Thursday, April 09, 2009

Timely Words from Bishop Mark Lawrence

No matter how pressured we feel by the events around us, (and they are there to be sure—as individual priests and deacons, as a Church, as a diocese—within and without—and in each of our parishes); no matter how buffeted we have been by our calling—the weariness of our ministry; the hours of silent toil; those weeks when the Word seems silent; those Saturday nights when sermon work and study have yielded what seems like only a thin broth (we’ve all been there), and you plead with a seemingly cold heaven for a word to give to your people; when the faithful in your flock seem to have no patience with solid food and itchy ears for whatever is new; when you are heartsick from your own sin; parched and dry throated in your own personal spiritual desert—it is then you dare not forget that this ministry is given to you by the mercy of God. That is, your calling is not only rooted in the mercy of God, it has been given to you as God’s mercy—to you. And remember this: it is not only given to us who are ordained; it is the case for all who have been called into relationship with Jesus Christ—who have come to know his saving grace—the forgiveness of sins. We all have this ministry by the mercy of God. It is only the wonder of this mercy that can sustain us when we are tempted to neglect our duty, or grow weary in our work.

Certainly if you are an academic you can preach powerfully with an academic bent. If you are a poet you can preach with a poetic grace. God will honor what he has made. But you cannot seek to create a favorable opinion of yourself and at the same time preach the gospel. To be truthful with God’s word is to let the truth of Jesus Christ—his cross, his resurrection, his Lordship—take center stage. You see, we each face a decision. We can put ourselves on the center stage of our ministry and we will bring people to ourselves, perhaps for a season; or we can put Jesus Christ on the center stage of ministry and bring people to him for all eternity. But we cannot do both. They are mutually exclusive. We know well enough self will feed neither ourselves nor those we are called to serve.

Read it all at

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Another Year, Another Chrism Mass

A year ago, I reported on the "Last Chrism Mass" in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Of course, it was not exactly the last. This year, Trinity Cathedral - again in the spirit of our resolution - is hosting two Chrism Masses, one for the continuing Episcopal Diocese (today) and one for the realigned Episcopal Diocese (tomorrow).

Since I teach a class at Duquesne University on Tuesday mornings, I am not able to be present tomorrow, but I put in an appearance today. As near as I could judge there were around 35 priests and Bishop Robert Johnson in attendance. To my surprise, the laity present (all three of us) were invited to present the clergy to the bishop, prior to the renewal of vows, a pleasing touch in my humble opinion. (It's a nice point whether I actually should have have been doing the presenting, since I'm not yet clear to which body I belong, but then nor does anyone else at Trinity, so I figure it's excusable).

Bishop Johnson preached an irreproachable sermon, alluding to those presbyters from whom members of this body were now sadly separated. When he went on to talk of rebuilding the diocese (which obviously has to be done) I did feel he went a little over the top in making a comparison with St. Francis, but perhaps he merely meant to emphasize the magnitude of the task ahead. He spoke of the feelings of wonderment that most must feel at being a priest in this place at this time (he did not anticipate being in Pittsburgh a year ago, he admitted) and urged the clergy not to forget their calling in the passing anguish of the moment.

Among those present were many of the communion conservative clergy (some of whom I know personally and others by repute) to whom I feel theologically closest. It is nonsense, at least in this place, to see only sheep in one jurisdiction and goats in another. While I can often appreciate the logic of the federal conservative arguments, this doesn't translate for me into a belief that only in ACNA can one be faithful. At today's Mass there were present those who have experienced the agony of Gethsemane every day since realignment. May it be that those at tomorrow's gathering will be equally appreciative of what has been lost as well as what has been gained.