Theology

Called and Blessed

  
  The blessing oil drips off my hands, running onto the page as I write, and Scripture’s lines about oil dripping off of Aaron’s beard run through my head. I remember how I remind others that anointing with oil was a kingly act, that our baptism anointing ties us to the apostles, prophets, priests, and kings of our faith, stretching back to Moses and Aaron. And my hands seem small.Today these are the hands which blessed a dying woman and offer comfort which seemed to little to her family.
Last week these hands stapled, copied, changed toner, and moved chairs and tables. Next week they will light fire to turn palms into ashes, press the ashes into people’s foreheads, alto help us remember “you are dust and to dust you will return.

These are hands that pet my dog, cook, caress my husband, clean, sort laundry, and cart books around with me.

Hands that weekly raise bread and wine as I pray, hope, expect them to turn into Christ’s body and blood.

These are my hands, running over with the blessing of an Archbishop, drenched in the work God has called me to.

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There is a balm in Galilee

There is a balm in Galilee. 

Or at least that’s what I’m looking and hoping for, a balm in Galilee. 

The better known Balm of Gilead is only mentioned a few times in scripture and always as something with extraordinary healing properties, rare, and valuable.  The idea was later adopted and incorporated into an African American Spiritual.  “There is a balm in Gilead/to heal the sin sick soul.”

I’d take the balm of Gilead.  I’ve a chronic condition, or few, that it’d be nice to treat for the last time.  But the balm I’m looking and hoping for in Galilee, especially in Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s metaphorical Galilee, is not the mythical or magical balm of Gilead.   

I want the balm that will help the church, my well loved church, see me as a priest with chronic health issues, not as a problem to be fixed with doctors notes or only spoken of in hushed tones among trusted confidantes or endlessly suspect (“she says she has migraines, but who really knows” or worse “how can she pretend to do this demanding job if she’s in as much pain as she says”). 

It’s only been in the last year that I’ve found the courage to risk telling people I didn’t already trust about my chronic health issues.  My suspicion was well learned.  My health issues preceded my ordination and it was mentors and leaders I’d both trusted and been required to trust with my still new realities that advised me in my first job search not to mention the brain surgeries or the migraines, or suggested a doctors note certifying that I could work, and (in the same conversation) assured me that any congregation which rejected me for these reasons wasn’t worth working for.

That was a long time, several jobs, and many blogs posts ago.  And the church hasn’t changed.  I know I’ve lost jobs for alluding to my health conditions and I prefer not to think about those who may have seen the same sentences and just never responded.  I’ve received various advice from colleagues and congregants about my migraines, little of which my doctor agreed with.  And I’ve learned that I’m not alone.   

Along with friends who also live with chronic health conditions, more and less formal collegial groups who live with chronic health conditions, and friends who know how to listen, I’ve done my research and reading. 50% North Americans live with a chronic health condition, many of which we cannot see and society and the church prefer we not talk about.  Half of us. I am so far from alone.

The balm I want Galilee to hold is not a cure for me.  It is a road to Damascus falling away of the scales for my Church.  Stop pretending I’m not here.  Stop talking as though only old people were sick or in pain.  See me, hear me.  Find a way to hold both my gifts and my pain.  More concretely

  • Unlearn cliches.  (Some examples here)
  • See people not diagnoses.
  • Don’t offer treatment advice unless asked.  Not even that thing that was a miracle for your aunt/cousin/self.
  • Respect their language choices.  Some people use disability, some chronic illness.  I’ve opted for chronic health condition here.
  • Make one change every year to make your church more accessible.  Here are 50 ideas. 
  • Stop preaching in Jesus’ healing as psychological or community wholeness.  It was, but scripture says people were healed.  Some of us would love to have our pain relieved and it hasn’t happened even after, in many cases, sincere faith and years of prayer.
  • Get serious about the health benefits you provide your employees.  Copays for doctor visits, medications, limited sick days, plans that only cover the ER if you are admitted to the hospital are some of the barriers to people taking care of themselves. 
  • Stock some Empathy Cards and send those.
  • Chronic illness is long term and one day at a time.  There are good, bad, and in between days.  Trust people to judge their ability that day.
  • Educate your parishioners.  That can be serious or silly. 

Most of us live with, care for, or love someone with a chronic health condition.  May Galilee be a place where the Church can be healed of it’s blindness and ableism; a place where all of God’s children are encouraged to participate in the ways that best suit them.

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Love and Legalism

A couple of weeks ago the audio of my sermon got lost due to a tech mishap.  Because I had most of a manuscript and thought it was a good sermon on a hard passage, I committed to (re)creating a written version of the sermon. The text I preached is Mark 10: 2-16 and can be found here.

(NB Sermons and writing are similar but not identical practices for me.  What I’m posting here is a bit of a cross between the two.  I’ve adapted some of the techniques I’d use while preaching because this will mostly exist as writing; I’ve left others. I’ve left in many time specific references because rewriting them didn’t work for me.  As you read, remember that in some ways this exists primarily on Oct 4 2015. I’ve also left in some things I would’ve softened when I was preaching.)

Jesus is on a bit of a roll here, isn’t he?   A few verses ago it was cutting off body parts, now it’s hard answers about divorce.

Before we get into what Jesus said, let’s be clear that divorce is emotionally laden for all of us.  For some of us divorce is the great tragedy of our childhood, or that we forced into our children’s childhood.  For some of us divorce is what made us free, what gave us a life worth living back.  For me, of course, divorce is the topic I most wanted to preach on two weeks after getting married.

For a little bit, at least a few more paragraphs, let’s set all of our emotional baggage to the side and look at what happens. 

Jesus gets asked about divorce.  But this is about more than divorce.  We’re more than halfway through Mark’s gospel so things are about to go badly–trials and crucifixion are coming soon.  And then a Pharisee shows up.  Pharisees are the detail oriented sect of Judaism that Jesus probably hung out with most.  And the question is about Jewish law–what is and isn’t permitted.  And it’s not just a question, it’s a trap. 

This is a challenge religious scholars are posing to ask Jesus to choose between common practice of the day (when men and women were divorcing each other—a process that included negotiating a complex document—a get—that spelled out how both parties would be taken care of) and what Moses said (which is presumably what God wants).  So does Jesus pick the crowds whose support is increasingly keeping him alive or does he pick Moses who spoke with God and transcribed the Law?  It’s a trap all neatly wrapped up in question.

In my imagination there’s a pause between the question (trap!) and Jesus’s answer.  In my imaginary pause Jesus looks at the crowd who loves him, who Roman authorities fear angering, who is keeping him out of jail and away from death, and then Jesus looks at this Pharisee, this Jewish scholar whose life is in pursuit of the best way to keep God’s commandments.  Does he pick what the people want, what Moses said?

Then Jesus (and my imagination wants Jesus to have a mischievous glint in his eyes here but my faith tells me it’s more likely a smile tinged with sorrow) answers.  Not the crowd, not Moses, but Eden. Option C.  The answer that ignores the framework the question suggests: not a or b, but something more important than the crowd or Moses.

Eden.  That time we tell stories about when everything was perfect, before the stories we tell about our sinning, our hardness of heart to use the biblical euphemism.  “What God has joined together, let no one separate,” Jesus quotes from Genesis.  This is a quote from when we could always be our best selves, when the world was in perfect accord with God’s will.

We don’t live in that world.  (Sometimes the obvious needs stating.)  Here are some of the ways, which often contribute to divorce, in which our world is unlike Eden:
-no abuse (physical, verbal, or emotional)
-no societal cues for what a good marriage ought to look like (the man brings home the bacon and the woman keeps house and raises kids, also not biblical but more post-WWII)
-no poverty
-no wealth disparity
-no politics or other deeply held beliefs to argue about
-no in laws to abuse, ignore, or meddle
-no sexism
-a society which doesn’t value male flourishing more than female flourishing
-no jealousy
-no social (and often religious) disapproval of sexuality, especially anything that’s not cis, straight, white masculine sexuality

That’s a list of personal and societal sins. It’s a list about family histories and human limitations. On our best days we can rise above the limitations and sins that we inherit and that we inherently possess.  But marriage is about being together “for better and for worse” and sometimes, especially when items like those I just listed are involved, two people can’t live together through their “worses”.

Two weeks ago I stood right here (gestures to the space in front of the pews where I was married) and made extravagant vows, wild and crazy promises about for better and worse, about for as long as we both shall live, about sickness and health.  Two weeks ago the Bishop reminded many of us that  marriage is an image of God’s love for us. And in many ways marriage is a great image and metaphor for God’s crazy, extravagant, abundant, intimate love for us.

Let’s remember that we are to struggle to live into the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control we are assured are fruits of the Spirit.  When someone we know needs to end their marriage, let’s not look for traps and legalistic points to fixate on.  Let’s look for ways to be supportive, to help them mourn what is ending, that it needs to end, and celebrate the new possibilities that will come; Let’s look for ways to act out the fruits of the Spirit, much less perfect practice a love like God’s.

When we hear Jesus talk about divorce let’s try to remember a much bigger story—the bigger story Jesus is in the middle of and the bigger story we are all, always, in the middle of. Let’s try to remember that we are not perfect people any of us, and that some of our “worses” don’t allow another person to healthily live with us in the intimacy of marriage. 

Jesus is asked a question about divorce and legalism.  Let’s make sure all our responses are about God’s love.

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Being a Scholar Priest

“In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.”
Book of Common Prayer, 531

I was at Camp as the priest of the week. Right before bedtime, a Counselor brought a camper—an almost sleepy boy of probably 9—over to me with a question. “What does Hallelujah mean?”

I wasn’t thinking when I answered the call from an unknown number on my day off. “Did the Jews kill Jesus?” wasn’t the opening statement I expected.

I was at a joint service planning meeting and informed that my idea was unnecessary as my colleague did not believe our people were deep theologians.

I worry that our Church has come to believe this lie that our people are not deep theologians. We let ourselves compile lists of the things we never learned in seminary as if the ability to sketch out the major councils and heresies of the early Church had less bearing on our vocation than our ability to navigate Church repair. Convinced, hopefully or fearfully, that Christians do not care about the details, the history, the richness, the nuance of our faith. Some believe it. Believe that priests do not need to know the outline of Church history or the basics of the rubrics. Or that at most these things should be kept to our Continuing Education days. Sequestered off from people that primarily need to be lured away Sunday morning hockey (or football) commitments and into Church.

Sometimes the necessary skill is to know, on the spot, that Hallelujah means ‘Praise God.’ Sometimes it is helpful to be able to reassure a caller that her newly discovered Jewish heritage does not include a blood debt for the death of Jesus.
Or any of the other odd theological tasks ministry has us stumble over.

It is not just the odd, strange, and yet not uncommon encounters of my life that convince me of the importance of study, of deep theology.

My parish recently read Joan Chittister’s In Search of Belief for a parish book study. Towards the end of one class as people were discussing the challenges of the reading, one parishioner commented that I was sitting there smiling.
And I was.

Not because everyone was worried their entire faith system had just been found hollow.
Because we were sitting there, conservative, liberal, literal, literary, cradle Anglicans, recent converts, together.

I am called and charged “to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.”

And as a parish priest I particularly live this out through leading community. Not just by loving the people I am amongst but by hosting space where liberal and conservative and just-not-sure-yet all witness themselves being loved, heard, and understood in front of other people.
To do this means knowing more of my tradition than my preferred strands of it. It means learning how to hold open the riches of Christ’s grace for those who need other strands. And holding out the hope that in the life to come we will all be closer to God and thus to each other in our understanding of the faith we share.

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We Make Our Song

I sat at the deathbeds of three Churches. That was the ministry I was called to. It was not the ministry I expected. It was not, in the way that death never is, the ministry I wanted.

I could see all the ways the story ended differently. More money, more people, more energy. Some of my fictional endings might have worked. Some of them rested on three years of sleeplessness. The story might have ended differently, but my real ministry was to help it end well.

After three deathbeds I stayed in my Church, in my priestly orders, and was terrified. Becoming a “Church Closer” is not the long term ministry I want, in no small part because I fear it would drive me out of the Church. A Church closing, your Church closing breaks your heart and eventually it would be too much.  Eventually I feared I would break.

When I moved for a new call, a new chapter of ministry in a new Church located in a new Diocese and country, I was asked the question we are always asked, “Who are you? Where are you from? What have you done?”

I am from Montana, from the United States, from the Episcopal Church. My family, my life, my friends. This stories are easy to tell.

I closed three Churches.
This is not the story you want to tell. Not in a Church that has told and believed a story of fear and scarcity. Not in a world where success is valued and death is failure.

An insightful colleague asked what those deathbeds taught me.

A deep understanding of resurrection.

I sat at the deathbeds of three Churches. I lived the story that did happen, not the one we all may have wished and dreamed and hoped for.

Three deathbeds. A Church that is scared the story it tells about it’s demise is more than a rumour.
I refute the idea that the church is dying. I look forward long and active years in priestly ministry.

Why?
A deep understanding of resurrection.

We talk about a theology of abundance as if discussion of what our people and money and energy can do is enough. As if abundance will drive out the fear which even perceived scarcity brings.

Christianity, Jesus, is never about enough. Or more than enough.

Jesus is about driving out fear, not to replace it with the paltry offering of ‘enough,’ but to offer the reverent fear, the awe, of and holiness. Jesus is about the extra mile, finding lost sheep, and celebrating. Jesus is about the impossible.
Jesus is the Christ who is Risen.

I believe, my lived theology tells me, that abundance is not about the reality of enough when we think we have too little. Abundance is Resurrection.easter flower

Because enough runs out. Sometimes we have too little. Sometimes we sit at deathbeds.

And then we remind ourselves that even at the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

A theology of abundance is weak.

Resurrection is strong. Resurrection is impossible. Resurrection is abundant.
Resurrection is Divine.

The Lord is Risen Indeed!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

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To Elevate the Host

It was January 2002, the weekend before my 2nd semester of college began. It was the beginning of my acceptance of a priestly vocation and I was sitting in a room at a Church 5 hours away from home, further from college. A priest, whom I’ve known for years and love and respect, said that he planned to continue celebrating Eucharist “until I can no longer elevate the Host.”

In the moment I knew three things. This was like no other position on retirement I’d ever heard. I had no understanding off what he meant. This was absolutely true and a visceral reality.

I’ve had a brief vacation over the last week. The timing was found where my need to rest (after the moving and moving and learning a new Church, Diocese, city, and country) met the schedule of the Diocese and Church. I was pulled a bit thin by the time my fist day of vacation came.

I took time to read, walk my dog, visit museums, go to the movies, clean my house, sit on my couch and watch television. I was on vacation for Sunday and the midweek services.

It was good to be gone and it is good to be back. Seven days is just long enough to rest and not so long that I am playing massive catch-up with messages. Still, I spent the first few days back out of rhythm with my usual week. And I didn’t quite know how to get back.
I know that this is normal. It doesn’t matter when my time away ends or how I set things up, the first few days are a little off.

I find my rhythm after my first service back.

This is My Body

 

This is I when hear my wise friend’s voice: “until I can no longer elevate the Host.”
I have been ordained and lived my way into that sacramental and elusive truth. There is something about who I am, how I am connected to my role as priest that is grounded and grounds me through celebrating the Eucharist. Through the sharing of Christ’s body and blood with my community.

“Until I can no longer elevate the Host.”

This is what I know now about this statement. It’s not about retirement; it’s about sacrament, relationship, and vocation. I can explain it no better than I first heard it. It is viscerally true.

And it was good and right and joyous to be back, elevating the Host and celebrating with my community, this morning.

Picture used via Creative Commons, Alan Creech, Flickr 
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Praying My Future

I started seminary the fall after I graduated college.  I moved across the country and, as it happened, away from a Church situation that was…unhealthy…for me.  It had been difficult for more than a year before I left.  I felt I had little community at my Church; I was not being fed spiritually. I even thought about switching denominations.  I couldn’t.  I wanted and needed a better community.  And I was about to move 2,000 miles away from the support I did have.

With no way to fix the situation I was in and no control over what would come, I prayed.  I started with no idea which seminary I would attend and no information about my future classmates.  Knowing that another unhealthy community would nearly kill my life in this Church I loved and wanted to serve, I prayed.  For my classmates, for how our community would be, for who we would be and become together.  For eighteen months,  I prayed my future, in blind faith that it might be true.

There was a moment where I knew.  Knew that seminary, along with all of its challenges, would be better, would feed me.  I kept praying–to remind God and myself.

One of the most frequent questions I hear (and I suspect most priests hear) is about the purpose and efficacy of prayer.  Do we pray to a God who listens?  A God who answers?  Why are there fewer miracles?  Why are so many prayers unanswered? Our  answers are tepid at best.  Of course God listens, wants to answer.  Miracles were likely natural cures in a time without scientific understanding.  ‘No’ is an answer.  We have to trust that God knows what we need better than we do.  Prayer is a meditative exercise meant to change us.  Worst of all: Miracles are knowledge of the presence of God.

I don’t know.  My prayers are often unanswered.  I have not witnessed a miracle, God’s intervening action in the world.  It often seems that I am praying into a void or as some sort of meditative exercise not communication with the God who calls me beloved.

But I also know that my seminary class was a healthy community where I was nurtured and healed.

For the past eighteen months I have been again been praying my future, from long the first moment I knew my time there was coming to an end.  I prayed for my Churches as I always had.  I also prayed for the Church that was calling me as their priest.  Long before I started searching, long before I had any idea where I would be looking, I prayed.

I prayed for their discernment, for my discernment, for the palpable movement of the Holy Spirit.  As I discerned with different Churches, I added prayers for them specifically.    As I kept looking, as the months stretched out, as I heard “not you,” as friends started to delightedly announce new positions and I had nothing to announce.  I prayed.

Now, after so many prayers:

I am delighted to announce that I have been called as the next rector of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Edmonton.

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What Camp taught me about Rules, the Great Commandment, and Priorities

There are few universal rules, especially at Camp. A person is running. Running can lead to falling—especially in a world of unpaved paths, gravel, roots, large rocks, and done in an often ungainly body. So we don’t run. Except when we do (some games and activities, and in the case of emergencies). So we can’t have the rule: “Don’t run.”

At Camp Marshall, where I have worked for most of the last 11 summers, we have four rules. Four. No lengthy index to sort through. No list of things appropriate at this time but not that time. No collection of waiting infractions.

Four rules:

Be prepared
Be on time
Participate
Respect yourself and others

As with many good things in my life, I didn’t create it. It was given to me, part of the great inheritance my predecessor and mentor bequeathed to me over a 15 year relationship. Now we have both boldly borrowed it from Barbara Coloroso’s work.*

It works in a Camp environment where there are kids and staff from different backgrounds, different parts of the state and the country. It works in a place replete with hazards (water, small cliffs, wildlife, kids**). It works with the youngest campers and the most experienced staff.

I have found a whole new appreciation for this philosophy. What we do, these four rules, isn’t about rules. It’s not a list of infractions waiting to happen. It’s a list of priorities for this community. We are most concerned about people’s desire to be here (be prepared), presence with others (be on time), engagement with others (participate), and care for themselves and others (respect). Everything we do rests on this ground.

And it works…when we use it.

All behavior has to be viewed through those four principles. Simple but not easy.

Running: a lack of self-respect much of the time, but not always.
Yelling: a lack of respect in a group, or a part of participation during an activity.
Hitting someone: a lack of respect for the other person.
Wearing tennis shoes: part of being prepared for some activities and lack of preparation for the waterfront.
Teasing each other: group bonding or a lack of respect for the subject of the ‘jokes?’
A staff miscommunication: simple—if problematic—error, a lack of preparation, or a lack of respect?

It is hard. There’s always the kid who insists that she feels respected when others talk (gossip) about her. The one who knows running isn’t a problem because he doesn’t mind scrapping his knee.

Working from the ground up takes longer and requires greater discernment. We can’t universally label things. We have to think. We have to take motives and perspectives into account. We have to listen. We have to talk. We have to be relational.

This listening, this talking, this discernment? This way of shaping community?
Makes all the difference.

– – – –

Jesus has three priorities.***

Love God.
Love yourself and your neighbor.
Don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Three priorities all behavior and thought ought to spring from and be viewed through. Living in that truth requires discernment, listening, talking, considering motives and perspectives. Jesus’ three priorities, like most of Jesus’ ministry, are relational.

We are continuing this central work of Christianity. I know Christians who live the knowledge that sacrificing to love their neighbors is essential. I know Churches who work to devote most of their resources to loving their members and neighbors. I know Dioceses where every meeting includes a question like: How will what we do here benefit the poor? And I hear stories of how this has changed the whole culture.

At this last General Convention there was a proposal to require that very question of the entire Episcopal Church. I confess to voting against it. I was wrong. I have a new appreciation for how our communal life, its glories and mundanities, is understood differently through the lens of our greater purpose: to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors, while leaving room for the work of the Spirit.

It will never be easy.

We will continue to interpret even three priorities differently.
The brusque person who speaks to the soft-hearted neighbor. The visitor who sees genuine busyness as dismissal. The person who knows that individual, local efforts are better tailored to their neighbor’s needs and the person who is convinced that a larger social safety net is the best way to love their neighbors. The person who knows their abortion was necessary for their (and often their family’s) health and safety and the one who knows it was a sin against loving the unborn child.

This is more than not vilifying people who disagree. This is crawling inside their view and learning that it stems from the same priorities as our own.

Sometimes this solves problems. Most often when we reach for listening grounded in Jesus’ priorities we find ourselves at the table, breaking bread and drinking wine, with our brothers and sisters, regardless of our disagreements and agreements. Much like a Lord who dined with those called outcast and those considered prominent in society.

*I cannot recommend Ms. Coloroso’s book Kids are Worth It! strongly enough. Ms Coloroso’s approach to discipline is designed to leave everyone’s dignity intact. If you interact with people, this is something you must read. Her website [address and link] is a treasure trove (better phrase) of great resources.
**Only slightly joking. Any group of peers can be it’s own worst enemy. Fighting, rumors, scapegoating, cliques. There are so many ways for people to injure each other.
***Mark 12:29-31 and Mark 3:29
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Alleluias, joyous and wilted

Somewhere around the 4th or 5th week of Easter, I find myself remembering my friend, classmate, and colleague the Rev Cody Unterseher. I think about Cody not because the anniversary of his death is around this time of the year (April 25). I remember Cody because of what happened on Facebook in 2010.

Cody and I were at seminary together for one year–just long enough for a couple of those stereotypical (because they really happen) late night theological (well, liturgical) conversations, long enough to share parts of our stories, long enough to hear him preach (a sermon I still remember). We graduated together in 2008–me with an MDiv, Cody with an STM. After graduation we were Facebook friends. I would read his articles around the internet as he posted about them. I like having smart friends who make me think, with whom I don’t always agree. I hope he found some level of interest or joy in the updates from my life as a parish priest.

In 2010, for the Great Fifty Days of Easter, Cody posted “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” in a different language everyday on Facebook.

For the first couple of days I thought it was interesting and a good reminder. In the second week, I thought it was a little drawn out. In the third week, I was over it. I could no longer even guess at the languages; I was no longer excited by the novelty of our yearly proclamation. But Easter and Cody weren’t over.

Just like our Easter Lilies, our Alleluias wilt–only faster. After 40 days of stifling our voices, of missing our joyous four-syllable proclamation, we can speak, shout, sing it again. At the Easter Vigil (my favorite), on Easter Sunday I can always hear the joy in people’s voices, in my voice as we proclaim our ‘Alleluias’ again.

Then the joy of reclaiming our “Alleluia” fades into the normality of life more quickly than the shocking joy of the resurrection should. By Easter 4, the joy of being permitted the recently forbidden has faded. The idea that “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” is extraordinary starts to go over as well as another verse of “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia.”

Until Cody. Until 50 days of reminders. By holding “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” up for all of Easter, Cody moved me through the wilted Alleluia phase.

This year, most years since 2010, I remember Cody and 50 days of Alleluias I only understood through context, through what I knew those strange foreign words should mean. I remember reaching for a meaning I didn’t always understand, couldn’t prove, didn’t always feel. I remember the moment when I realized that this is what it means to be Easter-ed.

In the first moments of Easter it is easy to be over-joyed with our yearly proclamation. Then life continues. Our transformation into the people God calls us to be is slow, hard work. Sometimes I have to reach to be the person God is calling me to be, reach for what it means to be a part of Christian community when I don’t know if either can really exist. What God asks of me often feel strange and foreign in a world full of really terrible, sad things. When I act as if I have been Easter-ed, when I believe in and act on the things God asks of me, strange and foreign as they may seem, I start living into the meanings, the transformation, the faith I faithfully keep reaching towards.

So on Sunday I will remember Cody and 50 days of Alleluias. I will remember to reach for what I don’t always understand. Then, as the last strains of the processional hymn finish, as I exhale the in-between breath, I will faithfully and joyously proclaim, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”

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I Dream of Bishops

Tonight I’m dreaming of Bishops.

I grew up in a Church with a priest who is male. He was our priest from the time my family joined the Church to when I left for seminary. Although I was blessed to have a priest who was amazingly supportive and encouraging, I still remember the first time I saw women in a collar. It was an outward and visible sign that my Church included me.

I was old enough to be aware of when the Church of England started ordaining women. I remember being shocked and relieved that we were now both celebrating the fullness of the gifts of the Body of Christ. (Okay, I may not have used those words at the time.)

The Church has many roles to fulfill. One is to hold us to a catholic faith. But our faith has always been more than we have ever been. Another is to be the Body of Christ. To represent all of us to each other. Which is hard when we don’t have equal participation.

Today the Church of England failed to allow for the ordination of women to the Episcopate. A lot of the discussion I’ve seen so far is outraged, mixed, and sad.
So am I, for my sister clergy who serve faithfully in a part of the Church where their gifts are limited, for the angst of the future conversations about this topic.
But mostly I’m sad for the little girls for whom this means not a lack of talented and called Bishops who are women, but a lack of Bishops who are like them.  And it’s not just women who suffer this lack. 

So today I’m dreaming of Bishops.

Bishops who are old and young(ish); Bishops from every ethnicity; Bishops who are male and female; Bishops who are heterosexual and homosexual and every other sexual orientation; Bishops from wealthy and poor backgrounds; Bishops who spent their lives in the Church and Bishops who came to the Church after other careers; Bishops who are beacons of ‘health’ and Bishops who come with their assisting devices, chronic illnesses, health struggles; Bishops who are orthodox, liberal, evangelical, conservative, low Church, and the highest Anglo-Catholics.

Ultimately, I dream of Bishops who are passionate about Jesus and the Episcopal-Anglican tradition. Because that has nothing to do with gender, orientation, wealth, or anything other than the actions of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Categories: Church, Theology | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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