Dear Faithful People of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,
I trust you are well aware of the issues playing out regarding the separation of families on our borders. Not only does this raise significant political questions, but for us as a people of faith in the living God through Christ, it raises deeply theological ones. As followers of Jesus we must be asking how we respond to present policies that tear at the very fabric of what we hold dear in our national soul, yet even more of who we seek to be as a community who has committed to respect the dignity of every human being, and to seek justice and peace among all people. This is a time to ask, what would Jesus do?
I commend to you the materials offered here. I also hope that you are and will be having conversations in your parishes about what a compassionate, faith-filled response might look like for you personally and as a faith community. May God have mercy on us all.
Faithfully in Christ,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Please visit the links below:
The Third Sunday after The Epiphany: June 10, 2018
Who is this Jesus? Today’s liturgy, as in every Eucharist, and indeed the Scriptures just read, raise that question. Who is this Jesus we promise to follow with our life on the line? What does it require of us as we walk this planet?
Paul, whom we now call St. Paul, discovered that this Jesus rattled his cage and rumbled through the history of his life so that it would never be the same again. As the writer of many letters to the various new Christian communities, as today to the Christians in Corinth, we must not forget that he had been transformed from being a persecuting enemy of the Church to a proclaimer of God’s Good News of welcome and mercy to all. Indeed he writes that, “…grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” Our call as the baptized people of God is to do just that: out of our own deep gratitude to extend God’s grace to more and more people in order that God might be glorified, and his kingdom come, “on earth, as it is in heaven.” All through the Gospels we find in Jesus one who, if we are listening, leads us to resist oppressive authority, pointing us to a God who works from the underside of every system of power, as we are set free to be who God calls us to be.
So it is that in today’s Gospel we find a Jesus who, as a faithful Jew, once again steps beyond the convention and prohibition of his religion as practiced in his day. Some people levied the accusation that, “He has gone out of his mind.” Others of the religious authorities said that he was an instrument of evil, Beelzebul. Then, in a most clever rabbinical response, Jesus teaches that to name what is of the Spirit to have originated from an evil demon is a blasphemy against God. Next comes those amazing words when Jesus says that those called together in God’s Spirit are a part of a whole new community: “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” So you are.
Jesus remains true to his mission. Not only does he not seek the security of his own family and retreat into what is comfortable, he sets aside whatever others may think of him and remains resolute in his faith in God and God’s mission. One more time we discover a Jesus who refuses to be contained in rigid formulas of doctrinal correctness. He insisted that all are beloved sons and daughters of God, who does not rest in promoting the work of God’s Reign that recognizes that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. It doesn’t mean that we or the people of the world always act out of that truth, but it is why we say bold and wildly crazy things like, “we will respect the dignity of every human being,” and will “work for justice and peace among all people” as our lived response to being disciples.
Jesus will not play favorites and has no patience with the so-called devout looking down on others. He gives no countenance to those who believe they are so right that they rise up on the heels of sanctimonious self-righteousness. Jesus’ emphasis is on the way of God and his own sense of urgency to be about God’s reign of justice. He remains centered on God’s mission of love in the place of the constant barrage of violent and hateful actions and rhetoric infecting us on a daily basis; all evidence as described in Genesis of the enmity set into creation by our disobedience to our “loving, liberating and life-giving” God, to quote our Presiding Bishop.
Jesus is plain inconvenient in that way isn’t he? When Jesus enters the scene, we recognize that a new truth has shown up. It’s why he was always getting into trouble – he told and lived the truth. He was the truth. St. Paul says that we “do not lose heart…our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” This is what the world is to see when you or I show up in the name of Christ, not only in our words, but also in our example. If we are going to have a voice in the joy as well as the struggle of what it means to be human, of what it means to be the Church in our time, we must remain hungry for a Jesus that can be taken seriously. The God Jesus preached liberates those who are in death’s prison. They and we are set free to serve in love. This Jesus summons us to something powerful and life-changing and world-affirming. We must reject any view of a Jesus who remains too small, private and disconnected to anything that truly matters.
I had a parishioner in my parish in Southern Virginia who in the early 70’s was outspoken about the overt racism evident in the area. In that day and in that place this was a risky thing to do. Members of the parish told me that Pat’s home, where she lived with her husband, would get pelted with eggs and spray painted epithets too horrible to repeat here appeared on their garage door. When I was her rector in the mid 80’s I heard these stories from others and one day, when visiting Pat, I asked her about those days and why she was motivated to speak out. She said, “Because I promised to follow Jesus.”
I trust the One who was resurrected from the dead who indeed changes lives and brings hope to the captive, the disenfranchised, the despised, the left out, the immigrant, the prisoner, the homeless, the displaced, the jobless, the sick, the disillusioned, the depressed, all of whom are present right here and right outside this door. They too are our sisters, and brothers, and mothers.
Who is this Jesus we proclaim today? Who is this Jesus we are promising to follow, to whom we are once again giving our lives as he has given his life to us? He affirms our infinite worth, encourages our yearning, honors our questions, and trusts us with our honest doubt. Perhaps most important of all: he forbids our indifference, for we have been made into a new community. I cannot get away from him. You cannot get away from him. Nor, at last, should we want to.
As you may be aware, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to discuss the petition involving our diocese at its conference on June 7. As the time draws near for us to hear their decision, I write to make you aware of how matters stand in this ongoing process.
Uncertainty always brings a measure of anxiety. One thing we can do to help manage that is to be clear about what will, and will not, be decided when the Supreme Court rules. It is important to know that whatever the ruling, it will likely take several months for the rest of the legal process to conclude.
Here is the best information we have now:
If the case is discussed on June 7 as scheduled, the Justices may or may not make a decision at that conference. If they do, then at least four of the nine Justices would have to vote to grant a writ of certiorari for the case to proceed. If not, certiorari is denied, and that part of the process ends.
Monday, June 11 would be the first day we might expect to hear a decision, but it could come on a later Monday. The Supreme Court’s term ends June 30.
When the decision arrives, I will call together our diocesan leadership for a time of prayer, information sharing, and discussion. I ask you all to hold the Justices and every person involved in this case in your prayers.
Again, no immediate changes will take place as a result of the Supreme Court ruling. If the Supreme Court grants certiorari, then more legal steps lie ahead. If the court rules in our favor and denies the petition, it will still remain for the state court to implement that decision before any change in the status of property occurs.
The legal steps toward implementation are already in progress, in both state and federal court, but are likely to take several months to reach their conclusion.
Meanwhile, another process also has begun, which is the important work of reaching out, establishing relationships, encouraging conversations, and inviting people who want to be part of The Episcopal Church to join together in healing and reuniting our diocese. This is an equally important process, and one that I hope you will pray for, and participate in.
I am grateful to all of you who have continued to work tirelessly in your faith communities and have been steadfast through sometimes trying circumstances.
When the property matters reach their final resolution in the courts, our prayer is that we will be joining with the people in the affected parishes to worship our Lord Jesus Christ together, as people have done in this diocese every Sunday for more than two centuries.
Gratefully and in Christ,
The Day of Pentecost: May 20, 2018
They were gathered, much as we are gathered. After Jesus’ resurrection the faithful had come together to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, or in the Greek, Pentecost, for it was celebrated fifty days after Passover, as an agricultural festival, to give God thanks for the first fruits of the winter grain. They also were commemorating the giving of the Torah, the Jewish law, to the nation.
“And suddenly, from heaven there came a sound like a mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting.” A rush of wind. Can you feel it? The breath, the wind, the Spirit, all the same word in Hebrew. The effect for them 2000 years ago was apparently overwhelming and they would never again be the same.
There is often a lot in the news about wind, particularly tornadoes moving across the heartland and as we soon embark on a new hurricane season. There is a professor of atmospheric science named Richard Peterson who visits and teaches about his specialty – wind. Most of us I would guess are not wind sophisticates. I mean really, how many intelligent things can one say about wind? We can watch the Weather Channel and follow local meteorologists. We step outside and feel warm breezes or cold fronts approaching. And yes, we know wind can be powerful and we better be aware when going out on the local rivers. We trust too that airplane pilots are paying attention. But what else is there? The wind scientist knows something of the intricacies of wind and indeed it is wonderfully complex, but perhaps all we need for now is the definition offered by a sixth grader: “Wind is like air, only pushier!”
Consider that the pushiness of wind is one of the central points of the Feast of Pentecost. We do not need to know the subtleties of wind to appreciate this stirring moment in the life of God’s people. We need only recognize the power of such a force. The strength of the wind explains something of the way the Holy Spirit works. If God is going to deal in any substantive way with the wreckage of the world that human beings have created, that is, rescuing God’s people from all the ways in which we continue to destroy one another and the planet with which we have been gifted, all the ways in which we live contrary to God’s vision of love and justice, God is going to have to offer the extraordinary power of the Spirit. God breathes new life into us now just as Jesus promised to give us another Advocate or Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever. The description in Acts is like a violent or mighty wind because nothing less will work!
The great miracle of Pentecost is found when the small tight-knit and secluded group of the followers of Jesus move out beyond the walls of the upper room into the public square. The surge of the Spirit pushes the fledgling Church then out into Jerusalem, and we of the Church now out from this building of St. Stephen’s, into the board room, the courtroom, the surgical waiting room, the grocery store line, the high school cafeteria, wherever it is our day may take us. As one of our post-communion prayers says – “Send us out to do the work you have given us to do.” Every Eucharist is a sending rite. This same Holy Spirit is a gift of our baptism, indeed Sarah Hannah’s baptism, and stirred up for re-kindling in Confirmation. It is the Holy Spirit, the relationship of love between God the Father and Jesus – who is given to us! It is the same Spirit we are asking today to strengthen, empower and sustain those coming forward for the laying on of hands.
When the wind blows, things happen. Branches sway, sometimes trees are uprooted, windows rattle. We don’t always like that part especially if it is things uprooted in our life and the windows of our complacency that get rattled. Yet even in that first Pentecost, as the wind blew, a new world was coming into being. The people of God began to discover that the old ways of relating to one another and thinking about God had been blown out the window! Why do you think Jesus was always being accused of eating with the wrong crowd? It was a breath of hope and life the likes of which had not been known – that things really could be different.
Our call today is to join a conspiracy, a conspiracy of the Holy Spirit. Think about it. The word “conspiracy” literally means, “breathing together.” Pentecost was and is a conspiracy of breathing together for the good. The rush of the wind broke down barriers to reconfigure lives and embrace whole new relationships across all dividing walls. The Spirit was poured out, the account in Acts tells us, on “all flesh,” referring to God’s dream from the book of Joel for the unity of all people.
Perhaps there is no better definition of the Church than the people of God, called out to breathe together, to break down the walls that divide us, offer radical forgiveness and acceptance to anyone and everyone and have our own lives forever changed in the process. Pentecost says we live in the promise that Cretans, Arabians, Parthians and Galileans, examples of people in any time who are radically different in origin, history, language and even ideology, can come together as unified in the Spirit of God. It was true then and it can be true in our day.
We are, one more time, being invited to become God’s hope for all flesh, the entire Creation. It is the only reason St. Stephen’s exists, so that this may be a place where the hope of God is lived and can take root in us. Holy Spirit, push us out, reveling in the wonder of God among us, to be God’s new presence for the sake of the world.
Dear Friends of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,
As you are aware, racial justice and healing is a primary focus for us as Episcopalians. It is Gospel work for the healing of the nations. Such ministry commands our constant attention along with the necessary action to rid our country and world of the sin of racism.
I ask that you continue to find ways to address racism in all its forms as it occurs in the Church and in our culture. The present-day manifestation of racism is no less insidious than at other times in our national life. I encourage you to seriously consider ways in which you can take advantage of the upcoming Racial Justice Sunday on June 17, and also on June 24, in our own Diocese, Bishop Guerry Sunday.
These are great opportunities to bring to awareness and teach one another about how the ministry of Christ leads us to be at the forefront of addressing modern expressions of injustice and inequality. Links to resources for these days are provided below.
“Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” Ephesians 3:20.
Blessings and peace in Jesus, the Risen One,
Resources for Racial Justice Sunday on June 17: CLICK HERE
Racial Justice Sunday 2018 Resource Booklet
Resources for Bishop Guerry Sunday on June 24: CLICK HERE
The Sixth Sunday of Easter: May 6, 2018
“I have called you friends.” – Jesus
If you would, ponder a few things with me.
Some of you know I like to fly fish. In fact I am passionate about it. What that means is that it takes me to streams, rivers and shallow estuaries in some of the most beautiful settings one can imagine. It also makes me very attentive to how ecosystems operate. To oversimplify for a moment, if anything in the system gets out of wack – if the water flow significantly changes or its quality degrades; if the invertebrates that live in the water, the bugs, are harmed in any way; if the aquatic vegetation that is supposed to be there is damaged or invaded by exotics; everything else in that system is compromised, including the fish. Likewise, if each and all those things are healthy the entire system is healthy. What’s up with that?
Or ponder two protons. If two of them are in close proximity, as within the magnetic field of the other, and both are spinning in the same direction, say clockwise, but then one is sent off several million light years away from the other in a neat device called a cyclotron and then receives an electrical charge to start spinning in the other direction, counterclockwise, guess what happens? The other one, millions of light years away ALSO starts spinning in the opposite direction. What’s up with that?
Or think of a group of people you care about, even your own family. If one person in the group is really happy it tends to infect everyone else in a positive way and everyone is happy. Likewise, if someone is really sad or hurting, so is the rest of the group. You’ve heard the saying, “If mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy!” What’s up with that?
Or maybe you have heard of something called the butterfly effect. There are a lot of variations, but essentially it says something like if a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo, you will feel the breeze on your cheek here in Charleston. What’s up with that? It’s a poetic way of saying what the other three examples are saying – that everything is connected. The way that God has created the universe is that everything is connected and one thing cannot happen in one place without it in some way affecting something else. We are inextricably linked in this creation, sometimes in ways in which we are not immediately aware. Such an understanding informs, at least in part, what we mean by one, holy catholic and apostolic church.
Then, what God also does, is right in the midst of this splendid, beautiful, diverse, sometimes puzzling universe, he sends Jesus, perfect love. And according to St. John, Jesus says the most amazing thing: “I have called you friends.” This is what we are celebrating in the lives of those being baptized, one being received as a priest of The Episcopal Church, and those confirmed today. Yes you, and every one of you, sealed sacramentally in the gift of your baptism. This is radical stuff! Jesus is saying that the relationship with God is being totally redefined by him. We are bound in the truth that connects and holds the entire universe together – God’s love. It is the way we, indeed the entire cosmos, has been created.
We have been made for relationship with God and one another, for connection. Jesus teaches us that the connecting agent is love, shown forth in the way that we live on this earth. The Gospel today makes it clear that the reason we are given the command to go and bear fruit in God’s name is so that we can do just that, love one another. Yet mind you, this is not about mere sentimentality, for Jesus commanded that we, “Love one another as I have loved you,” laying down his life for his friends. Love comes from the Cross. It was costly for Jesus and it will be for us.
Eternal life is now, not just after we die. And if God has told us once, God in Scripture has told us over and over – the answer is love. It goes way beyond mere tolerance, for if we are listening to the Spirit, the love freely given will lead us into action. It is passionate, dancing-with-your-arms-wide-open love for everyone and everything God has made. It is the love of Jesus shown forth in us and through us calling us to be an offering to God and one another in thanksgiving for the gift of life we have in this amazingly connected world. When we do so, lives are changed and relationships are renewed. We are able to see each other and our life on this planet through the lens of resurrection hope. It respects the dignity of every human being and seeks justice for all, for no one is outside the realm Jesus has established. This is what we are baptized into and celebrate in all of today’s promises and vows, indeed, in every Eucharist.
Let me leave you with these words from a theologian named Reinhold Niehbuhr:
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context in history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.”
That is precisely what Jesus does for us. Connected forever. Wildly loved. And amazingly, he calls you – FRIENDS.
Dear People of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,
It was over a period of several months that a group of faithful folks met with me to develop a common vision for our diocese. That work, forged in prayer and a desire to be faithful to the mission and ministry to which our Lord calls us, brought forth the accompanying document. It has been adopted by Diocesan Council as our common vision statement, and I now share it with you that it might be seriously considered in our various faith communities.
My hope is that every vestry or mission council will take time at an upcoming meeting to engage the vision and have a serious conversation about what it may mean for you as a faith community and for all of us as a diocese. Perhaps such a discussion will enable clarity to come as to your purpose and who you want to be as the people of God in service of the Gospel. Please share it in your parish newsletters and find an attractive way to display it where you gather as a community on Sundays. One parish already has had it enlarged to poster-size and inexpensively framed so that it can easily be viewed by all.
If there are conversations or insights that the vision statement prompts, please submit them to Holly Votaw so that the stories can be shared with others of the diocese. Mutual encouragement builds up the body as we celebrate the Spirit’s work in our midst.
Continued blessings to all in these Great 50 Days of Easter.
In the Name of the Risen One, Jesus,
Find more about the Vision statement on our website.
I ask your prayer for the clergy and people of St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant. As you are aware, early Sunday morning the ministry center suffered severe damage from a devastating fire. Gratefully, there were no reports of anyone being injured and we give thanks to the first responders who dealt with the blaze and its aftermath.
One can understand the emotional impact of such an event for the people of St. Andrew’s. In the days to come, may they know God’s abiding help and his deep sustaining strength to meet the future with hope. Our God is a God of grace who, even in the midst of tragedy, promises to make all things new.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter: April 22, 2018
The words of I John jump out for me: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us” – now listen to the rest of the sentence – “and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” We hear the reverberations in the Gospel as well as the good Shepherd, or even better translated, the “noble” or “ideal” Shepherd, lays down his life for the sheep, indicating the pattern of life for all who would follow him.
Each time I stand in the Chapel of the Central America University in San Salvador, on the very spot where Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated, I cannot help but think of this Gospel passage of the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. I am drawn deeply into a love willingly given. Even though it was an assassin’s bullet that killed the Archbishop, his life was an offering. He knew that the manner in which he lived his life in Christ would be costly.
He saw his brothers and sisters in need and did not close his heart against them. He loved not merely in word and speech, but in truth and action. It is that love, of the Noble Shepherd Christ as manifested in Oscar Romero, which continues to inspire people throughout the world. It is the same love that is called forth in God’s people and which we celebrate in these Great 50 days of Easter.
So what are the implications for this community here at the Church of the Messiah? Why do you exist? For what purpose are you here as a faith community?
Have you ever while driving around noticed various church signs, you know, the ones with messages on them? I’ve done a lot of driving around dioceses and come across many. One read: “Repent, now is the day of salvation.” Another: “Christ is your fire insurance,” I assume alluding to the threat of burning in hell. I don’t like those kind much. Down the road, from a different denomination: “Mother’s Day is coming. Virtues are learned at mother’s knee, vices at some other joint.” Clever perhaps, but less than stirring. I wonder, what does the world that knows little about Christianity, except for such signs, think about us?
One block down, another church sign: “Big garage sale next Saturday. Cheap prices, great deals!” And then, just down the road in the same town, another sign: “We’ve got room for you at our table. Hospitality practiced here. Everybody welcome.” Nice, the best of all of them. The trouble is it was a sign in front of a restaurant, not a church.
The Jesus we discover today is the one who knows his own and who know him. It is a statement of profound relational intimacy. This ideal Shepherd is the one who kept telling stories of the unlimited nature of God’s love and reach. He taught us that love trumps everything, even death. Nothing and no one is beyond his embrace. Jesus was kind of annoying that way as he was constantly rescuing people nobody thought could be saved or was worth being saved. He was relentless, even dangerous in his kingdom vision, where he was always expanding the borders, forever gathering together those the culture tried to separate, forget, dismiss or deem unworthy.
Does it ever strike you that much of our public discourse these days seems bent on limiting borders and trying to decide who we can keep out? We’ve even had laws proposed in our country where it would be an illegal act to give water or any kind of aid to an undocumented person – someone who, by the way, Jesus knows by name. I am very concerned, and I hope you are too, by rhetoric that seems to be increasing in volume that is anti-black, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-gay – language that diminishes us and makes us smaller. According to the “Southern Poverty Law Center,” general intolerance and even domestic hate groups have been significantly on the rise in this our beloved country.
Jesus, in his teaching about the Kingdom of God, over and over again holds up a possibility that is dramatically different than this. Christ the Shepherd teaches of a God who is like a careless farmer throwing seed with abandon leading to miraculous growing and reckless harvesting with no sorting out of the good from the bad. He is a Shepherd who not only desires that there be one flock that knows of the love of the Shepherd, he is willing to leave all of them just to find the one that is lost. It raises the question for us always to be considering – what kind of community are we building here as the Church of the Messiah and what kind of vision are we giving to this community, our neighborhood?
Today, with our confirmands, Audrey and Sadie, we again have the opportunity to reconnect to our baptismal reality in Christ, to “respect the dignity of every human being,” to “strive for justice and peace among all people,” and to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” According to Jesus we have a God who is a bit reckless and extravagant with his love. It makes us a bit nervous. It got Jesus killed. What if someone gets loved or included whom we think doesn’t deserve it? But this is the kind of God we have. I wonder. If we were more clear about this kind of dangerous Jesus, living on the edges, might we be a bit more attractive institution because we actually acted out of our espoused values as a people of the Christ, the noble/ideal Shepherd? That’s what folks in the 19-29 age range seem to be telling us!
Back to I John: The way we are assured of God’s love is that the Shepherd “has laid down his life for us.” The way the world knows of our love is when “we… lay down our lives for one another.” We are all called to serve “out there,” and they will know we are a people of our word when we exhibit in “truth and action” the costly, wild, reckless, self-abandoned love manifested in the noble Shepherd, Jesus. He gave of his substance. So we are called to do the same.
The Third Sunday of Easter: April 15, 2018
“You are witnesses of these things,” St. Luke tells us. And again in the Acts of the Apostles, in response to God having raised Jesus from the dead, “To this we are witnesses.” These words call us back to our roots as Christians. They call us once again to hear that our sole purpose for being as a church is to be a witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
As witnesses, we are to live as the transformed people we are created to be. Then, out of our own transformation, we are to go out from these walls to live for the transformation of the world. We are the ones to embody Jesus’ vision for the Reign of God on this earth, to be ambassadors of healing and wholeness for all humanity. I want to tell you of a witness who lives the life of the Risen Christ.
Her name is Allouise Story. She would not allow fear or even the status quo define her or her world. Allouise is elderly, widowed, and the only occupant of a magnificent dazzling house in the midst of an urban ghetto. Her home has polished oak moldings, furniture covered with plastic – neat and tidy.
Outside, across the alley, is Doc’s Liquor Store. Patrons are slouched against tree trunks where they regularly urinate. This infuriated Allouise. In her house were two pianos and an organ that she played every day. When the weather was nice she would have the windows open so that the music would escape to fill the neighborhood with an alternative sound. Outside she would see the children of the streets dirty, disheveled, unkempt – another fury for her.
“There’s the future,” she would say. “And there’s their daddies leaning against these trees. What can we do about it?” She, if anyone, had the right to panic and weep. She had watched the rotting of the neighborhood. But she maintained that house as a sheer act of will to show that not everything or everyone must succumb to decay or leave the city in order to survive. Her very presence was a symbol of life despite the odds. Ordinarily one might see an elderly woman alone in the city and think of her as powerless, but not Allouise. She was full of power.
She is said to pray the Lord’s Prayer so clearly and firmly that when she says, “Amen,” it makes people jump. She fights for good education and good teachers for the city. She maintains the struggle with the signs of defeat all around, but never descends into self-pity. She sings the spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” so powerfully that a person once said, “No one should be able to sing it like that.”
When Allouise is asked why do you stay, why do you fight, wouldn’t it be easier to move, her response, echoing I John today, is “I am a child of God,” for that is what she is. “I do all of this because I am a witness to the Risen Jesus.”
Allouise has had her mind opened to understand the Scriptures. She knows something of the peace of Christ transforming her heart, giving her the gift of hope to work on the transformation of her community. She is at home living her faith in amazing ways to bring God’s promise of new life to bear in her life circumstances. She, in her way, is proclaiming Jesus’ Name to the nation of her neighborhood.
You and I, because Jesus is Risen, are called to do the same, to go into our “Galilees” wherever and whatever they may be: an apartment; a college dorm; a neighbor’s home; a hospital; the grocery store; then, live a life amazed at the possibility that even in the midst of death in all its forms, God’s new life is always breaking in. Philips Brooks, an Episcopal priest of the 19th century and the writer of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” said, “The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death, but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the resurrection.” The disciples were made new. Allouise was made new. You and I are made new, signed and sealed forever in the love God has given us. It is what we celebrate today in the people of God coming forward to receive the laying-on-of-hands. You see, the proof of the resurrection of Jesus is in the Allouises of the world. Your own life is to join with her in that proof as a witness to new life.
The Easter event is one of human beings becoming empowered to find a way out of failure, fear, violence and the inclination too often to betray what we love the most. It is the story of all of us as we discover the need that every single one of us has, to be healed, forgiven and restored to fullness of life, the abundant life of which Jesus speaks. The world is longing for such a vision beyond being a mere shadow of existence, just taking up space on the planet and using its resources without regard for how it affects anyone else.
Sure, we can let the fear-mongers of the world continue to manipulate us and dictate the way of death to us. We can stay in a state of semi-panic and buy into a world that seems to value violence as the first response to trouble, rather than the way of love; a world that values the assertion of power that controls, over servanthood that sets people free. We can go home from here and live in our self-contained worlds trying to ward off anxiety and fear with all the ways we anesthetize ourselves and, in so doing, betray the very reason this community of faith was founded.
Or…or, we can go out these doors as witnesses of the wonder of God’s life and love seeking to take deep root in you. Be a witness for the power of life in the midst of death. God’s promise is that in Jesus light has come and darkness cannot overcome it. It is the reason for which St. Mark’s is here at all.
Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.