Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quit Sneezing...!

Sermon preached by
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of
The Episcopal Church
at the Diocese of Florida Convention
21 January 2011

We are one body, with a whole lot of different parts. This body called The Episcopal Church has 16 different national parts: Taiwan, Micronesia, Honduras, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, British and US Virgin Islands, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the US and its territories. We are one body with 112 different dioceses and regional parts. Even in Florida, we are one body in five different dioceses (Florida, Central Florida, Southeast, Southwest, and Central Gulf Coast). And this diocese has many different congregational parts, with different languages, liturgical traditions, and theological flavors. You serve people in many ways – young people, college students, returning veterans, the hungry and those leaving prison.

We are gathered as many sorts and kinds and conditions of people, with varying languages and positions and opinions. Yet all of us know one lord, one faith, one baptism, and we claim one God and father of us all. It is a blessing, and a miracle that we can claim our unity as often and deeply as we do.

We can and should think in the larger framework as well – one body in the Anglican Communion, with 38 regional provinces, some of them single nations, others like this one, encompassing several. But we can’t stop there. This part of Christ’s body is linked with Lutherans, Moravians, and Old Catholics in fully organic ways that mean we can and do work together in the intimate ways that we call “full communion.” Mostly that means that we recognize each other as being made of the same Christian body stuff – we can live together sacramentally without making antibodies or defenses against each other. The word is that we’re supposed to keep on working at that kind of recognition relative to other parts of God’s body. But we struggle, mostly because we have a remarkably persistent virus that says that only familiar parts of the body are “safe” to live with.

Think about the bodies each one of us inhabits. Those bodies are made up of trillions of cells, working together most of the time to keep the whole thing reasonably intact and healthy. If your body suffers an affront, like falling down and skinning your knee, many parts go to work immediately to stop the bleeding, mobilize to defend you from germs that might infect that knee, and start cleaning up the damage. The muscles and nerves around the scrape get sore, which serves in part to keep you from overusing your knee until it’s well on the road to healing.

Yet that system we call a body is a whole lot more complex and interconnected than we usually recognize. It’s made up of many different kinds of cells, not all of which have our unique DNA. We have lots of other kinds of life in and on us – insects, like mites, that are usually too small to see; bacteria, viruses, fungi, and maybe even some other things that we might call parasites. But most of those other forms of life are essential to our well-being. The bacteria in our guts help us digest food and absorb nutrients. The little energy machines in our cells called mitochondria were probably originally a different form of life. We know that because all the ones we have are descended from the ones in our mother’s egg. The great miracle is that most of the time this immensely complex system of members works together for our health and healing. Most of that system works unconsciously, far from being controlled by conscious thought, although we can cooperate with it in seeking a healthier state. Or we can choose not to cooperate, by overeating, under-exercising, or even using stuff (like antibiotics) that kills the good bacteria and fungi in our guts or on our skin.

The same principles apply to the larger body of God’s creation, whether we talk about just the human part of creation or the whole planet. Human history is filled with episodes of one group trying to sanitize its environment by eliminating another part of the body. National Socialism is a demonic icon of that, but there’s no shortage of examples in recent years: the internecine slaughter in Rwanda; the struggles in Abyei, on the border between northern and southern Sudan; the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, or North and South Korea, or the repeated spasms of violence here, between people of different ethnic origins. One part of the body seeks to eliminate another, and the health – and holiness – of humanity in that part of the world is diminished. The sickness can be fatal – for individuals, communities, and even nations.

Yet we do see counter-examples, where the immune system is strong enough to permit health in two parts of the body that don’t readily recognize each other. It’s a very short time-frame, but the referendum in Sudan gives beginning evidence of a healthy self-differentiation, rather than descending into full-scale war. When communities begin to find a common identity and purpose, the whole body enjoys much greater health.

The sickness or dis-ease that results from attempts to expunge the other can last for generations, as well as decrease the viability of the whole system. I’m reading a book right now, Empire of the Summer Moon, about the struggle over the Texas frontier between the Comanche bands and both English and Spanish speaking settlers. It’s a microcosm of the struggle between native peoples and European settlers seeking their “manifest destiny.” The whole body is still suffering – native peoples from poverty, suicide, cultural extinction, and hopelessness; the heirs of the settlers from blindness about relationship to a larger body; and the non-human creation from the destruction of the buffalo, the native prairie, and the assumption that other crops could easily and appropriately displace native ones. The poverty in rural Florida has some connection to the same processes.

We’re all sick in some degree because of our disconnection from the larger body of God’s whole creation. Almost everyone forgot, ignored, or never learned what it means to be part of one body, intended to live in peace and harmony with all the other parts of the body. We’re still paying the price, especially in our lack of awareness of our impact on the rest of creation. What we dig and pipe out of the earth is changing our long-term expectations for flourishing or even surviving on this planet.

Yet God continues to remind us that we are all members of one body, and that that body is supposed to be a bringer of good news to the oppressed, a comfort to those in mourning, and a deliverer of captives. We’re supposed to bring praise, rather than crush spirits. We’re reminded over and over again that we will be given what we need, and that together we can do what no one part can accomplish. This body of Christ is meant to be the healer of nations, whether Haiti or Navajo or Sudan or these United States.

What gets in the way? Our tendency to act like killer T-cells, those important white blood cells that run around our bodies looking for invaders, those awful buggers that aren’t us! Sometimes the better response is the slower one – lest we mistake an unfamiliar life form for an enemy. What’s causing this fever – is it a cholera bacterium, or is it a stray Pentecostal? I’m not suggesting that we cozy up to cholera, but test and moderate our response until we’re certain – because the response is often more destructive than the unexpected visitor. That’s what allergies are, and most of the auto-immune diseases – over-reactions to other parts of the body of God’s creation.

Spiritual discipline is designed to moderate our allergic response to foreigners. Jesus’ words in that gospel are about discerning the difference between fish and eggs and scorpions and snakes. Knocking, asking, and seeking are all ways of slowing down the over-reaction.

We are all members of one body, that of God’s creation. We’re also members of one body called The Episcopal Church, in all its variety. The important truth is that we need all these parts, even if we do have allergic reactions to some of them, because God’s vision of a healed world isn’t possible without all the members working together as a whole. Haiti right now is a good example. All sorts and persuasions are working to serve the healing of that nation, for we are remembering at some deep level that God’s creation will only be healed when each member of the body knows good news, healing, and deliverance.

So let’s quit sneezing and get on about bringing the oil of gladness and the mantle of praise and the year of the Lord’s favor.

Preach it ...




Sermon preached by The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church.
January 23 , 2011 at St. Luke/San Lucas,
Jacksonville, FL, Diocese of Florida

Andrew and Simon Peter, and the Zebedee brothers are all invited to leave their familiar fishing work and start a different kind of fishing. Those two sets of Galilean brothers take to the road with Jesus, and follow him as he tells about the good news of God’s reign, feeds and heals people. That’s what Isaiah calls shining light on those who have lived in darkness.

Andrés y Simón Pedro, y los hermanos Zebedeo están todos invitados a dejar sus labores de pesca familiar y empezar otro tipo de pesca. Los hermanos de Galilea fueron al sendero con Jesús, y le siguen cuando él habla de las buenas noticias del reino de Dios, se alimenta y cura a la gente. Eso es lo que Isaías llama el luz brillando sobre aquellos que han vivido en la oscuridad.

What has brought healing and light to this congregation? I don’t know many of the details, but at some point you decided that fishing nets with instructions only in English weren’t terribly effective any more. You left those nets behind, or at least some of them, and picked up some new ones, with instructions in Spanish. You noticed that the kinds of fish had changed, and that different methods were required.

Cual cosa ha traído la curación y la luz a esta congregación? No sé muchos de los detalles, pero en algún momento ustedes decidieron que las redes de pesca con las instrucciones sólo en Inglés no eran muy efectivos. Ustedes se quitaron de esas redes, y recogieron algunas nuevas, algunas redes hispanohablantes. Habian ustedes notado que los tipos de peces había cambiado, y que necesitaron métodos diferentes.

Jesus asks us to let go of the old tools and pick up new ones along the way. We’re supposed to go out there and discover people who need good news and light in the midst of darkness, not just wait here for fish to swim within reach of our nets.

Jesús nos invita a dejar de lado las viejas redes y recoger otras nuevas en caminando. Se supone que debemos salir y descubrir las personas que necesitan buenas nuevas y luz en medio de la oscuridad. No sólo debemos esperar aquí por los peces nadando muy cerca de nuestras redes.

The word we heard this morning is filled with images of water and light – the water of baptism, the waters of fishing, and the seaside highway that Isaiah insists is going to be glorious. Light drives out the darkness, forces the retreat of gloom for those in anguish, and sends Jesus to Capernaum by the sea, bringing light to the coastlands.

La palabra que hemos escuchado esta mañana esta llena de imágenes de luz y agua - el agua del bautismo, las aguas de la pesca, y la carretera costera que Isaías insiste que va a ser glorioso. La luz expulsa las tinieblas, y retira las tinieblas para aquellos en angustia, y envía a Jesús a Cafarnaúm junto al mar, trayendo luz a las costas.

Where else do we hear about light and darkness, waters of various kinds but in the beginning of creation, when God creates light and separates waters. All of these images are about new creation – the new thing God is doing in the midst of building a beloved community of those who fish for people, bringing good news, and healing.

¿Dónde más se oye sobre la luz y la oscuridad, ly as aguas de varios tipos, pero en el principio de la creación, cuando Dios crea la luz y separa las aguas. Todas estas imágenes son de la nueva creación - lo nuevo que Dios está haciendo en medio de la construcción de una comunidad amada de los que pescan por hombres y mujeres, trayendo buenas noticias y la curación.

Baptism is about new creation and being children of light. It’s an active, involved, ongoing creation in which we take part. It involves change and movement and travel, both getting out of our own way and encountering the vast diversity of God’s creation. Follow Jesus, and see the world! Follow Jesus, and truly see where the darkness is, where light and healing are needed! Following Jesus is about new birth and bringing into the light.

El bautismo significa la nueva creación y siendo hijos de la luz. Es una activa creación en que tomamos parte. Necesita cambio y movimiento y viajes, tanto para salir de preocupacion de si mismo y para encontrar la gran diversidad de la creación de Dios. Siga a Jesús, y vea el mundo! Seguir a Jesús, y ver la oscuridad, donde se necesita la luz y la curación! Seguir a Jesús significa el nuevo nacimiento, y dar a la luz.

Yet none of us can produce light all alone, out of nothing. We can reflect it, and we can transform it, and we can produce light from stored up energy, but ultimately we depend on another source. Baptism invites us to connect with that source of light, and then share it with a world in need of it. Our task is to become collectors of light.

Sin embargo, ninguno de nosotros puede producir luz sola, de la nada. Podemos reflejar, y lo podemos transformar, y podemos producir luz de la energía almacenada, pero en última instancia dependemos de otra fuente. El bautismo nos invita a conectar con esa fuente de luz, y luego compartirlo con un mundo que la necesita. Nuestra tarea es llegar a ser colectores de la luz.

If you were a fisherman, what kinds of net would you need to catch light? Think about plants – they’re designed to harvest light and turn it into carbohydrates. That’s basically where all our food comes from. We would soon starve without the light of the sun and plants to transform the light. Those light-harvesting plants also give us lumber and paper, and they’re the source of the coal and oil and natural gas that let us put the sun’s energy to work in other ways: housing, transportation, literature – clothing, too – and the energy to run computers, and airplanes, cell phones and organs. Raw material for guitars and food for dancers. What did Jesus mean when he said he was the light of the world? It has something to do with light being the life of the world.

Si usted fuera un pescador, ¿qué tipo de red necesitara para capturar la luz? Piense de las plantas - que están diseñados a cosechar la luz y convertirlo en carbohidratos. Eso es, básicamente, de donde vienen nuestros alimentos. Moriríamos de hambre sin la luz solar y las plantas para transformar la. Las plantas como cosechadores de luz nos dan madera y papel, y son la fuente del carbón y el petróleo y el gas natural. Plantas son la fuente de energía que podemos utilizar en otras maneras: como vivienda, transporte, literature, ropa, - y la energía para motivar los computadores, aviones, teléfonos celulares y los órganos. ¿Qué significó Jesús cuando dijo que era la luz del mundo? En parte, significa que la luz es la vida del mundo.

Jesus goes to Capernaum by the sea in order to bring light into the lives of those who dwell in darkness. He calls those four brothers to follow him, to share in his work of lighting the world. Our baptism means the same thing – time to join the body of light-bringers, giving life to the world. When Jesus says, “repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near” it doesn’t mean to be sad or depressed. It’s an invitation to turn around and face the light. We’re meant to be like sunflowers, that face the sun all during the day, continually turning to face it directly so they can take full advantage of the sunlight. During the night they turn some more, so that at the first rays of dawn, they’re oriented directly toward the rising sun. We’re supposed to do the same, leaning toward the source of life, depending on the holy one at work in our midst, and when the night seems darkest, to keep turning in expectation of the dawn.

Jesús va a Cafarnaúm junto al mar para traer luz a los que moran en la oscuridad. Él llama a los cuatro hermanos a seguirlo, a compartir su obra de iluminación del mundo. Nuestro bautismo significa la misma cosa - tiempo para unirse al cuerpo de luz-portadores, dando vida al mundo. Cuando Jesús dice, "se arrepienten, el reino de los cielos se ha acercado" no significa estar triste o deprimido. Es una invitación a darse la vuelta y se enfrentan a la luz. Estamos destinados a ser como los girasoles, que enfrentanse al sol durante todo el día, continuamente girando para enfrentarlo, para que puedan aprovechar al máximo la luz del sol. Durante la noche se vuelven un poco más, de modo que al inicio de la madrugada, están orientados directamente hacia el sol . Debemos hacer lo mismo, inclinándonos hacia la fuente de la vida, y el trabajo de dios en medio de nosotros, y cuando la noche parece más oscura, siguen girando a la espera de la aurora.

We’re being invited to become transformers of light, rather than just light sinks, so that the light of Christ can heal and light up the world. May we all be like sunflowers!

Estamos invitados a convertirnos en transformadores de luz, en lugar de consumidores de luz, para que la luz de Cristo puede curar e iluminar el mundo. Que seamos todos girasoles.

It was marvelouus !



Sunday, January 16, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God

2nd Sunday after Epiphany- Cycle A.

“Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” are the words of John the Baptizer upon seeing his cousin Jesus walk by. The next day as he speaks with his disciples he points out Jesus to them and pointedly says “behold the Lamb of God…”.

The words he speaks are familiar to many of us; they are part of the language of faith and ritual, part of the visual imagery that adorns churches in stained glass and iconography. Our own Book of common prayer uses similar language in the “Great Litany” with the invocation; “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world have mercy on us”. The Eucharistic liturgy’s acclamation following the breaking of the bread during penitential seasons uses the same language. Yet; what does it mean to us. How do we understand the familiar words which were uttered in religious, cultural and social context so distant from our own?

Several Bible passages come to mind as we meditate on this remarkable declaration :

* Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22)-

A story well known from Sunday or Church School. God tests his servant Abraham by asking of him the life of his only son. Even the one whom God had promised would be his heir and a vehicle of blessing for all the nations. On the way to the sacrifice, a sad but faith filled Abraham answers his son’s inquiry as to the whereabouts of the sacrificial lamb with the now memorable words; The Lord will provide for himself a lamb, a sacrifice…”.

Upon the mount before Abraham can do harm to his beloved son, the angels’ voice calls from heaven and behold a ram, caught in the thicket becomes the provision of God , the substitute. God provides a lamb of his own as substitute for the innocent life of Isaac.

* The Passover (Exodus 12)

As the angel of death visits Egypt on a fateful night, slaves in their households eat a rushed meal of a lamb. As the families gather to table and tragedy passes over Egypt, the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the door posts serves as a sign of deliverance from death and in the morning as a sign of freedom from the hardship of bondage.

St. Paul applies this Passover imagery to Christ himself and reminds Christians that “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us”. These words at the fraction of the bread in every Eucharist make clear for Christians that this Lamb of God is a sign of deliverance from death and slavery .

* The daily sacrifices –

Morning and night at the Temple a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people and once a year on the great day of Atonement, the high priest would enter the inmost sanctum of the Jewish temple to sprinkle upon the altar the blood of sacrifice. For St. Peter this was but a sign of our own cleansing from sin by the sacrifice of Christ.

1 Peter 1:18-21: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. ..”

And the author of Hebrews reminds us that ;

" How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:13-14)

* The suffering servant-Isaiah 53 -

The servant of God, taken away helpless and a lamb before those who shear it and speaking not a word…

Isaiah 53:7 "...He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth..."

The book of Acts chapter 8:32 links this reference of Isaiah to Jesus Christ himself.

4. The lamb in Revelation-

It is in the Revelation of St. John that the most references appear to the Lamb, not only furthering the theme of his death , and sacrifice but going beyond to a destiny beyond imagining…the lamb worshiped.

The lamb slain-

Revelation 5:6- "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders"

The lamb victorious-

Revelation 17:14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

The Lamb adored-

Revelation 5:13 "...Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

The lamb as healer and restorer-

Revelation 7:17-"...For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

Revelation 22:3 "...No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him..."

“Behold the Lamb of God…” ! Familiar worlds that contain powerful images and spiritual truth. Jesus; Lamb of God, substitute, our Passover, deliverer from death and slavery, sacrifice for sin! Jesus lamb of God, suffering servant, slain from the foundation of the world, victorious, adored, healer and restorer.!

Oh Lamb of God that takes way the sins of the world have mercy on us! Oh Lamb of God that takes way the sins of the world have mercy on us, Oh Lamb of God that takes way the sins of the world grants us your peace!



Monday, January 3, 2011

Take the Child and His Mother and Flee....

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

"...Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

Get up and flee....!

I wonder if Joseph and Mary expected anything like this when they consented to the plan of God and received into their hearts and life him whom the angel called, son of God, king and saviour? The Christ child, barely welcomed into the world is thrust into the life of an exile, joining with his family the ranks of the persecuted, the hunted, the immigrant.

Surrounded by darkness they depart the land, family , culture and life they have known on a journey to a future which is unclear and filled with uncertainty. Yet, even as we ponder their distress, the solidarity of God incarnate with our own experience of uprootedness and loss is a source of wonder and comfort. He knows what is like to be rejected, threatened, a stranger, a newcomer, foreign and unwanted. Because he understands, we dare approach him with confidence seeking grace in our own times of need.

The flight of the Holy Family, in the middle of the night, to a land not their own is something many in our parish and around the world can relate to. Persecution for political, religious, ideological and a multitude of reasons is part and parcel of the human experience, even in the 21st century! It is a reality that, as Christians, we can neither, afford to ignore, nor allow others to do so! Our Baptismal covenant promises which pledge us, to; seek justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being , make the image of the fleeing family a call to prayer, mission and advocacy for those in a similar plight.

Scripture also presents this imagery of journey to us as a picture of our very lives. We are sojourners says the writer of Hebrews, pilgrims in a land not our own! We are in this world but are foreigners to it, says Jesus. In a certain sense we too have been called on a journey, get up and flee!. Abraham was called so by God who asked that he leave behing "land and family..." to go to the place where he would show him. His descendants Jacob and Isaac inherited the same promises and journey as pilgrims seeking a city traveling in a land not their own.

Reflection on this story also allows us to realize that, difficult as it was, the flight to Egypt in the dark of night was illuminated by the presence of God, the company of angels and a holy purpose; keeping alive the dreams and greatest gift of God! There are times in our lives where the call of the angel to Joseph ..."flee" is the very provision of God for our blessing and peace.

Consider these examples from Scripture and history;

* Moses flees the anger of his Egyptian hosts, seeking refuge among shepherds.

* God fearing Lot caught in the judgement of a wicked city is visited by angels and instructed ..."flee to the mountains lest you perish..." It was in his escaping the cities of the plain that salvation and safety was found for those he loved.

* Rebecca cousels her youngest son in dispute with his brother to "...flee to my brothers house..." so he would be protected from sure danger.

* Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, recounts the flight of the Christians in Jerusalem, prior to the destruction of the city brought about by Roman legions. Christians felt led by the prophecy of Jesus whic we read in Matthew 24..."let those in Judea , flee to the mountains..."

For us similar admonitions are pertinent;

For young men seeking a life of purity, Salomon, wisest of men advises; "flee from the seductress..." (Proverbs 7)

For the young and old alike; "flee the uncontrolled passions of youth and seek God..." 2 Timothy 2:22

For those beset by temptation; "flee from temptation" (1 Corinthians 6:18). Seldom are we as strong as we think when tempted. Avoiding the ocassion of sin seems to be the very best advise.. and when caugt in it flee. God promises always to leave some door open, some way out so we can escape from circunstances which would lead us away from his will.

For all seeking intimacy with God; "flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14). In our very complicated world sometimes it is difficult to establish priorities which allow us to keep our worship fervent and a healthy intimacy with God. Flee from things that could take the place in your life that belongs to God alone.

"...Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt..." is the advise of the angel to Joseph, thrusting the Holy Family into an unkown future, full of uncertainties but also full of hope. Hope for the gift and promises of God, hope for the fulfillment of God's dreams and purposes for the world.

May we heed these words as each is invited to receive and treasure in their own lives the Christ, the son of God.