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Tuesday
Jul172018

Sermon for Proper 10 Year B 1st option 7-15-18

Click here to listen to the sermon. 

Proper 10 Year B 1st option 7-15-18

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Ps. 24; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

The earth is yours, O Lord, and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein. For it is you who founded it upon the seas and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep. Therefore, we will be stewards of the whole of it, in your name. AMEN.

This morning I preach to you from the ridiculously “long, loose-limbed & exalted” opening sentence of gratitude which makes up our passage for this morning from the Letter to the Ephesians, which our translators have broken up with punctuation, but which in Greek is all one long thought [L. William Countryman, New Proclamation Year B 2003]. The heart of the matter for this writer, who was probably an apostle of Paul’s, is: We are blessed with every blessing by God – no matter what we may feel or experience in the moment. The rest is all elaboration on how that blessing expresses itself. The writer piles clause upon clause to open for us “a vast world-historical, even cosmic context for God’s engagement with [and empowerment of] the Christian community” [ibid.]. God chose us “before the foundation of the world,” he says. God chose us to be “holy and blameless in love.” God destined us for adoption as God’s own beloved children, through the “grace freely bestowed on us in the Beloved, [Christ our Lord].” That grace does not remove our capacity for wrong-doing, but it does promise us a liberating and empowering forgiveness, a release from our past. And if we set our hope on Christ, we will access “the word of truth,” God’s own wisdom and insight, revealing the mystery of God’s loving will for us and for all of God’s Creation, “things in heaven and things on earth.” We’ve been marked by the “seal of the Holy Spirit” to live “for the praise of his glory,” and participate in his “plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” This is the hope – both cosmic & intimate – by which we are to live as followers of “the Beloved.” Nothing more and nothing less.

I’ve said in previous sermons that I am, in a sense, consolidating what I feel is most important to pass on to you in these, my last few sermons as rector of St. James’s, before my retirement on July 29th. Today, in service of this radiantly cosmic prayer of gratitude and adoration in Ephesians, so illumined with a promise of hope for a time in which it is tempting to give in to hopelessness or at least helplessness, I want to speak to you about my call, responded to over 10 years here and 17 before that as a priest in other parts of this Church, to be a “public theologian.”

I’ve never liked this term, “public theologian.” After all, what is its antithesis, a “private” theologian?!? Aren’t all theologians “public” in some sense: probing the nature of God in order to illuminate what we can of the mysteries for anyone who longs to come closer to God? To be spokespeople for the claiming of God’s blessing? But the more I read about the term “public theologian,” the more I’ve thought it apt for what the Ephesians writer is calling us to, and what I do instinctively: to bring my faith and its traditions into constant dialogue with the society, the academy, and the church, with science, economics, law, the market, the arts, and the media, and with other religious communities, in the conviction that that very grounded (and often messy) practicality can stretch for the full scope and reach of God’s plan for the fullness of time. That in fact theology MUST enter the mess and practicality of all of society and all of humanity – and indeed, all of the natural world – if it is EVER to work for and reach for the promised Kingdom – the Realm – of God. In other words, I cannot to let “religion” become a thing divorced from public life, but must recognize in Jesus a fellow “public theologian,” one who always saw the implications of what he taught both for the most particular person in front of him in their most particular context, and at the same time, for the widest possible society, all of it, without exception, held in God’s love.

Public theology has six characteristics:

1)    It is always incarnational: based in the conviction that Jesus in his humanity highlighted the dignity of all human nature by drawing attention to the spark of divinity at our center, we human siblings of his, which we all are by grace. Jesus’ divinity is GROUNDED in our humanity, so our humanity is holy, redeemed by God.

2)    Public theology is never meant to be confined to the church, but meant to be relevant to all people – all “publics!” Theology must always be concerned with all aspects of human society, and must be visible in the public sphere, not merely behind church walls.

3)    It is interdisciplinary, drawing from any and all fields of study. Nothing is outside its purview.

4)    It invites dialogue and critique with and from both church & society. Because there IS NO SECULAR WORLD. ALL IS SACRED.

5)    It takes a global perspective, because many issues of tremendous moral and spiritual import – immigration, or climate change, for example – affect many countries across borders.

6)    And public theology is PERFORMED, not merely PROCLAIMED. It develops and evolves as it expresses itself in action in the world. I cannot merely say “Jesus saves me;” I must live his commandment to love others as I love God and myself, and do so in active, visible, dare I say, “political” ways. [adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_theology]

So public theologians of a caliber entirely beyond my own, exemplars I would emulate, include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, Dorothee Soelle, Reinhold Niebuhr, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King Jr.

As a public theologian, then, I cannot overlook our terrible Gospel story for today, no matter how much I might like to concentrate only on blessings in the Letter to the Ephesians. We can’t claim those blessings without grappling with this story, and this story is too resonant with events in the present to let it pass unexplored. A corrupt and vulnerable politician, the Roman puppet Herod, falls victim to the schemes of an even-more vulnerable politician, his wife Herodias, and gets maneuvered into the position of further violating any instincts – let’s not dignify them with the word “principles” – any instincts he had that John the Baptist, whom he was holding prisoner in the first place for being a rabble-rouser and disturber of the peace but whom he protected because he liked to listen to him, might be speaking truth in his condemnation of a corrupt society. At the mercy of everyone in this story is Herod’s daughter, also named Herodias, the little dancer at the story’s center. She’s in a classic “#metoo” bind: made to dance for the drunken king and his courtiers (one can only imagine the dance). Then, when the king, pandering to his “courtiers and officers and Galilean leaders” (who, in turn, are toadying him and fail throughout the story to make any objection to anything the king proposes) over-praises his daughter leeringly, the daughter has no idea what to do and asks her mother for advice. The mother sees her moment of opportunity to vanquish the critical John, and her gruesome request is transmitted back to the king by the hapless daughter. What trauma does that child suffer when, like a scene from “Game of Thrones,” John the Baptist’s head is delivered to her on a platter?!? No one comes out of this self-serving story looking good except poor John, head on platter and body delivered to his disciples for burial.

As a public theologian, it’s my responsibility to make clear that this horrific story – exposing dynamics that still plague us, from self-serving and short-sighted Chief Executives to fawning courtiers abandoning any responsibility for moral leadership, to the scheming of those who feel powerless, trying to use what little power they can leverage regardless of the consequences, to the sexploitation of women & young girls by those in the highest echelons of power – has far too much pertinence in our own day. And to point out its jarring contrast with the way of living implied in Ephesians’ beautiful opening blessing prayer: nothing here speaks of a life lived holy and blameless in love. Nothing hints at the operation of grace to redeem our faults. Nothing contributes directly to God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in God, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Except for one thing, which belongs not to this passage in Mark chosen for the lectionary today but to its wider context in the Gospel, Mark’s embracing Good News: and that one thing is that John’s death, horrific as it is, a gut-wrenching testament to the evils of unaccountable power, is not an end in itself, but is the signal to Jesus to step forward, full of the power of his baptism, and take up John’s cry for repentance, turning it into a mission of transformation: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” [Mark 1:15]

Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, God’s Realm is right to hand, my dear friends at St. James’s. You have been adopted into God’s own family to participate in that Realm fully, and NOW, by God’s grace. Wherever you have come from, whatever faith you may or may not have espoused, knowingly or unknowingly (because often we misinterpret our earthly willingness to love and to sacrifice, to admit wrong and turn again and try again to live in a way that serves the well-being of others as well as our own, as “mere secular conviction” when it’s as clearly the working of faith as anything done consciously in the name of Jesus Christ), whatever your past, whatever your appearance or orientation of being, YOU ARE BLESSED to be part of God’s greatSHALOM. As Philip Burnham – whose life we celebrated in his burial service yesterday – said in one of his very last poems, called “Liminal,” written only days before his death, open the portals of your heart to the “word of truth,” “the mystery of God’s will,” and “the Good News of your salvation” already achieved in Christ and merely now to be lived. And then, put your feet in motion to enact the mystery of love you find inside your heart’s doors, concretely, in the world. Is it to join our Sanctuary team and support the little Ecuadoran family at University Lutheran as the mom seeks to gain asylum? Is it to study climate science, in an era when our government wants to shut it down? Is it to support a prisoner with a life sentence as she seeks a college education? Or to lobby your legislature to undo the effects of mass incarceration, removing onerous fees or restoring driver’s licenses or the right to vote? Is it simply to show up for your fellow congregation members when they are ill or grieved and in need of company and a meal? Or sing in the Choir?!? Then learn what you need to learn from that action to amend your awareness of what love means and what love demands. And put your feet in motion and try again. By God’s grace. AMEN.

Tuesday
Jul172018

Homily for Philip Burnham's Burial, 7-14-15

Click here to listen to the sermon. 

A Homily for Philip Burnham on the Occasion of his Burial

St. James’s Episcopal Church, Le Quatorze Juillet, 2018

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 25:6-9; Ps. 23; Romans 8:14-39; John 14:1-6

Let us pray:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord, for ever. AMEN.

It is my job, in preaching someone’s burial, to deliver a word of sustenance into the hungering maw of grief, to speak an everlasting word of love to defy definitive loss, a word of life to vanquish death’s power. That’s a tall order even when NOT doing all this in honor of a consummate wordsmith like Philip Burnham.

Fortunately for me, Philip’s own life preaches all this so powerfully, all I need are his own poems and the simple facts of his life, truly a “foretaste of the heavenly banquet,” a Eucharistic life lived to its very last sweet mouthful scraped from the very bottom of the dish, and then a finger used to swipe the rest.

Let Isaiah have his imagery of a feast of rich food filled with marrow and well-aged wines strained clear. Let the Psalmist’s cup runneth over. For Philip, life was:

Poetry for Breakfast

I’m having poetry for breakfast, he wrote in a poem of this name.

Straight from the cupboard and the fridge,

If you are looking for it at the store,

It’s in aisle thirteen point four between

The natural and the unnatural produce.

To begin, a sweet but bitter grapefruit,

Trusting itself to go by contraries,

Sweetheart rose pink, bitter lemon yellow,

Then Wheaties from a box of champions,

Jack Armstrong to Lance Armstrong,

That all-American fourteenth of July, hero,

Topped with fresh peaches, french vanilla yogurt,

Passion smothered in velvet sensuality,

Transport from the kitchen to the bedroom,

Where Prince of Denmark raspberry jam –

Hamlet’s own – waits to be spread over

Separated moons of un-English muffins,

Rounded with a little cup of coffee,

Ground from the darkest hour of the night,

Poured through the morning’s filter of sun & shadow,

Tasted at the porcelain rim of the day. [Housekeeping: Poems out of the ordinary, 2005]

Trusting himself to go by contraries,” Philip was a man who shied away neither from the bitter nor the sweet.  Enamored of history, he learned to live completely in the present moment. “A man of sorrow and acquainted with grief,” as Isaiah says in a Suffering Servant Song, a different passage than we read today [Isaiah 53:3], Philip knew loss “ground from the darkest hour of night,” but nevertheless lived life on the cusp of joy, “tasted at the porcelain rim of the day,” “holding fast to the things that shall endure” even “while placed among things that are passing away,” as we pray in our Collect for Proper 20 of the season of “ordinary time,” which was – most appropriately – the season in which Philip died. He saw no inconsistency between life’s most ordinary pleasures and the extraordinary promises of life and love. Wheaties and peaches could transport him passionately from kitchen to bedroom in “the most velvet of sensualities.” “Americanness” of heroism did not rule out Le Quatorze Juillet as Independence Day! If he could no longer read, he listened to books on audible.com and to the works of Brahms and Beethoven on the stereo. Poetry poured out of him to the very end, until his handwriting had become completely illegible. He knew himself to be ashes to ashes and dust bound for dust, but he knew it to be stardust, bound also for reuniting love. “The portals of his heart stayed open” to the very end, his arms raised in greeting when Nicholas came into the room from California, joining Frannie and Lizzie and Phil to complete the circle of Philip’s most beloved family for his passing over.

You need no more evidence of the open portal of Philip’s heart than his decision to marry his fellow poet Frannie Lindsay less than two years ago, in the season of Advent, the darkest season of the year – the season of the “already” and the “not-yet,” as we theologians like to say, a season which claims the promised fruition of God’s Mission of restoration and shalom even as it poignantly anatomizes the long distance we fallible and self-destructive human beings have yet to travel to be ready to inhabit those ever-proffered “dwelling places prepared for us.” Frannie’s and Philip’s was a love late in both their lives, lives already outpoured; already fraught with things “done and left undone,” as we say in our general confession; already pinched and amended by the ravages of time in so many ways; Philip already long under sentence of death from metastasized cancer. If Advent is the season of the “already,” it is the already of Christ’s incarnation, imminent in the feast of Christmas, well-loved and well-memorialized by Philip and his beloved first wife Louise, mother of Phil and Lizzie and Nicholas, in their many illustrated poetic Christmas cards. And the wonder of the Incarnation is not Christ’s perfection – remember, after all, that Jesus arrives as a refugee baby lost in the machinery of Empire, and laid in an animal trough for lack of a room in an inn – so much as it is the affirmation of our human dignity, wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored” by that same infant Jesus, so that we, no matter how humble, no matter how disenfranchised, can share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share ourhumanity.” [Collect of the Incarnation, page 252, Book of Common Prayer] Marrying Frannie – and Frannie marrying Philip – was an affirmation of the dignity and promise of human nature regardless of our mortality and our fallibility, as it was also an affirmation of what mystical writer Jean Pierre de Caussade called “the sacrament of the present moment.” 

I only knew Philip as a man already bound to a cane, already on his umpty-umpth chemotherapy protocol, a man living well over the edge of his “time allotted.” You would never have known it, were it not for the limp. I have never known anyone so determined to be utterly alive, even as, capacity by capacity and sense by precious sense, his connection to that vitality was being stripped away. As his pastor, I can tell you it was immensely hard work just to get him to acknowledge his own grief (or anyone else’s), even to acknowledge there was punctuation – someday, somehow – at the end of his vibrant, enthusiastic, exuberant sentence. In his zeal for life, he lived and died as if truly “nothing could separate him from the love of Jesus Christ.” Even when he was unable to move, almost unable to breathe for pain, in the terrible weekend before he finally accepted the megawatts of pain medication he needed a week and some before his death, he bent himself to receive communion, Christ’s broken body for healing; his blood poured out to everlasting life. A meal “poured through the filter of sun and shadow,” indeed.

As Frannie herself says, whatever incentives for despair might propose themselves, Philip “vowed to live every single day of his life with gratitude and praise.” As he did when being American Vice-Consul of Marseilles proved a boring job, so, as he recalled, he spent the first year at his desk reading all the great American novels, and the second year, all the great French ones, Philip made lemonade whenever lemons were proffered. (And left Marseilles to study medieval history, which he then taught for the rest of his professional life, though his heart never completely departed from France, a country whose gusto for the everyday good things he found utterly congenial to his own general philosophy of life.)

In 2012, already long diagnosed with the metastasis that, only after six more years, managed to subsume his vitality in its own, Philip published one of his many books of poetry, this one calledShore Lines. Loathe as he was to contemplate his own death, death was clearly on his generous and omnivorous mind. So we will close with another poem of his from this collection, a tribute to the 13th century Moslem writer Ibn Khallikan, “whose parings from his reed pens,” as Philip notes in the preface to the poem, “were used to heat the water to wash his corpse.

Ibn Khallikan’s Bequest

Dear gentle readers and good friends,

I leave the parings of my pens,

Cut from the fertile river’s reeds

Swept, gathered, stored as fire seeds

To heat the water when I fail,

To wash my corpse from hair to nails.

There’s quantity enough for me

To be washed warmly, carefully,

That I may enter Paradise

Clean and perfumed, or even spiced,

Where all the faithful host will be

Impressed with my prolixity.

 

If you would write as much, don’t ask

Another to perform the task

Of finding wood to heat the water

To bathe you for the ever after,

With Ibn Khallikan as guide,

Or Robert Frost, Provide, provide!

How Philip has provided for all of us who are left among the un-English muffins, the pots of geraniums and marigolds flourishing on our back decks, the depths of Brahms’ harmonies in which Philip took such pleasure and found such sustenance. We have only to seek within ourselves the seeds of gratitude he sowed there. By God’s grace.

And so let us close by returning to our dust and his, in poetry from the hymn “Come Down O Love Divine,” with which we opened Philip’s service today, so that, as we will soon sing in the great Orthodox Kontakion, “even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

O let [Love] freely burn,

till earthly passions turn

to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;

and let thy glorious light

shine ever on our sight

and clothe us round, the while our path illuming. 

AMEN.

Tuesday
Jul102018

Proper 9 Year B 1st option 7-8-18

Click here to listen to the sermon.

Proper 9 Year B 1st option 7-8-18

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

We wait in silence on your loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of your temple. Be our guide for evermore. AMEN.

You might think, on this hot summer day, your preacher might spare you heavy thoughts, might settle for something easily consoling and comfortable, a kind of “beach reading” version of the Gospel.

But then we have Paul’s words to the Corinthians about the abiding thorn in his flesh, “a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated,” he says. Uh-oh. Maybe not “beach reading,” which is all about gentle elation. After all, God declines to remove that unspecified “thorn,” despite Paul’s prayerful pleas, and Paul hears God’s explanation for his continuing distress, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Torment. Weakness. These, the vehicles of God’s grace to Paul? Radical, indeed incomprehensible stuff to those cosmopolitan, prosperous and capable Corinthians in the first century CE. Just as challenging to us Cantabrigians now in the 21st, summer heat or no summer heat. Weakness is not a culturally popular idea! It doesn’t “preach” comfortably and easily on a summer’s day!

Then, too, we have me as the preacher, whom most of you have known these many years now, so you know when you cross the threshold of St. James’s that the Good News in my mouth, though it may be – God willing! – a joyous thing, is unlikely to be an easy thing, a thing as light as a tank top in the summer breeze. Most of you know that this is one of only 4 more sermons before my retirement on July 29th (if you don’t count Philip Burnham’s burial service next Saturday July 14th – a fifth sermon), and I don’t want to pull any punches on my sense of God’s Good News before I leave this wonderful ministry, nor minimize its difficulties and challenges in this difficult time in our nation and world, but hopefully strengthen you to meet those challenges. (Let’s remember, after all, that the word “comfort” derives from the Latin word for “strength:” “fortis,” as in “fortitude.” So what is strengthening is, in the most profound way, comforting.)

Moreover, I was ordained going on 27 years ago to “proclaim Christ crucifieda stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews & Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God,” as Paul tells these same Corinthians in his First Letter. “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” [1 Corinthians 1:23-25] So I preach weakness, as the very source of God’s strength in me. Stumbling block and foolishness though it is most manifestly viewed, these days as then.

No getting around the fact that we do follow a Crucified and Risen God, a God who entered fully into the dismaying dynamics of Empire but never bowed to those dynamics, never embraced their violence, never succumbed to the temptation to wield power as they did, building up themselves at the cost of others’ well-being. A fully human God who thus first became Empire’s victim, flayed upon a cross, before he rose victorious and infused our whole human fallibility with the great, imaginative, inexhaustible energy of his grace. So that we, too – disciples, followers, IMITATORS of this vulnerable, human, and self-offering God – are invited ever and always to access this grace by refusing ourselves to join the clambering, commanding & competitive dynamics of Empire, forswearing its cruelties, its arrogance, its insistence upon domination, and leaving ourselves vulnerable in solidarity with the most vulnerable, trusting that even as we seem to be losing, succumbing, even dying, God’s grace is with us to supply new life – greater life, an expansion of love – through our very wounds themselves.

THIS is the Good News I proclaim to you today, inspired by this Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Though Paul opens this segment of the Letter with a rhapsodic description of someone’s mystical ecstasy, “whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know; only God knows!” a rhapsody commentators all agree was his own, but politely and deferentially referred to in the third person so that the medium would be the message, and ”on his own behalf,” schooled by that mysterious “thorn in the flesh, “he will not boast, except of his weaknesses,” Paul ends with “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Why all this fuss about weakness? Why thus address the Corinthians? “…Paul is …undercutting the whole business of competition, [because]…the difficulties at Corinth arise from the willingness of some itinerant teachers to put themselves forward as better qualified, by background and ability, to lead the congregation [than Paul]. In the process, leadership becomes the prize in a context in which the participants try to prove that they are better than others. Sound relevant to us today, my friends? [L. William Countryman, New Proclamation Year B 2003]

“This runs precisely counter to Paul’s whole gospel, which is centered not on the worthiness of human beings, but on the graciousness of God. If Paul participates in the new context for leadership, he will seem to be sanctioning a set of presuppositions for the life of the church at variance with the gospel.” [Ibid.]

Hence he won’t even refer to the mystical experience that opens the passage in the first person, though there is little doubt that it was his own, because he doesn’t want to “boast.” He is “quite emphatic that his extraordinary spiritual experience is not what gives him authority in the church… what gives him the authority of a leader is simply that God called him and sent him to preach the gospel.

He sees his failures and sufferings as a necessary balancing of [his] perspective. Without them, he – and others – might assume that his successes gave him authority rather than God’s grace. Instead of seeking out a genuine gospel leadership, the church would be settling for the destructive forms of leadership supplied by the world, forms based on competition and self-congratulation. [Ibid.]

In general [in the world today, and in our own nation in particular], it often seems that Paul’s opponents have won. Leadership … repeatedly becomes …an object of competition and pride. But… the community that cares for the gospel must find different, subversive ways of thinking about and practicing authority. Our key marker of authority must not be measurable entitlements, but the integrity that comes with authentic vocation and a life in accordance with the gospel message of divine generosity replicating itself in human community.” [Ibid.] Our authority comes purely from the grace of God. Our achievements likewise. Which we routinely forget, claiming responsibility for them. It is our wounds, our failures, our terrors, our “thorns-in-the-flesh” that remind us to put our trust in God alone. And out of that utter trust comes our capacity to love, to love with no regard to our own “return on investment,” to love sacrificially on behalf of others.

Even Jesus himself, in the midst of his own authority, finds in his hometown of Nazareth in today’s Gospel story that “he could do no deed of power there… The problem Jesus’s Nazareth audience has with him is that they know him. They have already relegated him to secure and definite pigeonholes in their world, and they are not inclined to take him out: Isn’t this the carpenter? Don’t we know all his family? Who does he think he is? To accept him as something more would mean a major reconstruction of their world. It would mean learning that God still intervenes in this apparently closed system and changes things.” [Ibid.]

But, in light of Paul’s message to the Corinthians, it would also mean accepting that God’s power IS expressed in the ordinariness, the weakness, the humanness, of every single one of us, as it was expressed in that very human person Jesus. Only when we open our eyes to perceive that possibility in every human being are we ready to receive Christ’s “deeds of power” working in us and through us, by God’s grace.

After all, in our Gospel passage for today, right after Jesus himself – with all his spiritual authority – could do no deeds of power, he turned around and sent all his disciples out, two by two, and THEY were filled with that power and authority over demons and all manner of evil. If I have done ANYTHING as your rector, I hope I have done that: called you into your power, into YOUR priesthood!

So we will end with Lutheran pastor, recovering drug addict, and founding pastor of the “House for All Saints & Sinners” in Denver, Colorado, Nadia Bolz-Weber’s reinterpretation of the Beatitudes, slightly adapted for our current situation by me, a blessing that springs directly from her own profound weakness made strong in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessed are the agnostics 

Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure, who can still be surprised. 

Blessed are those who think they have nothing to offer…

Blessed are the bored 

Blessed are those who stare at the roof of the Church, wishing for something to happen, hoping for God to act… 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean.
Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like…
Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted anymore.
Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.

Blessed are the motherless, the alone, the ones from whom so much has been taken.
Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.”

Blessed are those who mourn: You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are those who no one else notices. The kids who sit alone and friendless at lunch, the laundry staff at the hospital, the sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers.
Blessed are the losers in a world that loves only the winners.
Blessed are the forgotten.
Blessed are the closeted.
Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented…

Blessed are the meek: You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like YOU.
Blessed are those without a valid entry visa…
[who are torn away from their loved ones and left utterly at the mercy of the State].
Blessed are the ones without anyone to speak on their behalf or let them speak for themselves.

Blessed are the foster kids and special needs kids and every other child who just wants to feel safe & loved.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

[Blessed are those who march in solidarity with the dispossessed and the disinherited.]
Blessed are they who know there has to be more than this. Because they are right.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the harassed home-care staff.
Blessed
 [is whoever steps] between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed are they who hear that they are forgiven.
Blessed is EVERYONE who has ever forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it.
Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it
.

AMEN.

Tuesday
Jul102018

Sermon for Proper 8 Year B 1st option 7-1-18

The Rev. Brock Baker

“A New Vision”               

From St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor 12: 12)….

 “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body ….

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many members, yet one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members have the same care for one another.  If one members suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”  (1 Cor 12 14-15;18-22;24(b)-27). 

Here is what came to me last night, which I believe was from God, and settled this sermon into its final lines:  It was in the form of directive to every Christian in America.

         “The indignation at or support for any public action by Christians in America should be based on its movement away from or its movement towards the realization of a vision for the body politic of these United States that is identical in character to the vision of the Body of the Church as described by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 12.” 

No one would be happy until all are happy.

No one would be safe until all were safe.

No one would be valued until all were valued.

The sequence of thoughts that led up to the “directive” was set off by a headline story in The NYT:   Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court had handed in his resignation and the Republican Party were now in a position to nominate and elect another judge to their liking, further tilting the Court to the “right.”

I was upset and frightened in a way I had never been before.  Why?  I soon realized that the Supreme Court  held a place in my pantheon that was more critical to my peace of mind than I was aware of.   I saw it as, of the three branches of government intended to offset each other’s power, the most likely not to be directly influenced by the “power plays” taking place in the Congress and in the Presidency.  If it was to become only another amphitheater for combatants already “at work” in the other two branches, governmental Armageddon was close at hand. 

            But then I realized that this idolatry—for that is what it was---as do all idolatries—had been obstructing my thinking.  It had kept me from articulating what really scared me:   the contemptuousness by both parties towards the principles what the Pledge of the Allegiance professes as our ideal--or vision--along with many other public documents:  “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible [under God] , with liberty and justice for all.”  [For all?  For each side there was a “but, “but not liberty and  justice for them or them or them.  On no, not for those people.”]

Two well known but still important quotations from our recent political history must be mentioned, the first from Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in the Senate, and the second from Hillary Clinton, former candidate for the presidency:

On the eve of the midterm elections during Obama’s first term, McConnell said to an interviewer: “The most important thing we want to achieve is that President Obama is a one-term president. ”   And he and his party stuck to this pledge. 

Every public declaration by a politician is spoken in coded language: a great deal of what is intended is not said out loud.  What McConnel was also saying—or “signaling”—was the Republican leadership did not want our first black president to be seen as successful in any way because if he did the floodgates might open and who knows what will happen. 

The words and actions of Republicans candidates and legislatures over the previous decade had made clear the party’s hierarchy’s views that African Americans should be blamed for a large part of what is wrong with this country.  McConnell was saying he continued to take that threat seriously and was going to do something about it.

No, not for those people.    

In the case of Hillary Clinton’s remarks, she in fact came right out with it; she said what she thought openly, but it was just as shocking:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?    (Laughter/applause)

“The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamphobic—you name it.  And unfortunately there are people like that….Now some of these folks—they are irredeemable, “

“Irredeemable’?  

Cruelty, injustice before the law, unjust laws—all these are being protested right now and God smiles!  But chaos still threatens.  Why?

            “Without a vision, the people perish,” Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

            The “vision” for  good order, the shining aspiration that used to draw many eyes,  that is found in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Pledge of Allegiance, seems to have lost its hold, no longer has the power to lift up the heads of either the parties’ leaders or most voters and reinspire them to seek to fulfill its promises.  Of Liberty and Justice for all.

But God never leaves his people floundering for long.  He is never defeated and neither will we, as his followers. “Give thanks in all circumstances” Paul tells us” (1 Thess 5:18).  But why should we, how could we, give thanks to God in these circumstances? 

Because they are giving us an opportunity to propose Paul’s vision, Jesus’ vision, for the body politic; to unite us and organize our efforts as followers of Jesus as they never have been before.  Are the times dark?  No  question.  Must we continue to be committed to fight against the cruelty and injustice, the mean spiritedness of this presidency and congress. Of course.  But always our hope is in Him and He never fails, and he is not failing us now.  

Let’s lift our heads up and seek this vision for our country, and with all our might and with the strength of the Holy Spirit to push and pull ourselves and our fellow citizens –and residents, documented or not) to see it and seek it alongside us.    

And of course, no one is irredeemable, no matter what they think, or what they have done.  Jesus died on the cross to save all of us, the good, the bad, the indifferent, the hostile, and the luke warm.  No one can be judged irredeemable, much as we may like to.  No one is irredeemable,  Not for God, and therefore, not for us, his witnesses.  In fact, let’s s make that a campaign slogan for our new vision: “There are no irredeemables.”    

I happen to know the truth of that personally: I hope all of us here do too.

In His Name Above All Names, Let the people all say,  Amen.

 

 

Wednesday
Jun272018

Sermon for Proper 7 Year B 1st option 6-24-18

Click here to listen to the sermon.

Proper 7 Year B 1st option 6-24-18

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: 1 Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49; Ps. 9:9-20; 2 Cor. 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

We who know your Name will put our trust in you, for you never forsake those who seek you, O Holy One of God. AMEN.

These words to you this morning have been steeped – distilled – in the joy of our fellowship in a sun-shot Parish Re-Treat that nearly didn’t happen, until John Hixson and Nancy McArdle and Lauren Rigsby and then more and more of you stepped forward and took the planning on, and then still more of you stepped forward and signed up to come and many of you to lead a workshop or make a delectable English Tea or play with kids or teach scouting skills or paint a banner or tell a story in the Hootenanny or lead a song at the bonfire.

These words have been steeped in Pat Michaels’ extraordinary pouring-out of his passion for God’s subversive love in his brand-new set of hymns on the words our Guidelines for Communication Across Difference, hymns which we tried out in a workshop on Saturday morning and then sang again in our Eucharist in the light-saturated bowl of the amphitheater by the lake on Sunday morning. And these words were further soaked in his hymns as they then threaded themselves through my brain and heart all week long.

Here’s one, based on Guideline Number Two – it’s on the insert in your bulletin - that has iterated and reiterated itself in me all week long, even turning up in my whistling before I was even thinking about it:

It is OK to disagree, for each to have their own thoughts,

For each to know that they are valued for themselves.

When we agree to disagree, the space we open up and share

Gives hope, gives life, and shows the way to care.

It is OK to disagree, our varied viewpoints to hold –  

To speak and act out our beliefs accordingly.

And does not every healthy group still seek to find a mutual bond

Not in conformity but only in love?

When Christians share their differing views, discovering how others think,

Their true identity perhaps can be confirmed.

Real unity is thus enhanced as new community is born

From every disagreement nurtured in love.

The world God made a feeling whole, a thinking universe,

Was never once a place where all must agree.

And does the Trinity agree on every aspect of its life,

Or might they love their way through stress and strife?

What a radical idea, that disagreement – differing viewpoints – might even occur at the heart of the Trinity’s great dance of love, that the Unity of God the Three in One necessitates enough difference to make the Three truly Three, not a mere illusion of Threeness within the Oneness of love and commitment that binds them? That our disagreement – dear God, writ so largely and so very very painfully across our nation and our world right now – might still, even in its “stress and strife” contain the seeds of the loving work of the Trinity, if we will only engage our disagreements with commitment and interest, with empathy and “for-us-ness” instead of as a means of trumping one another’s viewpoints and “winning” at each other’s expense?

Today, evening comes in Mark’s Gospel story, and though Jesus has been teaching, teaching, teaching all day, he isn’t ready to rest. Instead, he invites the disciples to get into their boat and cross the perilous Lake (or Sea) of Galilee – well-known to be a place of sudden and unpredictable storms – from the Jewish to the Gentile side of the Lake, from familiar territory to the unfamiliar and alien. In the dark, a great windstorm arises and the waves are beating into the boat and immediately – “already” is Mark’s word – being swamped. If you have ever been in a boat into which waves are beating, you know exactly how deeply vulnerable and terrified you feel, knowing there is no hope of firm footing anywhere, that you will simply be swallowed into the endless deep and drowned without a trace.

Heaven only knows the tumult of activity among the disciples, falling over themselves trying to contend with this perilous situation! But somehow, amid the turmoil of the storm itself and the boat’s susceptibility and the shouts of distress, the commands and countermands, the fruitless, jostling effort of the disciples to grapple with the overwhelming situation, Jesus is still asleep on a cushion – delightful image of peaceful rest – in the stern of the tossing boat. The very picture of insouciance and calm. They shake him awake, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?!?

Oh my dear friends and companions, do we not know exactly how those disciples are feeling just at that moment, in that cri du coeur? Is OUR ship of state not tossing wildly on the seas of discord and inhumanity, throwing innocent children and families overboard in the midst of their deep distress and vulnerability as we seek to secure ourselves in some terribly divisive vision of how the world might be controlled to our benefit? Are we – perhaps especially we who feel deeply, personally riven by so many of the actions our government is perpetrating in our name – are we not crying out – screaming, really – “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?!?” Is there not SOMETHING you, YOU, the ALMIGHTY GOD, can DO?

And do we not LONG for Jesus to stand up in our boat and rebuke these terrible winds of inhumanity and say to the sea of division, “Peace! Be still!” so that the wind will cease and we will have a moment of dead calm in which to breathe and regroup and find our way forward with more cohesiveness and a longer view of what might make this little ship of our globe – our entire planet – a more stable and sturdy and viable thing?

But even as the waves are beating over us – as Psalm 42 says, “One deep calls to another in the noise of your cataracts, [O God;] all your rapids and floods have gone over me…” and “I will say to the God of my strength, ‘Why have you forsaken me? And why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?” – even in that inundation of fearz, Jesus is saying to US, as he said to the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Oh God, we ARE afraid! We are DEEPLY AFRAID! We look deep within us for the trust that will enable us to move forward into our divisions and find common ground, or at least common humanity, and it seems to have been swamped and gone missing, twelve fathoms down, 20,000 leagues under the sea. We are TAKING ON WATER, O GOD!

For the Evangelist Mark, the antithesis of faith is not unbelief. It’s not having the wrong mental construct, the wrong empirical data or analysis thereof. The antithesis of faith for Mark’s Jesus is FEAR. “O ye of little faith! WHY DID YOU DOUBT?!?”

Jesus is standing up from the cushion in our storm-heaving boat and saying, “Why are you so terrified that you cannot mend your divisions and recover a sense of shared humanity? YOU ARE PART OF THE TRINITY OF LOVE! You may disagree, yes, but YOU HAVE THE TOOLS to stay connected! Start right here in the bottom of the boat with agreeing that it’s OK to disagree! Start right here in the little boat of this congregation and TRY THAT ON!

In fact, speaking of “trying things on,” we St. Jamesians have been hanging out with the Quakers so long over at our offices at the American Friends Service Committee that we’ve started to take on a little of their high theology of the Holy Spirit, which they call “the Light.” For Quakers, the most important way God works in the world is in the illumination – or “irradiation,” their word, going ‘way back to their origins in the 17th century, long before “irradiation” got associated with nuclear bombs – the irradiation of the human spirit with the Spirit of God’s Light, God’s EN-LIGHT-ENMENT.

Quakers have this idea of “mutual irradiation,” based on this conviction of the Light within each and every one of us. In this theology, it is not enough for me simply to witness your Light Within (although that’s a good place to start, a willingness opened up in the silence of their common worship). In this “mutual irradiation,” I need to go further. I need to take the truly radical risk of taking YOUR Light INTO ME, letting it light me anew. And at the same time, YOU need to take MY LIGHT into you. As yours becomes mine and mine becomes yours, we risk being changed by it.

If we really believe in “mutual irradiation,” as the Quakers do, then we’re not just staying with Guideline Number Two, “It’s OK to disagree;” we need Guideline Number One too! We need to locate the deep faith – the grace of God that flows irresistibly from the Holy Three in One – to “try on” each other’s reality, that reality we find so frighteningly different from our own. We may not, in the end, find it a place to take up residence. But even if we still disagree, we will have inhabited a common ground, probed a common goal, and we most likely will have been changed in the process, at least expanded, a little. Our seas will be a little calmer; our capacity to navigate forward together a little easier, a little more reliable.

Fortunately, there’s a beautiful Pat Michael’s hymn on Guideline Number One as well! So let’s finish – or maybe, BEGIN?!? – by singing THAT ONE together! Like Guideline Number Two, it’s on your insert in your bulletin!

Walking in one’s own shoes takes barely a thought –

Formed to fit our contours, supporting as they ought –

Trying on another’s shoes, then walking all around

Might feel much too roomy, or too tightly bound.

Who will I become if I try them on?

 

Trying on opinions that others hold dear

Can at first seem daunting, inflaming fear;

Letting go of sureness, withholding certainty

Is a way to hold up their humanity.

Who will I become if I try this on?

Trying on a worldview where people are free –

Free to do new things, agree or disagree,

Discerning in each moment, learning how to grow,

Willing to admit there are things I don’t know:

I will still be God’s child as I try this on.

AMEN!

Wednesday
Jun272018

Homily for the Sisters of St. Anne on the feria day 6-27-18

Sisters of St. Anne Feria Day 6-27-18

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: 2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3; Psalm 119:33-40; Matt 7:15-20

Turn our eyes from watching what is worthless, O God; give us life in your ways. AMEN.

I do like the idea of a “feria day:” "a weekday on which no special ecclesiastical feast is to be celebrated," and the reverse of its old Latin meaning of “festival” so that it’s “the opposite of a festival,” says Wikipedia. Moreover, something I didn’t know but YOU probably DO: apparently THIS feria day is not even a first-, second-, or third-class feria – all of them ranked by such proximity as Ash Wednesday or Lent or Advent. Today is a mere FOURTH-class feria. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feria]

About as far down in the weeds as you can get, in other words. BEYOND ordinary into “negligible!” The humblest of humble things, this feria day. Which makes me think of the Shaker idea that you should be living not as a “BIG ‘I’” – a capital “I” – but as a little “i,” the kind with a little “dot” on top, that sits quietly in the middle of a word like “sit” or “middle” or “quiet” without calling attention to itself. Quietly occupying the space given it; quietly assuming its responsibilities; quietly essential without needing anyone to notice it.

I have a suspicion that the vowed, communal life of a sister, especially perhaps in these early days of the 21st century, has a lot of opportunity for living as a “little i?” Quietly invisible – how lovely that that word “invisible” has three of these little “i’s” in it, all living together; all essential. Those Shakers lived in close community as you do. They understood that a community full of BIG “I’s” will be coming to grief on a daily basis, “I’s” clashing into each other all day long; egos run amok! Occasionally – it’s true – someone must step up and occupy the role of “BIG ‘I’,” it’s true. But even those folks had best step down again and rejoin the ranks of the little “i’s” as soon as the crisis or decisive moment has passed.

Living as a little “i” is terribly countercultural these days, isn’t it? We live in a world of BIG “I’s” and people striving to be BIG “I’s.” Our poor children, having to grow up in such a world, where the pressure is always on to “make your mark” but it’s harder than ever before to be heard in all the commotion of “BIG I-ness” going on! Even poorer the children whose “little i-ness” is viewed as so complete that they can be torn from their parents and stuffed into a tent city with only a silver insulation blanket and left there like a flock of chickens or worse, with no regard to their humanity whatsoever!

In fact, the way we are currently treating asylum-seekers in this country does make one think that perhaps being a “little i” might necessitate going to where those tent cities are and living in solidarity with those children, in the same heat, with the same little blankets and the same heaven-only-knows-what to eat and the same lack of ability to communicate with the people who love us – little “i’s” among little “i’s,” allowing ourselves to share their invisibility – aaaaah, THAT word has FIVE little “i’s” in it!

Perhaps this feria day, we could allow ourselves to ponder such a possibility. Perhaps these readings are here to help us figure out what a life as a “little i” might be like. Perhaps that’s why we’re reading about King Josiah and his secretary, priest and servant retrieving The Sacred Torah, the Law that defined the Jewish people, from the neglected “little i” place in the House of the Lord, where it had gone missing during all those years of malfeasance on the part of various aspiring “BIG I” kings of Judah, and reading it aloud to the people of Judah and discovering just how far afield into the land of arrogance and ego and evil they had wandered without its shaping, forming guidance, governance and accountability (not to mention inspiration), and tearing their clothes in distress and deciding to return to the covenant – to the contract that bound them to those saving words of the Law, and to their God, the great God Almighty.

And then there’s the Psalm, those twirling, whirling words of Psalm 119 iterating and reiterating in a swirling myriad of images and metaphors how we should read and study and parse and discuss and debate and explore and memorize and remember and take on the Law – the Torah – so that it threads deep into our lives and our consciousness and becomes our very spine itself, our muscles, our thrumming nerves and vibrating vocal chords, our resonating ear drums and light-filtering corneas until we can see and hear and feel and decide to DO what we ought as God’s beloved children.

The Law, of course, for us latter-day Christians, has acquired a negativity it’s hard to escape, after Paul consigned it to the dust-heap in favor of “grace.” In fact, I believe we’re been unfair to the good Pharisee Paul all these centuries. He spoke with extremity, indeed, but he lived by that Law and I don’t think he ever intended us to look down on it, even as he helped us to realize that no amount of formulas can make us righteous; no number of rules obeyed will open our hearts to each other or teach us to love to the point of self-offering. That in the end, God’s energy of love must be poured into the open vessels of our hearts and the open corpuscles of our brains if we are going to understand how God wants us to live. We can’t do it on our own.

That’s why it was so helpful to ME to learn about the Law, the Torah, from the great New Testament theologian Paul van Buren, who happened to land in my tiny congregation of St. Brendan-the-Navigator on Deer Isle in Maine in his retirement, after a quarter-century of ground-breaking work on Jewish-Christian relations, born out of his own late-in-life discovery of what a vibrant LIVING tradition Judaism was, and then devoting himself to helping us Christians recover – much as Josiah recovered the Law in Second Kings – the living PROMISES of God made to and never retracted from the Jewish people, recover the Jewish people as our brothers & sisters, and not some lesser quality of being to us Christians. It was Paul van Buren who taught me that the Law, for the Jewish people, was not some mere codification of rules to be obeyed, but rather something very like The Holy Spirit in our Christian theology: something alive, something breathing, something that enters us and shapes us and guides us and inspires us. Something without which we cannot hear properly, see properly, taste, touch and speak properly, cannot even THINK properly. The Law enters us and becomes The Good in us, like our imagination and our beating, loving heart.

When you know this, reading Psalm 119 becomes a very different thing. Its yearning; its deep longing; its ravishing desire for the Law suddenly makes visceral sense. Without the Law – without the Holy Spirit – we cannot think clearly, apprehend the world truly, or love at all.

Without the Law – or the Holy Spirit – nourishing our roots and bringing life out to the very tips of our branches, down the veins of every leaf, we cannot be a tree, as Matthew says, that bears good fruit.

WITH the help of the Holy Spirit – or the Law – perhaps we can let go of our need to be noticed and admired – to be a BIG “I” – and instead concentrate completely on the widest well being beyond our own that we can manage – which is the essence of “little i-ness.” A well being which also includes our own, of course; this is not about obliterating self, only keeping it in appropriate balance with all those other selves around us. Perhaps with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can stop looking after Number One – or, for that matter, requiring the right bubble bath in the right jetted bathtub with the right glass of wine on the edge of the tub – and start looking after our whole community, each and every one as valuable as we are.

And, increasingly, despite our national rhetoric at the moment, that whole community of well being is not just Bethany Convent or Arlington or Massachusetts or even the USA, but the whole world. As little “i’s,” we share that world with Honduran and Salvadoran and Guatemalan and Nicaraguan children beset by gang violence and children in Dorchester and Roxbury and Mattapan beset by gun violence. We share the world with other species too: with whales swallowing plastic bags and bees dying en masse because of pesticide poisoning and lions catching rabies. All connected to each other and at risk from each other’s compulsion to pursue “BIG I-ness,” or, as the Psalm says, “to watch what is worthless” and pursue “unjust gain.”

Teach us, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and we “little i’s” shall keep it to the end.

Give us understanding from the perspective of “little i’s” not BIG ones, and we shall keep your law; we shall keep it with all our hearts. Make us go in the path of your commandments, for that – this feria day and every day, festival or none – is our desire. AMEN.

Tuesday
Jun122018

Sermon for 3 Pentecost, 6-10-18, The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini

Click here to listen to the sermon. 

Proper 5 Year B 1st option 6-10-18

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: 1 Samuel 8:4-15; Ps. 138; 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

The Lord will make good his purpose for us… O Lord, your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of your hands. AMEN.  

Today’s Gospel passage from Mark – let’s remember, “gospel” means Good News, God’s Good News for us - is full of tension & conflict. How can this contentious scenario be “Good News?” What might it be trying to tell us about the Way of Jesus, which is the Way of Love? And about our OWN “Way,” as Jesus’ followers, strengthened for love by our baptisms? What is this story telling us about love? If we are to do this story justice, we must take some time to tease its layers apart and examine what Mark the Evangelist may be trying to teach us about the work of Jesus, and our own work. On the surface, the story looks more like a public Inquisition, with Jesus accused by the authorities of siding with the devil or at the very least, being out of his mind, and Jesus counter-accusing his accusers of blaspheming unforgivably against the Holy Spirit, then turning around and disinheriting his very own family, his siblings, his mother herself. So where’s the love?!?

Let’s begin by revisiting what has been going on in the Gospel in the verses before these. All the way back in Chapter 2, Verse 7, the charge of blasphemy has already been pondered by the authorities against Jesus, for forgiving a paralytic his sins before returning to him the full use of his limbs. Through the rest of Chapter 2, Jesus has been messing with the purity laws of his time in various ways: by hanging out with “the wrong people,” disobeying the religious rules by healing and eating on the sabbath (and otherwise failing to enforce the fast that other “holy” people were observing), and telling people not to sew new fabric on an old cloak because the whole thing will tear apart. By Chapter 3, Verse 6, the religious authorities are so troubled and angry that they are conspiring, Mark says explicitly, “how to destroy Jesus.” We’re not even three full chapters into the Gospel, and the battle is joined.

Jesus, though, ignores the controversy, as he goes on traveling and healing throughout the district. Far from collaborating with demons, he even deploys his first crowd of apostles to “proclaim the message and cast out demons.” But come his return home, still so besieged by urgent crowds that he and his followers cannot even eat, we learn that he is now being monitored by authorities who have traveled all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to inspect this erratic madman. Moreover, his very own family turns out to restrain him. Are they concerned for his mental health? Perhaps. But the REAL issue in this “honor/shame” culture of 1st century Palestine, is that not just Jesus’ but the whole family’s HONOR is at stake with his misbehavior, and if their honor is at stake, so is their whole status in their community. Jesus is putting his mother and his siblings at risk of shame, and shame equals social demotion, even possible social ostracism, not to mention implicating them in the trouble he’s already in with the authorities. They may well be concerned for him; they are MORE concerned that he is shaming their whole family system.

And what about those authorities? They’ve come all the way from the Capital City, from the highest hierarchy of religious and state authority, to this podunk town of Nazareth. This is serious business. Why waste time on a mere madman? They’re a dime a dozen in the Galilean countryside under the Romans, where trauma afflicts many and poverty the rest. But this man is much bigger trouble than most. They observe him and his crowds. And they reach a verdict. This man has “an unclean spirit.” He is indeed mad. (Unclean spirits were thought to be the cause of madness in Jesus’ day.)  But it’s worse than that: he is able to do what he does because he is serving Beelzebul, whose name comes not from just any demon of madness, but from Baal, the very Head of the Canaanite demons, a god of another faith. A name Christian writers often appropriated for Satan, the Devil himself. In short, Jesus is committing blasphemy, siding not just on the side of ordinary evil but of COSMIC evil.

To which Jesus replies, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.”

In short, Jesus counters the charge by asserting that far from SERVING the Devil, he is only able to perform the healings he does because the Devil himself - the incarnation of evil - has had his hands and feet tied. Tied how? By the power of God’s love, working in Jesus. Or in the apostles. Or in us.

Then he says something strange and disturbing - at least, I found it immensely disturbing, the first time I heard it. He says, ““Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Being your standard-issue neurotic, when I heard that phrase for the first time, I thought, Lord have mercy! I’m unforgivable! Surely I’ve blasphemed against the Holy Spirit! I’m eternally damned!

But then I read biblical commentator Ched Myers in Binding the Strong Man, his comprehensively detailed book on the Gospel of Mark, named for the very verse in this passage from Chapter Three in which Jesus declares the “strong man” Devil bound by the power of love. And Myers explained that the only thing that is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the insistence on turning the truth on its very head, and misrepresenting good as evil and evil as good. As the Jerusalem authorities have just done, declaring Jesus’ healing, liberating, loving work to be the power of the Devil himself. Only the one who insistently lies to themselves and the world about evil, who maligns the innocent, who cannot allow themselves to see the wondrous gifts and works of God that are right in front of their noses, blasphemes against the great creative life force for truth that is the Holy Spirit. Only when we WILL NOT let people flourish in their fullness, for fear that their fullness might take away from ours - a profoundly unfaithful view of the world - do we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.

And when we do that, when we deny the wondrous works of God that are right before our eyes, we wreak such unimaginable harm. We do it in little ways and big ones. Undoubtedly you can look around the world at this very minute and identify people - some of them the leaders of powerful nations - who are actively blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, attempting to deter desperate immigrants by separating them from their tiny children at the border; refusing to allow people remunerative work or health care or education because they don’t like how they were first brought to the country; mislabeling immigrants as criminals; refusing to confront blatant racism, homophobia, anti-semitism or anti-Muslimism; ignoring the devastations of global warming writ large across the landscapes of the globe without addressing its causes; threatening total nuclear annihilation as if it were a lever to exercise control instead of a liability to global destruction. And so much more.

What about the little ways we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? They are more insidious, more banal, but still immensely destructive. Digging into our negative views as if addicted to the adrenalin of irritation and outrage, and refusing to allow ourselves to SEE the good that is happening around us or see the humanity of those we are so quick to critique. Categorizing and demeaning someone based on their color or gender orientation, without bothering to find out who they are first. Being too impatient with people for not changing fast enough from their “old cloth” to the new, and overlooking their efforts to do so. Concealing our perception of wrong-doing for the sake of “keeping the peace.” Or, alternatively, prosecuting our perception of wrong-doing without charity or openness to the “wrong-doer’s” possibilities of grace (or our possibilities for being wrong about them). All these stifle the work of the Holy Spirit not just in us but in those we sweep up in our uncharity. They steal the Spirit’s pneuma, the Spirit’s breath, out of our own and others’ bodies.

And until we reach for the grace to STOP blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, we are unforgivable. That grace is available to us at all times in all places. But we must pry open the locked doors of our insistent lies and self-serving to access it.

When Jesus then turns and reaches out to the crowds around him, the vulnerable, the ill, the disenfranchised, the desperate, his struggling disciples, and says,  Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother;” whoever does the will of God is my intimate family member! HERE is the Good News. The Good News is that God’s grace to help IS THERE FOR US, because no perfection, no accomplishment, no lack of prison record or immigration status, no achievement or wealth or credentialing earns us our family membership with God. It is ALREADY OURS. It even belongs to Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters, too, if they will only abandon their need to protect their social status, and stop turning the truth on its head and calling his works of mercy “mental illness.” They and we only have to acknowledge this grace of membership and claim it and let it breathe in our lives. It will help us to tell the truth without regard to the consequences to us. It will help us to open our hearts and make whatever sacrifices of our own status we must to let others flourish.

So let us close with the Collect for the Day, our own prayer for God’s grace to prevent our being sucked into the vortex of dishonesty and untruth that swirls around us in our intimate and congregational lives and in our life as a nation and a globe:

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Wednesday
May302018

Homily for the Sisters of St. Anne 5-30-18

The Restoration of the Religious Life in the Anglican Communion

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Colossians 3:12-17; Ps. 63:1-8; Matthew 16:24-27

How very ironic that you would have someone who is not vowed to the religious life preach to you who ARE so vowed, on the occasion of the Restoration of the Religious Life in the Anglican Communion! It seems strongly to me as if the tide of communication should be flowing in the opposite direction! Perhaps we should be reading these potent readings together and then sitting down together so YOU can tell ME what they say to you of the religious life to which you have long been pledged and in the discipline of which you have long been formed!?

Not to say I haven’t been drawn to the religious life, because I always have, almost as long as I can remember knowing anything about it. Even as a girl growing up in an unchurched family, where the name of God was almost never mentioned, I gravitated toward expressions of the religious life. In particular, I fell plumb in love with the Benedictine life as portrayed by British novelist Rumer Godden in her novel In this House of Brede, in which the rhythms of daily worship and the changes of liturgical season - as well as the changes of nature’s seasons - set the framework within which all the human life takes place, and within which the struggle to create and sustain community is formed and reformed. In fact, although the sisters in that novel are vowed to strict enclosure away from the rest of the world’s hustle and bustle whereas you are not, there is much about their rhythm of life amidst a garden that parallels your own amidst your own garden! As Marion Hatchett so tellingly titled his introduction to liturgical study, “sanctifying life, time & space” as you do in the religious life made sense to me before I knew anything at all of church or even of Jesus or of the Holy Trinity One God.

The life of prayer – prayer both individual and liturgical – was more of a mystery to me in those unchurched days than now, but like the redolence of incense in a room the censor has long left, I picked up the resonance of prayer from Rumer Godden’s novel and it drew me. It wasn’t until I joined my new husband’s Episcopal church choir in the 1970’s and had a full-immersion baptism into Anglican music that I finally found a core of faith on which to hang a practice of daily prayer. And even then, it wasn’t until I gave birth to my first daughter and felt profoundly ill-equipped to mother her that my prayer became heartfelt, un-constructed and urgent, a matter of necessity to establish relationship with the Holy Spirit, and my sighs finally became too deep for words. And it was years later – 8 years of part-time seminary while raising two infants later – that I finally made a one-night retreat at a monastery – the Society of St. John Evangelist – and Brother Carl Winter counseled me on the eve of my ordination to the priesthood. THAT was a revelation indeed, steeping myself in the prayer of that community even just for 24 hours, and finding I loved it so deeply that I came back every year after that for a week’s silent retreat, letting my own prayer be swept up into the mighty stream of prayer the brothers sustain day in and day out on Memorial Drive.

Still, a week’s retreat every year hardly prepares me to speak in depth about the religious life – YOUR religious life! What it does do – my retreat practice springing as it does from a long affinity for your commitment to the rhythm of daily prayer and the deep cultivation of community in Christ, an affinity that began long before it was anything but gut instinct – makes sense for me of the need, after the paroxysm of the Reformation’s reaction to anything perceived to be “Romish” or “Popish,” to restore this way of devoting oneself to Christ to our array of practices available to those following the Way of Jesus. Of COURSE some of us would be so deeply drawn to Christ, and so deeply invested in a life of prayer undistracted by all the other vicissitudes of human endeavor that we would gather to support each other to make and sustain such a commitment. So the “restoration” part of this honoring seems to me inevitable: this kind of “sanctifying of life, time and space” would find its expression again, sooner or later, irresistibly.

Interesting that what little I could find with reference to today’s honoring of the Restoration of Religious Life was simply the Wikipedia entry on Anglican Religious Orders. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_religious_order] It said little about prayer or “ora et labora,” or the liturgical aspects of religious community life. Rather, it focused on “compassion for the needs of the destitute in great cities, and the impulse of a strong Church revival.”

The focus of this little Wikipedia quote reminded me that a daily rhythm of prayer and liturgy, not to mention a cultivation of community life, are not the only, maybe not even the most important facets of “the religious life” which we restored as a vocational possibility in the 19th century. There is a broader call to service of the well-being of the wider “whole,” the whole of God’s Creation and the whole of the human family, not just those in the community. This seems paramount – “for God so loved the world” – even for contemplative orders: all that prayer is for a purpose besides adoration of God’s own Self – the purpose of healing and restoring relationship in the entire broken and alienated world.

And the means for that seems underscored by the fact that the opening Colossians passage is one we use for the blessing of marriages – marriage, which we now freshly construe as a “renewal of our baptismal covenant,” covenanting ourselves anew to live by the “rule of life” provided in the baptismal vows, in relation to another human being. If marriage is indeed, as our resources for the new marriage liturgy “I Will Bless You & You Will Be A Blessing” say, a covenant to fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God,” does that not also describe the covenant YOU make as “religious,” to each other within the community, and to the whole human and natural world beyond? [https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/15668 ]

Like a marriage between two people, the religious life is a covenant made with a community of people and directly with Jesus himself: a covenant intended to “signify the union between Christ and his Church,” as the Book of Common Prayer’s exhortation at the opening of the marriage rite says. And any covenant among human beings will be fraught with the same liabilities of sin and offer the same gifts of grace! It’s just that in a community of sisters, you’re married to a WHOLE COMMUNITY of people, maintaining “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” and forgiving each other and being thankful and grateful, as Colossians abjures, when it’s complicated enough – speaking from my own experience – to be married to just one. And you are more explicitly vowed also to contribute to the healing and well-being of the whole world, than those vowing marriage to each other have traditionally been.

In your experience – as in mine, not in the religious life per se but in the “union of holy matrimony” – is this not a matter, as Matthew’s Jesus says in our Gospel for today, of “denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following Jesus?” Or, as he says in the “new commandment” in John’s Gospel, “Laying down one’s life for one’s friends?” [John 15:13] Is this “denying oneself” not a fundamental part of covenanting to inhabit and cultivate respectful, mutual relationship, as long as it is enacted by all parties, whether in marriage or in the religious life? “For,” as Jesus goes on, “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

As austere as that sounds, my experience in marriage has been that such a covenant, enacted mutually, is not somber but joyous – a joyous realization of greater good, my own included! And a joyous encounter with the mighty, ever-generous, ever-surprising and imaginative GRACE OF GOD poured out in blessing upon all involved! I hope and pray that such as at least from time to time also been YOUR experience in the religious life!

Let us indeed pray for such full “restoration” to the covenanted baptismal life, whether within a community of prayer such as yours, or within our marriages, or outside of marriage altogether, in our relationship with the whole human and natural community. AMEN.

 

Tuesday
May292018

Sermon for Trinity Sunday, 5-27-18, JT Kittredge

So today, as you may have discerned from the collect, is Trinity Sunday, and the Trinity is definitely one of the most intimidating doctrines in the Christian faith to preach on. However, in this case, I only have myself to blame. Last September, when Holly asked me what dates I might be interested in preaching, I said, “How about Trinity Sunday? I’ve always wanted to understand the Trinity better, and this will be my chance to really dig into it!” Back in September, I didn’t foresee that my partner Charles and I would be spending the last week packing up half of our apartment and preparing to move into a hotel for the asbestos removal that starts tomorrow. It’s been a stressful week. Our home printer is among the things that have been packed away, which is why I’m preaching from a laptop, as awkward as that is. With the best of intentions, I did order a fat book on the Trinity. It’s “God for Us: the Trinity and Christian Life,” by Catherine LaCugna. I would have helped myself a lot more, though, ifI had ordered it earlier than last week!

Still, by dint of cramming the last few days, I was able to make it up through the Fourth Century and the theology of the Cappadocian Fathers. I have to admit, though, that I kept getting confused between Gregory of Nazanzius and Gregory of Nyssa. And the use of everyday terms like substance, person, and economy in abstruse technical ways made my head spin. I have to say that my reading this last week has only reinforced my doubts about the whole enterprise of systematic theology. So much theological speculation seems to boil down to, “God is a mystery. And the mystery fits in a box that’s this long, this wide, and this deep.” To me, it’s axiomatic that God is beyond any attempt of ours to capture or explain. To me it’s almost the point of God that he, or she, or it, is beyond our understanding. The thought of a God who is small enough for us to put in a box is deeply depressing. I don’t mean that we should give up on attempting to understand God; God gave us intellects, and we should use everything that we’ve been given in God’s service. However, I feel that theology should begin, continue, and end in humility—in the understanding that we are reaching towards something that is fundamentally beyond our grasp. That’s how the Bible reads to me, as testimony from people who are trying to convey truths that are beyond our full understanding. It reads to me like it is inspired, and, as a Christian, I have no trouble saying inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, what does scripture tell us about the Trinity? Well, the rub there is that nowhere does the Bible use the term, or even clearly refer to the concept. The closest might be the passage from 2nd Corinthians that I used as an invocation at the beginning of this sermon. Instead, the early church formulated the Trinity to try to clarify the God that we encounter in scripture. And what does scripture tell us about God? Taking this morning’s readings as a starting point, we have Isaiah’s mystical vision of God. The hem of God’s robe alone fills the temple. The angelic beings known as Seraphim fly above the throne, singing a hymn of praise. The very doorposts of the temple quake at their voices. The hymn that Isaiah hears is what we call the Sanctus, and it’s written on the walls over our altar, and we sing it in our worship every Sunday. Whenever we sing it, we are joining our voices with the angels above the throne of God. This is a mystical vision of God as ruler of the universe, whose glory fills the heavens and the whole earth. A being whose power and majesty are beyond our comprehension. This vision is echoed by Psalm 29, where the voice of God thunders over the waters, makes the oak trees writhe, and strips the forest bare. And in the temple of the LORD , all are crying, “Glory!” This vision inspires awe, and even terror, as Isaiah tells us. How different, then, from the God we encounter in the passage from Romans, who has adopted us as children and whom we are to call “Abba.” That’s the word for father in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. This is one of the few passages where Paul quotes Jesus directly. One of the most distinctive characteristics of Jesus’ spirituality is his continually speaking of God as his father. Even though the Gospels emphasize that Jesus’ identity as the son of God is absolutely unique, Paul is telling us here that we need to claim some form of this relationship, too. God the Father often has associations of distance, domination, and judgment, but not that’s not the relationship that Paul and Jesus are describing. I think that it would be a mistake to get hung up on gender here. While Jesus always says “father”, I think that the essential thing is how personal, intimate, and loving this relationship is. Just as when we say that God is love, we don’t mean that God is like human love, but that, if we really understood God, we would understand the closest analogy would be what we call love. So, when we say that God is our parent, we mean that if we really knew God’s relationship to us, then the love of mother to her child or father to his child would be the only faint analogy we could draw. I understand that in Hebrew, “Abba” is more akin to “Daddy.” I have a colleague who’s an orthodox Jew, and years ago, when his daughter was about two, I remember her visiting the office and running down the hall shouting, “Abba! Abba!” That’s what I think of when I hear Jesus speaking of his father.

Given the patriarchal associations with God as father, it’s perfectly understandable that modern liturgies tend to substitute “Creator,” but I think that something of the intimacy of the relationship is in danger of being lost. In today’s gospel passage, we learn more about the relationship between God and Jesus in what must be the most famous passage in the Bible. Who is not familiar with John 3:16? God so loved us that he gave his only son to save us. One often hears criticism of the Christian faith, saying what kind of perverted, vindictive God would demand the death of his son as the price of forgiveness? But that’s not what the Bible portrays at all! Instead, it shows us a Jesus who is so closely identified with God that it is God who suffers and dies on the cross. God offers up God’s own self to save God’s relationship with us. I think that that’s why the early church spent so much time trying to explain the unexplainable doctrine of the incarnation, that Jesus is fully God and fully human. I would add that just because something is inexplicable does not mean that it isn’t true! I treasure the Incarnation, because it means that God is not some transcendent deity far above us, but has experienced our lives from the inside. God suffers with us and for us. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” says one of Isaiah’s prophecies, which the New Testament writers came to associate with the Christ. The passage from John also gives us those wonderful words, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” My study Bible helpfully tells me that, in the Greek, the same word means spirit, wind, and breath. The breath of God blows where it will, and we do not know where it comes from or where it goes, but we see its action. Also, Paul tells us in the passage from Romans that it is, “the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” The New Testament writers had a strong sense of the Spirit of God as an active, living, presence in their lives. Just last Sunday, we observed the festival of Pentecost, when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit breathed the Christian church into life. From that day down to this, Christians have experienced the Holy Spirit as not just an emanation of God, but the presence of God in their lives, empowering us and transforming us. The early Christian  came to believe that the Holy Spirit was fully God, just as Christ and the Creator are, participating in the actions of one another, yet not the same. So, what are we to do with the Trinity? This incomprehensible doctrine of the three-in-one, and one-in-three, “neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance” as it says in the Athanasian Creed. What difference does it make? Does it butter any parsnips, as they say in Maine? That question is what led me to read “God for Us;” because the subtitle is the “Trinity and Christian Life.” As I said, I got bogged down in the Fourth, Century, so, since time was short, I skipped ahead to the last chapter: “Living Trinitarian Faith.” There the author sets forth her answers to just that question. I found them very helpful, so the rest of this sermon is heavily indebted to her. Professor LaCugna is emphatic that the Trinity is not an explanation of who God is—that’s unknowable—but a description of how we encounter God, as described in scripture. There we meet a god who not only creates us, but wants us and needs us. Those early church theologians were grounded in the ideas of Greek philosophy. Their starting point was that God is perfect, which to them required that God not need anything, or even be moved by anything outside of God’s self. To this humble layman that seems like such a misguided predicate. As if we could know what perfect means when it comes to God! The God of the Bible—the God in whom, “we live and move and have our being,” as Paul says in Acts—is nothing if not moved by, and deeply involved in, our lives. “We were created from God, and also for God. God too lives from and for another: God the Father gives birth to the Son, breathes forth the Spirit, elects the creature from before all time.” That’s how LaCugna summarizes the Trinity. “The God who comes to us and saves in Christ and remains with us as Spirit is the true living God.” She also says that the Trinity shows us that, “God lives as the mystery of love among persons,” not an absolute monarch. Of the incarnation, she says, “the Cappadocians argued that God was not the absolute monad who was unable to traffic with the creature, but the one whose very nature is to become human, like us.” I hope you’ll pardon me one more extended quotation:

 “God moves toward us so that we may move toward each other and thereby toward God. The way God comes to us is also our way to God and to each other: through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our faith, confessed in creed and celebrated in the sacraments.

Confessing faith is incomplete unless it becomes a form of life. Living faith in the God of Jesus Christ means being formed and transformed by the life of grace of God’s economy: becoming persons fully in communion with all; becoming Christ to one another; becoming by the power of the Holy Spirit what God is: love unbounded, glory uncontained.” So, I hope that I haven’t ended up putting God in a box myself. But if so, it is a box overflowing with grace. In the name of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Thursday
May242018

April 2018 Vestry Minutes

 

Vestry Minutes: April 17, 2018

Members Present: Jules Bertaut, Lauren Rigsby, Lucas Sanders, Marian King, Jean Clark, Leah Giles, Tom
Tufts, Sam Perlo-Freeman, Sarah Borgatti, Sarah Forrester, Alice Killian, Andrea Saltzman,
Betsy Zeldin, Holly Antolini

Visitors: Andrew Rohm, Jeff Zinsmeyer
Gathering
● Following a check-in time, Tom led us in a theological reflection of the sort used by EFM.
GBIO Community Conversations
● Andrew invited to join the St. James's GBIO team for a Community Conversation on Sunday,
May 6th, immediately following Coffee Hour.
● This session involves a time of sharing stories about what concerns us in our local communities
and what motivates each of us to get involved in social justice work.
● This event provides a chance for members of the Vestry to build relationships with other
members of our parish, especially those from groups that you may not often associate with.
● Pizza and beverages will be provided, and we will wrap everything up by 2:00.
Vestry Norms
● Lauren reviewed the norms decided on last month:
○ Try to arrive on time (6:30)
○ Timeliness throughout, following the agenda, trying to end by 9:30
○ Awareness of school vacation times
○ Step up/Step back with ethical awareness of whose voices are primary: give everyone a
chance to speak, pay attention to to who are most involved/impacted by the issue at
hand
○ Confidentiality balanced with Transparency
○ Be careful with email: try for no votes by email
Guidelines for Communication Across Difference
● Sarah F. and Jean presented suggestions for ways to get the Guidelines for Communication
Across Difference more firmly set in the congregation, not just in the Anti-Oppression team but
throughout the congregation
○ Put them on the back page of the Sunday service leaflet
○ Make more banners, easier to read
○ Print up wallet size
○ Put on website
○ Write songs
○ Print on fabric
○ Offer Visions training to more people
○ Explain the guidelines in greater detail
○ Preach/offer Living Epistles
○ Integrate the guidelines into the priest search
● We’ll discuss this initiative more next month
Food Justice Update
● Holly Reported that Meredith and Life Together have agreed for her to do a second year with us.
● John Bell will be her supervisor next year.
● Both John and JT Kittredge are working on succession planning in their ministries.
Sanctuary Update
● Sam reported that volunteering continues
● The children are getting older and more of a handful
● CISC is considering bringing in 10 hours a week of paid childcare, but this would cost more
money
● Fundraising is solid but needs to continue
● Sam may be leaving after October, so succession planning needs to happen
● Old Cambridge Baptist Church is having a celebration of their sanctuary volunteers, should we
do something similar?
Timelines
● Lauren explained that our abbreviated parish profile has been turned in, and announced to the
congregation for the last 3 Sundays in church.
● Chris Meyer is our business consultant. Lucas has given him a lot of information about our
congregation’s situation. We are about to give him the parochial report.
● Holly’s suggested timeline is for St. James Day (July 29) to be her last presidency, then to do 2
weeks of office/archival work, then take 2 weeks of vacation, then start her Sabbatical
September 1st.
● Marian moved we enter executive session. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.
● We discussed a staff matter.
● Jean moved we exit executive session. Marian seconded. Approved unanimously.
● Lucas moved that we accept Holly’s timeline as she presented it with her last Sunday in worship
on July 29, followed by two weeks of additional office work, two weeks of vacation, and
Sabbatical beginning on September 1st. Leah seconded. Approved unanimously.
St. James Day
● Leah, Marian, and Lauren volunteered to be on a subcommittee to plan it.
Retreat
● John Hixon is planning it
● We will make the Guidelines for Communication Across Difference a theme
Redevelopment Update
● Lauren moved that we enter executive session. Sam seconded. Approved unanimously.
● Jeff Zinsmeyer presented on a redevelopment matter.
● Sam moved that we exit executive session. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.
Safe Church School Initiative
● Alice, Andrea, Sam, and Sarah F. are forming a Safe Church School team.
● Leah moved that we enter executive session. Marian seconded. Approved unanimously.
● We discussed a safe church matter.
● Lucas moved that we exit executive session. Leah seconded. Approved unanimously.
Extra Vestry meetings
● Jules announced that, because that’s the time the most people are available, any extra vestry
meetings needed because of our transitions will be held on Tuesday evenings.
Finance Report
● Lucas reported that we are updating the officers of our Fidelity account, which allows us to
make changes with it.
● This authorizes Lucas and John Irvine (one of our Assistant Treasurers) to do stuff.
● The previous people authorized are wildly out of date.
● Lucas moved that we adopt the resolutions authorizing Lucas Sanders and John Irvine as
organizational representatives to manage our Fidelity investments. Sarah F. seconded.
Approved unanimously
Parochial Report
● This is a set of statistics that we provide to the diocese and the larger church.
● Leah moved that we accept the parochial report. Sam seconded. Approved unanimously
Reports
Minutes of March Meeting

● Amended language in the Safe Church School Initiative section.
● Marian moved that we leave the executive session minutes as written (except fixing the Safe
Church School Initiative title), but move the Safe Church School Initiative minutes as amended to
the regular minutes. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.
● Jules moved that we approve both sets of February minutes as amended. Lucas seconded.
Approved unanimously.
Property Update
Aspinwall has been called several times to schedule a service appointment to resolve the
sediment discharge and water discoloration from the new Bosch under-counter, point-source water
heater. Aspinwall also needs to complete the controls (wi-fi thermostat) installation for the heating
system. One appointment was scheduled with short-notice for Maundy Thursday which I requested to be
rescheduled (with Aspinwall's agreement) to avoid possible disruption to heat and hot water delivery
during Holy Week services. I have since placed numerous calls and left messages with Aspinwall to
schedule this work. Presently, no firm date for service appointment has been scheduled. One complexity
in resolving the thermostat has been identifying a thermostat that is able to control both the boiler
operation as well as the air handlers that deliver the heated air to the Sanctuary. I have asked Aspinwall
to schedule the water heater service independently from the thermostat, so at least one issue can be
resolved. My hope, now that we are beyond the heating season, is that Aspinwall will have greater
availability in their schedule to coordinate a service date with the necessary technical support from the
boiler/air handler manufacturers.
Two other items that may warrant reporting an update from Phil Terzis: Construction Fence
Repair, Outside Portable Toilet hot and cold water supply. These water lines were subject to freezing
during the winter months and should be checked for proper operation if use will be continued this Spring,
Summer and Fall.
Rector’s Report
PARISH ACTIVITIES:
• Amazing Holy Week, as always at St. James’s – all hands on deck; deeply immersive;
powerful community fellowship; powerful and honest lament; joyous hope (and
music) in the resurrection; beautiful baptism of three great kids.
• Worship Commission Pentecost planning session scheduled for May 1.
• What a thrill that Meredith Wade has decided to continue with St. James’s for a second
year, with the enthusiasm and support of the Life Together fellowship program, with
John Bell as Supervisor in my place. She will spend the summer working with the
Food Project.
• I have been assisting in the Vestry subcommittee’s preparation for a consideration of
how to build on the blessing of a very strong commitment to children and a very
strong Church School staff and make the Church School a “grace margin” in our life
as a congregation, a safe space for both adults and children and not a place of intense
criticism (especially of supervising staff) and division as it has sometimes been.
• After coming to the conclusion that the leadership was not materializing for the Parish
Retreat, leadership as emerged and we are making a strong effort to make the Retreat
happen, even this late in the game.
• I will offer a new Confirmation Class five Monday evenings, 6:30-8 PM, April 30
through June 4th (taking Memorial Day, May 28th, off).
• John Bell & Leah Giles have been trained as chalicers and joined the Lay Eucharistic
Visitors after our lovely gathering at my house on April 8th. We now have a list of
communion recipients including Elmo Maynard, Shirley Bayley, Cynthia Owen, Arne
Nystrom, Pat Haynes, Ken Holmes, Mary Holmes, Emilienne Jules, Saskia
Grunberger, Joan Hawkesworth & Phyllis Holmes, so we are grateful to have Mabel
Moore Pollard, Marian King, Anne Shumway, Yvette Verdieu & Sylvia Weston as
well as Leah and John on our LEV team.
• Parochial Report well underway; finances completed; Average Sunday Attendance
calculated – 119 per Sunday, as opposed to last year’s 125. We’re ready for Vestry
sign-off.
• Youth Confirmation Class continuing with energy. Two more to go: one in May with
Derrick Jackson & Michelle Holmes on service, the other in June with Tammy Ryan
and me on “transformation.”
• Sanctuary Team beneficiary of our Dollar-a-Day for Lent: $2156!
• Year-end celebration picnic for Anti-Oppression Team June 10th at Holly’s house. Not
clear yet what leadership will carry this group forward after Holly’s retirement. Lots
of good ideas about using the Guidelines for Communications more fully in our
parish life; plans afoot to recruit VISIONS leaders – with coaching from VISIONS’
Sarah Stearns – to lead a Vestry VISIONS training.
• Redevelopment, still one signature shy of a building permit, but things moving
smoothly.
• Plans for St. James’s Day – July 29 – to be a Liturgy of Farewell plus Pie Social &
Contradance in support of Sanctuary!
• Only just now getting materials organized for posting on college job sites for a new
Nursery Coordinator to succeed Aim Unahalekhaka, who finishes serving with us on
May 6th before returning to Thailand.
DIOCESAN
• Annual Clergy Conference is April 23-25.
PERSONAL:
• Working on my “farewells” to our elders and key ministry leaders
• My three-month sabbatical remains as planned, for September 1 to December 1, 2018. I
will be in India & Nepal in October.

Submitted by Jules Bertaut