A New Season

It’s been half a year since I’ve posted anything here. With the rise of Facebook and Twitter, I found that most of what I wanted to say was easier to say on those platforms, and because of that I spent most of time there. But after a few weeks of vacation this summer and a chance to think about what was next for this blog, I’m planning on returning to it.

I’ve been reading with increasing alarm about the way that Facebook’s newsfeed was able to be manipulated by advertisers – both the sort you’d typically imagine and now various nation states using the feed to spread false news stories and to inflame already difficult situations. Given my desire to find a way to demonstrate that, if we are serious about the Gospel and about our relationship to God, we must be in the strongest relationship possible with our neighbor, it’s hard to see how the way social media and micro-blogging services work today are helping.

Actually – it’s worse. There are multiple studies that are showing that people who are over-consuming social media tend to struggle with a sense of alienation and their own self-worth more than people who try to stay away.

So, it’s back to the past for me. Back to using my own blog. It will still post automatically to Twitter and Facebook, it will still be automatically linked to our diocesan website, but the content will be here… in all its wonderful glory. Heh.

I’m heading out mid-week to the 2017 Fall House of Bishop’s meeting in Fairbanks Alaska. I’m planning on posting reflections, pictures, etc. here. Hopefully that will be enough to invite me back into a regular discipline of posting again.

Episcopal Migration Ministries: why it matters so much

We had a power presentation made to the bishops of the Episcopal Church earlier this week during our annual Spring meeting. The travel ban and the associated complications in the refugee resettlement process are affecting all of the nine organizations in the US that manage the resettlement process. Of the nine agencies that work in refugee resettlement, five are faith based.

I’m hoping to have more to say about this all soon – especially here in Rhode Island. But for the moment I hope you’ll take a minute or two to watch this latest video from EMM:

If you’d like to make a donation to support EMM, and they really could use your help, you can find out how to do that here: http://episcopalmigrationministries.org/

The Lamb replaces the Scapegoat

For those who are preaching this weekend on John the Baptist’s proclamation of Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World”, this ancient song is worth reading:

The Lamb Replaces the Scapegoat. Romanus Melodus:

Now the the garment of mourning is rent; we have put on the white robe
Which the spirit has woven for us from the lamb’s fleece of our Lamb and our God;
Sin is taken away, and immortality is given us, our restoration is clear.
The Forerunner has proclaimed it.…

O, the message of the Baptist, and the mystery in it!
He calls the shepherd lamb, and not only a lamb, but one to free from mistakes.
He showed the lawless that the goat which they sent into the desert was ineffective.
“Lo,” he said, “the lamb; there is no longer need of the goat;

Put your hands on him,
All of you who confess your sins,
For He has come to take them away, those of the people, and of the whole world.
For lo, the One whom the Father has sent to us is the One who carries away evil,
Who appeared and illumined all things.”

Kontakion on the Epiphany 6.12–13.

Elowsky, J. C. (2006). John 1-10 (pp. 70–71). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Conversion from hatred requires person to person conversation

_iminuhfus0-matthew-clarkDerek Black, former White Nationalist – godson of David Duke, writes of his journey from “shining example” of the white nationalist movement to his present belief that the future is one of tolerance and the embrace of different cultures.

In particular he answers a question that I think a number of people are asking;

People have approached me looking for a way to change the minds of Trump voters, but I can’t offer any magic technique. That kind of persuasion happens in person-to-person interactions and it requires a lot of honest listening on both sides. For me, the conversations that led me to change my views started because I couldn’t understand why anyone would fear me. I thought I was only doing what was right and defending those I loved.

He also points out that his willingness to have those conversations started by encountering people who clearly and firmly rejected what he believed to be the truth.

You can read the full essay here: Why I Left White Nationalism – The New York Times

Bishop Nick Baines on Reconciliation – holding together those who experience has torn apart.

People regularly ask me about the meaning of reconciliation. This quote below, from a longer essay by Bishop Nick is a good starting point. (It’s part of longer essay, the full version of which is linked below.)

Words like “peace and reconciliation” can appear bland; but the task of reconciling is demanding and costly. It’s about trying to hold together people whose experience has torn them apart. The whole point of it is that already divided, damaged and conflicted people can choose to break the cycle of hatred.

The symbol of Christianity is a cross – a man nailed to it with arms open, exposed to all that the world can throw at him, but not throwing it back. Open arms can represent welcome to all-comers; they can also hold together those at extremes who otherwise might pull apart into different worlds. And there’s the risk that those doing the reconciling find themselves being pulled apart in the process.

via Reconciliation | Nick Baines’s Blog

A Divided Community: Responding with Hope and Action

The results of the elections this week have confirmed what we already knew. Our country is deeply divided along regional, racial, gender and economic lines. The divisions are real and painful. The divisions are ending friendships and threatening family relationships. There are people in our communities and congregations who are delighted and people who are devastated. The emotions are real and raw, and their intensity is hard for some to understand. The simple, faithful response of Episcopalians across the state to pray for the president-elect will be a stumbling stone or a stepping stone for people who will be kneeling beside each other at the altar rail.

As people of faith, baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and fed at his table, there are things we can do to serve our divided communities.

We must remember our baptismal covenant in which we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. We are each made in the image of the living God – and each one of us is infinitely precious simply by virtue of that fact. We can help others to see their neighbors as the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see one another.

There can be no room in our common life for hateful or dismissive language about people who are different from us. We are all fellow servants of the same Lord and cannot allow ourselves, or anyone else, to dismiss or harm someone whom Jesus has gathered to himself. There will be opportunities for us to bear witness to this Gospel value in the coming days. I pray that God will give us the will to do what God desires.

We gather around the altar to receive the gifts of God — the broken body and the poured-out blood of Jesus; Jesus who is the innocent victim killed by government forces at the demand of a people’s religious leadership. Holding that truth  before us gives us a way to listen and to serve in the midst of the whirlwind of emotions and rhetoric surrounding us.

We don’t always understand what things mean or what to do in midst of moments like this. It took many years for God’s children to fully comprehend what God was doing in the great mysteries of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. We need to pray and listen for God’s voice and God’s call to action. Even Mary, the Mother of God, needed time to ponder in her heart what the birth of Jesus meant. I do not know what God has in store for us in this moment of our nation’s history, but I have no doubt that God is in the midst of us and that God’s purposes of justice, mercy and the healing of the nations will not be frustrated.

As the body of Christ in the world we are called to be hope and light for the world. Someone wrote this week that a divided World needs a united Church. May the Holy Spirit use us so that we become what God dreams we will be.

+Nicholas
XIII Bishop of Rhode Island

Feast of St. Martin of Tours
Armistice Day

Nov 11, 2016

Why the Bible is worth reading if you’re a progressive

Adam Eriksen on how a careful reading of the books of the Bible changes the way we view the world and redefines our neighborhood:

The Bible is progressive because it forces us to listen to the voice of the victim. Listening to the voice of the victim goes against most of human history, including the modern world. History is written by the winners, after all. The winners get to tell history from their perspective – a perspective which justifies their wars by demonizing their enemies.

But the Bible is told from the perspective of those who frequently lost in the ancient world. Cain killed his brother Abel and Abel’s blood cries out from the ground. The enslaved Israelites cried out under their oppression and God heard their cry. The psalmist, the prophets, Jesus and the early Christians, they were all victims of violence. And yet, for the first time in human history, the Bible gives voice to those who were killed, conquered, and tortured.

God hears the cry of the oppressed. The Bible is progressive because it forces us to listen to that cry. Sometimes that cry makes us feel uncomfortable, like when the psalmist prays that the babies’ of Israel’s enemies will have their heads smashed against the rocks. I squirm when I hear that prayer, but it’s a prayer with a historical context. Jerusalem was just conquered by the Babylonians, who destroyed the temple, homes, and villages. They enslaved and scattered the people throughout their empire. Before we get judgmental about such a prayer, we might ask ourselves how we would respond if anyone came to our nation, destroyed our homes, our way of life, and enslaved us. We might pray for a little revenge. We might even pray that the children of our enemies would be killed so that the generational cycle of violence might stop.

More here: The Bible is Progressive: The Bible Explained Part 3

Girard and Galatians: Seeing what is hidden

I’ve been reading and working through the implications of Rene Girard’s insights into human relationships for years – particularly the way that Girard unlocks a new way of reading the biblical texts. If you’ve heard me preach or teach over the years you probably know how major an influence Girard has been on my thinking.

There’s a wonderful resource “Teaching Non-violent Atonement” that’s been posting a regular Wednesday sermon that demonstrates how a preacher can use Girard’s ideas to communicate the meaning behind the texts. For the last few weeks there have been sermons on Galatians (which we’ve been reading in the RCL on Sundays). This is a quote from this week’s sermon post:

We have always assumed “works of the Law” referred to Jewish religious practice alone but Rome was the real law-giver in the world and those who worked for Rome were doing the works of the Law. But you wouldn’t want to say that out loud. Who killed Jesus?  The Romans did, in cooperation with local Jewish authorities.  Both Roman and Jewish law attempted to bring what they saw as righteousness through violence, exclusion and death.  Their goal was to purge the world of evil as they saw it when evil was in themselves and in their method of bringing “peace”.

Jews along with all other defeated peoples know this, Paul argues.
And the faithfulness of Jesus Christ that Paul says is the alternative to law, what is that?  Notice I didn’t say faith in Jesus but rather the faith of Jesus.  The faith of Jesus is his allowing Roman and Jewish Law to judge, condemn and execute him as a criminal, though he is the Son of God, in obedience to his father and as an expression of their love for us.  Jesus did this to show us how the law works to condemn, knowing this was the only way to expose what we humans could not see.  Talk about faithfulness; Jesus goes to his death, forgiving us on the way, out of faithfulness to God and love for us all.  In this way his faithfulness seen on the cross makes us right with God.

Paul saw this on the Road to Damascus when he had an apocalyptic in-breaking of truth that turned his violent and law-working world upside down.

via Wednesday Sermon: Division Undone (go read the whole thing)

Given the events of our own day, where we’re seeing strange pairings of groups that ought to be in complete opposition to each other coming together to make common cause against the “other”, I’m finding that re-reading Galatians in this particular light is incredibly enlightening.