Sunday, April 29, 2012

"One Flock, One Shepherd": Tony+ makes it plain, simple, meaningful

One Flock, One Shepherd

Easter 4B
29 April 2012; 8:00 a.m. Said Mass and 10:00 a.m. Sung Mass

Homily Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Anthony A. Hutchinson
at Trinity Episcopal Church
Ashland, Oregon

Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

“The day after they had arrested Peter and John for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection, the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:5-12)

God, take away our hearts of stone, and give us hearts of flesh. Amen
We have been having a lot of funerals here at Trinity in the last weeks. At a couple of them we have used as the Gospel reading the passage from John 14, where Jesus says that in his Father’s House there are many way stations. The passage is warm, reassuring, and comforting. It ends with Jesus saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, except by me” (John14: 6). One of the deacons asked me somewhat abashedly if she could read the Gospel but end the reading before that last half-verse, “no one comes to the Father except by me.” “It might be offensive to some of the visiting bereaved, who might not be Christians.”

She asked as if she were afraid my response might be “But this is the BIBLE we are talking about here, and I’ll not have a verse of GOD’S WORD edited out because it might be offensive to those who are going to destruction anyway!” But she asked it anyway, because she knew that I am no fundamentalist, and believe that in order to be understood, God’s word on occasion needs to be reframed or even rephrased.

Today’s Gospel reading, shares the same problem. “I am the Good Shepherd” Jesus says, not “a good shepherd.” And he adds, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Likewise, in the Acts reading, St. Peter ends his short speech on Christ being the stone once rejected but now made head cornerstone by saying, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”...

To read the rest of this insightful and hospitable homily please go to Tony's+ own blog called "An Elliptical Glory: Fragmentary Glimpses of Grace and Mystery in an Imperfect Life" where you can also read some of his mid-week meditations and other revealing homilies. He's our new Rector, so give him a read. The man is on the right track with the parish and with the often does that happen??? Please read and inwardly digest the wisdom and teaching of God as revealed in his humble, well-spoken, action man, priest. No, he sports a chasuble not a cape, and his "phone booth" is the sacristy when Chris approves, which is most of the time. The photo above is of Tony+ and his wife, Elena, climbing a stone stairway in China's equivalent of the Grand Canyon.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Invitation to Poetry: The Center and the Edges

The following is this month's poetry challenge from The Abbey of the Arts: Transformative Living through the Contemplative and Expressive Arts. I bid you join us, poets and artists, and participate with us as we continue our creative journeys. Dip your pen into the possibilities of spiritual transformation through art. Catherine.

Presented by Christine Valters Paintner, OblSB, PhD, REACE | April 28, 2012

Welcome to the Abbey's Poetry Party #57!

I select an image and suggest a theme/title and invite you to respond with your own poem. Scroll down and add it in the comments section below. Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog (if you have one), Facebook, or Twitter, and encourage others to come join the party! (permission is granted to reprint the image if a link is provided back to this post)

I have recently discovered a stash of copies of my first book on lectio divina (published by Paulist Press, written with Sister Lucy) and so I will be sending out free signed copies to the first 25 people to share their poems (will be mailed out the week of May 7th). When you submit your poem, please also email me directly with your mailing address. This is my way of saying thank you for participating in the Abbey community.

This photo is of one of the doors to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I love this found mandala, because for me, I could see the clear boundary of the center where the knocker for the door was and where you request entry to the inner sanctum, and then the extension outward from there of the design which had a reaching quality to me and sense of how our service to others extends out into the world. We are called to dance on life's edges, stretching the boundaries and horizon. I felt the beautiful tension between the center and the edges and how we are called to both – each one nourishes the other.

I invite you to ponder this image and see what it evokes in your heart. Let that be a starting point for your poem writing. Then scroll down to the comments section and share it here with our Abbey community.

Here is my offering of poetry to the photograph above:

I travel 'round
this way,
that way...
in the sacred dance
to places I dared not go...
I go now
with opened eyes
with twirling feet
closer to edges
places I have never been
bridging the spaces
where I must be bold
to reach the next turning...
my heart beats fearfully
yet with joy and reckless
at what may be
the next unknown edge,
the next turn in my
sacred dance that leads
ever closer to Your Door...
the apex is near
hands stretched out
anticipation is heady
with the Presence of You
the center of my life,
I need only open myself
to the place beyond,
dancing before You,


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bishops elected: the results

Elections in the Episcopal Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Western Louisiana for bishops diocesan, bishop suffragan election in Virginia:

The Rev Canon Susan Goff was elected on the 4th ballot

The Rev. Dorsey McConnell has been elected on the 6th Ballot.

Western Louisiana:
The Very Rev. Dr. Jacob Owensby was elected on Ballot #6

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Smithsonian's top 20 small towns...

18. Ashland, OR
Roughly halfway between San Francisco and Portland, the foothill town of Ashland tends to attract ex-urbanites who have tired of city life but don’t want to let go of culture entirely. With its many art galleries, thriving food scene, theaters and the resources of Southern Oregon University, Ashland’s offerings satisfy eclectic tastes. The world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival put the town on the cultural map in 1935 and is now a more or less required trip for theater buffs from all over the country. Less well known are the relatively newer Ashland Independent Film Festival, which takes place every April, and the Oregon Chocolate Festival, which showcases delectable creations from around the state. For more low-key activities, time your visit for the first weekend of the month and join the locals in the First Friday Artwalk, when Ashland’s dozens of galleries stay open late, offering free food and music. -- AS

Read how these towns were selected.

Read more here!

Ashland is home to my parish, Trinity Episcopal Church. Hat tip to Tony Hutchinson+, our new priest, who will be installed as our new Rector this evening with Bishop Michael Hanley presiding.

"When religion and spirituality collide" ENS

By Diana Butler Bass

[Religion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, recently announced that he would step down by year’s end. A few days later, the Church of England rejected a Williams-backed unity plan for global Anglicanism, a church fractured by issues of gender and sexual identity. The timing of the resignation and the defeat are probably not coincidental. These events signal Anglicans’ institutional failure.

But why should anyone, other than Anglicans and their Episcopal cousins in the U.S., care? The Anglican fight over gay clergy is usually framed as a left and right conflict, part of the larger saga of political division. But this narrative obscures a more significant tension in Western societies: the increasing gap between spirituality and religion, and the failure of traditional religious institutions to learn from the divide.

Until recently, the archbishop of Canterbury was chief pastor for a global church bound by a common liturgy and Anglican religious identity.

Expectations for religious leaders were clear: Run the church with courage and vision. Bishops directed the laity, inspiring obedience, sacrifice and heroism; they ordered faith from the top.

Today’s world, however, is different.

All institutions are being torn apart by tension between two groups: those who want to reassert familiar and tested leadership patterns — including top-down control, uniformity and bureaucracy; and those who want to welcome untested but promising patterns of the emerging era — grass-roots empowerment, diversity and relational networks. It is not a divide between conservatives and liberals; rather, it is a divide between institution and spirit.

Top-down structures are declining. In the Anglicans’ case, spiritual and institutional leadership have been severed. The emerging vision maintains that spiritual leadership must be learned, earned and experienced distinct from, and often in tension with, the ascribed role of bishop.

Williams’ career is a public illustration of the conflict. Early on, Williams was recognized as a teacher and pastor of deep spirituality, a person who practiced what he preached. He had the sort of character and imagination that the Anglican Communion most needed to move toward a new future.

And that is where the trouble started — and where the story turns tragic. Williams was caught in an impossible situation. As Anglicans around the globe quarreled over the role of gays and lesbians in the church, the archbishop’s authority was called into question. Williams struggled to be both a spiritual leader who embraces the emerging vision and the leader of an institution committed to guarding the old order.

The archbishop might be called “spiritual head” of Anglicanism, but he also acts as CEO of the Anglican religious corporation who must manage company policy, ensure profitability, maintain properties, open new markets and negotiate politics. It is a bureaucracy, often more a religion business than a vibrant spiritual community.

For centuries, faith was top-down: Spiritual power flowed from pope to the faithful, archbishop to Anglicans, priest to the pious, pastor to congregation. This has changed as regular people confidently assert that spirituality is a grass-roots adventure of seeking God, a journey of insight and inspiration involving authenticity and purpose that might or might not happen in a church, synagogue or mosque. Spirituality is an expression of bottom-up faith and does not always fit into accepted patterns of theology or practice.

Fearing this change, however, many religious bodies, such as the Anglican Communion, increasingly fixate on order and control, leading them to reassert hierarchical authority and be less responsive to the longings of those they supposedly serve. And that will push religion further into its spiral of irrelevance and decline.

Williams demonstrated how wide the breach has become between spirituality and religion. His tenure proved that religious institutions — as they currently exist — fail when they refuse to engage the new pattern of faith.

The gap between spirit and institution is not only problematic for religious organizations. The gap exists in business, where work and craft have been replaced by venture capital and profitability; in politics, where the common good and democracy are crushed by partisanship and corporate money; in education, where critical thought and the humanities are sacrificed to test scores.

The Anglican crisis is not about Rowan Williams or even religion. It is about the drive for meaningful connection and community and a better, more just, and more peaceful world as institutions of church, state and economy seem increasingly unresponsive to these desires. It is about the gap between a new spirit and institutions that have lost their way. Only leaders who can bridge this gap and transform their institutions will succeed in this emerging cultural economy.

The archbishop will return to teaching — a good choice. In our times, spiritual renewal is taking place among friends, in conversation, with trust and through mutual learning. A new thing is happening on the streets, in coffeehouses, in local faith communities, and in movements of justice and social change. Far from demands of institutional religion, Rowan Williams will find a new kind of faith is being born.

– Diana Butler Bass is the author of eight books, most recently “Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.” A version of this commentary originally appeared in USA Today.