30 July 2010

A first for Argentina

According to the BBC America news cast today, the first same-gender couple married in Argentina today under the nation's new marriage equality laws. The men have been partners for 27-years. Congratulations, guys!

29 July 2010

"You've come a long way, baby"

Those words ended a cigarette commercial when I was much younger. It was to celebrate the new brand that was marketed specifically for women. Its name was a southern state and the opposite of fat.

I use that chauvinist term today because it really is the best way to comment on today's date in the history of The Episcopal Church (TEC). It was on this day in 1974 that eleven women were ordained to the priesthood of this church. The ordinations caused a tempest in a teacup and it is still one of the reasons some have followed the Duncanites into schism.

When I was young, it never entered my min that there would be priests whose gender was not male. It was simply "not the done thing." I would never have believed I would live to see the day when not only would there by women ordained to the priesthood, but the the Episcopate, and, indeed, our Presiding Bishop would be a woman. Had someone suggested that to me back then, I'd have quoted the Cowardly Lion: "Not no way, not no how!" But God's ways are not our ways. And ain't we glad!

In our current tempest in the tea cup, there is no other person in TEC who could lead us. ++Katharine was truly chosen by God for this church and for this time.
So, here is a cheer for the Philadelphia Eleven, as they were called who became the first, and lived with the hatred for two years until in 1976 the General Convention approved the ordination of women.

Merrill Bittner
Alison Cheek
Alla Bozarth (Campell)
Emily C Hewitt
Carter Heyward
Suzanne R. Hiatt (+2002)
Marie Moorefield
Jeanette Piccard (+1981)
Betty Bone Schiess
Katrina Welles Swanson (+2006)
Nancy Hatch Witting

And here is the the brave and foresighted bishops who made the decision to act for justice

Daniel Corrigan
Robert L DeWitt
Edward R Welles
Antonio Ramos (Assisting)

Here are my comments from last year's 35th Anniversary of their ordinations.

26 July 2010

The Feast of St. James, the Apostle (Transferred)

The Feast of St. James, the Apostle and Martyr

The Lectionary

The Collect: Gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Today we keep the festival of St. James, Apostle and Martyr. This St. James is sometimes referred to as St. James the Greater, as distinguished from the other Apostle named St. James, the author of the Epistle, whom we celebrate along with St. Philip on May 1st.

Of St. James the Greater, we know really very little from Holy Scripture, except that, called with his brother St. John, and with St. Andrew and St. Peter, he became one of the specially chosen three, who were particularly close to Jesus, the three who were present with Jesus on many crucial occasions, for instance, at the raising of Jairus' daughter, on the mount of the Transfiguration, and in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus' agony.

St. James and his brother St. John were nicknamed Boanerges - Sons of Thunder - implying an ardent and impulsive zeal, such as they showed by their indignation against the inhospitable Samaritan village. The people would not receive Jesus: "[A]nd when James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?'". But he turned and rebuked them (St. Luke 12.51-56)

Perhaps because of his evident zeal, St. James was singled out by Herod Agrippa to be the first martyr among the twelve apostles, thus obtaining one of those places of honour in the kingdom of God which he and his brother had desired and hoped for; drinking the cup of Christ's suffering and being baptized with the baptism of Christ's death.

The Apostles are princes of the Church, princes in the kingdom of God - enthroned as judges in the reconstituted Israel of God:
For they the Church's princes are, Triumphant leaders in the war, In heavenly courts a warrior band, True lights to lighten every land. (from the hymn Aeterna Christi munera)
And it is about the character of their Princedom, their warfare and their triumph, that I particularly want to speak today, especially in terms of the incident recorded in the Gospel for today, from the 10th chapter of St. Mark (verses 32-40). In that lesson, Jesus announces to the twelve the final journey to Jerusalem and foretells his passion and resurrection.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him saying, "Master we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire....Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in the glory.".

"You do not know what you are asking" says Jesus. "Can you drink of the cup of my suffering, and be baptized with the baptism of my blood?" Their answer is confident - "We can." They are ready and even zealous to pay the price of glory. [And Jesus' answer?] "Ye know not what ye ask." 

They are zealous to pay the price of glory, and indeed they are destined to pay it: but they do not understand what that glory is. The assumptions behind their request are wrong, as Jesus explains in the passage which follows immediately upon this lesson in the 10th chapter of St. Mark. The disciples had begun to argue about precedence in the kingdom of God.
"And Jesus called them unto him, and said to them: "You know that the Princes of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10.42-45).
"The princes of the Gentiles lord it over them....But it shall not be so among you." The ways of God's kingdom are very different - its princedom and authority are of a very different kind. Its kingship is the kingship of a servant: its liberty is found in willing obedience. Its warfare is not with clash of arms and noise of battle. Its struggles and its conflicts are much deeper and more crucial than that, for its battles are the battles of the human spirit; and its enemies are the subtle and deadly demons of greed and vain ambition, and pride and envy, and hypocrisy and all such perversities of spirit. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who took upon himself the form of a servant, and became obedient even unto death." Its triumphs are e the souls of its saints. Its triumph is a renewal of spirit - a renewal of mind: "Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind", "for you have not received the spirit of servitude."

In his words, and in his passion, Jesus proclaims that liberty is not to be found in worldly power, worldly pride and ambition and the satiety of worldly desires - but rather, in the denial of all these. "My kingdom", he says, "is not from hence". The signs of his glory are the signs of his humility, of his suffering, of his passion. 

The signs of his glory are the signs of body broken and blood poured out. "He reigns and triumphs from the tree." And that is the glory which we set forth day by day in the liturgy of the Church, as we break the bread and drink the cup, showing forth his death until he come. "Imitate what you celebrate" says the ancient wisdom of the Church. We break the bread and drink the cup, imitate what you celebrate. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"

What a hard lesson that is! - and how hardly do we learn it! At the font of our baptism we are pledged to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil: we are pledged to renounce the vain pomps and glories of this wicked world. And surely it is evident enough that those pomps and glories are vain, and that our trust in them is ruinous. Yet over and over again, every day - in a thousand little ways, in our relations with one another; in the things that we wish for; and the things we rebel against - we are tempted, and deluded, and taken in by them. Over and over again we must be recalled by the passion of our Saviour and the witness of the saints: "it shall not be so among you....Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

Our being born again - not from this world, but from above - is an ongoing travail; and our place for the coming of God's kingdom in us must be new every morning. Thy kingdom come, in me, here and now, in this particular situation , in this particular moment. And thus is our salvation worked out in fear and trembling.... The natural man, by a strange perversity, finds it so easy to trust the powers that ruin - so hard to trust the powers that bless.

Today we keep the festival of an Apostle and Martyr. An Apostle is one who is sent; and a Martyr is one who witnessed: "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you", and "Ye shall be my witnesses". To celebrate such a festival is to recall that we too have our apostleship and our martyrdom - for we too are sent - sent to witness to that new life which is God's kingdom within us. Sent to contradict this world in which the Princes of the Gentiles lord is over them.

It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant; and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

By Dr. Robert Crouse.

25 July 2010

An Anniversary of Importance

Today is the Feast of St. James the Apostle. It is also the anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Rev'd Terry Martin, aka Fr. Jake. 

The Rev'd Terry Martin
Fr. Martin was priested in 1990 in Fond du Lac (aka Fond of Lace) by the Rt. Rev'd William Stevens, Ordinary.

I take the liberty of speaking for all of us, 
    Happy anniversary, Fr. Terry. May your day be particularly blessed.
Fr. Martin's priesthood has enriched all who know him, and all those in The Episcopal Church. It's an honour to cal him friend.

It's nice to share this day with him (it's my Name Day).

Pentecost IX - St. James' Day

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 12

Today is the Feast of 
St. James, the Elder.

It is was on this day that 
Terry Martin 
was ordained to the priesthood. 

The Lectionary

Collect of the Day: O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

There was a little girl who lived on a street right next to a cemetery. Her school was straight across, on the other side of the cemetery. That cemetery frightened all the children who lived on her street. In fact, they took great pains to avoid the cemetery, walking all the way around it to get to the school, and then all the way around it to come home.

But not so our little girl. Every morning she would just head straight through the cemetery, and at the end of the day she would walk back, straight through, to come home, usually whistling all the way.

An elderly neighbor sat on her porch each day and watched and wondered. One afternoon, she called the little girl over as she returned from school and said to her, “My little friend, I notice that every day, all the children on our block walk around the cemetery to go to school and back, but you just walk right through. How can you do that? Doesn’t it frighten you to walk so close to death?”

And the little girl replied, “Why, no. I’m not frightened, because I know that I’m only passing through.”

Our Collect for today bids us pray for an abundance of God’s mercy, that with God as our ruler and guide, “we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal.” Living faithfully has everything to do with how we pass through our daily lives. Living faithfully means always being connected with God as our ruler and guide, as with one another.

The way we pass through life each day – the way we walk – matters.

One of the riches of our Episcopal hymnal supplement, Wonder, Love and Praise, is hymn number 791, “Peace before us”:

Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet.
Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace.

This beautiful prayer is, in fact, based upon a traditional Navajo prayer used regularly in congregations of the Episcopal Church in Navojoland. In part, that prayer can be translated:

Jesus Christ, just as I pray, you do it; guard me,
In my defense, stand, reach out,
Plead in my defense.
Let peace come to me from the forest stream,
Let there be peace from the lowly grass,
Let there be peace from the wind’s way,
Let peace come to me from passing rain,
Let passing thunder bring peace to me.
Just by me let the dew fall,
Just by me let corn pollen form.
Beauty before me,
Beauty behind me,
Into fullness of life I have come,
Into beauty I have come.
All is peace again.
All is peace again.
All is peace again.
All is peace again.

How we walk through life, day by day, matters. Moving from a state of anxiety and restlessness into a way of harmony and balance is a blessing of grace that keeps us centered through whatever challenges rise to face us.

Watching children grow, from shaky first steps into the ability to dart here and there, intent on escaping their anxious parents’ grasp for as long as possible, we know that it is human nature to try to cast out on our own, to make our own way. The playfulness of children is engaging, and – usually! – we smile to see their sport. Children yearn to be able to “do it all by themselves.” Doesn’t being “grown up” mean taking care of ourselves – all by ourselves?

This relentless drama certainly makes life interesting for the parents of any toddler, and often for the rest of us as well.

“Doing it all by yourself” is part of growing up. But being fully grown up involves more than moving from dependence into independence. Our lessons today teach that to be fully alive means to embrace an interdependence with one another and with God, in a faith-filled confidence that leads us from life driven by anxiety and angst into life blessed by harmony and balance.

“Grant that as we pass through things temporal, we lose not things eternal.”

The first step in embracing a healthy interdependence, is to chose to turn back from the initial exhilaration of striking out on our own, to return to right relationship with those whose love formed us to begin with. Like the toddler squirming away from the embrace of her ever-loving parents, there must be a moment – God willing, before damage is done! – when the child turns and recognizes a need deeper than the need to assert her independence: a need to reconnect with her parents. What happens in that moment is a gift of grace, a seed which, with God’s love and in God’s time, will germinate and then blossom.

That turning point, which opens the door to right relationship restored, is grounded in the abiding, steadfast love of God, which is a constant, no matter what we have chosen to do. God chooses to include us in the dance of reconciliation, waiting for us to turn and open our hearts in some way to return and receive God’s ready embrace in that steadfast love.

Consider the exchange between Jesus and his disciples in our gospel reading as just such a moment. Jesus has gone apart to pray, and upon his return, the disciples greet him with a question, a request, which is just such a turning with an opening heart: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

It is significant, first, that the request is made at all. To ask for help is a deeply spiritual action – and not one that we are often prepared to do gracefully. To ask for help requires that we acknowledge our need of one another. It is to confess faith, confidence in the one we are asking for help. To receive and respond to that help leads to growth in our relationship with one another. It involves, at some level, healing; for to receive help from another heals us, and in that action, we become healers ourselves. So, what seems a simple request from the disciples is profound: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

What follows, of course, is the prayer loved and used by so many, so regularly, down through the centuries. The Lord’s Prayer transforms those who pray it, teaching us to walk through life in a harmonious and balanced way. Let go of what makes you anxious and restless, and trust in what God is doing around and through you, that as you pass through your daily life, you may lose not the things eternal, which is your birthright by baptism.

Our Father: “Abba,” “Father,” “Daddy,” whose love for us is so certain, it cannot be broken,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come: may your way of justice be followed by all the people of the world.
Give us each day our daily bread: confidence that you will provide for our basic needs, each day,
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us: the way of healing is within reach.
And do not bring us to the time of trial: grant that as we pass through things temporal, we lose not things eternal.

Yes, the way we walk through life matters. Give us the blessing of a harmonious and balanced life together. And thank you for the gift of a prayer to be offered daily to keep us on that way:

Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet.
Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace.

-- The Rev. Steve Kelsey is a retired Episcopal priest, living with his family in Arizona. He is currently serving part time with a team of ministry developers among the Diné (Navajo people) in the Navajo Nation.