Saturday, 15 November 2008

A difficult and trying day

It’s been such a difficult day.

This morning I walked for 50 minutes on Crescent Beach, Siesta Key. It was a misty, moody morning, and the beach was so lovely in the early morning fog.

This afternoon I brushed my cat Ada. She goes into sheer delight when I do this.

This evening Ben and I took our friends Don and Jerry for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. I ate the plumpest and most delicious mussels, in a marinara sauce.

What a difficult day! I am exhausted after all this activity.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Glorious and Grotesque


See my earlier post today, for “glorious”. It is a wonderful sermon, by R.C. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.

The photo’ above is grotesque. It is part of a protest display by a customer of my local bank.

He is aggrieved at the Bank, but his “hanging man” effigy crosses a line from appropriate protest to nastiness. I have complained to the owners of the Plaza on which the effigy is displayed.

I do not believe that the staff of the Bank should have to face this on their way to and from work.

The following statement from a R.C. parish Priest in South Carolina is also grotesque:

The pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Greenville, SC, is urging parishioners who voted for Barack Obama not to present themselves for Communion unless they go to confession first because they have cooperated with "intrinsic evil'' by voting for a candidate who supports abortion rights over a candidate who does not.

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman told the Greenville News that he doesn't intend to deny anyone Communion, but made it clear that his view is that Obama voters should not present themselves without seeking penance first "lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.''

Newman is the only priest in the U.S. known to have taken this position -- the Catholic bishops met this week in Baltimore and this idea was not even discussed, at least in public session. Newman has posted on his parish web site the following letter explaining his rationale:

Dear Friends in Christ,

We the People have spoken, and the 44th President of the United States will be Barack Hussein Obama. This election ends a political process that started two years ago and which has revealed deep and bitter divisions within the United States and also within the Catholic Church in the United States. This division is sometimes called a “Culture War,” by which is meant a heated clash between two radically different and incompatible conceptions of how we should order our common life together, the public life that constitutes civil society.

And the chief battleground in this culture war for the past 30 years has been abortion, which one side regards as a murderous abomination that cries out to Heaven for vengeance and the other side regards as a fundamental human right that must be protected in laws enforced by the authority of the state. Between these two visions of the use of lethal violence against the unborn there can be no negotiation or conciliation, and now our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president. We must also take note of the fact that this election was effectively decided by the votes of self-described (but not practicing) Catholics, the majority of whom cast their ballots for President-elect Obama
In response to this, I am obliged by my duty as your shepherd to make two observations:

1. Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.

2. Barack Obama, although we must always and everywhere disagree with him over abortion, has been duly elected the next President of the United States, and after he takes the Oath of Office next January 20th, he will hold legitimate authority in this nation. For this reason, we are obliged by Scriptural precept to pray for him and to cooperate with him whenever conscience does not bind us otherwise. Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good. In the time of President Obama’s service to our country, let us pray for him in the words of a prayer found in the Roman Missal:

God our Father, all earthly powers must serve you. Help our President-elect, Barack Obama, to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well. By honoring and striving to please you at all times, may he secure peace and freedom for the people entrusted to him. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

Father Newman

A fine Bishop Gumbleton Sermon

The Peace Pulpit by Bishop Gumbleton Sunday, November 9, 2008


Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17
John 2:19-22

I don't know if this ever happens on any other Sunday or feast day, but there's something very strange about the scriptures today because they seem to indicate that we really ought not to be celebrating the feast of the dedication of a church building, which is what we're doing in this liturgy commemorating the dedication of a huge building located in Rome that has now been designated as the pope's official cathedral church, built in about the fourth century, after Constantine had converted and Christians were free to celebrate in churches.

But the early Christians didn't have any churches. They never dedicated church buildings. They celebrated the breaking of the bread in their homes. Small communities of disciples of Jesus gathered together in homes throughout the Roman Empire, and that's how it was for over 300 years. No churches, no buildings to celebrate and to dedicate, to use almost as a place where we feel that somehow, because it's sacred and we're not, that when we go there, God will not punish us.

I think that's what Jesus meant when he said, "You have made the house of God a den of thieves!" He wasn't thinking about the injustices and the thieving going on that he stopped at that moment, but he was thinking about how a den of thieves is a place where thieves don't do their thieving; they come and find security. We almost have begun to use church buildings like that, as a place of security.

I guess I should first of all say, that seems somewhat logical if you listen to the first lesson today, but remember, this is from the Jewish scriptures, where Ezekiel is speaking about the situation as it was during the first covenant that God made with the people. And for the Jewish people, the temple was a place that was sacred, set apart from everyday life, where God was present in a very special way. That's why Ezekiel will tell us, and was encouraging the people to realize, that this temple was going to be restored.

"The man brought me out to the north gate, led me around outside to the outer gate facing the east, and there I saw the stream coming from the south side."

"And as that stream pours forth, this water goes to the east, down through the Arabah. And when it flows into the sea of foul-smelling water, the water will become wholesome," see, God's blessings are flowing into creation. "Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it. the sea water will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound."

"Near the river on both banks there will be all kinds of fruit trees that will not wither and fruit that will never fail. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing."

For the Jewish people, the temple was that place of God's presence and the source of blessings. But something very dramatic happened at the time of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I remember as a child, always being impressed with this part of the reading of the passion of Jesus during Holy Week, the version according to Matthew where, maybe you remember it too, Matthew describes that at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, darkness covered the whole earth. And then there were eruptions like earthquakes. Everything was in turmoil and even the spirits of the dead seemed to be walking about. And then dramatically the veil of the temple was torn in two - that veil that had separated the sacred from the profane. Behind the veil was the Holy of Holies; now it was torn in two.

So the Christians understood that with Jesus, and through his death, through his resurrection, that the vision that we made between what was sacred and what is profane or secular or worldly, that's gone. Everything is holy. All of creation is filled with God's presence. Jesus has come, lived among us, shared everything with us, and influences now all of creation. So that's why the early Christians began to not have this kind of separation any longer between a sacred place and a worldly place where we live our everyday lives; everything becomes holy.

That's why Paul would say to those Christians at Corinth: "You are fellow workers with God. You are God's building. I, as a good architect according to the capacity given to me, I laid the foundation and another is to build upon it, but let each one be careful how you build. No one laid a foundation other than the one which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Jesus is the center of this building which is now the church. He's the foundation. His life permeates the whole church and the whole world.

"Do you not know that you are God's temple, God's spirit abides in you? If anyone destroys this temple of God, God will destroy them. God's temple is holy and you are holy."

And everything in our world is holy. We go back to the beginning of creation when "God looked upon all that God had made and saw that it is good." Everything is good, is holy, is blessed, and every one of us is good and holy and blessed.

Think of some of the implications of this. If we really take seriously that you and I are living stones in this temple, which is God, Jesus present in our midst, we are God's people, we are God's temple, and from us flow the blessings that go out to the whole world. If we really saw this and began to live according to this understanding, how reverent we would be to one another. You see, we'd see every one of us as another image of God. In married life, a husband and wife would be reverential, respectful, and we would look upon every child as someone very sacred and precious.

If we really thought of every one of us as the presence of God, God's temple, it would change all of our relationships, individually and within our families, in our neighborhoods, in our world. We wouldn't be out to destroy other nations; we would be pouring forth God's blessings upon them. If only we really grasped this truth and lived by it.

I think of how different our church would be.

Here in the United States, I think our church is recognized as one of the richest entities in the whole country and the whole world. We have more property, more buildings, more institutions than we can number, really, and we keep building new churches. Out in California, they built two new cathedrals within the last few years, each of which has cost over $200 million, like there is the presence of God somehow. We pour all our wealth into it instead of into people. How different our church would be if we really understood and lived according to this beautiful teaching that is proclaimed to us today.

I've had that experience, as you know, of trying to speak publicly on behalf of abused children and abused by priests, church people. And I've come up against it time after time, where the bishop seems more concerned about, "Well, we'll lose our wealth. We might have to go into bankruptcy if we try to provide what is needed for these wounded children." How wrong that is, that we put more value on our buildings and our wealth than on these temples of God.

I hope as we try to listen deeply to the message of today's scriptures, we really understand that yes, I guess it's okay to celebrate a beautiful building, a great work of art, like St. John Lateran -- it's a great human achievement, but it's not really a symbol of God's presence.

We should begin to understand that you and I are the living presence of God and every other person is filled with that same God light, spirit light, and we should live according to this truth so that we don't have regard so much for buildings as our church, but for every one of us as that living stone which is the living presence of God, bringing blessings to ourselves and to one another, blessings that flow as in that beautiful scene in Ezekiel, from this place out into the whole world, blessings that will transform our world and make it the reign of God that Jesus intends.

[Bishop Gumbleton delivered this homily at Homily at St. Hilary Parish in Redford, Mich.]

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Do I lead a rich life or what?!!!

I stopped by Res House yesterday morning (Wednesday 12th Nov ’08) to gather some information for a presentation I was to give later that day.

One of our good guests “L” asked for a moment of my time. A week ago (Nov 6th) he had been in tears at our prayer service. At that time he could not tell s why he was weeping. We simply surrounded him with a group hug and prayers.

Yesterday he told me that his tears had been because his mother had died.

After that encounter I went to All Angels by the Sea Episcopal Church on Longboat Key (our super rich neighbourhood). I spoke with 30 members of their “Episcopal Church Women” about what we try to do with the homeless. I was very well received. These “women of means” have a deep concern for homeless people.

In the evening I was at the Sarasota Opera for a performance of “The Barber of Seville” by Joachim Rossini. Here I was with Sarasota’s “glitterati”.

Many of them “dressed up”. I “dressed down” – for I was there to hear the music, not to be seen.

Rossini’s music is very accessible, and the opera had humour which caused us all to chuckle.

How very wonderful, to chuckle without the aid of a “laugh track”.

On the way to the Opera I ran into five of our Res. House guests. They were happy to see me downtown, and one asked “why are you here?” I said “to see you, and to go to the Opera”.

I was back at Res. House today, and he asked me “how was the Opera?” “Long” I replied.

Now he chuckled, and said - tongue in cheek - “that gave us a good long time to rifle your cars”. The humour of the homeless.

At the prayer service today “H” told his story. A wonderful woman has entered his life, and she is helping to move him in a good direction.

He has quit drugs, and yesterday, at the urging of his girl-friend, he spoke with his father whom he had not seen for 36 years, when “H” was 16 years old.

He too wept as he said how wonderful it was, at aged 52, to say “Dad” for the first time in 36 years.

Later this afternoon I went to the store to buy some batteries. I was wearing my “Obama” tee shirt, and as I entered, a customer who was leaving the store cried out “Obama”, as we crossed.

“Who else?” I replied.

He gave me the “thumbs up” as he went to his car, and I went into the store.

Do I lead a rich life or what?!!!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Political cartoons and the Emperor Norton

A couple of political cartoons

A brief and early blog tonight ( I am off to the Opera at 8:00 p.m..

Just for fun - (and cos I had nothing much about which to blog) ia a reference to America's Emperor Norton I.

( You may have to cut and paste this URL )

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

11th hour, 11th day, 11th month

Poppy fields in Flanders

Kristallnicht. Burning Synagogue in Baden-Baden

ARMISTICE DAY 90 years on


From World War I poet Lawrence Binyon

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

we will remember them.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Morning glory

Most mornings I walk for between 45 minutes and an hour. I do this even when I do not want to!

These recent mornings have been wonderful for walking. Night time temperatures have fallen to about 55 F. So the mornings have been relatively “crisp” and a sweat shirt and pants have been the uniform for the morning.

We are having some lovely misty mornings as the many local ponds give off their heat.

This morning I walked alongside the huge (45-hole) “Bobby Jones Golf Complex” and the misty scene (apart from a few palms) could easily have been one from the Somerset levels.

(See )

It is so flat here, just like that flat land in western Somerset, England. There are no great vistas, and I believe that’s why I have become much more aware of the sky.

Sarasota is not in a great conurbation, so the stars show very brightly.

Since our skies are often cloudless I have become very aware of stars in these darker mornings, and also of sister moon. I have learned to look up, not out.

I meet many “regulars” on my morning walks. One woman walk with a big old brown/black dog named “Rio”. Rio is a shy and nervous beast, and as I approach he puts his head down as if to say “I am very humble”. I bend over and place my head next to his, and we snuggle each other. If he were a cat he would purr.

A couple walks with their two recovering Greyhounds, “Grudge” and “Babe”. They, like most Greyhounds are “softies”. They are delighted when I fuss over them.

“Archie” is a grouchy dog. His owner named him “Archie” after “Archie Bunker” whose personality he shares.

I am more respectful and call this dog “Mr. Bunker”. He no longer barks at me, but we are not yet “friends”.

I also encounter people with whom I exchange friendly greetings. I am never sure of their names (it’s more important to know the dogs’ names!).

There is Mr. and Mrs. Pickle-Face (that what I call them). The man is tall and gaunt and looks as if (as Dorothy Parker’s hairdresser said of Calvin Coolidge) “he was weaned on a pickle”. They are delightful folks, snow-birds from West Virginia, who walk for five miles each morning.

I see Mr. and Mrs. Chapeau (my name for them). They each have cheery countenances, and wear wonderful hats. I greet them with a hearty “Bonjour Monsieur et Madame Chapeau”, and they grin from ear to ear.

Finally there is the man whom I greet as “Mr. Good Neighbour”. He walks the length of his street at 6:00 a.m. and carries his neighbours’ newspaper from the end of their long driveways to their front doors.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Sermon from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

Clergy gathering
Diocese of Southwest Florida
November 7, 2008

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

I get lots of mail – most of it unsolicited. People send me books, people send me complaints about various things, and people send me advice. Once in a while somebody even writes to say, “thank you.” I try to treat the day’s package of mail in the ways Jesus suggests to the 70, and say “peace” to the missive and its sender before I figure out what kind of response is needed.

There’s opportunity at almost every turn to bless what comes, whatever the sender’s state of mind. The only real exception has to do with the folks who just want to make a statement – the kind of letter that includes dozens of single-spaced pages, sent to 50 or 100 of their closest friends. At times, the best response may be no response – just letting the peace flow over it, and not worrying about whether it rests there or not.

The kind of pastoral work you and I do on our daily rounds is like the mail – we may never be entirely certain who’s going to turn up at the office door, or who we’re going to find in the hospital bed, even when we expected to see an Altar Guild member or a former Junior Warden.

You and I are supposed to be ready to meet the image of Christ, but also ready to respond if it turns out to be the grandmother-replacement in Little Red Riding Hood, the veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing.

We’re celebrating Willibrord’s feast today, who spent a fair bit of his time dealing with both sheep and wolves. He was an English monk who went as a missionary to Frisia. He started a monastery in Echternach, in what’s now Luxembourg – a Benedictine monastery. It is perhaps the Benedictine charism to settle in and receive what comes, to welcome each visitor as image of Christ, and yet be savvy and bold enough to turn the wolf out when it starts ravening.

Willibrord had his run-ins with Frisian kings who weren’t too anxious to have him around, and when life got a bit too hot, he simply dusted off his feet and took off for Denmark or Germany and did his evangelical work there for a while.

Willibrord was also the first Archbishop of Utrecht, in what’s now the Netherlands.

I happen to know the current Archbishop of Utrecht reasonably well, Joris Vercammen. He’s number 83 in that post, and he’s the Primate of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands.

The story of the Old Catholics is a fascinating one, and one that Episcopalians probably ought to know more about, given that we’re in full communion with them.

Old Catholics were Roman Catholics until the Bishop of Rome decided he needed to exercise diocesan authority beyond the city of Rome. In Utrecht things came to a head in 1723. In the other Netherlands dioceses it happened a couple of decades later, and in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Poland, it was the result of the first Vatican Council’s declaration in 1870 that the pope could be infallible and also held supreme jurisdiction.

I hope you’re hearing the parallels with the situation in England in the early 1500s, and maybe even here in TEC in the 21st century.

When a bishop attempts to exercise jurisdiction beyond his own see, it tends to rile up the locals. It begins to look like a wolf wearing a sheepskin coat.

The Old Catholics said to Rome, “please stay home, we’re going to elect our own bishops, thank you very much,” and they got Dominique Maria Varlet, the unfortunately titled Bishop of Babylon, to do the consecrating.

Rome responded by excommunicating them.

The Old Catholics remembered that they already had a shepherd, the one who is shepherd of us all, and that the catholic tradition has always held that a local bishop is likely to know more about the sheep and wolves in a particular place than an archbishop from across the mountains.

And as time has gone on, the Old Catholics have worked at ecumenical relationships with Rome, to find ways of being in relationship that do not require one party to give over all authority to the other. They continue to look for a relationship that looks like entering a community to eat and drink what is locally available, healing those who are sick, and saying, “there is indeed good news in this place.”

The gathering of Old Catholics is called the Union of Utrecht, and it’s the equivalent of our Anglican Communion.

Old Catholic liturgy and theology would be recognizable to most Anglicans, and indeed, since the 1930s we have recognized the catholicity and independence of our different communions, and we agree that the sacraments of one communion are open to members of the other, but that we don’t have to accept all the details of doctrine or liturgical practice of the other.

In our relationships, we have been able to affirm that we will say peace to each other and expect to find blessing, and that in doing so, the Kingdom of God has indeed come near.

It’s a model of ecumenical relationship that might be instructive for the Anglican Communion just now, especially since we’ve been able to say that we don’t have to agree on every detail in order to recognize each other as catholic and be in relationship with each other. But in order to get there it will require us to be able to bless each other with peace, the peace that we know is already within us.

Whether it was Willibrord’s initial influence or the Benedictine character of his ministry, Utrecht has been blessed both with a desire to be catholic and a sense of the blessing of its own contextual gifts.

The laborers who go out into the harvest must be ready to receive and bless anyone who turns up, but also reasonably confident of the blessing they already have. You can’t share peace unless you’ve already experienced it. That humble certainty is at the root of all effective evangelism.

Let’s talk about evangelism in the public square, particularly in the sense of offering peace wherever we go. However you may have voted on Tuesday, we have entered a new era. We have as a nation determined that we are going to live in a way that says that peace and blessing are available to all races.

Whether you agree with his political vision or not, Barack Obama is an outward and visible sign to Americans and to the world that we intend to rise above a politics based on race or religion.

The world has heard that as an announcement of peace. Some of my mail on Wednesday was about just that, from places like England and Venezuela.

There was a full-page ad in the New York Times yesterday from the Sheikh of Ras al Khaimah, in the UAE, that said the same thing.

It may not last, but this election has been heard as “peace be to this house.”

If you recall, the world said the same to us after September 11th. The world offered us peace and healing in the aftermath of death and destruction.

Seven years later this election is being heard as returning that blessing. Our task is to avoid squandering the opportunity, and neither to reject or idolize the messenger.

You may have received the results of this election as a nuisance letter or as a letter of thanks.

The task is the same, to bless the encounter and opportunity.

Receive this news as an opening for evangelism, for healing the sick and wounded, whether sheep or wolf, and then the kingdom of God will, indeed, have come near.