The Power of God's Table

Friends on a clergy listserv I subscribe to, shared this video clip with me. If you have a fast enough web connection (maybe I'm one of the last hold outs of the slow, cable modem option at home), I highly recommend it - only 8 minutes of your time! It tells the story of one woman's conversion at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Sarah Miles, an avowed atheist and journalist, entered the doors of St. Gregory one Sunday morning:

"I was just curious. I'm a reporter. I'm curious. I like to poke my nose in places, and I walked into this building thinking, 'Huh, wonder what's going on in there?'"

And, at the Eucharist she receives the bread and her life is changed. No baptism, no Eucharistic instruction . . . just the bread of Christ shared with all who walk through the doors. Father Paul Fromberg, Director of Youth and Family Ministry at St. Gregory says of this welcome:
"A lot of people here are, you know, addicts that have overcome their addictions. They are people that have been locked up, people that are actually homeless, people that live in marginal housing. But it actually doesn't matter where people come from because we're not doing purity checks. You know, we're not trying to say, 'Are you good enough to be here?'"

At a time when so much media attention (both secular and religious) is focused on the latest church conflict, this piece is so refreshing and so clear, pointing as it does to the radical power of God's table. The table that we - both lay and ordained - celebrate at weekly, the table that calls us to stretch ourselves to a greater place of radical hospitality and welcome. God does not ask us to protect the table, God asks us to share the Good News with all people.


New Look

In keeping with this transition, I've decided it was time for a new look for my blog. You should be able to find most of the same information here. Some of the links are currently missing, but I'll work on updating those and adding new ones as time goes by. If there is something in particular that you are looking for, be sure to let me know and I'll track it down again.

Andrea and I returned from a succesful trip to New Jersey last week. I had a very good meeting with my new bishop, the deployment officer and the canon to the ordinary. All was well.
Oh. . . we also bought a house (pictured). Yeah!


Transitions. . . (again)

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; *
you are my crag and my stronghold.

I call my blog "turtle on wheels" because I often feel as though life is made up of long, drawn out processes which then take on a sudden speed that feels as uncontrollable and chaotic as the long, drawn out processes feel overwhelming and frustrating. My search for a new position (which began in late December) has truly fit this image. I've answered requests for essays, copies of sermons, recordings of sermons, and personal profiles. I've spent countless hours on phone interviews and have made several trips of various lengths for face-to-face interviews.

And then, just when I began to wonder if the right position was out there waiting for me - knowing deep within that it was, and I just needed to keep on praying and practicing patience - just then. . . the offer arrived. And now, the turtle has boarded the skateboard and is rushing down the hill - phone calls to movers, realtors, landlords, negotiating letters of agreement, tying up loose ends, saying good-bye, saying hello. . . it all becomes a reality and I'm in the midst of it just trying to hang on for the ride.

Psalm 71, from this morning's Daily Office, offers just the steadiness that times like this call for. It reminds us that even when life feels out of control, it is well under control - God's, not ours.

Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens; *
you have done great things;who is like you, O God?

It reminds us that this is a lifelong process, not a quick-fix, once-and-for-all solution.

O God, you have taught me since I was young, *
and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.

And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, *
till I make known your strength to this generation and your power to all who are to come.

And it reminds me of my own roll in all of this:

But I shall always wait in patience, *
and shall praise you more and more.

Psalm 71 In te, Domine, speravi, translation from The Book of Common Prayer.


What a Responsibility

Sermon Preached at St. Mary's
Stone Harbor, NJ
The Feast of Athanasius, Bishop - May 2, 2007

This evening, we come together to celebrate the Feast of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria from 328 until his death in 373. For those of you who enjoy reading the section of Historical Documents at the back of the Book of Common Prayer, you may recall that there is a Creed attributed to him – The Creed of Saint Athanasius on pages 864 and 865. Just a glance at the sheer length of it is enough to make most of us eternally grateful for the shorter Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed that we use in our worship. Nonetheless, it is an important document because it reveals a lot about the church controversies that were roiling in the 4th century. And, being in Alexandria, Athanasius was in the midst of a good number of debates.

Alexandria was THE powerhouse east of the Roman Empire and, as such, attracted a great number of thinkers. And whenever two or more thinkers are gathered together in a room, there are at least as many – and usually more - opinions. So, Alexandria was a hot-bed of theological dispute. And Athanasius was a controversial theologian – in fact, he was exiled five times for a total of 17 years during his 47 years as Bishop.[1] Talk about having the strength of your convictions! Each time he was exiled, he sought refuge in the west and it is for this reason primarily that he has had such a great influence on western Christianity and is remembered in our calendar on May 2nd of each year.

I think about our recent walk through Holy Week and those first days following the resurrection and the myriad ways in which the disciples let Jesus down. First we have Judas, remembered as the ultimate traitor. Then there is Peter with his denial – not once, but three times – of his place as one of Jesus’ followers. And, after the resurrection, none of the disciples believe Mary when she comes to tell them that she has seen the Lord and that he has spoken to her. And Thomas, remembered as the doubting one, until he touched the wounds of Christ with his own hands, he simply would not believe.

And what about you and me? Our own betrayal of Christ is surely not as overt as that of Judas –nor is it as direct as Peter’s denial – and yet . . . Athanasius wrote: “What a responsibility the Church has, to be Christ’s ‘body,’ showing him to those who are unwilling or unable to see him in providence, or in creation!”[2] This is a tall order and yet it is one which each of us undertakes through our baptism by water and the Holy Spirit. Whenever we renew our baptism, we promise to continue in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; we promise to persevere in resisting evil; we promise to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons; and we promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. Athanasius was right; being the Body of Christ – being the Church – is a great responsibility.

But there is a promise as well – the reason that our baptismal liturgy takes the form of a covenant and not a contract – in our baptism we are promised that we are joining God’s work already in progress in the world. Each time we are asked a question in the renewal of our baptismal vows our response is, “I will, with God’s help.” We are not asked to do this work alone. No, we are invited to join God’s mission and, through the waters of baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to join God’s mission. God is already at work in the world and we have agreed, in baptism, to join God at work. Moreover, in baptism, we are promised that we have everything we need. We don’t need to wait for the perfect bishop, priest, or deacon to walk through these doors. We don’t need to wait until we’ve raised the right amount of money. We don’t need to wait until ten new families with young children walk through our doors. God has given us everything we need. Just take a look around you . . . “What a responsibility the Church has, to be Christ’s ‘body,’ showing him to those who are unwilling or unable to see him in providence, or in creation!” What a responsibility . . . and what a blessing!

[1] Helen Theodoropoulos, class notes from January 12, 2005 lecture on Athanasius, Cappadocians and Friends, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary.
[2] Athanasius, quoted by James Keifer in “Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Theologian, Doctor,” James Kiefer's Christian Biographies, accessed