January 31, 2021

Sermon and Annual Report of the Rector                                                    

St Andrew’s Parish, Edgartown, Massachusetts                                         

In last week’s gospel lesson, Jesus called Andrew and Simon (Peter) to follow him, and they did, just like that.  Something inside of Jesus must have hit them like a two-by-four.  Nothing was the same for them, ever again.  They left their jobs, they left their families. 

They followed him.   Little did they know, then, that to follow Jesus meant much more than walking around the ancient Middle East with a hitherto unknown person and watching what he did.  It meant modelling him, doing what he did, trying to think the way he did, trying to see things the way he did. 

Imagine, just for a moment, that we can see and engage with our world—God’s world—as God does.

Jesus is living proof (he was then, and is now, as he lives among and within us) that we can, too.   And with a little practice and resolve, our own inner worlds—and, over time, our national, cultural, and societal (“outer”) world—will bring about, with God’s help, that very world that Jesus chose to inhabit, and pointed toward with every fiber of his being, showing us the way.  The Way.

It is the Kingdom of God.  God is here.  And we are partners in God’s process of its becoming.  Of our own becoming.

Do we know this?  Perhaps it’s good to for us to recognize and name that, as humans (divine in some way, divinely made), we may have trouble believing it, but there is something within us that just plain knows.  (Again:  ‘the heart has its reasons the mind does not know…’)

There is something to all ‘this’, and it goes—thankfully–WAY beyond what we can induce or deduce. 

And it’s all about possibility: life itself (which is indefinable and a creation only of God), love (another mystery, to be sure, and of God), creation, imagination, wonder, curiosity, and yes, reason, and plenty of it, and contemplation, and action, and letting go, saying we’re sorry, resolving to change, seeking to heal, always forgiving.  It is the human drama:  tragedy, comedy, joy, crying joy, and in the end, love.  Love at the beginning, and love at the end.  Love throughout.  Love imbued within, love freed to be shared without.  That very expression we all need to be able to bestow on our waiting world that allows us to experience true freedom and ultimate safety and security.  The REAL us. 

Now—and I ask that you work with me on this—take that image, that feeling, that we are all part of God’s kingdom (remembering, like it or not, that God is not an object in OUR kingdom)—and contrast it with all the ‘new’ things that have uprooted our daily lives and have caused us such pain, anxiety, consternation, anger, mistrust, and a heightened willingness to mistreat others (in thought, word and deed) most UN-civilly.  And ask yourself these essential questions:

Whom shall we choose to run our lives? 

What image do we have inside us already that shows us what will be?

Where does that image come from?

In this week’s gospel passage, Jesus goes into a synagogue, and teaches.  (Who IS this guy? they must have thought.)  And “they were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

This guy was different.  When he spoke, when he preached, when he taught, people heard, experienced, truth.  Real reality.  Not copies, not opinions, not fakes, not fads, and definitely not intended for any one silo or echo chamber intended to exclude, divide, and conquer. It was never just and “I”, or a “We,” but always and “Us” that governed his thinking and imagination.

Like Andrew and Peter and those hearing Jesus in the synagogue for the first time, we, too, have made our choice.  The Christ is the real thing.  That’s why the Christ has staying power.  Real power, not coercive, demeaning, destructive, corruptive, delusional power.  It is the power of grace, of humility, of vulnerability, a choice to care, to heal, to see, to forgive, and to focus on what’s right and just.  Focus on persons, not things.  Focus on God, and God’s beloved creation.

And notice we don’t say Christ ‘WAS’ the real thing.  Christ IS the real thing. (And for those who might even want to go ‘deeper’ on this point:  any sort of ‘reality’ we experience is ONLY God’s kingdom…think of that!)

Now I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating here.  When I turned 39, I decided I’d had enough of that vocational phone invitation to stop ringing, which I’d put off answering since my college days.  Finally (after all sorts of seemingly ungodly twists and turns in the required academic and ecclesial processes in order to become ordained), it was time for me to go out and purchase my clericals.  Shirt, collar, alb (that long white robe I wear), and some other things like stoles and my own personal communion kit.  And I remember like it was yesterday when I tried on my shirt and collar, and alb, and looked in the mirror.  My dear Colleen, who had always been so supportive of my spiritual life and development, caught me assessing the “new” me in the mirror, and half-jokingly said, “You can’t wear that!  It’s not Halloween!”  And we laughed, and boy did it feel weird driving to my first church service (this would have been only as a deacon, as a seminarian intern, at St John’s Church in North Haven, Connecticut), thinking EVERYONE passing me on the highway was staring at the priest in the car next to them.  How cool was this?  (I think the young woman in the café where I picked up my morning coffee beforehand almost fell down, thinking she was serving a Roman Catholic priest.  “Yes, Father,” she hurriedly said.  “I’ll get it for you right away!”)

Now I know this is all fun to think about and remember, but I have to tell you, in my world (and I fervently pray in yours, too, wherever you may be on the journey!), the line between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ is now not only blurred, indefinite, but they now completely run together.  Knowing I am not complete, nor is anyone, yet.  Knowing that God did not stop making us, forming us, when we were born.  And yet knowing that the truth I bear, the love I have looking to find its place ‘out there,’ has its own authority. 

Just like Jesus.  Just like you.  Just like us.

I hear it every time someone gets up and reads scripture in our worship, every time our choir members get together to SING God’s praises (everyone knows choristers get to pray twice in their prayerful song), every time two or three (or more) of us come together to share our experiences of the holy, or even just to be together.  When we move ourselves to learn, to think, to practice, to pray.  This is not a separate world (although we do know our holy places, such as our church buildings, are places set apart for our connection with God and each other), but the REAL world.  The ONE world open and available to all of us as human creatures with a consciousness and self-awareness—and responsibility to God and each other—unlike any other creatures God has made.  The ONE world we may choose to inhabit intentionally, that can bring about healing and forgiveness (of others, but especially, ourselves!) all around us.

So, with all the possible gods we might choose to worship, the ones we might accord deference to and confer authority upon, the ones we choose to see and listen to, here in this first month of this calendar year 2021, I ask us all to consider this:

Can we choose, once and for all, to follow Jesus?  Can we make our God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, real to our world, by walking in the Way of Love?

While there are many voices, is there really any REAL competition?

If there’s one thing I know, it’s this:  in our halting and sometimes backward steps, trying to move forward into a life fully immersed in the Kingdom of God, all we have to do is ask.  God, move me to become.  Jesus, show me the way.  Holy Spirit, speak to my heart.  For this is where true authority comes from.

Like the disciples touched in some way by Jesus, like those in the synagogue hearing the truth told, we will change, we will BE changed, our world will not look the same, we will SEE people for whom they are, broken and afraid like me and you, but also filled with promise and made from love. 

And like Mary, the one who bore Love to this world, all we will need to ask, over and over again, is this: “May it be with me, according to your Word.”  

†                                  †                                  †

Now, a few thoughts about this tiny part of God’s kingdom, we affectionately know as St Andrew’s, this community of learners.  People ask:  How is the Church doing? 

Well, I’ve been coming in to work every day since things went south virus-wise in March 2020, even though we stopped holding public worship (except for one bright shining moment at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs one September Sunday) around then (and, for that matter, almost ALL public church-related gathering).  Heather Anne’s been coming, too, dutifully, since a few weeks after that (thank God for Heather Anne, seriously!), and we’ve also both been doing a fair amount of work and meetings from home (which, believe it or not, tends to INCREASE the time and amount of work for those of us who do such hybrid home/workplace work, not less), so, in a sense, it’s almost business as usual from our end.  We are downright busy.  Phone calls to parishioners, an occasional outdoor (or less frequently, indoor) baptism, wedding or funeral, Vestry meetings, Wardens meetings, Committee meetings, not to mention all sorts of other virtual meetings that take time and attention.  (I strongly encourage EVERYONE to thumb through and digest all the workings of ‘church’ in the pages of the Annual Report that you likely received via email from the Church Office…which should give the reader a glimpse of all the things we remain involved in and working toward.)

Clearly, there’s still a lot going on here at St Andrew’s, and thank God for that (thank God for YOU!).  My own faith and conviction remain strong.  Much of that comes indeed from all the signs that show me yours do, too.  God is here!  And like everyone else, I pray that our time together physically will come sooner than later.  (If you were to ask me today, I would hope for July 1 for fully open, regular worship, but who knows!)  In the meantime, we’ll try to get something up and going to quench our thirsts, to satisfy our hunger to feast on the holy sacrament together, on our knees, in some way, before then.

And, of course, another question that seems to come up frequently these days is:  How will things change at church now, given the ways we’ve ‘done’ / ‘been’ church for and with each other this past year?

First off, we fully expect to pick up where we left off with our reVision initiatives so many of our parishioners worked on for more than two years.  (Please take a look at Bonnie Deitz’ report in your Annual Report for an update on that.)  So many new leaders and fresh faces came forward in our small group gatherings and made our congregation much richer in the process for their efforts.  We expect to form new small groups over time, with a look toward completing our stated goals, but always with an eye toward keeping connected with one another.  “Small Groups” is the way to go—and I invite everyone to participate when the Spirit comes around and offers a chance for you to share Christ with each other. So really, if you think of it, although “Covid” has forced us to forego, for a time, moving more deeply into our reVision process (which was designed to take a couple of years to implement), we’d begun (or should I say, the Holy Spirit had begun) something wondrous and momentous among us, something that just won’t quit. God continues to transform us!   

Second, the steady and thoughtful and creative work of Poli Wilson, our beloved film director (so to speak), in keeping our regular Sunday worship going online via YouTube (in addition to other video segments), has been well-received, and we will likely be offering similar online worship, in some way, in the future, for those who find it convenient to join us when they can’t be with us in person.  As the landscape changes over time, Poli’s talents will come in handy as we try to find new ways to offer Jesus to those of us both in our church community, and in the larger community.

On this point, I think it is important to know that an unbelievable amount of time and energy—and care and concern—has been spent by Diocesan clergy discussing and debating the ins and outs of  pandemic church life by asking “what’s happening to us, what can we do about it, how can we continue to serve others, and how do we keep our congregations going as best we can, safely?”

In a small book recently published entitled, “We Shall be Changed:  Questions for the Post-Pandemic Church,” a compilation of essays from a number of writers within the church made some excellent points.  One of them, highlighted by at least two writers, calls for church leaders to be creative in finding new ways to make what it is church offers readily available—but first and foremost, by focusing on, discerning, and deciding what it is church offers in the first place! (Sarah Birmingham Drummond, Dean of Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, writes that “When we don’t do the work of clarifying what faith communities actually are and need to be, we mistake the cart for the horse—the form for the purpose—and conflict arises….The great rethink that Covid-19 is requiring of us is going to change the church forever, for bells are ringing that cannot be un-rung.  One of those bells is the realization on the part of faith communities that they have a much bigger toolbox than they realized for carrying out the “it” that is church.”   And Andrew Doyle, the excellent young bishop of Texas, maintains that church leaders will have to “build a collaborative vision to glimpse a horizon higher and more significant than what we see from where we now stand.  We, as Christians, will need a theology more substantial than our societal ailment.  We must have an understanding of each other.  Clarity, not certainty, is essential.  Our volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world eats certainty for lunch.  Clarity around organizational opportunities, and theological clarity about God’s narrative, creation, and creatures, is no longer optional; it is the necessary condition of our future. Without it we will fail to move from the “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous” [popularly known by the acronym, “VUCA”], to “vision, understanding, clarity, and adaptability—which is, after all, what faithful people should excel at.” 

In 2021, and beyond, I am sure, our Vestry and leaders at St Andrew’s will be striving to answer these new and exciting questions, and I remain trusting in God and faithfully committed to them, and to all of you, the whole way through.  There is little question in my mind God has, for more than 120 years now, been working in and through the good and faithful people of our beloved community, and I have absolutely no reason to believe that will change anytime soon.  We are blessed by the work of those preceding us, and we shall indeed continue to bless our world in creative and different ways in the future, as God calls us, and as we listen, follow, and discern.

All of you—every one of you who has embraced our faith community in some way—contributes to God’s work here.  I am especially grateful for Heather Anne, for Griffin, for Poli, for Cynthia Hubbard, for Laura Noonan and Sara Barrington (nursery and Sunday School!), for our new Treasurer, Mardi Moran, our Wardens, Barb Rush and Carl Malmquist, all our Vestrypersons, our wonderful reVision leaders and all who participated, our departing Vestrypersons (Jessica Buckley, Chris Buchholz and Michael Balay—we love you!), and for our departing Treasurer (of 12 years!), Wesley Brown, to whom we all owe invaluable debt and gratitude. I thank God for all of you.

Humbly and gratefully yours in Christ Jesus,  Father Chip+  

          

November 27, 2020

A Meditation from the Rector: In Thanksgiving for our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters

To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I pray you have been able to enjoy the fruits of the labors of many, and the harvests of abundance we’ve been given, at your tables of Thanksgiving grace.

And I ask you to please remember those among us, often silent, who are not so fortunate during these times, or continue to live on the margins and are oppressed, and to reach out to them in love.

Many of you may know Liz Villard, a very active member of our island community (Island Historian, Chappy Ferry Boat Captain, St Andrew’s Winter Community Supper Captain), and supporter of St Andrew’s Church. 

Teaming with our friend David Vanderhoop, an Aquinnah Wampanoag Elder, Liz and David (with the help of our beloved Poli Wilson on camera), have put together something I believe to be very, very meaningful, and very, very powerful.

I hope you take the time view the video they’ve provided sometime today, or perhaps over the next few days, and consider again what Thanksgiving means to you.

And may we all reap the benefits of truth spoken in love.

Thank you, Liz, David, and Poli!

Faithfully yours,

Father Chip+

10-26-20

A Meditation from the Rector:  Belonging

I think one of my deepest beliefs is that none of us is ever truly alone.  I call that ‘other’ the Holy Other, and I see the Christ as the perfect image of that Holy Other, someone who serves to show us that image in human form, when he was among us here on this earth, and now resides among us, within us, in another way, as part of our “Triune God,” as Spirit.  To me, there is no question that ‘Spirit’ is real, real as love, real as God’s love, and that our God is, indeed, Spirit.

I wonder how many people feel as I do—that we are never alone.

This from John O’Donohue (from Benedictus, 2007):

For Belonging

May  you listen to your longing to be free.

May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.

May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.

May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.

May the sanctuary of your soul never become haunted.

May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.

May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.

May you never place walls between the light and yourself.

May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather

                you, mind you and embrace you in belonging.  

Yours in Christ,

Father Chip+

August 3, 2020

“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” a quote from Mohandas Gandhi, has been getting a lot of play in the last number of years.

What is it you want to see in the world most?

Is it possible, as Gandhi suggests, that we can effect change by BEING that change?

Contemporary theologian John Dear, a devoted student of Gandhi’s, had the following things to say about the spiritual practice of nonviolence (as quoted in Richard Rohr’s meditation of July 28):

“In his search for God and truth, Mohandas Gandhi (1869—1948) concluded that he could never hurt or kill anyone, much less remain passive in the face of injustice, imperialism, and war.  Instead, Gandhi dedicated himself to the practice and promotion of nonviolence.  He concluded that nonviolence is not only the most powerful force there is; it is the spiritual practice most neglected and most needed throughout the world.

“’Nonviolence means avoiding injury to anything on earth, in thought, word, or deed,’ Gandhi told an interviewer in 1935 .  But for him, nonviolence meant not just refraining from physical violence interpersonally and nationally, but refraining from the inner violence of the heart as well.  It meant the practice of active love toward one’s oppressors and enemies in the pursuit of justice, truth, and peace.

“’Nonviolence cannot be preached,’ he insisted.  ‘It has to be practiced.’ 

“For fifty years, Gandhi sought to practice nonviolence at every level of his life, in his own heart, among his family and friends, and publicly in his struggle for equality in South Africa and freedom for India.  It was the means by which he sought the ends of truth; in fact, he later concluded that the ends were in the means, or perhaps they were even the same. 

“In other words, the practice of nonviolence is not just the way to peace; it is the way to God.”

“’Nonviolence assumes entire reliance upon God,’ Gandhi taught.  When the practice of nonviolence becomes universal, God will reign on earth as God reigns in heaven.’

“After years of studying the various religions, Gandhi concluded too that nonviolence is at the heart of every religion.

“’Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world,’ Gandhi wrote.  ‘My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop nonviolence.  The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world.”   

And so I reflect:  What did Jesus do?         

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

In Christ,

Father Chip+





July 6, 2020

One of my many clergy friends in the Episcopal Church who shares my high regard for the thinking of Richard Rohr and, among other writers, Henri Nouwen, The Rev Brian McGurk at St Christopher’s, Chatham, recently shared Henri Nouwen’s prayer, below, with his Centering Prayer group.  I like it for many reasons, not the least of them, because it picks up on a theme I’ve recently talked about in my last two “Sunday” sermons:  the idea of faith as being a relationship of TRUST with our God.

I recommend it highly as a prayer one might commit to saying each day when one wakes in the morning.  Why not try it every day during July?        

A Prayer (Henri Nouwen)

“O Lord, who else or what else can I desire but you? You are my Lord, Lord of my heart, mind, and soul. You know me through and through. In and through you everything that is finds its origin and goal. You embrace all that exists and care for it with divine love and compassion. Why, then, do I keep expecting happiness and satisfaction outside of you? Why do I keep relating to you as one of my many relationships, instead of my only relationship, in which all other ones are grounded? Why do I keep looking for popularity, respect from others, success, acclaim, and sensual pleasures? Why, Lord, is it so hard for me to make you the only one? Why do I keep hesitating to surrender myself totally to you?

“Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let me die to the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words, and thoughts can become a hymn of praise to you.

“I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.

“Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend.  Amen.”

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Chip+

June 29, 2020

One of the great mysteries of our faith is posed by the age-old question, “Why does God permit us to suffer?”  Given there seems to be no obvious answer, then perhaps a corollary question, also a mystery, arises:  “How can we still hope?”

I have always found the simple practice of contemplation helps me when I need to try to get my head around life’s challenges and existential suffering.  Recently I read an excellent, pithy excerpt from Richard Rohr’s little book, “Just This,” concerning “hope and suffering,” which I find conveys much helpful wisdom:

“The virtue of hope, with great irony, is the fruit of a learned capacity to suffer wisely, calmly, and generously.  The ego demands successes to survive; the soul needs only meaning to thrive.  Somehow hope provides its own kind of meaning, in a most mysterious way.

“The Gospel gives our suffering both personal and cosmic meaning by connecting our pain to the pain of others and, finally, by connecting us to the very pain of God.  Did you ever think of God as suffering?  Most people don’t—but Jesus came to change all of that.

“Any form of contemplation is a gradual sinking into this divine fullness where hope lives.  Contemplation is living in a unified field that produces in people a deep, largely non-rational, and yet calmly certain hope, which is always a surprise.

“A life of inner union, a contemplative life, is practicing for heaven now.  God allows us to bring “on earth what is in heaven” (see Matthew 6:10) every time we can allow, receive, and forgive the conflicts of the moment and can sit in some degree of contentment—despite all the warring evidence.

“God alone, it seems to me, can hold together all the seeming opposites and contradictions of life.  In and with God, we can actually do the same.  But we are not the Doer.” 

Yours in faith, Father Chip+    

June 22, 2020

One of the many things I do enjoy, being an American citizen, is the chance to make my opinions known, and to take action, political or otherwise, which is given much protection in our constitutional democracy.  And, of course, in my role as rector of our beloved congregation, I frequently need to walk a fine line between “going off” and spouting about my own personal opinions about politics and government and justice and all those things, and making sure that I respect those who come to pray, and worship, and experience God, together—allowing them to draw their own conclusions from Scripture, and my well-intentioned ramblings about them, in the context of that day and in our times, which our Jewish rabbis refer to as “teachings.” 

The problem with that approach of course (although I’m not saying there really is some sort of problem about it, at least today), is that my approach may not satisfy everyone.  Indeed, I am constantly aware (as my friend and sometimes mentor, retired clergyperson and beloved parishioner Dick Fenn told me), that you often have to choose one position or another, or you risk ticking-off not only one side or another, but EVERYONE!

In an article by Wes Granberg-Michaelson titled, “From Mysticism to Politics,” the author takes aim at something he believes has infiltrated our way of doing things in our institutional way of worshiping God.

“Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics,” he wrote, quoting Charles Peguy (1873—1914), “a French poet and writer who lived in solidarity with workers and peasants and became deeply influenced by Catholic faith in the last years of his life.”

According to the author, “this provocative quote identifies the foundational starting point for how faith and politics should relate.” But he then states, “usually, however, we get it backward.  Our temptation is to begin with politics and then try to figure out how religion can fit in.  We start with the accepted parameters of political debate and, whether we find ourselves on the left or the right, we use religion to justify and bolster our existing commitments.”

But he says, “what if we make [our] inward journey our starting point?  What if we recognize that our engagement in politics should be rooted in our participation in the Trinitarian flow of God’s love? Then everything changes….we are invited to participate in the transforming power of this love.  There we discover the ground of our being, centering all our life and action.”

When I read these words, I realized I am instinctively adopting this approach in the way I go about my inner and outer prayer life, my contemplation AND action, my ‘faith’ and my ‘works’. 

And, as it turns out, perhaps even unconsciously, in my teachings (my sermons and homilies).

Our lives are not earned.  They are given us. 

Can we connect the divine within us with all, and everyone, else?  Can we learn to live ‘non-dualistically’?

Perhaps living into that holy way of life, that eternal space, without time, we will find our true selves, real and enduring life, and learn to become love.    

Yours in faith,

Father Chip+

June 17, 2020

One of the seemingly myriad hoops I had to jump through in order to become an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church was to submit to psychiatric testing and counseling, which took place over a course of days.  (Honestly, I found it sort of ironic, since everyone knows that those of us who discern a calling, a true vocation, are a little ‘different’ than everyone else!)

Anyway, I remember toward the end, during one of my personal sessions with the psychiatrist, he asked a question that completely surprised me.  “What is your deepest aim?,” he asked.  “And what do you believe is the deepest aim of humanity?”  (Talk about good questions for a philosophy major living in the world that bridges philosophy and faith!)

And I distinctly remember I had, after only a moment or two of reflection, a ready answer, one I think I might have said again this very day, more than twenty years later, were I asked:  “Freedom,” I said.  “I think it’s most important that we all find our freedom, and know what it is to be free.”

I thought of that response again yesterday, when I was reading one of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations (you, too, can read them daily, or whenever you like, by clicking on https://cac.org/#gsc.tab=0 ), and he was quoting James Finley, who had studied with Thomas Merton.  “Our deepest freedom rests not in our freedom to do what we want to do but rather in our freedom to become who God wills us to be.  This person, this ultimate self God wills us to be, is not a predetermined, static mold to which we must conform.  Rather, it is an infinite possibility of growth.  It is our true self: that is, a secret self hidden in and one with the divine freedom.  In obeying God, in turning to do God’s will, we find God willing us to be free.  God created us for freedom; that is to say, God created us for God’s self.”

This is what I truly believe about us.  I believe we all share, at our deepest level, an infinite possibility of growth. 

Now look at this:  this is what our Episcopal “Answer Key” (our Catechism, on page 845 of the Prayer Book) holds for us as to this question, of what it means to be human:

Q:      What are we by nature?

A:      We are part of God’s creation, made in the image of God.

Q:      What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

A:      It means that we are free to make choices:  to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God.

Q:      Why then do we live apart from God and out of harmony with creation?

A:      From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices.

Q:      Why do we not use our freedom as we should?

A:      Because we rebel against God, and we put ourselves in the place of God.

Q:      What help is there for us?

A:      Our help is in God.

Indeed, we ARE free.   

In order to enjoy it, there is only one place to look:

In a real relationship, with our God, one in three persons. 

Help us, O Lord, to become one with our divine freedom.

Yours in faith,

Father Chip+

For Mr. George Floyd

(1974—2020)

Grant us your mercy, O God

especially now

when the images of hateful and hurtful murder

have imbued themselves onto our memory

and made us sick with the stark realization of our sickness.

Grant us your love, O God of hope

to help us to feel this moment, truly feel it

So that we may never forget

Amid the sea of forgetfulness and apathy

That have plagued the privileged and powerful

For far, far too long

A convenient forgetting

That proves deadly not only for one, or for far, far too many

But a death for every one of us.

Grant us your wisdom, O God of wonder

that we may all see and know

once and for ever

that we are all indeed ONE,

brothers and sisters and children under the sun

born of your love, to bring about love

and to be loved

in a life without fear

without oppression, without hatred, without selfishness

with hearts filled with concern and care for all your children

and a willingness to see that we all hurt

when any single one of your children

are hurting

And grant us your courage, O Lord of this great and mysterious universe,

And this nation of laws,

To roll up our sleeves and work,

And work…

And work…

diligently, patiently, and honestly

To see each other, no matter who…

As you see us, every one

So that our life may find the peaceful ordering of all life

That only your love can bring:

A love that requires the oppressor to learn how to love the oppressed

A love that requires us to work from love, to find a better way

A love that demands justice in all forms and for all people

And a love that moves us to make sacrifices

as you yourself have shown us

WE MUST DO

in the life of your Holy Son, Jesus, the Christ

Help us to glorify you by loving you, O Lord of peace

respecting and caring for every one of your children

loving our very selves

and glorifying all that you have made 

Grant us all mercy now, Lord.

May it be so.

Change us forever, Lord.

MAY IT BE SO.  

Chip+

May 25, 2020

In the face of so much upheaval and change, even in this season of new life, Easter, and the coming season of Pentecost (which to me impart hope and the promise of eternal life and love), there is one thing in particular that persists in nagging at my soul.

In the face of so much upheaval and change, even in this season of new life, Easter, and the coming season of Pentecost (which to me impart hope and the promise of eternal life and love), there is one thing in particular that persists in nagging at my soul.

It’s the apparent murder of the young, 26-year old Ahmaud Arbery, in Georgia, the case I’m sure so many of you know about:  a person of color out jogging, when two white guys show up in a truck with guns, track him down for God knows what reason, and they end up shooting him dead.

And when I hear these things, I now always think:  I just can’t take it anymore.

Now I know I’m not in control of that particular scenario, or even the whole existing fabric of racism that runs through our national identity, but I know this:  I must do my part.  As Martin Luther King Jr wrote (in his 1963 masterpiece Letter from Birmingham Jail), injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  I’ve even taken the point of view of Ibram Kendi, who asserted in a recent (fine) book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” that we all are in either of two categories:  either a racist, or an antiracist.  There is no gray area, nothing in between. 

Where do I see myself?

In God’s realm, the age to come, here on earth, where God dwells with us and in us, in the life of the world to come, racism no longer exists, in any form.  It does not take up any space in our human thoughts, expressions, ideas, and actions.  It is not even a forgotten memory of a distant past.  Instead, people are loved always, just because we value them for who they are.  Every one of us is equally loved by God, and we will have learned to love everyone just like we love ourselves.  Freedom is not just another word.  It is Shalom, a place of security and freedom from fear.  God’s peace.  And not a pipe dream.

We all know that true Freedom requires true Responsibility.  Racism is learned somewhere.  God don’t make no junk.

A few weeks ago, I was reading an article by a college professor in Memphis named Earl Johnson.  He was talking about the stoning of Stephen, legendary first martyr of our Christian faith. 

He painted the image of Paul there, before his conversion, watching the whole thing, holding the coats of the people stoning Stephen, who was standing up for love, for truth, for justice, for faith in a God who loves us into being and continues to do so even while we don’t know it.  Forever.

And that is all Paul did.  He held the coats.

What am I doing?

What are we all doing?                 

Grace and peace,

Chip+

April, 2020

Dear St Andrew’s Church family and friends,

The lilies, daffodils, and forsythia are blooming, the birds are singing, and the light green buds on the trees and plants all around are peeking out from the hard, seemingly lifeless, surfaces of the gray-brown sticks, and the once-frozen earth.  There is life!  And here is life again!

It is my deepest hope and prayer this Easter 2020 that you continue to reach out and find ways to connect, and re-connect, with others, as we all remain determined to get through this pandemic that has forced us to distance ourselves from each other.  Although there appears to be many things we might learn from this current challenge, my prayer above all others is that we all realize, and remember, just how much we all mean to each other, and how important it is to make our time on earth count.  If we try to keep that in mind as we resume some semblance of “normal life”, we might find we’d rather resume life in a different way, one that invites us to focus on our relationships with each other.  Journey home by another way.  And perhaps remember we really don’t have “all the time in the world.”

As Christians, our own notion of God is all about relationships with others, and indeed, with God.  God appeared as one of us in the Christ child at Christmas, God shared our life with us while Jesus was among us in human form, and now God, at Easter, assures us that God will not leave us when we die.  For those of us who choose to enter into the life of faith, into the body of the cosmic Christ, we shall have new life, a timeless life, the sort of life that does not perish. Having done some thinking and work to “die to our old selves,” moving into a life “in Christ” will promise us a lifetime of new things, renewals, conversions, and resurrections.  We will be with God.

One critical way to do this, of course, is to renew your life, and commitment, to our common life in Christ as St Andrew’s Church.  Please, just come.  Come and be with us.  Come and enjoy the presence of the living God, who loves us and pulls us ever more deeply into the great mystery of the Great Love.

I can promise you one thing:  WE will be renewed by the Spirit of God within you.  And I pray that YOU, too, will be nourished by our sharing the God within us, with you.

I wish you and yours all good things in this season of new life and renewal—The Great Fifty Days of Easter—and pray that we may see you soon at our little jewel of a church, St Andrew’s.

And may God continue to bless us—every one.

Faithfully yours,

Father Chip+