01 November 2008

All Saints' Day

For all those who've gone before us confessing the name of Jesus . . . When he gets to the name "Gerald," replace it with the names of those you wish to remember this day.

31 October 2008

Iker opens mouth, reveals loss of mind

The Rt. Rev’d Jack Iker, who has spent several years preparing the leaders of the diocese of Ft. Worth to follow him into schismland, has released a statement to the diocese. It is filled with the usual propaganda and lies, but telling lies has never bothered these “Christians.” They deal in untruths like Paula Dean deals in butter.

I am told that there are still some people in the pews who wonder what this is all about – what are the real issues that separate us from TEC? Allow me to provide a brief summary of just a few of them:

• Our Diocese believes in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. TEC believes there are many ways to salvation and that all religions lead to God.

Yes, the evil TEC and the evil Roman Catholic Church with it’s antichrist leader, Benedict. Iker must have some knowledge the rest of us do not have. KJS has stated that the way of the Christ is one path to God, but I’ve not heard her or the GC state that Jesus is not the way of salvation.

• Our Diocese believes in the authority of Holy Scripture in all matters of faith and morals. TEC believes the Bible needs to be revised and adapted to meet the changing culture and that it may mean different things in different social contexts.

No, Iker and his leaders belive in a particular interpretation of the bible. Iker does not allow women to wear pants, or anyone to mix fabrics, eat gumbo, pulled pork sandwiches, hotdogs, have gravy on their potatoes, or allow people caught in adultery to live. He burns witches and stones blasphemers. Also, any person with a deformity is not welcome in Ikerland. And clearly, no people with glasses are allowed to worship in Ikerland, take Communion, or hold positions of leadership - or, God forbid, be ordained. Any change in that is cleearly revisionist heresy. The same goes for childless couples.

• Our Diocese believes that the essentials of the Christian Faith have been revealed once and for all in the teachings of Jesus Christ and are not subject to change. TEC believes in a revisionist approach that says only the votes of successive General Conventions can determine doctrinal and faith issues for Episcopalians as times change.

Did you know that in Ikerland, divorced people may not present themselves fro holy communion? That’s right, divorced people are sinners and therefore have to be cast out of the church. Jesus was very clear about that sin. It is only revisionists who ignore that teaching. The same goes for those who are obese. And, In Ikerland they gather for worship on Saturday; that’s the “day of rest” mandated by the Holy Scriptures they worship. Any change in the seventh-day Sabbath is clearly revisionist.

• Our Diocese believes that all ordained clergy are under the obligation to model in their own lives the received teaching of the Church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside Holy Matrimony. TEC believes that active homosexuals and bisexuals should be ordained to the sacred ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.

Ah, Donatism in action. The individual human is greater than God’s ability to work though any medium. As for the clergy, there are no mrried clergy -- after all, Jesus was single. Any change in the celibacy for clergy rule is simply revisionist.

• Our Diocese believes that marriage is the exclusive physical and spiritual union of one man and one woman for life. TEC believes same sex relationships are good and holy and should be blessed and celebrated.

Yes, this is why in Ikerland all those who have even looked at another person and thought, “ummmmm, that’s nice bit of crumpet” are denied Holy Communion.

• Our Diocese believes in the sacredness of human life from conception. TEC affirms abortion on demand.

That is totally unbiblical. No scripture supports that position. As for life, well, in Ikerland life is sacred only until about age 12, after which it’s perfectly fine to fry people in the electric chair for things like talking back to parents, adultery, working on Sabbath.

• Our Diocese has endorsed from the very beginning the position of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) on sexuality, the recommendations of the Windsor Report (2004) on how to keep us together as a Communion, and the need for an Anglican Covenant that will define the limits of diversity. TEC has repudiated the Lambeth resolution on human sexuality, acted in defiance of the Windsor Report, and will only accept a future Covenant if there are no consequences for breaking it!

First, there was much more to that resolution that that one section., but 110 is the only thing the fundamentalists have to use as an excuse for their Cromwellian coup. Second Lambeth Resolution 1.10 was never, and has never been an official teaching of the Anglican Communion, nor has the Windsor Report. As for acting in defiance of the Windsor Report, the GAFConners are defying it left and right, and Iker supports them. That is duplicitous.

• Our Diocese believes that the theological issue of the ordination of women as priests and bishops is a matter of conscience and must not be forced on anyone. TEC believes this matter has been decided for Episcopalians and that acceptance of it is mandatory in every diocese.

And Iker’s conscience says women must be barefoot in the kitchen and pregnant, while being subservient to men. I challenge Iker to support a ban on women's ordination by using the bible he worships.

• Our Diocese has constitutional and canonical provisions that place all church property in the name of the Corporation of this Diocese, to be held in trust for the use of each local congregation. TEC claims that all church property belongs to them, a claim first made by General Convention in 1979.

Well, in New York, the court ruled that that schismatic group had thirty years to object to the Dennis Canon. Since they didn’t, they accepted it as binding. I don’t remember Ft. Worth or Iker attempting to overturn the Dennis Canon. It was on the books when Ft Worth was created and they agreed to it. It worked fine until it interfered with his desire to steal church property.

• Our Diocese believes that heretical teaching by the church causes separation and division, that unity and truth must go together. TEC believes we should tolerate heresies and false teaching for the sake of remaining together.

What heretical teaching? TEC still believes and teaches the creeds; there is no heresy being taught. Yes, there are differing opinions in the church. If we are going to talk heresy, then we need to start talking about Donatism and Sydney’s tossing out two-thousand years of accepted church teaching when they authorized deacons to say mass something that is central to our faith as Anglicans. Oops, I fogot, they aren't Anglicans, they are Puritans.

• Our Diocese maintains that just as we voted to come into union with the General Convention in 1982, so we have the right to dissolve that union in 2008. TEC believes our affiliation with General Convention is irrevocable.

Wrong. Ft. Worth was created by GC, and only GC can dissolve it. Iker is living in delusion.

• Our Diocese stands with the vast majority of Anglicans around the world. TEC is a declining body and very much out of the mainstream of orthodox Christianity, both here and abroad.

Wrong again. Iker stands with a few schismatic primates who wish to create a new sect that is unlike anything in Anglican history. It is they who are out of the mainstream of Christianity here and abroad. But facts have never bothered schismatics. The primates do not speak for or represent the opinions of every member of that province.

The list could go on and on, but I think these few examples should suffice. The choice before us is clear. Will we contend for the faith as we have received it? Or we will accept the ongoing innovations and revisions of General Convention religion?

Yes, Iker could go on spouting his lies, but why? The decision has been made. He has brainwashed his hand picked leaders in to giving him the power he craves and to take a large portion of the communicants of the Diocese of Ft. Woth into schism and heresy.

Jack, I don’t know what you’ve been smoking, but I would like to request a couple of ounces of it be sent to me. I need to escape from reality, too.

How did we allow these mentally unbalanced people to get ordained in the first place?

Reformation Day

I grew up, quite literally, in the shadow of a Swedish Lutheran Church. The town in which I lived, and still live was founded by the railway, but it was populated with Swedes. That's how I learned my very poor Swedish. The "townies" were mostly Swedes as were those living ut på landet (out in the sticks). In addition to the confirmation classes in the Episcopal Church, I also went to confirmation classes in the Lutheran Church.

I have such wonderful memories of those old Swedes who adopted me, taught me, nurtured me, and loved me. I will be in their dept eternally. Fortunately they were Augustana Synod and not Missouri Synod! I grew up with the fun side of Lutheranism -- they were serious about God, and helped me see that
seriousness, but they also loved to live life as fully human. And they passed that to me. They also introduced me to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the god of music.

Because of all the above, I have a real dilemma when it comes to Reformation Day. My catholic soul hates the day and my Lutheran soul loves the day. So, I'm going to "go Lutheran" today. The following clip from You Tube is really cool. It's a great way to start out the Reformation Day.

"My Swedes" would have loved this one!

30 October 2008

Duncan's folly or, spin it long enough and I'll actually believe it myself

Blessed Bobby Duncan, martyr extraordinaire, prophet, priest and king, has released a statement which was published in the Church of England Newspaper on 31 October. Make sure to take note of the date – what is 31 October? Why, it’s Reformation Day, of course.

For the past 30+ years, I’ve said Dave Schofield had the biggest ego I’ve ever encountered. Well, he has been replaced as queen of the egotists and his tiara has been passed to Bob Duncan.
The twin trajectories of The Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Church of Canada away from any Communion-requested restraint on matters of moral order and legal prosecution have made permanent a widespread separation of parishes from their historic geographical dioceses in the United States and Canada. Now these alienated parishes representing the moral (and theological) mainstream of global Anglicanism are being joined (or are about to be joined) by the majorities of four former Episcopal Church dioceses: San Joaquin in California, Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Quincy in Illinois and Fort Worth in Texas. The reality of a significantly disintegrated North American Anglicanism now stretches from coast to coast and from the Arctic to the Rio Grande.
Notice the war-like tone of this paragraph. TEC has resorted to legal means to regain the stolen property and assets of TEC, and therefore, its war. What made “permanent a widespread separation” is the ego of the pseudo-Christians bishops who abandoned their ordination vows for the lust of power and led their flock out the TEC and "laid claim" to the property that did not belong to them.
Given the ruthlessness with which those who have stood against the progressive agenda of TEC and the ACC have been treated – lately symbolized by the deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburgh – the possibility of achieving the Windsor Continuation Group’s goal of "holding" for eventual reunion is remote indeed.. Moreover, there is scarcely a parish or diocese that has endured the travail of separation (whether forced or chosen) that would not describe the North American Anglican scene as characterized by "two irreconcilable religions."
Ah, yes, the coveted martyr card. Poor persecuted purloining martyrs. They have to cloak their clandestine activities in martyrs’ clothing. If this “brood of vipers” ha any interest in reunion, they wouldn’t be the chief cause for the strained relationships. It was they, not TEC or ACoC who caused the problem. It was their Puritan revolution that precipitated this situation.
The conclusion of the Global Anglican Future Conference was that the time for the recognition of a new Anglican Province in North America had arrived. Not surprisingly in the months since the Jerusalem Conference – and encouraged by the Primates of the GAFCON Movement – the Common Cause Partnership in North America has moved to structure itself in just this way. The goal of describing by December 2008 a "recognizably Anglican provincial structure" has been adopted by the Lead Bishops Roundtable (Executive Committee). A Governance Task Force, chaired by a former chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia and composed of significant leadership from all the Common Cause Partners, is hard at work.

Across the Communion many have expressed deep concern about what the Archbishop of Canterbury has called "the inter-provincial model" emerging in present-day Anglicanism. This inter-provincial model is characterized by overlapping claims of jurisdiction ("border-crossing") within the U.S. and Canada by Anglican Provinces external to the U.S. and Canada. Is there a preferable alternative?
What has been expressed across the Communion is the illegal activities of the GAFConers who are attempting to force Puritanism on the Anglican world.
Were the Communion to bless – in some quarters enthusiastically and in some quarters reluctantly – the formation of a new "mainstream" North American Province the need for temporary rescue measures by mainstream Anglican Provinces like Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Southern Cone and Uganda would be ended. With the creation of the new North American Province at least one of the WCG’s chief challenges ("border crossing") would evaporate. In fact, the anomaly of a new mainstream Province of the Anglican Church in North America overlapping two rogue provinces, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, would prove far more stabilizing and manageable for the entire Communion than the present alternatives.
The GAFconer province will not be “mainstream.” It will be Puritan; Puritan is not Anglican. Notice that the only “mainstream” provinces are those of Africa and the Southern Cone (which daily violates its own canons and constitution to aid the likes of Schofield and Duncan). The Southern has absolutely no regard for its own polity, so why should it give a flying fig about Anglican polity? It is power that Venables craves – the same as Schofield and Duncan – and the Puritan revolt is the means to the goal.
Nothing would immediately change about the 22 Anglican Provinces that are in broken or impaired Communion with TEC and the ACC – and the scandal of one North American Province not in Communion with two others would be obvious. Nevertheless, such a course of action would alone allow the Windsor Continuation Group and the historic Instruments of Communion to focus on address of the issues that precipitated the present crisis in the first place, narrowly defined as blessings of same-sex unions and ordination of bishops in sexual relationships outside of Holy Matrimony, or more broadly sketched as unwillingness to remain accountable to the Holy Scriptures, to the Christian moral consensus of 2000 years and to the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. Only then can communion and coherence be restored everywhere.

Bishop Bob Duncan
Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership
Episcopal Commissary for the Southern Cone
Sometime Bishop of Pittsburgh
Here is the GAFConner math at work again. We do not know that twenty-two provinces are going to line up with the new Puritan sect. We only know about ten. This is like Duncan’s statement that at least twenty-five percent of the dioceses of TEC will flee to GAFConnerland. Perhaps there will be ten percent at most.

He can spin it any way he wants, but he is nothing in the Southern Cone. Once gain, the Southern Cone’s C&C make no provision, even emergency provision, for accepting clergy, laity, or property that is no in its constitutionally defined geography.

Spin, Spin, Spin……

29 October 2008

Constitutionality and the fundamentalist interpretation of the bible

Today is "write about Proposition 8" day in the world of the blogs. Here is my contribution.

When the nation was founded, the leaders quickly learned that they needed to justify their actions (revolting against the legal government) to the majority of the colonists who did not support the revolt. In a masterpiece of propaganda, they came up with The Declaration of Independence. Most Americans look to that document as the establishment the United States of America. It is a brilliant document.

In that document, we find the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Unfortunately, that phrase did not make it into the Constitution of the United States. Because it does not, it is not enforceable as law. It fell to the individual states to guarantee those “unalienable rights.” So, we have to turn to two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

In Loving vs. the State of Virginia, an interracial couple sued the state. They had been married and yet arrested under the Virginia laws. In the decision, in favour of Loving, the Supreme Court said:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State. [Emphasis added.]

Although the court was dealing with interracial marriage, the decision contains that one phrase that is and will be the precedent for decisions (and the argument for) on same-gender marriages. The Loving decision is of monumental importance.

The decision also uses the Fourteenth Amendment which states:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [Emphasis added.]

When the case of same-gender marriage is examined, honestly and without bias (which is hard to do) the facts are that by denying marriage to any portion of the citizens the government is denying people equal protection to all citizens.

Married heterosexuals enjoy enumerable benefits from the state and Federal governments. These rights range from visitation and property to income tax advantages. These benefits are denied to all other portions of society. Interestingly, the IRS does not recognize the legal marriages of same-gender couple in that they cannot file as married people. That is additional denial of equal rights.

Using a strict scrutiny, the current marriage laws set up a classification of persons who are favoured by the government The govenment must show a compelling and overriding interest for creating classifications of people. In the case of same-gender marriage, the state cannot prove its case except on religious grounds.

By doing so, the state/federal government is establishing a religion, prohibited by the First Amendment which states

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. [Emphasis added.]

The sole objection to same-gender marriage is a religious objection. That is irrefutable. By upholding this religious viewpoint (held by some churches but not by all), the government is establishing a religion.

In Zablocki v. Redhail, the State of Wisconsin was sued by Roger Redhail who was denied a marriage license because he was in arrears on child support. (Redhail had fathered a child while in high school and had no means to provide child support as ordered by the court.) Redhail sued.

Justice Marshall wrote for the majority in a 5-3-1 court holding. Affirming the judgment of the District Court, Marshall concurred with the District Court's reading of marriage being a fundamental right, relying on Loving v. Virginia (1967) and Griswold v. Connecticut (1965).

Additionally, Chief Justice Burger joined with Justice Marshall's opinion, and concurred separately to note that the Wisconsin statute was an "intentional and substantial interference with the right to marry.”

Here are two US Supreme Court decisions that state the right to marriage is a “fundamental right” of all citizens.

When religion is removed from the issue of marriage, there is no doubt that in the United States marriage is a fundamental right and the States can show no compelling interest in denying marriage to all citizens.

But the journey is not over, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s vote in California. Injustice will still be ubiquitous.

In his last public appearance, LBJ, speaking of his Great Society and the Civil Rights struggle made a remarkable prophesy. I’m going to give LBJ the last word in this post.

If courage remains our constant companion, and if our efforts continue, and if our will is strong, and if our hearts are right – then my fellow Americans, I am confident we shall overcome.

28 October 2008

I wish I'd written that - or, telling it like it is

I would like to post a letter that was written in November 2000. I've had a copy of this since 2002 when it was sent to me by a Roman Catholic friend who is a member of Dignity, the Roman equivalent of Integrity. It was written by Dr. William Coffin.

Although it is a letter to the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, it applies, today, to the bishops of The Episcopal Church.

I wish I had written this letter. I am sending a copy of it to my bishop who has decided not to support GLBT rights in or out of the church. She has been a complete disappointment having sold out to the "warm, fuzzy feeling" of being the most adorable bishop at Lambeth. I'm sorry to say I predicted her about-face.

In a Washington cemetery, on the gravestone of a Vietnam veteran, it is written "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

Why, like the army, are so many churches on the wrong side of history? What is a man loving another immutably immoral? Can a Hamlet once again persuade a reluctant Horatio that "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy"?

As we have done in other cities addressing the leaders of other Christian denominations, so, dear Bishops, we have come today to Washington to plead with you to revisit your teaching on homosexuality. Previously you issued two shining pastorals, one supporting the poor, the other cautioning against war. But on this issue you are remounting the barricades, facing the wrong direction, causing much suffering and prompting countless seekers to say, "If this is religion we're better off without it."

Homosexuality was not a big issue for Biblical writers. Nowhere in the four Gospels it is even mentioned. And the verses that forbid homosexual behavior - all seven in seventy-one books - these should properly be used not to flay gays and lesbians but instead to chastise Christians who choose to recite a few sentences from St. Paul and to retain passages from a misread Old Testament law code. Everything Biblical is not Christ-like, and these particular verses, involving more hate than love, have no place whatsoever in the human heart. For Christians, the problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with scriptural passages that condemn it, but how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of homosexuals with the love of Christ. If people can show the tenderness and constancy in caring that honors Christ's love, what matters their sexual orientation? Shouldn't a relationship be judged by its inner worth rather than by its outer appearance? Shouldn't a Christian sexual ethic focus on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts, particularly when evidence increasingly emerges that homosexuality is a natural biological variation?

I'm a great believer in tradition. It's a big mistake casually to discount Church doctrines that once convinced the wisest among our Christian forebears. But doctrines are not immune to error; tradition is no oracle. And a tradition that cannot be changed also cannot be preserved. That lesson is as old as history itself. In other words, church people have always both to recover tradition and to recover from it.

I know that the Roman Catholic Church repudiates violent forms of homophobia. But to deplore the violence while continuing to proclaim the ideas that undergird it strikes thoughtful people as hypocritical. The teaching of the Church sanctifies the denigration of gays and lesbians. So instead of looking at gays and lesbians from the perspective of Catholic theology wouldn't it be better to look at Catholic theology from the perspective of gays and lesbians? The picture of Matthew Shepard hanging on a Wyoming fence burns in my mind and heart.

Said Edmund Burke: "Falsehood has a perennial spring." And why not? "Our knowledge is imperfect", "We see in a mirror dimly." Isn't that why the revelation of Jesus is finally about loving rather than knowing?

I close with another image, one that has haunted me for fifty years. Albert Camus complained of Christians who climb up on the cross to be seen from afar, thereby trampling on the One who has hung there so long.

Were you moved to respond I would be deeply grateful.

William Sloane Coffin

26 October 2008


I'm not sure what is going on in my life, but for the past two weeks I've been lonesome for my childhood. Perhaps not lonesome for that childhood, but lonesome for all those people from my childhood who are no longer here to share my life. Particularly, I've been missing my "old Swedes" who helped to raise me by osmosis and helped to make me the person I am. Today, for Evensong, I've chosen a hymn that takes me straight back to my early years and those Swedes. I am going to post it in two versions, the first is in Swedish, as I learned it. The second is as an anthem by St. Olaf College.

Children of the Heavenly Father is a unique hymn in that unless on has some connection to the Swedish Lutheran Church, this song is virtually unknown. As a favour to me, please listen to it in Swedish first.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

Pentecost XIV

Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; or
Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18, Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8;
Matthew 22:34-46

“All.” It is such a little word, only three letters: “all.” Not some, not a portion, not a little bit, not most of, but all. It encompasses everything, everyone, no exceptions, no limits.


We call it the Great Commandment or the Summary of the Law: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind and thy neighbor as thyself.

In the Rite One Eucharist prayer, this summary of the law was recited together every Sunday. It can be beautiful to profess together our call to total love. Yet often it is a rattle prayer. We all stand there and rattle it off together without letting it permeate, challenge, or transform. Then we go through the rest of the service and out the door to our nice cars, our modern, beautiful homes, and our comfortable American lifestyles.

Notice the word used for this text is “commandment”: an imperative, not a choice. Thou shalt. Commandments are marching orders, requirements.

Around much of the country there is a movement to put a plethora of signs with the Ten Commandments along our streets on private property in reaction to the banning of the Ten Commandment signs in public places. Many of us drive past these signs every day. There it is again: “all.” Love with all. Love God with all. Love one’s neighbor with all.

What would it mean if we really tried to do that? How can we manifest that little word into our real lives? What changes would we have to make? How would we live our lives differently?

Frankly, it is a test we fail miserably. We are the Lukewarm People.

“All” means with every ounce of our being: our hearts, our minds, our souls. Let’s break that down see what it entails.

Heart. Heart is the way we love. Scripture says, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart.” So what are your treasures? Here is a definition of “treasure”: when your mind is empty, daydreaming, when you are sitting at a stoplight, standing before the kitchen sink, the last thing before falling asleep, where does your mind go? That is your treasure. It is the thing or things that fill up your heart with worry, concern, joy, and satisfaction. It is your first priority, your interest, the center of your energy and attention. Would love of God and the strangers called “neighbors” be on top of your list? Where does your heart turn most of the time?

Soul. Psyche. Spirit. The soul is difficult to define, but it can be seen as the deepest part of a human being – the core, the intangible, eternal essence of a human being. The soul of a person cannot truly be known by another; it is always in a state of being discovered. What is at the deepest core of your being, the part no one else really knows about, but the part that holds your most profound and sacred and valued essence? Is that God within you? Does that very, very deep core essence of yourself love God beyond all things, totally, insatiably, constantly, fully?

Mind. Mind is our rational, logical self, the key to understanding, reason. It is the way we think things through, the science of our hearts, our external value system, the scale upon which we weigh life. Saint Paul speaks of “putting on the mind of Christ.” To love God with our minds is not to see the world around us with the eyes of culture but the eyes of God. Mind is not faith, but mind seeks to grasp our faith with understanding. If we love God with all our minds, our value system is not based on materialism and the things that, as Jesus reminds us, “moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal.” It is a forsaking of power, possession, and popularity. The mind of God places its treasures in the Kingdom of God.

And, oh, yes: the neighbor. To love our neighbor as ourselves. “Who is your neighbor?” asks Jesus. Our neighbor is anyone who stands beside us on this small planet, our island home. Distance is no obstacle to neighbors. A neighbor is any other human being with whom we share the image of God, which is to say, all human beings. A neighbor is not based on worth, on quality of life, on intelligence or beauty, on health or sickness, on moral development or religion, on color or sexuality or geography. We are all neighbors to one another.

So what does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? Do we want to have enough food and shelter for basic human survival? Do we want medical care? Do we want an education? Do we want our children to flourish safely and develop into all they can be?

To love our neighbor as ourselves usually requires two things in our culture: a pocketbook and a suspension of judgment.

If you own a house much larger than you need, and you know there are people being evicted in your hometown, what does that mean in terms of loving your neighbor as yourself?

If your closet is full of new or adequate coats, hats, and shoes, and you know there are children in town without warm clothing, what does that mean in terms of the gospel?

If you buy a new car when the old one still works and others can't even buy gas, what does that mean in terms of your total love of God?

If you eat steak and or dine out in restaurants, and you know a third of the world is starving to death, what does that mean in terms of loving your neighbor as yourself?

The list can go on and on. And we fall short.

The two great commandments are simple, but they have teeth: they are tough and costly. Basically, we don’t comply and perhaps we can’t. That is one of the beauties of God’s call; it always stretches us, pulls us from wherever we are to be more. It is like the horizon, always beckoning, never reachable.

The secret is to want to live out the commandments, no matter how poorly we actually do it. The secret is in our heart’s desiring. Do we really desire to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and souls and minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves? Truth be known, many say no. We don't mind loving God or our neighbor, but forget that little word “all.” If we, in our own lives, want to make a choice, a decision, to love God and our neighbor as God asks us, what changes would that require of us?

The answer may lie the word “hang.” “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” This word usually gets overlooked in the text. “Hang” can mean the way we put up our clothes in the closet, or it can mean what we do with the birdfeeder or the peg we put our hat upon. But in this text, the word “hang” is the same one used for “Jesus, whom you slew and hanged upon the cross.” That shifts the entire meaning of the Great Commandment, doesn’t it? To love the Lord with all our hearts and souls and minds, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is a crucifixion. It means to die to ourselves. No wonder there are so few volunteers.

To love with that little word “all” costs everything. Everything. It is the Great Kenosis: a total emptying. God asks no less. God asks everything. God asks all.

Do we dare? Can you believe there is a resurrection in our own life on the other side of that void of death, that emptying, giving, surrendering love?

All. Only “All.”

-- The Rev. Sister Judith Schenck is a retired priest and a Franciscan Poor Clare solitary in the Episcopal Diocese of Montana. Email: sistermonk@bresnan.net.