13 July 2010

Prayers for Lisa's friends Janice and John

I bid your prayers for Janice and John.

Our blog sister, Lisa Fox posted the following concerning a family in her parish.
We've had a fairly intense few days in my wee parish, as one of our own has died too young after too much suffering. Of your mercy, say a prayer for Janice, who has now joined the saints in glory, and for her teenage son John who has lost his only parent.
Remember thy servant, Janice, O Lord, according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people; and grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee,she may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Give courage and faith to John, that he 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 he loves, especially his mother, Janice. Amen.

12 July 2010

Curious comments from Rowan

At the "presidential address" today, the Most Rev'd and Rt Honourable Rowan Williams, Primate of All England made some curious comments which I believe reveal his plans for the future.
Archbishop Sentamu [Archbishop of York - ABY] and I explained when we moved our amendment on Saturday that we didn’t think a further referral to a revision committee would really help us at all at this stage and we remain of that view. We believe that we now need the dioceses to give their wisdom, their prayer and their thought to this process, and to move on.
This is important because he is going to get the bishops involved in the process. Remember that in the Church off England (CoE) bishops rule the diocese and exercise enormous influence and legislative power. Remember, too, that the bishops passed Rowan's wee amendment. Now Rowan wants the help of the powerful house of bishops. And he's already done it.
The second thing I’d like to say is - and we’ve had a meeting of House of Bishops this morning - the House of Bishops will set in hand promptly the necessary work involved in producing a draft code of practice which will be available for debate in Synod, when legislation returns from the dioceses in about 18 months time. That, of course, is the moment at which we’ll enter the final phase of this long and complex process. That is when all the material will be finally on the table.
In one year and six months, he's bringing this vote back to the Synod for another vote. I predict that next time, however, there will not be a vote by orders.
I’m well aware that proposing an amendment as we did on Saturday, without an illustrative code of practice to accompany it, was asking a great deal of the faith and charity of Synod, but time was not on our side there. Nonetheless, the House of Bishops now wishes to proceed with as much speed as humanly possible to get that work done. That work will include trying to see how a code of practice can enshrine the best possible provision in the light of what we’ve heard and what we’ve discussed, in the light of the votes taken on Saturday.
The beginning should be translated "The bishops and I, realize we got our fingers burned, but we were determined to ram this down your throats and will continue to do so until you do what 'we' tell you to do." I say "bishops" because it was in that house where the amendment was overwhelmingly supported. And why not, what old boys' club wants to be forced to admit uppity wimmin? The presence of women just might expose what goes on after lights out in the house of bishops.

Also, notice that word "enshrine." The dictionary defines it as "Preserve (a right, tradition, or idea) in a form that ensures it will be protected and respected." Rowan and the right wing are determined to protect misogyny in the CoE - by legislation, not by custom.
You’ll also be aware that the next phase of committal to the dioceses, it’s possible for the dioceses to shape following motions. So the point I’m making is quite simply there remains work to be done. The House of Bishops will attempt to do the work that they need to do as swiftly and effectively as possible, and we ask for your prayers and support in what will undoubtedly be a very demanding task.

Here it is again. The patriarchy at work will ensure that no male has to submit to the authority of a woman. It absolutely boggles my mind that there are people with this mindset in the 21st century. 
And third and last: obviously Archbishop Sentamu and I would have like our amendment to pass, that’s what you do when you pose amendments, but we would want to encourage those disappointed by the outcome, and also the whole Synod as seeing that not as the end of the road. We are, in the Church of England, in the middle of both a legislative process and a process of discernment, and, I would dare to add, a process of service to one another.

The next phase of the work we try do together, I think has to be very, very closely focused on the service we seek to do one another. And that means of course, working in the interests of those who will be taking different decisions from our own, different paths from our own, so that all may grow up into Christ as best they can.
Again, Rowan is speaking to the right wing who are pissed off that their misogynist selves. Not a word to the women of the church that he is sorry the vote was so close, or that he respects the voice of the Synod that women have a place in the old boys' club called the House of bishops. He is so bloody mined about appeasing the right wing that he is willing to steer the ship onto the reef.

It is bloody difficult to "work together" with a bunch of people who do not to work with the group, but want to rule that group. 

I find it interesting that the ABC uses the phrase "a process of discernment." We in The Episcopal Church are painfully aware of that that phrase actually means. The result of  "a process of discernment" means only one thing to the right wing / Calvinists - we're out of here unless you give us our way. The title to this presidential address should be "We have only begun to  fight."

I feel sorry for the Church of England. They are struggling with difficult times as they try to be relevant to a changed and still changing world. And they are struggling to meat the needs of that changing world while they are ruled by bishops and certain clergy who are both stuck in the middle ages and attempting to hold the whole church hostage to medieval theological irrelevancies.

I'm wondering if all of this huffing and puffing and pleasing the "conservatives" is merely Rowan preparing the way for his submission to Rome when he is finally free to do so. It will certainly look better in the Vatican if Rowan comes with a proven track record of 16th century theology and philosophy.

11 July 2010

Pentecost VII

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 10

The Lectonary

Collect of the Day:  O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today we have before us what is perhaps the most familiar story Jesus ever told: the parable of the Good Samaritan. Hearing it again might cause us to wonder, Is there anything new in this story that we haven’t already thought about or heard preached about? Hasn’t it been worn smooth?

Hasn’t the parable lost its power to teach us because we know it so well?

After all, hasn’t the parable of the Good Samaritan become a cliché in our culture? We have Good Samaritan laws and Good Samaritan hospitals. We live with a common concept that any charitable act makes us Good Samaritans. But the parable means much more than that, of course.

Sermons on this parable often focus on those who encountered the beaten man on the road to Jericho – the two who passed by and one who stopped to help. Often preachers ask us, “Which one are you like? Which one do you want to be like?”

It would be interesting, however, to look at another character – to see how identifying with him might help us better understand what Jesus means for us to discover. Let us examine the victim – the one who was robbed, stripped, beaten, and left for dead.

For many of us, it might seem difficult or inappropriate to identify with the victim. It’s easy for most Americans to feel too privileged and blessed and lucky to equate themselves with such an unfortunate soul. Looking deeper, though, can’t we all recall times when we have suffered? Life cannot be lived without some difficulty. Some of us have been robbed of possessions when thieves broke into our homes, and others have been robbed of time and energy by those whose irresponsibility forced them to do more than their fair share.

Most of us have been treated unjustly, and all of us have been beaten down by our own sin and failures and disillusionment. We have been left half dead by the knowledge of our own limitations.

We have been stripped bare by rejection and abandonment, and we have been stripped by those who told lies about us and tried to harm our reputations. We may even have been left half dead by rivals seeking to ruin our careers or reputations. And perhaps more devastatingly, we have been left half dead by discovering that there is nothing we can do to change such conditions or relieve the pain they cause.

In greater or lesser ways, aren’t we sometimes as helpless as the victim in Jesus’ parable? Do we not also pray for mercy? Does not each of us come as a beggar to the Lord’s altar with cupped hands seeking the true bread that gives life and saves us from desolation and despair?

So while we are identifying with the victim, what do we make of it? Was the beaten man deserving of help from the Samaritan? What did he do to merit an enemy’s taking a serious risk and sacrificing his time and substance to save him, loving him with no strings attached and with no hope of gaining anything in return? Maybe nothing. Maybe the victim was undeserving. Was he not foolish to have traveled on such a dangerous road alone?

The point is, of course, that it did not matter. The Samaritan helped him unconditionally. He showed mercy as God shows mercy to his children. Are we deserving of the love and forgiveness that God gives us? It doesn’t matter, either. This is the primary message of this parable. It illustrates the truth of God’s mercy – f God’s love poured out for us unconditionally, with no strings attached. Without our being deserving, God cares for us in this extraordinary way.

If we can feel the grace that the beaten man experienced when he was helped by an enemy, we will know what God intends for all his children. Not only will we know how God cares for us when we are hurt, we will see the love that fills us in a new light. As the love continues to flow in us, it can overflow to others as we become the Good Samaritan in response.

This powerful and rich parable reminds us of the essentials of our faith. It is a foundation of Christian ethical and moral values. It includes the familiar themes, that Christians are called to:
  • avoid the faithless idolatry of those who pass by on the other side
  • take risks for the sake of the gospel
  • care for our neighbors
  • recognize that “neighbor” includes everyone, everywhere
  • affirm the calling to give ourselves away for the good of others
  • give with no strings attached
  • provide for those in need without regard for whether they are deserving or not
  • love even those different from ourselves, whom we may even despise, and whom we consider unlovable and undeserving
Through the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus takes us into the depths of God’s love. He answers the question “Who is my neighbor?” by giving us an unforgettable example of love in action. He will not let us get away with failing to put our money where our mouths are. Believing and knowing what is right is not enough. Jesus’ model story of the Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho forces us to see ourselves on the roads we travel – the roads that surround us.

Seeing from the perspective of the victim can help us move from belief to action. Jesus’ parable forces us to see that knowing the meaning of “neighbor” is not enough. We can only express adequate gratitude for what God gives us by acting toward everyone – our neighbors – as did the Good Samaritan toward the victim of robbery and beating.

-- The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of "John E. Hines: Granite on Fire" (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife, Toni, in his native home, Bastrop, Texas.