Monthly Archives: July 2012

Power at work within us

Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.   

It’s been such fun, this week, to read some of the replies to our summer questionnaire. It feels like Christmas in July, with a Christmas stocking that has no end. I hope that many, many more of you will take a few minutes today or tomorrow to complete it.

One of the questions is about the Faith and Story project.

This project came into being after I began working with a group to help plan my sabbatical, which begins next May. (Don’t worry, it’s ages away and you’re all going to have a great time while I’m gone.) This dream team (also known as the rector’s Sabbatical Planning Support Group), helped me envision what I wanted to do on sabbatical in a way that would incorporate all of us in similar endeavors: reflecting on the stories that make us who we are.

In the formal part of my sabbatical, I’ll have three months to reflect on my own stories and write some of them down. As a parish, we’ll spend a year—this September to next September, longer if we want—exploring our stories. I have a friend, a writer, who likes to say that everything she writes is a love story of one type or another. I believe that every story we tell about our lives, whether we tell it in writing or in music or in clay, is a faith story of one type or another.

For some of us these are coming-of-age stories, for some of us they are disaster-survival stories. For others they are intimate experiences of God’s grace and redemption. Or healing stories. Miracle stories. Stories of loss and comfort, mourning and hope. Love stories. The point is that we all have many, many stories to tell. Our stories, especially when we share them, make us stronger as a community of disciples.

On the Faith & Story page of our website there is a place where you can tell a story in 150 words. This may be fun for some and impossible for others, but I suggest you try.

This Sunday’s lectionary contains a bunch of great stories, all of them faith stories. I hope you will think about your own story while listening to these stories again.

First, there’s David, God’s beloved anointed and Israel’s favorite son, who went through such travail to become king. He succumbs to all the sins of self. He impregnates another man’s wife, and abuses his kingly authority to have that good and honorable man killed in battle. In doing this, he betrays his better self and he betrays God. Where are you in this story? When I hear it, I feel like I’m an unhappy David fan, sitting on the sidelines and going no, don’t do it! Stop! Turn back! There are grave consequences to David’s actions. But God knows and loves all of David, just as God knows and loves every dark cranny of our souls. God never gives up on David. One hundred and twenty-two words.

Now, imagine that you were near Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius, surrounded by a hungry crowd. You know what’s it’s like to be hungry. Your father was a day-laborer who never brought home enough money for the day’s food. You were the practical one in the family, the oldest child. You helped your father in the fields, then helped your mother care for the youngest children. You prided yourself on knowing what things cost, and so you were emboldened to say to Jesus: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for these people.” You were astounded to watch Jesus turn a few loaves and a few fish into a feast for five thousand hungry people. So astounded that your whole understanding of grace and abundance changed. Now you became the person bold enough to trust God and share that trust with everyone around you. One hundred and forty-nine words.

Or, you’re on your way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. You’re carrying some food your parents packed for you to bring to the extended family who will gather for the high holy days. Thousands make the same journey, many looking for food. Someone grabs you by the shoulder and takes you to the teacher-healer you’ve been hearing about, Jesus. He takes the food you’re carrying, saying it will feed the whole crowd. You can’t imagine. Then you watch as Jesus lifts the food up to heaven and gives thanks to God for it. Oh, yeah, the food isn’t mine, it’s God’s, you remember. Suddenly, there is enough for everyone. You go on your way with a full belly and a full heart, giving more food away every chance you get. You, God, and that guy Jesus are all in cahoots. You can’t wait to tell your parents what happened. One hundred and fifty words.

Or, you’ve watched this amazing feast but now it’s time to row across the sea to Capernaum. You and some of Jesus’ followers climb into the boat after sunset. A strong wind comes up; the sea gets rough. You wonder why you got into the boat with those guys. You want to see the shore, but you can’t see anything. One of those dark times that we all have. Suddenly Jesus comes out of nowhere, walking on the water. Whoa! The sight is even more terrifying than being out in the storm. “Do not be afraid,” he says. The sea calms and the boat reaches the shore. “Be not afraid” has such a familiar ring to it. God said it all through the scriptures you have dutifully studied. God said it to Abraham, to Jacob, to Rachel, to Hagar. Maybe now you’ll believe it. Do not fear. One hundred and forty-seven words.

Where do you see yourself in today’s gospel? Or in the David story? What’s your story? Are you doubtful? Afraid? Hopeful? Peaceful? Close to God? Far from God? How will you live that out this morning? How will you tell your story this week?

Gather up all the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost. Gather up all the fragments of a life like David’s, a life like mine or yours, including all the misguided bits, the fearful bits, the joys and the treasures.

Gather up the fragments, so that nothing may be lost. What’s your story?

eNotes: July 26 – August 1, 2012

The Word
Another day in paradise….
This is what Mark and I often say to each other on summer mornings in Portland–a habit we got into the first summer we moved back here after three years in New York city at General Seminary. This is truly a glorious time of year! I also love it because it’s a time of looking forward, planning for fall activities around St. David’s. To that end, I hope all of you will take a couple of minutes to fill out our Summer Questionnaire. Here’s that chance you’ve been waiting for to give input on our Great Summer No-Bulletin Experiment, among many other things. Blessings all around! Sara+

This Week
Integrity All-Parish Family Picnic & Pop-Up Mass: This Saturday, July 28, 4pm
Everyone is welcome to join in our third annual family picnic beginning at Laurelhurst Park. The Rev. Karen Ward and the All Souls PDX community will host an open-air Eucharist; our picnic supper will serve as part of the liturgy! For more information, please contact us

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12: This Sunday, July 29, 10am
Holy Eucharist and Godly Play

Saint David’s 101: Got a question? Want to introduce yourself? Stick around for the postlude and meet the priest and/or today’s Master of Ceremonies under the hanging cross immediately after worship.

What Work Is: This Wednesday, August 1, 7 pm
What do you do? What do you love? How is God calling you? This year’s “summer experiment” is a conversation about our life’s work, whatever that may be.

Looking Ahead
Seismic Upgrade Workshop: Next Saturday, August 4, 10-11:30
What tools would you need to retrofit your home? Come over to the Parish Hall and use them for yourself in this guided, hands-on, free workshop from Earthquake Tech and SEPTL.

Wild Goose West: August 31-September 2
Do you know about Wild Goose West? This festival celebrating justice, spirituality, music, and art is open to all and is a wonderful time to gather and create Christian community. Check out the festival website and consider attending. Opportunities abound for volunteers!

Special offer! There’s a special promotion through this Friday only for friends of former Wild Goose attendees: visit their registration website, click enter promotional code above the order button and enter “WESTFRIENDS” to get 15% off your Wild Goose West registration.

Parish News
Don’t forget to take our Summer Questionnaire! Click the link to let us know what you love about St. Davids so that we might grow our community together this year.

Bike & Build is coming! This fabulous organization sends over 200 young adults across the country on bicycle for affordable housing awareness. They’re once again bunking on our floor August 5-7 and Dan (Bike & Build 2009 alum) will beg you all for help making them feel at home on this final leg of their journey, which concludes in Cannon Beach on August 8.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

Ephesians 2:11-22: Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has broken down the dividing wall.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” So begins Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall. The poet describes an imaginary conversation with someone who famously says “good fences make good neighbors.” The other side of the imaginary conversation is the poet’s mischievous desire to take down walls and fences. I can relate.

Taking down walls would have been considered mischievous indeed in first-century Asia minor, where a tiny Christian community in the coastal city of Ephesus would have gathered in secret to hear the reading of a pastoral letter written by a follower of the Apostle Paul. This community would have been wandering in a veritable maze of walls and fences common to first-century Christians. I’m talking about the walls inherent in questions like: what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus if you are not Jewish? What does it mean to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than the Roman gods worshipped by the ruling political powers? Who is in, and who is out?

To put it another way, they were asking the question we ask ourselves from time to time: what does it mean to be church? All of today’s readings are about what it means to be church, although none of them actually use the word. Think: household of God. Think: called out. That’s what the Greek word, “ekklesia” (as in, ecclesiastical) means: called out, gathered apart. That’s what we are.

The story from Samuel has a wonderful dialogue between the Holy One and the prophet Nathan, about David’s longing to build God a house. All this time, I’ve never lived in a house, says God. And do you hear me complaining? I’m not about a building, I’m about a different kind of house. I’m about the household of David, from generation to generation. I can do this from anywhere.

The psalm expands on this relationship that God has with David, a relationship that, from God’s point of view, has nothing to do with David building a temple for God. And, if you know the rest of the story, you know that David never quite does get around to building the temple; he’s too busy fighting wars and cleaning up his personal life. (We’ll hear about that next week.) The story of David tells us that kingdom is not about place, but about relationship.

In this morning’s Gospel, being church, being the household of God, means teaching and healing, living into the expansive ministry to which each one of us is called, to which we commit whenever we reaffirm our baptismal promises. We are called out—ekklesia’d—to be a people of hope and reconciliation for sheep without a shepherd. The gospel reminds us that hope and reconciliation happens in simple acts of compassion, acts of touch.

It is today’s reading from the letter to the Ephesians that spells out most beautifully what it means to be the household of God:

In Christ the whole household of God is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

We are called to be a dwelling place for God. I love this. Don’t you love this??

What kind of community is a dwelling place for God? For one thing, it is a community that has Christ as its cornerstone, a community in which Christ the cornerstone is peace. The little Christian community at Ephesus lived in a time and place where warfare, military might and conflict for the sake of power politics and economic prosperity were the law of the land. It was a time and place where dividing walls were the way the existing social and political order exercised its power. A letter about the peace of Christ would have given them pause, as it should give us pause.

What are the dividing walls between us? What are the conflicts that we take for granted? The author of the letter to the Ephesians talked about divisions and hostilities of his own day: between Jews and Gentiles, between those who are far off and those who are near. If someone wrote to the 21st-century church in Portland, what divisions would he or she point to? Conservative vs. liberal. Traditional vs. progressive. Rich and poor. East side or west side. Stumptown or Folgers. And my very favorite: Spiritual vs. religious.

The peace of Christ—pax Christi—does not mean that we need to break down the dividing walls between all these groups, but rather that peace has already been made. The cross holds all of the divisions between us. In Christ, differences no longer have the same meaning they once did, just as death no longer holds the same meaning it did before the resurrection. Where the vertical and horizontal pieces of the cross meet, there are all of the differences and disagreements that might divide us—the cross says they no longer divide us. Living at peace with our divisions and differences means living as a dwelling place for God.

Now, just a little sidebar for anyone new to our community: you might be wondering whether the subtext of this sermon is a bunch of conflict under the surface here at St. David’s. Unless there’s something I don’t know about, I think we actually get along fairly well, in part because we’re a community that connects across differences between us.

In the words to the Ephesians, the cross says to all of us:

You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

When we exchange the peace, as we do in every single service of Holy Eucharist, this is what we are saying to one another. You are no longer strangers and aliens, you are citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. When we exchange the peace with one another we affirm this peace of Christ, the reconciling for all time that is the cross of Christ.

This is why some leaders of worshipping communities—not me, never!—sometimes get a wee bit cranky when the peace turns into a social time, a liturgical seventh-inning stretch. Rather, this peace that we exchange affirms Christ as the foundation of our household. When we exchange these simple words—the Peace of the Lord be with you; and also with you—we are built together into a dwelling place for God.

When we share Christ’s peace, we remember that each one of us has been at some time, an alien or a stranger, and that we are strangers no longer. This is good news indeed, good news worthy of the holy feast we’ll share around this table, when we have once again proclaimed the peace of Christ. Let us celebrate.

God is In The Midst of Even This

A major thank you to  Rev. Julia Fritts McWilliams for sharing these words with us this past Sunday, July 15, The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, Our Lord and our God.+

Good morning, my friends! What a gracious welcome, and what a beautiful place. Thank you so much for your good work here with mother Sara+, who is having a much needed rest after General Convention and who has given me this joy of serving with you today. My name is Mother Julia Fritts McWilliams, and I serve the diocese of Western Oregon as a sort of “free range priest,” leading worship and offering programs in spiritual nurture on the east and west coasts.
My work requires that I preach a lot – an honor, and a joy. And my husband, Michael, has learned the rhythm of a preacher’s life. Every week he asks, “How is your sermon coming?” and then just smiles when I tell him it’s almost done. He’s learned that what almost always happens is that I will spend the first twelve hours or so working away on what I think is the message, only to wake up knowing there’s something else entirely that needs to be said. Michael smiled that smile the other night.

You see, it seemed to me that this Gospel account of the brutal beheading of the beloved prophet of God, John the Baptist, called for an exploration of that hardest thing: The Big Question. The Big Question… How do we explain the reality of suffering and evil in the presence of God, whom we believe to be almighty, all knowing, all good? The Big Question seemed to require an exhaustive, step by step process that began with examining our assumptions, considering the presence of evil and divinity, exploring the nature of humankind and the nature of God; describing a way to hold it all, and then fitting all of that into one sermon, for a wonderful group of people whom I’ve never met, and who’ve never met me. This is tender territory; it’s important work, and best done with someone you’ve had a chance to get to know and trust. Twelve hours into it, I started to wonder if grappling with the Big Question was too big a question for us today.
But then it dawned on me that this Big Question about the presence of God in the midst of suffering is nothing new. It’s not something special, not something particular to the inconceivable beheading of John the Baptist. It’s the same question raised all throughout scripture; all throughout history: where was God in the midst of that? It’s the question we ask in the depths of our hearts when we are in times of desolation; it’s the very question we anguish over on Good Friday, isn’t it. No one: not me, or you; not John the Baptist; not even Jesus, gets through life without anguishing, “My God, my God, where are you in this?” It’s not The Big Question. It’s always the question.

There’s something so perfect, I think, about the way we are designed to long for God, designed to seek out God’s presence. It seems to me that we human beings are hard-wired to long for home, for return; it’s like we know in our bones that this wheel of life-on-earth is a temporary assignment, fraught with trouble. There’s some relief to know that it’s not forever, and that home awaits us. Every lifetime has that circular pattern, doesn’t it – there’s the miracle of birth; the rising up of new life, then the maturing, then a natural decline, then death, and release into larger life again to God, from whom we came. And there’s nothing broken in that. God is with us through all of that. But what about the suffering, and the evil, that we witness in our own lives, or in the lives of our loved ones, whose wheels of life go around way too fast, or way too slow, with way too much suffering? What about the suffering we’ve inflicted on each other throughout the Bible, throughout history…what about the suffering of John the Baptist, alone in that cell when the executioner raised his sword…what about our beloved Lord Jesus, suffering on the cross? Where is God in the midst of all that? We come from God, we return to God, and all along the way, through the stumbles and disasters born of our free will, or the free will of others, we cry out for God –  “are you there?”  “Are you here?”

It turns out, this is always the question. It turns out, this is always my sermon. My sisters and brothers, God is in the midst of us, present through everything: omnipotent, omniscient, unlimited in goodness. But big!! God is so very big, it’s almost no wonder we can’t grasp it. The people in the Old Testament couldn’t grasp it. The people in John the Baptist’s time couldn’t grasp it. We couldn’t get it, and so out of that limitless love, God tried a new thing, and sent Jesus: God With Us, to circle around the wheel of life with us. God in human form; God in human size; God we could grasp: this was what John was crying out in the wilderness about: “Prepare the Way of the Lord!,” he said. Insisting “He’s coming! Make ready!,” John ushered in the turning of the wheel of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ ministry began, and the world will never been the same.

You see, no longer is God too big for us to find. God in Christ is with us in ways we can grasp. God through Jesus partners us around the wheel: glad for our little triumphs, sad for our mistakes, hopeful that we will someday learn to use God’s gift of free will wisely, and lessen the suffering and evil that we bring on ourselves, and on each other.

God is in the midst of us in several ways, I think. God’s own limitless self, I believe, is as wide as the cosmos, and as near as our breath. But this holy presence is with us in other ways too: through the partnership of Christ, which we as Christians are so very blessed to know – but also through something else that struck me in a new way the other day.
I was sitting with two Vietnamese people, a grandmother and a son, who were talking with each other. I couldn’t understand their words, of course, but I was marveling at the musical quality of their language, the softness of their gaze, the lilt of mutual understanding.  I was struck by the clear presence of love – kindness, mutual respect – that I could hear in the quiet cadence of their speech, and the clear compassion in their eyes. It hit me in a new way how beautiful this design is: that no matter our language, or culture, or creed, love is universally recognizable. We all have this mutual capacity for love, and that is God’s design. Love – universal; transcending every boundary and division.

God is present in love. Yes –  love: that overused word, so common that we sort of go blank when we hear the phrase “God is love.”  But what a brilliant design! Love – that universal power – is not bound by language, or culture, or custom. Love reaches everywhere. Love is recognizable and understandable by everyone. What a design to help us find God in the midst of us!!

God’s love for us, huge and ever- present as it is, still can seem remote at times. Jesus’ love, limitless, given for all, is the Good News we hope to share with those who don’t know him yet. And human love, our capacity for kindness and compassion, is this universal force. How we choose to treat one another in our homes, in our schools, in our cities, and countries – the choices we make when we respond out of compassion, make God’s presence known, and the great wheel of life evolves: suffering eases; hope grows.

Life on earth is full of suffering, and no one is spared. Not you, or me; not John the Baptist; not even Jesus. But God is in the midst of everything, reminding us of larger life, and welcoming us home. God is in the midst of us: in the expanse of the night sky; in the glory of a sunrise, God’s ever-presence and power is palpable. God is in the midst of us in the presence and partnership of Christ. God is in the midst of us in our capacity to love one another. And this is where our work as Christians is made clear.

Every person longs for God, whether they can name that longing or not. Every person suffers, and wonders where God is in the midst of it. Not everyone knows the goodness of God, or the presence of Christ. Not everyone knows kindness or mercy. We as Christians are accountable for these things: we are to be bearers of the good news of God, and Christ, and love, into the world. This is our work, and I love most the way St. Francis of Assissi, that man of palpable love, went about it: he said, “Preach Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

The wheel of life always comes to its’ completion sooner, or later. It is our mortal nature to be finite, and there is nothing broken in this. The answer to The Big Question is yes: God is right here in the midst of life with us, in all our joys, and in all our sorry choices. But suffering a sense of the absence of God, the absence of Christ, the absence of love, is suffering that we can change.  But we never know how long our wheel will turn, or how much time we have to do this good work. So in closing I offer these words adapted from the poet Henri Frederic Amiel, who reminds us of the urgency of our work as bearers of this Good News. He says this:

Life is short, and we don’t have much time
to gladden the hearts of those who make this earthly pilgrimage with us.
So be swift to love.  Make haste to do kindness.
Shower abundant hospitality on friend and stranger:
Walk in love, that you may follow the path of justice and peace.

And may the blessing of God,
who comes to us unbidden, who for our lives was broken,
and in whose Spirit we are guided into wholeness and holiness of life
be with you and with those you love this day, and forever.

All Means All

When I went to General Convention at Anaheim in 2009, the Episcopal Church’s advocacy organization for the LGBT community, Integrity, distributed colorful buttons that said “All the Sacraments for All the Baptized.” This time ’round, the button reads: “Making ALL mean ALL.” Yesterday, both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies approved two resolutions that truly make all mean all: first, a resolution expanding the list of people against whom the church will not discriminate to include transgendered people, and second, a resolution indicating that all are welcome to participate in the process of discerning a vocation to ordained ministry, without regard to gender identity and expression, among other things. All means all.

Later in the day on Monday, the House of Bishops passed a resolution allowing priests to use special rites developed for the purpose of same-sex blessings. This afternoon, our House of Deputies passed the same resolution. Because about 25% of the House of Deputies were not happy with the decision, there was not a whole lot of outward rejoicing and hoopla, but the vote was the culmination of over thirty years’ work on full inclusion of all people into all aspects of church life.

It’s a great day for a church that claims to welcome all people.  All means all.

Prophets are not without honor

Thank you to Rev. P. Joshua Griffin for sharing these words with us this past Sunday, July 8, 2012

“Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”

On this particular Sabbath Jesus, upending all norms and expectations yet again, is teaching in the synagogue. Everyone is amazed, saying: “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!”

Just after their minds are blown this first time, their minds are blown again. “Wait a minute, wait a minute… isn’t this the carpenter Mary’s kid? What the hell is he doing here in the synagogue?”  And they were offended.

A prophet is one who speaks and does the truth, one who is moved by God to enact and proclaim an integrated ethic of love and compassion, justice and hope, truth and peace.  The prophetic call is a risky call originating from outside of oneself, but which one simply cannot ignore.

Even at the end of his life, Jesus would pray, “Father, take this cup from me…” Even Jesus needed to pray, to cultivate his godly disposition through active and ongoing release, “No. Father, your will, not my will, be done.”

No real prophet ever desires to be a prophet.  There is a simple reason for this: to be a prophet is a dangerous and terrifying call. A prophet’s truth, God’s truth, is very often a critique of the prophet’s own community, a prophet’s life demonstrates another way is possible. The prophet exposes again and again the myths we live by, our blind spots, our fears, or the harms we perpetuate against others or our own.  To point out such things is always to risk something.
Historically, in the Hebrew Bible, the prophet had a very distinctive and important role.  They were the ones who, because of the Holy quaking in their bones could not stay silent in the face of maltreatment by the King or other so-called authorities.  A prophet was one who simply could not tolerate idolatry, deception, or greed among the religious authorities. Very often these forces—religious idolatry and social and ecological domination—were in cahoots, as they still are today.

Many a contemporary prophet have figured out, that if you don’t want to get killed, at least not right away, you should heed the advice of the poet Emily Dickenson, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” There is a paradox among prophets.  For all one’s straightforward, to the point, truth telling and truth being. For one’s resolute rejection of evil and one’s commitment to living and breathing another way, the prophet is never strong, and neither is the Christian, at least not in the conventional sense.

Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth offers us an ancient account of this particular paradox. “I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows.” Paul is talking about himself, but out of humility begins in the third person.

“And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.”  Paul has experienced something so true, so real, that it cannot be represented by words. He has encountered a love so all-encompassing that to describe it would be to risk blaspheme.

Now, how’s this for a political campaign strategy? “On my behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.” Paul doesn’t claim to have any special knowledge or powers, he can’t brag about what has been revealed to him, for in being shown a paradoxically liberating truth about himself, he has experienced a profound and utter emptiness before the Face of God.
Paul continues, basically saying, “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would be right to boast, this all was pretty epic. But I won’t because it’s not about me—it’s not about me at all.  It’s about the truth that has been revealed to me, the message I cannot help but share, and this new way of being community on earth—of being earth community—of building the Kingdom of God.”

Here’s the rub. If you remember one thing, remember this.  There’s no other way to the Kingdom, but to enter, with Paul and with Jesus, the paradox: “Whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul continues, “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.”  Was this thorn a depression, an injury, an addiction? We will never know, though many silly people have speculated.

“Three times,” Paul continues, “I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me…[f]or whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.”

If you are a human being you know something of this paradox, you live and breathe it daily.  Limits. Weakness. Finitude. Nevertheless, we spend a lot of time trying to eradicate weakness.

I’m not really into comic books, but this week, it being summer and all, I went to a late showing of the Amazing Spider Man.  Now all these stories have a villain, but this one wasn’t the conventional evil manic.  The problem to be solved by Spider Man occurred when a well-meaning scientist, obsessed with eliminating all human weakness, ended up turning himself into a giant psychopathic lizard.

Every night, having apparently rid himself of weakness, he goes on a destructive rampage terrorizing New York City—each time getting more and more drunk on his sense of invincibility.  He becomes so deluded, so taken with himself, that he develops a plot to release a gaseous serum from the highest building in the city in order to turn all humanity into giant psychopathic lizards, thinking he will be doing the world a great service and giving them a great gift by helping them too, overcome their weakness.

This sort of deluded fantasy is but a slightly overstated example of something we are faced with all the time. When the dominant global culture equates strength with might, success with power over others, and glorifies abstract wealth to the exclusion of human life and ecological wellbeing, the mythology of eradicating human weakness, finitude, and limits—progress—threatens always to entrap us.

But this morning, we have one of the best distillations of the Christian Gospel in all of scripture: when I am weak then I am strong, God’s power is made perfect in weakness. If you are like me, you will need to embrace this paradox daily, moment by moment, and you will need the help of others who are embracing it as well.

We have assembled this morning because we have heard God’s call to make that paradoxical strength, which only occurs through weakness, incarnate in our world. And perhaps you have rightly discerned the call for Christians to live as prophets and this causes you perhaps to tremble.  That is just fine, because you are not alone. We’re all in this together, even those of us who don’t realize it.  If God hadn’t afflicted us with visions of a Paradoxical Paradise, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.

So my friends, friends who are becoming prophets, if only reluctantly, as it should be.  I’ll leave you with Jesus’s own instructions, “take nothing for your journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in your belts; but wear sandals, and for goodness sake, do you really need that second tunic?”

What’s a “give-in”?

This post is really just an excuse to share one of my favorite photos of the week, so far, and the story behind it. This was taken by Wes Sedlacek, who is a fellow Oregon Deputy, a friend and clergy colleague, and a child of St. David’s. (But not the guy in the photo I posted earlier in the week.) Wes serves on the Stewardship Committee here at General Convention, and members of that committee were concerned that the daily Eucharist did not involve a daily offering. We did take a massive offering at Sunday’s celebration, all of which will go to the United Thank Offering. However, some folks on the Stewardship Committee have not been happy with this daily missed opportunity for generosity, and organized a “give-in.” Committee members decided to simply offer their money, whether the convention liturgy planners asked for it or not. Appropriately, they left their offerings at the baptismal font. You can read more on Bishop Rickel’s blog.