Last night, December 21st, was the longest night of the year for me and for everybody else in the northern Hemisphere. It was also the coldest night we have had in a while. Fitting, I guess. Fortunately I was snuggled up warm next to my wife in our living room watching a movie and feeling little if any of the affects of the winter weather just outside.
Even though this has been a rushed year and a rushed Advent, it has been a good one nonetheless. The gifts are purchased or made, the house and the Church are now decorated. There is little to do but wait...wait for the crowds to gather, wait for the carols to be sung, wait for hearts to me made joyful once again by the story of the Christ child's journey into this world so long ago and into our lives today. I hope all of you will have a merry Christmas and a truly happy new year.
My hope and my prayer for you all this Christmas-tide and always is that you will welcome Jesus, the light of the world, into your hearts and minds, and that you will allow your own lives to be used to bring light to others. Enjoy your celebrations of the coming of the light, be good news for others, and remember that the kingdom of God is present when little things are done in love. God bless you and strengthen you to do such things and to be an instrument of that Kingdom. And, if you are among those who are passing through darkness, may your needs be seen and answered in genuine love and real care.
As Christians gather in worship we celebrate the way in which the birth of Jesus makes access to God open to all. ‘This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us.’ That love of God is for all humankind and we are bound into an equality of need and the chance to respond. The Christmas story makes this real in a number of ways.
Read the rest of the Christmas message from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church here.
Take a look at this from a new article featuring Archbishop Williams...
One friend suggests [Rowan's] refusal to "speak out" is a reflection of Jesus's own approach, especially when Christ refused to answer Pontius Pilate's questions at His trial, as described in Mark's Gospel. "I think that, again, one of the things the Gospel ought to do is make us question the way we put our questions," Williams says. "So that, right throughout the ministry of Jesus as well as at His trial, a hostile person sitting there could say, 'He never gives a straight answer to a straight question: "Do we pay tribute to Caesar?"' And Jesus pushes it back and says, 'What are we really talking about?' I think it's always important to ask before we make the snap answer: what are we really talking about?"
God chose to show himself to us in a complete human life, telling us that every stage in human existence, from conception to maturity and even death, was in principle capable of telling us something about God. Although what we learn from Jesus Christ and what his life makes possible is unique, that life still means that we look differently at every other life. There is something in us that is capable of communicating what God has to say – the image of God in each of us, which is expressed in its perfection only in Jesus.
Read all of the Archbishop's Christmas message here.
My salvation coach raised an interesting question. Salvation is a central theme of the Christian faith. Salvific themes of the Old Testament include escape from captivity, freedom from oppression and hope for a transformed and reconciled world.
In the New Testament Jesus announces the coming of God’s kingdom by forgiving sins and healing the sick. This is the work of salvation, which the Church would continue, instituting a new Heaven and a new Earth.
At least three things stand out. The first is that this salvation is experienced corporately, not individually. The Old Testament writers speak in terms of a community in which the presence of God could be experienced within a fellowship bound together by devotion to God. For the writers of the New Testament, Jesus was never to be thought of as a personal saviour, as though He were our personal toothbrush.
We are not saved individually, as though by some private act of divine indulgence. It is within the community that we can find forgiveness for the past, and hope for a way of beginning again.
What Duncan and Minns propose – that Duncan become the Archbishop of a newly minted non-geographical province with the support of GAFCON primates such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda – is a rejection of the respectful diversity and generous orthodoxy that defines the Communion. It is a repudiation of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in our communal life. It flies in the very face of what it truly means to be an Anglican. For Minns to suggest that he is leading a “new reformation” is ludicrous and demeans the historicity and value of the real Reformation as we know it and live it. The movers of the proposed new province embarrass themselves, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion by the self-serving media coverage they have worked so hard to achieve. The news of the proposed province appears at a time when more than 28 million Americans are living on food stamps, one out of every 10 new mortgage holders is facing foreclosure, unemployment is at its highest level in decades, the auto industry is “tanking” and the real danger of deflation or a possible depression looms large on the horizon. In the global south, millions live on $1 a day, and wars, ethnic and religious violence, poverty and the AIDS epidemic continue to wrack the African continent. To learn in this context that Duncan, Minns and their allies think that the most important issue facing the church is the sexuality of the Bishop of New Hampshire suggests a level of self-absorption that is difficult to square with the teachings of Christ. And to learn that the New York Times considers the complaints of these deposed, retired and irregularly consecrated bishops to be front page news suggests a fixation on “culture wars” reporting that deprives readers of a true sense of the challenges facing the church in this country…
Where do you draw the line? Well, you might reasonably reply: 'What sort of line?'
All over our beloved creaky Anglican Communion, we find lines, borders, boundaries: 'The Bible plainly says so'. 'That's not part of the faith once delivered to the saints.' 'You must assent to these things to be part of the Anglican Communion.' Where, many of us have often lamented, is classical Anglican ambiguity? Shades of grey? The fabled 'large tent', in which paradoxical tensions can presumably sup together, at the Lord's table? We've seen lines drawn even there. Who on earth wants to do any more line drawing?
I began teaching a new bible study today to a group of local pastors. From the aspect of church background, this is the most diverse group I have worked with in awhile. Their desire, to learn more about the Early Church Fathers.
Today I gave an overview of what the next few weeks will look like including the divines we will focus on. In dividing up the material, I made up 3 categories, the apostolic fathers, ante-Nicene and post-Nicene. Then I said, "studying the Apostolic Fathers will make you better pastors, the Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene's will make you better preachers." Why? Because the early fathers where for the most part ministering to a people under marginalized by persecution, and the Nicene's were working out the finer points of the Incarnation and the Trinity while working on the unity of a Church taking on global leadership post Constantine.
Whether you agree or not, it made for some interesting discussion. And hopefully it will make a better pastor out of me.
While understanding that for some conservative constituents another path may soon be chosen, the advisory board of the Communion Partner rectors said recently that a new Anglican province in North America “is not something we desire or a structure in which we wish to participate.”
The Communion Partner rectors met Nov. 6-7 at St. Martin’s Church, Houston. The initial list of rectors has grown from 17 parishes representing 25,000 communicants to 45 parishes representing 42,000 communicants, according to a news release prepared by the group.
The group said that although they appreciate the “serious challenges of this present season in our greater Communion and The Episcopal Church,” they were “firmly committed to remain in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, respecting and honoring the proper authority of our bishops and working in concert with them to strengthen our voice with the church.
“We wish to support and encourage the Windsor process, the development of an Anglican Covenant and the Instruments of Communion. We believe this is the path Christ is calling us to follow together with faithful leadership throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion.”
It seems that Pope Bob the Great of Pittsburgh doesn't have the support he thinks he has...
I spoke at a small day-conference for members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem last weekend. Founded after the end of the first crusade in 1099, the Order was originally intended to be a military presence at Christ’s tomb.
In the 19th century, however, it was given new instructions by Pope Pius IX. No longer would its members be a quasi-military religious army in the Holy Land. Instead, they would guard Christ’s sepulchre by expressing their solidarity with indigenous Christians. Today, this means activities such as raising money to plant olive trees and supporting Bethlehem University.
Lines are being drawn in the church between liberal or moderate factions and traditional or conservative ones. Arguments center on the national church’s decisions to allow women in the clergy, which occurred in the 1970s, and to promote an openly gay minister to a bishop’s post in 2003.
The schism widened when the national church appointed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the job. The Quincy Diocese, which numbers 24 churches (including those in Moline, Rock Island, Silvis, Geneseo and Kewanee) and 1,800 members, has never allowed women or gays to be part of the clergy.
“We are working to assist in the reorganization of diocesan affairs,” Schori said. It now appears that four churches, including St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Peoria, Ill., the largest in the diocese, will continue to align with the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, which includes churches in the Iowa Quad-Cities, has no intention of leaving the national affiliation, officials have said.
On Saturday 8th November 2008 the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) reburied the remains of its first Archbishop, the late Most Rev. Elinana J. Ngalamu, in a grave behind All Saints’ Cathedral, Juba, Southern Sudan. The first Archbishop’s coffin, originally buried in Khartoum in October 1992 following his death there on 29th September 1992, was exhumed on Thursday 6th November 2008 and flown to Juba with an accompanying delegation on Friday 7th.
On the morning of Saturday 8th a brief burial ceremony was conducted by the current Archbishop, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul, accompanied by the bishops of Khartoum, Rokon, Lainya, Rumbek, Ibba, Rejaf, Mundri and Lui, the assistant bishops of Torit, Bor and Juba, and the retired bishop of Mundri. Archbishop Daniel, sighting Moses’ reburial of Joseph’s bones in Canaan after his return to the Promised Land from exile in Egypt, prayed that Archbishop Elinana’s “homecoming” be symbolic in the hearts of Sudanese Anglicans in all marginalised areas as a final homecoming. He pleaded that never again should the Church have to flee from these areas as Archbishop Elinana fled from Juba to Khartoum in the 1980s to die in exile in 1992. He thanked God for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 21-year civil war in 2005 and allowed the homecoming of the first Archbishop.
Things have been busy the last few weeks with lots of out of town meetings, lots of pastoral care needs and on top of every thing, getting ready for Diocesan Convention. So what keeps me sane in moments like these. The music of my ancestors of course...enjoy...
Here are the recent comments of The Guardian religion report Riazat Butt,
In the month of fasting I can think of no better example to set than a complete avoidance of phrases such as openly gay and Anglican Communion in the same sentence, especially when ever one is stuffed to the gills already with stories of schism. A little bit of perspective and reflection is required here. There are 80m Anglicans in the world. There are more than 800m Hindus, more than 300m Buddhists and more than 1bn Catholics. The Anglican Communion is, much like Springfield, Illinois, a one-horse town...
Yes, this sounds like a new brand of tea. I'll admit that. But it is actually a reflection on recent events surrounding the Lambeth Conference....
The Lambeth Conference is, precisely, a conference. It is not a synod. To that extent, its resolutions do, indeed, carry great moral weight, but the Lambeth Conference’s decisions are neither definitive nor binding in the Churches of the Anglican Communion.
Jim Naughton, director of communications for the Diocese of Washington, writes of his recent experience covering the Lambeth conference. Here is a taste...
What is most objectionable about Williams' recent machinations are his efforts to construct a Communion in which only one response is permissible. He has sacrificed his opportunity to act on his convictions because he believes that his office demands it. One may disagree with that choice, but one can respect it. What one cannot respect, and must not accept, are his efforts to impose a similar sacrifice on those who believe that their offices — as pastors, as friends, as Christians — demand a different conclusion.
Here are the recent remarks by Bishop Ducan Gray of Mississippi in reaction to the Anglican Covenant currently being developed and the misguided view many in the Global South have of the Episcopal Church and many of its leaders...
Remarks by Bishop Duncan Gray III At the Windsor Continuation Group HearingLambeth Conference July 28th 2008
A bit of personal history: I have been nurtured and shaped within the Evangelical tradition of my Church. Most importantly, this means that the ultimate authority of the Holy Scripture and the necessity of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus as the way to the Father are foundational and non-negotiable components of my faith.
Within my own province, I voted not to consent to the election of Gene Robinson, for reasons both theological and ecclesiological. I have followed to the letter and the spirit of the Windsor Report — before there was a Windsor Report. For my faithfulness to this communion I have been rewarded by regular incursions into our diocese by primates and bishops who have no apparent regard for either my theology or ecclesiology.
I have made some peace with this reality, preferring to think of the irregularly ordained as Methodists — and some of my best friends are Methodists! What I cannot make peace with is the portrayal of my sister and brother bishops in the Episcopal Church, who disagree with me, as bearers of a false gospel. That portrayal does violence to the imperfect, but faithful, grace-filled, and often costly way, in which they live out their love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, I am in serious disagreement with many of them on the very critical sacramental and ethical issues about which the Communion is in deep conflict. Are we sometimes, at best, insensitive to the wider context in which we do ministry, and at worst, deeply embedded in American arrogance — Absolutely! And for that insensitivity and arrogance we have begged the Communion's forgiveness on several occasions. “But do I see the Church in them?” as the most serious question at the last hearing asked. As God is my witness, I do. Despite my profound disagreements I continue to pray “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We continue to reaffirm our creedal faith together. We continue to gather round the Lord’s table together, bringing the brokenness and imperfectness of our lives into the healing embrace of our Lord who sends us out together to the poor, the weak and the hopeless. And, in the midst of our internal conflicts, they show me Jesus.
There are dozens of bishops like me in the Episcopal Church. We are not a one, or even two dimensional Church. We are a multitude of diverse theological, ecclesiological and sacramental perspectives — and the vast majority of us have figured out a way to stay together. How is this possible? I think it begins with the gift from Saint Paul, who taught us the great limitations of even our most insightful thought. We do, every one of us, “see through a glass, darkly.” And none of us can say to the other, “I have no need of you.”
One day, Saint Paul says, we will see face to face, the glory that we now only glimpse. But in the meantime, as each of us struggles to be faithful, may each of us, the Episcopal Church and the wider communion, find the courage, and the humility, to say to one another, “I need you — for my salvation and for the salvation of the world.”
I enjoy reading the blog of the provoost of St. Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow. Here is a quote of his recent piece on Lambeth...
I don’t actually think that the attempt to sum up the “liberal” side comes anywhere near to my position at all. The things is, its all about human rights, Rowan. This is not just about the rights of gay and lesbian people in the US, it is about all of us. It is about the rights of people in all parts of the world to self expression, to practise their religion, to live freely with dignity before God.
I keep looking for our Bishops in the photos coming out of Lambeth Conference. Can You see Bishop Tom in this pic? Look toward the middle. Thanks to Bishop David, who I link to below, for this view of the official Lambeth Photo.
Jane Williams (++Rowan's better half) and Helen Wangusa, Anglican Observer to the UN, fellowship at a recent Lambeth event. This is what its all about, not headline seeking, not end-runs around leadership, and not the bigoted spew in the guise of religious purity coming from the self-righteous. If only we would all be willing to listen a little more and talk a little less, oh what a world that would be.
There is an overabundance of news coming out of the Lambeth Conference. However, many of the items put out by the mainstream press and the critics are being sensationalized to make headlines. I find it more helpful to read everything, then reflect on it through the voices of the actual participants...
It has been a long road, but the legislative synod for the Church of England has voted to move forward with elevating women to the Episcopate. In doing so they will join a growing minority of provinces in the Anglican Communion that has women serving in all three orders of the historic Apostolic ministry.
The church has tried hard to find a way of accommodating the reactionaries who declare, as a matter of theological conviction, that they cannot receive the Christian ministry from women. All such objections, however, embody three propositions that are ultimately unacceptable. One is that the opposition of the minority should permanently prevent the will of the majority from being put into practice. The second is that extensive special treatment for the anti-women minority - whether in the form of separate or parallel male-only structures and appointments - inevitably demeans female clergy as being lesser bishops than men. The third is the underlying indignity itself of the belief that women are not made to be bishops. The synod's concession of a code of conduct - not yet drawn up - is as far as the church should go in making concessions to its conscientious objectors.
And here is one of my favorite C of E commentators, Fr. Giles Fraser, who never pulls any punches...
The debate threw up some unlikely heroes. Foremost among them the Bishop of Liverpool, who has had his troubles of late, chiefly as chair of governors of the Oxford college, Wycliffe Hall that has made the news for sacking most of its staff and going so right wing it has been nicknamed an Anglican madrasa. But his speech steered the women bishops debate to its conclusion. The job description of bishops, he argued, was to feed the body of Christ. And yet, before the body of Christ became a metaphor for the people of God, it was a women that feed Christ’s physical body and looked after him. Here was the Biblical argument for women bishops. Indeed - on this argument - the very first bishop was a woman.
It has started, and this will not be the last time. And it is only a sign of the greater intolerance alive and well among us. Recently a private citizen, Douglas Kmiec, was denied the sacrament in the Roman Church because he has publically endorsed Obama. What makes this even more insane is that this person is a conservative, known for his pro-life stance.
I'm glad I belong to the part of Christ's holy Catholic Church that doesn't have the desire to punish you if you disagree with it.
The folks at St. Mikes are at it again. I recently blogged about their smear campaign here. They have since written another op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer. It too is full of half-truths, much like the original article about the closing of the church.
For the sake of full disclosure, I am a member of COCL (Committee on Congregational Life) that made the recommendation to the Bishop to close the mission. We--I mean COCL and diocesan staff--worked very hard to tell the truth in this situation. And I refuse to accept a level of blame about this, simply because the people at St. Mikes are prancing around like childish asses.
COCL did what needed to be done, the Bishop did what needed to be done. And as one who has been accosted by some of the angry and completely-blinded-to-reality members of that church, I can honestly say that our only mistake is that this should have happened a long time ago.
I am fed up to my back teeth with those in the Episcopal Church who believe that "being church" is only about social justice. Evangelism and church-growth are an absolute and necessary part of the equation. And if bringing people to God is not at the very foundation and root cause of all we do, than we have become a very inept branch of the local department of Health and Human Services.
Since the closing of St. Micheal and All Angels the former parishioners have expended infinitely more energy in bitching about the establishment (that has kept them afloat for several decades) than they ever did in bringing people to Christ in the last half century. They are dissembling and cloaking they're sinful lack of ministry over the years in the guise of righteous indignation, and I for one will not excuse it.
If you're looking for signs of food shortage on the horizon, here it is. I took this picture on the way back from Diocesan House the other day, at a gas station and in a town that will both remain nameless.
I have to give them an A+ for ingenuity. Who knew worms to be a good source of protein? The problem is they cost more than the bologna--might be more nutritious as well.
You don't steal--ever! That was a big one in my house growing up. You just didn't do it. And if you took the five finger discount on a piece of candy at the local store and mom or dad found out, you not only got punished, but you also had to go back to Simmerings and apologize to the husband and wife who owned the store. And since it was a small town, by the time you finished all this, everyone knew and nobody trusted you.
In my community stealing is not only a personal sin it is also a public evil. It puts you at enmity with everything around you.
But in the days of huge severance packages for corporate jerks who sink the company but are bought out to avoid lawsuits, it seems that stealing is only stealing when the thief is in the lower rungs of the economic classes. Oil companies make the largest profits in the history of the planet through collusion, but that's not fraud--it's high finance. Toy companies send most of their work overseas with little if any supervision and the product that comes back to our children is covered in lead-based paint. But that's not negligence--that's out-sourcing.
Why my rant about all of this? The schismatic bishop of San Joaquin, John Schofield, is trying to steal the real property of The Episcopal Church. Plain and simple, no ifs ands or buts about it. Here is what he recently sent out the congregations following him into schism...
To the clergy and parishioners of San Joaquin -We recognize that the news of a lawsuit from the Presiding Bishop and the representatives of Remain Episcopal in Stockton, may be unsettling. However, please be assured that we have been expecting this litigation and the contents contain no surprises. Please know that our legal team has been at work for some time. They are optimistic and remain unperturbed by The Episcopal Church's most recent action. What our legal counsel has accomplished on our behalf is already proving most helpful in defense of property and assets despite the fact that this preparatory work had to be done without the benefit of seeing what the Episcopal Church intended to do. Furthermore, I want to remind you that in spite of the claims by The Episcopal Church, nothing in their current Constitution and Canons prohibits a diocese from leaving one province and moving to another.
I'm not a radical when it comes to this. It is my hope that conservatives and liberals and everyone in between can find a home in The Episcopal Church. I don't want to see the church divided by schism. That only destroys what the faithful before us worked so hard to build.
All of that said, it doesn't change the fact that he once served in The Episcopal Church, and because of reasons of conscience he can no longer remain in communion with us. But rather than resign from an institution he could no longer serve, taking the noble path of many non-jurors before him, he decides to change the rules to keep the church property that was built and has been maintained over the decades by the very institution he can no longer tolerate.
It's theft...there is no getting around it...and no amount of moralizing will make it right. Shame on you, Mr. Schofield. Your mother taught you better than that.
It's hard not to get caught up in what is called the current crisis going on in the global Anglican Communion at present if you're an American Episcopalian. But it is stories like these that remind me that it's not always so bad here in our little corner of Christendom. I first came across this article over at Kendall Harmon's site. It tells the story of slave labor used by the Catholic Church in Germany during the Nazi era. The mere fact of this is terrible in itself, much like the Episcopal Church's dubious history with slavery in the US. But the real corker is the way a German Cardinal responded to the news of this.
The Archbishop of Mainz, Cardinal Karl Lehmann said the 700-page history entitled "Forced Labour in the Catholic Church 1939-1945" found that 776 church hospitals, homes, monasteries, farms and gardens were provided with slave labour imported from Russia, Poland and the Ukraine by the Nazi regime.
“The comparatively small number of labourers, many of whom spent barely a year working in Catholic institutions, doesn't even amount to a thousandth of the estimated total of 13 million forced labourers employed throughout the Reich," Cardinal Lehmann said at a press conference broadcast on German television on April 8.
"But it remains an historical burden which will continue to challenge our church in the future. There is no collective guilt, but as Christians and as a church we are aware of the responsibility that results from the burden of the past,” the former president of the German Catholic Bishops Conference said.
Are you kidding me! "There is no collective guilt..."
The Cardinal goes on to make a half hearted non-apology...
"We shouldn't hide the fact that the memory of the Catholic church was blind for too long to the fate and the suffering of the men, women, young people and children dragged to Germany from all over Europe to be put to forced labour," Cardinal Lehmann said.
Of coarse what do I know. According to Pope Benedict, I belong not to a church, but to a ecclesial community that suffers from defects!
All of this makes me think of the words of the invitation to the confession in the old Book of Common Prayer office of Morning Prayer...
DEARLY beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us, in sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy.
It seems to me there is often a lot of dissembling and cloaking of our actions in the church, especially when those present or past actions are against those we disagree with. I for one am glad to be in a church that is struggling with issues about basic human rights. Because that is exactly what the current crisis in Anglicanism is all about. It is not about doctrine, it is not about scripture, and it not about apostolic authority, it is about whether or not all people are created equal in the eyes of God. And I pray we never disemble or cloak that to appease someone who disagrees with us.
We often suffer from the tyranny of the immediate in the Anglican Communion. This is the case in most institutions when they either forget or ignore the central mission. They lose focus and suddenly become consumed in what ever is immediate. Our current crisis surrounds the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church. And this crisis is often divided into the liberals versus the conservatives. Mark Oakley offers another way to look at what is going on in a recent article in the Church Times...
The division, however, is not really between conservatives and liberals at all. It is much more serious than that. It is a division between, first, those who are willing to say that other Christians, who have different views or lifestyles to themselves, are still, nevertheless, Christian, and have a Christian integrity that must be part of the Church; and, second, those who think that this simply cannot and must not be the case.
If you attend a service at All Saints' on the second Sunday of Easter, you heard me speak about the continuing situation at our mission of St. Michael and All Angels in Cincinnati. I spoke about the anger members expressed in the closing of the mission. I then made the comment that if they expressed as much energy in doing ministry as they have in trying to grab headlines things would be different at St. Mike's.
As some know, the parish of St. Michael & All Angels has been closed, owing to dwindling numbers. This is understandably a sad time for those who are losing their accustomed weekly gathering for worship in a place they love. But this is not the whole story. The Episcopal Church is not leaving Avondale. On the contrary, we are convinced that now, more than ever, we are called to stand with those who seek peace and justice and the possibility of common life in the inner city. God has provided us in St. Michael's with a strategic location for such a ministry, and we intend to move forward as quickly as possible to make this a reality.
Hope this sheds a little light on what is going on in Avondale.
Lots of folks have stopped by the church over the last 3 months looking for help. Close to 40% over last year. It is overwhelming and the meager help we can offer oft times seems useless in the face of such need.
I found this article today that made me think a little about how the church does or does not address poverty...
...In the hardscrabble world of Depression-era Alabama, my daddy said there were two pictures on his wall: Jesus and President Franklin Roosevelt. There was more behind those pictures than a wall, of course. Both men were viewed as saviors. One from sin. The other from the next worst thing — poverty...
I'm taking a short break from listening to the Democratic debate tonight. Hearing both candidates, I began to wonder if this really is a generational thing. Certainly much has been said about race and gender in this race for the White House. Maybe not by the candidates so much, but certainly by media sources and blogs. But not much is said about this being about Boomers v/s X'ers. I want to think about this a little more, I'll have to wait until after the debate.
For certain, I don't always agree with Archbishop Rowan Williams. In fact, there are times that I want to send him packing. But it can never be said of him that he is a slipshod theologian. In that category, he will always have my utmost respect.
So in order to parse out some of his complex nature and the mystery surrounding him, I found this article by Theo Hobson. I gives some real insight into a man who is hard to pin down....
His job, as he understands it, is also to interpret the tradition that he represents, and to sharpen its capacity for truthfulness. In this view, the religious leader has more in common with the court jester than the king. His role is not to project an image of strength that will unite the faithful, and please the nation at large, but to challenge all tendencies to ideological surety, in both Church and nation...
So what does it mean to be transfigured--notice I don't use the word transformed. I can't help but picture the scene from the first Harry Potter movie when in "transfiguration class" Ron tries to turn his rat into a cup. It doesn't work out as planned. The rat does take the shape of the cup, but the cup retains the rat's fur and tail. So much for cheers.
What does it mean to be transfigured? To have the substance and form that makes up who we are changed into something else? Is their a spiritual side to this? Can we change on the outside and not be changed on the inside and visa versa? Is it harder to experience this the older we get? Can we even expect to experience this when we get set in our ways? And does any of this even matter?
On the Last Sunday before Lent--in 2008 it is February 3--we will hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. For a moment in the Gospel, Jesus is transfigure into the beauty and fullness of all He is--both human and divine. And in doing so, he shows us a glimpse of what awaits us in the nearer presence of God. For Jesus, this happened while he was embracing his humanity. For us mortals it means embracing who we are as those created in God's image, and letting go ever so slightly of a need to control and a faith placed only in ourselves.
But who are we kidding. We don't want to be told what to do. We want to tell others what to do. We don't really want to be told what to believe, because most of us already know it all. And God forbid we are asked to move beyond the comfortable space every human being tries to surround themselves with. In the midst of our intractability, we are still genuinely surprised when life throws us a curve. And sadder still when we are so stuck in believing that we alone know best that we don't even realize that anything about us ever needs to be transfigured.
The reality is this. In that moment at the transfiguration, Jesus stands on the mountain and in the midst of his humanity he is surrounded by the tangible glory of God the Father. In that moment we see Him as He is...and in our own moment we must realize it is only when we can let go, and move into that cloud of holiness with Christ that we can ever expect that transfigured life as well.