Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WE confess - Holy Wednesday, March 31

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
Hebrews 12

• The world’s hostility is expressed in the slander that Christ’s followers cause the world’s problems and oppression – do our servant ministries do anything to refute that?
• How can we encourage one another with examples of Christian service?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WE confess - Holy Tuesday, March 30

They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
John 12

• Does our service ever focus too much on us and too little on Jesus?
• How do we make our service to others an opportunity for them to see Jesus?

Monday, March 29, 2010

WE confess - Holy Monday, March 29

…a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Isaiah 42

• Do we grow bitter or discouraged as the culture and even some in the church reject our witness to Christ?
• How can we help one another keep serving with Christ: gently, faithfully, steadily and in confidence that the he is the world’s deepest need?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Video: Palm Sunday Sermon from Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Call me "Ephor" (just don't call me for news this week)

Yeah, like Leonidas you might have all kinds of pressing concerns about this or that urgent issue in the church or the world. And yeah, you might consider me an ugly old throwback for not being as stoked as you would like.

But for many Christians, the week ahead makes all else seem pale and trivial as we stumble our way through the event that defines all other events, the news that will still echo through the creation when all other news is forgotten.

So, not much blogging this week beyond the short "WE confess" meditations each morning. But much, much prayer - for all of us.

WE confess - Palm Sunday, March 28

I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced…

Isaiah 50

As we gather for worship, let us encourage one another to become the body of Christ – not hidden in the beauty of heaven, but going out to be the suffering servant of God in a fallen world.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

WE confess - Saturday, March 27

“Over 58 quilts have been made and presented to the Red Cross since inception, families who experienced flooding in Iowa have been assisted, and over 50 dog blankets have been made and donated to the Sioux Falls Humane Society.”
Good Shepherd’s “Heavenly Comforters” web information.

…in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Romans 8

• Do we sometimes limit our vision of salvation, forgetting that Christ intends to make “a new heavens and a new earth”?
• How can our church expand its witness to God’s freedom and glory for the whole creation?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Didn't the Diocese of South Carolina get this memo?

"building humanity into communications"

Less than 5 minutes and a jolt of awesome reality:

Can't imagine how this kind of thinking might renew the church, too...

h/t Allan S. Haley

Why running off Episcopalian Charismatics was not such a good thing

Sarah Hey details the various groups that have broken off from The Episcopal Church.

One thing you'll notice in her list is that recent exoduses (exodi? dunno...) have included pretty much all of the denomination's Charismatics. The Epicopalian powers-that-be have run off this small group from the dinky denomination, to be sure, but...

1. They've thrown away the group most in touch with the fastest growing expression of global Christianity.

2. The group which by nature is least concerned with cultural religious trappings and most about spiritual unity.

3. Because of both 1) and 2), the group which is, in reality, least racist and most global. In no other part of the church do you find as many white people as willingly under the spiritual authority of leaders-of-color.

"Quiet Resolve" - can some pockets of Episcopalian vitality resist the toxicity of an incoherent "national" sect?

Bishop Mark Lawrence's address to the Diocese of South Carolina is up and available on the web. South Carolina is one of the few Episcopal Church dioceses to show sustained growth in the face of overall denominational decline. Yet:

"...this Diocese of South Carolina, while seeking to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures, historic Anglicanism and the received teaching of the Anglican Communion... as well as to The Book of Common Prayer, and adhering to The Constitution & Canons of this [Episcopal] Church, has experienced incursions not authorized by these very constitution and canons... The absence of the Presiding Bishop having juridical powers within an independent diocese makes the hiring of an attorney [in South Carolina, to work against the Diocese of South Carolina] by the Presiding Bishop’s office an unauthorized act."

That's right, the recently self-cast "national church" has hired a lawyer in South Carolina to lean on the Bishop there - the same "national" church that bellows about foreign bishops having no right to come into a region without the local bishop's permission, even as mere dinner speakers.

The South Carolina Convention today passed a resolution asking the Episcopal Church to honor standing Constitution and Canons and drop the lawyer antics. But unlike your not-so-calm blog host, this was done, according to an eyewitness, with "quiet resolve."

Quiet resolve might be the key in a denomination torn apart by melodramatics. Also out of South Carolina is news that a divided congregation has negotiated a way to share church property without prolonging litigation or giving one group the boot.

There are not many examples like this. One key seems to be a strong, yet Biblically grounded and quietly resolved Bishop. We are, after all, a tradition marked by that Biblical office, the "episcopos" that gives us our name. Bishop Lawrence is one example; Bishops John Howe in Central Florida, Bruce MacPherson in Western Louisiana and a few others are similar.

L.A. Times commentary: urban decay and dysfunction are "reality," building an alternative way of life is a "disaster."

I'm still trying to make sense of this piece by Gregory Rodriquez.

Michelle Obama's 'news-free zone'

The first lady's remark about avoiding the news at home is an unfortunate example of suburban escapism.

Opinion March 22, 2010|Gregory Rodriguez

When Michelle Obama told Mike Huckabee a few weeks ago in an interview on Fox News Channel that her home was a "news-free zone," she wasn't just reflecting a desire to filter and ignore news we don't want to hear. Her statement, to my ear, also represented the culmination of the suburbanization of the American mind. And that's bad news for our future.

I'm not about to launch into a righteous diatribe against the intellectual shallowness or soullessness of suburbia. I won't play the role of sophisticated urbanite, not least because I couldn't pull it off. I'm a proud product of suburbia. I know its charms and its demons, and all in all, I'm pleased to have spent my childhood there.

What I'm not so fond of is the suburban dream. I know that part of the reason my parents raised me and my brothers in a leafy foothill Southern California community is that they wanted to spare us the indignities and rough edges of the city and farm, the places where they were raised. I'm grateful for that. But implicit in the suburban ideal is the notion that families must be at odds with the realities of the big bad world.

The suburban ideal is associated with a particular vision of family life: Members of the single family unit are their only allies, best suited to look after each other's physical and emotional needs.

That vision also assumes that family members prefer to be around each other more than anyone else. This explains the conspicuous absence of public places in so many suburbs. Gone are the plazas, the central parks, the gathering places for strangers. As Brandeis University sociologist Laura J. Miller has written: "The geography of suburbia makes it relatively difficult, during non-work hours, to associate with people who are not members of one's household." If that weren't enough, suburban architecture -- the detached single-family home -- draws a sharp line between family and public space. Trademark lawns serve as modern-day moats.

So what does this have to do with Michelle Obama's news-free zone? Well, the suburban ideal includes the notion that the temptations of the world lure people away from familial togetherness. It stresses the need to guard against the world of nonfamily members. And isn't that what Obama is implying? Her husband sought the most powerful office on Earth, yet like a suburban mother warning her children of the city, she speaks as if the world were an unwanted intrusion. She told Huckabee that she stays away from news because she wants to formulate her own opinions based on her experiences. That's comforting. When it comes to news, the first lady just says no.

Any city begins with some one's or some group's vision of the good community. As with all human endeavors, the passage of time reveals the costs of the vision. Some great things come forth, but so do unanticipated problems - even evils. So people try something else, and the pattern repeats.

Rodriguez presents the strange idea that we just should stay in the cities, embrace their flaws and not try to build other ways of life - at least not the suburban kind. Crime, crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded schools, overwhelmed hospitals and the like should be experienced because they "make us real." Families that try to give their kids something different aren't visionaries or community builders: they're just "dreamers" who don't want to "interact with the world."

To romanticize or idealize any one kind of community, or cast any other as the pit of hell, is manifestly "unreal." Every community has its blessings and its curses.

I lived most of my life in L.A., and there are things I miss. The Mark Taper Forum, Dodger Stadium and USC football at the Coliseum come right to mind - I've still not "adopted" a regional sports team, college or pro, here on the Plains. But Sioux Falls (still a city, albeit much smaller) has given my family many blessings that, on balance, are the better choice for us today. And who knows where my wife and I might go as empty-nesters, and after that as retirees? The pluses and minuses of different communities are relative. Our preferences, politics or problems are not over-arching human realities.

Because Christ has come, the kingdom of Heaven is growing in all communities; and all communities are resisting it for their own short-sighted idols. 'Tis the human condition.

WE confess - Friday, March 26

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for 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.”
Matthew 25

• Do we forget to look for Christ in the neediest people around us?
• How can we help one another act as the body of Christ to serve needs, but also recognize the presence of Christ is those we serve?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Episcopal priest in Indiana shares Anglicanism's special means for engaging the Bible through daily prayer

Confessions of a Carioca: In Praise of the Daily Office

My parishioners sometimes compliment me on my awareness of Bible content, or at least for "having a good memory."

But the fact is, I am not a "Bible memorizer" as much as I am a reader of The Daily Offices from the Book of Common Prayer. I'm in the Scriptures daily so that the Holy Spirit can remind me of the Word at the right time.

The Anglican Reformers of the 1500s wrote,

THERE was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so surely established... as (emong other thinges) it may plainly appere by the common prayers in the Churche, commonlye called divine service: the firste originall and grounde whereof, if a manne woulde searche out by the auncient fathers, he shall finde that the same was not ordeyned, but of a good purpose, and for a great advauncement of godlines: For they so ordred the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest parte thereof) should be read over once in the yeare, intendyng thereby, that the Cleargie, and specially suche as were Ministers of the congregacion, should (by often readyng and meditacion of Gods worde) be stirred up to godlines themselfes, and be more able also to exhorte other by wholsome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the trueth. And further, that the people (by daily hearyng of holy scripture read in the Churche) should continuallye profite more and more in the knowledge of God, and bee the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.

A blogger in L.A. honors my late dad

Northwest Anglican: Last Night in L.A.

What a beautiful thing to see in my inbox this a.m. My dad was a waiter at one of L.A.'s local landmarks, and Matt Perkins stopped in and then posted this wonderful surprise on his blog.

Bless you, Matt. Readers, check out Northwest Anglican from time to time. He's a young Army officer, wrapping up med school - keep him in your prayers.

WE confess - Thursday, March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation)

And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus… Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
Luke 1

· Does our giving sometimes stay at a safe distance from the world’s problems?
· How can we say “Yes” when the Lord asks our church to serve in some way that will be costly or risky?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WE confess - Wednesday, March 24

“Our Christian ethics will provide the individual or family respect and dignity in their time of need.”
Moving Assistance Program Website

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.
Exodus 22

• Are some forms of “outreach” or “service” impersonal or patronizing?
• How can we continue to build up service ministries that are respectful, compassionate, humble and just?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Have artists' versions of the Last Supper contributed to obesity? - Super-Sizing the Last Supper?

Too much fun - even Lenten fasting needs some laughs.

I like 'em but they're not clear on the concept

I really like Joey's Seafood here in Sioux Falls. They had a funny campaign when they opened, asking people to come up with creative explanations of how they got fresh seafood to our landlocked locale.

But right now, they are running a radio ad that says,

"Every day is Lent at Joey's Seafood!"

Yes, they are appealing to the RC fish-on-Friday tradition, which is strong around here. But don't they realize that the last thing most of us want is an endless Lent?

(For those who don't get it: Lent is a Christian season of unsparing self-assessment, confession, spiritual discipline and fasting - those who observe it are pulling for Easter to arrive, not for permanent Lent).

Quotes illustrate the dubious progress of Episcopalian "Progressives"

1966: "Of all the methods of dealing with Bishop Pike's views, the very worst is surely a heresy trial! Whatever the result, the good name of the Church will be greatly injured. Should there be a presentment and trial of Bishop Pike (which I hope and pray will not happen) the harm, the divisiveness and the lasting bitterness that will be inflicted on the Church we love and serve will be inevitable."

Bishop Horace Donegan convinced the House of Bishops to refrain from significant discipline against Bishop James Pike, who had denied key affirmations of Christian faith, participated in seances, and engaged in blatantly partisan politics.

2010: "...the entity of the Church responsible to defend the trust interest of the Episcopal Church in property is the diocese. If the diocese fails in this, then it should be subject to whatever coercive or disciplinary forces the Constitution and Canons of our Church would specifically provide."

Episcopalian General Convention Deputy Bruce Robison asserts that out-of-budget redirection of millions of donated dollars for "coercive and disciplinary" litigation against other Christians is just fine as the public witness of the Episcopal Church.

WE confess - Tuesday, March 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 23, King James Version

• Do we understand that Christian pastoral care is not about the skill or goodness of the pastor, but about the goodness and mercy of Christ, the Good Shepherd?
• How can we offer care that points people to Jesus?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Water cooler chat topic in a secular work place: Lack of civility around Health Care debate

I stayed to cover for a sick co-worker at my second job at the medical center. Other folks were chatting about the name calling, physical aggression and other demonstrations that took place in the weekend run-up to the health care vote. There was genuine shock at the lack of restraint.

Some were upset with the Tea Party/"Kill the Bill" side, but it was pointed out that there were also Democratic Reps and their staffers interrupting Rep. Ryan (R - WI) inside the Chambers - the Chair actually had to "shush" them several times,

And then there's the widely reported shout of "Baby Killer" while Rep. Stupak (D - MI) was trying to speak,

Our national discourse is shot through with intolerance, incivility and anti-intellectualism rationalized under various high sounding categories of speech. It is hard to see how things will not get more chaotic and uglier in America. If it is like this now, consider how we might function under the added pressure of a natural disaster like Katrina, or a terror attack within our borders, or the significant worsening of the economy.

Satan has very successfully disunited the Church, providing no counter example to those already living under the influence of "the world, the flesh and the devil."

SD's Rep. Herseth-Sandlin one of handful of Dems to vote against health care bill

Health Care Vote: How Each Representative Voted - Political Hotsheet - CBS News

Investor's Business Daily: bill is a job killer - Health Overhaul's Assault On Business Their analysis is that those without jobs and those stuck in p/t jobs will be in a worse position.

h/t TitusOneNine

NY Times' summary of Health Care bill's provisions, timing

For Consumers, Some Clarity on Health Care Changes -

WE confess - Monday, March 22

…he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
Mark 16

• Do we ignore the spiritual deliverance of those for whom we care?
• How can we recognize and free those under spiritual oppression?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Presidential Executive Order to maintain abortion funding restrictions reportedly gets enough House votes to pass Health Care package

Text - Pending White House Executive Order on Health Care -

By email from the NY Times:

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Sun, March 21, 2010 -- 4:16 PM ET-----Anti-Abortion Democrats Pledge Support for Health Care Bill in House

House Democrats who had withheld support of the health care legislation because of abortion concerns said Sunday afternoon that they would back the bill, all but assuring that Democrats would have the 216 votes needed for passage. The White House and Congressional Democratic leaders announced the deal, and rank-and-file Democrats who had worried that the bill would somehow allow the use of federal money to pay for abortions or for insurance coverage of the procedure appeared at a news conference to say those concerns had been addressed

Thanks, one and all, for flood abatement prayers

Several rivers in the region are at flood stage. Some roads have been blocked and some properties water damaged, but thinks could have been much worse. Thank you for interceding.

Continue to pray for Fargo, North Dakota as they get ready. Preparations throughout the Dakotas seem to have been effective this season.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine,
Good Lord, deliver us.
(The Great Litany, Book of Common Prayer)

Property-seeking Episcopal leaders seek operatives to sue local clergy, congregations out of their sanctuaries

Billy Ockham: The Episcopal Church Vs South Carolina

This stuff is fascinating. My favorite phrase from one of the Episcopalian activists (emphasis added):

"...defend the trust interest of the Episcopal Church in property is the diocese. If the diocese fails in this, then it should be subject to whatever coercive or disciplinary forces the Consititution and Canons of our Church would specifically provide."

The Episcopal Church. Property, not people. A place where the coercive and disciplinary can talk about tolerance and inclusion.

Kudos to Fr. Dan Martins, who tries to inject a reasonable voice into the madness.

Health Care plan written to skirt Hyde Amendment: selfish demand for public funding of "private choice" intrudes on policy debate

USCCB - (Office of Media Relations) President of U.S. Bishops says cost is too high, loss is too great for Health Care Bill not to be revised

The health care act before the House of Representatives today creates new funds and mechanisms to skirt the simplicity of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits Federal funding for abortion.

Those who say that the government should "stay out of private choices" also want taxpayers to subsidize their lifestyles.

If abortion is a "choice" in which the government should not interfere, the government has no business taxing the public to subsidize it. "The power to tax involves the power to destroy," wrote Chief Justice John Marshall in an 1819 decision.

Ironically, creation of a new funding stream for abortion opens the possibility of court challenges, "Executive Orders," legislative tinkering and other unintended consequences that could help undermine Roe v. Wade itself.

"Elections have consequences," said the President. So does taking Federal money. It will be interesting to see if abortion entitlement advocates unwittingly expose their project to future restrictions.

WE confess - Sunday, March 21 (Fifth Sunday of Lent)

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:25, New Living Translation

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More encouragement for those fretting over Lent, Holy Week and Easter sermon preparation (buggy computer stuff fixed)

From today's Daily Office lessons:

God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob... God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations." Exodus 2:24; 3:15

God knows the needs of all the people he will send to hear you preach. He "remembers" all of his faithful promises, including one we will hear in Luke's Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday:

"Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

God has picked out leaders and witnesses - you among them if you've been called to preach - who are imperfect but who are sent to strengthen the groaning people God loves. It is possible because Christ himself remembers his struggling people - preachers included - in his constant prayers. It is possible because the struggling people don't need your perfection, they need the saving strength of the name of Jesus remembered to them.

I'm relearning the need to read the upcoming Scriptures slowly and prayerfully. It is too easy for preachers to be busy with distractions** that interrupt the living Word of God. It is too easy to come at the Word with an agenda - some idea or image that pleases you so much it just hast to be crammed into a sermon, whether or not it has anything to do with the Scriptures; the perfect "last word" on something that bugs you; some platitude from past sermons screaming to make an encore; someone else's ideas that you like and think can save you some time.

But God knows all that and remembers his promises to you. He remembers the Baptismal promise to give you the Holy Spirit, the Confirmation promise to strengthen you in his service, and the Ordination promise to activate your gifts for ministry of Word and Sacrament.

As Jesus reminds you, just stop whatever fruitless stuff you are doing and ask the Father, in Jesus' saving name, to give you the Holy Spirit's gifts as you prepare to preach.

God remembers his promises to you, and with that great favor he sends you to remember Jesus' eternally saving name to his people.

I would end with "God bless you" but that would distract from the reality that he has, is and will.

*Painting of Gregory the Great, artist disputed.
** h/t Costly Grace

Fr. Hall in Brookings received a prophetic word for church secretaries

Costly Grace: Today's Dilbert

WE confess - Saturday, March 20

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.”
Luke 10

• Do we have a heart for others in need, even if they might make us uncomfortable under normal circumstances?
• How might we get our church out among non-Christians, in order to show them Christ’s care?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Episcopal leadership evils cost the church a "powerhouse priest," post-Katrina hero

Father Jerry Kramer isn't just another Episcopalian priest with an opinion. This is a man who literally risked his life to care for a New Orleans church and community devastated by Hurricane Katrina - even the mainstream media called his congregation a "powerhouse" in rebuilding efforts. Kramer, with chronic medical needs, served for several years even when the health care he required was disrupted.

Today, he posted a letter announcing his departure from the Episcopal Church:


We’ve reached the point with the election and scheduled consecration of yet another practicing homosexual 'bishop' that it is no longer possible to have any Gospel integrity and stay within the Episcopal Organisation. TEO is no longer a Christian body. It doesn’t believe what the Church believes. It does not act as the Church acts. It does not have the mind of Christ. 'If it quacks like a duck . . . ' TEO’s outright rejection of Jesus and His Way makes it essentially wicked and one cannot remain untouched by such evil. The Episcopal Organisation promotes and funds abortion advocacy. It sues Christians. It promotes the destruction of the traditional family. This is where the dollars go. It does not recognise the design of the Church. This all stems from the central reality that it has no regard for the revealed Word of God. There is no way around it. There is no fixing or ignoring it. If you are inside, you now know enough and are complicit in this. There will be a day of accountability.

I am particularly concerned for people of faith trying to remain within this spiritual rot and raise their children to be believers. This will end in catastrophe. Just look up any statistics of children raised 'Episcopal' in the last 20 years and see what happens to them . . . the vast majority end up with no faith at all, lost forever.

The idea that 'our parish is safe' or 'our diocese is safe' is simply a lie. This doesn’t exist. Monies given are supporting intrinsic evil. And spiritual authority and headship matter. Ms. Schori IS the chief spiritual authority for anyone in The Episcopal Organisation. A bishop is 'ordained for whole Church' not just a diocese. So now you have two practicing homosexual bishops as your spiritual Elders and 'teachers of the faith' along with a majority of 'bishops' who simply do not qualify as Christians.

There is no avoiding this. You know enough. You will have to give an account for your choices in life. It’s time to make a decision, one of eternal consequences. For those of us who have left, let’s pray for our friends and loved ones in TEO that they will see the light of God’s truth and grace."

The denomination - or, as Kramer and others now call it - "Organization" - keeps discouraging and driving off its most vital, creative, motivated and passionately Christian people.

Still, I don't agree with his conclusion that departure is the only option - although it is one way that the Lord might call his own. Alternatively, Christ "did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (Philippians 2). Bearing the cross daily means being "delivered into the hands of sinful men" (Luke 24), at least for some of Christ's followers, some of the time.

Church history's exemplar is St. Athanasius, who contended for the Christian faith when Emperors, Bishops and probably even a majority of church people were in the grip of heresy. The slogan "Athanasius against the world" described his experience - 17 of his over 40 years as a Bishop were spent in exile.

I'm not Jesus. I not Athanasius. I'm nowhere near the example of faith that one sees in Jerry Kramer. Yet God has not given me leave to leave TEC/TEO today. He might at some point, and some days I pray for that - but mainly for my own selfish relief and satisfaction. Meanwhile, he's placed people in my care who are confused and he doesn't want them left in this wilderness. There's some message he has for me to speak here - whether to effect change or just to sound the warning that discharges my responsibility, I don't know. The prayers that Fr. Kramer asks for people like me are needed and appreciated more than I can say.

Lawsuit loving church lies - "preserving property for future Episcopalians" turns out to mean "Sell the buildings for Muslim money"

"This case required a significant commitment from both the Diocese and the Episcopal Church to protect the parish for future generations of Episcopalians, and we are very pleased with the court's ruling," said Heather Anderson of the Goodwin-Procter firm, attorneys for The Episcopal Church. TEC had intervened in the case at the direction of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori...

The quote is from an Episcopalian public relations release regarding a case in Colorado, but the "protect the property for future generations of Episcopalians" line is used all across the country to justify multimillion dollar lawsuit spending. In the main, the litigation is to eject Christian congregations from buildings and take over bank accounts.

Now comes word that the Diocese of Central New York, which ejected a congregation from Church of the Good Shepherd, Binghamton, is selling the church building to an "Islamic Awareness Center."

In other words, The Episcopal Church is lying. Again. Betraying the work of the Gospel of Christ. Again. Cynically relying upon money and apathetic members, and getting away with it. Again.

h/t BabyBlueOnline, Anglican Curmudgeon

WE confess - Friday, March 19 (St. Joseph)

…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you… Then Joseph got up…
Matthew 2

  • Is our pastoral care more about what people want or what God wants for people?
  • How can we be sensitive to God’s guidance and ready to care for others on God’s terms?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why single-issue activism and church don't mix well

" a communion governed entirely by trust, its order and coherence - indeed, its Christian witness to the world - is only as good as its most corrupt member is trustworthy... and when that member is the Episcopal Church, the bar of order and coherence isn't merely lowered, it's broken, chopped into pieces, burned and its ashes scattered to the wind."

Greg Griffith

Whatever one believes about a) homosexuality and b) its status in the Christian church, one would have to be either clueless, dishonest or maybe some of both to argue that it is OK to ordain actively LGBT clergy without changing the church's formal teaching on marriage or seeking wide Christian consensus for so extreme a change in church practice.

What made Anglicanism attractive to many was its lack of uniformity: unity was in "bonds of affection" instead of top-down government. The Episcopal Church, with its word games, appeals to ignorance and outright lies, has rolled this hopeful expression of Christianity in a sewer. Activists have no use for bonds of affection. They are all about temporary expedients. Everybody and everything is expendable - the polar opposite of the Way of Christ.

WE confess - Thursday, March 18

Hail to the Lord's Anointed,
great David's greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed,
his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
to set the captive free,
to take away transgression,
and rule in equity.

Hymn #661 (Paraphrase of Psalm 72)

• Do we take pastoral care too lightly, neglecting to heal all aspects of life under the authority of Christ?
• How can we practice pastoral care that rescues people from sin, injustice and hopelessness?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WE confess - Wednesday, March 17

If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
James 2

• Are our notions of pastoral care limited to words and feelings, without attention to the needs of the whole person?
• How can we maximize our pastoral care for all the needs that people face?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sioux Falls' new Sister City is right on time for St. Patrick's Day!

Newry and Mourne, Northern Ireland, where Patrick planted at least one tree and built a monastery.

Our other Sister City is Potsdam, Germany btw.

Are you fretting about what to say for Holy Week and Easter?

You're not alone. Words fail in the face of Christ's passion, crucifixion and resurrection. Sermons too often cushion the cosmos-jolting impact of the Biblical texts in this Holy time.

I found some encouragement in these words from Andrew Purves of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, in The Crucifixion of Ministry (IVP Books, 2007),

"Is there any more stupid comment about a sermon than the church-door comment 'Good sermon, Pastor'? What is being said? 'I approve of/enjoyed/was stimulated by what Jesus was saying this morning.' By such a comment we sermon-hearers make ourselves the arbiters of the value and virtue of the Word of God.

The reverse also applies when we think it is our place to express dissatisfaction over what Jesus said and did. Certainly the preacher can get in the way of proclamation through not bearing faithful witness to what Jesus is saying to the people, through getting too much into the center of things or through muddled thinking and poor expression. Nevertheless the sermon is still not ours to control.

When the sermon bears witness to what Jesus is saying, that is entirely a miracle of God's making. The Word of God, Jesus, apart from whom there is no sermon, chooses to address his people. That is the miracle week by week on which we depend. Teach this to the people so that they grow in knowledge of the miracle of our salvation. Deus dixit, God speaks.

Christ is the teacher of the things of God..."

Please pray for all preachers, that we will let our cushioning instinct get nailed to the cross. That our causes, agendas and church platitudes will get nailed, too. That Jesus will, like "the lady Madeline of Usher... with blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame..." take every manifestation of our ungodly interference "to the floor a corpse," so that we can rise up with our living Christ and let him do the talking. He loves the people, he died for them and he is their hope whether or not they recognize it right now. No reason to cushion them - our ourselves - from that truth, that hope, that love that only he can give.

WE confess - Tuesday, March 16

And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
First Corinthians 2
  • Are we hung up on pastoral care being the territory of “experts,” and afraid that we “won’t have the right words” to say to someone in need?
  • How can we encourage one another to overlook our own limitations and rely upon God’s power?

Monday, March 15, 2010

WE confess - Monday, March 15

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
First Thessalonians 4

• Are we too much about “feeling good” here and now? Does our pastoral care lack an eternal purpose?
• How can we provide compassionate care, based in God’s Word, to encourage our people toward eternal life in Christ?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hypocrisy: Episcopalian leaders say, "No money to control borders - uh - unless they are ours."

Last summer, the Episcopal Church General Convention passed Resolution B006, which reads in part,

Resolved, That the General Convention call for termination of any program which allows or funds local enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law, and return that enforcement to Federal Immigration Agents, leaving local law enforcement agencies the work of keeping communities safe and dedicating their resources to that end, and provide for a sense of safety for immigrant victims of crimes to come forward and report without fear of detention and deportation...

Meanwhile, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church uses local Bishops and dioceses, funded with money diverted from the national church budget, to sue dissenting congregations and individual church members because "the Episcopal Church, for matters of its own integrity, cannot encourage other parts of the Anglican Communion to set up shop within its jurisdiction..."

Once again, the Episcopal Church's elitists lecture an entire nation to live by standards that the tiny denomination won't observe.

Just for the record, the loving dad did not endorse the prodigal son's behavior

This Sunday (4th Sunday of Lent, March 14, 2010) sported one of Christ's best loved parables.

It is also one of the more poorly preached in ideological times. Liberal Protestants tend to say something like, "The 'parent' shows us that God is all about acceptance, the elder son stands for the mean, hateful traditional Christians who won't accept everybody just the way they are, and the younger son stands for all the marginalized (cough LGBT cough) people who would flock to our churches if we just blessed their relationships and ordained them as clergy."

But that is an epic falsification of the story.

"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.'"

The younger son was in grave danger by doing what he felt like doing. He took the blessings that his Father freely gave and wasted them. The Father did not rejoice in that, rather he rejoiced because his son turned back and came home.

Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!'"

His argument would make sense if the Father were sending more money while the younger kid wallowed in waste - if the Father were an "enabler." But the younger son has turned away from waste and come home. All the Father does is rejoice - ecstatically and extravagantly - at this return from death to life. Really, the elder son is just like his brother - focused on self instead of what's right and good. It came out as self-indulgence in the younger kid; it manifests as self-righteousness in the elder. Neither brother was right in either attitude. The Father did not bless either attitude but loved his sons and held out hope that they would come under his roof again.

"Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"

"Your brother was dead" is a curse, not a bit of poetry. To say "You are dead to me!" is a profound rejection in various cultures. The younger son's earlier behavior is accursed, not "affirmed," but his return to the Father is a source of joy.

The context is found earlier in the same chapter of Luke, at verse 7:

"...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance..."

and again at verse 10:

"...I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The younger son was most emphatically a "sinner," living apart from God's ways. The only question Jesus raises is, "Will my church rejoice over the sinner who repents?" He is nowhere suggesting that this be accomplished by "affirming" sinful behavior, which his parable describes as "lost" and "dead."

For Episcopalians, ELCA Lutherans and other Liberal Protestant groups, the question will loom largest if and when some people mired in the waste of anti-Biblical culture religion, amorality, lawsuits, fruitless causes and other dead things suddenly, like the younger son, "come to themselves" and repent. There are some very bright and, more importantly, sincerely God-seeking people among those who are inadvertently destroying churches right now.

Should some of them repent, will those who "served the Father" faithfully rejoice with Him and welcome their lost siblings home? That's the question - the challenge - thrown down by Jesus in this great and beloved story.

Randell Beck: The best reporters pursue truth

Beck: The best reporters pursue truth | | Argus Leader

"In an era increasingly shaped by ideological trench warfare - a media-saturated world in which folks are lured to consume prepackaged news mirroring their own narrow worldview - the very best reporters challenge authority, ask the hardest questions, challenge conventional thinking and hold accountable those who presume to speak for all of us - all with a relentless fidelity to the truth, 'without fear or favor.'"

Randell Beck, President & Publisher, Sioux Falls Argus Leader

DC wants SD to go in the red to get Medicare funds?

Wait on Washington puts S.D. budget on hold Argus Leader

Balanced-budget states don't get extra benefits

Gov. Mike Rounds said Friday the latest estimates from the Senate bill would mean an additional $28 million to $34 million for the state to use in next year's budget.

But the news was accompanied by the sometimes-strange logic from Washington. If lawmakers actually went ahead and balanced the budget with cuts, Rounds said the state wouldn't qualify for the extra money. Use reserve funds, however, and the state would qualify.

"I have no way to go to the federal government and certify we need the money, because we've proven that we don't, we can just make cuts," Rounds said.

Flyover Country? Heh - big former NYC bucks now here 'cuz the locals know how to use 'em

That's right, money from the estate of Leona Helmsley is flowing in South Dakota. Her grandson lives quietly in Sioux Falls, is one of five Helmsley estate trustees, and has been instrumental in $34,000,000 going to rural healthcare networks on the Northern Plains.

In fact, the Helmsley trust just opened a new office - guess where?

"The office is (in Sioux Falls), not in New York... because the Midwest people understand rural health care."

WE confess - Sunday, March 14 (Fourth Sunday of Lent)

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:25, New Living Translation

Saturday, March 13, 2010



I need a cell phone camera

Out and about today and noticed that Spencer Park, Sioux Falls, which features a large dog park, is pretty well underwater. The snow melt and rain have the Big Sioux River over the banks, and the water covers the seats of the park benches and picnic tables.

I really wanted to get a shot of the ducks and geese paddling past the "Dog Park" signs.

WE confess - Saturday, March 13

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
James 5

• Do we expect clergy, our families or others to read our minds instead of just asking for the pastoral care we need? Are we ashamed to be needy and thus deny ourselves the power of prayer and sacraments?
• How can our pastoral care be powerful as well as compassionate?

Friday, March 12, 2010

WE confess - Friday, March 12

“Poems from my mother’s scrapbook comforted me when I lost a loved one. And people like to be read to.”
Cora Kuhlman, “8 o’clocker,” who reads poetry at the bedside of a parishioner in hospice care.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
II Corinthians 1

• Do we leave pastoral care to individual efforts, instead of working as a congregation to bring Christ’s comfort to one another?
• How can we identify and respond to pastoral needs?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday's Argus Leader Voices: Dakota Wesleyan Dean gets it; Pitts' piece is the pits

Today's Sioux Falls Argus Leader featured a stellar opinion piece by Robert G. Duffett, Dean of Dakota Wesleyan University.

Faith, politics challenged Founders, too is a fine overview of the thinking behind our Constitution: "For them the role of theology was conscience - not controller - of state or federal law."

When it comes to today's divisive issues like abortion, Duffett shows the intellectual emptiness of those who claim that religious voices have no place in public debate. But he understands that public policy must find common ground and not enshrine a particular religion:

"Surprising to some, [the Founders] would not reject insights from religion. Democracy, they thought, needed a vital church to produce moral citizens... They knew and frequently cited the Bible in their writings... Yet best science, medical practice, philosophy, sound reasoning and precedence from British law would influence more heavily their perspective than arguments from religion. Any law must stand primarily on moral reasons from these sources."

Oh, and before you write off Duffett as some right-wing religion guy, Dakota Wesleyan is home to the [George] McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service.

Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize winning editorialist Leonard Pitts is becoming a sad charicature of loopy liberalism. Pitts is capable of some great stuff, and some of his columns that have touched on religious issues have shown understanding and depth. But of late all he can do is call names, as in today's rant against Republicans, Be very afraid: Events during the past decade show Americans - and the GOP - live in fear .

These days all Pitts can do is sputter the usual stuff about racism, fear, and other assumptions of malign motives. It's the basic cant of "Liberals think, and Conservatives just emote," which has to be the most majestic example of projection in the universe.

It seems that Republicans have created an America based on "fearing Muslim terrorists, Muslim-Americans, Latino immigrants, gay people, black people, even 'salespeople' if they say 'Happy holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas.' Some of us see socialists around every street corner... has the drumbeat of fear ever been as intense and unrelenting as it's been since that awful morning in September?"

Got that? The reaction to a long-planned terrorist attack that killed thousands on our own soil, disrupted world air travel and caused ecomonic havoc was just silly emotion - and that's the only reason that "some of us" object to gay marriage, critique socialism or dare to prefer one holiday greeting over another.

Too bad Duffett only gets some local play, while Pitts is syndicated.

"...a gap is opened in the ranks..."

March 12 is the Feast of St. Gregory the Great (his commemoration is in September on the Roman Catholic calendar).

Gregory's thoughts on the church ring true today, as The Episcopal Church (TEC) seems ready grasp at a few more minutes of media time by consecrating a Lesbian bishop. By rushing into LGBT ordination rituals without regard to wider Christian consensus, or even formal changes to its own Prayer Book language about the nature of marriage, TEC falls into a trap and, intentionally or not, betrays the wider Christian church. Gregory's warning is as urgent and tragic today as it was back in the 6th century:

"For when the faithful nations join forces with the holy preachers they become a great army in battles for the faith against the spirits of evil...

...and it is undisputed, that an army set in array appears terrible to the enemy when it is drawn up in such close order as to leave no gaps in its lines. For if an army were so deployed as to leave an empty space through which the foe could pass, it would assuredly not appear terrible to the enemy. Therefore when we form the line of spiritual battle against evil spirits it is absolutely essential that we be always united and constrained in charity, and are never found estranged by discord because whatever good works there may be in us, if charity is wanting, a gap is opened in the ranks by the sin of discord whereby the enemy avails to penetrate and smite us." Sermons on the Prophet Ezekiel I.8.6

TEC, absorbed with the claims of one small faction, is a gap in the Christian line of battle. And evil slips in and strikes down souls - those deceived by false teaching, those puffed up with private agendas, those embittered beyond charity on either side of "the issue," those turned off to the Gospel by the spectacle of an eccentric, squabbling religion.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Some flood prayer specifics

Looks like the flood threats right now are along the James River - especially around the city of Huron, SD. Also the area around Mitchell - that city actually had to relocate several miles from where it was founded due to the "Jim's" penchant for flooding. Please keep up the prayers.

WE confess - Thursday, March 11

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6, King James Version

• Is Good Shepherd’s spiritual growth stunted by too much attention to too much stuff that isn’t about the kingdom of God?
• What does it look like for a congregation to seek God’s kingdom first?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WE confess - Wednesday, March 10

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6

· Is Good Shepherd so attentive to the practical challenges of “keeping the church open” that we never enter the spiritual, eternal battle?
· How can we identify and fight the battles that God chooses for us?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WE confess - Tuesday, March 9

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…
Ephesians 4

· Do we, like many small churches, use our people to fill positions, instead of creating positions based on the peoples’ gifts?
· How can we help identify and deploy our members’ spiritual gifts?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Episcopal Church creates fake entities to hide lawsuit spending. Press catches Bishop in a lie.

1. Lying is not a best practice. An Episcopal bishop, leading a paper "diocese" with a handful of people but given large sums to sue various other churches, said that the lawsuit funds were not being used against individual church members. Then a local newspaper looked at the legal papers and found that the money was, in fact, being used to sue lay church members individually. The Bishop called the lie a "misstatement."

2. Money laundering is not a best practice. Here's the paper bishop's budget. Notice line 64. DFMS is the "Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society," a legal name for The Episcopal Church. Then look at lines 72, 73 and 76 - the paper church in CA is using up that $400K grant, plus a Line of Credit (LOC) of $200,000 to carry on these lawsuits... really, it is the Presiding Bishop and the "national church" bureaucracy suing people, but they've set up deniabiblity in the form of a front company (the paper diocese) to do the suing. Scan the rest of the paper budget and you will see that programs and staff are being cut - the paper diocese exists primarily to file lawsuits.

If you are interested in more legal detail, including the way the paper diocese was recognized without meeting the requirements of the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons, go here.

Yesterday's sermon

Weekly Topics

Click on the March 7 icon to watch/listen. I love that parable from Luke 13 and this year God gave me some new insights into what it it telling us.

WE confess - Monday, March 8

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.
Galatians 6

· Does Good Shepherd operate on assumptions like “We shouldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings” or “Let’s not make anybody angry”?
· How can we help one another grow spiritually through gentle, humble and Biblically accurate correction?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

WE confess - Sunday, March 7 (Third Sunday of Lent)

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:25, New Living Translation)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

WE confess - Saturday, March 6

…the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14

· As Episcopalians, do we neglect the Bible and make it more difficult for the Holy Spirit to “remind us” of what Jesus said?
· How can we help one another read from the Bible?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hasn't happened since December 1st...

Sioux Falls could see 40F today! Been a long, cold winter.

Keep up those "anti-flood" prayers... looks like rain on the way for the weekend.

Lent & Beyond prayer site begins special intercession for The Sudan

Sudan watch (*sticky* – new posts below) « Lent & Beyond

There are Sioux Falls connections as we have a significant Sudanese community here. The Diocese of South Dakota has a cooperative outreach shepherded by a young Sudanese man.

WE confess - Friday, March 5

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4

· Does our church make decisions or take actions without asking for God’s help?
· How can we “approach God” together for the spiritual good of our parish?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thanks for the prayers... keep 'em up!

I asked folks to pray for a slow, steady thaw to prevent flooding - and that seems to be what Sioux Falls is getting! Thanks for praying, and keep it up!

I can see some of my dormant yard plants again, not to mention walk in my front door.

WE confess - Thursday, March 4

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
I Kings 19

· Can we answer if God asks, “Why is Good Shepherd here?”
· How can we tune out distractions and hear God’s voice together?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

LOL what do they call it in YOUR state?

A legislative maneuver traces its origins to SDSU hoghouse | | Argus Leader

I spent some time in Providence, RI during the Buddy Cianci years. He got removed from office, then showed up as a commentator on local news during the election for his replacement! (I think he reclaimed the job at some point).

All of which is to say, SD has nothing on some of the political swamps around our fair country. But I love the local name for this legislative trick. What do they call it where you live?

Morning Prayer: the Bible's teaching about church lawsuits 'n' stuff

Today's assigned reading is from Paul's First Letter to the Church in Corinth (5:9 - 6:8). I will try to approach this soberly - I am praying and counting to ten and all that to avoid a rant.

One bit of good news right off the top: the Church in Corinth was a constant mess. The fact that God gives us Holy Scripture through the travails of a dysfunctional congregation tells us something of the great, patient and real love of God for folks like ourselves. That's something to which we should cling.

We should also note that our brother Paul, who some try to set in opposition to Jesus, here carries through Christ's teaching and example on substantial matters of church life:

I. "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world."

Got that, polarized America? Paul is saying, "Be like Jesus. Hang out with all kinds of people - don't hide in little cliques. But those of you who really want to follow him must maintain God's teachings, even as you move among those who don't." The church does not need to run the culture on the one hand or cave in to it on the other. The "religious right" and "religious left" have ignored this. The result is churches too wrapped up in earthly "wins and losses" instead of Jesus Christ.

II. "But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. ‘Drive out the wicked person from among you.'"

Jesus was gentle and patient with the "sinners" he met, but demanding of his committed followers. Paul applies this same practice, expecting the church to live by the values of God's kingdom, no matter what the neighbors, culture or nation might be about.

III. "When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that?"

Paul is simply following Jesus, who taught church members to forgive one another and seek reconciliation. My dear brothers and sisters in The Episcopal Church, how do you ignore this? How do you allow millions of donated dollars to be redirected, without accountability, to something that is "shameful" in God's eyes?

IV. "In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that."

Jesus preached incredible patience and forbearance. I have to ask how those of you who insist, "We have to support Bishop Katharine!" are really helping her. How are you doing her any good when you defend a policy that, by God's Word written, is already "a defeat"?

How can a church - and here I'm not limiting the question to Episcopalians - expect blessing when it ignores Jesus' clear teaching in word and example?

WE confess - Wednesday, March 3

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
John 15 – Bishop Robertson’s sermon text at the Rector’s Installation

· Are there individual or group agendas that must be “thrown away” so that we can “bear much fruit” in unity with Christ and one another?
· How can we help one another “remain” or “abide” in Christ?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

WE confess - Tuesday, March 2

…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
First Letter of Peter

· We’ve done much to make our church building “more acceptable” – how are we doing on being a group that is “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”?
· What are the “spiritual sacrifices” we can offer together to build one another up?

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Episcopal Church: what's the opposite of "Best Practices"?

Where to start? How about an agonized message from a friend in another state:

"...the bishop made a number of graceless and crass comments, not to mention outright hostile attempts to chide and belittle a number of his churches, mine included... He chided the handful of churches that were actually doing something real and commended those who were perpetuating palliative care to dying parishes... I looked around at the delegations - we looked like an old folks' home... The insanity is mind numbing, heart breaking, and soul stealing - and with all we were going to try to do here in the parish in the next couple of years, I am very much wondering why bother wasting my life."

The Episcopal Church continues to reward fruitless ideologues, mainly LGBT activists, and marginalize any ministries that show vitality in the Gospel of Christ.

In recent weeks, analysis of TEC's budget exposed extravagant spending on political lobbyists.

Even some loyal TEC progressives are pointedly critical of dysfunctional denominational leadership.

The multimillion dollar lawsuit vendetta by the Presiding Bishop in unconscionable but goes unquestioned by mis- (or un-)informed followers and bootlicking insiders.

Now comes a stark, simple graphic of the Presiding Bishop's prior work as Bishop of Nevada. Quite simply, that Diocese was growing on par with the state's population trend - until Katharine Jefferts Schori became bishop there.

TEC chose a proven momentum wrecker and membership shrinker to lead in a time of conflict and challenge. And the clergy with intent and passive pew-sitters by default have allowed this Presiding Bishop and pals to assume imagined powers and spend money without oversight.

That the "Peter Principle" might play out in an organization is one thing - but when people are warned, and the foolishness is exposed, and nobody cares? That's something else entirely as God sees it. And it ain't a "best practice."

h/t Sarah Hey for the graph

Now here's a fun voice from the Plains

The Area 51-ish blogger called RadioActive Chief is someplace out in Moody County. Don't know much about Moody except it's between here and Brookings and weather reports always advise us to avoid it.

But the Chief (and I assume he's some sadly landlocked swabbie) has nailed some eternal truths about
  • Nanny-statists: "Food Nazi’s of various stripes often unite in condemning modern life’s relishing of so-called junk food."

  • The clergy (yeah, I'm one): "Delicious and bountiful banquets offered to the gods and eaten by Egyptian priests and their families were laden with artery-clogging saturated fat, research shows."

WE confess - Monday, March 1

…so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4

• Is Good Shepherd caught up in cultural ideas of “private spirituality”?
• How can we “be built up, reach unity and attain the fullness of Christ”?