Over the past few days, members of the Diocese of Newark contingent to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church have been arriving in Sa
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Posts from retired blogs, including Bishop Mark Beckwith's blog "Signs of God's Grace," Canon Greg Jacobs' blog "Out of the Ordinary," and blogs by General Convention deputies in 2012 and 2015.
Early in the morning on Wednesday, June 17, I will offer blessings to commuters at Penn Station in Newark. At midday, I will do the same for the guests who come for lunch at the soup kitchen next door to our office. I will have a sign – “Blessings for summer.” I have developed a rhythm of public blessings – on Ash Wednesday, before summer, on September 11 and just before the Thanksgiving holiday. I offer the blessing because it is an act of joining God in the neighborhood; and because the more I offer these blessings, the more I realize that people want – and need, to be blessed.
I don’t know Tom Erhrich, but I know a bit of his work. He’s an Episcopal priest whose ministry is that of a commentator and writer. In this piece published by Religion News Service on May 19, he says some hard, acerbic and important things about Christian churches in general. His comments are, no doubt, a response to the recently issued Pew report, which has made some data-backed observations about the decline of church membership – and the growth of the “nones” (people who claim no religious affiliation).
A friend of mine recently told me an ancient story about a rabbi who was good and faithful – and had found special favor with God. God approached the rabbi and asked the holy man what God could do for him. After offering his gratitude, the rabbi answered – with characteristic humility, “Help me make a difference in the world.”
I don’t want to look. I don’t want to look at the images coming from Nepal, where I spent time two years ago while on sabbatical. I don’t want to see the chilling pictures of landslides, toppled buildings and avalanches that have taken thousands of lives in and around Kathmandu.
And I don’t want to look at the footage of burning buildings in Baltimore, and close-ups pictures of angry young people venting their frustration in such destructive ways.
About 150 of us from about a dozen churches spent much of Good Friday on the streets of Jersey City. We honored Jesus by observing the fourteen Stations of the Cross; and we also honored fourteen Jersey City residents whose lives were either taken or dramatically altered through gun violence.
It was still dark when Mary went to the tomb, as recorded in this year’s Easter Gospel. In truth, for Mary Magdalene, it had been dark since Friday when Jesus died on Calvary hill. When Jesus gave up his last breath, Mary’s hope died, and darkness took over.
"Encountering the other" was the theme of our just-concluded House of Bishops meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Western North Carolina. We looked at the "other" through the lens of race, culture, Native American history and interfaith ministry – through a series of meditations offered by various bishops. Table discussions on these issues followed. They were deep and very personal, and inspired action. I was invited to give the meditation on interfaith ministry, and once I was able to work through various levels of anxiety, I was grateful for it, because it gave me the opportunity to reflect on how interfaith relationships, which have been a thread throughout my life, have deepened my relationship with the living Christ.
Over and over again, Jesus went to the edge. Immediately after his baptism, he was driven to the edge – into the wilderness, where he spent forty days and nights. While at the edge, he rediscovered the center – which for him was God.
The yes came first. Which may same like a contradiction to the Biblical record, because Jesus’ 40-day encounter with the desert and the devil (which the church has long commemorated as the season of Lent) suggests that it was all about no. Jesus saying no to the cruel temptations the devil dangled in front of him; the desert denying him the basic necessities of food and water. And so, over the centuries, in an effort to be in solidarity with Jesus’ ordeal in the wilderness, faithful Christians have set aside Lent to say no or to engage in various acts of self-denial. No to French fries or chocolate or alcohol or channel surfing – or other distractions or pleasures. All done with the intention of bringing us closer to God.