Sunday, April 29, 2012

Disunity: Two Worlds, Two Gospels in Tension

In last Wednesday's reading from Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16, the Apostle Paul speaks of the unity of the Church, of individuals, all as part of the body of Christ.

 "But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."

Can people, the Church, or any of those who profess to be Christians ever hope to see the body of Christ "grow in building itself up in love" as St. Paul writes? What ligament is strong enough to hold together two different worlds travelling in opposite directions as the Anglican Communion appears to be trying to do?

As evidence that the Anglican Communion is, in its most polar opposites, made up of two different Gospels led by two very different types of leaders I present the following recent quotations from two types of Anglican spiritual leaders who are trying to guide us. You will see their differing visions of the future of the Church and how to get there.

#1) "We believe that the future of our Communion relies on adherence to Scriptural authority, faithful and Christ-centred preaching of this word, the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit, godly leadership and the spiritual commitment of God’s people." (From here)

Compare that with this,
#2) "That spirit is inviting us to let go of what is dead and embrace the new life that’s emerging. We’re looking toward a church that is more varied and less rigidly controlled, more networked and less directed. This new church is going to be more organic, more profoundly a body with uniquely gifted parts, each one honored and blessed for the service of God’s mission. It’s going to need different kinds of communication and responsiveness. We are already beginning to live into some of those ways, and others are still waiting to be discovered. None of us knows exactly what this church is going to look like – and that scares some folks to death, even more than the dying that has already been. I don’t know what is coming, none of us knows exactly what’s coming, this body doesn’t know what the next shape will be. We are being invited into a more truly communal process of discernment, a listening to the spirit that is patient and alert enough to help us all embrace that green blade rising." (From here)

In the first example we see the confidence and assurance that comes from surrender to and trust in the Lord and his Holy Word.

In the second example we see the doubt and uncertainty that comes from the shaky foundation built upon disassemby and constant revisioning of Scripture, Earthly centered preaching, following the spirit of the age,  leadership that does not acknowledge its fallen nature, trying to lead an ill informed and Biblically illiterate people.

Two different worlds, two different leaderships, two different visions...

I do not see where unity is possible between these two worlds as they drift farther and farther apart unless they both cling to the same ligament, the only thing strong enough to bind us together.

Unfortunately for the writer of quotation #2, it looks like she needs to let go of her doubts, and grab hold of the same ligament to which the writers of quotation #1 have already been bound.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chesterson: Feeling Homesick at Home, the Basis of Christian Optimism

The subjects of pessimism and optimism have always interested me. I enjoyed G.K. Chesterson's take on the matter when I found it in his "Orthodoxy." The first paragraph of the sample below may not seem to be all that important, but if you go back and re-read it after digesting the whole thing you might appreciate the analogies a little more. The second paragraph gives me hope that my occasional feelings of being in the wrong place at the wrong time are not causes for despair but are indeed indicators of the joy we have in Christ.

I hope it brings you some hope.
"The fancy that the cosmos was not vast and void, but small and cosy, had a fulfilled significance now, for anything that is a work of art must be small in the sight of the artist; to God the stars might be only small and dear, like diamonds. And my haunting instinct that somehow good was not merely a tool to be used, but a relic to be guarded, like the goods from Crusoe’s ship—even that had been the wild whisper of something originally wise, for, according to Christianity, we were indeed the survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of the world."
"But the important matter was this, that it entirely reversed the reason for optimism. And the instant the reversal was made it felt like the abrupt ease when a bone is put back in the socket. I had often called myself an optimist, to avoid the too evident blasphemy of pessimism. But all the optimism of the age had been false and disheartening for this reason, that it had always been trying to prove that we fit in to the world. The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do NOT fit in to the world. I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the WRONG place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home." G.K. Chesterson "Orthodoxy", Chapter V


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spock Comes To Coffee Hour

In honor of Earth Day 2012, I thought about how our religion might appear to someone visiting Earth for the first time. The following dialog might have been used to create a cartoon scenario if I weren't too cheap to pay for the upgrade to my cartoon maker account.

Parts of this conversation were inspired by some of the comments I overheard at Bishop Waldo's "Preparation for the General Convention" held yesterday.

Jean: Hello. Welcome to coffee hour. My name is Jean.

Mr. Spock: Spock here.

Jean: Are you new?

Spock: I am actually quite old.

Jean: I meant, is this your first visit to our Episcopal church?

Spock: This is my first visit to your world.

Jean: Well, I hope you enjoyed the service.

Spock: Joy is an emotion that interferes with logical thought. I am here to study your religion.

Jean: So, you want to know more about our church?

Spock: That is correct.

Jean: Well... for one thing, we are an inclusive church.

Spock: Explain the term "inclusive church".

Jean: It means that everyone is welcome regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Spock: Looking around the room, it would appear that not all races have accepted your welcome.

Jean: Oh, well people do tend to stick to their own kind, but they are welcome to come to our church anyway. We try to engage diversity.

Spock: I could not determine the diversity of all those discriminatory characteristics to which you alluded. Please explain the term "gender identity."

Jean: Well.. . Er... um... you know... male or female, transgender, or some other combination that you have decided is your gender.

Spock: On Vulcan, gender is determined by the combination of phenotype and genotype. Tell me about this other thing you call sexual orientation.

Jean: I think that refers to the object of one's sexual attraction. We are either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.

Spock: On Vulcan, males mate with females, and females mate with males. Anything else is illogical.

Jean: The Episcopal church is more welcoming than your logic.

Spock: We shall see about that.

Jean: We believe that Hooker's three legged stool of scripture,  tradition, and reason leads us to welcome and to bless any committed, loving, monogamous relationship.

Spock: I have studied your scriptures, your traditions, and your reasoning, and I have concluded that you do not have a single leg to stand on.

Jean: You are from a different planet aren't you?

Spock: How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Jean: I think it was the ears.

Spock: Does your church not welcome those of us with Vulcan ears?

Jean: No, that is not it. We just don't welcome close minded people with Vulcan ears who do not agree with us.

Spock: Thank you for all of the data that I needed to complete my study of your church.

Jean: You're welcome. Would you like some coffee?

Spock: If I had feelings, I would say that I do not feel all that welcome, but I do feel like a cup of coffee.

Jean: I really would like to know more about how you felt about today's gathering.

Spock: (With a sigh) Humans...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Mighty Move of the Spirit is Headed to the UMC

The "mighty move of the Spirit" is a phrase that our revisionist friends came up with once to explain their political scheme to swing a vote (I think it was a Bishop election) at an Episcopal convention.

From comes a commentary by Riley B. Case, associate executive director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church that illustrates the tactics behind the spread of theological revisionism through denominations other than the Episcopal church. Riley Case is up against the political tactics of those who try to change church doctrine through legislation. There are interesting parallels between what he is seeing and what we in the Episcopal church have been through.
"The United Methodist Church is the last of the mainline churches to hold to the biblical view on marriage and the practice of homosexuality, and the pro-homosexual lobby knows that getting the UMC to alter that stand would greatly advance the homosexual agenda. To that end hundreds of thousands of dollars — much of it from outsiders not connected with the UM Church — have been poured into an effort to overturn United Methodism’s present stance."
Outside money... That sounds familiar. Recall that the Episcopal Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music got a $404,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation to support the development of resources for same-sex blessings. Arcus money has been spread around a number of "mainline" groups (as well as the Catholic Church) for this purpose.

Riley Case's commentary echoes another of the things we Episcopalians have had foisted upon us over the years,
"A vocal group in the church — those who call themselves progressives — agrees with the secular world. As one person said: 'Society around us is leading the way about accepting of homosexual practice and the church is lagging behind.'"
The use of the term "progressive" tends to give the false impression that those opposed to their new ideas might be "repressive." 

Whenever I read or hear that society is leading the way and the church must catch up, I shudder. Our leader is not the ever changing wind of society and its temptations. We are called to follow Jesus. Religious "progressives" who wish to follow society's lead have learned to bend Jesus and the words of scripture into pretzels in order to get the Church to follow their lead.

Once people are sufficiently confused about what is actually written in scripture, politics comes into play. The UMC is going to have a "General Conference." Petitions can be brought there much in the same way that "resolutions" are brought to the Episcopal "General Conventions."

"So we come to General Conference 2012. While there are many petitions seeking to change the church’s historical stance in regard to human sexuality, three groups of petitions bear special watching.

1) Petitions that would have the church redefine marriage so that it is no longer a covenant between 'a man and a woman' but between “two persons” (see an example here—PDF).

...The main religious argument is an inclusion/exclusion argument — i.e., we should not deny two men or two women who love each other the privilege of marriage because to do so is judgmental and restrictive..."
I think the religious argument is "how can the modern Church redefine something that Jesus and the Apostles understood to be between one man and one woman?" The moral argument is "inclusion/exclusion" based on the human experience of love between two persons. How we formulate our moral arguments about the appropriateness of all types of sexual behaviors as well as same sex attraction is a serious question for all Christians and is not something that can be changed by petition..

2) Petitions from several annual conferences would place disclaimers in the preamble to the Social Principles (see an example here—PDF).

These petitions want the preamble to state that unanimity of belief, opinion, and practice has never been characteristic of the Church. Therefore when there are significant differences of opinion in the church (such as around the practice of homosexuality), these differences should not be covered over with false claims of consensus, but embraced with courage as the people of God continue to discern God’s will.
The important thing is “celebrate our differences” and stay together.
Ah yes, agree to disagree as long as the agenda moves forward. The actual conclusion reads,
"In that confidence, we pledge to continue to be in respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree, to explore the sources of our differences, to honor the sacred worth of all persons, and to tell the truth about our divisions as we continue to seek the mind of Christ and to do the will of God in all things."
That sounds like a variation of something we Episcopalians called "The Listening Process." It winds up being a process that only serves the progressive cause.
3) At least two petitions direct the church and the world to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices “until the Spirit leads us into new insight” (see pages 273-276 of this PDF file).
As long as that insight helps to move the agenda forward. This is another way to play "kick the can down the road" when you are actually playing games with the Holy Spirit. The Church got it wrong, and when we finally do see the change we want we will give credit to the mighty move of the Spirit which as we all know when talking about church politics is the mighty move of political machinations.

Discerning what is and what is not an authentic movement of the Holy Spirit is made more challenging for us when outside money, politics, and secular moralism enter into an equation that is supposed to involve the prayerful study of God's Holy Word by believers in that Word. When a spirit of the age is in conflict with scripture, it is the new spirit that is to be revised, not Holy Scripture, but when powerful forces want a new spirit to be legalized, and the Church has been sufficiently weakened in its confidence of what we used to call the "Gospel truth," the progressive strategy works amazingly well.

We are also easily misled when people talk about the "movement of the Spirit."  We forget that ever since the ancient days of sacred poles, altars in the high places, and the golden calf, that we are more likely to be moved by a wrong spirit than by the Holy Spirit.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah

Today's Gospel reading was about the appearance of Jesus to the Apostles and to Thomas (John 20:19-31). Our preacher today reflected on the Jewish roots of our faith and worked into her sermon that this Wednesday April 18 is a day upon which many will remember the Holocaust.

From the Jewish Virtual Library pages we learn more,
"The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is 'Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah'— literally the 'Day of (remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.' It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan — a week after the seventh day of Passover, and a week before Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers). It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
The date was selected by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on April 12, 1951. The full name became formal in a law that was enacted by the Knesset on August 19, 1953. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide."

I for one will be remembering Walter. Walter was a Polish Jew who survived the horrors of the death camps, and he was someone who I had the privilege to know in his final years here in the U.S. My favorite memory of Walter was the joy he had in giving. I especially remember the bags of home grown tomatoes that he would bring me each year. He grew the best tomatoes. In the course of our conversations, Walter taught me a lot about the importance of the will to live, and that there is life even after the death camp. Life after such a thing is however seen through a different lens. We, who have not been through it, can only imagine the viewpoint of someone who has come back from the dead. Their story is so unbelievable that we may even doubt them.

I know that there are people who deny the holocaust. I for one have always believed, but after having placed my hands on Walter's tatoo and the scars on his side, my belief was confirmed.

So let us not forget Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah lest we be condemned to repeat the horror of the Holocaust.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Small Town Newspaper Blues

Of all the various explanations I have read for the decline of the local newspaper, I rarely see any commentary on the quality and balance to be found in today's newspapers. I present excerpts from a story that ran in our local rag as examples for study by those concerned for the future of the the old time "paper". 
So what if the odds of having a fling with a supermodel while winning an Oscar and the Masters is far more likely than winning the colossal Mega Millions lottery jackpot that, by Thursday afternoon, had risen to an astounding $540 million?
Thursday was not a day for rational thought.
Thursday was when bosses drew up economic prospectuses and had meetings and readied to cut pay and slash jobs. Thursday, politicians lied and stole.
Those mean bosses. Tell us more!
As those dry bores pleaded poverty and wrecked local, state and federal budgets, the people who work for them and pay the taxes for a country in economic crisis dashed for the store to blow part of the rent...
Dry bores!? Maybe our reporter needs to head out to the country club and interview a few of them at the old Nineteenth Hole where he can get to know them on a more personal level.

(Insert a few stories about local lottery ticket purchasers)
...Anybody who ever had a jerk for a boss bought a lottery ticket Thursday. A chance at $540 million is a chance to tell that boss with the bad breath and the hateful glare that a winning ticket means no more boss.
All over York County, people bought and bought and bought tickets.
They did so with hope, with prayers, with rosary beads in hand and Bible study bulletins rolled up as talismans, with dollars in hand.
Alright, the breath at the Nineteenth Hole may not be something that momma would be proud of (remember that "You smell like a brewery" remark), but "hateful glares"? I thought bosses could get sued for that these days.

(Insert a few more stories about local ticket purchasers)
...So what if the odds are one in 175 million? So what if the chances of being crowned King of Finland are better? Somebody in this country of 300 million-plus people has to win.
Grace Kelly married a prince all those years ago. A person in management smiled once and bought a cup of coffee. A boss sprang for a beer. A mother-in-law stayed less than six months. Dick Cheney’s heart was found to exist.
Newspaper managers cannot possibly be smiling at this point. And what does Dick Cheney have to do with this story?

(Insert even more stories about local ticket purchasers)
...Each person who has punched a clock will wait until 11 tonight, when the six winning balls are picked, and hope that the boss, called so many bad words under breath for years, will be called far worse loudly and over an intercom. Then the boss can be punched.
Read more here.
 I would like to think that the reporter was having a bad day, but if I were the editor (and the reporter's immediate "boss") of this paper, I would be watching my back. If I were the fat cat owner sitting back, smoking my big fat "ceegahrs," and plotting how to shut down a small local paper, I might chuckle and give myself a pat on the back for hiring these guys in the first place.

I wonder if the reporter bought a winning lottery ticket? Nah, I don't think so because I see that he has been assigned to the lost dog department.

In the meantime, I gotta check my ticket #s...


Pardon me while I punch myself.

If newspaper didn't have so many other uses, I might cancel my subscription. After all, you need a lot of it to make GIANT PAPIER-MÂCHÉ PUPPETS OF DOOM (a little inside Episcopalian joke),

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Witness

Rather than an Easter Lily, I thought I would post a picture of an "Easter Iris" that I witnessed today.

As we heard today's readings from scripture, certain words jumped out of the pages for me. I'll highlight them for you.

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The themes of witnessing to and spreading the word that Jesus rose from the dead are clear and undeniable. Our preacher reiterated this quite strongly in her sermon.

So what are we waiting for?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Wondrous Friday

For those of you who still have trouble with "Good Friday" I offer "Wondrous Friday" as a generous pastoral response.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

[Added by the compilers of Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern]
To Christ, who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore.

Words: Isaac WattsHymns and Spir­it­u­al Songs, 1707. 

Charles Wes­ley re­port­ed­ly said he would give up all his other hymns to have writ­ten this one, and I would consider that to be a strong recommendation.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Pie Jesu and Agnus Dei

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. there will be a free performance of the Requiem in D minor by Gabriel Fauré at Winthrop University's Byrnes Auditorium featuring the Collegiate Choir, the Winthrop Chamber Orchestra, with Shirley Fishburne Organist. Not exactly your typical Holy Week fare, but perhaps a good time to pause and reflect on mortality and the final victory over death.

Here is a Kings College Chapel Choir's 1987 performance of the Pie Jesu and Agnus Dei,

Pie / Jesu / Domine,
merciful / Jesus / Lord

dona / eis / requiem,
give / them / rest

requiem / sempiternam.
rest / eternal

Agnus / Dei, / qui / tollis / peccata / mundi,
lamb / of God / who / removes / the sins / of the world

dona / eis / requiem.
give / them / rest


Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.

Agnus / Dei, / qui / tollis / peccata / mundi,
lamb / of God / who / removes / the sins / of the world

dona / eis / requiem / sempiternam.
give / them / rest / eternal

Lux / aeterna / luceat / eis, / Domine,
light / eternal / let shine / on them / Lord

cum / sanctis / tuis / in / aeternum,
with / saints / your / for / eternity

quia / pius / es.
for / merciful / you are

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Grant eternal rest to them, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A Pewsitter's Holy Week Message vs. the Presiding Bishop's Spring Equinox Message

This Palm Sunday we read Mark's story of the arrest and trial of Jesus. Following this the congregation was asked to share five minutes of silence. If you ask me, more than five minutes of silence is needed after reviewing the passion of Christ, but that was probably more time than most people, a children, could take.

The Passion narrative helps prepare us for what we know is coming next week, Easter morning. This final Holy Week of preparation for Easter will hopefully give all of us the extra time needed to contemplate how we have come to believe in the risen Lord and our witness to that fact. The path may have been different for each of us, and it is important to think about how we will communicate the lessons we have learned along the way, for our words may influence others who may be starting out on the path or perhaps to those who have lost their way.

In a truly bizzare Easter message, our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (+KJS) proves that she is not communicating effectively to me as she drones on about everything except the death and resurrection of Jesus. Well, she did come close at the end of her empty "Easter" message when she said, "Give thanks for the presence of God incarnate in our midst."

The following is a transcript from the Episcopal church pages.

One of my favorite Easter hymns is about greenness. “Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain.”

It goes on to talk about love coming again. It’s a reminder to me of how centered our Easter images are in the Northern hemisphere. We talk about greenness and new life and life springing forth from the earth when we talk about resurrection.

I often wonder what Easter images come in the Southern hemisphere, and I think that church in the south has something to teach us about that.

I was in Japan a month or so ago, and visiting the area of Japan that was so affected by the tsunami and the aftermath of the earthquake. The earth there is - was at that point - largely colorless, brown, in the middle of winter. No greenness. But at the same time the work of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Japanese church in that part of Japan, has brought a great deal of new life, life abundant for people who have been devastated and displaced, who are still mourning their loss of loved ones, the loss of their homes and employment.

New life comes in many forms, even in seasons that seem fairly wintry.

As we began Lent, I asked you to think about the Millennium Development Goals and our work in Lent as a re-focusing of our lives. I’m delighted to be able to tell you that the UN report this last year has shown some significant accomplishment in a couple of those goals, particularly in terms of lowering the rates of the worst poverty, and in achieving better access to drinking water and better access to primary education. We actually might reach those goals by 2015. That leaves a number of other goals as well as what moves beyond the goals to full access for all people to abundant life.

In this Easter season I would encourage you to look at where you are finding new life and resurrection, where life abundant and love incarnate is springing up in your lives and the lives of your communities. There is indeed greenness, whatever the season.

Give thanks for Easter. Give thanks for Resurrection. Give thanks for the presence of God incarnate in our midst.

This sounds more like a "Spring Equinox" message than an Easter one. A symbolic resurrection is the best we are left to cling to. Unfortunately, this is the face of today's Episcopal church. Leaders of our church have lost the credibility needed to proclaim the authentic Gospel message as a result of years of casting doubt on the veracity of the Apostolic witness to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Our leaders are left trying to put robes, vestments, and spiritual sounding words on top of their underlying earthly passions and desires, and using their clerical positions to further their favorite social agendas. And like weeds, they keep coming back.

At least they are green.

So what does "resurrection" mean to you?

To me it is the central miracle of God's revelation in Jesus. Without His physical resurrection, we would not be here today. Remember that as Jesus was taken away to be tried and executed, the disciples scattered (Mark 14:50-52), but after they witnessed the resurrected Lord, these same men did an about-face and would later give up their lives for the one they had abandoned.

You can't fake this stuff.

So, this Holy Week, I am focusing on how to communicate the Resurrection to a reluctant world. Forget the stuff about the green blades of grass. I am looking forward to bearing witness to the resurrection of Christ.