Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For whom the bell tolls...

I was walking among the graves of my ancestors yesterday on a hillside overlooking the village my family has called home for more than two centuries. Some of us were paying our last respects to the most recent member of the family, David, who has now made his journey "into the west." I couldn't help but think of John Donne who is on the church calendar today and his Mediation # 17. Most of us know the one line...but there is so much more to it...


Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he know not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me and see my state may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon eny occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promentory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death dimishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarcely any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treaure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick unto death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels as gold in a mine and be no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction digs out and applies that gold to me, if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation and so secure myself by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

A tip of the biretta to James Kiefer's Hagiographies for the digital version of Donne's work.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Property Issues

On a personal note, I have no tolerance for schism. If you have a complaint, work through the system to make your voice heard. If you feel the church has erred, pray God to bring it back on the path...but don't think you have any rights to steal from it and justify your actions under the accusations that the church has committed apostasy and you alone are in sole possession of the truth...

[Episcopal News Service] An El Paso County district judge ruled March 24 that the property and assets of the landmark Grace and St. Stephen's Church in downtown Colorado Springs are held in trust for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Denver-based Diocese of Colorado, and ordered a disaffiliated group to vacate the $17 million property.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Not about me but we...

Did you see the you see the Sienna-Ohio State game last Thursday night? It would not surprise me if you didn’t, it was a first round game in the NCAA men’s finals last Thursday night. Number 9 cede Sienna beat Number 8 cede Ohio State and will face Louisville this evening.

I saw this snippet of a highlight from that game. Right as Sienna sank the winning shot at the last second in the last overtime, the camera pans over to their bench just as the team jumps up . Behind them, another student stands up behind the bench, pulls out a big yellow poster board with—you guessed it—John 3:16.

He didn’t have it long. This big, bald security guard stepped up, ripped it out of his hands and folded it up and threw it away. It’s not the guard was some atheist anti-John 3:16-sign enforcer. NCAA rules don’t allow any signs, religious or otherwise, at a tournament game.

Still, I want to say to the kid who smuggled in his sign: “You've got the wrong verse! If you're going to go through all the work of smuggling in the sign, at least have the correct verse!”

We all know—or many of us do, anyway—John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to the end that all that believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This is the slogan-passage for many Christians. To them it describes the core of Christian faith. But we forget about the rest of the passage, and its context. This is why if a kid was going to hold up bible-verse sign it should say “John 3:17.” And that reads: “Indeed, God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order than it might be saved through him.”In other words, God’s salvation is not about “me” but about “we.”

Read the rest of Andrew Gern's post here...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A break in Lenten disciplines

What a great weekend. It's not Laetare Sunday yet but in Portsmouth I took a break from my lenten discipline with our local St. Patrick's Parade. It was rainy and cold which meant that our thurifer, crucifer, torch bearers et. al. were excused from leading the parade--except that is for me. I don't have pictures yet, but when I do, I'll post them here.

I was intent on staying dry, so I chose to wear my black wool cape over my vestments. To keep my head warm, I wore a biretta. And to keep everything else dry, I balanced a missal and blessing cross in one hand and a green and white golf umbrella in the other. Like I said, I'll post some pictures--it's worth seeing. I might have looked straight out of a previous century, but I was the only one in the parade dry and warm.

I led the parade this year-sans acolytes-blessing people along the route as I went. At the end, I stayed on the corner and gave blessings to all 75 of the floats and parade entries. The fireman and paramedics seemed especially grateful.

This is small town America, where everybody knows everyone, and we all try to watch out for each other. This is one of those moments. Not everyone along the way is a Christian, and not everyone realized I was actually a priest--each year, the same lady halfway through on the right says, "look, they have somebody dressed up like a priest," and every year, my friend standing next to her says, "no, he really is a priest, it is a SAINT Patrick's parade--remember?" Christian or not, folks were glad for it. Life is hard around here and we need all the help we can get. St. Patrick, pray for us.