Wednesday, November 11, 2020

2020-21 Annual License Renewal Letter

Each year, just before Advent, I request the Bishop's renewal of my license to serve in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. These annual letters have become wonderful opportunities to step back and reflect, and I have made a practice of posting them here on the blog, as a small window into and review of a given year.

Peace,

J

Dear Bishop Sumner,

I pray this email finds you well! I am writing to request licensing for the upcoming year, beginning in Advent. My form is attached, although I will readily admit that determining the number of Eucharists this year is still a work in progress for our church (what with hybrid online services, etc.). 

By way of the less formal report, what a year to attempt to report! Additional duties of my position in pandemic have included beginning an interactive, online worship service, training up virtual small group leaders (these groups have been a remarkable gift to our community's life), and continuing to develop especially adult Christian formation opportunities, making lemonade out of lemons and bringing in as many outside (Zoom-able) voices as possible. In these and my other continuing responsibilities (assisting with youth, staff development, liturgical planning), I've developed an approach that I've tried to remember again each day: as quickly as possible, let go of what we cannot do in a pandemic (rather than feebly attempting to make sad replicas of things we've lost) and (also as soon as possible) look for the things that we either could not or would not do EXCEPT for the pandemic (the way our largely elderly small group leaders overcame reluctance to master Zoom still makes me emotional - we have relative newcomers reporting to us that initiatives like the small groups have them feeling MORE connected than they felt on track to feel after many months in church). 

Of course, there has been so much loss. Lives and jobs lost, to such an extent that admitting personal struggles strikes some people as overly self-centered. I have tried to discourage that way of thinking. Much of my staff development work has been to find new ways to hold space in meetings for the humanity of our staff, with the stresses of rising to new challenges always threatening to come at the expense of the individuals working tirelessly to do the work. It has been interesting to observe stages to the stress, and then to learn from experts across the country that there are normalize-able patterns many of our teams are sharing. For example, Form, Storm, Norm, Perform is a 4 stage dynamic that, upon discovering it, allowed our team to quickly locate ourselves in those stages across the past 8 months and, most importantly, discover that those processes did not mean we had done the thing wrong. Indeed, we could each feel a sense of accomplishment for having made that journey not just once, but in each of the important circles in our lives (work, family, friendships, etc.).

Back a few months ago, a book for which I had been invited to contribute a chapter was published. I had written it back before we moved, so it was a gift to be connected to a larger project and see it come, at long last, to fruition.

At Holy Trinity, things are a lot like life - there's a lot of life and generosity, there's a lot of emotional strain and uncertainty. Much grace, and also weariness sufficient to prevent our forgetting for a second our need of said grace. Personally, navigating office life has proven a special challenge to protecting personal bubbles necessary to stay connected to my at-risk parents. I am so weary, on the human level, of having each day to either hold or not hold boundaries that will be perceived either way as a measure of my commitment to ministry. But on the more life-giving side, my father-in-law, a radiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, sent me an article a while back, We're All Start-Ups Now, that helped me account for the unexpected energy that has attended these days for me: seven years in campus ministry was, for me, the ultimate start-up experience and to have the parish require those skills has opened beautiful and adventurous spaces. There will have been much in this season, when it is over, for which we will need to overcome our embarrassment at what will seem an inappropriate or scandalous suggestion, and thank God.

But one day at a time. Thanks, as ever, for reading. And for your leadership of the Diocese of Dallas, especially in this season. 

Peace,
Jonathan


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Coffee Chat, Show Notes!

 




Monday, November 2, 2020

Sam Wells and "Being With"

The presentation and questions for October's online Theology on Tap at Holy Trinity by the Lake. 


Questions for Discussion: 

  1. With whom does “being with” come most easily for you?
  2. How are being with, being for, working with, and working for distinct and/or connected? Have you experienced one leading to another? What was that like?
  3. Why is it sometimes easier to help a person without spending time with them?
  4. When have you experienced relationship with a person you found challenging transformed through spending time with them?
  5. What are your thoughts about Sam Wells’ observations that Jesus prioritized being with and that being with is one way we imitate the life of heaven?

Monday, July 27, 2020

Vacation in 2020

I used to approach vacation as a celebration, an escape, a carrot on a stick to endure the hardest parts. Which is fine as far as it goes, but where it goes, inevitably, is to a dread or apprehension that will find you, confine you, about three days before returning. When the countdown to Relief resets to 365, give or take, and so you brace yourself all by yourself to hold again the longest breath.

Without trying, this has changed for me. Which is to say vacation no longer names for me escape. And because it does no longer, vacation, yes vacation, now occupies a place much more like discipline in my life. And, yes, this names a privilege, to have work that one loves. And also an achievement: to learn to love my work on the emptiest of days has taken work of its own and all kinds of help; to learn and to trust that discomfort names a day of new possibilities unfurling.

The only dread I fear now is that of failing my obligation to the work, with all the imagination, preparation, perseverance, and surrender that entails.

So vacation comes and says, "Hey, put it down." 

And I think of it as practice for retirement. Or death. Was it Michael Jordan who said he could imagine himself dying, just not losing the ability and position to which he'd grown accustomed? Vacation, retirement, death, all of it defying my claims to be essential, to be operating in any other than the space of life that comes as gift.

Thank you, gracious God, and help me to receive it, and wear it well,

this space of life,

that comes 

as gift.

Someone is ready for her trip. 💗





Sunday, July 12, 2020

This Week's Links!

  • Tues and Thurs, 12pm: COVID, Connection, and the Enneagram with Lauren Stroh and Fr. Jonathan. REGISTER HERE!
  • Wed, 12pm: Standing with One Another in the Messiness of Life with the Rev. Kate Byrd and Fr. Jonathan. REGISTER HERE!
  • This past Sunday's sermonAn Unsettling Farmer & the Merciful Disappointment of Life (and Love) We Don't Control


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Following Jesus on a Path that Turns



The earliest Christians were called followers of the Way. It’s the name Paul uses in the 22nd chapter of Acts to refer to the people he had formerly persecuted. The nickname finds roots in Jesus’s own claim about himself, when he says in John’s gospel, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” And these words in turn led St. Catherine of Sienna to famously say, “All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, “I am the Way.” To simultaneously enjoy the presence of Jesus and yet still to be on the way, on the path, is the experience and situation of every Christian pilgrim.


About this time last year, my friend Gary was walking the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, making a pilgrimage that covers most of Spain and often includes portions of France or Portugal along its five-hundred-plus mile route. The journey is at once fantastic and ordinary. Fantastic: in 2018 alone, over 327,000 pilgrims made the sacred trek. Ordinary: foot care, good socks and shoes (I am told) are among the secrets to completing the journey. Ordinary: one pilgrim wrote a book about his experience which he titled simply and profoundly, “The Way is Made By Walking.”


We are those strange people called Christians, and so we are followers of the Way. We are pilgrims on a path. We are the people who some days find it too fantastic, too much to take in, too spectacular, to have been made a part of the mystical Body of Christ, to have encountered grace and God’s mercy, the Good News of Christ like this. We are also all too familiar with the ordinary. That we are not beyond need of the encouragement and reminder to not neglect our socks. To take one step. And then another. To show up again and repeat. The Way is made by walking.


But of course it’s one thing to imagine a path and another to be on it. What had sounded straightforward at the ranger’s station becomes significantly less when the path and, say, the map disagree. Or the signpost shows signs of tampering. And what about the unexpected trail that’s not supposed to be there? Where did that come from? The map shows just the one route, but in what is coming just now as a major disappointment, several more possibilities present themselves?


And, for Christians called followers of the Way, perhaps most frighteningly of all, what happens when following the path of Jesus takes us off of and away from a central path we had been following all before and until the paths divided? Away from the familiar? Maybe we had assumed that the two paths simply ran parallel the whole way or that they were really just one road that went by several names. Until one day it happens. Where we had assumed a journey that would allow us to thoughtlessly continue without much in the way of critical choices or sacrificial options, the path of Jesus clearly invites us to take a turn that departs from the old way we had known. 


Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

 

Evidently, to follow Jesus is to follow a path that will turn and take us away from the familiar, what we know, and into something new.


Now, as I’ve observed before, for most of us, it is not news that daughter and mother-in-law might experience conflict. What is news is that following Jesus might occasion the conflict. What is news, to listen to Jesus, is that conflict isn’t even a sign that we’re doing it wrong; but to be ready for conflict is to remember that following Jesus leads to an encounter with something wholly substantial. The living God makes claims on the lives of God’s people that are real, concrete, embodied, and true.


Jesus proclaims Good News. News that is good. And goodness that is new. So the life of discipleship, of following Jesus, presents a necessary contrast to the life we knew before it. That is to say, it is a gift that asks us to empty our hands. When in your life have you taken a turn that took you away from what you had previously known in order to stay closer to Jesus?


Every Wednesday evening, from five to nine pm, Dominque opened her modest Minneapolis home for pasta night, an open dinner for anyone who would join her. No sign in the yard, only festive Christmas lights strung on the top of her chain linked fence out front. Some regulars she could count on to help with the hosting. And then, between 40 and 70 people, over the course of four hours. Some familiar to the regulars and some, like me, strange. Word of mouth, invitation, only. Friends and neighbors. Rich and poor. Black, white, and latino. Students and professionals. The just off work and the out of work. Single moms who relied on the community as a parenting reprieve. Families looking to breach the walls of their suburban fortresses. Six digit incomes and those without incomes. Laughing together. In enough languages to go around. Lots of pasta, of course (Dominque only rarely left her place by the stove top.) No beer or hard alcohol, which would have presented particular challenges whose battles with addictions had left scars on their bodies and their lives. The night I went as a guest of my friend Steve, a stranger eagerly invited me to try his homemade kombucha. The regulars never brought faith up at pasta night, but faith had started pasta night. And kept it alive in that community, through 3 different hosts (Dominique was the 2nd) over fifteen plus years. It was like a new family, each week expecting to discover lost kin. To attend, much less host, pasta night requires an intentional and sometimes anxious departure from familiar paths of socioeconomic status, individualism, predictability, and self-protections. Paths sometimes difficult to imagine leaving. That’s what makes the joy one encounters so beautiful. My friend Steve calls it the closest thing he’s experienced to the Kingdom of God.


Anna was speaking one night at a gathering of three-hundred and fifty mostly undergraduate students, crammed in and hanging off the balcony at a church at UW-Madison. Seventeen campus ministries, including the one I served at, had organized the event together, simply to witness that God has taken a good many of us followers of Jesus on a turn that led us to a deeper awareness of sins of systemic racism, of which Christian churches have very often been complicit. A turn that occasioned repentance and the desire to listen and engage. And Anna stood up before everyone and said that, as a white woman, a student at UW-Madison, with a commitment to racial justice, she had been challenged by her Black friends to act on what she could not yet feel. She did not know what it felt like to have her criminality presumed. She could not imagine what it felt like to stare down statistics that could land a quarter of her family in an incarceration industry that felt designed for the purpose. She cared, but did not show up, did not prioritize, did not act, did not turn, until her friends asked her to prioritize the acting before the feeling, and trust the feeling to come along. She did, and it did. Jesus invited Anna on a path that turned off of the old one. With God’s help and good friends, she followed. And, in following, she found new life.


Conflict names the turning. Jesus tells us, when we feel it, the conflict, not to be afraid. Don’t be afraid, he says, because you belong to God, and God will not lose no one who belongs to God. Don’t be afraid. But there are so many mostly good reasons to fear! What if I do lose something? What if I get lost on the way, that is, what if I lose myself? What if I mess it up? What if I embarrass myself or can’t find my place? Maybe it’s better to stick to what I know. The script with which I am familiar. The silence that keeps me safe. What if the status quo pushes back? What if I’m told I’m a sell out, a traitor, or worse? What if I do something wrong? What if I am wrong?


I want you to take these questions seriously, because I want you to take just as seriously the answer that Jesus speaks next. The answer that Jesus gives to his friends.


“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher...So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”


Did you hear that? Three times Jesus tells them, “Don’t be afraid.” Christians find our fearlessness not in the assurance that we are up to the task or that it won’t cost us anything or that we know what comes next, but Christian find our fearlessness in the faithfulness of God’s love for us. Not because we’ll get it right, but exactly because we may get it wrong and still God’s love will blanket us. Even in such a moment, God’s love, God’s truth, defines us. The waters of baptism don't evaporate! And so we take the risk.


There’s that question again: when in your life have you taken a turn that took you away from what you had previously known in order to stay closer to Jesus?


A young Roger Schuetz, years away from founding the ecumenical community of brothers called Taize, revolutionarily bridging age-old chasms between Catholics and Protestants, was simply imitating his grandmother’s example when, at the outset of World War II, he moved to that small town, on the edge of the fighting, to harbor and provide safe-haven for Jewish refugees. You can imagine the risk. After the war, once the Germans had lost, the refugees safe, Roger went back to his family. Except Roger did not go back to his family; instead he opened his home again, this time to escaped German prisoners of war. For Roger, trust in God’s love led him to seek out and stay in the place of risk-taking love for another his cumulative work, his track record, guaranteed to make sense to no one, except and only as measured by the mercy of the Kingdom of Jesus.


It’s an astonishing thing. An astonishing reversal. You can imagine that trusting God’s love as the most true thing about a person might easily have lead a person the other way entirely; it could have lead a person to use divine love as an excuse, a fallback, a safety net, isolation and permission to check out or neglect right relationship with God and/or one’s neighbors on the Way. Let someone else show up and do the hard and dirty work. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, after all. But instead, Paul invokes God’s love today, grace, as exactly the thing that makes it possible for us to show up, to enter uncomfortable space without fear. You are loved. You have nothing to lose! And so we can lose. We can put down all the rest. We can turn toward hard things, even things we don’t know how to fix. We can seek out hard conversations with each other and even strangers. Unthinkable for Americans, we can even be weak, which is to say, we can be our true selves. We can be opened. We can see God in each other. And on the days God is harder to see in some people, we can even love our enemies, just as, before we knew God, God first loved us. We can take the costly turn and follow.


So St. Paul asks the Corinthians, and us, “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” The conflict names the turning. Jesus tells us, when we feel it, not to be afraid. Don’t be afraid, he says, because you belong to God, and God will not lose any of those that belong to God. 


O my Child, do not be afraid. More is possible than we fear. Trust in God, and show up for the mess - even this COVID ridden, racial justice yearning moment, even the sometimes reduction of politics to formation in disdaining the other, a forgetfulness of our common identity as citizen and as children in the kingdom of God - all of this mess of humanity God is yet redeeming, determined to make beautiful. Take heart. Look alive. Child, you are loved. You belong to God! Trust in God, do not be afraid. God ain’t about to let slip even one of those beloved of and belonging to God. But neither would God deprive you of the abundant life, the good life, the beautiful life-that-is-life life, that takes - for each and every one of us and all of us together - some turns along the path to follow. 


Sermon preached at Holy Trinity by the Lake Episcopal Church (virtual worship), June 21, 2020.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Next Steps & Ways to Support N Mpls

Hi friends!

Big thanks to my good friend and former campus ministry neighbor Steve Mullaney for sitting down with parish leaders Julia and James Braaten and me today, to talk about solidarity and the shape of support for North Minneapolis. If you haven't already, I encourage you to watch the video! Among other things, we explore 
  • solidarity through the waters of baptism, 
  • Christian responsibility that understands the call to be present in local, national, and international ways,  
  • beautiful and prophetic examples of beloved community in N. Minneapolis,
  • the situation on the ground in N. Minneapolis, as well as the changing shape of front line support,
  • holistic, deferential, and relationship-based approaches for walking in and with communities.
As promised, Steve has provided links below to the organizations doing good and trusted work in the North Minneapolis community. I'm excited both for these individual opportunities to pray for and financially support North Minneapolis and future conversations in community as we discern the new possibilities to which God might call us.

Thank God for pasta nights. (Inside joke. Made open to you! Watch the video. haha)

Peace,
Jonathan
______________________________________________________________

From Steve Mullaney:  

Most up-to-date links below!

I'd say that Bahai Center would be a Phase One response to folks in the neighborhood. Sanctuary Hotel is a Phase Two--help us get some breathing room--type response. And the KIPP School would be a Phase Three "this summer tutoring program" will help us bring healing through the season. And Phase Four is the folks asking the questions "How do we change law/policy/resources to create Beloved Community?" Nothing I can really point to yet--this is still emerging.

https://www.organiconeness.com/donate.html 

To donate to the Baha'i Center's frontline response this is the place. You'd need to select the South Mpls option.


Minneapolis Sanctuary Movement. This is a loose-knit group of folks that's changed their name like 3 times in the last week.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Racism, Whiteness, & Good Social Media Conversations

"The New York Times bestseller list this week is almost entirely comprised of books about race and white privilege in America." 

This is surely good news, long overdue. But what if you're not a reader? Or what if you are looking for resources to engage while you're out on a run? Here are some social media resources that I really appreciate and from which I'm learning a lot (in addition to Instagram which has seen a remarkable groundswell of tremendous resources in the last few weeks). I discover new resources each day from friends like you. SO WHAT WOULD YOU ADD? Where are you finding learning and life? Add one or a couple in the comments, and let's make a good list together.



Can "White" People Be Saved?
The Rev. Dr. Willie J. Jennings

One of the theologians I've for a long time (since grad school) admired and from whom I learn daily, Jennings' observations about the importance of geography and land (place, Ã  la Wendell Berry) for conversations about race feels like the connecting of broken pieces that have long haunted me, but/and/also in a way that helps me see hope and new possibilities.


Also, he's as funny as he his insightful in these brilliant off the cuff remarks.


I came to Bomani Jones through Dan LeBatard and Stugotz (whose radio show is a favorite guilty pleasure and, in its own right, a fantastic radio show/podcast). LeBatard trusts Jones as one who understands issues of race in this country better than most, and that's enough for me. I enjoy and learn from his honest conversations immensely.


Instagram introduced me to Lettie Shumate a couple of days ago. Her podcast is patient, honest, and educating. Her arrangement of voices and history, and the gift of her own clear voice, is a gift to which I am regularly returning.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE

From Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun
Like a crowbar for opening the door, toward beginning to understand the deformed and distorted nature of the air we breathe.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

God in Three Persons: Diversity, Unity, and the Movement of God



Happy, holy feast of the Holy Trinity! Our namesake. Our history. The namesake of our church and also the river that sustains life here in our part of northeast Texas. And, even more than that, the heart, gift, and mystery, the irreducible center, of the Christian faith. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God, in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Trinity names the ‘in the beginning’ God of the first chapter of Genesis. God speaking, the Word God spoke creating, the Spirit hovering.’ Through whom all things were made. The ‘delivered them out of slavery in Egypt’ God. God again speaking, fiery pillar illuminating, showing the way, waters gushing from the rock to quench the people’s thirst. The ‘he went down to the river Jordan’ God, to be baptized in the river by John. The Voice again speaking, the dove now descending, hovering over the waters, 2nd Genesis, birthing new creation, the Son, submerged in those same waters, pledging every inch of who he is to every inch of us, to every inch of the mess and mud of our humanity.

And Trinity names the ‘When it was evening on that day,’ God - you know, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” The Son appearing, glorifying the Father, breathing the Spirit, announcing forgiveness, Pentecost. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained. It’s only and always after Pentecost that the Church each year celebrates the day called Trinity, because now we’ve seen it all. The fullness of God revealed. God in Christ has held nothing back, but the Son makes clear God’s decision not to be, except to be the living God who is with and for us and the world.

That’s why the scriptures today start creation and take us to the great commission. We are being enlisted. We are being called into the movement and love of the same One whose love first moved the sun and the stars.

That movement is one of the things most striking in two of the earliest visual depictions of the Trinity. The first one you’ll recognize as the 4th century symbol that adorns the front and the side of our church. 





The second is the one and only officially licensed non-symbolic image of the mystery called Trinity. It’s an icon that remembers the time Abraham and Sarah were visited by three strangers. In both, you’ll notice first of all the movement. Whether in the curve of the lines or the gaze of the eyes. Both images are complete and restless all at once. And with the visitors, you’ll notice that the fourth side of the table is left open. For you. This is what it means to say God in Christ has held nothing back, but Jesus makes clear God’s decision not to be, except to be the living God with and for us and the world. This is what it means to say we are being called into the movement and love, into the circle, of the One whose love first moved the sun and the stars. Impossibly, wonderfully, the picture of the Trinity has become a picture of our communion with God, where for each and every one of us there is room at the table.

But if the scriptures today helpfully trace the movement of God - and the invitation of God to join in the movement - from creation to great commission, today’s readings also carry two common misunderstandings of what the movement of God is like that, if we do not name them, will make us clumsy dance partners of the Triune God at best and, at worst, will put us at odds with God’s movement in this world completely.

The first misunderstanding comes with the command God gives humankind just after God creates them in the image of God. As we heard in Genesis:

So God created humankind...in the image of God he created them...God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

The first misunderstanding arrives in the words subdue and have dominion. These words have been distorted for centuries to justify a militant posture of domination over the earth. So we relate to the earth with verbs like extracting. Exploiting. Consuming. Assuming that creation exists 1) as a thing of which I’m not a part, and 2) primarily if not solely for my benefit. But the original Hebrew language is not as confident about this one-way relationship, this me-first dynamic, between humans and the earth. Hebrew Scripture scholar (and fellow Episcopalian) Ellen Davis suggests that a perhaps more faithful translation is serve and preserve. If this is the case, it would certainly suggest a different sort of movement. One grounded in humility and the fruit of the Spirit: gentleness, patience, long-suffering, self-control. Generosity, and love. Fill the earth, serve and preserve it.

But suppose you don’t find the translation compelling. Dominion and domination it is! Then I would suggest considering the words of Jesus to his disciples on the day they picked a fight about which one should be the regarded as the best: Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

So even if we settle for dominion, Christians cannot imagine any dominion other than that which follows the shape and the steps of our crucified Savior. The one who, in his dying for us, revealed himself to be our Lord and king.

So this is the first misunderstanding, that the movement of God could ever mean exploitation or violence toward creation, toward the earth, toward those that God has made. And the second misunderstanding is like unto it. The great commission of Matthew’s gospel “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” has too frequently been understood as the mandate for something like a colonial conquest. “Go, make the others more like you! Go, give them what you have. Fix them. Complete what is missing in them with your wisdom, abundance, and wealth.” So Christians have sometimes or often times participated in patterns of conformity enforced or extracted by violence and power over others until the only access the others had to public spaces, if they were granted any at all, came at the expense of the heart of their identity, their dignity. This distortion mirrors the experience of the people of Israel, exiled in Babylon; it is a distortion that has been known and felt across the globe in centuries ever since, and it is a particularly evil version of this distortion that so many African American sisters and brothers are grieving, alongside so much else, following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Amaud Arbery, names added to lists whose pages span centuries, the distortion against which they and so many others are presently railing, if society and its members will resist natural instincts toward defensiveness and instead find ears to hear them.

So does all this leave the Christian wanting to be faithful? Wanting to live the great commission? Wanting to live in, to dance with, the movement of God?

As we listen to the voices of the dispossessed, and as we contemplate the mystery of the Trinity itself, we find a hope and new possibility. Remember, way back in Genesis, the tower of Babel? The people only spoke one language, and they made goals for themselves that depending on insisting that the just one language never change. So Babel represented an imagination of building toward God through sameness, uniformity, empire and oppression, where participation took the shape of silence or sacrifices offered on the altar of the status quo. But then God scattered their languages, so that they could not understand each other. God rejected an ambition that would insist on the absence of difference, diversity, and the dignity peculiar to each one. Life lived only through the lens of the powerful. So, last week, when the day of Pentecost arrived, Babel was not only reversed, as in, they could all understand again, more profoundly the sin of socially subsidized sameness was undone. They all understood, but each in their own language! Just like at Babel, pre divine interference, but this time no one was asked to surrender their voice. Their heritage. The unique image of God imprinted on their hearts. They all understood, each in her own language. As the Spirit is poured out on all people, God’s mission, God’s movement is revealed to be more generous than our hearts.

And it is with this Spirit that God gives us the invitation to go, make disciples. As Willie Jennings puts it, "not just to make conquered Christians," but to truly and deeply make ourselves Christians in a space that would mean that...we ourselves would be changed (see Jennings' fabulous Theological Commentary on Acts).

It’s Peter, being sent out to Cornelius, going to an unclean Gentile, discovering the impartiality of God. It’s Paul, a Jew’s Jew become an ambassador for the wideness of God’s mercy. It’s Annanias, sent to Paul, discovering that a murderous past does not insulate another human being from becoming the location of the redemption of God.

Go to the others. True, they need you, but/and/also go because you do not know and cannot yet see your need of them, what God will show you there. Wherever Christians go, we know God goes before us, and it is for our mutual blessing, in expectation of our own continued conversion, that Christians engage the great commission.

So I think we need a third and final picture of the movement of God, and what it might mean to share in it.

The third picture is a beautiful and ancient form of Japanese art, kintsugi. 




In kintsugi, broken bowls and vessels are reassembled. But unlike the way I was taught to put together broken dishes as a kid (not that I ever broke any), with super glue and attention to hiding the cracks, kintsugi sees the cracks as occasions for beauty. Mixing gold dust in the mortar, brokenness is highlighted, mended bowls and vessels are imagined to be more beautiful than those that have not yet had the occasion to become transformed into art; those bowls still convinced that the best way to be a bowl is to never admit weakness or break, so who must live in silence and fear.

But we are different from bowls condemned to live in fear or silence, pretending our purity from a safe place on a shelf. We trust Christ with us, come hell or high water, even to the end of the age. So Christians are those daily discovering invitations to go, make disciples, who know that our weakness is no reason to decline and that our brokenness, our systemic sins, our wounds, name opportunities, are exactly prime locations for the mending, for the glory of God, God’s strength made known in our weakness. This story and this movement, after all, it’s not our own. It is the story and the movement of the One whose Table we enjoy through the delight and mercy of God:

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Theology on Tap: Racism and Listening to Voices from the Black Community


We opened and closed our time with this Litany for Those Who Aren't Ready for Healing...

"Litany for Those Who Aren't Ready for Healing" 
by Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce

Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury & the depth of the wound.
Let us not rush to offer a bandaid, when the gaping wound requires surgery & complete reconstruction.
Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment.
Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations & restoration, or how we can repair the breach & how we can restore the loss.

Let us not rush past the loss of this mother’s child, this father’s child…someone’s beloved son.
Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance.
Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice.
Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, & the pain that is life in community together.
Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those whose hearts are being torn asunder.
Instead…

Let us mourn black & brown men & women, those killed extra judicially every 28 hours.
Let us weep at a criminal justice system, which is neither blind nor just.
Let us call for the mourning men & the wailing women, those willing to rend their garments of privilege & ease, & sit in the ashes of this nation’s original sin.
Let us be silent when we don’t know what to say.
Let us be humble & listen to the pain, rage, & grief pouring from the lips of our neighbors & friends.

Let us decrease, so that our brothers & sisters who live on the underside of history may increase.

Let us pray with our eyes open & our feet firmly planted on the ground.
Let us listen to the shattering glass & let us smell the purifying fires, for it is the language of the unheard.

God, in your mercy…⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Show me my own complicity in injustice.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Convict me for my indifference.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Forgive me when I have remained silent.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Equip me with a zeal for righteousness.⠀⠀⠀⠀
Never let me grow accustomed or acclimated to unrighteousness.
[By Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Director of the Center for Black Church Studies & Associate Professor of Religion & Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary.]



Presiding Bishop Michael Curry


Bryan Stevenson, Author, Just Mercy








Michelle Alexander, Author, The New Jim Crow


Questions for Conversation

What did you hear?
What’s Staying with you?
What images from scripture emerged?
What from our faith prompts you to make this conversation (and action) a priority? What scares you?



"Litany for Those Who Aren't Ready for Healing" 
by Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce

Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury & the depth of the wound.
Let us not rush to offer a bandaid, when the gaping wound requires surgery & complete reconstruction.
Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment.
Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations & restoration, or how we can repair the breach & how we can restore the loss.

Let us not rush past the loss of this mother’s child, this father’s child…someone’s beloved son.
Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance.
Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice.
Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, & the pain that is life in community together.
Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those whose hearts are being torn asunder.
Instead…

Let us mourn black & brown men & women, those killed extra judicially every 28 hours.
Let us weep at a criminal justice system, which is neither blind nor just.
Let us call for the mourning men & the wailing women, those willing to rend their garments of privilege & ease, & sit in the ashes of this nation’s original sin.
Let us be silent when we don’t know what to say.
Let us be humble & listen to the pain, rage, & grief pouring from the lips of our neighbors & friends.

Let us decrease, so that our brothers & sisters who live on the underside of history may increase.

Let us pray with our eyes open & our feet firmly planted on the ground.
Let us listen to the shattering glass & let us smell the purifying fires, for it is the language of the unheard.

God, in your mercy…⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Show me my own complicity in injustice.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Convict me for my indifference.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Forgive me when I have remained silent.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Equip me with a zeal for righteousness.⠀⠀⠀⠀
Never let me grow accustomed or acclimated to unrighteousness.
[By Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Director of the Center for Black Church Studies & Associate Professor of Religion & Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary.]


Monday, May 11, 2020

Some Books I'm (Mostly) Reading in Quarantine

Don't worry, no humble brags here. Like John Oliver, I am not learning new languages or otherwise setting the world on fire these days. I'm doing my best (better on some days than others) to be present to each day. And with each day, to the loved ones with whom I share a home, my church family, and my family and friends at a distance. In fact, connecting in varying ways with many of you has, on more than a few days, brought me to life. I thank God for you.

So I want to be clear that this is not a list of books I've read, because that would imply a far more polished version of these weeks than I have managed. This is a list of books I am reading, a few pages at a time, between sleeps, interruptions, and distractions (like other books and the inexplicable impulse to take them on). In fact, my reasons for sharing the list are two-fold: 1) because you might find it interesting (and/or be moved to share your own!), and 2) I want to make sure I can account in my own head for the books Past Me has started.

Without further ado.

Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible, Willie J. Jennings
WJJ was my academic dean at Duke, and so I've followed his work ever since with admiration and interest. (His work on land, lines, and race is hugely interesting, revealing, and important.)  I started reading this commentary in solidarity with a Bible study on Acts our church's men's group, The Brotherhood of St. Andrew, began about the same time. Now several chapters in, this commentary is simply the best book I can imagine reading in preparation for the church's celebration of Pentecost.

The Water Dancer: A Novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates
With Between the World and Me, I discovered that Ta-Nehisi Coates's was a voice I wanted and needed in my life. His writings, both personal and (now) fictional about African-American life in this country have been called urgent and devastating; Water Dancer is every bit that. It is the beautifully and poetically written story of a runaway slave.

Decoded, Jay-Z
I'm not very far into this one at all, but an offhand quotation in James K. A. Smith's On the Road with St. Augustine (which I may or may not finished yet) stopped me cold and sent me in the direction of an artist who has long intrigued me, and whose music I enjoy when the kids are not around.

The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Guests to Return, Young and Malm
I really don't like this book's title; the verb compel in this context rubs me wrong. And Christian community isn't a mouse trap. But looking past that, I've been convinced for months now that the most important factor, beyond safety, for the future gathering of faith communities is the strength and layers of the relationships shared by those communities' people. There's simply no dancing around a three month (or more) change in human behavior, and the idea that the permissions and laws of counties or states is the central challenge to reconstituting our physical assemblies is laughably out of touch. The desire to think through practices that can help bridge the gap led me to this book. That, and I've been grieving a bit that one of the projects this season has put on hold was a newly conceived welcoming ministry.

Teams that Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership, Hartwig and Bird
It's not only folks don't run across each other as much who feel disconnected. During this season, several folks on staff (including myself!) have noted to each other that working from home for long stretches has taken an emotional toll. It is easy for each of us to have moments where we feel like "I'm the one on the outside looking in." Even simultaneously! That dynamic, plus an awareness that we now have a larger staff than perhaps ever before in Holy Trinity by-the-Lake's history has me looking for ways to see and lean into the challenges and opportunities of this (truly) special season.

So. That's my list! What's on yours?

Ask me about mine when we connect and as you're interested. It'll keep me reading! :)


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Preaching in a Pandemic, When the Valley is Full of Bones

Well. This is not what I expected. Standing on Ash Wednesday or - better yet - dancing at the raucous and delicious party that was Fat Tuesday’s Pancake Supper, pretending as I seemingly do every year that I had any reason at all to be surprised that Lent was just around the corner, just beginning to imagine the shape of the Lent that would be, hopes, dreams, and intentions, what it would hold, I could not have imagined standing here now, on the last Sunday before Palm Sunday, the last Sunday before Holy Week, from the combination home school, workplace, sound studio my home has become, I could not have imagined a moment quite like this, just you and me and these scriptures and a dustbin full of all the things we had planned for ourselves and our lives and the circles of community of which each of us is a part. While I count myself blessed by the support of this congregation, my family, and many other generous circumstances, I do not think it is either ungrateful or a stretch to say that nothing about today is what I would have chosen or imagined.

Tens of thousands of people today have not been given the luxury of discerning spiritual meaning from pandemics. The sick and the dying, the frontline folks in makeshift hospitals. So even grateful for good lessons of God learned in the midst of calamity, gifts of clarity, priorities, and vision, I do not want to pretend that this is what I would have chosen for myself or for you, for the world, left to my own devices. And I do not suspect I am at all alone in this.

If Lent is the season in which we learn to separate ourselves from every identity which threatens to unseat or displace our trust in God’s love for us as the most important thing about us, from the perch that is today, we realize that the goal of the season utterly escapes even our best abilities to produce it on our own. This has always been the case, but this Lent makes it clear.

In other words, Lent must finally take us through the doorway of death.

Enter Ezekiel. Enter Lazarus. Enter Jesus.

Like the first disciples, we might have thought or hoped that Lent would be about something else - losing ten pounds in the name of godliness or bulking up for the Body of Christ, maybe learning that second language, or putting ourselves in position to think better of ourselves and our frequently lackluster prayer lives. A boost of spiritual self-confidence.

But Lent is not for any of these things. Lent is for what happens when we lack any confidence. When our mortal bodies fail, along with our ability to control them. When there may be a hope, but it is not in us. When you find yourself in a valley, and that valley is full of bones.

This Lent maybe uniquely reminds us that Jesus doesn’t mean to save us, prevent us, from reaching the end of our ropes. Jesus comes to show us that the end of our ropes does not mark the end of his love. In other words, Jesus doesn’t come to help the mostly helpful. Jesus comes to raise the dead.

So the canvas, in the scriptures, for the glory of God consistently is not the resplendent countryside or the meadow full of flowers, but the belly of the whale, the cell of the falsely imprisoned, the pathway of the people who walk in darkness, the Hebrews born into bondage, the young men thrown into the furnace, the tomb that’s almost certainly already begun to stink.

Because Jesus doesn’t come to help the mostly already helpful. Jesus comes to raise the dead. To meet us in the place of our total surrender. Just now it seems so obvious, but how could a Lent of our own designing have ever helped us learn to die? How vain is even our humility that we cannot, on our own, imagine a place of helplessness as surrendered as Ezekiel’s. When the Lord asks Ezekiel the question, “Mortal, can these bones live?,” he shrugs his shoulders and feebly, but surely, answers, “O Lord God, you know.” This Lent has surely stripped of us of our pretensions of knowing what we cannot know. This can be the beginning of grace, and this must be our prayer.

Of course, not knowing is scary. What we cannot know, we cannot pretend to control. Which is one reason we rightly regularly remind ourselves of the mystery of God, whom we know and yet, for God’s depth and breadth, do not know. So we can be relieved of the false hope and heavy burden, the lie, that, if we do our lives right, we might control God, or - barring that - at least get out of life alive (Hauerwas).

But on faithful days we find ourselves praying prayers like those from the book of Ephesians, which the prayer book puts on our lips at the end of daily prayer each day; there we give glory to God who, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

But that is a strange thought. I can wrap my head around God doing more than I can ask or imagine. And I can wrap my head around God working in us. But both at the same time? If God’s ways are beyond our ways and certainly beyond our abilities, how can we be the location of the glory and mystery of God? Even in our frailty? The glory of God, working in us? How can incomprehensibility be so personal?

Our situation brings to mind a young Herbie Hancock, tickling the ivories for the incomparably great jazz virtuoso, Miles Davis. He tells the story of the time he was playing with Miles early on in his career and made what they call in the business a big mistake. He played a wrong chord. More than a wrong note. A few wrong notes at once. Notes that didn’t fit. He was mortified.

Hancock tell his own story:

Right in the middle of Miles’ solo, when he was playing one of his amazing solos, I played the wrong chord. A chord that just sounded completely wrong, it just sounded like a big mistake. I put my hands around my ears. Miles paused for a second. And then he played some notes that made my chord right, made it correct…which astounded me. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Miles was able to make something that was wrong into something that was right.

God is like Miles Davis, I told my brother this week. Careful, he said, some people think that literally. But look here, God is not about merely excusing you. Overlooking you. Or cruelly berating you. Or, should you hit a wrong note, coldly replacing you. God in Christ is about redeeming you. And the notes that redeem are God’s to play. Oh, no doubt, for sure, once played, the divine song may become apparent to you. You may find your eyes opened, the priorities of your soul rearranged, your ears retuned, reoriented to a different way of being in this world. This is God’s gift. But redemption belongs to God, and it is God’s will to redeem all things with the song that belongs to God. And the notes of God’s song turn even the tomb - even death - into God’s passing notes in a song that never stops belonging to God. Take heart. Don’t be afraid. You belong to the song God is playing.

Just look at the gospel - clumsy, broken exchanges between Jesus and people who are angry and grieving. Some are close friends of Jesus. Others are voyeuristically watching the tense exchanges of close friends and offering unsolicited commentary. News gets delivered anxiously and nothing runs on time. Jesus is late. A man dies. Plenty of blame to go around, but Jesus shows no interest in it. Instead, he maintains that all of these things, imperfect as they feel, clunky as they are, will be made to serve the glory of God; all things are becoming notes in the song of God’s glory. Open the tomb. Unbind him, let him go.

To meaningfully contribute to work we can neither ask for or imagine is to trust God above all. Above limitations, reputations, imperfections, and pride. Above our ability to understand. Above our greatest doubts about ourselves. Above our meanest certainties of others. As people of God, we trust in the Lord.

Trust in the Lord. Put all the rest down. Put something that scares you to be without down. And then lift up your hearts. And then do both again. But make sure to do both. Both the putting down but also the lifting up. The more of our hearts we can lift for the things we put down. The lifting up transforming our days as we rejoice in the Lord always, even in the pit. Put down and lift up. And over again. Because someday death will do this for us, and so we will discover a day on which we rely on and know the mercy of God all the way. A living trust that tastes the abundance of love we’ve been given to share without fear. But, if we are open, God working in us, God's Spirit on us, that day can be today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Learning New Lives: Beholding the True Picture of God

A meditation on the 6th Station, given at St. John's Episcopal Church, in Dallas, TX, on March 6, 2020, as a part of their faith community's Lenten practice.

Station 6: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
From the Stations of the Cross at Lodwar Cathedral, Kenya.

The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Full disclosure: I don’t have much experience wiping people’s faces. Maybe you are in a similar spot. Most of the limited experience I do have, and maybe yours too, is with children. I mention this because I spent most of my childhood here, and among us tonight are my grandfather, some godparents, former youth group leaders and others, who wiped my face in literal and metaphorical ways, for which I am grateful. Gwen McAllen spotted me one day, in 6th grade, in the narthex. She stopped me, which was remarkable because, like a lot of children, I had assumed I wasn’t seen. We don’t always think of children as among the vulnerable, but they are - they don’t come to or leave this place without help from someone else! - and she saw me and handed me a copy of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity because, she said, I seemed like a young man who might make good use of it. And the late George Ross, my fifth grade Sunday School teacher who gave me a perfect attendance Sunday school pin and stopped me cold one day when he said he was so excited to see what God might do in my life. Wiping the faces of children is a charism of this place, and I name it to name my gratitude for you and my prayer that God will continue to grow and bless that gift in you.

_________


It was compassion that first moved her. A response, however small, to grief, to empathy, to heartache touching helplessness. But the moment did not stay small. It is the church’s tradition and teaching that it was the face of God she encountered and saw in clearer detail for her love, for her noticing, for her noticing moving to compassion moving to action, governed by love. 


Compassion, aided by the gift of attention, of noticing, followed by the conviction born of compassion, that there is a face beneath the accumulated layers of suffering, pain, of life’s circumstance and blood, injustice, a face, a person beneath the suffering worthy of knowing and worthy of touch. Surely compassion like this, conviction like this, when it finds us, is God’s gift to be opened with thanks. A good reminder for those of us, charged through our baptism, to seek and serve Christ in each person, that for us, too, we are daily surrounded by people worthy of our attention, loved by this God and for whom Jesus died, and that that might move us to compassion and action. In the cleansing of these faces, in our serving the sorrowful, we might also see more clearly the face and the fabric of God's kingdom.

The tradition holds that she took from that encounter a cloth that bore the image of our Savior. And that this cloth might still be found. Along these lines, the name the tradition gives the woman - ‘Veronica’ - is a name with a transparent meaning. It comes from the combination of Latin words, vera - truth - and icon - meaning image. True image. True picture. The true picture of Christ there was revealed on the cloth. And whether or not the fabric exists, this moment is a true picture of Christ, that is the main point that Soren Kierkegaard tried to remind us of two hundred years ago, when he said that the crucified Christ was truly God, but not in the sense that after the suffering, after the outpouring of love, after the love given for neighbor, the life laid down for friend and stranger, while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us, it was not as if - after all of this - said SK that Christ ripped off the costume, ripped off the Clark Kent mask to reveal the Superman beneath, the true God, no, but it was precisely in his suffering, in his emptying, by his refusal to meet the poisoned powers of this world in kind, that we encountered the truest face of God and the truth about what God’s love is. Easter Day does not undo but confirms this picture of God as the truest picture of God. The risen Christ still bears the wounds of crucifixion in his body.

With the face of God unmasked, with this true picture of the Holy One, we also see and receive a truer picture of the world. Think C.S. Lewis when he says that he believes in Christianity as he believes that the sun has risen: not only because he sees it, but because by it he sees everything else.


Let me ask you: how has the face of the crucified One, who became the risen Son, changed the way you see the world?


Kierkegaard liked to tell the story of a man who owned a shop, like a general store. One day, it got late, and the shopkeeper put things in order and called it a day. He closed shop and went home. But sometime that evening, or maybe even deeper into the night, some thieves broke into the shopkeeper’s store. Bizarrely, the thieves didn’t steal anything. Instead, they meticulously rearranged all the labels, the price labels, on the items in the store. So cheap things now had four digit tags. And really precious things were made to look cheap.

The next day, the shopkeeper arrived at the store and didn’t notice the hoax. Nothing appeared any less in order than it had the night before. There was business to attend to. Routines to keep. From the shopkeeper’s perspective, protected from critical reflection by the mundane-ness of the rhythms of life, it was just another day. Then the customers started arriving. They, too, didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Instead, all of them began interacting, shopping, purchasing, exactly as they had on the previous day, but with the labels as they now were, as if the mislabeled labels reflected the true values of things. And they’re still doing that now, Kierkegaard says, we’re still doing this now, still shopping in the store not knowing that none of the labels are true.


Kierkegaard says that our world is that shop.


Cheap things get lifted up, attract our time (and our devotion). We attach our lives to these cheap things in disguise. We make too much of them. Meanwhile, truly precious things get mislabeled as cheap and we dismiss them, so we miss them altogether. We don’t think much about things we should think more about. When we do, we don’t think about them in a way that reflects their real worth or right place in the world. The labels have been put on the wrong things, and it is darn near impossible to know what anything’s worth.


And yet. Against all odds in such a world, sometimes, a person comes to her senses and peels back the label. Sometimes, a person finds herself doing double takes between twin mismatched realities, and she thinks to herself, “Well, that can’t be right.” You peel off a label of a precious thing called cheap and you decide to elevate its place in your life. Likewise, you peel the high-priced label off of the cheap thing and make room in your life accordingly. You wipe off the battered face and find a child of God. These label-rectifying moments, when they come, are almost like miracles.


Like this Methodist congregation, back in the 80s, that discovered one of their own had contracted HIV. They held a special meeting, considered excommunicating the infected parishioner or canceling communion altogether, forever. Maybe the person could just commune at the very end, even after the clergy. You know, just to be safe. But they decided not to act that night, but instead to look into it, and when they did look into it, they learned that the greatest danger, by far, was to the parishioner with HIV, whose immune system was greatly compromised, far more likely to be affected by drinking of the cup than the others who shared the cup with her. In a moment of grace, they shook off fear and became the body of Christ again. They determined that, from that moment on, the parishioner with HIV would commune first, would eat and drink first, that they would follow. Because we who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread, one cup.


Veronica took up a cloth, put it to the face of a stranger condemned to death for deadly things, she reached out to one of the things, the people, labeled as worthless, dangerous, forbidden, and touched God meeting us in the mess and depths of humanity’s brokenness, touched God becoming broken for us, and discovered the suffering servant of Isaiah. The vineyard owner’s child, returned and rejected. The Son of the living God, the one who did not count equality with God as something to be exploited or grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.


Author and activist Shane Claiborne cautions that we should be careful. “Be careful as you climb the ladder of success or else on your way up you might pass Jesus on his way down.”


We who come here to behold his face are learning to see the world in light of the love that has held nothing back from us and so freed us for lives that love in his company. In his company, fists of fear un-clench and open. Moreover, his company is causing us to question the logic of this world which clings to certainties we cannot claim, inviting us to love in scary places, with frightening and frightened people, without fear. For lo, he is with us. And, lo, he is with them, the scary, the frightened, the ones for whom he also died. The ones in whom his image is also put, for whom redemption is also meant, even there, on their faces, buried beneath the blood.

2020-21 Annual License Renewal Letter

Each year, just before Advent, I request the Bishop's renewal of my license to serve in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. These annual le...