11 April 2009

Holy Saturday - The Great Vigil

Holy Saturday - The Great Vigil of Easter

Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Mark 16:1-8

Gerard Manley Hopkins has a wonderful poem, “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” where he uses the phrase “Let him Easter in us.” In this phrase, he uses the noun Easter as a verb. Hopkins writes, “Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”

It is a splendid phrase. It is a beautiful prayer really, “Let him Easter in us.” In fact, I think this is a great way to look at the real truth, the transforming reality of Easter. Let Easter get into us. Let Easter come and live where we live. Let Easter permeate our souls. Let him Easter in us, and be a dayspring to the dimness of us. Isn’t that really what we all desire most? Not Easter as a noun, about a long-ago event. But, rather, Easter as a verb, as something that transforms our present lives, as something that gives us new life now, as something that gives us hope and meaning and courage. Isn’t that what every human heart longs for? Let him Easter in us!

Philips Brooks, a nineteenth-century Episcopal bishop and author, once said, “The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death, but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the resurrection.”

The good news of Easter is that there is the possibility of new life now. The power of the resurrection is not something that simply awaits us after death, but something that comes to us now, that comes to us always, that proclaims the good news that new life is possible here, now, today.

It does seem like in so many ways, people are longing for an experience of Easter in their lives. A widow whose husband died at a much too early age. A man who is struggling with a new career at midlife and fears his ability to cope with new challenges. A colleague who fell into a deep, clinical depression and struggles to live through the day with meager energy. In so many ways, so many people are longing for new life, for God to Easter in us, and be a dayspring to the dimness of us.

One could say that the women who arrived at the tomb early on that first Easter morning also needed to experience Easter as a verb. Look at how the Gospel of Mark tells it. The women came to the tomb thinking that the story had ended, that it was all over between them and Jesus. They had gone to attend to the dead body of Jesus, to anoint him, to wrap him up, and to give him a proper burial, and we may suppose to mourn the loss of their Lord.

What they get when they arrive is a breathtaking announcement that God has raised Christ from the dead and that he has gone ahead of them to Galilee where they will see him. What they get is Easter as a noun, and we have no reason to believe that they doubted that God had, in fact, raised Christ from the dead. It’s just that the reality of the event was so overwhelming that they were dumbfounded. As Mark says, “they went out and fled the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” They experienced Easter as a noun, but they had not yet experienced Easter as a verb because they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Our other gospels and tradition tell us that the women eventually did experience Easter as a verb, because they did eventually go and tell the other disciples that Christ had been raised from the dead. He Eastered in them and they were transformed from a group of terrified people, who were frightened and fearful, to apostles, to people who boldly went forth from the tomb and proclaimed the good news that because Christ is risen life is stronger than death, love is stronger than hate, and God’s peace is more powerful than human violence.

Let him Easter in us, and be a dayspring to the dimness of us. Easter is a verb. It is something that happens to us. Easter is true when it lives where we live and permeates our souls.

A few years ago, John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright engaged in a public dialogue on the meaning of the resurrection. They expressed some sharp differences of opinion, but, rather surprisingly, they both agreed that the real meaning of the early Christian witness to the resurrection was about the transformation of our lives and our world right now.

Bishop Wright puts it this way:

“Those of you who are going to preach on Easter Sunday, please note that the resurrection stories in the Gospels do not say Jesus is raised, therefore we’re going to heaven or therefore we’re going to be raised. They say Jesus is raised, therefore, God’s new creation has begun and we’ve got a job to do.”

Crossan says that the resurrection means:

“God’s Great Clean-Up of a world grown old in evil and impurity, injustice and violence has already begun ... and we are called to participate in it. The end of the world is not what we are talking about. We’re talking about cosmic transformation of this world.”

Now, when two New Testament scholars with as widely divergent as views as Wright and Crossan agree on something, we should take notice. The great Easter truth is not that we are simply to live newly after death, but that we are to be new, here and now, by the power of the resurrection.

Easter is something that happens in us. Easter is a verb. The good news of Easter is not simply that God has raised Christ from the dead. The good news of Easter is also about the possibility and the promise that new life is available to each one of us here and now. God has raised Christ from the dead and we can claim this new life and make it our own.

Right now, at this moment, we can let go of past hurts and grudges, and start over. Right here, right now, we can overcome our fear and fixation on death and trust in the Lord of life and love. Right here, right now, wherever we are, we can claim new life in our families, in our jobs, in our relationships, in our churches, in this broken but beautiful world. We can be new “here and now by the power of the resurrection.”

God’s “Great Clean Up of the world” has begun, and we can joyfully participate. We can let Easter get into us; let Easter come and live where we live; let Easter permeate our souls. We can let him Easter in us, and be a dayspring to the dimness of us.

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

-- The Rev. Dr. Joseph S. Pagano is rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Baltimore, MD. He received a Ph.D. in theology from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

US History a la Native Americans

Monday, 13 April, PBS begins a five-part series of US history as viewed from the American Indian experience. You may watch a brief trailer at We Shall Remain.

The five episodes are: After the Mayflower, Tecumseh's Vision, Trail of Tears, Geronimo, and Wounded Knee.
Every tribe in this country has a time of horrors--absolute horrors.
That quote from the documentary is the stark reality of the manner in which the Europeans treated the Native population. That does not mean the Indians were loving to other tribes. However, the planned mass genocide committed by Europeans is without equal until the Twentieth Century which saw the genocide of Armenians and Jews, particularly, but also homosexuals, Gypsies, and the mentally and physically challenged.

A little known fact is that the term Final Solution was coined by William Sherman who used it to describe the US Government's plan for the Native population.

An advance look at the making of We Shall Remain is here. It includes
a preview of the documentary film with a behind-the-scenes look at the production of the series. You will also be introduced to the creative forces behind this groundbreaking project, including award-winning filmmakers Chris Eyre, Ric Burns, Dustinn Craig and Stanley Nelson as well as executive producers Mark Samels and Sharon Grimberg.

Plan to watch this important documentary and set your personal video recorder (TiVo or other) for the series. You'll want to watch it again.

10 April 2009

Holy Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:15-25; John 18-19

The readings for this sad day and night should stand alone, without the need of a sermon. So it is with trepidation that one approaches this sacred time, aware that the sermon writer cannot add to the tragic story, only make a feeble effort at an interpretation that may sound more personal than universal.

Written in stark prose, the gospel story tears at the heart. Writing in incomparable, grave poetry, Isaiah and the psalmist inspire, terrify, even confuse. How can a Christian read the Second Isaiah passage and the opening words of the Psalm of Dereliction without making the connection with John’s telling of the last hours of the beloved Jesus? It is impossible to separate the two; no wonder the early church saw the Suffering Servant of Second Isaiah as the prophetic precursor of Jesus of Nazareth. Many of the images of Isaiah find flesh in the hours of the Passion.

Listen again to the words of the prophet: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.”

The gospel writer speaks of a baffled Pilate who goes in and out of his headquarters in confusion over this prisoner. Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

The psalmist writes:

“All who see me laugh me to scorn;
“They curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
“He trusted in the LORD, let him deliver him.”

The gospel writer recalls: “And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face.”

After the night-long mock trial, the dragging of the innocent Jesus from Annas to Caiphas to Pilate, the story reaches its climax. Here the writing is at its simplest, allowing us to imagine the horror, to enter into the suffering without any commentary: “So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him.”

Death confronts us on this night. The death of One who is well loved. The death of One who is condemned unjustly. The death of One who is young and who dies horribly. How many of us have faced such pain? How many parents the world over can identify with the sorrow of his mother because they too have lost a child? How many mothers and fathers have seen a son or daughter destroyed because of war? And how many of us have lost beloved friends? On this night let us confront the reality of death and let us think of all those who are suffering because of the death of a loved one, because of the death of an innocent. This night we remember, we pay attention, we grieve.

God gave us the capacity to grieve. We are allowed to shed tears and to cry out in supplication. Listen to the testimony of the epistle to the Hebrews writer: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

It doesn’t say that he was saved from death; but it does reassure us that he was heard. For those of us who grieve over the world’s suffering, this teaches us not to expect miracles but to be reassured that we have a God who hears our cry and understands our pain.

This, after all, is the Christian message of the Cross – that God entered our human experience fully, even unto death. A God who hears us is a God who shares in our suffering. Once more the epistle to the Hebrews testifies: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize without weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

Isaiah had written: “By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future?”

We are his future. How well have we continued his ministry? On this night of remembered death, let us also remember to grieve and to cry out to a God who hears us.

-- Katerina Whitley is a lecturer at Appalachian State University and the writer of Walking the Way of Sorrows: Stations of the Cross and other books of Biblical storytelling. She can be reached at katewhitley@charter.net.

09 April 2009

Holy Thrusday - Maundy Thrusday

Maundy Thrusday
Nos Autem

Exodus 12:1-411-14; Ps 116:1-2,12-19; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17,31b-35
    Introit: But it behooves us to glory in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ: in Whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection; by whom we are saved and delivered. -- (Ps. 66. 2). May God have mercy on us, and bless us: may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us; and may He have mercy on us.
Remembering a Night of Sorrow and of Change

Together with the sense of the Holy, the experience of Maundy Thursday affords us the most profound awareness of the role of change in our lives as well as the meaning of remembrance. Both are interwoven with the events of the saddest day of the church year. The arrest, stealthy court proceedings and torture of the Son of God in the middle of the night follow the heart-breaking hours of the Last Supper; the gathering of friends for a farewell meal is infused with sorrow because they know it will bring the end to a time of intense friendship and teaching, consistent fellowship and praxis. Certainly, the central character knows that this is the end of the teacher-student, master-follower communal living of the past three years; the others, seeing his sorrow at the imminent parting, must suspect it, even though they don’t acknowledge it.

Jesus has been their friend but also their master -- in the manner people of that time knew well: a friendship that was based on a complementary, not a symmetrical relationship; they knew they were not the equal of their remarkable rabbi. Theirs was a daily fellowship that demanded loyalty and obedience from them because it was based on love abundantly given by the master to the disciples. The twelve, and the rest of the followers of Jesus, had heard him speak words of Truth and Justice to them and to the crowds; they had seen him heal the sick time and time again; they had felt power emanating from him; three of them had seen him glorified in a mystical mountain epiphany, but now, suddenly, they are seeing him in the role of the servant. It is not a comfortable experience for them. He dons a towel and starts washing their feet. This was much different from the ritual washing we see in some churches on Maundy Thursday. Theirs were dirty feet indeed. They had walked many miles, they had been bare or in sandals, on unpaved terrain, on dusty roads that had hardened their soles and imbedded the dirt for all time in the cracks.

The courteous thing for a host to do was to wash the feet of the guests -- or, more likely, to have a servant perform this act of ritual honor and necessity. Jesus is their host but now also their servant. He doesn’t ask one of them to do the washing; he does it himself. The disciples must be stunned, but only Peter protests. Peter thinks he knows his place and wants Jesus to know his own place also. But Jesus is not playing by the rules. He never has; Peter ought to have remembered, but he doesn’t. Peter is frightened. Everything is changing and he doesn’t like change. Later, in the night, he will be so terrified of his master’s different role that he will deny his dearest friend. But right now he shows his usual blustery independence: “I will not allow you to wash my feet.” Jesus, who is being very tender to all of them throughout the meal, puts Peter quickly in the new place he has in mind for him -- that of the obedient, strong follower who knows how to be a servant also. “You better let me do it, Peter, or you will not be with me -- you will have no share with me.” In other words: Learn to accept and understand the change, Peter. From now on our relationship is different; I am showing you something profound, much more than just the act of kneeling before you to wash your feet. I am showing you that the share I want you to have in me will make you become like me.

It is this change in their relationship to their friend and master that the disciples will remember later, and in the remembrance they will find meaning and understanding. Enough to change the world.

They have been followers and friends, they have been students and companions to the man who called these fishermen by the seashore promising them that he would make them “fishers of human beings.” In those heady days when Jesus attracted the thousands with his signs of the Kingdom and with words of authority, they basked in the popularity of their master and felt some of his power rub off on them. They were filled with pride. They were the chosen. But tonight, on this unforgettable Thursday night, their roles are changing drastically, and they are afraid. The change comes with sorrow, but also with great tenderness, and with an example of servanthood. “Having loved his own, he loved them to the end.” Is there a more loving sentence in all of literature? It is this deep love, this agape that is preparing them for the change.

They are warned that when his arrest and death come, they too will be in danger and be despised. Jesus himself knows that soon he will enter into the most agonizing hours of humiliation and abandonment. But first, he must give hope and strength to his friends. Having loved his own, he loved them to the end. He is pouring this love out to them by giving them his new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.”

The hours pass. The agony of the garden follows, then the humiliation of the court procedures, the torture of his body, the danger that sends most of his friends scurrying away. The disciples forget his words, forget the years of joy in the concern of saving themselves. Peter denies him. They are facing the end of hope.

Later, they will remember: they will recall this last meal together, his tenderness, the washing of their feet . One imagines that throughout the remainder of their lives, every time they enter a home to have their feet washed, they will remember this night and their Lord kneeling in front of their feet and the memory will be nearly unbearable. Above all, they will remember that he loved them and that he went willingly to the cross because of his great love for them and for the truth of his Father.

They will remember and they will understand the meaning of his words and of his acts. And they will share this remembrance with the rest of us. This is why we are gathered here tonight: in partaking of this meal, we too will remember.

Katerina K. Whitley is the author of Speaking for Ourselves: Voices of Biblical Women (Morehouse, 1998), Seeing for Ourselves: Biblical Women Who Met Jesus (Morehouse, 1998), and Walking the Way of Sorrows:Stations of the Cross (Morehouse, 2004). She can be reached at: katewhitley@charter.net

07 April 2009

A wee report on Palm Sunday at Grace and St. Stephen's

Our friend James in Colorado Springs sends us this first hand account . . .
What a flurry of work starting late Friday with the inventory, then a 60 minute censing of every nook and cranny we could get to, and of course dinner with beer and wine. The beer and wine was extra nice after two years at First Christian where we kept the communion wine sort of hidden.

I walked in on Saturday and the place was crawling with people, they shower up with buckets, rags, cleaning stuff, and just asked for some water.

You should have seen the Altar Guild ladies polishing everything and then doing it again.

We found most of the Episcopal flags, Lord only knows why Don needed eight of them to begin with.

A couple of guys with hammers and screwdrivers pounding all the wood and making sure the kneelers were still attached (we haven't had a kneeler in two years -- such joy from such simple things).

There's a laundromat across the street, and we had a procession going back and forth with all the laity albs, hadn't been cleaned in two years.

Sunday was amazing. The sound system is old and cranky and we need some pros to deal with it. I hadn't seen so many folding chairs at the sides and back in years.

Communion took twenty-three minutes and I think we finished with seventeen blessed wafers.

There were kids in the children's choir who wandered into pews during the procession, just gazing around.

None of the acolytes had performed their assigned tasks there (just remember, everything is exactly the same except different).

I have to assume all of our congregation was there, plus a bunch of looky-loos. Plus there was a bunch of people who went to other churches during the exile simply because of our 12:45 time at FCC. I suspect that they'll return as soon as we get a more normal time (Palm Sunday and Easter are at 11:30, I think that will be changed the following week).

There were a handful of CANA people, some who were glad to see us and some we suspect were on a mission from Don. The most amazing thing were the dozens, and I mean dozens, of people we hadn't seen in four, eight, even twelve years, who say they were run off by Don back then. Some of them were run off last century. Hopefully they'll return regularly.

All told there were maybe 600 people there, the Fire Department would not have been happy.

Pity it was Palm Sunday with a silent recession and no coffee hour, that will be different this Sunday, even with everyone heading off to brunch somewhere.

Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement from all, they are certainly welcome and needed.
A note on the attendance - the new group reported that at their three services they had about 600 people attend "which is about normal for us" according to their spokesman. That certainly belies the premise that 90 percent of GSS voted to leave TEC and affiliate with the schismatic movement.

As for the thanks, they should be directed to Fr. Jake who refused to sit back, play dead, and watch the thieves do their work in darkness as the rest of the church was doing. When the history of this era is written, Terry Martin will be the preimenant figure in the story. He is probably the most important figure in TEC since the 1970s.

Thanks for the first-hand account, James.

from KKTV news in Colorado comes this interesting bit

This complicated, legal matter isn't over yet. The Episcopal Diocese in Denver is now suing 18 members of the breakaway parish with a court date in August.

There's also a separate ongoing criminal investigation by the Colorado Springs Police Department into the Anglican's leader.

I didn't know that members of the schismatic organization were being sued. KKTV has a video clip of the Palm Sunday events.

Episcopal Life provides us with this comment which nearly made me cry
While the organist was getting reacquainted with Grace and St. Stephen's organ on April 3, "there was a moment while he was playing hymns that those of us who were working, just moved into the sanctuary and choir stalls and the first few rows of pews and began to sing," Theobald recalled. "That was when it began to be real that we were back in the building."
For more reports see Episcopal Life, and the Colorado Gazette,

TEC priest arrested for embezzelment

I have posted several times on the embezzlement by the former rector of Grace and St. Stephen's in Colorado and, so, I would be a hypocrite if I did not report this story out of the Diocese of New York.

North Shore Episcopal Church's former Rector, the Rev. William Blasingame has been arrested for embezzling nearly $85,000 since 2005. He used the money to pay for a long list of personal items including plastic surgery and Botox injections according to an article in the Stanten Island Advance.

The funds came from two accounts - the Friends of St. Paul's foundation and a discretionary fund meant to provide small stipends to parishioners and others in need.

According to the indictment, Blasingame would not allow the records of these two accounts to be examined by the parish treasurer.

Included in the list of items he used the money for was a $245 pair of shoes imported from London. However, he lived in "a squalid existence in the rectory." It took five 40-yard dumpsters to clear out the debris and filth" from the rectory.

The senior warden said he first realized something was amiss with the bookkeeping when he was updating the church's bank information online and stumbled across the upkeep account, which showed Father Blasingame had written checks to himself.

He requested that the Diocese of New York compel Blasingame to reveal the contents of the accounts.

Blasingame resigned his 31-year rectorate on a disability pension and was initially was treated at Richmond University Medical Center and then transferred to Summit Oaks Hospital in New Jersey, which specializes in the treatment of chemical abuse and mental illness.

When the church officers cleared out the rectory, they found documents with the account number of his original discretionary account, and found the records of his payments to plastic surgeons and details of other transactions.

After consulting with the diocese, Mingoia gave the books to Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan's office.

A forensic investigation into the church's accounting followed, and Father Blasingame surrendered to the district attorney's NYPD detective squad on Friday morning, according to Donovan spokesman William J. Smith. Blasingame was arraigned in Stapleton Criminal Court Friday, and is slated to return 12 May.
Blasingame's attorney called the allegations a "bad mistake" and suggested the vestry "has it in" for their former rector.
I think this Mingoia made a big mistake in accusing him of stealing money. It's crazy. There's some kind of a vendetta out there, and there's more than meets the eye.
The attorney pointed to Father Blasingame's 31 years as the church's pastor, and said he "lives a very simple life and drives a heap of the car."

Mingoia flatly rejected Hasson's claim of a vendetta, saying the church at this point is interested in restitution.

There is no monopoly on misconduct of clergy; it infects all churches and theological positions. And it always gives Jesus a black eye in the public arena.

Tip of the Biretta to Mike at Trinity, New York or sending me the article and some additional information on this story.

Christ, the Life of all the living,
Christ the Death of death, our foe,
Who Thyself for us once giving
To the darkest depths of woe,
Patiently didst yield Thy breath
But to save my soul from death;
Praise and glory ever be,
Blessèd Jesus, unto Thee.

Thou, O Christ, hast taken on Thee
Bitter strokes, a cruel rod;
Pain and scorn were heaped upon Thee,
O Thou sinless Son of God,
Only thus for me to win
Rescue from the bonds of sin;
Praise and glory ever be,
Blessèd Jesus, unto Thee.

Thou hast suffered men to bruise Thee
That from pain I might be free;
Falsely did Thy foes accuse Thee,
Thence I gain security;
Comfortless Thy soul did languish
Me to comfort in my anguish.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.

Then, for all that wrought our pardon,
For Thy sorrows deep and sore,
For Thine anguish in the garden,
I will thank Thee evermore;
Thank Thee with my latest breath
For Thy sad and cruel death,
For that last and bitter cry
Praise Thee evermore on high.

06 April 2009

Cash strapped schismatics

When the Chapman Memo was leaked to the world back in 2003, we discovered the road map not only to schism but the usurpation of The Episcopal Church in The United States. Primarily, the usurpation was outlined in the ‘memo.’

Things have not gone as predicted by the Donatists, though, and things are not “happily ever after” either.

Part of the strategy of the Donatists was to bankrupt TEC though litigation -- to force the Church to divert untold millions of dollars to defend its property from suits brought by thieves who thought they could leave TEC and take the assets with them. Apparently, that strategy didn’t work and it cuts both ways.

Jim Naughton over at the The Lead posted a wee article on how things are going at Fall Rivers. In short, not so good. It seems that they are strapped for cash. So strapped are the Donatists that they have written to donors of a former building campaign asking permission to redirect those funds into the legal war chest to aid themselves and other schismatic communities. Make sure to read the background on that building campaign.

One must wonder how the schismatics feel knowing that at every turn of the legal and ecclesial wheels, they have lost – except in Virginia where a Jim Crow era law was cited as justification for allowing the thieves to retain TEC property. Remember that law was enacted to protect slavery friendly churches that departed non hierarchical organisations when slavery was outlawed. Keep that in mind as you read this bit about the church beef with the city.

In every other case (correct me if I am wrong) the courts have ruled in favour of TEC. All the gold spent by the schismatics in the United States has been for naught and now they are strapped for cash knowing they will have to “defend” the Fall River decision in a higher court that is not predisposed in favour of the schismatics.

In a second article at the Lead today, Nicholas Knisely reports that the Donatists themselves realize recognisation by the Anglican Communion is ‘unlikely. According to the Rev. J Phillip Ashley, the ACC’s chief operating officer
We do not believe that Canterbury will recognize us, at least while the current archbishop is still in office.
Notice their hope though - While this archbishop is in office. I wonder who they think will replace Williams, and why he would be favourable to the schismatic movement. Could it be they expect a schismatic to sit in St. Augustine's Chair?

Probably not as this bit is where their hope is placed
Echoing the sentiments of the Jerusalem Declaration, Fr. Ashey suggested that Canterbury’s recognition will be less important as various provinces in the Global South recognize the ACNA. He said representatives from Kenya, Rwanda, the Southern Cone of South America, and Uganda are expected to attend a provincial assembly in Texas in June, where the ACNA will vote on a proposed constitution and canons.
The schism is a done deal; all that remains is the ink to dry. However, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, "It's an ecclesiastical community, if you can keep it." My educated guess is that infighting will not allow them to "keep it." If not infighting, certainly the super egos of the leaders involved.

As for TEC property, Douglas LeBlanc quotes Ashley's Living Church article (keep in mind that TLC is the bastion f schismatics still in TEC)
Some parishes may prevail in property disputes, if they owned property before a diocese existed and they have no record of agreeing to The Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons.

Departing parishes’ chance of prevailing in court cases likely will decrease because of decisions he expects at General Convention this summer.
Property in the new organisation will be different. Fr. Ashey said he was part of a panel of bishops and lawyers who have drafted canons for the ACNA, which plans to release the proposed canons within a few weeks.
The canons will make clear that all property belongs to congregations rather than dioceses; that bishops will be nominated by dioceses on a slate of three and chosen by a College of Bishops; and that all bishops must warn each other when a transferring priest has engaged in misconduct.
I have two questions about that:
    What property? The only property they have is in Fall Rivers and that will be returned to TEC.

    When a schismatic group breaks apart and congregations decide to leave, will the property still be seen as belonging to the local unit?
I'm not even going to ask why the new group would think any of their bishops would recognize a deposition of any presbyter at the hands of any of their bishops. Their history is of ignoring depositions.

Ahsley went on to state the real purpose of the ACC
Like Special Forces, we go behind the scenes and we blow things up.
He added that what the ACC blows up is 'principalities and powers.' That is such a Christian virtue, no?

Monday in Holy Week

I begin Holy Week in a place of deep mourning having buried five family members and friends. I believe that this Holy Week and Easter will mean more to me than in any previous year.

I came to this Passion Sunday both physically and mentally exhausted and the events of this great week have only just begun.

I think that Jesus must have felt like this, too. The whole of his ministry was spent caring for people, providing for them, teaching them, comforting them -- all the things that discharge the battery. He had no time of recharging himself before the greatest trial of his mortal existence. Yet, he chose to continue on the journey he accepted although he must have been exhausted before it began.

A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,
The guilt of all men bearing;
And laden with the sins of earth,
None else the burden sharing!
Goes patient on, grow weak and faint,
To slaughter led without complaint,
That spotless life to offer;
Bears shame and stripes, and wounds and death,
Anguish and mockery, and saith,
"Willing all this I suffer."

This Lamb is Christ, the soul's great Friend,
The Lamb of God, our Savior;
Him God the Father chose to send
To gain for us His favor.
"Go forth, My Son," the Father saith,
"And free men from the fear of death,
From guilt and condemnation.
The wrath and stripes are hard to bear,
But by Thy Passion men shall share
The fruit of Thy salvation."

"Yea, Father, yea, most willingly
I'll bear what Thou commandest;
My will conforms to Thy decree,
I do what Thou demandest."
O wondrous Love, what hast Thou done!
The Father offers up His Son!
The Son, content, descendeth!
O Love, how strong Thou art to save!
Thou beddest Him within the grave
Whose word the mountains rendeth.

05 April 2009

Passion Sunday - Lent VI

Passion Sunday - Lent VI
Domine, non longe

Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39, (40-47)
    Introit: O Lord, keep not Thy help far from me; look to my defense; deliver me from the lion's mouth, and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns. -- (Ps. 21. 2) O God, my God, look upon me; why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.
It is often questioned why Palm Sunday is also the Sunday of the Passion. What starts off as what is sometimes called the “Triumphal Entry” to Jerusalem at the beginning of the Liturgy seems to race all the way forward to Good Friday by the end of the liturgy of the Word.

The stock answer, of course, is that it’s because so few people make it their business to go to church on Good Friday to hear Saint John’s Passion. This way at least a Passion narrative is read and heard by those who only come on Sundays.

It has also been observed that Mark, which is our gospel for Year B, can be viewed primarily as a Passion narrative with an extended introduction. That is, to understand Mark at all, one must look at the cross. The whole narrative in Mark moves us toward the cross. As one reads the full version of the Passion, we immediately sense how the Passion events seem to play themselves out in horrifying slow motion.

As much as we would like to have Jesus not go to Gethsemane, as much as we might wish to stop Judas, as much as we would like to get after Peter for his three denials of Jesus, in Mark, the cross is not to be avoided. As we will see and hear on Easter, even the young man sitting in the empty tomb will say, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who has been crucified. He was raised.” For Mark, Jesus is the Crucified One more than the Risen One.

Also, on this question of why the Passion seemingly intrudes upon Palm Sunday – “It never did when we were younger!” the people cry – it is the Passion that places the entry into Jerusalem in some sort of understandable context.

We may as well face it, Jesus and his rag-tag parade of the poor, the halt and the lame, sinners and outcasts, and he himself riding into town not on regal horseback but on a pathetic little donkey, does not a particularly triumphal entry make. It is at best, in the midst of Passover, Jerusalem’s busiest week of the year, it was an annoying little demonstration that symbolically challenged the occupation of Rome and the authority of the religious professionals, the Pharisees, the priests, and the Herodians.

We are to remember that all the way back in Chapter 3 of Mark, we read, “the Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” The Herodians were those Jews who were already conspiring with the ruling party of the successive Herods, who in turn were in a political alliance with Rome. They were considered by the people to be collaborators with the occupying enemy, Rome.

That is, we must recognize that the little demonstration we call Palm Sunday was, in at least one dimension, a political demonstration. Taken together with the next event in Mark, which is the episode at the Temple with the animals and money changers, it is easy to see how once word got to Pilate, whose primary responsibility was to maintain public order, something would have to be done to calm things down so that the Passover celebration could come off without any further disruption.

Also, given the fact that people in the streets wanted nothing more than to get rid of the yoke of Rome, Barabbas – which curiously translates as “son of the father” – a known insurrectionist, becomes a more attractive captive to liberate since he at least was willing to take to the streets and kill as many Romans and collaborators as necessary to inspire some sort of wider scale insurrection or civil war.

The key to this whole story very well may be that Jesus refuses to fight the pain that has been inflicted on him by inflicting pain. He refuses to overcome injustice with an easy, optimistic plan for progress. He refuses to fight back against the shame poured out upon him by a mighty, flashy display of Rome’s imperial power: crucifixion.

As we pray at Station Five of the stations of the cross:

“Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Service. We speak of a service economy, and businesses looking eager to “serve” the public. But such service comes of self-interest. It is not service in terms of laying down one’s life for the customers’ sake, but rather it is service intended to impress – like Pilate, whom we are told wished “to please the crowd.” Jesus does not serve to impress or please, to win the favor and sympathy of those whom he helps, let alone those whom he confronts. Jesus is the chosen one of God who has displayed his power over demons and disease, who chose to serve and refused to avoid suffering and even death on a cross.


Because all those things that we decry as the power of sin in our world and in our lives, even death itself, will not be overcome by force. They will only be overcome by the service and ransom of the very one, the only one, who needs neither to serve nor to pay off any debt.

Could this have been done any other way? Perhaps it could have, if we could live lives without suffering and sin and death; which, of course, is another way of saying, “No.”

What we see in Mark’s version of this narrative is a Jesus who does not so much defeat death but rather refuses to avoid it. His forsaken cry from the cross should not be tempered into anything but a true cry of desperation that echoes the truth of the pains we experience in our lives – individually, as well as collectively as the church, as a community, and as a nation.

Make no mistake about it, this entire narrative takes place within the context of an international military and political occupation and conflict. Jesus rises above the petty political, religious, and military background noise. He literally is raised above it all on the cross. He defeats sin through bearing sin. He defeats death by dying on a cross.

In Christ crucified we begin to experience authentic life. Such life is not easy in a world still mad with power and prestige, a world that wants to sell a path of service to others as a commodity to be purchased rather than as a life lived like Jesus lived his. It’s a good thing the good news can only be given away!

-- The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter's Church in Ellicott City, MD, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions. He has long been involved in the work of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), and the Ministry of Money. He frequently uses music and storytelling in his proclamation of the Word. E-mail: kkub@aol.com.