A House Divided

"The Lead" at The Episcopal Cafe today, written by Wesley J. Wildman and Stephen Chapin Garner, reminds that "Divine love shines when you stay connected, especially when it feels like a major effort to do so. Strive for the spiritual maturity to place love ahead of personal comfort and your church's witness will flourish."

In light of last night's health reform debate in the House of Representatives, I have a heightened awareness of the division that an issue like this can cause in a nation and, closer to home, in our own congregations - not because some people think health care is good and some people think health care is bad, but because people have very different ideas about how the health care crisis in America ought to be handled and by whom.

This Sunday we will gather in our churches for a complex worship service - one which begins with a joyous Palm Sunday procession and continues with the reading of the Passion. Finally, we will be invited to join together at the Lord's table.  Some will comment after worship that they wish we could just "do" Palm Sunday - in other words, just stay in the joy.  Others will remember a time when The Sunday of the Passion actually preceeded Palm Sunday by a week, allowing us to focus our emotional energies on one end of the continuum and then the other.  But somehow it seems right that we experience these together - experience the tension of conflicting emotions.  Perhaps even stretch ourselves to embrace the tension.  And - now here's the real stretch - to embrace the person sitting next to us or across the aisle with whom we disagree on so very many issues. 

"Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?" - Malachi 2:10


Just as you did it to one of the least of these

This morning I had the opportunity to celebrate the 8th birthday of Volunteers in Medicine of Cape May County -a clinic that provides free healthcare to the county's uninsured and underserved. I am in my 3rd year as a trustee on the VIM Board of Trustees, but what never ceases to amaze me are the number of dedicated volunteers that keep the organization running. More than 14,000 patient visits have been logged in these 8 years because of the dedication of more than 100 volunteers. Many - though certainly not all - of these volunteers were at this morning's breakfast. The breakfast was attended by city mayors, township council members, civic organizations, church groups, business owners, former and present day clients of VIM. Pam Kaithern (Mayor of West Cape May), Loretta (a VIM volunteer), Joanne Carrocino (President and CEO of Cape Regional Medical Center; Joanne also serves as Trustee of VIM), Sandy Gott and Jeff Gott (representatives of Crest Savings Bank; Sandy also serves as Trustee and Treasurer of VIM), Leslie Flick (St. Barnabas by the Bay's Episcopal Church Women President), Art Hall (owner of the Cape May County Herald) and myself were seated at one of more than a dozen tables.

All of us gathered to say thank you to the volunteers. . . and to say "Happy Birthday, VIM!"

"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ " - Matthew 25:34-40


Nuggets from Convention

Here are some nuggets from the 226th Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of New Jersey which took place yesterday and today in Cherry Hill, NJ. The nuggets are from Bishop George Councell:
  • On Mission: Survival is not a mission - we need to receive God's missionary who is Jesus and become missioners ourselves.

  • On Church Growth: Our work is to feed the sheep, not count the sheep - but denial is denial and resurrection does not follow denial, it follows death.
  • On Pastoral Care: Jesus meets us where we are; not where we ought to be! Jesus heals us from the inside out.
  • On Transformation: We are not a people who are born again, but a people who are seized by the power of a great affection who is Jesus Christ and he found us and we him in the Episcopal Church. (The expression "seized by the power of a great affection" was used in 1975 by Gordon Cosby in his Handbook for Mission Groups).

  • On Leaving Church: "Get up! Get up! Get Outta here!" as the new dismissal for a church that needs to relearn what it means to leave the comforts of home / the church / the pews / our buildings. A dismissal made famous by legendary Milwaukee Brewer's announcer "Mr. Baseball" - Bob Uecker.

In all that we heard this weekend, I was constantly being reminded of Carol Rose Ikeler's hymn:

The Church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing their thanks for his goodness this day.
The Church is wherever disciples of Jesus remember
his story and walk in his way.

The Church is wherever God’s people are helping,
caring for neighbours in sickness and need.
The Church is wherever God’s people are sharing
the words of the Bible in gift and in deed.

I can't help but wonder if the song lyrics should be simpler: "The Church is wherever God's people are [period]."
As I have more opportunities for reflection, I will share - at St. Barnabas on Sundays, 8 and 10 a.m., at The Branches on Wednesdays at Noon and on the Second Sunday of the month at 7 p.m. and, perhaps in some additional postings here.