15 August 2009

The Dormition of the Theotokos

Today is one of the major feast days of the church year for the Roman, Orthodox and Anglo Catholic world. It was on this day that Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, fell asleep in the Lord. Tradition holds that her soul and body were assumed into heaven where she was crowned with the glory she earned as the God-bearer.

In the Roman Church today is known as The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the Icon of the Dormition you will notice Jesus receiving the soul of his mother. Iconography is truly wonderful. Just see all the different things going on in this icon.

Below the bier is a figure of Antonius who tried to disrupt the procession, was punished, but later repented of his sins and embraced Christianity through Baptism. I have not, however, ever seen him depicted having his hands cut off.

12 August 2009

Well done, thou good and faithful servant...

Eunice Kennedy Shriver
1921 - 2009

Thank you, Eunice. Thank you God.

Fr. Scott's new ministry

Some of "us" have been following the transformation in ministry of our blog brother, Scott. Scott has formerly been a parish priest. Recently, he packed his life into a few boxes, bid his parish adieu and pointed his pony westward.

A few days ago he arrived in the Hopi Nation where he was greeted by a cricket that sang to him from each door into Scott's new home.

Although he (Scott, not the cricket) will work as a school administrator, he will also be functioning as a priest of TEC. The Christian community there is predominantly Mennonite and Scott will be working for and with that community.

Today, we received this message form Fr. Scott:
[Wednesday], the first prayers of the Episcopal Church ever to be uttered publicly in the land of the Hopi will be said.

I am keenly aware that we are guests here, so I pray for genuine humility as I lead devotions for the school staff, which includes a number of traditional Hopi.

Before we begin, I will also utter the instructions of the Creator to the Hopi when they first arrived in this Fourth World. Please pray.
Apparently, it was only recently discovered that the Hopi Nation is in the Diocese of Arizona. That may account for why TEC has not opened a ministry with the Hopi before this time - although this is an informal ministry.

Let us remember to pray for Fr. Scott and his secular and religious work.

To learn more about the Hopi, read here and this site with wonderful resources about the Hopi People. Hopi culture is absolutely fascinating.

And check in from time to time over at Fr. Scott and Company for updates on his ministry. He hopes to be blogging again soon.

On an unrelated topic, there is new information about the death of Alex Heidegren here.

11 August 2009

A wayward new blog arises

Our friend Wayward (Nathan) has started a new work. He's started a new blog called Blue Moose Democrat. He will post his political insights at the new blog and keep the Wayward Episcopalian for posts about TEC and the AC.

Nathan is a young Episcopalian with a remarkable understanding of the US political world. I enjoy reading his posts and I learn a lot from him and those posts.

Why not go over and help inaugurate his new blog! Tell him TTLS sent you.

10 August 2009

Clergy day and Bishop Lawrence

Bishop Lawrence sent this letter about the upcoming clergy day.
    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    As you are doubtlessly aware there is much interest within the diocese and beyond about this upcoming Clergy Day at St. James. It is doubtful that anything (or anyone) can measure up to all the expectations which have been placed upon it—regardless of whether one is positively or negatively disposed toward my leadership. Nevertheless, to alleviate whatever unnecessary anxieties that may be out there, I thought it best to give you a glimpse into my thinking about the day and lay out at least the format for our gathering. Please know several things as we anticipate our time together—and it may be helpful to know that some are in response to expressed concerns which have come to me:

    • You will not be asked to make a decision or vote on any resolution at this meeting. This is not a legislative gathering, nor even primarily a meeting to vet resolutions.
    • I envision our time together as an opportunity for me to lay out before the active clergy of the diocese the gravity, but by no means the totality, of the challenges that lie before us; and in that context sketch out in broad strokes, (as clearly as I am able to see, define, and articulate it) the direction I believe we are called to go in the weeks and months ahead. Flannery O’Connor once wrote in defense of the bizarre nature of her stories—that “To the hard of hearing you shout, to the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures." I trust that you are neither. [Emphasis added]
    • It is my hope, even expectation, that this will be a meeting that will initiate a more robust and expansive conversation within this diocese and, even more importantly, set out the principles that will enable us to begin a broader and more active engagement with the challenges we face.

    Here is the intended format for this Post-Convention Clergy Day:
    10:30—11:00 a.m. Worship (Hymns and the Great Litany)
    11:00—12:30 p.m. Bishop’s Presentation and Questions of Clarification
    12:30— 1:30 p.m. Lunch in Deanery Groups for response to Bishop’s Presentation
    1:30— 2:30 p.m. Response and Respectful Conversation and Challenge

    As always you and the Diocese of South Carolina remain constantly in my thoughts and prayers as we seek to follow faithfully in the path our Lord has called us by his grace to walk in.

    Faithfully yours in Christ,
    +Mark Lawrence
    Bishop of South Carolina
Take note that his clergy are well aware of where the good bishop is leading them. He trusts they aren't blind or deaf.

Well, it's coming folks - we shall soon see that his pledge isn't worth much. It was just a ploy to rise to the purple - "tell the mutants anything that they want to hear, and mean nothing."

The Huguenot Henry IV of France said "Paris vaut bien une messe." (Paris is well worth one mass.) Apparently a diocese was worth a few obfuscations for Lawrence.

RIP Alex Heidengren - Update

Death is always tragic even when death is the only healing possible. When a young person dies, the sense of tragedy is multiplied. I seldom post on the death of anyone, but this one tugged at my heart in a remarkable way.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Alexander James Heidengren who died while working as a councellor at a Christian camp. Alex is the son of the Rev'd and Mrs. John Heidengren. Fr. Heidengren is rector of Prince of Peace in Aliquippa, Penn.

UPDATE: The Pittsburg Post Gazett has published this:
    Authorities in Wisconsin have not determined the cause of death of a Beaver County teen and Wheaton College student whose body was found late Saturday in a lake on the college's camp site.

    Alexander J. Heidengren, 18, had been reported missing at 10:50 a.m. Saturday in Three Lakes, Wis., a town that is home to the ministry camp operated by Wheaton College of Illinois.

    Police in Three Lakes organized an intensive search with various agencies in the region, and search dogs led recovery teams to the edge of Long Lake.

    Divers using sonar and underwater cameras located the body at 9:25 p.m., more than 11 hours after Mr. Heidengren was reported missing.

    Three Lakes police and the Oneida County, Wis., medical examiner still are investigating the cause of death.

    Mr. Heidengren was about to enter his sophomore year at Wheaton College. He had been serving as a camp counselor during the summer.
Remember his family in your prayers.
Give courage and faith to those who are bereaved, that they may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. Amen.

Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting. Amen.

Grant us grace to entrust Alex to thy never-failing love; receive him into the arms of thy mercy, and remember him according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people. Amen.

Grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee, he may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom. Amen.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
And light perpetual shine upon him.

09 August 2009

Trinity IX / Pentecost X

Trinity IX / Pentecost X
Proper 14
Cum Clamarem

Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Psalm 34 or 34:1-8; Ephesians 4 (25-29) 30-5:2; John 6:37-51
    Introit: When I cried to the Lord He heard my voice, from them that draw near to me; and He humbled them, who is before all ages, and remains for ever: cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. -- (Ps. 54. 2). Hear, O God, my prayer, and despise not my supplication; be attentive to me and hear me

    Collect: Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right, that we, who cannot exist without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

"Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

A husband and wife walk through the aisles of a modern drug store, accompanied by their 4-year-old son. The man stops to examine a new model electric razor that claims to provide the closest shave ever. He holds it in his hand and says to his wife, "I need this." To which she replies, "Not now, we can't afford it."

Their young son sights a display of plastic action figures made to represent popular cartoon characters. He reaches out to touch one and his mother says, "Not now. Wait until your birthday." And the child protests loudly, "But I need it!"

There is often a big difference between what we want and what we really need. For example, it has often been said that there exists in each of us a "God-shaped hole" that can be filled only by a stirring and nurturing relationship with Christ. However, our problem is that we attempt to fill that deeper, spiritual longing with things that do not ultimately satisfy. Since they cannot ever make us permanently happy, these lesser things become our addictions as we seek more and more and more of them in an increasingly frantic attempt to find satisfaction. Money, materialistic acquisition, food, sex, power, fame, thrill-seeking, the consumption of alcohol and drugs-all call for more and more, as they gradually give back less and less for the amount consumed. And we still feel empty.

Jesus alludes to this in a passage similar to today's Gospel. In John, chapter four, he tells the woman at the well that the water she draws from the well will eventually leave her thirsty again, but the water that he offers will continue to rise up and flow into eternal life. The point is that there is a hunger we have that cannot be satisfied except by our relationship with the Holy.

In our Western world, bread is the metaphor for food. If we lived in Asia, the symbol of rice would provide that metaphor. In fact, some modern Asian translations of the Christian scriptures often have Jesus saying, "I am the rice of life." Certainly, we need our daily bread or our daily rice. But we need more than daily food to find any lasting satisfaction and to live fully. As followers of Jesus, we say that we shall never be content until we host Jesus in our lives. Jesus, the "Bread of Life." Jesus, the one who, St. John says, "came from God and would return to God" (13:3). Jesus, who brings the Creator of the unimaginably vast universe down to dwell in the concrete flesh and blood world of sinful humanity.

What, specifically, is this "bread" that Jesus offers us? We call it love. It is the love of the invisible God made visible and accessible to our human experience. He offers us an opportunity for a relationship with God through him. When we appropriate that love into our lives and the spirit of Jesus fills our deepest hunger (the God-shaped hole), that love begins to overflow to others.

No one in our time has so caught the meaning of this two-dimensional love than Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She and her Sisters of Charity rummaged around the streets of Calcutta seeking the poor who were left to die on the sidewalks and in the alleyways of the city. These dying persons then were brought to a mission where they were bathed and cared for. In Mother Teresa's words, "Every person at least one time before they die needs to know that he or she is loved." Jesus is the bread of life because he came to show the world of human beings that we are loved-loved by God and loved by God's people who, as the church, live to extend that love to others.

D. T. Niles, leader of the Church of South India a half century ago, defined evangelism in light of Jesus' claim to be the bread of life. "Evangelism," he explained, "is one hungry person telling another hungry person where to find bread." Indeed, that is the mission of the church, to tell the world where love is to be found in Jesus-as well as peace, joy, hope, and all of the fruits of the Spirit. Especially in these troubled times, our Lord shows the world the path to brother- and sisterhood.

Finally, we cannot ignore the obvious allusion to the sacramental bread of the Eucharist. There is no doubt that in the time St. John was writing his Gospel the first century Christians had already begun to connect Jesus' words claiming to be the Bread of Life to their growing sacramental understanding of the mystery of Holy Communion. Just as they had experienced Jesus as a man but more than a man, so they saw in the Eucharistic bread more than bread alone. It was a sign of the presence of Jesus. The bread became for them a representation of the mystery of Christ in their midst. To receive the sacrament was to realize the love of God in Christ, gracing, forgiving, accepting and filling their lives in a very profound way. To prepare us to receive this filling love, we turn to Thomas Cranmer, whose words find their place in the American Book of Common Prayer, in the first Eucharistic prayer of the Rite I service:

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that we, and all who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.

The bread that our Lord offers to the world is himself. We who come to the altar with hands outstretched, come desiring to be so filled with Christ that our restless seeking shall come to an end. We come believing that here is the place where the "God-shaped hole" shall be filled. Yes, we are filled when Christ dwells in us and we in him. It is at this moment that he becomes for us the living bread that comes down from heaven.