Wonderings and Reflections:
So during the Sabbath today, I've been thinking about our Gospel reading: John 6:1-22. There is the feeding of the 5,000 and then Jesus walking on water. So, miracles, right? But what are we supposed to do with miracles? Especially when they are not repeated in our current time in this same way....
One possible purpose of a miracle is to show us a Truth of who God is and what God can do....
Let's take the feeding of the thousands first: A Truth we can clearly get out of this story is that God provides an abundance---such an abundance that there are leftovers after everyone has taken one's fill.
Of course, this Truth is predicated on a few things: sharing, those without power, communal efforts, and God's blessing.
Jesus asks the disciples (Us, then...) Where are we to buy enough food.....? Right away, Jesus doesn't just make it happen; Jesus turns to the disciples and declares that this is a communal effort. And of course, they are still not quite sure what to do. In fact, it takes someone with the least amount of power among them, a youth, who simply shares what he has on him. So sharing is essential. Here's the pattern we see: Share; God's blessing is requested; the offering is broken up; and then there is enough. A Truth we need to hear. Share. Ask God's blessing. Let our offering be broken open.......there will be enough. For all....and then some.
And let's not forget, this is a communal solution and we are to look to those outside of power to find answers......
And then there's the walking on the water. Last night at our Dinner Church, we Dwelled in the Word with this Gospel. And one of the folks shared that she thought of walking on water like those folks who are struggling with a really difficult, challenging, or impossible situation: like a devastating disease, or dealing with poverty, or addiction, or even losing one's job and not knowing the way forward. All of these situations require that one must trust in something unseen---trust in a promise that one is held through the storms----so that one doesn't drown. That's walking on water, isn't it? (thanks, Sue!)
The Word has touched my heart this Sabbath and made me think and stretch and wonder....I pray the Word has touched you too. The Sabbath is almost over now. I give thanks, much thanks. In particular for this Beloved Community......Blessings, Jane
Remember….Scripture tells us…..Remember….
Remember that you were once the outsiders. Remember that God’s love is never forced because being included in God’s Kingdom is always a choice. True love is never coerced or forced, but is always entered by one’s choosing, one’s acceptance.
God does not put up borders or barriers or walls between humanity and God. God does not fence off God’s love from any part or particle of Creation. Division is the work of humanity.
At the center of the Good News of Jesus is that the barriers, walls and obstacles we place between ourselves and God, between ourselves and living into the reign where pain and sorrow and death cannot defeat us---the Good News of Jesus is that these walls can be obliterated. But this requires our choosing, our choosing a Way of Life.
God does not invite or call us to live the American way or the Republican or Democrat way; God does not point us to the consumeristic capitalist Way or a way of suffering. God invites and calls us to the Way of love, the Way and Path we see in the life of Jesus.
Does pain, suffering, questioning, and discomfort still exist in this Way? Yes, Beloved, yes it does. All we have to do is look at the life of Jesus to know this to be true. But in Jesus we see a human who isn’t controlled by pain or suffering, a human who isn’t moved by fear or anxiety, but a human grounded in sacrificial love whose plumb line is mercy, compassion and justice for all others.
Beloved, God does not put up barriers, walls, or obstacles. As followers of the Way of Love, as People of God, not only are we not to put up barriers, walls and obstacles, but Beloved, part of our work, the same work we see in Jesus’ ministry, is to tear down the walls, barriers and obstacles that already exist and that are continuously being built.
St. Paul tells us that Christ “…is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us….[so] that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace….”
Peace, then, is not necessarily merely the absence of violence or the end to chaos. Peace is the rejoining, the reconciliation, of humanity. Peace is the re-binding together with one another through our love and allegiance to Jesus, to this Way of Love.
Now, Beloved, this means when our brothers and sisters are treated as if they are separate from us, as if we do not belong to one another, we are to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and shout out-- with our actions, our choices, words, and votes -- we are to shout out: We are One! We are One Body! We are One Creation.
We are not simply this nation or this people of a certain language or folks of the same origin and skin color. But we are HA ADAM---humanity. God’s beloved community.
The world’s way is to separate the Beloved into nations, into denominations, into categories and labels. God’s way is to proclaim to humanity: You are all One—the Created—My beloved Creation. God’s way is to knit together, not unravel. And when we deny a sibling, we weaken all. When we shut out or cast aside a brother or sister, we threaten the security and wholeness of the entirety.
Each week, we come to Eucharist to remember:
Remember who we are.
Remember whose we are.
Remember that at one time we chose to be outside of God’s reign.
Remember that we were welcomed in, that we were sheltered.
Remember that we are chaplains of hospitality, not the police officer between God and our neighbor's belonging.
Each Sabbath, each week (and hopefully more often), we come away to rest in God’s love and presence in order to remember. We come away to return to the Way, this Way of Love---where borders, boundaries and walls are obliterated, where we are One because we are citizens of God’s reign first and foremost. Because our allegiance is to Jesus.
So, Beloved, let us now pause. Take a deep breath. Settle in and open our hearts, ears and minds. Let us come and rest in these words spoken to us and to every people of every nation:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God's people.
I have a confession to make: I love Jesus
Another confession: If it is not already your truth, I hope to inspire you to love Jesus too
And Beloved, as your pastor and priest, I am calling Us all to live even more deeply and more intentionally into this Way of love that Jesus has shown us. This life of love that demands God’s justice for all of Creation. This life that we declare in our baptismal promises. For in baptism, beloved, we are washed clean of the other allegiances that lay claim upon us so that we can live wholeheartedly into this way of love.
This way that calls us to be continually shaped and formed by the Word, by meeting Jesus face-to-face in the sacraments, by rubbing elbows with God as we come to know our neighbor in relationship and mutual service.
And as we lean into and live out our love for Jesus, let us become bold enough and brave enough to be the prophets God dreams us to be
Prophets are not fortune-tellers. Instead they are the ones who point to God’s work and presence in the world. A prophet is a witness and a witness is one who sees and one who then proclaims what has been seen.
It has been said that to pray is to live with God; to pray is to have life with God. I believe this to be true, but often issues and concerns in our world require more than our thoughts and prayers.
The world needs prophets right now; oh how we need prophets. Prophets who demand we not be restricted and limited in our love by nationalism or legalism or prejudice, but prophets who point to God’s justice and demand the abundance of God’s love to be spread through out the world. Prophets who speak, act, vote and work to make certain there is clean water for all people; that families seeking safety and refuge, just as the holy family did so long ago, that these families are not separated; that children do not find themselves in cages; that women are no longer abused or harassed and that we earn an equal wage for equal work. That all people have the opportunity to earn a living wage and not just be imprisoned by poverty for the sake of corporate profit.
Let me share two moments with you from my time away as I worked for the Church at convention. Last Sunday, around 1000 of us stood outside a detention center where women separated from their children are kept; we stood in the same blazing hot temperatures that families spend days in as they cross barren land toward a better life. These Families, these women, who came for asylum; asylum that is a legal right for all people. We were located a bit away from the building and had a permit for that selected location. The windows seemed to be slits. We were not sure if we were seen or heard. But after we left, a woman from inside the detention center called the organizers who helped to make the prayer service happen, and she told us that the women were glued to those slits of windows until they go no longer see our buses as we left. The women were crying, so moved to know they are not alone.
Earlier on Sunday, we gathered in a park to listen to the parents of Carmen Schentrup who was shot at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. These parents who are now prophets were joinged by a freshman girl from Texas who has become an activist prophet because at the age of 14 she has never known a time without school shootings. She has never known a time without lock-down trainings at school---a time when schools are a safe place to go. These prophets implored us to do more than pray. They asked us to demand action on gun legislation. They asked us to seek an end to the sale of assault rifles in our country. Brave,bold prophets changed forever by violence that could have and should have been prevented. Violence that could have and should have changed the heart of our nation.
Beloved, our society does not live into the Way of love. But we can. We can choose it, day by day, moment by moment. Beloved, for the love of God, we must. We must intentionally and with great commitment choose this Way of love, supporting and encouraging one another as we stumble, which we will—-again and again.
As John the Baptist experienced, this way of love is often risky business. Sometimes being a prophet puts our lives on the line.
If we love Jesus, then we cannot remain silent or uninvolved any longer. We can not hesitate or wait for a time when we will be ready. We must dive into this way of love with all that we are and invite others to join us. Now is the time. Now is the day of salvation.
After Nelson Mandela was released and people asked him how reconciliation and repair could ever happen after such violence and division had taken place through the sin of apartheid in South Africa, Mandela looked up and out at the Beloved and said: It is in our hands.
Good morning Beloved: I write this on my 12th day---Convention ended yesterday and today I am looking forward to returning home. Tomorrow I will be with the Beloved Community again as we gather to give thanks and praise God for all our blessings.......there are so many.
These past 12 days my life has been intertwined with the lives of many; some of whom I will probably never see again, some of whom I remain connected via technology; some of whom remain in my physical presence and daily life. Odd, isn't it? How we are connected in so many ways. One of the blessings of these past 12 days is that vivid reminder that we are connected----to folks we love and folks who make our back teeth hurt; to folks who speak our language and folks who speak a foreign tongue; to folks who share a common heritage and folks who bring a new and unknown one to the table. Connected, connected, connected.
The Convention passed resolutions which recognizes, protects, and meets the needs of many many folks: immigrants, Palestinians, transgender, gay, straight, women, refugees, children, the impoverished, the abused, the clergy and the lay. There is a movement of love and sacredness at foot among us, and we know this movement to be Jesus. We know this movement to be the sacrificial giving and sharing we see in Jesus. We know this movement because it is the movement to which we have been bound before we knew it, and the movement we claim to be ours in the waters of baptism. It is the Way of Love.
I pray that as we participate in this Way, this movement, our paths cross again and again. And each time I am certain we will be enriched for having been intertwined. I pray for safe travel for all and uneventful flights. I give thanks that tonight I return to my husband and best friend. I cherish what has been, knowing it will empower and equip me for what will be.
Peace and blessings, y'all. God is good and Love is the Way.
Today was a day filled with legislation.....literally. Two long sessions with lots of conversation.
In the Episcopal Church, a resolution can only move forward if it is approved by both houses: the Deputies (clergy and lay) and the Bishops. The two houses are not always of the same mind, but in most cases, the needs and insights of each House balance one another in a helpful way. This very democratic system of being can be "messy," but it is a system which allows for the voices of many to be heard.
This Convention has been filled with many resolutions about taking a public witness. On Sunday we acted as a public witness at the Hutto Detention Center and the Bishop's Stand against Gun Violence, but we have also written, discussed, and have taken action on many issues for which we as Christians cannot remain silent. We have engaged with becoming better stewards of Creation Care, taking steps to end sexual harassment within the Church, dealing with our need for racial reconciliation, taking a hard look at how our country plays a part in the continued oppression of Palestinian people, and becoming a Sanctuary Church for immigrants and refugees who are seeking to make better lives for themselves and their families.
We have spent a lot of time talking about language and how to retain the beauty and tradition of our Prayer Book (as well as the formative theology that shapes us as we pray) while also opening up our liturgies with more expansive and inclusive language so that our imagery of God matches what we believe and can say about God. Have no fear, what you have known and loved is not going away, but we are going to gently enter a time of "trial usage." To quote John Henry Newman: "To live is to change; to be perfect is to have changed often."
Beloved, I am grateful that it is nearing our time to return home. While I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to take part and be here at Convention, it is a long time to be away. I miss all of you and my family. I am very grateful for having the opportunity to be here with the good folks of our Diocese. We are blessed by our Bishop and by those who have been elected to be Deputies along with me. Tomorrow is our last day and then I travel on Saturday. Two more long legislative sessions tomorrow, and then our work is done at Convention. But then the important work of taking up what God is continually calling us to----the work of love----always lies ahead. Let us keep our eyes on the prize (Jesus) and our hand to the Gospel plow. Peace and night blessings.....
Wednesday was a long day (hence why this post is coming to you on Thursday morning). We had an evening session, which was long and tedious because it was hard to stay focused on the work before us. Life is like that sometimes.....
Today I was able to spend some time with folks I came to know and love in seminary; we shared a meal. It brought so much joy to my heart to gather again around a table and share stories, laughter, joy and good food. What a blessing. And as I ended today, I thought: God is here---in this place.
Not just in my friends at the table, not just in the deputies who rise to speak to an issue and with whom I am in full agreement. But also in the deputies with whom I deeply disagree. Also in the deputies and visitors whom I haven't officially met, but with whom my path has crossed as we walk down the hallways of the convention center or sit next to one another in worship. Those folks to whom I gave the blessed bread at Eucharist on Tuesday. Those beloved who speak another language and who live thousands of miles away.
God is in the pigeons who have come to take residence in the House of Deputies (much to folks' delight---the pigeons have their own Twitter account and hundreds of followers!), and God is in the folks in this hotel who are going about their business and probably wondering: "Who are all these strange people with nametags around their necks, wearing all manner of pins and slogans?"
The trick, Beloved, in the midst of the moment--whether it be a moment of joy or despair, a moment of frustration or peace, a moment of tiredness or energy---the trick is to deeply breathe in and recognize that you are in a holy space because you are surrounded by the love of God, the wisdom of God, and the people of God.
A prayer from St. Patrick
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
We set our hope on Christ......
Peace and the day's blessings to you all.......
Today: another good day. First of all, I saw some friends from seminary for the first time in a few years; in many ways, this is a family reunion---a great big gathering of people whom you have known and who have touched your life and heart throughout the years and you get to meet face-to-face. Pretty darn awesome.
We had a listening session with the House of Bishops on Creation Care. So, now at the Beloved Community, we need to form a Creation Care team. We do so much with water justice; I am sure God is calling to us to more ways (as two churches and as individuals) to take steps to take care of all of Creation---particularly this fragile earth, our island home. We listened to Bernadette, a woman of the Gwich'in people, an indigenous people of Alaska and Canada. She shared the devastation and oppression her people live with daily as our country (and this administration particularly) have gutted the Arctic---ruining the ecosystem that sustains the Gwich'in people. The Artic Natural Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is being gutted and decimated for greed and profit. People: we have got to get vocal about this and use our political influence to make a change. My heart broke to hear her speak. Two points that continue to ring in my head: “Our children deserve to see the world as it was in the beginning not just when we are done with it." And then Bernadette also went on to say that her people consider a part of the refuge as the "sacred land where all life begins." And the Gwich'in people won't even go there if they are starving because to disrupt the sacred space is to disrupt the origin of life. People, can we have ears to listen? And then take action?
A Bishop from South Africa also spoke to us about the reality of climate change and the devastation of people not having enough water---a reality that we in America have a hard time wrapping our heads around. But, if we keep living as we are living, it won't be beyond our imagination. It will become our reality. We must come to the truth that when there is drought in South Africa----it is our problem!
Also today two resolutions passed that are centered around supporting and recognizing the needs of people who identify as transgender or non-binary in gender. (Which is also Creation Care) And these resolutions passed without any negation from folks or any pushback or any talk of "why are we doing this." They passed with such support. I felt proud to be both Christian and Episcopalian today. This is what the love of Jesus of Nazareth looks like.... My heart sings.....
Oh, beloved, I miss home, and I am looking forward to returning to my husband, our home, to the Beloved Community (and even Ollie the dog), but there is goodness here......and hope....and love....and I will do all I can to bring these wondrous things back to you all, and resources, and ideas, and joy! Beloved, Love is the Way. Let us, the Beloved, be the Love the World Needs. Peace and Night blessings, y'all......
Beloved: today was very, very full with legislation, but also with taking the temperature of the Church and determining where the Holy Spirit is leading us. Of course, part of the trick of this is that when you get some Christians (over 800!) in a room, they will not all agree about what direction the Spirit is blowing. This means there is disagreement. But there need not be disunity. Grace is called upon to fill in the gaps so that we can continue to make room for one another.
Today we talked about the approved Marriage Rites for all people (including same-sex couples) which were approved at the 2015 Convention. In the Episcopal Church, marriage is a sacrament for which the Rector or priest-in-charge of a parish has authority to celebrate or not (except in the case of remarriage in which the Bishop is to be consulted). However, with the resolution passed in 2015, right now a priest who desires to celebrate the marriage ceremony of a same-sex couple must have permission from the Bishop. So the resolution proposed for this General Convention is seeking to place same-sex marriage rites on the same playing field as heterosexual marriage rites, while also insuring that the liturgies themselves end up in any Revised Book of Common Prayer in the future, and not in a supplemental book of liturgies. Since this issue is still tender for many folks, there was much debate. The resolution was overwhelmingly approved in the House of Deputies, but the resolution also needs to pass in the House of Bishops.
We also listened to quite a bit of discussion and debate concerning the desire that the Episcopal Church "continues its firm support for the right of Israel to exist in secure borders as established and recognized by the United Nations, but also continues its strong opposition to Israel’s occupation in perpetuity of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip which is now recognized by the United Nations as the sovereign state of Palestine." The resolution is asking for the Church "to develop a human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this Church and 70 years of Church policy on Israel/Palestine ." This is not easy stuff. The Church wants to make clear that this is not an anti-semitism statement, but a statement of recognizing the rights of both Palestine and Israel and to make sure that our investments line up with our social teaching of the Gospel. You know, living out what is preached. It's complex and complicated business. (as it is for all of us on a day to day basis). This resolution passed the House of Deputies.
And then, as if that were not enough, today we also considered a resolution about Seeking Truth, Reconciliation and Healing regarding sexual harassment and abuse within the Church. There was quite a bit of testimony given, allowing people to bring their voice to the conversation---voices that have often been silenced when the Church has been complicit in the harassment and the abuse. This resolution passed the House of Deputies.
And beloved, it warms my heart to say that when we are coming up to a vote that we know will cause pain to folks within the House due to the strong feelings about the issue, we stop and pray---collectively---and we remind ourselves of two truths: We are one together, and All manner of things shall be well.
As part of taking care of many resolutions (over 450 have been presented to the General Convention), many resolutions end up on the Consent Calendar. This is a list of resolutions that the committee dealing with the resolution feels will not need debate or resolutions that are not being moved forward for action or that have been rejected by the committee. A resolution can be taken off the consent calendar in many ways, including at the request of any three deputies. For example, yesterday on the consent calendar was a resolution to continue developing "a church-wide network for planting congregations, training and recruiting planters and mission developers." (This is the source of the Mission Enterprise Zone grant Intercession Episcopal received in June of 2017). Since a similar resolution has passed in the past two conventions, it was placed on the consent calendar. The resolution asks for almost 6 million to be provided for this effort because there has been a lot of success from this endeavor in the past 6 years. Now it moves to the Bishops' calendar....as do all the other approved resolutions.
Beloved, it seems to me that we are at a time of great discernment, a time of taking the "temperature" of the Church and trying to adjust the sails to move with the Holy Spirit. Some of the Beloved agree with my take on the direction, and some do not. No matter where I might personally wish the Church to go, the Gospel calls me to make room for the One(s) who does not agree with me and my understanding. The Gospel calls me to recognize that, ultimately, God has the ship in hand and to trust that God's will shall prevail---even in the storm or the wind or the waves----and to recognize that if a sibling in Christ seems to be standing on the other side of the shore, I cannot just abandon my sibling. I must find my way toward my sibling, repairing the breach, seeking common ground and refuge for all. Pray for us all as we listen to stories and desires and people's very real woundedness. Pray for us to listen well to our siblings, members of this Body of the Risen Christ. Pray that we all might know that this work of discernment isn't about "winning." Pray, Beloved, pray that we keep our hearts leaning in toward God's justice and dream---leaning in toward one another so that Jesus can continue to bind us together. We are one together. Gospel Truth.
Today, beloved, we were the church.
It began at 9:30 am by gathering with people in a park to pray, sing, and listen to the witness of a family destroyed by gun violence. They pleaded with us to take action; to no longer be complicit in this senseless violence that is an epidemic in our nation with our silence and our willingness to let other folks make the change happen. We listened to a prophet of today, a freshman in high school, who demanded that enough was enough. She proclaimed that we cannot be satisfied with our youngest school-aged children having to learn lock-down drills, with our young folks being afraid to go to school, with legislators and gun enthusiasts demanding that their desire to have assault rifles somehow justifies one's ability to kill multiple lives in seconds.
From there we rode by bus to the Hutto Detention Center where women, who came to this nation for asylum, are held---apart from their children. This wasn't a protest, but a prayer service. But this wasn't simply "thoughts and prayers; " this was a call to action and a reminder of what our nation is truly about. A call to make America great again by making America good again. This was a time to be reminded of our core values---our values of welcome because we are called to love our neighbor. To love without exception.
Beloved, now is the time to be a witness.....to be a prophet.....to proclaim love, to point to love, to be love in action. God is waiting: Can God get a witness? Will we be witnesses to this profound love? Will we show the world the Way by living and being the Way? Let us be the witnesses God calls us to be. There is no other time but now.
Oh Beloved, what a day.....what a day. My heart is filled with love and hope, but I also have seen the grief and sadness of the brokenness of our humanity. Walk with me a moment, won't you?
So first of all, I had my first morning "off" from meetings/hearings, so that was renewing in and of itself. I spent time in prayer and solitude.....refreshing! And then we went to session to listen again to thoughts and amendments for Prayer Book Revision. Actually the plan is for three years of study and conversation toward drafting, consulting many folks before actually drafting and crafting in the next triennia (3 years). After much debate, prayer, and listening, the amended resolution to move forward in the study and plan toward revising the Prayer Book was passed in the House of Deputies. I am pretty sure the House of Bishops will amend, and the discussion will continue until it either be completely passed or not. But the breath of renewal seems to be among us. It gives me hope as I believe study and considering, discernment and listening is a good thing. And I trust that God is moving here.....but I also hold my siblings who disagree with me in prayer. Their hearts are heavier than mine for this process...
And then we listened to April Schentrup, mother to Carmen Schentrup who was murdered in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, as she asked us to consider more than thoughts and prayers, but to actually take action to end gun violence in our nation. She asked that we would support and take action for sensible gun legislation in our nation. My heart ached for the family's pain; my heart aches for the reality of our nation and the violence that consumes it. It was a weighty morning.
In the afternoon we considered evangelism, and I heard a truth for me: that priests and pastors are not meant to simply be fundraising CEOs of a non-profit, but we are to be Provokers of Curiosity. We are to provoke people's curiosity about the love of God....to speak words that help others to want to know more about Jesus and the love that is Jesus. And I say YES! to that....
Tonight we attended a Revival....an Episcopal Revival! Who would of thunk this could actually happen? I mean, I always dreamed it....But it made my heart sing. And boy, did we sing! And pray....and were prayed over and prayed with.....and the PB preached! (you can see songs and the sermon on my facebook page, but also check out: generalconvention.org for livestreaming.....) Oh my heart is full....with hope and love and joy! Beloved, let's be about the Way of Love. Let's commit to it and jump into with the entirety of our being....as individuals, as a community, as the Beloved Community. Love is the Way and the antidote this world needs. Let us Love! Peace, y'all, and night blessings.......
Jane Johnson is the pastor and priest of the Beloved Community of Intercession Episcopal and Redeemer Lutheran.