Saturday, September 10, 2011

Forgive us our sins

Over twenty years ago, someone hurt me very much.  There’s no need to recount the details; the reason I bring it up is because I have forgiven this man many times.  Sometimes, I remember the incident, think it over,
nd tell myself I’ve forgiven him.  Then I put it away again, determined not to give it any more thought.

But I do think about it.  It hasn’t been more than a few months since I told someone the story!  I can’t tell you how many times I have “forgiven” him.  In truth, I understand he didn’t intend to hurt me.  I don’t hold it against him.  And I don’t bear him a grudge.  But somehow, the incident has remained alive for me all these years.

When I began thinking about what to say today, this story popped into my head.  This time, I realized
that I have forgiven him but until now I hadn’t been able to see my own involvement as being other than victim.  In truth, I had a lot to do with my own hurt.  There were several places in the conversation where I could have stopped it, where I should have stopped it, and yet I didn’t.

How many times must I forgive my brother, Lord?  As many times as it takes, replies Jesus.

I think I’ve finally forgiven this person for the last time.  It won’t make a difference to our relationship.  He’s dead now; yet, even if he wasn’t, we would be living far apart and traveling in different circles.  But I still need to forgive him for my own sake, for my own spiritual health.

An important part of forgiveness is deciding to release ourselves from the unhealthy baggage not forgiving piles on us.  As usual, I did not come to understand this on my own.  I was reading an article called, “Is forgiveness possible at Ground Zero?”

Today is 9/11.  Ten years ago today, we stopped whatever we were doing and watched the horrors of that day over and over again. Almost immediately, Americans began looking at Middle Easterners differently
and many began casting blame for the tragedy on the nearest Arab-looking person.  Then there were all those officials that might have stopped it if only…. 

We are very good at placing political blame in this country.  We are doing it again at all levels of government
over the jobs and debt crises.  Perhaps blaming someone helps at first.  But in the long run, it is an impossible game to win.  Because, you see, it doesn’t help anyone heal, it doesn’t help rebuild cities and towns, it won’t feed the hungry or clothe the poor.

And it really doesn’t make us feel better, either.  Forgiving those who chose to attack this country, forgiving those who seem to put politics ahead of what’s good for the country, has to be the Christian response.

Now here’s what we need to remember about forgiveness.  It in no way releases the wrongdoers from the sin of their actions.  Saying, I forgive you, does not wipe the slate clean.  What it does, is allow us to heal
and to learn trust once more.  Forgiving someone does not mean they can continue doing the same old thing,
causing the same hurt.  It means that by our act of forgiveness, we are working to turn them around.

Do you remember in the epistle two weeks ago, Paul said if our enemies are hungry, we should feed them;
if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads?
What a strange thing to say, but Paul means that we are to treat those who have wronged us, who are our enemies, with the same kindness we treat each other.  In so doing, we embarrass them into changing their ways.  Changing their heart is the part of forgiveness that is about them.

And that’s what the parable is about today.  An oriental potentate calls for an audit of all his accounts and discovers that one of his officials has mismanaged a great deal of money.  The sum in the parable is so huge
that no one could ever pay it back which makes you wonder where the potentate got it in the first place!

In any case,  the official begs for mercy, assuring the potentate that he will indeed pay it back if given enough time – perhaps three lifetimes would be enough.  He is greatly surprised, as is everyone within earshot, to hear the potentate forgive him the entire debt.

And yet, the official then sees someone who owes him a trifling amount of money – easily paid off in a matter of months or years – and he orders him thrown into jail until the debt is paid.  When the potentate hears this,
he has the official treated the same way. 

How can we be forgiven if we are not willing to forgive?  It is not a simple matter of asking our own sins to be forgiven and then going about business as usual.  If that was the case, forgiveness would be cheap,
not worth asking for.

Remember that forgiveness requires a response from the one being forgiven, some kind of restitution or admission that leads to a changed life.  By refusing to accord his own debtor the same magnanimous treatment given to him, the official has cancelled out the forgiveness given to him.  It does not take the act of the potentate to do this.  No, he merely makes it official.  The sinner, by refusing to learn anything from the potentate’s act of forgiveness, condemns himself to living in the torment of his sin.

In reading this parable, we need to be careful not to allegorize it.  The potentate does forgive just as God forgives – limitlessly – but that is the only way in which he is like God.  God does not sell families into slavery.  God does not renege on promises made.  The parable is strictly about forgiveness and how we are not to set limits on the forgiveness we offer those who sin against us.

Jesus taught us to pray Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  If I am not willing to forgive, how can I be forgiven?  Just as we work at not causing others harm, so we must work at forgiving
those who harm us. 

One of the lessons to come out of 9/11 is that we do not understand the mind of our Islamic brothers and sisters.  We are working to correct that but we may never fully understand.  St. Paul warns us not to pass judgment on another, that our Lord has welcomed them even though they may not know it.  The one who is faithful to his or her lord is upheld by our Lord.  That was a radical teaching for Christians then and it is still one for us now.

God’s mercy and forgiveness are unlimited.  It is not ours to build in limits.

The images of the World Trade Center being hit, burning and collapsing are part of our memory now.  The plane slamming into the Pentagon is not an image we can forget.  The courage of the people on board the plane that went down in Pennsylvania, as well as the courage of those who tried to put out the fires at all three sites and lost their lives, is part of who we are now.

But, while we can’t forget, we certainly can and must forgive even if we don’t really know who we are forgiving.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live
or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 

The Lord has forgiven.  So must we.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Psalm 103:8-13

You are full of compassion and mercy,
     slow to anger and of great kindness.
You will not always accuse us,
     nor will you keep your anger for ever.
You have not dealt with us according to our sins,
     nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
     so far have you removed our sins from us.
As a parent cares for a child,
     so do you care for those who fear you.
                  --St. Helena Breviary

Being slow to anger and of great kindness are two things I strive for.  I don't like to be angry but I don't understand people who rarely are.  I am getting better, though, at not reacting out of anger quite so quickly.  The kindness part has slowed that down and often give me time to think of why I am angry and how it happened. 

But it is a great comfort to me to know that God is slow to anger and of great kindness.  That God does not count our sins and then decide how to care for us is astounding.  The call to hate the sin and love the sinner is one we don't manage very well and usually find not the least bit helpful.  But that seems to be one description of how God loves us.

I suspect every parent and an awful lot of children read that last verse with fear and trepidation.  Have we treated our children the way we want God to treat us?  When we are called to punish - and all parents are so called at times - do we take the other four verses into consideration?  By our actions, what are we teaching our children about God?  I know there are times I should have done better, should have been slow to anger, should have somehow managed to remember mercy and kindness.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Shall we shun one another or dine together?

This is the sermon on MT.18:15-20 that I will likely preach at St. Christopher's tomorrow morning.

Sometimes, in preparing sermons, I will go back and see what I wrote in the past – something that is hard to do since I often don’t use a text. In any case, the sermon from six years ago, before I got here, actually used the word shunning. Somehow – I confess I stopped reading at about that point – I went on to suggest that shunning can be a good thing. I’ll bet a lot of people were confused that day!
No one likes confrontation. It happens and, if we do it well, it clears the air. Most of the time we don’t do it well, though, so we avoid it and hope we will eventually forget whatever is causing the conflict. That rarely happens, either.

In her sermon on this gospel text, Barbara Brown Taylor creates this fanciful story*:

Fred, a fellow parishioner, asks you one Sunday if he can borrow your lawn mower after church. His is in the shop. You’ve known Fred for a number of years and worked with him on several projects so you agree. Well, a week goes by and then another and Fred hasn’t returned the lawn mower. So you go over to his house and ask to have it back. “Oh,” says Fred. “My neighbor borrowed it from me and left it in his driveway. He forgot it was there and backed out over it and there’s no lawn mower left. Sorry about that.”

Well, you are really steamed. So you tell Fred that it was his responsibility to take care of the mower and get it back to you in one piece and you suggest that he give you a check for half the cost of a new one. Fred tells you it’s not his responsibility and too bad for you!

So you go get a few other members of the church who know Fred and go back to ask for the check. Fred won’t even open the door but shouts some unkind remarks through the door.

Then you call the parish together and tell them what happened. They get busy making signs encouraging Fred to help pay for the mower and you all head back to Fred’s house. No one answers the door when you ring the bell and all the blinds are closed. But everyone waves their signs and smiles, waving any time the curtains flicker.

Finally, Fred comes out, looking quite sheepish, and hands you a check for half the cost of a new mower.

And I suppose this is where someone says, “They all lived happily ever after.” Except I don’t think we would. Fred will likely leave the parish because he is embarrassed. Others will wonder why they went along with this crazy scheme and will probably not speak to you for a few weeks at least. And, while you have gotten the check, I would imagine you don’t feel too good about this, either. This just doesn’t work.

Let’s put the gospel passage in context. The disciples have come to Jesus to ask, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And Jesus says that unless we become like children, we will never enter the kingdom. He’s talking about humility and probably curiosity and trust. Jesus goes on to say that the one who causes a child to stumble would be better off tossed in the sea with a great huge millstone around her neck. And then comes that awful part about cutting off an offending hand or foot and tearing out an eye that has caused you to stumble.

Just before our reading, Jesus talks about the lost sheep, how the shepherd leaves the 99 to go and find it, what rejoicing there is over that one sheep. “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost,” says Jesus.

With that last line in particular in mind, hear again what Jesus says today.

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses – why? Well, not so you can be vindicated or the other be castigated, but rather so rumors have no chance of being spread about what was said. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.

And, once again, that last line is the kicker. It sounds exactly like we should shun the greatest sinners – recognizing, of course, that we are all sinners of one sort or another, I’m sure. But who is writing this gospel? A tax-collector! And who did Jesus eat with more than the righteous? You have it. Gentiles, tax-collectors and all the heinous sinners those two words represent.

I have to admit it never occurred to me that Jesus goes through that long instruction about how to deal with conflict and then tells us to have dinner together. Jesus always seemed to be enjoying himself at those dinners, too.

This entire chapter of Matthew is about how we treat each other. And how we treat each other says a lot about how we are a community.

What kind of community do we want to be? I asked this question yesterday on Facebook. David Lose, a professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, asked it first. He says there are all sorts of communities all over the place and we are probably part of several – work-related ones, social-media ones, communities based on specific activities like running or watching our kids play soccer. But, asks Lose, “What kind of community do we want from our congregation – largely social, somewhat superficial (which is, of course, safe)? Do we want something more meaningful or intimate (which is riskier and harder)? Do we want a place that can both encourage us and hold us accountable? Are we looking for a place we can be honest about our hopes and fears, dreams and anxieties? Do we want somewhere we can just blend in or are we looking for a place we can really make a difference?”

That is a huge question. It is the foundation for the work I hope we will do at our parish retreat in a few weeks. Think about it. Write down some answers and share them with someone else, maybe two or three someones. And then come share those answers with the church at the retreat. I, for one, am hungry for your answers. I am dying to listen. I guarantee you that the Holy Spirit will be there to help us take all of our answers and forge a vision for our future together. This is Kingdom work and it will take every single one of us sinners to do it.

*story is paraphrased

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rock for stumbling or for building?

Imagine arriving here this morning only to discover that St. Christopher’s Church and parish hall are no more. Sometime during the night, an enemy has crept in and dashed the walls to the ground. Our church is destroyed.

I can see us standing around staring at the piles of rubble, turning in one direction and another trying to find something that is familiar, that will help us to make sense of what has happened. But the missing buildings make it all look alien, strange, scary. By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down; and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

Once we could look beyond the destruction, we might well discover that, like the Israelites in Babylon, we also live in an alien land. While Christianity might still be the dominant faith in this country, mainline Christianity – established churches with full-time ministers and staffs – is under attack both from within and from without. How are we to be Christians in this unfriendly place when we have no sacred space to retreat into?

That is the very situation the Israelites found themselves in. No Temple, no place for God to dwell and for the faithful to make their sacrifices. No city, no land that has been given them by that same God. Maybe even no God. And there they sat, on the metaphorical ash heap of life, in Babylon, for years. More than a generation sat and wept, unable to move beyond their grief, their sense that God had abandoned them forever. They mourned a life that they could remember dimly, in fragments because none of them had ever lived it.

The second prophet called Isaiah comes to these people with a message of life, a message that stirs them from the ashes and requires action on their part. In six verses, the prophet reminds them of the Exodus, Abraham and Sarah, Eden, the laws given to Moses and God’s incredible act of creation.

“Listen to me,” he says, “all of you who seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you are hewn, to Abraham and Sarah, your first parents. Out of this one, I have made many, says the Lord. Hear the message that the Lord will bring comfort to Zion and make Eden out of the waste places in which she lives, a garden filled with joy and gladness, with thanksgiving and with song.

“Listen to me, I tell you, you people of God, and pay attention, you the nation of the Lord. A teaching will go out, the teaching given to Moses of justice and deliverance, a teaching of light and salvation. And it will go out to all of the peoples from the coast to the mountains, from the south to the north. My arm reaches out to all of them. Lift up your eyes and see the heavens above and the earth below, these that I created before I created you. All of this will vanish and wear out; every living creature will die. But my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.”

We are not the ancient Israelites. For instance, we have not been forced to leave our homeland and live in the wilderness of an alien land. Even if our church were destroyed tonight, we have insurance with which to rebuild it. But we are *like* them in that we often identify ourselves by this place rather than by the One who has called us into this community. When you think of St. Christopher’s, what do you picture first: this wonderful space or the faces of the community? The answer says a lot about who we are. If we identify St. C’s as a particular space, then we are limiting the work that God can do here. If we see our community, then our understanding of St. C’s knows no bounds.

Like the Israelites, we need to listen. We need to look to the rock of our faith, the Christ, to learn how to be God’s people. Here at St. Christopher’s, we are young enough to still have in our midst some of the very building stones of our first community of believers. We can still know what it is like *not* to have this place but to travel with the altar or the nursery in the trunk of one’s car all week long.

Like the Israelites, we can look to our ancient roots as well and know that the Lord is made known to us in those stories of Eden, Abraham, Sarah, Moses and, yes, even the Israelites themselves. Our story begins with all them and continues through the Christ and Peter, another rock. We have been given the eloquent teachings of Paul and so many who have come after him.

But what we do with that foundation, how we choose to build, where we shine the light of the Lord is entirely up to us, this community of faithful people.

We do live in an alien land. How can we take what is best from our past and use it to help shape our future? How are we to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God? How can we transform ourselves in such a way that others will know God through us?

These are not questions for individuals. They are addressed to the one body in Christ here gathered. Talk to each other. Pray for guidance in building the future that God wants for us. Look, listen, seek and heed. Only then can we begin to understand that we have a part to play in the coming of the Kingdom. Then we can step out boldly and do what God is asking, not in fear but in confidence, knowing that we, too, are rocks, part of the very foundation of the Church.
(The image at the top is of the Cathedral in Port au Prince, Haiti)

Monday, July 18, 2011

A weekend of being tourists

Saturday morning, we left at 7:00 for a "three hour trip" to Copan.  But first we stopped for fuel and water.  Then we took a side trip to Santa Clara, a village way above the valley where the road is.  It was a road full of very rocky places, several deep ruts/dips and mud in a few spots.  But Fredy managed to get us there in one piece.  The school has been built by donations from several churches.  All of the buildings are brick with Spanish tile roofs and ceramc tile floors.  The windows are screened and open to catch the breeze.  This weas by far the best of the schools we saw in our travels.   It is a bilingual school and two of the girls who were in the Santa Cruz shelter are boarding students here.

After about half an hour - I did not wear a watch this week so time has been relative - we returned to our van and headed back down the mountain road and the highway to Copan.  In several of the villages and towns, speed bumps have been installed to keep people from flying through and endangering lives.  Remember this is a country with no speed limits and people also ignore the double yellow line in the middle of the road.  Speed bumps in a loaded van are not fun, though, and added to the wear and tear of our derriers.

We finally reached Copan about 1:00.  Yes, that is six hours after we left home. ;-)  Our first stop was Macaw Mountain.  This attraction was built by a man from Knoxville who came to Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer and pretty much never left.  All of the macaws, parrots and toucans we saw are birds that have been rescued from poachers.  They come to Macaw Mountain to heal before they are returned to the wild.  Most of us had our pictures taken holding two or three of these beautiful birds.  We would normally have been allowed to walk through the aviaries; however, this is mating season so we had to leave the birds pretty much alone.  Macaws are mate for live and live to be about 80 years old. 

We had lunch here and then headed for our hotel and some shopping.  I confess to having gone a little wild on the latter before heading for the hot tub at the hotel.  After a nap, we had a late dinner in the hotel dining room.  On Sunday, we got up late and ate big breakfasts before heading to the Mayan ruins.  Copan is the last Mayan site built and it is from here that Mayans disappeared completely at the end of the 9th century.  All that was left when the Spanish arrived about seven hundred years later was ruins.  Reconstruction began in 1891 and continues today.  Apparently the site is so rich that they can uncover in two months enough things to study for two years.  Nury told us they are behind in the study part of things and have stopped digging until they catch up.

Our tour guide was named Marvin (!) and was quite knowledgeable about the site and the history of the Mayans.  We had a good time with him.  He told us that bananas and palm trees are not native to Honduras but came from Asia.  I can't imagine Honduras without either of those trees.  We did see some incredibly old capok trees that have survived earthquakes and hurricanes.  One of them looked to be growing out of the hill at a sixty-five degree angle.

We had lunch at a restaurant in town.  The taco soup would have been sufficient since most of us were still digesting breakfast.  It was really very good.  We also had baked chicken, potatoes, carrots and green beans.  Sunday dinner just like Mom used to make!  After a little more shopping - Adam finally found his hammock - we got back onto our van and started back to San Pedro Sula.  The homeward trip only took four and a half hours with one stop to stretch about halfway.  We siad good-bye to Javier, our favorite waiter, and Belinda, the bartender at the pool.   This morning, we will head for the airport and begin our journeys home.  Susie Cox returns to Los Angeles and the rest of us come home to Kingsport by way of three different airports.  We have become a family in this short week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Last day in th shelters

This morning started off slowly.  Fredy needed to get the tire we blew yesterday replaced.  He ended up getting new tires for both front wheels.  Frankly, given the roads we have been driving, I am surprised flat tires aren't a daily or weekly event.  In any case, it was after ten when we left our hotel.  It did give us a chance to sleep in, though.

We returned to Santa Cruz which is a little more than an hour from here.  The children had just finished their morning school work before heading off to school after lunch.  So we had very little time with them. The older boys went outside to play soccer with Adam Harpster.  Betty, Caitlin and Beth had the girls making note cards - another learning:  never put out more stickers than something needs since the more there are to choose from, the more they will stick on whatever they are making.  The younger boys enjoyed the bean bag toss we brought.  When the children sat down for lunch, we helped serve them, heard them say grace and then Gordon thanked them for letting us come to visit.  We ended by singing the Doxology and then headed for our van.

Baldamar, the leader of the Santa Cruz shelter, took us to see the home of one of the children who comes to the shelter.  It was more than a mile away and the roads were precarious at best and impassable at worst.  We ended up walking the last few blocks because Fredy simply couldn't get the van any farther. 

This house was better than most because it had a concrete floor and a new tin roof, gifts of the congregation to which an Osman Hope board member belongs.  The home is a single room with a blanket hanging down the middle to give a sense of living space and sleeping space.  There is electricity but no plumbing.  The cooking is done outside and there is a kind of lean-to for storage.  The mother sells spices to make a living.  Her market is locals and the children sell the spices by going door to door in the town.  Lately, the economy has been so bad that very few people are buying.  So, even though she grows as many of the spices as she can, her stock is very low and her clientele even lower.  There are five children in this house ranging in age from four to fifteen.  Despite the extreme poverty, the family has done everything they can to make their home beautiful.  It is surrounded by flowers and trees.

We had lunch at Nury's family home on Lago de Yojoa (yo ho' a).  This lake has several tilapia farms in it so our lunch was freshly caught and fried tilapia.  Hondurans eat fish like we eat fried chicken - with their fingers.  They also fry their fish whole.  Yes, that's right, from tip to tail!  The first thing I did was remove the head and a few fins.  But the work was worth it as this was some of the best fish I have ever eaten.  It was accompanied by a kind of vinegar cole slaw, pickled spicy onions (there were jalopenos in the jar, too) and pineapple for dessert.

After we ate, Nury cut Emperor's Canes for each of the ladies.  This is an ornamental that is quite expensive in the States.  The stalk really does look like rhubarb red sugar cane.  The flower is not really a flower as we think of them at all.  It looks like this:   

WE finally drove back into San Pedro Sula and did some shopping at Nury's gift shop.  We head for Copan tomorrow morning very early so I will say good night and get ready for bed. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Santa Cruz

Let me tell you about where we are staying.  In the US, this would be called an extended stay hotel.  We have a living room/dining/kitchen - complete with pans, two burners, a fridge and toaster oven - two bedrooms and a bath.  With the exception of the Brewer family, there are two of us in each apartment.  It is really quite comfortable.  It is air conditioned to the point of chilly so Susie and I usually turn it off when we return home at night and don't turn it back on; however, the maid always does that for us.

Hotel Villa Nuria has its own restaurant, gym, laundry, pool and mini market.  I don't think any of us has used the gym but the pool is our afternoon respite and we have eaten all breakfasts and two dinners in the restaurant.  Oddly, pizza is one of the things they do well.  The whole compound is gated/walled for safety.

Today, we went to Santa Cruz which is outside of San Pedro Sula by about an hour's drive.  There is no speed limit here so I have no idea how many kilometers away it is.  On our way down the road, we had a flat tire!  So all of the men got out to take care of it.  Fredy told the ladies to stay inside.  There was very little room on the shoulder and we did worry about our folks standing in the road.  It didn't take too long to fix and we were back on the road once again.

Santa Cruz is the cadillac of shelters.  It has two very large rooms with high ceilings and ceiling fans.  The children have showers as well as toilets in the bathrooms and each of them bathes before going to school.  The ages here range from about five to fifteen years.  Two of the boys who were there this afternoon we 18 but they are assistants rather than students.  We did some crafts to start then played games, adding musical chairs and statues to our repertoire.  We ended with balloon animals and swords and then jump rope.  All of the children like to jump rope.

As half of us worked with the children, the other half worked to paint the inside of the church with which the shelter is associated.  It was oil-based paint and Gordon said the fumes really got to him.  Needless to say, it wasn't easy for these folks to clean up.

Santa Cruz is a decent size town with a central square and a "shopping district" of sorts.  After we had driven through the town, we came back into San Pedro Sula with just enough time to take showers and change for dinner.  We went to a Mexican-style restaurant in the city.  Nury, Fredy, Ingrid, Esther (two girls who came to Kingsport last fall for a visit) and Ileana (administrator of La Lima) all went with us so we were quite a large party; however, this restaurant seemed to cater to large parties.  The food was quite good and I think a good time was had by all.

And now it is time for bed once again.  We have said our prayers individually tonight and are very tired.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day Three of our Journey

We began our day today back at La Lima.  Most of the men finished painting the outside of the shelter in two shades of blue.  Adam played soccer with many of the boys off and on all morning but only after he and I discovered that neither one of us can make a God's Eye - a relatively simply craft involving two popsicle sticks and a few yards of yarn.  Rebecca and Caitlin excelled at this craft, though, so Adam and I could slink off to other things without too much guilt. 

There were more children there this morning than usual. Apparently, many of those who would normally be in school in the morning decided they would rather stay at the shelter and play with us.  So play we did.  We played Sevens again and did a few rounds of the Hokey Pokey.  Then the children showed us how to play two different games that start out like "ring around the rosey" but end differently.  In one, everyone freezes in a pose and has to hold it or be called out.  The other requires a person in the middle to close their eyes and spin around before pointing to the next person to take their place.  There are songs with both of these games but I didn't understand a single word.  There was another circle game too but I honestly don't think I can describe it.

After lunch, we went to the Jesus Rivera shelter where we only had time for them to sing to us and for us to play the ubiquitous Sevens.  It was the first time our painters had a chance to play.  Then we drove through the neighborhood and down to the river where most of the people live in shacks made of cardboard or plastic with tin roofs.  They run their own power lines in, however, so most of them have television and internet even though they do not have running water or plumbing.  Life is strange.

Then we visited Villa Nuria which is a shelter run by the Iglesia Episcopal.  We did some crafts, Betty and Caitlin painted faces and we did balloon animals and swords.  And yes, we played Sevens one more time.  I think that may be our trademark game.

Our weather probably was cooler than Kingsport today and the humidity was less during the day.  That doesn't mean we weren't feeling the heat, drinking lots of water and wrapping wet bandanas around our necks or heads all day long.  We came home to a wonderful breeze at poolside.  Dinner was at a local "American" restaurant with a few typical dishes on the menu as well.  They were out of beer and wine so most of us drank water, bottled of course.

Tomorrow, we will start out early as it is a long way to the Santa Cruz shelter. 

One thing I have noticed here:  we are used to seeing pictures of dogs and cats, maybe a bird, on signs for veterinarians.  There is a veterinaria not far from our hotel and the sign features a chicken, a pig and a cow!  We have not seen any cats on our wandering but quite a few dogs.  All of them are very thin.  So are the horses and cows we have seen by the side of the road.  There are many people who drive carts pulled by horses, usually on the side of the road. 

And with that, I believe it is time for me to go to bed.  We have all found that the heat saps our strength and we are glad to go to bed early.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our first day in a shelter

Continuing with the theme of learning, the first thing we learned today was that we can relax into Honduran time without any trouble.  We did not leave as scheduled even though Fredy and Nury were both here and ready to go.

Let me tell you about our two invaluable assistants.  Fredy is our driver.  He makes most of his living in this season of mission trips, driving groups like ours.  He knows all the main roads and all the back ones, too.  Fredy has his ear to the ground and makes sure we do not travel through neighborhoods that are too dangerous.  He is married and has three beautiful little girls ages 11, 7 and 2.  In the past, he has worked on cruise ships.  He spent five years washing dishes, was only allowed to be home for two months a year and earned $400/month!  Something to consider next time one of us takes a cruise.

Nury is an entrepreneur, politician and tour guide.  She is a native of Honduras (as is Fredy) but her parents sent her to boarding school in the States for high school.  I believe both her sister and brother are legal residents of the US and she and her parents also have residency in both places.  Nury does most of the translating for us and helps Gordon decide what we need to do different from the original schedule.  She owns a string of gift shops and is involved in the local arts council.

Which brings me to our second learning of the day.  You can plan all you want but the kids will determine what really happens.  We arrived at La Lima shelter about 10:00 this morning.  Our plan called for a group of activities in the morning and a second group in the afternoon.  Well, half the kids go to school in the morning and the other half go in the afternoon.  So we needed to the morning crafts with both groups and fill in with games where we could.  Betty O'Neill got started on the wall mural right away.  Her husband, Mike, and Nury helped her at first and then Beth Dowty got into the painting this afternoon.  The outside painting that needed to be done had to wait until there were brushes and rollers available - another trip to the store and, yes, it was only the men who went (I guess we didn't learn that lesson yesterday after all).

We decided that we would do balloon animals with the kids after the crafts were done.  So Rebecca, Caitlin, Adam, Susie and Beth all learned how to use the balloon pumps and that tying the balloon is the hardest part of making balloon animals, something I learned years ago.  I have to say we made some very creative animals; however, the big winner of the day was swords!  We made sword after sword - they had a tendency to pop - and Chris Harpster was the biggest kid there.  At one point, he was right in the middle and they were all wailing on him with their own swords.  I think we might have to start calling Chris "the dread Pirate Roberts."

After lunch, we had a new batch of kids and started all over again.  Except the balloons had gone into the lunch time so we didn't repeat them.  We brought a kiddy pool to make bubble solution in.  The deal is to get a kid to stand in the middle, use the hoop as the balloon wand and make the bubble around the child.  Well, it didn't work out that way; however, the kids had a wonderful time trying to see how high they could get the bubble wall to go and, in the afternoon when Gordon brought more soap, they got about four feet high.  This was a really big hit.

We had games planned and jettisoned many of them - too hot outside mostly, although Adam had them going with the soccer ball - so Chris and Caitlin called on their camp counselling days and played a slapping/clapping games called Sevens.  I haven't learned it yet.  At the end of the afternoon when all the adults were too tired to do much more than watch Betty and Beth paint, I pulled out the memory card game Bunny and I bought at Target one day.  I started making sure all the pairs were together because I figured we would play with half the cards (36 instead of 72).  One of the little boys came over to see what I was doing and helped me match everything up.  We put half away and shook up the rest before laying them out.  By that time, three girls had joined the circle.  That first game was pretty quick and we discovered who likes to cheat and who doesn't.  So we used all 72 cards for the second game and added two more players.  We barely managed to finish the third game, with about seven players,  before the team left me behind. 

The neighborhood where this shelter is located is exactly what you picture when you think of a barrio - dirt roads, chickens and ducks wandering around, no grass to speak of and a lot of corrugated iron roofs and walls.  But there are many homes that at least started out as concrete block structures so it is a real mix of poor and desperately poor.  Plumbing is primitive at best.  But every house has gated entries.  Nury told us that it is so dangerous that children are not allowed to play outdoors except maybe at school in an enclosed yard.  The drug cartels are powerful here.

We came home to a refreshing dip in the pool, prayer time and a good dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Now about those pictures.  I confess that I brought the wrong cord to transfer pictures.  Alas, no one else brought their computer along with their camera.  So we will have to have a big slide show when we return home.

Good night, my friends.   More tomorrow.

Things I learned on our first day in Honduras

Chris Harpster and his son, Adam, picked up Caitlin Stone and me at 3:00 sharp yesterday morning and we set off for Asheville to catch our flight.  Coming up Buckner Gap in North Carolina, we blew a tire and learned that two people can change a tire in 20 minutes in the dark and that two flashlights were sufficient to see by.

We made the plane with time to spare and learned that even at 6:00, there can be air traffic - thanks to the fog.  We arrived in Atlanta and met up with the rest of the group as they came in from Knoxville and Tri-Cities.  Adam learned that it is easy to fall asleep almost anywhere.

And then we arrived in Honduras.  Upon landing, we learned that there can be delays even when there is no air traffic.  It took about fifteen minutes for our gate to be made ready.  The next lesson was that you can start out in the middle of the line waiting at Customs and end up being last.  We met up with Susie Cox, Beth Dowty's aunt, who flew in from California to join our group.  Waiting seems to be a national pastime and no one is anxious about getting anywhere in a hurry at all - unless you are in a vehicle or riding a motorcycle.  Then the need for speed urges drivers to use their horns as often as possible.

The afternoon rain storm came as promised but it lasted longer than the ones we have in Kingsport and immediately clogged the streets with water.  I suppose this is what makes Honduras a country as full of green as any poster of Ireland.  This is a beautiful country.

Our first meal in country was at Power Chicken.  Yes, that's right, the mascot looks like a pumped up chicken in an outfit reminiscent of Super Man.  The food, though, was really good.  We had chicken, beef, pork and short ribs, spanish rice, fried plantain slices (no, I didn't try these) and yucca fries (yes, I did try these and they are good but needed ketchup ;-).

In the afternoon, we learned not to send the men to the grocery store.  I am sure there was a long line at checkout but it still took them an inordinate amount of time to buy bread, peanut butter and jelly, water and snacks.  Maybe there were too many snack choices.

We returned to Hotel Villa Nuria, having dropped our luggage off before lunch, and Gordon began the process of checking us in.  This involves having someone come into each apartment with the residents to make sure there are the requisite number of dishes, silver, pots, pans and towels.  Also to see that all the lights and the air conditioner are working.

Then we spent the last of the evening unpacking ourselves and then all of the supplies we brought with us.  Sister believes we have more than any of their other trips.  You all have been very generous and we thank you.

The final learning of the day was that the internet likes to keep you waiting, too.  So I waited until this morning to get this message to all of you.  Today, we will visit La Lima shelter and I promise to take pictures.  Then we will learn whether the cord I brought will work for downloading to the computer!

So much to learn and only a week in which to do it! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trinity, a sermon

Trinity Sunday, the day most preachers try to explain how we believe in one God whom we describe as three persons or types.  I’ll give you the quick answer.  It’s about relationships.

There are times when we relate to God as the creator or as a kind of parent.  There are times when the Son
is how we know God best.  And then most of the time it is the Holy Spirit that we recognize moving in and through us.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the readings!

Almost every single one of us cut our biblical teeth on Genesis 1 plus that little bit of chapter 2.  We love that story even as we admit that it is a myth, the kind of story that is mostly fiction built on a fundamental truth,
this one being that God created everything that is.  It is a comfort story and despite all attempts to paint it as anti-evolutional, it is exactly the opposite of that. This is a story of how our world evolved.  Told around campfires in the camps of nomads, passed on to children generation after generation, these stories of our early ancestors speak of how they understood God to be related to and involved with themselves  and all that surrounded them.

We cannot fault them for not including the big bang theory or an anthropological understanding of evolution,
species coming and going, fault lines and tectonic plates causing the earth to shake or ice ages pushing the land around to form mountains and valleys.  There was no way they could know any of those things.  It is only in the last several hundred years that we have begun to discover the rich knowledge beyond the Genesis understanding of God and creation.

Along with the psalmist, these early people considered the heavens, the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars God set in their courses.  And they asked, where do we fit into this scheme and how come we
seem to be masters of all that we see on the earth?  The psalmist has no answer for those questions.  It is sufficient to state them, to recognize that the Lord gave us mastery over creation and then to praise the name of the Lord.

With all of our science, do we  really understand why humanity has the power to nurture and to destroy
that which we had no hand in creating?  Not really.  So why should we consider the awesome-ness of earth and sky?  Why should we wonder why God made us a little lower than the angels?  Because doing so
brings us into relationship with the Lord of creation.  God made us and then invited us to be stewards of the rest of creation. 

We were not given creation to do with as we choose, however.  There are some who see humanity as co-creators with the Almighty.  I’m not sure I agree with that idea but I am awed to realize that God chooses to share the work of care and nurture of all created order with us, that God trusts us that much!

Jesus reiterates that care in the Gospel.  Jesus tells the disciples that authority in heaven and on earth
belongs to him. He does not give it to them, but because he has the authority and they are the ones who know and love him, he sends them out to make more disciples, disciples of all nations to be stewards of the Church, caring for and nurturing it.  Through his authority, they are to baptize and teach, bringing others into the family.  And he, the one who holds the power, will be with them always, caring for them as he always has
and helping them to continue growing in the work they now share with him and with those they will teach.

Relationships.  Between people and nations, between the Lord and the creation.

The apostle Paul has a stormy relationship with the Corinthians.  Even so, he loves them deeply and they love him as the one who cared enough to show them how God wanted them to live in Christ.  Paul ends this epistle by calling them brothers and sisters.  They are now closely related through the redeeming work of the Son.

Paul tells them to agree with one another and live in peace.  Obviously Paul must have been an only child. 
But even when we are not in agreement, my brothers and sisters, we do agree on the love of God that we share. 

You and I know that the God of love and peace is with us.  And when we greet one another, whether with a nod, handshake, hug or kiss, we share that love and peace with the entire communion of saints.

Relationships.  Ours with each other.  Ours with God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  God knows us at our beginning, God walks beside us throughout our lives, God waits to welcome us into the gates of larger life opened to us only by the grace of that very same God.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Abuse by Bible

Listen again to what Peter told the crowd at Pentecost:

"You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say:  Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you - this man you crucified and killed
by the hands of those outside the law.”

This is not the first time in the last two weeks that we have heard the Jews blamed for the death of Jesus. 
In fact, compared to the two Passion Narratives we read on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, it sounds relatively mild.  I would be willing to bet that none of you heard anti-Semitism in this reading or in the Passion readings, either.  I’m guessing that’s because we just don’t hear it anymore.  Perhaps, we’ve heard in sermons and hymns that we are the ones who crucified/crucify the Christ to the point that we substitute ourselves for the Jews, Chief Priests, etc.

And I am also betting that none of us here would declare ourselves anti-Jewish.  Most likely we really aren’t.
I do hope we have all thought about it, though.  Otherwise, we are very likely to say something incredibly offensive to a Jew and then be stunned by his or her response!  It is not enough to declare ourselves as free of this prejudice.  We have to work through the issue, test our feelings and question whether we are truly
not prejudiced.

You see, we cannot simply ignore these passages from the New Testament that have been used for thousands of years to oppress, abuse and kill people of the Jewish faith, our ancestors in belief.

AJ Levine, who grew up in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood and even went to church with her Catholic friends, was stunned one school day when she was seven to have a friend tell her that she had killed Jesus!  Obviously, her little friend had heard about the crucifixion of Jesus and taken it to heart.  Was she inherently anti-Semitic?  We don’t know.  But it seems likely that no one attempted to explain things to her.

Here’s a common sense approach – perhaps a little too simplistic – to hearing that Jews demanded Jesus’ death.  It was to the Jews that Jesus went.  There was not a large community of Chinese or Dutch or Americans living in Palestine at the time who decided that this itinerant teacher was causing them trouble and had to die. 

Jesus was a Jew.  Jesus came to the Jews primarily, and on the Feast of the Passover, Jerusalem was full of Jews.  Not Americans, not Canadians, not French or Norwegians or Philipinos.  Had any of those peoples been there and been faithful Jews, they would have acted in the same manner.  Maybe they would have without being Jews!

We cannot change what happened.  We cannot edit the story to make it more palatable.  But we must make sure that we do not beat up our Jewish brothers and sisters because of it.

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using Scripture to oppress, abuse and kill people.  How many centuries did we allow and participate in slavery in large part because it exists in the Bible and Paul even went so far as to return a runaway slave to his master?  Granted, he sent a nice letter along imploring the owner to remember that his slave was a brother in Christ.  So we baptized a lot of slaves and that is supposed to make it all right?

How long has it been since a woman was kept in subservience because it is the biblical way?  It’s still going on.  We use Scripture to excoriate people of other faiths – sometimes even different denominations – other countries, other genders and, yes, other orientations.  We simply have to stop using the Bible to justify what we want to believe and what we feel.  There are way too many places where God tells us it is not ours to do the judging.

We also need to be very careful about not reading into Scripture what is not there.  For instance, poor Thomas, who was one of the faithful – remember it was Thomas who said they should go to Bethany with Jesus even though they might well die with him there – has forever been labeled by one word in all of those said about or by him.


Because Thomas is honest enough to express his doubts, he is forever called Doubting Thomas.  Do we think he was the only disciple who had doubts?  And we have convinced ourselves that doubt is wrong,
that doubt is the opposite of faith.  So we read back into the story this misunderstanding of a perfectly good word.

My brothers and sisters, one of the reasons many of us are Episcopalians is because we are encouraged to ask questions, to work through out doubts knowing that the community is here to support us through those hard times and questions.  We baptize babies and young children into the Christian faith precisely so that, when they doubt, they will know the love of God is present anyway, especially then.

Doubting is working through the questions.  It is being honest about where we are in our journey, what is causing us to stumble.  Doubting is not turning away or giving up.  Rather it is actively engaging in the working out of faith in real time with real people and often in real pain.

Rather than scorn Thomas, let us lift him up as one who has been where we are and whose experience
of doubt turning to belief gives us the courage to grow in faith and to live in hope.

(Image from

Friday, January 28, 2011

Home again, home again

By now - Friday afternoon - most of the nominees, all of the shepherds and Transition team members should be home.  There's some concern about snow in the Northeast but we have said our prayers for safe journeys and sent everyone on their way.

Yesterday, we left Johnson City and headed for the Cathedral in Knoxville.  There, Dean Ross had a lively discussion with the nominees about the ministries of the Cathedral.  I think we all learned a lot.  Then we headed just down the road to the Diocesan House.  Annie vonRosenberg and Laura Nichols had arranged lunch for us and the staff.  The transformation of the conference room into restaurant was stunning!  We used real china and silver, tableclothes on all six tables and stemmed water glasses.  Charlie and Annie had made cookies in the shape of the the diocesan seal, complete with a modified "drawing" of the actual seal in yellow and purple piping.  All of the staff welcomed us with big smiles and open arms. 

After lunch, the nominees had several discussions with various people and then retaped their presentations since one of the mikes malfunctioned on Tuesday night.  Those should be on the search website by now (  and I hope you will take a look at all of them.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting to Grace Point, seeing all of the buildings (we opted out of a hike ;-) and then driving down to St. Timothy's Signal Mountain where we had another gracioius welcome and a marvelous dinner.  Then Father Choyce celebrated Eucharist for us and we went home to the Doubletree to bed.

I can't begin to thank all of the people who made this week a real success.  I do have to start by thanking Gaines Campbell, Kathryn Mathewson and Norma Mills.  These three, the walkabout subcommittee, made all of the arrangements, listened to my fears and allayed them.  The kind people of Thankful Memorial, St. Paul's Chattanooga, Christ Church, St. Martin's, St. Peter's, St. Paul's Athens, Resurrection, St. Barnabbas, St. James Greeneville, St. John's Johnson City and St. John's Cathedral opened their churches to us with love and grace. 

And then there are the shepherds: Jocelyn Bell,  Erik Broeren, Chris Harpster, Kate Jacobs and Claire Keene who put their regular lives on hold for a week to make this pilgrimage with their nominees.  Without the good faith and willingness of the five nominees to be a part of our discernment, of course, none of this would have happened. I have to thank the spouses for also being willing to walk with us.  All too often, it is easy to concentrate on the nominees and forget that there are five other lives that have been affected.   Thanks again to the Search Committee for their incredible work.

Finally, I want us to remember the parishes where our nominees serve:  Holy Innocents, Beach Haven NJ; St. Martin's, Metairie LA; St. Stephen's, Houston TX; St. John's, Elizabeth NJ; St. Peter's, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island FL.  Regardless of who is elected, each of these parishes has had to make adjustments on our behalf.  Thanks to all of them.

So the walkabout is over.  Now we move on to the election in two weeks.  Please continue in your prayers, refer often to the website and know that the Fourth Bishop of East Tennessee will be a good fit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Running for the bus

Much of the last week has been spent in two of these big white vans.  Over the four days we have been together, there has been good conversation, laughter, silence, a little confusion - especially when vans go different directions to the same place.  But I believe friendships have been formed that won't be easily forgotten or set aside.  You see, when we gather in the Lord's name and to do the Lord's work, relationship happens.  It doesn't matter that these folks are all standing for the same election.  What I have heard them all say is that it matters what the Holy Spirit calls delegates and clergy to do.  And, meanwhile, they have become friends.

This was our last walkabout meeting tonight.  St. John's did a good job of keeping us warm in a building without a boiler.  They fed us well and made us welcome.  Remarkably, all of the nominees managed to have as much energy tonight as they did Monday night.  This after a day of driving in rain and/or snow and visits to two churches other than St. John's.  We had coffee this morning at St. Barnabas, Jefferson City - a Lutheran/Episcopal worshiping community.  They have done a masterful job of renovating an old house into a real house church, pews and all.  Then we travelled to St. James in Greeneville for lunch and a stirring rendition of Drop Kick Me Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life.  What fun!

And now, once again, we are ready to turn out the lights and go to bed.  Tomorrow, we will be on the road once again and driving all the way back to Chattanooga with stops to be made between here and there.  Keep those prayers coming just a little longer!

Good night!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet....

We have had drizzly rain on and off all day today but it wasn't enough to dampen the spirits of our walkabout crew.  After piling all of our luggage in Chris Harpster's van as well as in the back of the two big white vans, we left the Doubletree in Chattanooga and headed for Athens.  The folks at St. Paul's Athens greeted us warmly and were more than happy to show us their church, tell us the story of how they decided to turn the back of the nave into the front (and vice versa) and then send us on up Route 11 to Loudon.

Resurrection Loudon fed us three great soups - I am getting the recipe for the golden chicken for our own soup suppers - and then sent us on up the road to Knoxville, where we took the nominees to see The Church of the Ascencion, site of the new bishop's ordination in June.  After a few wrong turns - I swear two thirds of the drivers simply decided it was time to go home to Kingsport! - we all made it to our hotel and out of the vans long enough to check emails and/or take a nap.

And then we headed to Episcopal School of Knoxville where faculty, students and staff made us feel like we were part of their family.  I hadn't been to ESK in several years and was really impressed with the size of the campus but mostly with its beauty.  These are buildings that invite you to be engaged in learning.  At Evening Prayer, the middle school singers sang two songs for us and we all sang Lord, make me a Sanctuary together.  Then the presentations and question and answer portion of the evening took place with perhaps a little more chaos than the previous evening but within the time frame we had set for the whole event, always a good thing.

I continue to be impressed by our nominees.  That's about all I can honestly say, though, since I do not want to be swaying anyone else's minds and hearts.  Having heard them all twice has been a great gift, though, one I wish everyone could have.  Still, I bellieve if you all read what has been published on the website and come to one of the walkabouts, you will get a good idea of who each of the nominees is.

So tomorrow, we hope the snow will be very mild and might even decide to skip us entirely.  We will take our time getting from one place to another even if it means blowing the schedule sky high.  Better to keep everyone safe than to make all the deadlines.  That said, the snow may slow us down but it will not stay us from our appointed rounds!

You are in my prayers as I travel outside of the parish and I know that you are praying for all of us making this journey around the Diocese.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pardon me boys....

We have spent today wandering from place to place in Chattanooga, finishing up at St. Paul's for the first of the three regional walkabout sessions.  We began the day with a visit to Christ Church, a beautiful church with a really good organ.  The treat was that the organist was there and playing when we arrived.  We convinced her to play Praise to the Lord and we all sang lustily.  It is a good acoustical space.  We heard from several members about the Christian Ed program and the beginnings of their discernment process for the next priest, their former rector having just retired.

Then it was back in the big white vans and off to St. Martin's of Tours.  This church has done some adding on in the last several years, expanding the nave and building space to house a pre-school.  The kids were in class so it was really fun to watch them.  The people were most welcoming and happy to tell us about their congregation.  It sounds like a good group of people.  In the entry, there is a board that listed all the newcomers, those who have recently gotten married and all of those serving in the military.  I wondered where we would put something like that at St. Christopher's.

Back again to the vans and across the Chickamauga Dam to St. Peter's.  We had a tour of the school (nursery to 5th grade), the nave and then were served a really good lunch.  I plan to get the recipe for the portabelo mushroom pasta!  One of the interesting things about St. Peter's is that the sanctuary is on the second floor.  It is a bright space full of natural light.  Over the door are two paintings done by a Russian artist of two scenes from St. Peter's life.  Fascinating!

After a few hours rest - yes, I did take a nap - we went down the street to St. Paul's where the staff, led by Donald Fishburne, did a marvelous job of taking care of us all, keeping us on time and providing us with a lovely evening service.  We began the service with a Taize chant as everyone entered and then joined in.  It really set the tone and opened us up to being quiet and listening for the Spirit.  The nominees all did brief - 3 minutes or less - presentations that helped us know what we might want to ask in the break out sessions.

And now we have eaten dinner, lingered over coffee and dessert for more good conversation, and begun packing for tomorrow's trip to Knoxville.  So it is time to turn out the lights and say our prayers.  Thank you all for yours!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Now the day is over

It is 9:30 of this first day together on the Walkabout and life is good.  All flights to Chattanooga arrived early, on time or at least not very late. The good people of Thankful Memorial Church welcomed us for a tour of their really lovely church and wine and cheese in the parish hall.  And then we were off to Hennen's for a very good dinner.
That's a lot of superlative language but it is how I'm feeling as we begin this five day journey.  There was lively conversation at all three tables at dinner, in the vans going and coming and in the lobby as people met, some for the first time and began to make those connections that remind us the Episcopal world is a small one.
I promised Vikki Myers that I would take pictures on this trip.  Well, I remembered I had my camera with me after every left Thankful and once again as I picked up my purse after dinner.  I'll have to do better tomorrow.
And now I think we are all ready to get some sleep.  Even for those of us who are local, it has been a long day.  So I will say good night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And we're walking, we're walking

Walking in the light of God.
Walking on eggshells.
Walking the walk, talking the talk.
Walking on water.
Jesus walked.   Oops!  That's Jesus wept.

Well, in any case, Sunday evening begins the official Walk About Week in the Diocese of East Tennessee.  We start in Chattanooga and end in Chattanooga.  While we are there, we will visit six churches.  Wending our way to Knoxville on Tuesday, we will visit three more and a school.  Making the great hike to Upper East on Wednesday, three more congregations will greet our bishop nominees and their spouses.  And, just in case we haven't seen enough at that point, we will stop at the Cathedral, the Diocesan House and Grace Point on Thursday.  Are you tired yet?

This really is an exciting time for our Diocese.  Five people are walking with us through the process of discerning our next bishop.  That means five families, five congregations and even five other dioceses have allowed us to disrupt their routine so that we might hear the Holy Spirit.  How gracious they all are! 

So many people have made all of this possible.  There's the Standing Committee, the Search Committee and the Transition Committee for starters.  But there are lots of people at all those churches who will greet the Walk About group, feed us and host the three "meet the nominees" events.  There are many on the diocesan staff who have helped us on this journey starting with Bishop vonRosenberg and his wife, Annie, who isn't even on staff but is pitching in.  I think it is clear to all of us that the Spirit is already moving, calling us to a new place and a new day which will be built on all that has come before.

So in our walking, we need to remember one more "walking" phrase:  And he walks with me, and he talks with me.  All of us who will be meeting nominees, caring for them and their spouses, showing off our churches and Diocese to them are walking with God.

It's going to be a great week!