FEAST DAYS WITH BISHOP SKIP | HOLY CROSS DAY


“And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.”  John 12:32

John’s Gospel understands Jesus’ self-offering on the cross as his exaltation.  Thus he is “lifted up” as on a throne.  An instrument of death that was meant to be a political statement of Rome’s power, that was meant to humiliate and destroy, becomes in the hands of God an invitation of total love, mercy and forgiveness.

Today’s feast presents us with an opportunity.  We can, once again, claim our center as we are reawakened to the glory of the cross.  It is there we discover the definitive statement of who God is in his very nature—the desire to draw all people to himself.  In that act on the trash dump of Golgotha of all places, is a proclamation of pure love.

Do not mistake this for a passive God who is waiting for us to find him.  Jesus taught us of a God who will not stop searching until we are found.  God’s passion is you.  Too often in history the Church has done a lot of grumbling about “sinners.”  Nothing new there. Welcome to humanity.  God’s emphasis, however, seems to be unmitigated joy by partying with us as we are found.  So it is that we celebrate Eucharist.

The cross-event reveals with stark clarity the very nature of the activity of the divine love and manifests its character as directed to the welcome of all people.  No exceptions.  It is through the cross that we learn that God is love.  The Letter to the Philippians, as it echoes Isaiah, understands the cross as the reclaiming of the universe to God’s sovereignty and glory.  It is for the healing of the nations.  It is also the vindication of Jesus who refused to regard equality with God a thing to be exploited, placing himself at the divine disposition.

As in Jesus, so it is our call to give ourselves to the obedience of God’s self-offering, demonstrating our willingness as God’s people to empty ourselves, take on the form of a servant, lay down our life in order to give life, all out of a deeply developed and tended existence flowing from a relationship with the living Christ.  The cross shows us that the way to God is the way of self-giving love.   The way of God’s love is the way of the cross, drawing all people to God’s very self.

Bishop Skip

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“Y yo, si soy levantado de la tierra, atraeré a todos a mí mismo”.  Juan 12:32

El Evangelio de Juan entiende la autooferta de Jesús en la cruz como su exaltación.  Así, es “elevado” como en un trono.  Un instrumento de muerte que debía ser una declaración política del poder de Roma, que debía humillar y destruir, se convierte en manos de Dios en una invitación al amor total, a la misericordia y al perdón.

La fiesta de hoy nos presenta una oportunidad.  Podemos, una vez más, reclamar nuestro centro mientras nos despertamos de nuevo a la gloria de la cruz.  Allí descubrimos la declaración definitiva de quién es Dios en su propia naturaleza: el deseo de atraer a todas las personas hacia sí mismo. En ese acto en el basurero del Gólgota de todos los lugares, hay una proclamación de amor puro.

No confundas esto con un Dios pasivo que está esperando a que lo encontremos.  Jesús nos enseñó a un Dios que no dejará de buscar hasta que nos encuentren.  Tú eres la pasión de Dios.  Con demasiada frecuencia en la historia la Iglesia ha refunfuñado sobre los “pecadores”.  No hay nada nuevo ahí. Bienvenido a la humanidad.  Sin embargo, el énfasis de Dios parece ser una alegría sin mitigar al festejar con nosotros mientras nos encontramos.  Así que celebramos la Eucaristía.

El acontecimiento de la cruz revela con toda claridad la naturaleza misma de la actividad del amor divino y manifiesta su carácter dirigido a la acogida de todos los hombres.  Sin excepciones.  Es a través de la cruz que aprendemos que Dios es amor.  La Carta a los filipenses, tal como se hace eco de Isaías, entiende la cruz como la recuperación del universo a la soberanía y gloria de Dios.  Es para sanar a las naciones.  Es también la reivindicación de Jesús, que se negó a considerar la igualdad con Dios como algo a explotar, poniéndose a disposición divina.

Como en Jesús, así es nuestro llamado a entregarnos a la obediencia de la autooferta de Dios, demostrando nuestra voluntad como pueblo de Dios de vaciarnos, adoptar la forma de un siervo, poner nuestra vida para dar vida, todo a partir de una existencia profundamente desarrollada y tendida que fluye de una relación con el Cristo vivo.  La cruz nos muestra que el camino a Dios es el camino del amor autoentregado.   El camino del amor de Dios es el camino de la cruz, que atrae a todas las personas hacia Dios.

Obispo Skip

FEAST DAYS WITH BISHOP SKIP | SAINT BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE

He is on the list of twelve. Not much more can be said about Bartholomew. Three of the Gospels and the book of Acts mention him as one of the apostles, but beyond that we know almost nothing. Interesting conjecture poses the possibility that Bartholomew and Nathanael were the same person. There are other traditions that arose over the years that cannot be proven. Even the word “patronymic” comes up – do look it up. So what do we do with this known yet unknown figure?

Perhaps by not knowing details we are free to play. In contrast to similar stories in Mark and Matthew of friction amongst the disciples over authority and who will get the best seat, the context of Luke 22 is a time of transition from Jesus’ impending death and his expectations of faithful leadership in the continuation of the ministry he initiated. We can then apply to this day Luke’s perspective in his Gospel of the call of Jesus for the disciples and therefore the call of all who will follow through the millennia.

Too often in the Church we get hung up in institutional minutia. The preservation of buildings and other infrastructure tend to become the main thing and have us focus on survival as we take our eye off of the reason we exist. Notice that Jesus is not preparing the way for institutional preservation. In this last will and testament, he is saying to the disciples and therefore to us that the kingdom for which he is preparing is one for which we must be preparing. We do so by living in a manner that creates the greatest possibility for it to break in and break through: “I assign to you, as my Father has assigned to me, a kingdom…” (Luke 22:29).

Jesus has shown in his life and death the very essence of whom God is. The only reason for the Church to exist, and I would add the only reason for a Christian faith community to exist, is so that through our worship of God we might find the reality of the reign of God taking shape in the lives of the people who gather, in the Church we love, and then in our mission whereby we seek to establish God’s reign of peace and justice in the world. A bishop friend says very clearly that the Church does not have a mission. God has a mission and a Church through which to carry out that mission. He does, I believe, have a point. Our purpose is God’s mission as presented by Jesus.

Today’s celebration of the person of Bartholomew, in his historical role and witness, calls us once again to ask the question of ourselves and of the faith communities of which we are a part – why do we exist? What is our purpose of being? Along the way, may we find that we, in the words of the collect for the day, ”…love what he believed and preach what he taught.”

Bishop Skip

 

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Él está en la lista de los doce.  No se puede decir mucho más sobre Bartolomé.  Tres de los Evangelios y el libro de Hechos lo mencionan como uno de los apóstoles, pero más allá de eso no sabemos casi nada.  Una conjetura interesante plantea la posibilidad de que Bartolomé y Natanael fueran la misma persona. Hay otras tradiciones que surgieron a lo largo de los años que no se pueden probar.  Incluso aparece la palabra “patronímico”, búsquelo.  Entonces, ¿qué hacemos con esta figura conocida pero desconocida?

Quizá al no conocer los detalles se nos da la libertad de jugar.  A diferencia de los relatos similares de Marcos y Mateo sobre las fricciones entre los discípulos en torno a la autoridad y a quién le tocará el mejor asiento, el contexto de Lucas 22 es un momento de transición de la muerte inminente de Jesús y sus expectativas de liderazgo fiel en la continuación del ministerio que inició.  Podemos entonces aplicar a este día la perspectiva de Lucas en su Evangelio de la llamada de Jesús para los discípulos y por lo tanto la llamada de todos los que seguirán a través de los milenios.

Con demasiada frecuencia, en la Iglesia nos obsesionamos con las minucias institucionales. La preservación de los edificios y otras infraestructuras tiende a convertirse en lo principal y nos hace centrarnos en la supervivencia mientras apartamos la vista de la razón por la que existimos.  Nótese que Jesús no está preparando el camino para la preservación institucional.  En esta última voluntad y testamento, le está diciendo a los discípulos y, por tanto, a nosotros, que el reino para el que se está preparando es uno para el que nosotros debemos prepararnos.  Lo hacemos viviendo de una forma que crea la mayor posibilidad de entrar y abrirse paso:  “Os asigno, como mi Padre me ha asignado, un reino…” (Lucas 22:29).  

Jesús ha mostrado en su vida y muerte la esencia misma de quién es Dios.  La única razón de ser de la Iglesia, y yo añadiría la única razón de ser de una comunidad de fe cristiana, es que a través de nuestro culto a Dios podamos encontrar la realidad del reino de Dios tomando forma en las vidas de las personas que se reúnen, en la Iglesia que amamos, y luego en nuestra misión por la que buscamos establecer el reino de Dios de paz y justicia en el mundo.  Un amigo obispo dice muy claramente que la Iglesia no tiene una misión.  Dios tiene una misión y una Iglesia a través de la cual llevar a cabo esa misión.  Y creo que tiene razón.  Nuestro propósito es la misión de Dios tal como la presenta Jesús.  

La celebración de hoy de la persona de Bartolomé, en su papel histórico y su testimonio, nos llama una vez más a preguntarnos y a las comunidades de fe de las que formamos parte: ¿por qué existimos?  ¿Cuál es nuestro propósito de ser?  A lo largo del camino, que encontremos que, en palabras de la colecta del día, “…amamos lo que él creía y predicamos lo que él enseñaba”.

Obispo Skip

Feast Days with Bishop Skip | Saint Mary the Virgin

“O higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim, lead their praises, Alleluia!”  Many do not realize that these words beginning the second verse of hymn 618 in The Hymnal 1982 refer to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The verse continues, “Thou bearer of the eternal Word, most gracious, magnify the Lord…”  This magnificent hymn names all the company of heaven joined in praise to God as we are invited to join the chorus.  Mary is the choir director.

Jim was the choir director in my home parish when I was in high school.  It was he who invited me to consider the possibility of a life lived in Christ at a time when I was searching and not sure about anything related to the entire God conversation.  I became willing to consider the possibility because I saw in him an authenticity reflected in pure joy as he led the youth and adult choirs of the parish.  He was real.  His life was an act of praise to God.  Each choir practice was an adventure of praise and thanksgiving as Jim gave voice to our song and we were invited to consider the God-possibility in each of us.  Life for me was never the same again.

I often say that one of the purposes of liturgy is to create a space in which we can fall in love with God.  In Mary’s great hymn of response to God’s invitation that we know as the “Magnificat,” we are drawn into a vision for God’s people that is radical and transformative:  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” I remember my liturgics professor saying of this Song of Mary that of course she sung it as there is no renewal without music. As we hear in Mary the echoes of Hannah’s prayer from I Samuel, we learn that the renewed heart’s first responsibility is the worship of God which bears the fruit of a life lived in gratefulness.

Then comes a more radical turn as we find that a grateful heart leads to radical living.  Mary sings a vision of God that turns everything upside down.  Perhaps as she came to realize her own life was being turned topsy-turvy, she was able to align her own voice with a God who scatters the proud, puts down the mighty, exalts the lowly and sends the rich away empty.  And we wonder where Jesus got some of his ideas?  Just look at Mom.

The choir director is telling us that those we marginalize God glorifies.  Think of the 22 million refugees of the world fleeing the violence of their homelands.  See the homeless in our cities, many of whom are teenagers and a large number are mentally ill. Ponder those who are disabled in any way.  Consider those oppressed and ostracized for no other reason than for being who God created them to be.  Walk into a prison.  We could do no better than each day taking Mary’s lead and joining in the song she leads.  Sing that song each day and see what happens.  Perhaps by joining her choir we will find our lives renewed and conformed more closely to the One she bore and raised.  Here lies a hope that even our generation will call her blessed.

 

“¡Oh, más alto que los querubines, más glorioso que los serafines, dirige sus alabanzas, Aleluya!”  Muchos no se percatan que estas palabras que comienzan el segundo verso del himno 618 en El himno 1982 se refieren a María, la madre de Jesús.  El versículo continúa: “Tú, portador de la Palabra eterna, misericordioso, magnifica al Señor…”.  Este magnífico himno nombra a toda la compañía del cielo unida en la alabanza a Dios mientras se nos invita a unirnos al coro.  Mary es la directora del coro.

Jim era el director del coro de mi parroquia de casa cuando estaba en el instituto. Fue él quien me invitó a considerar la posibilidad de una vida vivida en Cristo en un momento en que estaba buscando y no estaba seguro de nada relacionado con toda la conversación de Dios.  Quedé dispuesto a considerar la posibilidad porque vi en él una autenticidad reflejada en pura alegría mientras dirigía los coros juveniles y adultos de la parroquia.  Era real.  Su vida fue un acto de alabanza a Dios.  Cada ensayo del coro era una aventura de alabanza y acción de gracias mientras Jim daba voz a nuestro canto y nos invitaba a considerar la posibilidad de Dios en cada uno de nosotros.  La vida para mí nunca volvió a ser la misma.

A menudo menciono que uno de los propósitos de la liturgia es crear un espacio en el que podamos enamorarnos de Dios.  En el gran himno de respuesta de María a la invitación de Dios, que conocemos como el “Magnificat”, se nos presenta una visión del pueblo de Dios que es radical y transformadora:  “Mi alma engrandece al Señor, y mi espíritu se alegra en Dios, mi salvador”. Recuerdo que mi profesor de liturgia decía de este Canto de María que por supuesto lo cantaba ya que no hay renovación sin música. Al escuchar en María los ecos de la oración de Hannah de I Samuel, aprendemos que la primera responsabilidad del corazón renovado es la adoración a Dios, que da fruto de una vida vivida en agradecimiento.

Luego viene un giro más radical, ya que descubrimos que un corazón agradecido conduce a una vida radical.  María canta una visión de Dios que lo pone todo al revés.  Tal vez cuando se dio cuenta que su propia vida se estaba volviendo turbulenta, fue capaz de alinear su propia voz con un Dios que dispersa a los orgullosos, baja a los poderosos, exalta a los humildes y envía a los ricos vacíos.  Y nos preguntamos de dónde sacó Jesús algunas de sus ideas.  Mira a mamá.

El director del coro nos dice que los que marginamos Dios glorifica.  Piensa en los 22 millones de refugiados del mundo que huyen de la violencia de su patria.  Observa a las personas sin hogar en nuestras ciudades, muchas de las cuales son adolescentes y un gran número de enfermos mentales. Reflexiona sobre los discapacitados de cualquier manera.  Considera a los oprimidos y condenados al ostracismo sin otra razón que por ser quienes Dios los creó para ser.  Entra en una prisión.  No podríamos hacer nada mejor que tomar cada día la dirección de María y unirnos a la canción que ella dirige.  Canta esa canción todos los días y ve qué pasa.  Tal vez al unirnos a su coro encontraremos nuestras vidas renovadas y conformadas más de cerca a la que ella dio y crió.  Aquí yace la esperanza de que incluso nuestra generación la llame bendita.

Feast Days with Bishop Skip | The Transfiguration

Note that the event of Jesus’ transfiguration begins with him in prayer.  How could it be any other way?  The whole experience in Luke’s account is bracketed by Jesus pointing toward the way of the cross and his eventual death.  He enters into prayer as he offers himself to a centered conversation with God whereby he might gain clarity about his mission on earth.  Jesus’ “departure,” or even better, “exodus,” which he is to accomplish at Jerusalem, signifies his unique role in salvation history.  The way of Jesus, the way of giving oneself away as an offering of love and in thanksgiving for the gift of life, is the way for all.

The Transfiguration gives us a window through which we are able to catch a glimpse of Jesus’ identity continuing in the fullness of the Law and the Prophets as known through Moses and Elijah.  We are also given a view, as the veil is pulled back a bit, of the purpose of all humanity.  There are gifted moments in life when we are able to see most clearly, unitive experiences if you will, when we know to the very depths of our being why we are here, for what we were created, and that in our human experience we know ourselves held by a love that knows no bounds.

I had such an experience in a systematic theology class when my professor shared with us a particularly sacred and tender moment in his life.  While out to dinner with his wife, he got a phone call to return home immediately where a baby sitter had been caring for his young child.  They learned that in a horrific accident in the home and through no fault of the baby sitter, their beloved child had died.  These words from my professor were indelibly marked on my soul that day when he said, “I have been to the bottom and the bottom is firm.”  It is firm because of the One who holds us and just as with Jesus, calls us beloved.

It is something of the quality of that awareness that Jesus knew on the holy mount.  He was completely and transparently in that moment so drawn by grace into the fullness of his humanity that his divinity could not help but become evident as well.  This is why in the end, in Christian understanding, there is really only one sacrament—Jesus the Christ.  He is the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of God.  Any other sacramental expression is only so to the degree that it manifests Christ himself and as it draws us to the place where we know our own Christ-likeness.

One of my spiritual practices is to look for how a person has been a sacrament in his or her life, a window through which we catch a glimpse of the beauty of God and that to which Jesus points.  This often plays out when I am reflecting on a life in preparation to preach at a funeral.  A dear friend died recently.  When pondering his gift to me, I realized that in his presence and his own broken humanity, I always knew I was loved.  In this way he portrayed Christ to me—no question.  This is God’s gift to Jesus in his transfiguration.  It is God’s gift to us in Christ.  It is to be our gift to the world.

 


 

Tenga en cuenta que el acontecimiento de la transfiguración de Jesús comienza con él en oración.  ¿Cómo podría ser de otro modo?  En el relato de Lucas, toda la experiencia está marcada por el hecho de que Jesús señala el camino de la cruz y su eventual muerte.  Entra en la oración ofreciéndose a una conversación centrada con Dios para obtener claridad sobre su misión en la tierra.  La “partida”, o mejor aún, el “éxodo” de Jesús, que va realizará en Jerusalén, significa su papel único en la historia de la salvación.  El camino de Jesús, la forma de entregarse como ofrenda de amor y en acción de gracias por el don de la vida, es el camino para todos.


La Transfiguración nos ofrece una ventana a través de la cual podemos vislumbrar que la identidad de Jesús continúa en la plenitud de la Ley y los Profetas, tal como se conoce a través de Moisés y Elías.  También se nos da una visión, a medida que el velo se retira un poco hacia atrás, del propósito de toda la humanidad.  Hay momentos dotados en la vida en los que somos capaces de ver con mayor claridad, experiencias unitivas si se quiere, cuando sabemos hasta lo más profundo de nuestro ser por qué estamos aquí, para qué fuimos creados, y que en nuestra experiencia humana nos sabemos sostenidos por un amor que no conoce límites.


Tuve esa experiencia en una clase de teología sistemática cuando mi profesor compartió con nosotros un momento particularmente sagrado y tierno de su vida.  Mientras salía a cenar con su mujer, recibió una llamada telefónica para que volviera inmediatamente a casa, donde una niñera había estado cuidando de su hijo pequeño.  Se enteraron de que en un horrible accidente en el hogar y sin culpa de la niñera, su querido hijo había muerto.  Estas palabras de mi profesor quedaron marcadas de forma indeleble en mi alma aquel día cuando dijo: “He estado en el fondo y el fondo es firme”.  Es firme debido a Aquel que nos sostiene y, al igual que con Jesús, nos llama amados.


Es algo de la calidad de esa conciencia que Jesús conocía en el monte sagrado.  En ese momento, la gracia lo atrajo de tal forma a la plenitud de su humanidad que su divinidad no pudo evitar hacerse también evidente.  Por eso, al final, en el entendimiento cristiano, solo hay un sacramento: Jesucristo.  Es el signo exterior y visible de la gracia interior y espiritual de Dios.  Cualquier otra expresión sacramental es solo así en la medida en que manifiesta a Cristo mismo y nos lleva al lugar donde conocemos nuestra propia semejanza a Cristo.


Una de mis prácticas espirituales es buscar cómo una persona ha sido un sacramento en su vida, una ventana a través de la cual vislumbramos la belleza de Dios y aquello a lo que Jesús apunta.  Esto ocurre a menudo cuando reflexiono sobre una vida en preparación para predicar en un funeral.  Un querido amigo murió hace poco.  Al reflexionar sobre el regalo que me hizo, me di cuenta que en su presencia y en su propia humanidad rota, siempre supe que era amado.  De esta manera me retrató a Cristo, sin duda.  Este es el regalo de Dios a Jesús en su transfiguración.  Es el regalo de Dios para nosotros en Cristo.  Es nuestro regalo para el mundo.

FEAST DAYS WITH BISHOP SKIP | SAINT JAMES THE APOSTLE

I am intrigued by the juxtaposition of the readings from Matthew and Acts for this day.  It is in Matthew that we hear of the desire of the mother of James and John – and I am guessing she is speaking her sons’ desire too – that they be given places of honor next to Jesus.  In the book of Acts we learn that James is martyred at the hands of Roman power exercised through the person of Herod Agrippa.  So James did indeed drink of the cup from which Jesus drank, but certainly it was not for what he or his mother was asking.

Ambition within a community, even a community gathered around Christ, is not unknown, but it is not Jesus’ way.  He models a leadership style of the self-offering of the servant which ushers in true freedom.  In the Collect for Peace from the Daily Office we pray, “…to serve you is perfect freedom.”  This freedom which comes from being bound to service to another is a paradox.  It is not unlike a kite, which when tethered to a string is able to live fully into its “kiteness,” that is, to be truly free to fulfill its purpose to fly and drift with the wind.  If one was to cut the string, in a misguided attempt to set it free, it would come crashing to the ground and no longer do what it was created to do.  Oddly, human beings often mistake the way of destruction for freedom, such as in the refusal to wear masks.

Obedience is not a popular concept in today’s world.  Yet, when we make baptismal promises, or take vows in ordination, we are making promises of obedience not because it restricts our freedom, but because in giving ourselves to these promises we are set free to be and become who God has created us to be.  The ordained deacon is called to be the icon of such obedient service, thereby calling all of the baptized to this vision of faithful living.  Baptism is, if you will, our expulsion from slavery in Egypt, an old way of life that destroys and diminishes, into the exodus of moving with and toward God.  All along we are invited to feed on the manna of Eucharist freely given, indeed to drink the cup Jesus drank in our desert journey leading us home.

Part of what we celebrate in the person of James the Apostle is his grounding in service to Christ that moved beyond the desire for power to the deeper place of servant.  It set him free to where he could offer even his life in joyful service to God and God’s people.  Christ offers this freedom to us all.

 

Bishop Skip


Me intriga la yuxtaposición de las lecturas de Mateo y Hechos para este día.  Es en Mateo donde oímos el deseo de la madre de Santiago y Juan -y supongo que ella también habla del deseo de sus hijos- que se les den lugares de honor junto a Jesús.  En el libro de Hechos aprendemos que Santiago es martirizado a manos del poder romano ejercido por medio de la persona de Herodes Agripa.  Así que James bebió de la copa de la que Jesús bebía, pero ciertamente no fue por lo que él o su madre estaban pidiendo.

La ambición dentro de una comunidad, incluso una comunidad reunida en torno a Cristo, no es desconocida, pero no es el camino de Jesús.  Él modela un estilo de liderazgo de la autooferta del sirviente que marca el comienzo de la verdadera libertad.  En la Colecta por la Paz del Oficio Diario rezamos: “…servirte es la perfecta libertad”.  Esta libertad que viene de estar obligado a servir a otro es una paradoja.  No es diferente de una cometa, que cuando está atada a una cuerda es capaz de vivir plenamente, es decir, de ser verdaderamente libre para cumplir su propósito de volar y derivar con el viento.  Si uno cortara la cuerda, en un intento equivocado de liberarla, se estrellaría contra el suelo y ya no haría lo que se creó para hacer.  Curiosamente, los seres humanos a menudo confunden la forma de destrucción con la libertad, como en la negativa a usar cubre bocas.

La obediencia no es un concepto popular en el mundo actual.  Sin embargo, cuando hacemos promesas bautismales, o hacemos votos en la ordenación, estamos haciendo promesas de obediencia no porque restrinja nuestra libertad, sino porque al entregarnos a estas promesas somos liberados para ser y llegar a ser lo que Dios ha creado que seamos.  El diácono ordenado está llamado a ser el icono de ese servicio obediente, llamando así a todos los bautizados a esta visión de vida fiel.  El bautismo es, si se quiere, nuestra expulsión de la esclavitud en Egipto, un viejo modo de vida que destruye y disminuye, hacia el éxodo de moverse con y hacia Dios.  En todo momento se nos invita a alimentarnos del maná de la Eucaristía que se nos da gratuitamente, es más, a beber el cáliz que Jesús bebió en nuestro viaje por el desierto que nos lleva a casa.

Parte de lo que celebramos en la persona de Santiago Apóstol es su arraigo en el servicio a Cristo, que fue más allá del deseo de poder, hacia el lugar más profundo de siervo.  Lo liberó hasta donde podía ofrecer incluso su vida en servicio alegre a Dios y al pueblo de Dios.  Cristo nos ofrece esta libertad a todos.

Feast Days with Bishop Skip | Mary Magdalene

When one reads the scriptural record of this woman of faith, the negative ascriptions given to her over the centuries are quite astonishing, even puzzling.  One wonders if there is not some kind of latent sexism at play here.

First, there is the common misconception that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  Nothing in the Bible indicates that this was so.  The city of Magdala was an important shipbuilding and trade center in its day and history indicates it had an unsavory reputation.  Guilt by association does not necessarily apply, however.

Then there is the word “maudlin,” which is an alteration of the word “Magdalene,” from the practice of depicting her as a weeping, penitent sinner.  Well yes, John’s Gospel does indicate that she wept at Jesus’ tomb when his body was found to be missing, a perfectly appropriate grief reaction to my mind.  She also was healed by Jesus of some kind of spiritual and/or physical illness.  But the definition of maudlin as “weakly and effusively sentimental” is a completely unfair characterization when it comes to Mary.  Her story would indicate quite the opposite.

Mary Magdalene travelled with Jesus and supported the mission financially.  She went with others to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body and in John’s account, was the first witness to the resurrection.  The Eastern Church regards her as the equal of an apostle.  Even more stunningly, it was Mary Magdalene who was present at the crucifixion after all of the other disciples had abandoned Jesus to save their own hide.   I understand why the disciples ran.  My point is that Mary of Magdala did not run, but chose to stay at the risk of her life.  Her devotion to Jesus is unquestionable.  After the resurrection the disciples went back home, but Mary “…wept and remained standing outside the tomb.”

What are we afraid of here—intimacy?  Is it that the man Jesus seems to have had a close, loving relationship with an empowered woman as a disciple and it makes us nervous?  Whatever the source of anxiety may be in the historical record surrounding her, it is important that we see in Mary Magdalene a person of strength who never stops her seeking of the Christ in his life or in his death.  Gregory the Great said that, “She longed for him whom she thought had been taken away.  And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him.”

We tend to find what we are looking for, positively and negatively.  Mary was looking for Jesus and in her seeking, heard her name called by the Savior of the world.  Who was seeking whom?  It is in our seeking that we are found.


Cuando uno lee el registro bíblico de esta mujer de fe, las ascripciones negativas que se le han dado a lo largo de los siglos son bastante asombrosas, incluso desconcertantes.  De hecho, uno se pregunta si no hay algún tipo de sexismo latente en juego.

En primer lugar, existe la idea errónea de que María Magdalena era una prostituta.  Nada de la Biblia indica que esto fuera así.  La ciudad de Magdala era un importante centro comercial y de construcción naval en su época y la historia indica que tenía una reputación desagradable.  Sin embargo, la culpa por asociación no se aplica necesariamente.

Luego está la palabra “sensiblera”, que es una alteración de la palabra “Magdalena”, por la práctica de representarla como una pecadora llorona y penitente.  Pues sí, el Evangelio de Juan indica que lloró ante la tumba de Jesús cuando se descubrió que su cuerpo había desaparecido, una reacción de dolor perfectamente apropiada a mi entender.  También fue sanada por Jesús de algún tipo de enfermedad espiritual y/o física.  Pero la definición de sensiblero como “débil y efusivamente sentimental” es una caracterización completamente injusta cuando se trata de María.  Su historia indicaría todo lo contrario.

María Magdalena viajó con Jesús y apoyó la misión financieramente.  Ella fue con otros a la tumba de Jesús para ungir su cuerpo y, en el relato de Juan, fue el primer testigo de la resurrección.  La Iglesia Oriental la considera igual de apóstol.  Aún más sorprendente, fue María Magdalena quien estuvo presente en la crucifixión después de que todos los demás discípulos abandonaron a Jesús para salvar su propio pellejo.   Entiendo por qué huyeron los discípulos.  Lo que quiero decir es que María de Magdala no huyó, sino que eligió quedarse a riesgo de su vida.  Su devoción a Jesús es incuestionable.  Después de la resurrección los discípulos volvieron a casa, pero María “…lloró y se quedó de pie fuera del sepulcro”.

¿De qué tenemos miedo aquí, de la intimidad?  ¿Acaso es que el hombre Jesús parece haber tenido una relación estrecha y amorosa con una mujer empoderada como discípula y eso nos pone nerviosos?  Cualquiera que sea la fuente de ansiedad en el registro histórico que la rodea, es importante que veamos en María Magdalena a una persona de fuerza que nunca deja de buscar a Cristo en su vida o en su muerte.  Gregorio Magno dijo que: “Ella anhelaba a quien creía arrebatado.  Y así sucedió que la mujer que se quedó buscando a Cristo fue la única que lo vio”.

Tendemos a encontrar lo que buscamos, positiva y negativamente.  María estaba buscando a Jesús y, en su búsqueda, escuchó su nombre llamado por el Salvador del mundo.  ¿Quién buscaba a quién?  Nos encontramos en nuestra búsqueda.

A Word from Bishop Hougland | Goodbye and a Blessing

 

The Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland, now former bishop provisional of Eastern and bishop diocesan of Western Michigan, offers the dioceses a word as he departs, blessing us on our way. 


Hi, my friends in Eastern and Western Michigan, it’s Whayne Hougland here. As you know, a week ago I resigned as your Bishop. It was not a decision that was made easily or lightly, but, was done prayerfully and intentionally after a lot of discernment.

Some things I wanted to say as I leave you — first of all, I just am terribly sorry for what has transpired in the last year — for my bad choice that led to my suspension, and to the hardship and difficulty and disappointment that many of you have experienced because of that in the last year. That will be a burden I will carry with me for the rest of my life and I am truly sorry.  It was my choice, it was a bad choice, and I apologize.

I also wanted to say a deep thank you to you for your continued support in this last year to Dana and me and our family. I have been working for this last year to get back to you, but it didn’t seem to work out. I just want you to know how much I appreciate the support you’ve given particularly Dana, she is doing really well and we’re working really really hard on our marriage and on ourselves. We’re both in really good physical shape and we’ve been working with therapists on a weekly basis and working together. We’re taking it one step at a time, day-by-day. Just like any relationship would — it’s just day-by-day, one step at a time. There have been some difficult times, but we’re working our way through it.

I also wanted to tell you we’re now living in Indianapolis, we’ve actually been here since August of last year, close to our daughter Erin and her husband Isaac, and our grandsons Ian and Sam. We live just about a 10-minute walk from them. We’ll be staying here in Indianapolis and trying to continue our lives moving forward from here. Leah and River and Evan will continue living in Grand Rapids where they’ve made a home and are quite happy. This gives us reasonable proximity to them and also to both sets of our parents who are in Lexington, Kentucky, just a few hours down the road.

Just some things I wanted to say before I leave… If there’s anything prophetic that I have to say, it’s that you must know is that you are absolutely, each one of you, beautiful gems of creation. There ain’t gonna be another one like you ever in the history of the world. You are fabulous and wonderful just as you are, and I hope that you can believe that, I believe that, I’m trying to believe that for myself.

I also wanted to share with you one last time some words from John McQuiston from his book, “Always We Begin Again,” —  he’s talking about Paramount goals.

“What is wanted is not that we should find ultimate truth nor that we should become secure, nor that we should have ease, nor that we should be without hurt, but that we should live fully. Therefore, we should not fear life nor anything in life. We should not fear death nor anything in death. We should live our lives in love with life. And so it is for us to train our hearts to live in Grace, to sacrifice ourselves and our desires, to find the peace without want, without seeking it for ourselves, and when we fail, to begin again each day.”

That’s certainly what I’m trying to do. I want you to know that I love you guys, I miss you guys, and I wish you nothing but the best as you move forward.

And as I leave, remember that life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind. In the blessing of God all mighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you now and always. Amen. Be well, everyone.

Feast Days with Bishop Skip | Independence Day

The observance of this day on the Church’s calendar was born out of differences of perspective.  Although lessons and prayers were appointed for a national observance in the Proposed Prayer Book of 1786, they were deleted by the General Convention of 1789 in deference to the majority of the clergy who had remained loyal to the British crown.  Not until the revision of the Book of Common Prayer in 1928 was it restored.

For me a tension continues.  I must confess that any time the life of prayer, worship and Scripture are aligned too closely with national desire I get nervous.  I find that renditions of the flag of the United States printed on a page leaf in the front of a Bible especially troublesome.  Such approaches too often cross the line into nationalism, an idolatry that blurs the distinction of the sovereignty of God and national purpose as if one is equal to the other.  Deuteronomy 10:20 appointed for today says, “…him alone shall you worship.”  Failure to be clear about this is pointed to through the work of “The Southern Poverty Law Center.”  The alarming proliferation of extremist nationalist groups in the United States quoting the Bible and spewing racist, misogynist and intolerant hatred is well documented.

Please do not misunderstand.  I am a patriot and am grateful that I am a citizen of the United States.  When I get to travel I thank service men and women for their offering when I see them in airports.  At the same time, I am very clear that the United States enjoys no favored position with God compared to any other country, people or tribe.  The Collect for the Day asks of God that we “may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace.”  There is a proper place for grateful hearts for the sacrifices made to secure our land from tyranny and oppression, as long as we also are willing to repent of the times when we have participated in or remained silent for similar sin.

When at our best, we have been an example of liberty to many over the last 245 years.  We are still working on living into what we say are our ideals as a country, calling us to be open-hearted enough to be able to hear faithful and prophetic critique when what we do as a nation is in conflict with the Gospel.  As disciples of Christ and yet citizens of a nation, what does loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and loving the stranger in our midst (Deuteronomy 10:19) look like in national policy?  These are not small questions.  I was present for a poignant moment some years ago when the United States was pondering going to war with Iraq.  A bishop from another part of the Anglican Communion said, “I hope for the day that the words ‘God bless America’ are a prayer rather than a war cry.”  May we be blessed, not for the gain of special status, but in order to be a blessing for the world.

 

 

La celebración de este día en el calendario de la Iglesia nació de las diferencias en cuanto a perspectiva.  Aunque las lecciones y oraciones fueron designadas para celebrarse a nivel nacional en el libro de oraciones propuesto de 1786, la Convención General de 1789 las eliminó en deferencia a la mayoría del clero que se había mantenido leal a la corona británica.  No se restauró hasta que la revisión del Libro de Oración Común en 1928.

Sin embargo, para mí persiste una tensión.  Debo confesar que cada vez que la vida de oración, el culto y las Escrituras se alinean demasiado con el deseo nacional me pongo nervioso.  Me molestan especialmente las representaciones de la bandera de los Estados Unidos impresas en una hoja de la portada de una Biblia.  Estos enfoques cruzan con demasiada frecuencia la línea del nacionalismo, una idolatría que difumina la distinción de la soberanía de Dios y el propósito nacional como si uno fuera igual al otro.  Deuteronomio 10:20 señalado para hoy dice: “…sólo a él adorarás”.  La falta de claridad al respecto nos lleva al trabajo de “The Southern Poverty Law Center”.  La alarmante proliferación de grupos nacionalistas extremistas en los Estados Unidos que citan la Biblia y expresan odio racista, misógino e intolerante está bien documentada.

Por favor, no me malinterpreten.  Soy un patriota y estoy agradecido de ser ciudadano de los Estados Unidos.  Cuando llego a viajar agradezco a los hombres y mujeres por su servicio cuando los veo en aeropuertos.  Al mismo tiempo, tengo muy claro que los Estados Unidos no goza de ninguna posición favorecida con Dios en comparación con ningún otro país, pueblo o tribu.  La colecta del día pide a Dios que “tengamos la gracia de mantener nuestras libertades en la justicia y la paz”.  Hay un lugar apropiado para los corazones agradecidos por los sacrificios hechos para asegurar nuestra tierra de la tiranía y la opresión, siempre y cuando también estemos dispuestos a arrepentirnos de las veces que hemos participado o permanecido en silencio por un pecado similar.

Cuando estamos en nuestro mejor momento, hemos sido un ejemplo de libertad para muchos en los últimos 245 años.  Seguimos trabajando para vivir lo que decimos que son nuestros ideales como país, lo que nos llama a ser lo suficientemente abiertos de corazón como para poder escuchar la crítica fiel y profética cuando lo que hacemos como nación está en conflicto con el Evangelio.  Como discípulos de Cristo y ciudadanos de una nación, ¿qué aspecto tiene amar a nuestros enemigos (Mateo 5:44) y amar al extraño en medio de nosotros (Deuteronomio 10:19) en la política nacional?  No se trata de preguntas pequeñas.  Estuve presente durante un momento conmovedor hace algunos años cuando Estados Unidos estaba reflexionando sobre la guerra contra Irak.  Un obispo de otra parte de la Comunión Anglicana dijo: “Espero que llegue el día en que las palabras “Dios bendiga a Estados Unidos” sean una oración y no un grito de guerra”.  Que seamos bendecidos, no para ganar un estatus especial, sino para ser una bendición para el mundo.

Obispo Skip

Feast Days with Bishop Skip | St. Peter & St. Paul

Why is it that these two giants of the Christian faith are bundled on one feast day?  Yes, they are remembered on other days in the Church’s calendar; Paul for his conversion and Peter for his confession.   But, why this day?

Apparently, it is to remind us that they both died as martyrs in Rome.  According to tradition, their deaths occurred in the same year, 64, during the persecution under Nero.  They were united in death, united in faith, united in their common love of Jesus the Christ, united in their sense of mission to feed God’s sheep.

We also know, however, that in life they had occasion for great differences of theological opinion.  In the letter of Paul to the Galatians in 2:11 we have these words, “But when Cephas (Aramaic for Peter) came to Antioch I (Paul) opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.”  This controversy was about the mission to the Gentiles and matters of the circumcised and uncircumcised.  Adherence to the Law and differences in the interpretation of Scripture and its application played a huge part.  This was no small matter and Paul was resolute.  Unless we miss the significance, this matter threatened to tear apart the fledgling Church.

What won the day was Peter’s and Paul’s common faith in Christ.  Their unity in the person of Jesus and his teaching transcending ideology and pointing to the great room of inclusion enabled them to eventually move to a new place.  As a child growing up in the Episcopal Church, I was aware of a very tense time in my home parish when two lay leaders of the congregation were at enmity with one another.  The sharing of the “peace of Christ” in the liturgy was brand new and for many a bit controversial.  One Sunday one of these persons, at the peace, left his pew and walked around the rather large worship space.  It became apparent he was going straight to the person with whom he had been having the great argument.  Everyone was holding a collective breath.

The most astonishing thing then occurred.  One held out his hand to the other in what seemed like slow motion, eyes met, the hand was gently pushed aside and an embrace was offered and received.  In an instant a relationship was restored, healing happened and worship continued.  In a follow-up parish newsletter article it was expressed by these two men that if they were going to claim Christ as Lord they needed to act like it.  So they did, right before our eyes.

This was a formative moment for me as a young Christian as well as a transforming moment for that parish.  Memory tells me that the sharing of the peace of Christ was never the same again.  The subsequent reconciliation of Peter and Paul, on a much larger stage, was formative for the first century Church.  My hope is that it continues to inform and transform who we are as the people of God today.


¿Por qué estos dos gigantes de la fe cristiana se agrupan en un día de fiesta?  Sí, los recuerdan en otros días en el calendario de la Iglesia; Pablo por su conversión y Pedro por su confesión.   Pero, ¿por qué este día?

Aparentemente es para recordarnos que ambos murieron como mártires en Roma.  Según la tradición, sus muertes ocurrieron en el mismo año, 64, durante la persecución bajo Nerón.  Estaban unidos en la muerte, unidos en la fe, unidos en su amor común por Jesucristo, unidos en su sentido de misión para alimentar a las ovejas de Dios.

Sin embargo, también sabemos que en la vida tuvieron ocasión de grandes diferencias de opinión teológica.  En la carta de Pablo a los Gálatas en 2:11 tenemos estas palabras: “Pero cuando Cefas (Pedro en arameo) llegó a Antioquía, yo (Pablo) me opuse a él en su cara, porque estaba condenado”.  Esta controversia era sobre la misión a los gentiles y los asuntos de los circuncisos e incircuncisos.  La adhesión a la Ley y las diferencias en la interpretación de las Escrituras y su aplicación jugaron un gran papel.  No era un asunto menor y Paul estaba decidido.  A menos que pasemos por alto el significado, este asunto amenazó con destrozar a la incipiente Iglesia.

Lo que ganó fue la fe común de Pedro y Pablo en Cristo.  Su unidad en la persona de Jesús y sus enseñanzas, que trascienden la ideología y apuntan a la gran sala de la inclusión, les permitió finalmente pasar a un nuevo lugar.  Cuando era niño que crecía en la Iglesia Episcopal, era consciente que había un momento muy tenso en mi parroquia natal cuando dos líderes laicos de la congregación estaban enemistados unos con otros.  Compartir la “paz de Cristo” en la liturgia era algo nuevo y para muchos un poco controvertido.  Un domingo, una de estas personas, en el momento de la paz, abandonó su banco y se paseó por el espacio de culto, bastante amplio.  Era evidente que se dirigía directamente a la persona con la que había tenido la gran discusión.  Todo el mundo aguantaba un aliento colectivo.

Lo más asombroso ocurrió entonces.  Uno le tendió la mano al otro en lo que pareció un movimiento lento, los ojos se encontraron, la mano se apartó suavemente y se ofreció y recibió un abrazo.  En un instante se restableció una relación, se curó y la adoración continuó.  En un artículo de seguimiento del boletín parroquial, estos dos hombres expresaron que si iban a reclamar a Cristo como Señor, debían actuar como tal.  Así lo hicieron, justo ante nuestros ojos.

Este fue un momento formativo para mí como joven cristiano, así como un momento transformador para esa parroquia.  La memoria me dice que compartir la paz de Cristo nunca volvió a ser igual.  La reconciliación posterior de Pedro y Pablo, en un escenario mucho más amplio, fue formativa para la Iglesia del primer siglo.  Espero que continúe informando y transformando quiénes somos hoy como pueblo de Dios.

At the Conclusion of the Bishop’s Suspension

Dear Friends in Christ,

We write today with news about our life together at the conclusion of the suspension of our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr.

After a series of lengthy, honest, and occasionally painful conversations, the Standing Committees, Diocesan Councils, and Bishop Hougland have reached a separation agreement that will result in his resignation as Bishop Diocesan of Western Michigan and as Bishop Provisional of Eastern Michigan, effective July 1, 2021.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr.
Bishop Diocesan, Western Michigan
Bishop Provisional, Eastern Michigan

The Joint Standing Committees of Eastern & Western Michigan

 

People of Eastern & Western Michigan,

Over the last several months, the bishop and leadership of the two dioceses have undergone a period of mutual discernment that has led us to this current moment.

The Joint Standing Committees began early this Spring in preliminary conversations with Bishop Hougland about how we would undertake this discernment. Lay and clergy leaders met in Affinity Groups for pastoral processing of the last year. We received hundreds of submissions to a written survey from our laity and clergy, articulating reflections about our life together as dioceses and in relation to the episcopacy. And recently, a series of conversations were held in which our clergy community met with Whayne, hearing what he has done and experienced over the last year and sharing with him what they had done and experienced over the last year. These conversations were difficult, honest, and holy.

After every step, we would sit back, review the gathered feedback, and determine together whether we would continue on in conversation. Though we had anticipated another series of conversations and surveys as part of our continued discernment, it was clear, based on the responses we had already received from you, and out of concern for the emotional toll on our dioceses, that this process had come to a conclusion. This does not mean that we don’t love and care for one another — simply that we know and understand that our continued mission and ministry, including our growing relationship between our two dioceses, would be impeded by reinstatement to office.

Over the next few years, in a process facilitated by the Building Bridges Steering Committee, we will continue our intentional exploration of relationship between our two dioceses. The Standing Committees deeply value the relationship we have with one another, both in navigating the difficulties of the last year and in the continuing and developing mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church in Eastern and Western Michigan. This desire was broadly embraced, as evidenced in survey responses and our conversations with the clergy. The appointed Steering Committee has already been hard at work, beginning to invite others to help facilitate research, internal and external conversations, asset mapping, and more. This burgeoning relationship has been a deep source of joy and hope for us all.

The Standing Committees are in conversation with our Assisting Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Skip Adams, to extend his time with our dioceses over the next several months. We are also in conversation with the Presiding Bishop’s Office and our consultant, Dr. Melissa Perrin, about how we might attend to the pastoral needs of our community in the aftermath of this suspension and pending separation — more on this to come.

Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” Our dioceses are not central administrative offices in Saginaw and Wyoming, but a network of churches and organizations and ministries and individuals from coast to coast, working together for the Kingdom of God. This has been a difficult and painful year. The news about our bishop may feel welcome to some and disappointing to others, with a bit of every other feeling in-between. The severing of a relationship with a pastor is not one that happens lightly or without deep and prolonged prayer and discernment.

If you’d like to send a note to Whayne or Dana, please forward it to the Western Michigan Diocesan Office, 5347 Clyde Park Ave SW, Wyoming, MI 49509. By sending it within a sealed envelope, you ensure that your message will not be mistakenly read by others. You may also send greetings by email, by forwarding your message to vambrose@edwm.org, understanding that its contents will not be totally private as it gets forwarded to its intended recipient.

Finally, we invite you to pray for our dioceses, for one another, and for Whayne and Dana Hougland. The following collects are offered for your personal intercessions and as part of corporate worship, during the Prayers of the People.

A Prayer for Parting
Gracious and loving God, destination of all our journeys; be with Whayne, Dana, and our two dioceses as we move from what was to what shall be. Help us reflect on the joys, memories, and hardships of our time together without clinging to the past, but in preparation for continued ministry in your Name. Assist us in gratitude and forgiveness, for you bless and forgive, and to you we give praise, holy and undivided Trinity, our One God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Prayer for the Dioceses
Blessed God, who makes all things new: Grant that our two dioceses, as communities of Word and Sacrament, may be leaven for the world’s bread, and wine of delight for hearts in need; a gathering strong for service and glad in praise; and a people listening and responding to your presence in our midst; through Jesus our redeemer and steadfast companion. Amen.

Yours in Christ,

The Standing Committee of Eastern Michigan

Janet Huff Worvie, President
St. John’s, Otter Lake

The Rev. Brian Chace, Vice Pres.
Ret., West Branch

Gary Grinn
St. Paul’s, Gladwin

Barb Illka, Secretary
St. John’s, Saginaw

The Rev. Deacon Anna Leigh Kubbe
Holy Family, Blue Water

The Rev. Nancy Mayhew
St. Alban’s, Bay City

The Standing Committee of Western Michigan

The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Warren, Pr.
St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo

Martha Bartlett, Secretary
St. James, Pentwater

The Rev. Jodi Baron
St. Philip’s, Beulah & Holy Trinity, Manistee

David Croal
St. Mark’s, Coldwater

Anne Davidson
St. Mark’s, Coldwater

The Rev. BJ Heyboer, Vice Pres.
St. Mark’s, Newaygo

The Rev. Diane Pike
Southwest MI Episcopal Covenant

Carole Redwine
St. Philip’s, Grand Rapids