Often we are overwhelmed as we wait, like the mother that poet Fay Inchfawn writes about:
I wrestle–how I wrestle!–through the hours.
Nay, not with principalities and powers–
Dark spiritual foes of God’s and man’s–
But with antagonistic pots and pans;
With footmarks on the hall,
With smears upon the wall,
With doubtful ears and small unwashen hands,
And with a babe’s innumerable demands.
And then this mother lays aside her work to just to be with God. She gives God her time.
With leisured feet and idle hands, I sat.
I, foolish, fussy, blind as any bat,
Sat down to listen, and to learn. And lo,
My thousand tasks were done the better so.
So we wait, we wait for Jesus to come, where Mrs. Ward suggests we wait not just for him in church, in the communion bread, but at home where he is a guest at our table:
Sometimes, when everything goes wrong;
When days are short and nights are long;
When wash-day brings so dull a sky
That not a single thing will dry.
And when the kitchen chimney smokes,…
When friends deplore my faded youth,
And when the baby cuts a tooth….
And butcher’s man forgets to come.
Sometimes I say on days like these,
I get a sudden gleam of bliss.
Not on some sunny day of ease,
He’ll come … but on a day like this!
, 2, 3 Inspired by William Barclay on Luke 24, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsh/
luke 24.html and his favorite poet Fay Inchfawn ( the pen name of Mrs Elizabeth Rebecca Ward, the late 19th century British author and poet who was called “The Poet Laureate of the Home”)
April 16, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
We are resurrection people, and yet I invite us all to doubt – and to doubt boldly! Disbelief and doubt are part of the Easter experience. Yes, we celebrate and embrace Easter with joy, and we hope for the resurrection we have been assured of by our Lord Jesus’s putting an end to death. We trust the promise of eternal life by Jesus being raised from the dead. But we must also doubt; we must embrace our disbelief. Easter holds life and death in one hand. And if we are honest, we hold the mystery of the resurrection – the doubt or disbelief – along with the joy of our Lord’s return. I am certain that the disciples doubted – and not just Thomas. Jesus did not condemn his disciples and followers for doubting.
Have you ever wondered why no one – not one of the disciples – said to our Lord: “Welcome back – welcome home!” or “Jesus, you came back as promised!”? Have any of us wondered why none of them rejoiced with an “Alleluia! Woo Hoo, he did it!” None of Jesus’s followers were reported to have said: “We knew it all along.” My friends, I think that they were all doubters. If they were honest they might have expressed their fears and doubts. Could it be that Thomas was just the most honest of all the disciples? Thomas was not there when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples. Could it be that he was the only one brave enough to go out to get provisions – to get food – for his friends? And yet Thomas was expected to believe without having seen. And he demanded: “Show me the evidence!” So the next week when the community of Jesus’s followers were still gathered in a room all to themselves, our Lord appeared again and encouraged Thomas saying: “Do not doubt but believe.” And upon seeing, Thomas then made the most complete affirmation of faith of anyone in the gospel: “My Lord and my God!” Since Thomas’s declaration, the faith of all Christians –in all ages – has rested on the testimony of the first believers. Thomas’s eyewitness account and his expression of faith was intended to help those who were not witnesses of Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension– and to help us – to “come to believe” and thus “have life in Jesus’s name” – have eternal life.
Our Lord said: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” This was not so much a rebuke of Thomas as it was a confirmation of Thomas’s faith. Jesus spoke these words in the Gospel according to John to the community of believers who – just like us – were doubters. This was a blessing to all who had come – and all who in the centuries since have come – to believe even though they had not had the benefit of direct experience being with Jesus after he was raised from the dead. Yes, seeing is believing. But blessed are those who believe even though they had not seen. This blessing transcends the generations from John’s community to our time.
I find it liberating that we don’t have to have all the answers to be faithful – we can have doubts and still come to church and worship God. Doubting allows us to explore what we believe. Aren’t we all trying to figure out what it is we believe? Well, together we can come to a better understanding of our faith. We can hold the joy and triumph of Easter in a delicate balance with our fear and our unbelief. And as resurrection people let us bear our doubts lightly as we share our faith with others.
March 19, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
The fourth Sunday of Lent is unique; it is a break in an otherwise penitential season. The vestments for this day can be rose, just as they are on the third Sunday in Advent. Today we have flowers instead of dried arrangements draped with Spanish moss (Thank you, Jim Cooper!). Today is called Laetare Sunday (meaning Sunday of joy) or Rose Sunday or Refreshment Sunday. In Great Britain the 4th Sunday of Lent is also called Mothering Sunday.
In the secular world in the United Kingdom and many other countries this Sunday is a celebration of motherhood. It is synonymous with our Mother’s Day. In Roman times there was a festival held in honor of the mother goddess Cybele. When the Roman Empire and Europe converted to Christianity, this celebration became part of the liturgical calendar as Laetare Sunday. So the 4th Sunday in Lent came to be a time to honor the Virgin Mary and the mother church. In times past young women who had left home would get the day off so that they could return to their family, to their mother. And in the church British people would return to their church home, to their mother church. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those who have left the parish and gone to take jobs elsewhere or moved away or just left for any reason – if they would return on Mothering Sunday? Many churches have reunion Sundays. A perfect day to plan such an event would be Mothering Sunday, maybe next year. For today let’s go
“a-mothering.” I particularly like Mothering Sunday, not because I have ties to England – that would be my husband Jim, descended from Sir John Popham of Littlecote, Lord Chief Justice of England. No, my fondness comes from the inclusiveness of Mothering Sunday. I have been mothered not just by my mother. ‘Mothering’ comes from caregivers, husbands and wives, nurses and doctors, parents, aunts and uncles, even from parishioners – all those who provide loving, nurturing care as if they were our mothers. These are the people we should remember today, people like my grandmother Jesse who mothered me, reading me the great stories of the Bible and my father who taught me by example that on Sundays we visited people who could not get out to church. Today let us remember someone who has cared for an injured or elderly person, those people who have needed mothering in its truest sense. And let us remember the best mother-er of all, our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer for this Sunday: Laetare Jerusalem! Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all who love freedom. Rejoice, we who have been in sorrow, may we be filled with consolation. May your Holy Scriptures enlighten us and enliven our lives. May we see where our story connects with the great story of the Bible told to us by one who mothered us. And may we mother others using your Holy Word. Amen.
February 19, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
This Sunday we again hear of our Lord Jesus Christ being transformed up on the mountain with some of his closest friends standing in awe. Jesus was transformed; God-light shone through him. Peter (and James and John) did not want that moment to end; they wanted to be with Jesus in that dazzling moment forever. Peter wanted to build three dwellings for the great prophets, Moses and Elijah and Jesus. Peter would have made booths for them to live in on that mountain. Peter (and the Zebedee brothers) wanted to put Jesus in a box.
Do we want to put God in a box? Wouldn’t it be easier to have God be here in a box at church for us to visit once a week each Sunday? Or do we want to be transformed so that we can take Jesus, take God, with us to help transform the world outside our doors?
This week we must come down from the mountain. In our liturgical calendar this Wednesday we will enter the desert. We will be transformed from being filled with the light of Epiphany season to wearing ashes as we begin our journey through Lent. But we can take the transfiguration with us on the path, walking together. As we travel, we have the opportunity to reveal God to others just as Jesus did. We repent of our sins and short-comings, yes, but we can model repentance to one another and people outside our “box.” In so doing we can help heal our little corner of the world as Jesus did. God can and will transform us all.
February 5, 2023
Salt and light transform our world in many ways. In the Gospel according to Matthew we hear that we are salt and light, and we all seek transformation through them. But more importantly, we are to be salt and light to our world and to be a transforming force for others. When people see St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea, when others encounter us –they should catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. They should see how the world might be transformed by our faith here in this particular corner of the world. Our mission is not to be a blessing to just our family, or our fellow parishioners here in this place, or be a blessing to the people of Destin. Rather we are called to be salt and light to the ends of the earth.
We are salt. We are light. We are called to give the world flavor – to bring out God flavors in the world. And we are called to be windows to allow God’s light to shine through us. We are to be faithful to living our mission to evangelize. Yes, we all are human, and we make missteps. But being faithful in this life is more about trying than about being successful. Yes, we sometimes get frustrated and become discontented. But it is our failures and our discontent that keeps us from being stuck in one place – that keep us seeking a remedy to our problems. Our discontent can be a powerful engine for transformation, so that through us the world can be transformed – one person at a time.
Do you know who Albert McMakin was? Would you be surprised to know that he was one of the most influential people in Christianity in the 20th century? Through the salt and light of Albert, literally millions of people have heard the good news of Christ all across the world. In 1934, in Charlotte, NC, there was a 17-year-old boy who’d been invited to a local revival by a friend of his. This boy resisted invitation after invitation, and finally agreed to attend, but only if his friend would let him drive his new truck. The friend agreed, so this boy drove the truck to the next meeting. When he got there, he stood in the back of the revival tent, listening to what the preacher was saying. And he was spellbound. Night after night, he went back to that revival and listened, until the last night, when that 17-year-old boy decided to give his life to serving Christ. That boy went on to speak in person – to be salt and light – to over 2 hundred million people telling them what Christ had done in his life.
That 17-year-old boy was Billy Graham. We all have heard of Billy Graham. But who’s heard of Albert McMakin? Well, Albert was the friend who extended invitation after invitation to Billy Graham, and let Billy drive his truck, so that Billy could hear God’s word for the first time. If it hadn’t been for Albert’s persistence, and patience – and his generosity with the keys to his truck – if it hadn’t been for Albert’s salt and light – Billy Graham may have never become a Christian.
We can’t all be Billy Grahams. But we can be Albert McMakins. Most of us arrived at our faith because someone told someone who told someone who told us? That’s the way it’s been working for 2000 years, and now we are bearers of the light who pass it on to others – now we are the salt that makes others thirsty for the Word of God as revealed in Jesus the Christ. Now we are to be faithful and live into who Jesus says we already are – the transforming salt of the earth and light of the world starting right now, right here – and reaching out to the world.
January 22, 2023
Years ago I got a phone call from Stacy, our first child, the first to go off to college. We spoke nearly every day that first semester, and one night she talked about her faith in a conversation I have never forgotten. She said, ‘You know, Mom, my new friends here in the dorm are away from home, away from family and friends, most of them for the first time in their lives, and they don’t know that God loves them. They don’t know the light of Christ. They are all alone here at school.’ She could not imagine not knowing that she was loved, by family and friends, and by God. She could not imagine being that lost, not knowing God’s love, not knowing the power of God’s love.
Is there anything more powerful than light breaking through the darkness?
Isaiah prophesied to those who had suffered oppression during the Assyrian invasion. They were in a state of deep darkness, and Isaiah promised that they would see a great light, that light would shine on them. people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. And in the Gospel according to Matthew, here came Jesus, walking the road that ran from Damascas to the Mediterranean Sea that passed Sea of Galilee – the very same route that the Jewish exiles had taken after being conquered by the Assyrians. The light of the world came walking down this same road and called fishermen to fish for people. Andrew and Peter and the Zebedee brother, James and John knew they were hooked from the moment that Jesus called them; they knew the power of God’s love by the light of Jesus.
The Gospel according to Matthew has always been thought to be written almost entirely to the Jewish Christians. However, when it was written half the people of Galilee were Gentile. They were bilingual, speaking both Greek and Aramaic. So Jesus’s ministry to bring God’s people from darkness to light was foretold not only by the Prophet but also by Matthew. Indeed, Jesus’s ministry initially was to Jews. Were we to finish reading the last two verses of chapter four, we would hear that Jesus’s light spread throughout all of Syria and he taught and cured from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (The Decapolis was a federation of ten cities of Hellenistic culture, nine of them east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. They were Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadera, Hippos, Dion, Gerasa, and Canatha.) They were all attracted by God’s power of love through the light of the man Jesus.
At the time that Stacy went off to college and called to express her concern about her peers not knowing the power of God’s love, our family (from the 90+ year old in our household down to the youngest of our five) played Trivial Pursuit. The movie Back to the Future had made Huey Lewis and the News’ song “The Power of Love” popular. Til now if I don’t know the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question I give my stock answer: “Huey Lewis and the News.”
The power of love is a curious thing
makes one man weep, makes another man sing
Changes a hawk to a little white dove
…that’s the power of love.
The four fishermen were drawn by the power of God’s love they knew through Jesus, a love that still can make us weep, can make us sing. It can change a hawk into a dove. That is the power of love, the power of God’s love as revealed by the light of Christ.
January 8, 2023
Just a few days after Christmas and the sleigh being pulled by porpoises and another led by flamingoes have been packed away until next year. Our favorite Santa dancing in a hula skirt is gone. Mary and Joseph have taken baby Jesus to the synagogue by now even though several manger scenes are still lighted, but for how long? The extended Christmas shopping season that began last October is long over since many have already exchanged the gifts received for something more suitable. Usually, we Episcopalians live into the 12 days of Christmas and hold off stripping the church and our homes of the visible signs of Christmas. But what of our hearts?
For many years I had a lovely reproduction of a colonial Christmas poem that I would display prominently somewhere in our home. It read:
When New Year’s Day is past and gone;
Christmas is with some people gone;
But further some will it extend,
And at Twelfth Day their Christmas end.
Some people stretch it further yet,
At Candlemas they finish it.
The Gentry carry it further still
And finish it just when they will;
They drink good wine and eat good Cheer
And keep their Christmas all the year.
Howard Thurman’s poem is better yet:
When the song of the angel is still,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their sheep,
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among people,
to make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman was an honorary Canon of the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City and Dean of Theology and Chaplain at Howard University and Boston University for two decades. He traveled the globe as a Christian missionary and met with world leaders. When he met with Gandhi and asked him what message he should take back to North America, Gandhi said that he regretted not having made nonviolence more visible as a practice worldwide and suggested some American black men would succeed where he had failed. Dr. Thurman served as spiritual director for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
December 11, 2022
The Message Bible is a unique translation by Eugene Peterson, a well-known academic and respected theologian whose commentaries are very useful, particularly in that they set the common vernacular of our times. When using his Bible for study we need to remember that it is his perspective and his alone that is reflected in The Message Bible.
The Magnificat is Mary’s words said when visiting her cousin Elizabeth. Imagine with me a very young woman who has answered God’s calling to bear God’s son. Mary described her predicament to Elizabeth. She had had a few months to live into what God was doing through her.
The Magnificat is used as a responsive canticle in the daily offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Often it is sung lyrically in plainsong. The canticle is directly out of the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 1, verses 46-55.
And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, her cousin and dearest friend Elizabeth was six months pregnant with a son, John the Baptist. Immediately after Mary said yes, she would do as God asked of her, she went to see Elizabeth. And as Mary entered her home Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb. She recognized how blessed Mary was. They both were blessed and full of grace. And that is when Mary spoke the words that Peterson translated as: “I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.” In our New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Mary says: “My souls magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Indeed the two dear friends spent three months rejoicing at their good fortune of carrying baby boys. They rejoiced and praised God. They knew their babies were especially blessed, but they could not have known that their sons would be such profound instruments of salvation!
November 27, 2022
The annual visitation of Bishop Russell is the highlight of the celebration of our patronal feast at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea this first Sunday of Advent. This Sunday is the confluence of many other reasons to celebrate. It is the first Sunday of the new Church year, the first Sunday of Advent, the first rite of Reception and Reaffirmation since Jim and I came to be your priests, the first Sunday after the conclusion of our “More Than Enough” stewardship program for the Year of the Lord 2023, and colloquial birthday celebration of all November birthdays, and the day we remember St. Andrew’s Day which is November 30th.
Most biographical notes on this Apostle begin “Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother” as he is described in the Gospels. Identifying Andrew as Peter’s brother makes it easy to know who he is, but it also makes it easy to overlook the fact of Andrew’s special gift to the company of Christ’s followers. The Gospel according to John tells how Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, was one of two disciples who followed Jesus after the Baptizer had pointed him out, saying of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Andrew and the other disciple went with Jesus and stayed with him. Andrew’s first act afterward was to find his brother and bring him to Jesus. We might call Andrew the first missionary in the company of disciples.
I have always seen Andrew as the youngest of the closest of Jesus’s disciples. He epitomizes the definition of an apostle, as one who is sent. He was sent to gather more fishermen to be taught how to fish for people to follow Jesus. He was sent to go to find food among the thousands gathered to hear our Lord. Andrew found the boy with the two fishes and five small loaves of bread. And after Jesus took and blessed and broke the bread, Andrew helped with the sharing with the multitude. He helped distribute food to the hungry crowd. In my sanctified imagination, I see I see him encouraging those in the crowd to add their lunch to the basket, with the result being that all were fed well and many baskets of food being leftovers.
Though Andrew was not a part of the inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, and John), he is always named in the list of disciples, and appears prominently in several incidents. Andrew and Peter were fishermen, and Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus calling them from their work in their boat and their immediate response to his call. We hear little of Andrew as a prominent leader; he seems always to be in the shadow of Peter. Eusebius, the Church historian, records his going to Scythia, but there is no reliable information about the end of his life. Tradition has it that he was fastened to an X-shaped cross and suffered death at the hands of angry pagans.
Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. November 30th is the day the church commemorates Saint Andrew, our patron saint. You may notice that my stole for this Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, is a traditional blue plaid; this particular one is the tartan of the Lord of St. Andrew in Scotland. I ordered a number of yards of the wool from Scotland years ago while serving at my first church, St. Andrew’s in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. I made three stoles of that lovely wool plaid, one for the church, one for the retired priest there, and one for me. I am proud to wear it this Sunday to honor Saint Andrew. To be good stewards of time this Sunday, we are not doing the “Kirkin’ of the Tartans” (Blessing of the Tartans), and we have no bagpipes. Sigh.
November 6, 2022
On All Saints a few years ago on the occasion of the Installation our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who often calls us the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, reminded us that in the midst of struggles and confusion that “God has not given up on the world, and God isn’t finished with The Episcopal Church yet. We are the Jesus Movement. So don’t worry; be happy!” as jazz musician Bobby McFerrin and reggae Bob Marley both sang.
Jim and I were blessed to be there at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on that momentous day. We all had such hope that we were on the precipice of a new world.
We may be discouraged and disappointed and down-right apprehensive about our country these days, but we need to remember The Beatitudes that are always read for the Feast of All Saints. What the world called pitiful, Jesus called blessed, turning conventional wisdom upside down. He was always turning 1st century world and lives – even our lives in this 21st century – upside down, which is really right side up. And that should give us hope this November.
The Reading from the New Testament that All Saints Day was from the Revelation to John:
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.
Bishop Curry reminded us that we need to envision a world where there would be:
No more war.
No more suffering.
No more injustice.
No more bigotry.
No more violence.
No more hatred.
Instead the world would be governed by:
The rule of love.
The way of God.
The Kingdom of God.
The realm of God.
The great Shalom.
The dream of God for us and all people is that love – the love of God and the love of neighbor – will conquer all. Everything hangs on those two realities. We have hope because the Jesus Movement is alive. And we are the Episcopal branch of that movement.
God has not given up on the world.
And God is not finished with the Episcopal Church.
Don’t worry. Be happy.
(Many thanks to the PB for inspiration this All Saints Day and every day.)
October 23, 2022
The Feast of St. Luke was last Tuesday, October 18th. A young man of 17 [David Schwab] spoke of the of the miracles of modern medical technology “Computers, Mom, they’re doing God’s work! They’re not Jesus, Mom, but they’re doing God’s work.” In response, his mom [Betty Lynn Schwab] wrote this:
“Healing in Our Computer Age”
Surprising, life-giving God,
when Jesus walked among us
he cured the lame
made the blind to see
healed the wounded
and ended epileptic seizures in the young.
Today in Britain, a brilliant physicist writes and talks with a speech synthesizer.
Today in America a computer bypasses the optic nerve and eye and a blind teenager sees.
Today in Canada microsurgery repairs a fetal hernia before a baby boy’s birth into our world.
Today around the world focused radiation shrinks tumors
medical imaging reveals it’s just a cyst
an implanted electrode enables the brain-injured to walk
and delicate robotic surgery repairs an elderly man’s heart
with a piece of vein from his own leg.
Ours is not a perfect world.
Risk is part of every choice and act.
Not all tumors shrink.
A solution is found too late.
Life support must be shut off.
Unforeseen damage comes.
Yet we have much for which to give you thanks and praise:
our growing knowledge of the human body,
computer technology increasingly able to restore and give back life,
medical science pushing back frontiers of disease,
new medical procedures,
successful new drugs,
dedicated nurses, technicians, and doctors,
patients willing to try,
people living in hope,
people working hard.
Like Lazarus and the kneeling leper,
like the centurion’s servant and Tabitha,
we bow in gratitude before you.
Surprising, life-giving God, we pray for your Wisdom and your help:
help us in our sickness and our health,
in our living and our dying;
inspire those working on our frontiers.
Guide us all in all our hopes and fears.
May your vision of a healing world be born.
In the name of the One who healed
And whose Spirit heals today, Jesus Christ.
October 9, 2022
I carry a spent red plastic 12 gauge shotgun shell in the console of our RAV4. I picked it up from the ground right under my brother’s deer stand in Louisiana. It was from the last deer he shot the hunting season before he died. Sonny had a rare disease that caused disfigurement of his face. The tumor invaded all of his head, and, in spite of treatments and surgery we knew that eventually critical nerves and blood supply would be compromised and that would cause his death. Sitting in his yard talking about his boys, about our dad, about life and death, he told me that he had stopped going to church. Sonny was a strong Christian. He believed in miracles. He knew that he was being healed, just in a different way than we all wanted. Sonny stopped going to church not because of a crisis of faith, but because he was afraid his appearance would scare the children. He became a self-imposed social outcast.
In ancient times leprosy could cover all sorts of skin afflictions including seriously disfiguring disorders and simple psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, not only what we today call leprosy or Hansen’s disease. But those who had what was originally called leprosy were outcasts, unclean, those who wore bells to alert people to keep their distance, people on the margins, the ones who begged for help – but always just out of reach – and out of mind – of those who entered the beautiful gates of the holy city of Jerusalem.
Hawai’i established isolation settlements as early as 1865 in an attempt to control the spread of leprosy. People were relocated to Moloka’i. They became lost; many still suffer broken connections with their families and communities. In 1894 the Louisiana Leper Home was established in an abandoned sugar plantation on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in Carrville, Louisiana. Many entered the gates under mandatory quarantine and never left the hospital again. Effective medications existed since the 1940’s, so isolating people with this disease in “leper colonies” is not needed. But some people who suffered from leprosy choose not to return to society. There are a few elderly former leprosy patients who remain in the leper colonies in Hawaii. The facility in Carrville, Louisiana, is still open for patients who want to remain even though mandatory quarantine ceased to be law in the late 1950’s
With proper diagnosis Hansen’s disease – leprosy – can be cured. And with early treatment it is not even contagious, although real leprosy never was highly contagious. 95% of people are naturally immune to leprosy. And on average, the cost to bring about the cure and the necessary after-cure treatment to one person affected by leprosy is only $350. This covers education, distribution of medication, ongoing support, including necessary surgery, rehabilitation, vocational training and assistance in community reintegration. But reintegration into society is not always possible. Once a person has been marked a social outcast, how can he or she again become part of a community that rejected them? Just by interacting with the ten lepers Jesus risked making himself ritually impure. Yet Jesus chose to become like the leper. He chose to be part of the socially outcast. He chose to be like my brother Sonny. Jesus can and does take on all our maladies, all of our sins, and he cures us. But we have to humble ourselves. We have to reach out and ask. Can we figuratively kneel before Jesus and beg to be healed? Do we even want to be healed?
September 25, 2022
Remember the story of the widow who was gathering wood to cook the last bit of her stores for herself and her son before they were going to lie down and die of starvation? Elijah happens upon her and asks her to cook him some bread. He gives her the promise of never-empty jars of oil and flour. But first the widow must take the risk. (See I Kings 17:10-16.)
When faced with diminished resources (like after damage from a hurricane or the restrictions of COVID) what do we at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea do? We get creative. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We stretch our funds to sustain our services and outreach ministries to feed and clothe the hungry and provide bikes for those without transportation and keep up the air conditioners and pay our staff and our bills, all with Vestry approval. Our Vestry has taken necessary steps so that we had enough. Indeed, we have had more than enough. Our Blue Door Ministry has expanded reaching more and more clients in the last two years and recently has added more care for our brothers and sisters. During COVID our Bike Ministry was able to provide for the needs of so many with what we had and could repair. God has been good to us. We have seen an abundance of goods and volunteers, enough to sustain the church and her ministries, and more than enough to share. But first we had to take a risk. We had to trust God to provide enough. And God has given us more than enough!
Trusting in God to continue to bless us, where do we go from here? The first draft of the 2023 Budget is being prepared. It will be approved by the Vestry and presented to the congregation at our Annual Meeting of the Parish on December 11th. Our “Next Steps” that came out of 20 weeks of intentional listening to the Holy Spirit and each other during the “Listen and Hear. Hear and Listen” discernment. The “Next Steps” that came directly from all of us, have been shared with the entire congregation twice recently, but I include them again here:
- The vestry will provide a detailed financial report to the parish twice a year.
- Provide a report to the parish on the cost of operating and maintaining our facilities, including the anticipated cost of unanticipated problems (e.g., failure of another air conditioning unit).
- The vestry, with the advice of the development task force and the consent of the rectors, will appoint a “property working group” to review and recommend workable options for management and possible disposition of one or more of our four plots encompassed in our property.
- The vestry will direct the property working group to evaluate and make recommendations to the vestry, parish, rectors, and bishop, prior to the next annual meeting.
- Clean out all buildings and dispose of unused and unnecessary items
- Finish painting the outside of the church
- Replace our antiquated sound system with a modest state-of-the art audiovisual system that will work both in the sanctuary and for streaming.
- Reformat the parish hall with round tables for fellowship (if the old sanctuary is used for Sunday services).
- In preparation of the 2023 budget, the vestry will consider
- establishing an endowment fund to be used for specified purposes
- conducting a capital campaign to fund renovations and maintenance of our facilities
- expanding our stewardship program
- Expand the development task force and task it to
- Orchestrate performing arts and other fundraising events in our sanctuary.
- Renew our efforts to gain media coverage of our ministries and activities
- Expand our coordination with other churches in providing for the needy
- Initiate discussions with other churches concerning providing housing and/or shelter for the homeless.
- Re-instate greeters for Sunday morning services
- Revise and reinvigorate use of name tags
- Task the development committee and ministry leaders with developing strategies to increase the number of committed volunteers at the Blue Door and Bike Hop.
- Offer an educational series on the liturgy and history of the Anglican/Episcopal Church.
- Have an “instructed Eucharist” occasionally
- Conduct our Sunday service in the old sanctuary (parlor) on a quarterly basis.
In March and September, we will review our progress and a report to the congregation after six months and then again after a year. At each review, we will discover which steps we have taken, which were, perhaps, unrealistic, and which should be modified or supplemented to conform to the new circumstances.
During our “More Than Enough” stewardship program, Don, our director of music will teach us a new theme hymn for our stewardship program that we will sing every Sunday for the month leading up to our dedication or commitment Sunday. We all will hear from our priests, then from the wardens, and finally from our stewardship committee with pledge cards, a copy of our budget, and our “Next Steps.” Our pledges – our promises to God and St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea – will be collected on Christ the King Sunday, which is the last Sunday of this church year, Sunday, November 20th. There will be a celebration after service that day in the parlor; it will be live and virtual. So let us mark our calendars and plan to come and thank everyone for pledging to support the church and the community, celebrating that we really do have more than enough.
September 11, 2022
While studying the Gospel for this Sunday, I was introduced to a new religious order, the Oratory of the Good Shepherd (OGS) that is a dispersed community of Anglicans, ordained and lay, bound by a common rule of celibate chastity, responsible spending, and direction of life. Daily they pray the Divine Office, attend Mass, and spend an hour in private prayer. There is an association of “companions” of OGS who support their aims and live by a simplified version of the Rule. There also are Sisters of the Good Shepherd (SGS), priests and lay people living in dispersion under religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
The Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas includes 23 Religious Orders and Christian Communities in the worldwide Anglican (Episcopal) Communion including the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities organized under the Canons of The Episcopal Church. The worship practices and standards of living are quite diverse, but all embrace celibacy, community of goods, and obedience to a Rule and Constitution.
Communities of Women include:
Community of St. Francis
Community of St. Mary, Eastern Province
Community of St. Mary, Southern Province
Community of the Sisters of the Church
Community of the Transfiguration
Sisterhood of St. John the Divine
Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity (SHN)
Communities of Men
Order of the Holy Cross (Benedictine)
Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE)
St. Gregory’s Abby (Benedictine)
The Society of St. Paul (SSP)
Communities of Men and Women
Canonically recognized ommunities
Companions of St. Luke (Benedictine)
Society of St. Anna the Prophet
Third Order Society of St. Francis, Province of the Americas
Worker Brothers of the Holy Spirit
Worker Sisters of the Holy Spirit
Associates include those seeking canonical recognition
Community of Francis and Clare
Companions of Our Lady of Walsingham
The Communion of the Mystic Rose
The Community of the Mother of Jesus
August 28, 2022
August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed aloud of a day when “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus shared his dream of a time when a person’s worth would not be defined by status in this mortal world. He dreamt of a place where the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind would all sit at table together with him that day – and with us – because they are our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.
I was at the Library of Congress doing research for my then employer CBS who had made the very first and only recording of the “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., at what was unmistakably the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Dr. King had delivered that speech many times with subtle and not so subtle changes. One copy is under glass in the main hallway of the Library of Congress. After I filled out the exhaustive request form (where I promised my first-born if I walked away with the document I was asking to study, but never to copy) the staff went into the vault, and then they handed me a legal file folder with pages of a yellow legal pad written in Dr. King’s own hand with marginal notes he had made for the August 28th march for freedom. I was afraid to touch the paper. I asked for gloves. Then I read the words that we all recall as a turning point in our lives in this country.
When the word of the Lord is read, I often get the same feeling of wonder and awe as I did at the Library of Congress that day so many years ago. Clearly in the Gospel according to Luke Jesus was speaking of radical hospitality when he spoke up at that dinner party, the sort of hospitality that defines all Christian virtues that the Letter to the Hebrews addresses. Jesus instructed the Pharisees – and us – to invite all people to the table where he presides as the host and head of the table. Jesus took his own commandment to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” one step further; he treated others better than himself. That is what radical hospitality means. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, which literally means “love of the strange” that is love of those who are strange to us for whatever reason. Many ancients rarely strayed far from their places of birth. “Life was hard and mobility was limited. One way the world became “larger” was to open one’s home (however poor) to those that came from “outside.” (Commentary on Hebrews by Eric M. Heen, PhD) Hospitality was provided then, by those who had “love of the strange,” because they were more than curious about the wider world. And in caring for them, both the hosts and the guests were fed. So it is in the church. When we show love to others that we encounter Christ. Hospitality nourishes us as well as our guests, perhaps more.
A confluence of articles moved me to write about radical hospitality: the Gospel of the day and the Letter to the Hebrews, yes, but also articles that parishioners have shared with me this week, an article in the Friday, August 19th Destin Log about the New Life Church that began in the pastors home five years ago and then grew into a local warehouse (They move into their newly constructed church building at the beginning of 2023.) and the instructive bulletin from a mission church in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, Saint Elizabeth’s that welcomes all people – “single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds, if you sing like Andrea Bocelli or sound like Texas grackles, if you are “church shopping”, if you just woke up, or if you just got out of jail, whether you are more Catholic than the Pope or haven’t been to church since Joey’s baptism. They welcome crying newborns, squirmy toddlers, those who are over 60 but are not grown up yet, and teenagers growing up too fast… soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, veterans, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-foodies, those in recovery, folks who are still addicted… whether you are down in the dumps or don’t like organized religion… we welcome those blew all your offering money at the track… those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or just came because Grandma is in town…those who could use some prayers… those who are inked, pierced or both… those who have had religion shoved down their throats or who just got lost and ended up here by mistake… tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts, and you.”
Our bulletin reads “all are welcome wherever you are on your journey of faith.”
Our Lord said that the Pharisees were to treat others, even the despised in their society, not only as they would themselves, but better than they would treat one of their own. I wonder, would we have belonged to that large class of people who would have been excluded from the Pharisee’s banquet? Are we the poor? the crippled? the lame? the blind? When have I been poor in spirit? I have been, often. Is my faith crippled? Sometimes, yes! And am I lame, unable to get where I want in life? Recently, yes. And where is my blindness? To whom have I been blind? All in all, I am rather certain I would not have made it onto the invitation list for the Pharisee’s dinner.
Jesus teaches that all are welcome in the Kingdom of God, for surely the Pharisee’s dinner party is an allegory for the Lord’s heavenly banquet. In spite of our crippled faith and our blindness to the needs of others, we are welcome. All are invited – all those who are welcomed at Saint Elizabeth’s and at the New Life pastors’ home. But, I wonder if we might be surprised at who will be sitting at table with us in God’s house. I think we will see all “sorts and conditions” of people at the Lord’s table. And the Kingdom of God must be a place where the sons of former slaves and the daughters of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the Lord’s table. Dreams do come true. They do. But we have to make them come true.