Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, September 2017

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you … You are witnesses of these things. “ Luke 24:44, 48

We return to those routines of life after our summer rest. Vacation memories collected and stored for another season. School supplies purchased and children back to early-to-bed-to-early-to-rise school days [children say “aww” to parents … parents say “yay” to everyone]. Our 20,000+ neighbors of the University of Delaware return as does the rhythm of our campus ministry gatherings. We also return to those rhythms of worship in this place. Yet this time will be different in a few ways.

One way is the BIG celebration of our 175 years of ministry and mission to Newark on Sunday, September 24. PLEASE NOTE we will gather for ONE service this day at 9:30 a.m. We will remember our past while looking to our present and future for God’s onward call in this place, in our time, as this people of the Jesus Movement. We will bless and commission ALL ministries and ministers that serve our parish family! We will admit, bless, and pray onward our 2017-2018 Confirmation Class and their leaders, Bob Rys and Teri Quinn Gray. We will worship with a liturgy crafted especially for this day, and we will gather outside to bless our new welcoming signage at the exit of our driveway. We share our deep gratitude for the leadership of the events of our 175th anniversary year – Tom Fairchild, Laura Greene, and Nicole Cebula. We will remember … commit … bless … now and onward, together.

The other way is our coming closer to my taking leave as your companion in ministry and rector these nine years on October 31. As many have heard me say, I believe I have done, with your help and God’s help, the work and ministry I can in this time and chapter of your lives. The S.W.E.E.P.S. ministries are in place for future service. The finances are healthier for the near-term, while the work of a living stewardship is in the hands of the Vestry servant leaders. The property is in better structural condition, and the Grove is YOURS for the future. I have been blessed and am grateful to have completed these things with you and God in this time, in this place.

At the August 19th meeting of the Vestry, I provided a Covenant of Taking Leave from St. Thomas’s. This covenant is simply, in writing, a clear understanding of our life and relationship in the next pages and chapter of St. Thomas’s Parish. Here are the important points for the understanding of all in our parish family:

  • My resignation signifies that all my priestly, pastoral, liturgical, and administrative duties for the parish are completed. As St. Paul writes to his beloved Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
  • This completion is committed to the transition period before the next rector is called. St. Thomas’s needs time and space between rectors to discover who you are now, where God is calling you onward, and what type of leadership gifts are needed onward for mutual ministry.
  • I will not officiate or assist at any liturgical function in the parish [wedding, baptism, burial office] for at least one year. I may wish to attend a function as a member of the congregation only, and then with understanding of the Wardens, Vestry, and current transition minister. I will continue to exercise my priestly ministry at other parishes as invited at some point, but for a season I am looking forward to being a “pew sitter” with Marilyn.
  • The Rector Discretionary Fund will be returned to the Wardens and Treasurer of the parish to be used by appointed lay representatives as needed.
  • The keys to the church facility will be returned, and clearly marked, for use by future priests. I expect I will be the ONLY person in Newark not to have a key to St. Thomas’s!

This covenant simply gives appropriate space for you to move forward to Chapter 23 in this transitioning time, and gives Marilyn and I appropriate space as we take our steps into this next volume of our life and work together. As Frederick Buechner reminds me, the root of our word goodbye emerges from the 13th century Middle English expression when friends take leave from one another – God be with you!

God be with you, dear sisters and brothers of this place, in this time … God be with you!

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

 

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, May 2017

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”                                                                     Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, GENTLENESS, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”   Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

“Live in the wisdom of accepted gentleness. Gentleness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely loved by someone … Scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by gentleness.” Brennan Manning

I was delighted to learn of our Sunday Parlor Group [aka Adult Education gathering] was planning a return engagement to read and discuss The Shack by William P. Young. This gathering had its first encounter with this modern day spiritual story when first released in 2009. Now made into a movie, interest in returning to this story of life, faith, and struggle with each, came into being again. And seriously, with Octavia Spencer as God who wouldn’t want to have a life conversation with her!

I returned to this book as well just before and during Holy Week. I was cruising along, trying to be attentive to my spirit engaged in the story, while mindful of the six worship services to organize and as many sermons to prepare, until I came to a place in the book that brought me to a dead stop. It was a section in which I had underlined AND highlighted. Here is what it was that I had read in a conversation between the pain-soaked father Mack with God in The Shack

“But,” Mack paused. “What about your wrath? It seems to me that if you’re going to pretend to be God almighty, you need to be a lot angrier?” “Do I now? I understand how disorienting all this must be for you, Mack. But the only one pretending here is you. I am what I am. I’m not trying to fit anyone’s bill.” … “But if you are God, aren’t you the one spilling out great bowls of wrath and throwing people into a burning lake of fire? Honestly, don’t you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you?”

At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. “I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

 

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.” Ralph W. Sockman

Our Tuesday and Wednesday morning bible study gatherings are fairly vocal about not buying into the wrathful God mostly found in Hebrew Scriptures. I remind them, saying aloud remind myself as well, that these stories were collected, told, re-collected and written by people just like us. Just looking and listening as to how God blesses one country or culture or political view and none others. Told and collected and written by a people trying to find a way through life and faith as conquerors as well as those who were conquered. It is really easy to praise OR blame something that is somewhere out there in those times of plenty or times of want, in time of peace or times at war.

And then we have Jesus. Jesus who blesses the merciful ones and the peacekeepers. Jesus who touches the leper, the sick, and the impoverished in body and spirit and says again and again, “Be healed, go in peace. YOUR FAITH has made you well.” Jesus who spent most of his short kingdom bearing message life out on the streets and in the countryside where the people of God lived and had their being. Not in places of ivory palace grandeur or Temple practice and performance. Not until the end of his time which we know is REALLY our beginning. It is REALLY our beginning that is the Church to this day.

For me, gentleness always begins with ourselves. I am still guilty of being too hard on myself for what I did do or did not do. Sometimes this spills out on others, and for that I am sorry and need forgiveness. It has been the part of me that made me very sick in soul and body at one time … and I CHOOSE not to live this way again! I am a work in progress, and pray forgiveness as I forgive myself and others along this way of life.

I begin my day praying the Daily Office, reading the appointed scriptures and psalms, reflecting on a variety of other meditative readings, and then into silence before journaling. As I enter this time and place called the silence of Love, I place my hand upon a picture I have carried since my first sabbatical in 2015. It is the contemporary picture of the Good Shepherd – Jesus holding close to his breast a lamb, eyes closed and a contented smile pursing his lips, while the lamb reflects this same image holding tight to Jesus. I then sit in the silence called Love.

As Octavia aka “God” says rightly, “It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

“I choose gentleness … Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.” Max Lucado

In our days filled with so many polarized views, spewing angry words and actions at one another, hate speech that claims THIS God is OUR God of might and right, and our God alone. Maybe the difference is for you and me to bear the cloak of gentleness into our worlds. Maybe the difference in the life of the world may just start with you and me.

Try a little gentleness …

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, April 2017

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

 

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, FAITHFULNESS, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19

As I reflected on the fruit of FAITHFULNESS, I was led to the passage from Luke [found as well in Mark and Matthew] about mustard seed faith … and the passage returned to me the gracious memory of Lynn Peachy and her daughter Mary. Many may remember “Miss Peachy” and Mary from their joyful musical support of our Lights Choir up until Lynn’s death in 2013. With the clockwork precision of Greenwich Mean Time, Lynn would arrive by her DART bus “chariot” with Mary each Tuesday afternoon. Motoring along on her brightly decorated motorized wheelchair, they would share in supper they brought along with them in the Great Hall classroom while waiting for the children to arrive. It was always the time in which I was blessed to hear of their adventures during that week. While supported financially by Social Security disability insurance and small retirement stipend of her late husband, she navigated life always with a smile and filled with God’s love to share abundantly. She loved our children … she loved Jesus … and she LIVED her FAITHFULNESS the best she could in the ways she knew how.

The last six months of her life, it became physically impossible for Lynn to come to St. Thomas’s to be with “her children” in the Lights Choir. In my visits with Lynn, scattered between hospital stays and the nursing home in which she moved in her latter days, Lynn was always spreading God’s love while suffering in deep pain of multiple health challenges. Even in those hospital stays, she would have her trusty portable keyboard beside her bed, often playing spirituals that came deep from her bones of faith. The other item that was always traveling with Lynn was her mustard seed plant. When this lesson was the appointed Gospel, Deacon Cecily was the preacher on that day. As part of her sermon, she gave mustard seeds to all gathered to visually show how small in size it really is. Lynn and Mary took that seed, planted and watered it, and it grew … and grew … and grew. After Lynn’s death, Mary went to live with a sibling in Pennsylvania. She carried her mother’s keyboard and mustard seed plant with her.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19-20

The blessing of “Miss Peachy” in my life, and I believe to the lives of the children and families she touched in her time with us, is that she LIVED resurrection faithfulness! She clearly understood that her health was fragile and failing, and VERY CLEAR about her mortal life. Lynn lived each day as if this would be her last, so she lived it fully and joyfully. Living out of her resurrection faithfulness, she would do something every day to serve and glorify her Lord through her living. Many days it was in serving with our children on Tuesday evenings and being present in worship with Mary every Sunday. Some days, when her health was compromised, it would be through a phone call, or a piano lesson, or writing a note to share her gratitude and faith. I have a handful of “Miss Peachy” notes in a special file I go to when my resurrection faithfulness is not working real well.

As we come to Holy Week and Easter Day, I was captured by the following from a portion of a book My Bright Abyss by Christian Winman:

“Just as some of Jesus’ first-century followers could not credit the presence of the risen Christ, so our own blindness, habit, and fear form a kind of constant fog that keeps us from seeing, and thereby having faith in, the forms that grace takes in our everyday lives. We may think that it would be a great deal easier to have a living faith if the world erupted around us, if some savior came down and offered as evidence the bloody scars in his side. What the Gospels suggest is that this is not only wishful thinking but willful blindness, for in fact the world is erupting around us, and Christ is very often offering us the scars in his side right now. What we call doubt is often simply dullness of mind and spirit, not the absence of faith at all. It is faith latent in the lives we are not quite living, God dormant in the world to which we are not quite giving our best selves.” “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” What mountains, or even hills, await movement by living your resurrection faithfulness in the here and now of your days? Maybe standing at the foot of the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday will reignite the faith that is “… latent in the lives we are not quite living … in the world to which we are not quite giving our best selves.”

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, March 2017

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, GENEROSITY, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies …” The Gospel lessons in February have centered on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapters 5-7, the radical call to a living faith in God’s ways and not our human derivations or self-negotiated ways of living our faith. While many of these But I say to you teachings challenge us in our days, although we dismiss many of them for not being relevant to our complicated society and worldly norms now, Jesus words still ring very true as each one calls us to living the life of GENEROSITY that only can begin when it starts from the inside out.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

Growing up on our family farm, the morning hours were the time to gather up the day’s harvest of vegetables and fruits. After sorting time was completed, the trucks were off to deliver to the Campbell Soup and smaller grocery stores, we began filling the Gratitude Basket. In sorting, the rule was three items for market, one into the Gratitude Basket, continuing this pattern until complete. The Gratitude Baskets were placed on a “Free As You Need” table by the roadside. This practice was started by my Grandad, the rule adhered to for all his sons and workers on the farm. Grandad always sat by the table, meeting and greeting those who stopped to take what they needed. They would chat about life and family, and anything else that might arise for his listening heart to hear. Nobody ever left empty handed or hearted from this time, most particularly my Grandad and me.

“If truth doesn’t set you free, generosity of spirit will.” Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Have you noticed how you feel when you give out of yourself for another? For me, I experience a warm fullness of spirit. Yet there are still those times when my generosity has strings attached, the expectation of the other to say thanks, or praise my good nature and wonderfulness, or … I have heard it said, and have said myself, that expectations become premeditated resentments. I know how this feels because I have felt this in my less-than-generous moments.

“Generous leaders are servant leaders. They always come with open hands and an open heart.” Farshad Asl

On March 12, we gather as this community of faithful for the 175th time in our history. Over these 175 years, the mission and ministry of St. Thomas’s Parish has flourished through the hands and hearts of YOU, the servant leaders of God. Over my years with you, I have consciously called those who serve as your Vestry, and those who serve in the many and varied way, as OUR servant leaders. We have moved, for the most part, from coming together on committees to serving in ministries, such as Stewardship, Worship, Christian Formation, Pastoral Care, Property and so on. It seems to just be words, but I find again and again, when serving a ministry, I am called to serve and serve out of a greater generosity of self and sprit that gives life to my work, and life abundantly. Like the athlete, we grow stronger living this way when it becomes the CORE of our being.

“What I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” Simone de Beauvoir

The prophet Zechariah reminds us this day, in a world very much divided by have’s and have not’s, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show generosity and mercy to one another” Living out of this spiritual place of GENEROSITY, the world in which you live and move and have your being will be a profoundly better place for those you serve, and for you,

“You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 — Forward in Faith February 2017

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

 

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain

Kindness seems to be in rare supply these days. Like that pearl of great price, I keep looking for kindness in myself and others much like that solitary figure sweeping the beach with a metal detector. The language of kindness is stilled, much too silent, a rare word spoken in our life and times.

Our overly busy lives give us little time for kindness to ourselves, let alone others. We run and run and run, and then when we have run out of running fuel, we rage and rage and rage against … what?? What is this rage about? Where is the kindness we seek to receive, the kindness we seek to give? In pondering this anomaly, I have been asking many over my days, “Where can we find kindness now, and what might kindness look like now?

One person from another community I share life with took to silence with my question. I was thinking, sadly, she would have no answer – or just get mad at me for asking! After a time, she emerged with this reply – “I experience kindness in this way. I am in 15 item checkout line the grocery store behind a person with clearly more than 15 items. I know this because I have counted every item; however, I do not say anything to the person to be NICE to them. I express KINDNESS in the same situation; the difference is I don’t count!”

++++++++

 

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge

that one day someone might do the same for you.” Princess Diana

Kindness is when I move ME out of the way for God to work THROUGH me toward others in the ways best for God’s desire for others and for me. For some folks, this is as natural a way of living as taking breath. For me, it is still a work in process, as I still allow external circumstances or people to infuse my head and heart away from kindness. My frustration of not getting done what needs to be done because the lack of help of others stalls and hinders any process and progress – and for this, I can be not very kind. Perhaps I am cut off in the bobbing and weaving NASCAR style to survive I-95 driving, so I choose to respond in kind to that other person the same way – and for this, I can be not very kind AND very reckless with the plethora of handguns in place of many automobiles these days. Whenever I act out of this place, ME in front of God’s desire for a better me, I am unkind to my own soul most of all.

+++++++

 

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” Amelia Earhart

 

Anthony de Mello was director of the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counseling in India. In his last book of meditations before his death, The Way of Love, he reflects on living lovingkindness as the way of Love:

“It is with kindness as with happiness. It is not possible for you to say that you are happy because the moment you become conscious of your happiness you cease to be happy … True happiness is uncaused … It is unself-consciousness. Acting in kindness is never as good as when you have no consciousness that it is good – you are so much in love with kindness that you are unself-conscious about your goodness. So the first quality of kindness is unself-consciousness.

The second quality is it effortlessness. Effort can change behavior, it cannot change you … Change is only brought about by awareness and understanding. Understand your attachments and they will vanish, the outcome is freedom. Love and freedom and kindness are not things that you can cultivate and produce … all you can do is observe their opposites and [by changing you] cause these opposites to die.

The third quality of kindness is it cannot be desired. If you desire kindness you will be anxious to attain it [and more anxious when you do not attain it]. You will be in a constant state of dissatisfaction, and this will kill the very kindness you set out to be and become. Here is something to understand … Your ego is a great technician. It cannot be creative. It goes for methods and techniques and produces so-called “righteous” people who are rigid, mechanical, lifeless, intolerant of themselves as they are of others … You join the Creator not as a wily technician, but when you are open to Love in you – no greed, no ambition, no anxiety, no sense of striving, gaining, arriving, attaining – kindness becomes you.” Excerpts from pp. 69-72

++++++++

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca

So, what will KINDNESS look like now and onward … in YOU?

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

For everything there is a season – the resignation of The Reverend Paul W. Gennett, Jr.

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

Dear faithful people of St. Thomas’s Parish,

Grace and peace be with you all. As the Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …” and so the time has come for my service with you as Rector to St. Thomas’s.

With thankful heart, I am your servant in Christ always,
The Reverend Paul W. Gennett, Jr.
Rector

See The Reverend Paul W. Gennett, Jr.’s resignation letter.

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, January 2017

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against such things.”

Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient.” James 5:7-8

“So, when are you leaving?” I have been asked this question more than a few times over the past year. I am pretty sure it is asked mostly out of curiosity and not with the intent of “So, why are you STILL here?” I am pretty sure, so I will stick with this thought.

The answer is – well, I am not leaving yet! While more will be revealed as the days, weeks, and months of 2017 unfold, I can say with all surety not yet. Then I began reflecting on this month’s fruit of the spirit which is PATIENCE. Funny how that works sometimes, don’t you think? We have grown to be a not real patient people or society in our days of late. It seems all those open avenues of communications and life connections that pull and push us in directions to take action, to do something, to do anything … but what? So I find myself sucked into the centrifugal force of reacting to life and events out in a future time and place I have no control over, rather than responding out of prayerfulness, being alert to people and events around me, and dwelling in PATIENCE.

I have found the work of the diocesan Standing Committee, of which I am a member, a great reminder of how PATIENCE works when I work with it. After Bishop Wright disclosed his intention of retirement in 2017, we soon met with a representative of the national church who basically gave us THE BOOK of all that needed to be done in this process. The analogy of having our mouth taped over the spigot of a fire hose was the reigning feeling of all the members. Then, together, we mapped out a tentative timeline, and began the work of inviting others to share in the process of leadership as Search and Transition Committee members. We gathered all together in our organizing retreat to begin this work in July. Now we support the work each group is doing, waiting with PATIENCE most of the time as the work unfolds before us. While we have the date of ordination and consecration set for December 9 of this year, we are still very much waiting through the days and time in God’s way, not ours. Trusting God, trusting the process, and staying where we are in this in-between time. Waiting, we pray, in PATIENCE.

In a recent meditation entitled The Three Boxes, Fr. Richard Rohr reflects on the invitation, although sometimes uncomfortable, of moving through a time of transition and the gifts that PATIENCE brings when we are faithful to the process …

“Julian of Norwich writes, ‘First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God.’ Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). The role of the prophet is to lead us into sacred space by deconstructing the old space while the role of the priest is to teach us how to live fruitfully in sacred space. The prophet disconnects us from the false, and the priest reconnects us to the real at ever larger levels. If priests have been largely unsuccessful, it is because there are so few prophets.
Think in terms of what I call “the three boxes”: order > disorder > reorder. The first order, where we all begin, is a necessary first “containment.” But this structure is dangerous if we stay there too long. It is too small and self-serving. Initial “order” doesn’t really know the full picture, but it thinks it does. Only in the final “reorder” stage can darkness and light coexist, can paradox be okay. We are finally at home in the only world that ever existed. This is true and contemplative knowing. Here death is a part of life, failure is a part of victory, and imperfection is included in perfection. Opposites collide and unite; everything belongs.
We dare not get rid of our pain before we have learned what disorder has to teach us. Most of religion gives answers too quickly, dismisses pain too easily, and seeks to be distracted—to maintain some ideal order. So we must resist the instant fix and acknowledge ourselves as beginners to be open to true transformation. How can a Christian look at the Crucified One and not get this essential point? The Resurrected Christ is the icon of the third box or reorder.
There is no direct flight from order to reorder; you must go through disorder, which is surely why Jesus dramatically and shockingly endured it on the cross.”
From “Daily e-Meditations” by Fr. Richard Rohr; 12/6/16

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …” so writes the prophet in Ecclesiastes. We know our time together will be changing, ending in some ways but not in others. Together we can move through the Three Boxes. Together, we will move to a place and time of disorder to allow space and to see what has been, what is now, and then to reorder in the ways we will go onward. Together, might we hold before us those words in front of the journals of Dag Hammarskjold – “For all that has been, THANK YOU! For all that we be and becoming, YES!” Together, with honored and deeply held PATIENCE, Love will lead us home.

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 — Forward in Faith, December 2016

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

tree

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

“While they were talking, Jesus stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” The appearance of Jesus after his resurrection must have been an awesome moment for those frightened, depressed, and hopeless followers in that upper room. Yet I suspect the one thing they felt was not necessarily peace at his presence. I guessing there was still a pretty hefty supply of fear, amazement, guilt by those who fled from his trial and crucifixion, and yes, even doubt. Remember our namesake Thomas was “out and about” when Jesus appeared. When later told of Jesus’ visitation, he would not believe anything solely on the word of his companions UNLESS he saw Jesus for himself. Eight days later he was with them. Jesus returned, sauntered up to Thomas, and offered his wounded hands and side. The rest becomes our faith history to this day, including Jesus’ evangelistic response to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

This year, and particularly November, has felt just about as fear-filling, confusing, angering, hopeless, and anything but peaceful for many I have been present in these days. Like our namesake, we want to grab hold of something we can believe and trust for our days ahead. So we flock to the information sources that surround us at every moment, every turn, and every swipe of our thumb or the click of a mouse. We seek the proof we feel we need, and it rises tantamount over trust and faith, seeking information right now to be the best and most truthful, unable to sit and be in discernment to what is, and what can be, with others, in peace. We read books, seek out innumerable articles, attend real and virtual lectures, and conversation groups seeking, seeking, and seeking HOW we can find peace in this time. For me, my “peace seeking missile” self joins with other seekers and discerners, in prayer, together. We do this by abiding in a peace that we bring and that we share to each other. We gather in waiting, around a table like ours, to be fed and to feed each other, and our world, with peace.

Fr. Richard Rohr offers wisdom to me in our times from daily meditations Yes, And …

“T.S. Eliot said in the Four Quartets ‘[Human]kind cannot bear very much reality.’ What we often prefer is highly contrived and costumed ways of avoiding the real, the concrete. So Jesus brought all of our fancy thinking down to earth, to one concrete place of ordinary incarnation – one loaf of bread and cup of wine. ‘Eat it here, and then see it everywhere’ he seems to be saying. As St. Augustine essentially said in an Easter sermon, ‘You are what you eat.’”

He continues reminding me that the incarnated moment we share is bread for the world and not just a select few …

“The standing, structural proof that Christianity was intended to be an inclusive religion is that two-thirds of our Christian Bible is, in fact, the Jewish Bible! Further, our entire Bible is filled with stories, metaphors, images, and even names for God that were taken from pre-Jewish religions, pagan sources, secular history, and Greek philosophy. We [have become] more exclusionary that the authors of our Bible were … When we are true to our Jewish sources, Jesus is easily seen as the INCLUSIVE Son of God, inviting us to join him there. It seems we found it much easier to worship him than to imitate him … The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for one another – not even a baby in a manger. Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to the communion is HUNGER. And, most often, sinners are much hungrier than the so-called saints.”

Like flickering luminaries, Advent points us along a pathway to finding peace. A peace come to earth, Love divine all love excelling, in the Christmas truth. We come to that peace for a day in time, around a table with bread and wine, together. We come to be fed, and then to be and see it everywhere.

Many will come to worship on Christmas. Some will come as a long standing tradition for the family, gathered in the darkened church to hear the story of shepherds and angels, Mary and Joseph, and this baby Jesus. Some will come to be embraced by flickering candles, transported by the smell of wafting incense, singing “Silent Night” with others we may or may not see again. Some come to be in a place and with people they know will provide sanctuary, hope, and peace for the soul in this precarious and unsafe world. Some will come because they are hungry for hope, hungry for truth, hungry for something.

So, come and be fed. Come and abide, together. Come for sanctuary and story long told. Come and be fed, then feed the world in peace. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 — Forward in Faith November 2016

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

tree

 

Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”  Galatians 5:22-23

++++++++++++++

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love … I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:9-12

I recently officiated the burial office for a young husband and father, the circumstances of his death sudden and tragic. As I learned more of his life, his hopes, and his loves, the reading from John’s Gospel, and singing Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy, came clear and a necessary part in the celebration of his life. I encountered some questions about these selections. My response was that we, as Christian, are people of the Incarnation AND Resurrection. We are a people who bear the fullness of the life, death, and eternal life of our Lord Jesus Christ in our living now, and our spirit that can live on in the lives of those whom we touch in this mortal journey. We can live like this, and we can live like this now, with JOY.

The words of Jesus in the Last Supper discourse of John are words that express what joy Jesus desires in days to come for his disciples, days that will not be real joyful as we tend to define joy in our times. For much of the world, joy is the thing that makes me happy now, satisfies me now, and fulfills my life nowthe instant gratification syndrome where we tend to live on the surface of our cyber-social connected life. Yet real joy emerges in life through celebration and despair, wholeness and needed healing, in life and in death. Frederick Buechner writes, “Happiness turns up more or less where you would expect it to – a good marriage, a rewarding job, a pleasant vacation. Joy, on the other hand, is a notoriously unpredictable as the one who bequeaths it.”

If we live as people of the Incarnation AND Resurrection, we know how it feels and what it looks like to live INTO our joy through all the vagaries of life. We can live like the praise of the psalmist, “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to God’s holy name … God’s favor is for a lifetime .Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” [30:4-5]. It is living into a life that is for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness in health, until we are parted by death. It is THIS joy we live in a life of faith. It is THIS joy that can be seen by our world around us.

In his book of daily meditations, Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen captures the essence of a life of faith lived in joy through hope – “The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go … Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.”

I led a retreat some years ago in which I used various rocks as an example of how the fruits of the Spirit can be lived even in the hardness that life can bring, sometimes feeling as hard as rocks pounding against our aching body and soul. I have been keeping the rock with JOY written upon it as my prayer partner, holding his wife and two young children in prayer each day. It seems to me the continuing call of a family of faith, claiming Jesus Christ as we are, to be with others through the highest heaven, and the valley of the shadow of death, with the JOY in knowing we are never, never alone.

This is what being church is all about, now and eternally. This is the ROCK we are called to be and bear into our world all around us … the ROCK that is JOY!

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+

Chapter 22, Page 175 — Forward in Faith, October

posted in: Clergy Corner, News | 0

tree

 

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

 

“… the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23

 

“What’s love got to do with it … What’s love but a second-hand emotion.” These heart wrenching lyrics, belted out in the husky voice of Tina Turner, was a powerful statement in her life during the darkest times of her relationship with then partner and husband Ike Turner. If we spend much time watching network or online news of the world’s workings in our day, societal, political, and even theological, it may bear the weight of what seems to be the reactionary mode of many people. Leading from a place of fear not faith, we look for a sanctuary of those people and places where the way of LOVE is part and parcel of who they are and how they live. Communities of faith are supposed to be those places and people where one will find this kind of love. However, too often all the “right words” are spoken without “right actions.” The plaintive cry of another raspy voiced character from the Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the BEEF?” becomes our question “Where’s the LOVE?”

“What’s love got to do with it … What’s love but a second-hand emotion.” Over the past two years, your Vestry leaders have prayed, pondered, prepared, parsed, and prayed more toward a renewed mission and vision statement. A mission/vision that looks back at who we are as a people called, and who we are becoming into our next future. The mission and vision statement was unanimously adopted at this year’s Vestry retreat. It has been prominent on our many communication modes, particularly on the front of the weekly worship bulletin. Here is what they have said, what they commit to embrace …

“Nourished at Christ’s table and stepping forward in faith, WE are instruments of God’s love, serving our parish family, the University of Delaware, our community, and God’s creation.”

I have taken liberty to capitalize and italicize the section that really calls for embracing and living by all – WE are instruments of God’s love. While this rolls off the tongue rather easily, LIVING this way takes intention, compassion, and “un-not-ing” as I recently read an article on spiritual living and the challenge of living so. One story in particular speaks to our renewed vision of BEING God’s love here and now …

“On a Thursday night I will sometimes go to a community meal sponsored by my church. We host this meal as an opportunity to be compassionate neighbors to one another. However, as my table waited to be served, I realized we would be given bowls of soup and plates of food that had been on sitting on the cart for a while. I began to become agitated, to fear that MY food would be cold … I realized my fear and my need of laying down our shallow preferences: preferences for being in control, being on time, having the cushions on the sofa a certain way, for having piping hot food and my table served first – for whatever! The lesson is about learning to release my immediate preference in order to notice the needs of others around me … Community life schools us in compassion as we get to practice letting go again and again in order to be present to those around us … Our cultural climate emphasizes disagreement, parties, and factions. We are invited to define ourselves by what we are NOT, by what we are against … Rather than being a mere bundle of NOTS, might each of us be a complex gathering of BOTH/ANDS …

In his poem “Pied Beauty” Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “Glory be to God for dappled things … All things counter, original, spare, strange … With swift, slow, sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change; Praise him.” … To be willingly BOTH/AND rather than NOT within ourselves means learning to acknowledge our internal paradoxes and contradictions, to accept and to love our dappled share in God’s infinitely dappled grace.” “Weavings. Volume XXXI, #4. Pages 22-23, 27-29.

We enter the month of October remembering the life and witness of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of all God’s creation and created. We set aside this time in a special service of blessing upon our family pets – dogs, cats, birds, and other creatures we hold near and dear. We see countless statues of St. Francis in many garden settings, serenely standing with bird perched on his hand, squirrel on his shoulder. We like the “garden variety” St. Francis – but the call to a life of downward mobility, self-emptying to be a Love filled vessel, and constant UN-NOT-ING to live open, free, and compassion-filled life is not necessarily the path we might choose. When you sit in worship on Sunday morning, take a moment to think about and feel surrounded by the saints of St. Thomas’s over 175 years, the very ones whose shoulders we stand to have this gift of worship, freedom, and service in our day.

WE are the shoulders that will lead into and beyond our 175th anniversary year. WE are the instruments of God’s love seeking and serving God and Christ Jesus, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and respecting the dignity of EVERY human being. WE are the living, breathing answer now, and in our future, to the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+