Come Holy Spirit …

From January 1993 until July 1997 I was privileged to share ministry with The Rev. G. Bradford “Brad” Hall. Brad would begin his sermons with a short prayer. As with many sayings, once it is repeated enough the saying ‘sticks’ it becomes part of you. So it is with Brad’s Sermon Prayer: it is part of me, part of my faith journey, a profound part of how I take the next step and the one after that and so on. Here is the prayer:

Come Holy Spirit,
come with your fire and burn us,
come with your rain and cleanse us,
come with your light and reveal to us;
convict us,
convert us,
consecrate us,
until we do something with our lives. Amen.

Two additional items: notice that Brad prayed not just for himself nor for ‘them’ but for ‘us.’ Brad joined his hearers and on behalf of all of us prayed that the Spirit would fill us until we (together) did something with our lives. Second, Brad would sometimes insert a decisive verb in that last line: “¬until we choose to do something with our lives.”

For more on the back story of this prayer see: Come Holy Spirit posted by Stanley Hirsch on our Sunday Morning Forum Blog, Hear what the Spirit is saying.

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An encouraging word

For the first 30 years of my life I identified myself as “Roman Catholic.” I continue to claim my Roman Catholic roots. I have a great love and respect for the Roman Catholic Church. But I am happily being prodded along by the Holy Spirit in The Episcopal Church. With 1.2 billion members, the Roman Catholic presence in our world is significant. The Pope as leader of this church is a powerful voice on the world stage.

To hear today what he said about Vatican II, the Holy Spirit, stubbornness, and the courage to go forward is therefore, ‘an encouraging word’ to me. Some excerpts from his homily yesterday (4/16/2013):

“the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward.” He said that we wish “to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.” Pope Francis said “that’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar.

Nowadays, he went on, “everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.” The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.” But 50 years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked. The answer is “No,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” This, he went on, “is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”

View the post on Vatican Radio

He concluded “by urging those present not to resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. ‘Submit to the Holy Spirit,’ he said, ‘which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.’”

Very encouraging words to me. What does it sound like to you?

True about St. Margaret’s

Why people don't go to church

Reasons (why people don't go to church) on YouTube

Bishop Jim Mathes (Episcopal Diocese of San Diego) shared this video on his Facebook page with the comment “This is really quite good. It could be describing the Episcopal Church” I agree and pass this video on to you with my comment “It is true about St. Margaret’s.” If you are in the desert, do come and worship with us on a Sunday.

The Video: Reasons (why people don’t go to church)

Resources

Our ministry

Thinking about ministry today. Thinking about the Great Commandment and the current perception of Christians and their purpose in life.

Disclaimer: I accept the truth of a seemingly widespread perception about Christians and Christianity, and I am doing my best and encouraging others to do their best to not only understand the words and works of Jesus, but to live them out in 21st Century America in order to change the misperception so widely shared among our neighbors.

I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church. As a child I was quickly and firmly introduced to the Baltimore Catechism and its Question and Answer format about faith and practice as a Roman Catholic. Not so pleased at the time to have to memorize questions and their answers the process has served me well by providing a starting point for conversation, for exploration, for meaning-making in my life. So it is that I am predisposed to return again and again as an Episcopalian to An Outline of the Faith contained in the Book of Common Prayer (pages 845-862).

This Outline of the Faith–using the familiar question and answer format–remains an excellent starting point for conversation, exploration, and meaning making.

All members of the church begin their journey in Baptism, becoming a “lay person” in the mission and ministry of the church. Later some of us respond to God’s call and with the assent of the people around us and the laying on of hands by a Bishop become deacons and priests, “clergy” in the scheme of things. Some priests as they grow in experience and knowledge are elected and ordained Bishop and become leaders in the manner of the first Apostles. The work begun by Jesus and continued in his Apostles has depended on the faithful work of generations of men and women and will continue to do so into our future.

This introduction is provided because the Outline of the Faith speaks of a fundamental obligation taken on by all who are baptized. Whether or not the lay person goes on to become a deacon, priest, or bishop, the foundational ministry of our being in the world is set. The question is posed this way: What is the ministry of the laity? Here is the answer:

The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church. Book of Common Prayer, p. 855

Whether a person goes on to become a deacon, or priest, or even a bishop, we all begin with the privilege and obligation “to represent Christ and his Church…to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” In order to do this well we need to look often at the example of Christ and listen deeply to his words while exploring what, according to the gifts we have been given, we are to do in this time in which we live and in the place in which we find ourselves–that is, decide what we are to do always and everywhere, then go and do it.

Our fundamental ministry is a privilege and a responsibility that requires God’s amazing grace and our profound “Yes.” Our ministry–in all its dimensions–will grow and mature as we grow and mature. We need each other, in the community we call “church,” to encourage us to continue to respond “Yes” to our God and work toward reconciliation and peace in a world that is fragmented and fearful. The better we can live as one who reconciles, we will certainly be Good News as we bring healing and wholeness to our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.

May God help us all.

For further reading and reflection:

  • What Non-Christians Want Christians To Hear – a blog entry by John Shore who “posted a notice on Craigslist sites all over the country asking non-Christians to send me any short, personal statement they would like Christians to read.” He shares some random but representative responses in this entry. Read more
  • Back to Basics: Love one another – an essay by Daniel Clendenin. In the essay he cites research reported in 2007 about the perception those “outside” the church have about those “inside” the church. Read more.
  • “I hate religion” – a Journal entry dated September. 25, 2010 of Diane Noble, author, responding to a comment made to her CNN blog post entitled “Faith, Polygamy, and Fears” (Note: Diane is in the midst of an historical fiction work about polygamy in the formative years of Mormonism). Be sure to read the comments to her Journal entry and engage the questions that Diane asks at the end of her entry.
  • In The Service of Life – an essay by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD distinguishing between helping, fixing, and serving. A follower of Christ would do well to read this in the light of Jesus’ words (and actions) – “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

Absurd?

Earlier this month The Church of England concluded its General Synod. Before, during, and after  the Synod commentators used both print and online  outlets to voice their opinions. Rather than post all of the back and forth I comment on one in particular.

In an Op-ed piece titled “The state and religion: The church risks looking absurd,” The Guardian online shared a comment made by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Shortly after becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams  reportedly said “We have a special relationship with the cultural life of our country and we must not fall out of step with it if we are not to become absurd and incredible.”

I do not fully understand the internal workings of the Church of England and the additional complications of being the “State Church.” I do understand the essay’s exposition of internal debates when viewed in the context of 21st Century law and culture in England. The essay argues that it is too late, that the Church of England is already absurd in the eyes of many.

This opinion caught my attention because like The Church of England the Episcopal Church struggles with being credible and honest in its witness to the Scriptures it uses,  the Tradition that makes us who we are and the the messy (i.e., complex and mysterious) process of discerning the movement of the Spirit in our ministry in America in the 21st Century. So many of our neighbors know that Episcopalians are all about sex and gays in leadership. Our neighbors know that The Episcopal Church has become divided over the issue of sexuality and that contentious court battles about buildings and property have ensued. This is the picture painted for many, but it is only a piece of the picture, not the whole thing.

Shortly after reading this essay I read an article posted on the Anglican Communion Official Website. Like the essay in The Guardian this story was dated July 9, 2010. The article, “Churches and schools protecting thousands of youngsters from human trafficking during World Cup” was posted by the Anglican News Service. It detailed how “Thousands of children in South Africa have been protected from human traffickers during the Football World Cup thanks to holiday clubs set up by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.”

What a contrast: the church bickering in an arcane forum about the role of women in leadership and the church hosting “Holiday Clubs” in some of the poorest sections of cities hosing the World Cup in order to keep children safe. What a shame that so many will never know of the local efforts made by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa to protect children while a large number will know that those silly Anglicans are arguing again about the fitness of women for ministry. And what about us Episcopalians?

For further consideration and information

A brief statement of purpose

Welcome to “Like Water in the Desert.” I will use this Blog to post prayers, meditations, questions for further exploration, news of the day, research, opinion, speculation, pictures and art, poetry, and more to help you, and to help me, develop a deeper, stronger, and more joyful relationship with the God who creates, who redeems, and who makes holy all of creation, including you and me.