Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Acquire a heart"

"Acquire a heart and you shall be saved," declared one of the desert fathers of the 4th century. What he meant was a heart riven through by love and transfigured by compassion. Here we might ask: what are the characteristics of a compassionate heart? In the 7th century St. Isaac of Syria posed the same question and answered it in this way: "It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation – for men and women, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for every creature. When a person with a heart such as this thinks of the creatures or looks at them, his eyes are filled with tears. An overwhelming compassion makes his heart grow small and weak, and he cannot endure to hear or see any suffering, even the smallest pain, inflicted upon any creature. Therefore he never ceases to pray, with tears, even for the irrational animals, for the enemies of truth, and for those who do him evil, asking that they may be guarded and receive God's mercy . . . he prays with a great compassion, which rises up endlessly in his heart until he shines again and is glorious like God."[i]

“Acquire a heart and you shall be saved.” Compassion is the balm which heals us and the world. Nurturing the seeds of compassion within us is the essence of growth into the fullness of Christ. The entire thrust of the spiritual life is toward the acquisition of a compassionate heart. As a Christian community, our mission is to help each other acquire such a heart for the sake of the healing of the world.

How do we acquire a heart for mission, a mission with heart? St. Isaac of Syria identifies three movements: vulnerability, prayer, transparency.

“Eyes filled with tears”

The first step toward acquiring a compassionate heart is vulnerability to suffering. It requires a letting go of our defenses, allowing ourselves to really feel our oneness with all things. “Burning with love for the whole creation” is not mere indulgence in sentimental feeling, but rather a willingness to experience ourselves as part of the whole – a whole that encompasses even “the enemies of truth” and “those who do evil.” It means allowing ourselves to be moved by the reality of our deep interconnection with all things.

The question we must ask ourselves is “Who or what am I unwilling to love, both in myself and in the world?” When we are honest about this, we can ask God to give us the willingness to embrace even the unloved parts of ourselves and of the world. When we practice this kind of vulnerability, our eyes will fill with tears. Such tears are a sign that we are becoming fully human, acquiring a compassionate heart.

“Never ceases to pray”

St. Isaac notes that our hearts are too small to encompass the reality of our oneness with all things. It is too much truth to bear alone. And so we are moved to pray. It is only by turning over to God those things we cannot understand or control that our hearts begin to become enlarged.

A compassionate heart is heart that grows ever larger to embrace more and more of life as it is, and not simply as we want it to be. Such prayer does not leave us or the world unchanged, but it begins with a stance of humility and acceptance. It is only then that we begin to see what part we are called to play in God’s great project of healing the world.

Only after turning everything over to God’s care, when we have nothing left, can we ask the question: “Now God, what work do you wish to share with me?” It is then that we begin to become transparent to the power of God working through us.

“Glorious like God”

As we acquire a compassionate heart, the glory of God begins to shine right through us. We become transparent to the divine love that created and redeemed all things. What begins in tears, praying on our knees, moves toward our transformation into the very likeness of Christ, in whom the love of God for each and all shone with perfect clarity.

Jesus said, “Be compassionate, as your heavenly Father is compassionate.” It is through acts of compassion that the glory of God shines through us, that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. This is how we become fully alive and reveal the glory of God.

This fall at my parish, St. John’s, we will be discerning what it means to acquire a heart for mission on many levels. In late September, several of us will be traveling with members of St. Aidan’s, San Francisco, to El Salvador, exploring a call to develop a companion parish relationship with Mission San Lucas in San Miguel. Throughout the fall, the parish will be engaged in conversation about how best to use a generous bequest from the estate of Otis Richman, a much-loved and remarkable parishioner, to enhance our mission. As we initiate a parish recycling program and a series exploring health and justice issues related to food production and consumption, we extend our sense of mission to include compassion for the Earth. All of these are ways in which we become glorious like God.

An Invitation to Joy

“Acquire a heart and you shall be saved.” This is the fundamental spiritual truth that must guide our discernment about mission. We must acquire a heart for mission, and the heart of our mission must be compassionate action for the healing of the world. When we become transparent to God’s love in this way, we discover true joy. The question before us, then, is “How may the glory of God shine through us, so that others may share our joy?”

[i] The Most Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold III, sermon preached at St. Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge, London, July 23, 2006.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Living Church Coverage of +Marc's Investiture

Record Heat and Crowd for Installation of Bishop of California

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus is said to be wise, calm and a conciliator. If true, he will have the opportunity to demonstrate all three attributes in the months ahead. Bishop Andrus was invested July 22 as the eighth Bishop of California, a diocese with a multitude of races, creeds and colors surrounding San Francisco Bay.

Grace Cathedral, which stands atop Nob Hill, is the see for a diocese that encompasses Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Bohemian Club. But it is far from a collection of rich, white parishes. Caucasians are no longer a majority in California, there is a large, visible homeless population in San Francisco, and perhaps nowhere have the distractions of wealth and alienation produced a more fecund cauldron for cults and narcissistic fads. The diocese also has a large, visible gay population.

Meanwhile, Bishop Andrus’ predecessor, the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, and three other bishops with jurisdiction in California have accused the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, their colleague in the neighboring Diocese of San Joaquin, with abandonment of communion on June 29.

Asked how he would approach the dispute, Bishop Andrus said after the investiture service, “I have pledged my full being to the life of the Episcopal Church, but I will work to understand my brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Andrus comes to California from Alabama, where he was bishop suffragan. Social justice ministry was a significant focus of his episcopacy there. The Rt. Rev. Robert Miller, retired Bishop of Alabama, says Bishop Andrus “brings a lot of wisdom” to his new post. “We trained him well in Alabama,” he said.

“He has great energy and love of the Lord and will continue the great things that Bishop Swing has done here,” said the Rt. Rev. Harry Bainbridge, Bishop of Idaho, who served as the chief consecrator. In particular he can be expected to push ahead with social justice issues, he said.

“He will go to the mat for justice issues,” said Sister Helena Marie, of the Community of the Holy Spirit in New York.

Just as important perhaps will be whatever skills at reconciliation Bishop Andrus brings to the job.

The Bishop of North Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, who was the preacher for the service, says those skills are considerable.

“He is skilled at bringing people together — it’s part of who he is,” Bishop Curry said.

Bishop Andrus also brings what the Rev. John Kirkley, rector of St. John the Evangelist Church in San Francisco calls “a non-anxious presence” to the debates of the church. Fr. Kirkley, who is openly gay, said Bishop Andrus has been supportive on gay and lesbian issues, but just as important, he has also supported children and youth ministries and recognized the cultural diversity of the church.

On the first Sunday after his consecration, Bishop Andrus was scheduled to serve breakfast to the homeless at Episcopal Community Services, attend church at Holy Child & St. Martin’s Church in Daly City, which is predominantly Filipino, and meet with young people at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Oakland.

Despite a record high temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in San Francisco Saturday, the investiture, the first in 27 years for the Diocese of California, attracted an overflow congregation of some 2,250. Bishop Andrus and Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori administered communion to the overflow crowd who watched the service via a video link in the basement.

The diversity of the diocese was emphasized at several points during the service. The procession was led by Chinese dragons and drums. The first lesson was read in Mandarin (Chinese) and the gospel was read in Spanish.

“Two hours and 15 minutes,” noted the 92-year-old retired Bishop Suffragan of California G. Richard Millard following the service. “Not bad.”

Timothy Roberts

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"the world is about to turn"

The investiture of the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus as the eighth bishop of California was marked yesterday with a glorious liturgy at Grace Cathedral. The Lion Dancers from Kei Lun Martial Arts in the opening procession indicated right away that we were celebrating the many faces of Christ manifest in the magnificent diversity of our diocese. Scripture was read in English, Mandarin, and Spanish, as well as performed by the Omega West Dance Company. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina preached up a storm, holding up St. Mary Magdalene as our model as he cried out, "Keep the faith, California!"

The rite of investiture itself was placed between the renewal of our baptismal covenant with asperges and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Bishop Marc's ministry with us was placed in that space between the font and the table, marked off as a ministry whose purpose is to lead us all into fulfilling our promise to be the Body of Christ for the sake of the healing of the world. As Bishop Marc wrote in the greeting which began the order of service, "It is my hope that we will look back at this moment, this investiture, to see the beginning of a time when we opened ourselves more and more to life in Christ, so that we might serve the world Christ loves." That is my hope too.

Today, +Marc and his wife, Sheila, began their ministry with us by serving breakfast and leading worship at The Sanctuary, a shelter operated by Episcopal Community Services. They then made their first parochial visit to Holy Child & St. Martin's, Daly City, a predominantly Filipino congregation known for its mix of traditional and contemporary music. In the afternoon, Bishop Marc and Sheila crossed the Bay Bridge to join an intergenerational party celebrating the youth of the diocese and honoring all creation: "Sunday in the Parc with Marc." I'm told the Bishop looked great with the new henna tattoo he received courtesy of one of the artists at the event!

Our new bishop is giving a gentle, yet clear, signal of his priorities. Our mission is one with Christ's own mission of reconciliation, embracing the poor, people of every nation, people of all ages, and the whole creation. It is a mission of hope and healing, grounded in a sense of the tenacious, transforming love of God in which all are held.

Bishop Marc's episcopacy has begun with great promise and fills me with hope for our church and for the world. In the words of yesterday's closing hymn:

"My heart will sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn!"

Monday, July 17, 2006

One That Got Away

As I reflect on the spiral of violence engulfing Palestine, Israel, and Lebanon, I am reminded of the many issues that the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church failed to address. One that got away was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There were three resolutions on aspects of this issue that never made it to the floor of the House of Deputies: A011, A012, and A013. While these proposals were nothing terribly new or earth shattering, they would at least have afforded us an opportunity to speak a word of judgment and hope to the wider world.

We were too busy ensuring that the two or three diocesan elections in which gay or lesbian nominees might stand a chance of being elected bishop were prevented from doing so. In essence, the half dozen or so gay or lesbian priests who are qualified, called, and willing to serve as bishop in our church were considered more of a threat to the world than the current debacle in the Middle East.

Lions and tigers and gay bishops, oh my!

Meanwhile, as the peace process in the Middle East is beset by an inferno of escalating retaliatory violence, the Episcopal Church dithers about whether or not it will be a "full" or "associate" member of a reconstituted and newly covenanted Anglican Communion - nine or ten years from now, if ever.

And so Jesus continues to weep over Jerusalem - and the Gaza - and Southern Lebanon - and over a Church more concerned with its "purity" than with its mission: healing the world by reconciling all people to God and each other through Christ. Hat tip to happening-here, for keeping us focused on the needs of a suffering world, even as the Church continues to fold in on itself.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Necessary Compassion, Inconvenient Truth: Christianity and the Global Climate Crisis

Compassion and truth have met together; justice and peace have kissed each other. Amen. Psalm 85:10

Holding together compassion and truth, justice and peace, is a fundamental obligation of Christian discipleship. It well may be a universal spiritual law, but that I am not competent to judge. What I do know is that Christian saints are people who manage to practice these values simultaneously, and who are willing to bear the cost of doing so for the sake of the healing of the world.

It isn’t always easy to practice compassion and truth, justice and peace. We are often tempted, both personally and politically, to sacrifice one for the sake of the other. We say that the truth is too hard to bear, so compassion becomes the better part of dishonesty. Our self-deception and lies are evidence of our goodness, or so we would like to believe. We desire peace, but we are unwilling to meet the demands of justice that provide the only sure foundation for a lasting peace. So we settle for “security” based on emotional, economic, and military forms of manipulation and coercion, and call it “peace.”

The truth is rarely convenient. If we are to embrace the truth, the truth that sets us free and provides the basis for sound judgment and right action, we must do so with compassion. Without compassion, the truth can become unbearable. Without truth, compassion becomes both useless and meaningless. Compassion cannot heal what it seeks to hide. Truth cannot liberate when it serves only to condemn. Compassion and truth must meet together. Only then are we capable of the sacrificial love in which justice and peace kiss.

The film, An Inconvenient Truth, powerfully demonstrates the necessity of compassion when faced with a truth as inconvenient as that of the climate crisis due to global warming. With humor, wisdom, and clarity, former Vice-President Al Gore jars us out of our ignorance and complacency regarding the fact of global climate change and its disastrous consequences for the earth and its inhabitants. It is a message that we ignore at our own peril.

The phenomenon of global warming is fairly simple.[1] Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.

The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.

We’re already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing. The number of category 4 & 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last thirty years as ocean temperatures rise, including a hurricane in the South Atlantic, which scientists previously thought was impossible.

Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level as frost lines recede. Climate change leads to habitat change, and as disease carriers such as mosquitoes and rats migrate, new vectors for the transmission of epidemics emerge. This climate change includes torrential rain and flooding in some areas, while other areas suffer extreme drought. Pressures on the global supply of food and water are increasing, with deadly results in places like the Sudan and sub-Saharan Africa.

If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences. Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years – to 300,000 people a year – not including related deaths due to the exacerbation of global hunger and disease. Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide. Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense. Droughts and wildfires will occur more often. The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050, and more than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by then.

This is well beyond the natural range of temperature change and extinction rates that scientists have charted over the past 600,000 years. It is the result of industrial development and the choices that human beings have made. We have created this problem, and we must solve it if we wish to pass on a habitable planet to the generations after us.

There is no doubt we can and must solve this problem. We have a moral obligation to do so, as Vice-President Gore persuasively argues. The fact that 30% of world-wide CO2 emissions originate in the United States, means that it is particularly our responsibility as Christians and citizens of this nation to become part of the solution. Small changes to our daily routine can add up to big differences in helping to stop global warming. I will come back to that in a moment. First, though, I want to underscore that this is a spiritual as well as a moral problem.

Christians would do well to remember some basic Biblical truths that, however inconvenient, call us to question the dominant industrial policies and practices that destroy the earth. We must recall that the earth is the Lord’s, for God has made it. We are temporary guests and caretakers of the earth, with an obligation to tend it responsibly.

Moreover, as Wendell Berry notes, when we read Scripture we discover that “God found the world, as He made it, to be good, that He made it for His pleasure, and that He continues to love it and to find it worthy, despites its reduction and corruption by us. People who quote John 3:16 as an easy formula for getting to Heaven neglect to see the great difficulty implied in the statement that the advent of Christ was made possible by God’s love for the world – not God’s love for Heaven or for the world as it might be but for the world as it was and is. Belief in Christ is thus dependent on prior belief in the inherent goodness – the loveability – of the world.”

Berry goes on to argue “that for these reasons our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God’s gifts into His face, as if they were of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them . . . We have no entitlement from the Bible to exterminate or permanently destroy or hold in contempt anything on the earth or in the heavens above it or in the waters beneath it. We have the right to use the gifts of nature but not to ruin or waste them. We have the right to use what we need but no more, which is why the Bible forbids usury and great accumulations of property . . . The Bible leaves no doubt at all about the sanctity of the act of world-making, or of the world that was made, or of creaturely or bodily life in this world. We are holy creatures living among other holy creatures in a world that is holy.”[2]

The holiness of the world is an inconvenient truth. It requires us to practice compassion for the whole creation, to embrace its suffering and its beauty as being one with our own suffering and beauty. In Christ, we have been embraced by compassion just this deep and wide, and are invited to be swept up into God’s great project of healing the whole world. We are invited to let go of the smallness of self-preoccupation and self-protection, and abandon ourselves to the divine love that is making all things new.

When we are willing to practice this kind of wild abandon, we find a new freedom and a new capacity bear the cost of holding together compassion and truth, justice and peace. Like the prophets Amos and John the Baptist in today’s Scripture lessons, who refused to allow the co-opting of their religion by political authorities to legitimate injustice, we, too, are called to take risks for the sake of God’s mission of reconciliation and healing. The difference is that, today, the mission is truly global in scope.

We cannot know in advance what the cost ultimately will be for holding together compassion and truth, but we can trust that it is worth it. It is worth it because of the dignity, meaning, and hope that it restores to us and to the world right now, in this moment. There are some very simple, concrete steps that we can take toward the healing of the global climate crisis.[3]

Change a Light

Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Drive Less

Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You'll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don't drive!

Recycle More

You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.

Check Your Tires

Keep your tires inflated properly can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Use Less Hot Water

It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pounds of CO2 saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year).

Avoid Products with a Lot of Packaging

You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%.

Adjust Your Thermostat

Moving your thermostat down just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Plant a Tree

A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

Turn Off Electronic Devices

Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you're not using them will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

The great moral and spiritual challenge of our generation is whether or not we will be willing to bear the cost of holding together compassion and truth, justice and peace, for the sake of the healing of the world. While more may yet be required of us as households and as a congregation, surely we can begin with these simple steps to address global warming. Doing so is not just good stewardship or wise economics or exercising responsibility toward future generations; it also is honoring the holiness of God and of all that God has made. Surely the cost is worth the joy of being “holy creatures living among other holy creatures in a world that is holy.” Amen.

[1] The following description of global warming is found at
[2] Wendell Berry, “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community (San Francisco: Pantheon Books, 1993), pp. 96-99.
[3] These ten steps are found at

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Praying the Daily Office

Last week I was reminded of the value of praying the Daily Office.

It has been my practice for some years now to pray the Office in the morning and in the evening, and I'm pretty disciplined about it - not perfect, but very regular. The rites for morning, noonday, evening, and "bedtime" prayer, which were adapted from monastic life for use in congregation and home, are one of the great inheritances of the Anglican Prayer Book tradition. I appreciate the beauty of the collects, the ancient practice of praying the psalms, and the exposure to scripture over time. But I have to admit that it does feel rote after a while. My mind starts to wander. I'm saying the words but thinking about other things. What is the point?

It is at these times that I recall the power of repetition and the way we are formed by our habits. The Daily Office has become a habit for me. Its language and theology has begun to operate at an unconscious level. I remember how the Phos hilaron from Evening Prayer spontaneouly came to mind while watching the sunset over the ocean in Hawaii. I think of the way in which the recitation of the Apostles' Creed reminds me of my baptismal identity - my identity as a beloved son in whom God is well pleased, serving as a hedge against all the negative messages I've internalized.

Over time, prayer has changed me at a very deep level, making me more aware and more vulnerable in my relationship to the world. Most of the time, I don't realize that this is happening. My praying doesn't have any immediate effect. But then I have moments like last Friday.

As I was praying Morning Prayer, I was actually present and emotionally connected to what I was saying. When I read,

Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
Who devise evil in their hearts
and stir up strife all day long.
They have sharpened their tongues like serpent;
adder's poison is under their lips. Psalm 140:1-3

I was convicted of my own violence, the resentment that gives rise to speech that shames and belittles others. I was brought under judgment by Scripture in such a way as to become aware of the repentance and amendment of life that I need to undertake. And when I prayed the Collect for Mission: Lord, Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace - I KNEW that I, too, was held in that embrace. Tears of gratitude were shed.

Such moments of awareness and feeling are not why I pray. These come and go. God is there regardless. God is at work breaking me open and giving me a heart of flesh to replace my heart of stone, whether I realize it or not. The fruit of my praying will show up at other moments during the day, moments when I am able to offer compassionate presence with others in response to the compassionate Presence that is always and everywhere holding us in love.

That Presence is constant. It is my awareness and openness to God's presence that changes. So, I keep "showing up" for the Daily Office, whether I feel like it or not, trusting that the practice of "paying attention" to God will dispose me to receive the gift of God's presence. Sometimes, like last Friday morning, I'm actually open enough to receive it.

Friday, July 7, 2006

+Marc Andrus on Communion and the Particular

Following the Episcopal Church's General Convention, many of us in the Diocese of California disagreed strongly with the way in which some arguments about the relationship between our Province and the rest of the Anglican Communion were framed: either affirm justice for LGBT people and "walk apart" or continue to work to address global human suffering by remaining in the Anglican Communion. Surely these are not mutually exclusive, and so a group from our diocese is working to develop specific global mission initiatives that hold both commitments together. Our new bishop, +Marc Andrus, has written the following piece in response to our efforts, which I believe are worth sharing more widely.

Communion and the Particular

One of the questions that were asked over and over in the walkabouts in the Diocese of California had to do with the tension between inclusion at the local level, and the coherence of the Communion. As you know, my answer was that we need the Communion in order to address, from the stance of people of faith, challenges that have global dimensions, e.g. the environmental crisis. It is my belief that we do not need, though, to let go of our commitment to justice and being swept up in Christ’s great project of embrace at the local level in order to stay part of the same project at the level of the world.

If our commitment is to the relief of global human suffering, locally and globally enacted, we will have a communion. When we baptize and confirm it is into the Body of Christ, not into the Episcopal Church. The remembering of this may help us recognize a communion that may be given to us by our common commitment to the reconciling work of Christ in the world; that is, those who are also engaged in this ministry, or who recognize in it the traits of Christ’s ministry, will recognize us as brothers and sisters. We will have surprises in this, and there will be tears of repentance as all see what could have been but for our self-imposed barriers, and laughter at the gift of shared life.

In the closed discussion of consents to the election of candidates to the episcopate, on the day before we saw Resolution B033, there was much talk of sacrifice. What, numbers of bishops asked, must we sacrifice in order to preserve the Communion. My contribution to this discussion was to share what I told the California deputation after B033 passed: for over a year I have been meditating on Jesus’ words, “Go and learn what it means, ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice.’” More and more I believe that Jesus was invoking two whole worlds of thought and resultant action. One derives from a false idea that there is not enough, that we must guard what we need and want, and that this guarding includes, paradoxically, giving up something proximate in order to preserve that which is most valuable.

The other life-world, that of compassion, is the world of abundance. In the phrase of mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, the source of this abundance is the all-nourishing abyss. The face of Christ may be understood as the doorway into this abundance for us, making particular, familiar and accessible that which is universal and beyond description in language.

It is my belief that the new Christian era involves a call to live in awareness of the all-nourishing abyss, the mediating face of Christ, and the abundance of compassion that flows into life through this channel. This is not really a new message, except in its reference to the whole world.

I was an elementary school student when I first saw the achingly beautiful photographs of the Earth as seen from space, from the Apollo spacecrafts. My consciousness has been shaped by the presence of these images, but it is the generations born after me, my daughters and their cohorts, in whom the new consciousness of the whole is blossoming as naturally as their sexual orientations, or their right or left-handedness. So, it is to this new consciousness that our Gospel must be proclaimed.

The response to the need to be in communion and to hold onto our local commitment to justice and inclusion by this group of California Episcopalians is really brilliant. It confirms Sheila’s and my hopes yet again for ministry among you as your bishop, and fans the fires of the imagination for ministry. Let me offer a beginning dream that might contribute to your efforts.

One of my priorities in beginning my episcopacy with you will be the establishing of vital companion diocese relationships. It is my belief that it would be best if we were in two relationships at the same time, forming a kind of microcosm of the Communion (or the round dance of the Trinity!). I understand the Diocese of Indianapolis has done this. I suggested it in Alabama, but for various reasons the usual dyadic relationship has just been initiated there (and there is much good in this beginning, to be sure). I would think that we might look to Central and South America for one diocesan companion, and to Asia for another.

The relevance of this idea to your great work in progress is that I would hope that the microfinance of projects by marginalized LGBT people could be undertaken as completely normal ministry in the circling flow of love between the Diocese of California and its potential companion dioceses. By normal I don’t mean at all submerged, or hidden, but a recognized part of such mutual ministry.

The potential of this ministry being undertaken in a coordinated, diocese-wide way is that we in California not only gain a broad and in-depth understanding of these Communion partners, but, I think, we will also gain knowledge of ourselves as a whole. So, while I honor and encourage the already existing relationships between parishes in the Diocese of California and parishes elsewhere in the Communion, I hope we could focus considerable energy on the identification and encouragement of these new companion relationships, within which your efforts would, I trust, flourish.



Thursday, July 6, 2006

Ten Things To Do To Stop Global Warming

Change a Light

Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Drive Less

Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You'll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don't drive!

Recycle More

You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.

Check Your Tires

Keep your tires inflated properly can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Use Less Hot Water

It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pounds of CO2 saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year).

Avoid Products with a Lot of Packaging

You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%.

Adjust Your Thermostat

Moving your thermostat down just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Plant a Tree

A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

Turn Off Electronic Devices

Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you're not using them will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Hat tip to for these easy tips!

Sunday, July 2, 2006

A Generous Undertaking

A Generous Undertaking
Sermon for Sunday, July 02, 2006
The Rev. John L. Kirkley

God did not make death,
And he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.
(Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15) Amen.

“God does not delight in the death of the living . . . the generative forces of the world are wholesome”: the moral compass of biblical faith always points toward that which promotes life and away from that which leads to death. In our care for one another, for all people, and for the earth, righteousness, or justice, is the baseline for healthy and sustainable human community: in that sense, justice is immortal.

In the New Testament the word which we translate as salvation essentially means “health” or “healing.” “Salvation” in the biblical sense is about the restoration of health to every level of our being in the world: physical, social and spiritual. “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be healed through him.” (John 3:17) As followers of Jesus, we are called to be agents of this ongoing project of healing, remembering that salvation is inseparable from environmental and social justice. “God did not make death and God does not delight in the death of the living.”

Today’s Gospel story is a powerful reaffirmation of this ancient biblical truth. Actually, I should say, “stories.” What we have in today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel is a creative intertwining or intercalation of two stories. The first or framing story, if you will, is the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter. The second story, inserted in the middle of the first, is the story of the healing of the hemorrhaging woman. Mark frequently uses this technique of intercalation to help his readers interpret stories in light of each other, to underscore certain theological points.

Mark juxtaposes these two stories in the way he does in order to underscore precisely this point that healing is multi-dimensional, operating at the level of the physical, the social and the spiritual. Reading these two stories in light of each other reveals the scope of healing and the way in which healing occurs. Together, they serve to challenge our narrow understanding of the healing that God desires for the world.

We have here the story of a twelve year old girl who is dying, indeed taken for dead, and the story of a woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years. The parallelism in the reference to time invites us to consider the similarities in their stories: a young girl on the verge of menstruation, and a woman who can not stop bleeding. This is significant because in Jewish ritual law, contact with blood rendered one impure. A menstruating woman was set apart for seven days and had to undergo a ritual bath before being able to reconnect with the community. A man who had sex with a menstruating woman was also unclean for seven days, and anyone who even touched a woman in that state was unclean until sundown, when the prescribed ritual bath was to be taken.

Thus, the hemorrhaging woman did not merely suffer from a physical ailment. She was permanently socially unclean as well; not even her husband could touch her. She could not cook food for her children, much less hold them. She was in state of complete social marginalization and enforced isolation. Moreover, her impurity rendered her unable to offer sacrifices at the Temple or to join in the ritual observances of her faith community. She was denied access to God. You can imagine her despair, spending everything she had on doctors while only growing worse; now poor as well as ill, and utterly alone.

It is no accident that Mark inserts her story in the middle of the story of Jairus’ daughter. Jesus raising a twelve year old girl from the dead, just as she is about to begin to menstruate and become a woman, is juxtaposed with the healing of the hemorrhaging woman, to make a very pointed theological critique of a purity code understood and enforced with such severity that women effectively died at the age when they began to menstruate, and were essentially the living dead thereafter in terms of social status.

Mark intertwines these stories in this way to underscore that the healing these women require is not only physical. The healing that Jesus brings includes that dimension, yes, but it is so much more. It is the restoration of justice for women, their reintegration in the fabric of community life as full human beings, and the restoration of their access to God as God’s beloved daughters. His healing is provocative, because it calls into question a sacred social order based on the sacrifice of women. A sacred social order which, by the way, in sacrificing women in this way denigrates the generative forces of the world that God declares wholesome, and so becomes the foundation for demonizing sexuality and treating the natural world as a whole with contempt.

Notice the manner in which healing takes place in these stories: through touch, connection, and the vulnerability that opens us to the giving and receiving of life-giving power. Jairus begs Jesus, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” The hemorrhaging woman says to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”

Healing in these stories is marked by vulnerability, by being willing to touch or be touched by those deemed untouchable. It is through touch that our shared humanity is affirmed and that humane and just relationships become possible. It is the refusal to give and receive healing touch that marks the boundaries between pure and impure even today. Think about whom you are willing to touch and by whom you are willing to be touched. We cannot heal what we can not, or will not, touch. The degree to which we are invulnerable is the degree to which we have ceased to be human and therefore usable for God’s project of healing.

The practice of sharing power flows from the practice of vulnerability. It is here that the rubber really meets the road of healing, because healing in its most comprehensive sense requires a rearrangement of the balance of power in our world. It is the source of our greatest resistance to joining Jesus in God’s project of healing.

When the hemorrhaging woman touched Jesus, he immediately experienced a loss of power. This power was not only physical, a loss of energy expended in the effort to heal. This power was not only spiritual, an expenditure of holiness, if you will, in order to make another holy. This power was also political, a loss of social privilege in order to effect justice.

In recognizing the humanity of women, Jesus had to renounce the privilege associated with being male in a patriarchal society. Now that, my friends, was indeed a miracle. This is why vulnerability is so vital to God’s project of healing, because it is the means whereby the exchange of power between the privileged and the marginalized can take place. Justice is the form that salvation must take in history, if we are to truly experience healing on every level of our being: physical, social and spiritual.

Here at St. John’s we must continue to find ways to practice vulnerability and sharing power if we are to join Jesus in God’s project of healing. Recently, the Spirit seems to be creating opportunities to do just that. And it seems to me the She is moving us in the direction of finding ways to unite justice for LGBT people and justice for the poor.

Locally, we are exploring ways to partner with Dolores Street Community Services to feed the hungry and offer hospitality to the lonely in our midst. I’ve just begun a conversation with my colleague, Chris Rankin-Williams, rector of St. John’s, Ross, about how that parish might partner with us to be agents of God’s healing in the Mission neighborhood.

Globally, Sarah Lawton is initiating a conversation with St. Aidan’s Church, San Francisco, about how we might work together in partnership with Cristosal: A Foundation for the Support of the Anglican Church of El Salvador. The Most Rev. Martin Barahona, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America, has been a strong advocate for justice in his homeland, and was the only Anglican Primate from abroad to attend Bishop Gene Robinson’s consecration. His solidarity with LGBT people has cost him a great deal of support at home and abroad.

I’ve also been part of a conversation that began at General Convention about how the Diocese of California, including St. John’s, could initiate a microlending program to support indigenous lesbian and gay leaders in Uganda and Nigeria in becoming economically independent. These leaders risk loss of family, housing, employment, and even their lives by coming out and advocating for justice. They desperately need our help.

I believe God is calling us to find concrete ways to heal the rift between the Church and the poor that some have tried to create with the wedge of homophobia, both locally and globally. The gift from the Otis Richman Estate that we expect to receive within the next 30-45 days provides us with a unique opportunity to respond creatively to this call. However these partnerships develop, if we are to imitate the practice of Jesus, they must involve real vulnerability on our part, the development of human and not just financial relationships, and a willingness to check our privilege at the door.

My sisters and brothers, we are called to join with Jesus in God’s outrageously provocative project of healing. May we respond, mindful of St. Paul’s admonition: “As you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you – so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” (2 Cor. 8:7) Amen.