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February 15, 2018

As we stand at the threshold of the Season of Lent, I include for you the homily which I preached in the Cathedral for Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2018).

Ash Wednesday is a sober day in the life of the Church and for some of us, it is a very difficult and painful time.  It's not comfortable to stop to acknowledge our sinfulness-what we have done and failed to do, or what has been done on our behalf that separates us from the love of God, or what has brought injury and pain.  It isn't every day that we are reminded of our impending deaths, that we are but dust and to dust we shall return, by the smudging of ashes on our foreheads.

When I was growing up in a tradition that focused more on sin than we Episcopalians typically do, the formal practice of confession was much more widespread than it is now. As children, we were encouraged to confess early and often. We would sit nervously outside the confessional and think very hard about all the things that we had done wrong, hoping to come up with a list of just the right length. No one wanted to be in the confessional too long, but you didn't want to be there for too short a time either.  In we'd go, one by one, to enumerate the list, receive absolution, and then bolt to the front of the church to say the prescribed number of prayers, hopefully not too long, that were our penance, and then run back out to play. Completing a ritual that would be repeated many times but with more solemnity during the season of Lent.

How well this worked for me as a child is hard to say and for those of you who know me well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.  But a few things have stayed with me from those early experiences.  One is a love of religious ritual. The other is a big question about what real repentance look like.  

Jesus takes up that question in today's reading from Matthew's Gospel.  Let's be honest. This is a tough text for people who love ritual and ceremonies, who love to gather in community for worship and prayer, and whose spiritual lives are shaped by the rhythms of the calendar of religious observance.  Since you are here today, I strongly suspect that includes you. So why would we who gather to begin a holy season of repentance be instructed in this way?  To pray secretly.  To give secretly, not letting the left hand know what your right hand is doing. To wash our faces so that no one might see them disfigured by fasting and grief. 

The point, I think, is really about our intentions. Jesus tells us that we must not be like the hypocrites, which translates as "play actors", only in order to be seen.  In the days of antiquity, it was apparently not unusual for many to engage in prayer and piety with great drama as public relations moments so that they might be held in high esteem. Today, those of us who go about our business with ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday are sadly the exception, not the norm, and how the wider world reacts when they see them is complex and not always positive.

While it feels a bit like we are being scolded, Matthew's text reminds us that even though we may not be hypocrites in the pattern of the Gospel story, our rituals and ceremonies-the signs, symbols, and the physical actions of our common prayer-beautiful and meaningful as they may be, are not enough in themselves to change our relationship with God. 

To contradict Woody Allen's view, in this case, showing up is not enough. Coming up with a quick list of sins, reciting the confession, and reflexively crossing ourselves at the absolution as I did as a child are not enough to transform our lives. If the ashes on our foreheads are only skin deep, if they don't signify an honest journey of the soul-a journey of inward longing and regret, an honest journey of inward movement towards God, than we might as well wash them off before anyone see us.  Because then we WOULD be hypocrites; we WOULD only be acting.

We know that engaging in religious ritual is not play acting.  Our liturgies are not magic or mere occasions for public display. Sacraments, the cross, holy water, incense, and ashes are important and helpful because they point to truths beyond words, truths that resonate deep inside us.  If they are beautiful, all the better, because like signposts on the road, they engage us and focus us. They help to open the way to encounter with the living God. Pointing the way to the loving God, who IS our center; who IS our treasure whether we stand alone in prayer or shoulder to shoulder with our heads bowed in a great crowd.

Over the next weeks, these forty days of Lent, as we move with Jesus, closer to Holy Week and the inevitable journey to Calvary, look and listen carefully and reverently for the signposts of God's presence on your road. Take this season as a gift, as a time set apart to enter deeply into the mystery of your inward journey on the way to the Holy One whom we know intimately in Jesus the Christ. 

Turn off the automatic pilot and examine your life. Pray. Reflect. Meditate with Scripture. Receive communion. Reach out to help someone else who is searching. And sincerely, humbly beseech God, as we will do together in Psalm 51, to "have mercy on [you] according to God's loving kindness, and in God' s compassion blot out [your] offenses." Finally, trust that just as the death of Christ was and will be again transformed by the resurrection, that you, too, will be transformed.  Not by shame. Not be elaborate gymnastics of self-denial. Not by the mechanics of empty ritual. But only by the loving kindness of God alone who responds to and is waiting for our real repentance.  AMEN.


February 8, 2018
With this Sunday, Epiphany, the Season of Light, draws to an end.  We, like Jesus, climb down from the mountain top experience of the Transfiguration. We set our faces towards Jerusalem. We bury our Alleluias. And we come face to face with our sin and mortality on Ash Wednesday as we prepare to walk with him in the season of Lent toward the certainty of the cross.   
Not so fast.  
Before we go, the Celt in me longs to linger gratefully and just a little longer in this time of wonder and light.  The season that began with the leading of a star and now ends with Jesus illuminated in bright white has shown us again and again the mysteries of the Incarnation. We have found the face of God most fully expressed in Jesus the Christ, and yet also present in one another and in the inherent goodness and unity of God's created world.  Through Jesus' inauguration of the coming Kingdom of God, we have witnessed the power of God's transforming love and light to heal and to overcome the darkness that will never overcome us.    
The Irish teacher and poet John O'Donohue, whose little book To Bless the Space Between Us I keep close at hand, has written his own Phos Hilaron, hymn to light, which I include for you below.  
For Light
 Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns to life.

 
In the glare of neon times
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.

 
That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.

 
That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.
When we look into the heart
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

 
That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
glimmering in fugitive light.

 
When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window.

 
When we become false and lost   
That the severe neon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.

 
When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.

 
As we grow old, that  twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.

 
And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of  the morning.
To fell the rush of light Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found world. 


February 2, 2018
Last week our Gospel story placed Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum, the fishing village which I have affectionately dub Jesus Movement HQ. The now underground remains of Peter's mother-in-law's house are just a stone's throw away from the ruins of the synagogue. It's a very small town, a very intimate setting, where it was easier for me to imagine Jesus and the small band of recently assembled followers than anywhere else in the Holy Land. As I said in my sermon last Sunday, if there really were any place where the Messiah might rest his weary ahead, it is here in this place.
 
We are told so little in the Gospels about the familial relationships of the twelve disciples and even of Jesus-a mother here, a brother there. So, it is a wonderful detail that Peter has a mother-in-law, and presumably a wife, whom he has not left behind when he makes his fateful decision to follow Jesus on the beach. Like so many women who appear in both Testaments, this mother-in-law has no name. We know only that she has a fever which Jesus cures, and then when restored, she immediately leaps up from her sick bed and serves them all.
 
Hmmmm . . . From my acknowledged 20th/21st century perspective and social location, it seems to me that part of the plan for continued healing might have been some assistance in this regard. This is a topic that I take up fairly often, though, and I will save it for another day.
 
What really holds my attention about this Gospel passage right now is what happens next: "That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door." In the morning, Jesus prays in a deserted place, and then announces to the ones who have tracked him down "Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do."
 
Here we have, my friends, the beginning of the burgeoning Jesus Movement. This is the launch of the journey that will take Jesus and the twelve from the safety of this haven on the north shore of the Galilee to the foot of Golgotha in Jerusalem.
Very often when we reflect on that journey, we focus our attention rightfully on how the story ends because transformation and resurrection are our hope and our consolation. Yet, the beginning is also so instructive. Just imagine what we, as the body of Christ, can do together if we can recapture and convey that same excitement and sense of possibility on the open road before us as we set out "to proclaim the message" and "to do what we came to do."
 
Two of the things that I love most about our Cathedral community are our spirited sense of adventure and our willingness to take risks to advance the Gospel. Even as we complete the last phase of our Cathedral Development Project with the construction of our new Cathedral offices and further open the Stephanie Liem Azar Cathedral Center for congregational, community, and diocesan ministries, so much is ahead on our collective journey. So, on this Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, with the resolve found in the new beginning that is always available to us through Christ, let's get on with it. Let's do all that we came to do. We can fly like eagles!
 
See you on Sunday because the Game doesn't start until the afternoon!


January 26, 2018
I am increasingly troubled by changes in our national immigration policies, especially around the issue of DACA, or Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals, for those persons known as "Dreamers." Dreamers number as many as 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children. Sadly, they have become pawns in a game of political brinksmanship. Yesterday, a long path to citizenship for them was proffered as a bargaining chip in exchange for new policies that will serve to further separate generations of families coming to the United States in hope of a better life. The fact that these policies specifically target immigrants identified as "unskilled workers" is further cause to challenge the motivations of those who propose them.
 
And, yes, this political drama constitutes a religious issue for people of faith.
 
Our Holy Scriptures are unequivocal in directing us to welcome the stranger. Jesus practiced a radical and holy inclusiveness that we who follow him embrace. We are bound to share the love of God that we have received in Christ, that love that is within us, with all the children of God's good creation. We cannot turn away from loving our neighbors with the compassion that we would hope to receive for our own families.
 
I ask you to pray about this matter and to read several sources of new about it carefully to inform yourselves. If you feel led to action, the advocacy table will be in place in the Cathedral on Sunday morning, providing you with the means to write to your elected officials who are now actively wrestling with these issues.


January 19, 2018
Am I alone in feeling as though we are in the midst of a rather bleak midwinter? Between the climate issues manifest in the freezing cold temperatures and the tragic mudslides in California, and the political rhetoric which is somehow sinking to a new low, it would be easy to feel discouraged.
 
The Season of Epiphany, in which we tell stories of the revelation of God in our midst, shines a light in the bleak midwinter. Long before the term "epiphany" was coopted by the writer James Joyce, this short season wedged between Christmas and Lent has been reminding us of God's activity in our world. From the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures like Samuel and Jeremiah who wrestle painfully, to Jonah who ends up in the belly of the whale, to the disciples like Philip, Andrew, and Peter who seem to join up immediately, we are given a host of very human characters in complicated situations who struggle to respond to the revelation of God set before them. We can chuckle at the sullenness of Jonah and marvel at the immediacy with which the fishermen throw down their nets, but they all have a lot to teach us about faith, trust, and yielding our lives to God's plan.
 
We know that epiphanies certainly did not stop when the book was closed on our biblical canon. God, who through Christ has infused the whole creation with love and light, is still very present and has intention for each one of us. This is reason for hope. From the prophecy of Jeremiah, "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." Our challenge is to open ourselves-our hearts, our minds, our souls-to apprehend the signs of that holy intention. While the psalmist says, sometimes "my soul in silence waits" and that wait can feel like the bleak midwinter, God is with us in that silence. And sometimes, if we are paying close attention, we encounter God in Christ in the faces of those around us and within our own immortal souls, quietly or with immediacy and power.
 
The Season of Epiphany also reminds us that Jesus is for us the complete revelation of God. The voice from the heavens booms his identity; several unnamed biblical characters in our stories recognize him for who he is. Who is he in the story that you are telling? How do his life, death, and resurrection inform the choices that you make? How do you reveal that love and light of Christ in God's plan for you?


January 11, 2018
The Holy Scriptures provide us with many examples of what are known as "call" stories, sometimes subtle and often not so subtle invitations from God to serve God's mission in this world. Some prophets of old heard a still, small unrelenting voice to which they assented, while others, like Jonah, were pursued actively by God as they ran in the other direction. And then there were those who encountered Jesus. 
 
When confronted with the person of Jesus walking down the beach, Simon and his brother Andrew drop everything without a second thought. In a moment, these fishermen become fishers of men, ready to proclaim his message, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news." Mark gives us only these details and nothing more. This is little help to us when we marvel at the apparent sacrifice and wonder if we could do it, too. Could we walk out the front door of our homes or businesses, leaving family and loved ones behind? If not immediately, could we do it at all? 
 
Our own invitation to follow Jesus requires much of us, with risk, with joys and sorrows, gains and losses that we cannot imagine or foresee over the course of our lifetimes. It involves not only opening our eyes and our hearts to receive God's unique call to us, but also acting upon that call. We may not be asked to leave everything behind as Simon and Andrew did, to drop everything and go, but as followers of Jesus, we can expect to be changed. We can expect that answering will change our hearts and our minds because transformation is God's modus operandi in the world. We trust that the power of God in Christ will move and bend the creation, and even us, for the good of the coming of the kingdom.


January 5, 2018
I've visited the spot south of the Galilee that scholars believe is the place where Jesus's baptism occurred. Trusting that the topography of the Holy Land hasn't changed too drastically in the last two thousand years, I can tell you that I was surprised. After years of singing "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore", I expected the River Jordan to be "deep and wide with milk and honey on the other side." What I saw was something quite different. When you stepped into the murky waters of the Jordan, the chances were good that while your sins may have been symbolically washed away, you would emerge covered in a thin layer of mud. 
 
So why would Jesus stand in line with the multitudes from the whole Judean countryside for this mud-coated experience? It is necessary and "proper," he says, that his baptism takes place for the sake of "fulfilling all righteousness." Echoing the Suffering Servant from Isaiah, he identifies as the one who has been "called in righteousness" to bring forth a new order of justice, thereby inaugurating the reign of God. Lest there be any further question about his identity, as he emerges from the water, the Spirit of God descends upon him like a dove and a voice from heaven says, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." Then after a time in the desert, Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, will set out to proclaim that "the kingdom of God has come near."
 
Our own sanitized baptisms are tame affairs in contrast to this event on the shores of the Jordan. For most of us, if we can remember, there was little drama, no great sense of risk or danger, no hint of the unknown, definitely no mud, and certainly no doves. Yet because we are baptized in the name of Jesus, our baptisms are inexorably linked with his. 
 
Like Jesus, we are God's beloved. The voice we hear may not boom from the heavens, but it tells us all the same that we are deeply loved, deeply blessed in all of our unique humanity and vulnerability. Henri Nouwen puts it this way, "I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle . . . It tells us who we are. That is where the spiritual life starts-by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved." 
 
When we claim that voice, we can trust that we have become new creations in God. Like Jesus, we can choose servanthood, not from a sense of obligation or compulsion, but from the abundance of love that we know we have received. And like Jesus, we can choose to share that love as we inaugurate our own voices in proclaiming the kingdom of God.


December 21, 2017
On Sunday morning, we will celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent and we will hear once more from Luke's Gospel the story of the Annunciation. 
 
In the words of the writer Madeleine L'Engle from her essay "A Sky Full of Children," the question is posed: "Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?" 
 
"Was there a moment...?" We believe that for a short time in our human history, the most complete revelation of God has walked among us, having been born of a woman. We believe that the deep longing of God's people has been answered. Mary, herself, has embodied the answer. Her story conveys truths about this most astounding of mysteries that far exceed our capacity to explain in words. It is no wonder that she stirs our imaginations and evokes strong feelings among the faithful. It is no wonder that her image suggests a bridge between the imminence and transcendence of God that speaks to our own deepest longing and hope for that same kind of holy communion that took place between mother and child. A communion in which God draws as close to us as breath and into tender embrace. 
 
If we lose the fullness of Mary's humanity, we lose the full meaning of this moment. No matter how we may have tried through the centuries to elevate her as the holy queen enthroned above, we cannot ignore that in choosing her, God has chosen to come among the poor and the lowly. The powerful and the haughty have been cast down from their thrones and the hungry will be filled with good things.   When Mary sings, "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors to Abraham and to his descendants forever," she expresses the cumulative hope of her people. We hear overtones of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Micah and the wailing lament of the psalms crying out for the justice, dignity, and freedom that will turn the world upside down and bring in God's kingdom. Mary reminds us that the communion with God for which we wait and long depends upon our participation in these things, too, and that God's presence among us cannot be separated from them. 
 
So before we celebrate the birth of the long awaited child, we remember his mother who overcame her fear of the unknown to trust in God. The God who is coming once more in this Advent season and yet who is always with us and has never left us, in both the darkness and the light. 
 
May you know the deepest blessings of Advent and the joy of Christmas when it comes!


December 15, 2017
I extend my thanks to the Rev. Dr. Phillip Bennett who has led for us in this Advent season a two part spiritual formation series entitled Christ in Evolution. Drawing heavily on the work of priest, research scientist, and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, Phillip shared with us the Cosmic Christ, the Logos, present in all things at the beginning of the creation and present now in the interdependent world in which we continue to evolve and become. In Advent, we wait "in suspense and incomplete" for the slow work of God, that progression, as Christ is further born in us. Teillhard's poem captures that movement so beautifully.

The Slow Work of God - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
 
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,
impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
something new,
and yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability- 
and that it may take a very long time.
 
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually -
let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on, as though you could be today
what time (and that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your good will)
will make you tomorrow.
 
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing 
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense
and incomplete.


December 7, 2017
It is a great mystery of our faith that in Advent we await the Jesus who is already known to us and among us, and who has never left us.  That we await the arrival of the kingdom of God of which we catch glimpses from time to time, but is not here always and is still coming. And that we feel the presence of God when we gather in community to look and to watch again for the coming of the light that the darkness cannot overcome.
 
Still, this season insists upon a response from us that is more active than simply waiting and looking for God's activity in the world. "To cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light," as we are invited to do in the collect that we heard last week for the first Sunday of Advent, requires our courage and commitment to do as Luke's Gospel instructs, to "stand up and raise [our] heads because [we trust that our] redemption is drawing near."  
 
Advent whispers to us to stand up and acknowledge both our need for God to transform our personal darkness, as well as our hope for the transformation of the world.  It calls to us to "put on the armor of light," not only for the sake of our own souls, but to be bearers of that same light and hope for which the weary world rejoices.  
 
What does it look like in this season for you to stand up and carry that light and hope into the world? 


November 30, 2017
Beginning this Sunday, we move into a new Church year with the beautiful liturgical season of Advent. Advent invites us to look forwards and backwards simultaneously. We prepare with joy for the coming of the infant Christ into the world and we wait with longing for the return of Christ in the parousia, the original Greek word for the second coming. As we light the candles in the Advent wreath each week and move closer to the realization of the birth, our sense of expectation increases. We are more aware of God doing something new among us in the incarnation, the revelation of God in Christ. Throughout this season, as we savor beautiful readings from the Old Testament which recount the yearning of the Hebrews for their Messiah, we long for our Messiah to come again and reconcile the world to God, to bring the peace that passes all understanding.
 
So Advent is all about good tidings and cheer? Not exactly. You may be surprised to learn that Advent has historically been considered a penitential season. We catch glimpses of that in scriptural references to judgment and accountability for our transgressions. We see it in the liturgical use of the color purple as in the season of Lent. While Advent is certainly not a somber time as in Lent, it can be a disciplined time for prayerful self-examination and attention to our own spiritual journey and relationship with God.
 
For some, Advent may be a time when the disparity between our hopes and longings and the realities of our lives is felt acutely. It may be a time when the waiting is difficult and the coming light feels very dim. For some of us, the surrounding darkness is very present and the prospect of the holidays is not joyful. Acknowledging the ambiguity of the season, Anne Lamott writes in her book Plan B, "All I can do is stay close to God, and my friends. I notice the darkness, light a few candles, scatter some seeds. And in Nature, and in my spiritual community, I can usually remember that we have to dread things only one day at a time. Insight doesn't help here. Hope is not logical. It always comes as a surprise, just when you think all hope is lost." In the face of this, the best thing, she says, is "you have to take the next right action."

If this comes close to how the prospect of Advent is feeling for you right now, take action. Stay close to the community. Come to church. Pray. Participate in the Cathedral's Advent offerings of retreat, worship, and study. Call a friend. Call a member of the clergy. Trust that our God, who is revealed in the most unexpected ways, times, and places, is coming again and is with us now. Allow yourself to be surprised by hope.


November 17, 2017
We who follow Jesus are people of thanksgiving.  Each week when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together, we give our thanks and praise to God for the gift of our lives in all their complexity and fullness, including our recent losses and sorrows.  May this week ahead be a time of peaceful recollection for you as you draw close to family and friends.  
Among those things for which I gave thanks are the love and strong sense of community which we share in our Cathedral where we are reborn in the love of Christ.  The poet E. E. Cummings captures this spirit well and I share his poem below. 

i thank You God for most this amazing 
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees 
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything 
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today, 
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth 
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay 
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing 
breathing any-lifted from the no 
of all nothing-human merely being 
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and 
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


November 10, 2017
I extend my thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make the 234th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania a success.  For many years, the small, yet growing, Cathedral congregation has served this Diocese with the generous gifts of your time and love.  Here is the text of my address to the Convention which contains some important history as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our designation as the Cathedral Church.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.  I look forward to seeing you on Sunday for our morning service at 10am and then again for our Harvest Home potluck supper and Second Sunday Eucharist at 5pm. 


November 2, 2017
This weekend your Cathedral will host the 234th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.  As the Cathedral Church, the spiritual and liturgical center of the Diocese, it is a cherished privilege for us to welcome sisters and brothers from across five counties to worship together in the beauty of holiness and to offer the best of ourselves in prayer to God. We will then conduct our annual business within the faithful frame of that holiness and prayer. 

The Church of The Church of the Saviour, our former name, was designated as the Cathedral Church in 1992 by the Convention and by the Rt. Rev. Allen L. Bartlett, who had served as the Dean of the Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky prior to his election as the XIV Bishop Diocesan of Pennsylvania. Bishop Bartlett understood well the gift that a Cathedral could be to a Diocese and its unique expression of God's grace in Jesus Christ.  

At this Convention, our Cathedral will celebrate its 25th anniversary.  We will mark the occasion by presenting Bishop Allen Bartlett with a gift as a sign of our appreciation for his special role in creating the Cathedral, and for his leadership and wisdom. 

At Convention, I will also tell the story once more of how, by the grace of God, we got from there to here.  If you have not yet had an opportunity to read in the Diocesan magazine Caminos my piece, "The Cathedral Development Project: A Walk of Faith and Grit", you may access it here


October 26, 2017
This Sunday, October 29th, at 3pm we will celebrate in the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral an ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  As a Cathedral in the Anglican tradition which historically has provided a bridge and middle way between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, this is a particular privilege and joy for us to host.  We will be joined by religious leaders and members of many Christian denominations as we celebrate our common baptism in Jesus Christ.
 
The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral have a long history of ecumenical relationship.  Our covenant with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) known as Called to Common Mission (CCM) has been a model for dialogue and shared ministry throughout the wider Church.  Our immersion font in the Cathedral was, in fact, a gift from the ELCA in loving recognition of this special relationship.  The Rev. Dr. Gordon Lathrop, the former Chair of Liturgics at the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia, theologian, author, and former Lutheran pastor to the Cathedral congregation, will be preaching at this service.  I add that Gordon is my dear teacher, friend, and mentor.  His preaching is inspirational and I encourage you to come hear it and to welcome him back!
 
On the weekend of November 3rd and 4th, the Cathedral will host the annual Diocesan Convention, beginning with the Convention Eucharist on Friday evening at 6:30 pm.  Delegates, lay and clergy, from across the Diocese will then gather on Saturday to accomplish the holy business of the Diocese.  It is not too late to join our ministry of hospitality by serving as an usher or greeter.  Please contact Dan Tomko in the Cathedral offices if you would like to participate.
 
Following noonday prayer on Saturday, November 4th, our Bishop will bless the sculpture of The Hungry and Thirsty Jesus which will soon be installed in the niche on the north side of the Cathedral's front doors.  Please join us for this exciting moment that marks our 25th anniversary as the Cathedral Church of this Diocese and celebrates our Cathedral Table Ministries which are such an important part of our mission and common life.


October 19, 2017
In this year in which we celebrate our 25th anniversary as the Cathedral Church of this Diocese, I had occasion to review a copy of the original by-laws and charter of the Church of the Saviour, circa 1851. Among the fascinating tidbits they contain is the section dedicated to "register and rents of pews and sittings." It's hard to imagine a time when the right to a seat in this church, now a Cathedral, was purchased and the pew rents were "due on the first day of March, June, September, and December, in every year, in advance." 
 
Thank God, we have come a long way since then! Inside our doors where everyone has an unconditional seat, we have received many gifts for which we rejoice and give thanks. We are nourished each week by the Holy Scriptures and by the sacrament of the Eucharist. We experience God's presence in the midst of our community, in the faces of those whom we have to come to know, love, and serve. We pray. We feed the hungry. We care for one another and our world. We leave renewed, full of hope in the promises that God has made to us in Jesus and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live our Gospel faith in the wider world. 
 
In thanksgiving and in response to these good gifts of God, each member of the Cathedral community is called to give of themselves. Many in our community share their time and talent, and we are also called to give financial support at a level which is appropriate for our circumstances and which reflects the importance of the Cathedral in our lives. 
 
A pledge is a faithful expression of thanksgiving for these loving gifts of God. It is also a commitment to yourself and to God to be an intentional giver by supporting the faith community where you are nourished and sustained by the love of God. While it is a promise to give a specified amount of money in the coming year, we understand that circumstances sometimes change and that it may be necessary, on occasion, to adjust that commitment. 
 
Much like individual households, the congregation's pledges help us to know approximately how much financial support we can count on as we plan for ministries and expenses. Even with endowment income, your pledge is critical to affording salaries, outreach, music, our children's programs, heat, electricity, and snow removal to assure that the doors of the Cathedral remain open and that we continue to serve and to care for one another. 
 
Please take some time to reflect upon the level at which you will pledge this year and mail the card back to us, place it in the offering basket, or pledge directly through our website. If you would like prayerful assistance in your discernment, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the clergy for guidance. We care deeply about each one of you, and welcome the opportunity to talk and pray together.
October 12, 2017
Hungry-Thirsty-4"For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me ..."

These words from Matthew's gospel are the centerpiece of our Cathedral Table ministries. Each week with your help and support, we are providing 150 families in our community with sustaining, nourishing food from our food pantry. Teams of congregational and community volunteers are also cooking and serving hot lunches in the Cathedral. And, beginning on Wednesdays this month, the University City Hospitality Coalition, our neighborhood partner, returns after an absence of almost twenty years to prepare and serve hot dinners, along with offering medical, legal, and social work services. All of this hospitality takes place in the Cathedral sanctuary where we offer another holy meal in the form of the Eucharist on Sundays, Mondays through Fridays at noon, and for those in recovery on Tuesdays at 5:15. We trust that God's healing love and mercy are present in these ingredients.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the designation of the Church of the Saviour as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Pennsylvania at Convention this year, it is fitting to mark the occasion by acknowledging our Table Ministries and the deep hospitality of Christ that they embody. We will be placing in the niche on the north side of the Cathedral's front doors a sculpture of the Hungry Jesus.  It is, after all, his face whom we see in all who pass through our doors and his hands which we extend in love and care.

Our Bishop Daniel Gutierrez will dedicate Hungry Jesus during lunch on Convention Saturday, November 4. Sculptor Tim Schmaltz will also be on hand.  Please join us as we celebrate and give thanks to God for the faithful endurance of our community and its ministries represented by the presence of Hungry Jesus at our doors.

For more information about how to become involved in Cathedral Table Ministries, please contact Archdeacon Pam Nesbit. If you would like to contribute financially to these ministries or to the costs associated with the sculpture and it's installation, please contact Cathedral Director of Operation Lynn Buggage.

October 5, 2017
I have now arrived in the U.K. and I am wending my way north to Iona. As I process the news of the horror and heartbreak of what has happened in Las Vegas, please know that I am holding my Cathedral family in my heart and in my prayers.  I encourage you to pray fervently for all those who have died, those who recover from their physical wounds, those who recover from their psychic and spiritual wounds, and those who mourn. Pray for our nation and for the enactment of sensible legislation that prevents the purchase of assault weapons that have no place in our daily lives.

I also encourage you to act now. Please avail yourselves of the advocacy table in the Cathedral which will assist you in writing to your elected officials to prevent these gun related tragedies from continuing. March. Make phone calls. Send e-mails. Our democracy cannot work effectively, or perhaps even decently, if we do not exercise our privilege to participate by making our voices heard. The Kingdom will not come without us.

If you are in need of pastoral assistance or a reassuring word at this difficult time, please reach out to the clergy for help and support. Please also extend your hand in solidarity, friendship, and love to all who pass through our doors, seeking the solace in God's tender and gentle mercy that we find in the gathering of our community.


September 28, 2017
For Episcopalians, thinking about God is a holy pursuit. Typically, we like to think and we think a lot about the eternal questions. We are collaborative people, applying our God-given ability to reason as together we pour over the Holy Scriptures and examine the imperatives handed down to us through our tradition. Yet because we are finite creatures with limited capacities, we do humbly acknowledge that there are limits to our ability to find those answers, or even to ask the right questions.  We acknowledge that we live with a degree of ambiguity about the nature of God in the world. 

Because one thing that we know with certainty is that even collectively we do not have all the answers, we are generally suspicious of those who claim that they do. Because we look for the movement of the Holy Spirit among differing voices and points of view, we often do not presume to impose our own.  We can be a politely fractious group, careful to emphasize that we value and honor differences within the big tent of Anglicanism and within an increasingly pluralistic world.  Even so, “Being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind,” as we are charged by Paul in the letter to the Philippians this Sunday, is daunting for us, as it is for all Christians.  “Letting the same mind be in [us] that was in Christ Jesus” is more daunting still.  

As Paul invites the Philippians to have the same mind as Christ Jesus, he invokes the gorgeous language of a hymn that points to Jesus’ humility, and obedience, and the self-emptying love that allowed him to put the interests of others ahead of his own to the point of death on the cross.  These are beautiful, inspiring characteristics of our Lord and Savior that are that are the core of our faith.  But if we for a moment only understand Jesus and his vision of the kingdom of God only in passive terms, we do not have him.   We will have missed his humanity and his flesh and blood passion for the justice, righteousness, and compassionate love that can transform the world.

If we have the mind of Christ, thinking about God may be a holy pursuit, but it is simply not enough.  If we have the mind of Christ, we are motivated by kingdom principles.  We are motivated by relationship with our loving God, revealed in Jesus, who cares for the needs of the whole world, especially the poor, the weak, and the suffering.  In the words of Anglican theologian Urban T. Holmes:  “We cannot postpone the issue of justice to a future date; we cannot ignore the hungry at our doorstep; and we cannot pretend that what we do in business has no effect upon the state of our soul…We can debate the trivial points,” Holmes says, “but the vision is largely clear.  To love God is to relieve the burden of all who suffer.  The rest is a question of tactics.”  

How is God calling us forward as individuals and as a community to have the mind and be the heart and hands of Christ in this world? I encourage you to explore this question in the two upcoming Discerning Spiritual Gifts workshops being offered by the Rev. Bob Tate.

 

Last Published: February 17, 2018 10:56 AM