Click here for “Redeemer Lives” September 15, 2017
Redeemer is Trending!
f you don’t receive the weekly email updates from the Diocese of California called “DioBytes,” I strongly encourage you to sign up for them here. If you do receive DioBytes, then you probably already saw that the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer was featured prominently in the latest newsletter. We were also featured on the diocese’s instagram account. So one might say that we are trending on the interwebs these days. Or in the words of Mugatu from Zoolander, we are “so hot right now.” I want to thank everyone for making last Sunday such a blast. The Bishop was very excited to see such a great turnout. I want to especially thank Ann Zolezzi, Cindy Smith, Jessica Luiz, Kelly Mason, Julia Smith, Kristin Maguire (the president of the preschool board), Paula Zand and Gail Spencer for helping make it a wonderful day. What a great team! Also, much thanks to Bob B. for taking photos which I look forward to sharing with you all soon!
Click here for “Redeemer Lives” Sept 8, 2017
Participating in the Cosmic Christ
In preparation for Bishop Marc’s visit this Sunday, I’ve been reading a book that he co-wrote with spiritual author and Episcopal priest Matthew Fox. It’s called Stations of the Cosmic Christ. The concept of the “Cosmic Christ” is the same truth expressed in last Sunday’s Hebrew Scripture reading, when God revealed Godself to Moses as “I AM.” We all participate in God through our participation in existence; so therefore, all of creation is shot through with divinity; or in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Our Jewish brothers and sisters call this omnipresent indwelling of divinity the “Image of God” and Buddhists call it the “Buddha nature.” The idea that not only humanity but all of creation has been stamped with the image of God can be overwhelming and daunting, as it challenges us to treat each part of creation with profound respect (even that annoying bug flying around my head!). We need spiritual practices to help us live this way and that is exactly what the bishop’s book provides through art, poetry and meditations. Moreover, the spiritual practice of weekly Eucharist helps us to see and appreciate God in all things, as we attend to the sacredness of a single piece of bread and sip of wine. Fox writes, “When we eat this bread and drink this life force we ingest and render intimate the Cosmic Christ in all beings, the food of the universe itself. We connect to the most distant stars and galaxies of the universe when we take our food and nourishment. What is more satisfying than that? What is more intimate than that?” (32). I look forward to participating with the bishop and you all in this intimate and satisfying experience of the Cosmic Christ!
Click here for “Redeemer Lives” Sept 2, 2017
Interfaith Prayer Rally in Berkeley
Despite what the media prefers to highlight, the Rally Against Hate in Berkeley last Sunday was overwhelmingly positive, life-affirming and non-violent. I sang “This Little Light of Mine” with many friends and clergy colleagues, including the Rev. Molly Haws. Bishop Marc Andrus, who also participated in the rally, recently wrote, “It has been pointed out that the Episcopal Church, smallest of the old mainline denominations, has historically been disproportionately represented in positions of power in our country. I would add that we are also, at this time, showing up in heartening numbers for the work of justice.” I am honored to be counted among these heartening numbers. Thank you for your prayers and support!
Click here for “Redeemer Lives” August 26, 2017
The Benedictine Roots of Anglicanism
I just returned from the first class meeting of a course that I’ve been teaching for four years at the School for Deacons called “Christian Social Ethics in the Anglican Tradition.” Today we discussed the Benedictine roots of the Anglican moral tradition. The first Archbishop of Canterbury was a Benedictine monk named Augustine sent by Pope Gregory the Great to King Ethelbert in Kent (Southeast England) back in 597 AD. Although the Benedictine monasteries were closed when the Church of England broke with Rome in the 1530s, a Benedictine spirituality has remained integral to Anglicanism. Like the monastic communities, the English Book of Common Prayer structured worship in terms of a daily office of worship. Instead of seven offices there were two: Morning and Evening prayer. The first assignment for my students was to try keeping a practice of at least 20 minutes of prayer a day, using the Book of Common Prayer. Through this daily practice of prayer, we not only deepen our roots in the Anglican moral tradition we also deepen our relationship with Christ, who alone can make us holy and virtuous. Without a commitment to prayer, Christian Morality remains a mere intellectual exercise. If you don’t already have a daily prayer practice, I encourage you to give it a try for a few weeks and I commend to you the Book of Common Prayer, which is a rich spiritual resource, steeped in the ancient wisdom of Benedictine spirituality.
It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for our country and for the world. I will confess that I have been tempted to fall into despair. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, however, compels us to stand in solidarity with victims of hate and violence and to always choose the side of hope and love. There will be a Rally Against Hate in Berkeley next Sunday, in which I will participate with many other fellow Episcopalians and clergy. Of course, you are all invited. I was initially disappointed when I learned about the time of the Rally (10:30 AM) since, as a priest, I am obviously otherwise occupied at that time; but then I remembered that I will be participating with all of you in a kind of rally against hate at that same time. Every time we gather together on Sunday morning, we are making a statement, even a political statement, that we are on the side of love, not hate. We listen to the words of our loving God in the Scriptures and we gather together around a table to receive the self-giving love of Christ, a person of color who was killed by state-sanctioned violence. We remember that in Christ, hate and death do not have the last word. In Christ, we become nourished and refreshed by God’s love for us so that we can go out in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God! I look forward to gathering with you all this Sunday morning for our weekly Rally Against Hate.
“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away…the winter is past…the time of singing has come!” (Song of Songs 2:10-12)
Tomorrow, Ashley and I leave for Virginia, where we will commence our Honeymoon Road Trip through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. We will be visiting friends and family in the area as well as St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Whitemarsh PA, where I will be guest preaching. I love the fact that the lectionary readings for this Sunday include a portion of the great love poem, the Song of Songs, the same portion that was read at our wedding more than a year ago. I was initially hoping to preach on this biblical love poem myself, but when I realized that I would be away, I asked the Rev. Dr. Arthur Holder to preach in my stead. He has taught graduate-level courses and translated ancient commentaries on this mystical text, so you are all in for a real treat. The biblical poem has been a major source of inspiration for artists and mystics over the centuries, including my favorite artist Marc Chagall, who painted a series of pieces on the Song of Songs (including the one above). I encourage you to read it before Sunday – it’s only 8 short chapters. Perhaps the Song of Songs will inspire you to create something new, holy and beautiful.
My favorite artist is the 20th century Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall; and I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity to visit the Musée Marc Chagall in Nice, France twice. The last time I visited, I asked Ashley to take a picture of me by one of his works, partly to show how enormous his paintings are. This painting, which is from a series called Message Biblique, portrays the Binding of Isaac or the Akedah (which is Hebrew for “Binding”). It is one of the most powerful, challenging and disturbing stories in the entire Bible and perhaps in all of Western literature in which Abraham is called by God to sacrifice his beloved son Issac. And I get to preach on it this Sunday! Yipee! Marc Chagall’s painting has been helping me ruminate prayerfully on this text for a while and I’m looking forward to hearing what the Spirit will speak through me about the Akedah this Sunday (:
After this Sunday, you will get to hear the Rev. Dr. Arthur Holder preach on the Song of Songs (the great love poem of the Bible that also inspired several Chagall paintings) and then a sermon from Br. Jude from the Society of St. Francis while I’m away on vacation for the next two Sundays, traveling through New York, where I will hopefully be able to view some more Chagall paintings at the Met.
After basking in the glory of the Resurrected Son during the seven weeks of Easter and then teeming with the creative power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and then most recently laughing and dancing with the Triune God during Pentecost tide, we now move into what is called “Ordinary Time.” This is a time when we are invited to see the presence of God in our everyday, ordinary lives; and I can’t imagine a better way to move into this time together than by discussing something as ordinary as bread. This Sunday, the Rev. Elizabeth DeRuff will be our guest preacher and she will talk to us about the holiness inherent in growing wheat and making ordinary bread, which we together make sacred every Sunday at the altar, through the power of the Spirit. The question for us to consider is: would we like to grow wheat on the property of Redeemer, wheat which we could then give to our excellent bread bakers (Joan and Carol Ann) to make into our Communion Bread? How amazing and wonderful would that be? Think about it. Pray about it. And just as God asked us Sarah in our reading from last Sunday, so I ask us, “Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14).