11/24/2020

Can there Be Union after this Wreck of a Year? article first published in Delaware State News.

how we go forward and work through the wreckage and become mo

CAN THERE BE UNION AFTER THIS WRECK OF A YEAR? 


By all accounts 2020 has been a wreck of a year. It has been a year of extended battles in the body politic with very little to show for it, save cuts and bruises. The Pandemic, the economic crisis, social injustices responded to by the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, the constant barrage of voices shouting about greatness, the gaining or loss thereof, and a campaign season that heightened vitriol, all have flooded through this year like a tsunami. There has been the sense that a kind of national madness has possessed us in which we are so divided by death and destruction that a sense of wreckage pervades and a national gloom has settled in.


Now we hear a lot about our need to become more united. I too long for the end of division, if only to end the sense of despair.  Still, I wonder, does being united require that we end our divisions first, or is there another path forward? I think there is.  


America is hard work, because the idea of forming a unity from the rag-tag mix of peoples, and from the communities and states that formed the United States, is an ongoing and not yet completed task.  We hammer out ways to deal with our differences, not necessarily to erase them. There is no agreement that our divisions should cease, but we keep trying to either dissolve or live with those differences. America is a work in progress.  We work to keep the wide range of differences in enough union to be The United States of America.


It is said these days that our divisions are now too deep for there to be a sense of being an United States.   The lines of division are many and while we may think of the Republican and Democratic parties as representing these division, that is only the surface of the problem. Disunion and division grows from many sources, and are expressed in a variety of organizations.  


Most political parties and organizations have proclaimed that their opponents are going to destroy their freedoms, their rights, or their livelihood. Opposition is viewed as an existential threat, and at the same time is a rallying cry for group cohesion. As a result we have a politics of opposition in which our identity is justified and grounded in fear.

Opposition politics uses fear as a motivation. The key to change to a more perfect union is to move beyond the motivation of fear. Fear has to be deflected, turned aside, by some greater force, some larger motivation. 

Sages and prophets through the ages have said that what deflects, casts out, or overcomes fear is love.  They are right. But love is not easy. The problem is that we find it almost impossible to love those who we see as a threat. Our opponents, those who hold to social, economic or justice principals different from our own, are viewed as the enemy. While loving our enemies may be the goal, in the moment that seems impossible. So how do we begin?

Where we might better begin is to deflect fear, and therefore begin the process of  overcoming division, by falling in love with the world. If at first we cannot love our enemies, perhaps we can begin by loving the world in which we all live. By falling in love with the world, I mean experiencing a love for the overarching, expansive canopy of experiences that are available to all of us and are a source of thanksgiving.  They are mostly simple, or certainly simpler than the complexities of our fears. 

The love that is found the experience of a crisp fall day, a quiet moment by the bay or a lake, food shared with friends, a moment of intimacy with one we love, all these and many thousand more, are all experiences of that love that deflects fear.  And, unlike the fears that divide, these experiences are common across the widest of divides. 

If we want to heal the nation, the place we need to begin is to replace being afraid to being in love with the world. And having fallen in love with the world I think we will find avenues to unity that will surprise us. Across the red and blue divide, across the divide of those who demand justice and those who want freedom from control, across the divides of faith and political position, it turns out there is common ground in the ground itself, common cause in being in love with the world. 

Perhaps if we turn from what we fear the most about our current condition to what we love the most about living there can be avenues to greater unity.  Conversation and engagement about our being in love with the world is the beginning of acting not out fear, but out of thanksgiving, not being reactive but being active in our love of life.  If our politicians want to stress coming together and unity, the place to begin is with a new sense of thanksgiving for the simple blessings of daily life. 

This coming Thanksgiving is an opportune moment to begin. 


    







After the Pandemic: article from Delaware Communion.

 After the Pandemic 

The Church is open, even when the church is closed.” We in the Episcopal Church in Delaware have found that nothing, not even a pandemic, can keep the love of God in Jesus Christ from being present and real.  That’s a powerful learning!

 

Plans for how we re-emerge from stay-at-home rules are already in place. We will come back with new skills, new appreciation of how we are “body”, and new challenges.  What will our return as church look like?  What challenges will it bring? What even newer skills will be needed?

 

Our experiences during this time of pandemic, with all its anxieties, pain, sadness, and death, are the source material for new witness, new stories of faithfulness. Perhaps out of this wehere in the Episcopal Church of Delaware will find new ways to practice resurrection.

 

Here are some notes on possibilities, hopes and predictions for the future of the Episcopal Church in Delaware, “The new Episcopal Church”They may apply also to the whole church.

 

1. The new Episcopal Church will see cyberspace as a place of mission engagementThere will be much wider use of various conferencing and meet-up portals on the internet, and wider use of mail services, and that in turn will help us see cyberspace as a place were we can be as present as we are in “normal” spaceThere will be growing conversation about whether or not cyberspace can be incarnate space, space where God’s presence can be experienced and known.

 

“Following,” and that interesting new verb, “friending” aresecular ideas  close to the ideas. guiding the “Invite, welcome, connect” evangelism program that was under way all those months ago before the pandemic. What might “invite, welcome, connect” look like as we engage“friending” and “following”?  And what will happen when we see cyberspace as yet a another place to which we are called to proclaim new life?

 

2. The new Episcopal Church will be more nimble. The laboratories for new ways of being church in the post pandemic world will primarily be our parishes. There has been amazingly creative work done by Delaware parishes during the shut-down of public gatherings, both in providing alternative worship and continued social and pastoral care. There are many online servicesonline meetings and new food cupboards. More will come.

 

Because we are an episcopal church, with bishops who connect us to the apostolic traditions, those laboratories (the parishes) will need to work with supervision so that we keep the core of our faith on a steady footing. At the same time those laboratory experiments will be vital to our becoming newThe trick is to be nimble without breaking the china. We will need to nurture nimbleness in our clergy and lay leaders, and in our bishops in particular.

 

3. The new Episcopal Church will be a church of small groups. The whole parish may less often gather as a wholefor worship, ministry, study, or even for annual meetings. Sporadic need for social distancing and aversion to large groups will make large gatherings less attractive or even possible.The Episcopal Church must promote small groups as a more intimate and more focused way to connect

 

They are also most like the communities that first gathered who devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”.  (Acts2:42) Eucharist in small group settings will present many theological and pastoral challenges, but such eucharistic gatherings will be essential, for these small contained communities are the core of our own “virus” whose spread continues the Christian witness in the world.

 

4. The new Episcopal Church will have less baggage, it will be leaner. Financially the post pandemic world will be very difficult for smaller and even some larger churches. Some buildings and a programs will close and endBut just as we now know that closing a building does not mean the church is closed, maybe we can also know that selling a building does not necessarily mean the end of community life. How then do we keep community alive even as church structures close?

 

Smaller churches already know a lot about how to be a faith community without large services, multi-person staff, full music programs, and the like.  Clergy and lay leaders in these churches in Delaware have found ways to bring the gifts of The Episcopal Church to their communities.  Their experience can help us be present in ways that don’t require edifices, large staffs, and extensive programming.

 

We will have to raise up a new clergy, who will help small communities be the place of incarnation of Word and Sacrament, and who will understand ministry to be the work of all the people, and themselves as servants of that work. To a much greater extent than now the ordainedministers of the Gospel will be itinerant and have other means of livelihood. 

 

If the church becomes leaner it will be possible for the closing of church buildings to be separate from and unrelated to the health of a local eucharistic community.  Instead of our “roster”of churches becoming smaller as church buildings are closed and sold, we will count our presence as Eucharistic communities, many of which will consist of small “cell” communities joined as possible by occasional larger gatherings. That roster might grow! The bishop and clergy will be essential “glue” that keeps these communities together as part of the greater body of Christ.

 

5. The new Episcopal Church will foster the beloved community, now more than ever. The notion of the beloved community, the church seen the gathering of people and groups set on showing the love of God in Jesus Christis a vision whose time has come 

 

Small a groups of all sorts already exist in our churches -bible study group, ECWsinging groups (a choir), contemplative prayer groupspastoral care committees, etc. If they are also nurtured as beloved communities, in which there is “the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers they each are a manifestation of church. Together with small gatherings of people in the cities and towns concerned with basic human rights and needs the church small groups will make alliances for the social good and thus the beloved community will always be larger than the church itself, broader in reach than The Episcopal Church, and more resilient than any of the groups by themselves might be.

 

We will know Church is not a product of the powers of this world alone, where size, wealth, territory and possessions matter mostThe Church is the manifestation of the beloved community, for which there are no limits, save Love. And that is our future.

 

 

9/06/2020

Ministry in Higher Education in Pandemic times

 Every year come Labor Day I hear the school bells ringing and like the fabled horse in the fire station, I get all excited. I suppose ten years in campus ministry and five as Coordinator of Ministry in Higher Education at the Church Center is there to haunt or taunt me forever. 

 

Those years were an exercise in being Church without church. In those years, about a third of my ministry, I had no established altar, no sanctuary, no parish family. More importantly my work was with people who were not a congregation.  Ministry in higher education requires attention to institutions and people who are organized around agendas that are decidedly not like those of the institution we call church. 

 

Ministry in higher education is distinctly missionary, in that it involves being stranger in a strange land. Even church related colleges and universities know this missionary tension, for the language of intellectual and faith discourse are as different as the languages of different nations.  I loved being present as a translator, a practitioner of the art of being present with and for people of another nation.  And I believe campus ministry is to the whole of the institution, not only to students. So over the years I practiced and encouraged engagement with all sorts of groups on campus as they tried to do justice and practice loving kindness and walking humbly in their faith. I loved it.

 

This year when I hear the school bells ring, I think of those doing ministry in higher education and wonder what that work will look like now.

 

All across the United States colleges and universities are beginning a new academic year. Of course this year, in the midst of an out of control pandemic, renewed confrontation with systemic racism, sexism, privilege, and with the crisis in government,  it’s hard to know what that will entail, except to say that most of the trappings of higher education that make up campus life will be missing. 

 

With many classes being held on-line, with social distancing, health monitoring, strange mixes of virtual and in-person classes, staggered realtime presence on campus, and no large gatherings, the campus experience will be radically reconfigured, as will any semblance to “brand loyalty” among students. With renewed critique of institutional blindness to racial prejudice, privileged access, patriarchy, and even internal economic and social justice, colleges and universities are under attack even as the need for intellectually competent people is greater than ever.

 

In past years campus ministers came to their work in very incarnational ways – by being present with the people affiliated with institutions of higher education.  As students were checking in to campus, the chaplain could be seen checking in with returning students, with teachers, administrators and staff, inviting them to join in the campus ministry activities – religious services, study groups, activities in service to others. Some also would be checking in with administrators about policy issues, or with employees about economic concerns. All of this grew easily from being a person-about-campus. In my years on campus the daily “walk about” was a central part of my work life.

 

But how will that be done when the campus is virtual as much as visceral?  

 

I don’t know the answer to that one, and given that I am no longer a practicing campus minister I suppose I have very little to say that is helpful concerning practice.

 

But I am very concerned for the future of ministry in higher education.  The same forces that make the pandemic and social dis-ease so deadly to common life make it easier to practice a kind of economic triage, dropping ministries that seem external to the primarily task of keeping parishes alive.  When dioceses have to cut budgets because parishes are not thriving it becomes easy to discontinue missionary activities like campus ministry.  And that is all the more the case when pandemic hits and criticism of privileged institutions rises.  

 

So now is the time to signal the importance of ministry in higher education, aka campus ministry. Here are some beginning thoughts:

 

(i)              Campus ministry concerns community, and universities and colleges in a time of pandemic are suffering a disconnect between campus community and classroom experience. Hopefully campus ministries can assist in reforming what it means to be community.

(ii)            Campus ministry can, and often does, encourage the search for meaning, justice, and loving kindness. When teachers, administrators and staff are faced with massive changes in how they make education work, chaplains can contribute prophetic and pastoral concern for the life of the institution and the lives of all within it.

(iii)           Campus ministry is already a practice of “virtual” church, in which networking replaces settled congregational life.  In a time when internet networking has replaced face-to-face connections some of the networking skills of the campus minister can be useful not only to new campus life, but also to new parish life. Having a vocation that is not bound to physical space can be helpful when physical space is not available or practical. 

(iv)           Campus ministry concerns finding values in a world where knowledge is power, and in which what the powerful know prevails.  Privilege, white male  power, racism, and social injustice are being confronted by people in higher education institutions all the time. Those in campus ministry know it is not enough to be intellectually brilliant, it is important to bend that intelligence towards the common good, towards justice, towards the celebration of beauty and a life of self-giving.  Campus ministry can be an ally to those addressing social injustice in all its forms.

(v)            Campus ministry in a time when there is no campus but rather a virtual campus is about finding a body where there is no body. It is very much a practice of resurrection, as if the old has died and the new has come. Campus ministry of all sorts, not just Christian, are filled with experiences of the rebirth of wonder. Most congregations lose and gain members over time and over an extended period the whole congregation will be new, but the congregation as institution continues.  There is wonder in that, that there is a continuing witness to faith, even as there is turnover of membership. In campus ministry we are fortunate if even half our network lasts more than a year. Campus ministry is practiced at the art of death and resurrection. Something of the arts and skills of continuing presence, even as the old dies away, may be of great value to the institutions of Church and Higher Education as they face into the end of campus and sanctuary and the emergence of more tenuous, but perhaps more supple network based communities.

 

Well, at least there are some thoughts.  But this I am quite sure of: We need to support campus ministry in this time because Universities and Colleges are undergoing a transformation to a more network based community, and campus ministers can be allies and contributors to a network that encourages value as well as knowledge, justice as well as power, love for others as well as love of self.  Not to be there is a huge missionary mistake, for the Gospel has its greatest presence where death gives way to new creation.

 

8/08/2020

Make the Destination Clear: “The Episcopal Branch.of the Jesus Movement”, what does it mean?

   Make the Destination Clear: “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement” – what does that mean?

 

The promo on the Episcopal Church web page for the Beloved Community” begins, “As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, we dream and work to foster Beloved Communities..”  

 

I’ve written about the notion of the Jesus Movement here” http://anglicanfuture.blogspot.com/2017/06/why-jesus-movement-movement-does-not.html

 

My concerns about the phrase “Jesus Movement” was that it has been used in very sloppy ways by a variety of people and groups that would have found The Episcopal Church to have been decidedly NOT part of its work. Any movement must be defined not just by what it moves away from (say stagnation and cooption) but by what it moves towards. That something towards which it moves is not spelled out, except by reference to fostering Beloved Communities. 

 

Beloved Communities are communities loved by someone, in this case one assumes by God. And the assumption is that by being communities of love ourselves we are reflecting God’s love and are in turn loved by God.  Beloved is a community activity, engaging both God’s actions and ours. 

 

This stuff of doing what the Lord requires - It’s a fine notion, one that I readily affirm. Micah got it, Jesus got it, the Apostles and Prophets got it, and even I’ve got it.  If that is what the Jesus Movement is – a movement fostering beloved communities – great.

 

But about the Episcopal Church being a “branch” of the Jesus Movement, I am unclear and unmoved.

 

The phrase “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement” is an amazing conflation of two very different images of life in Christ – one quite institutional and the other quite individual.

 

Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  It is a stretch to say “branches” had anything to do with churches.  And yet there are amazing numbers of charts that show the church branches that have grown out from the tree of life (i.e. Jesus).  

 

As a teenager in New Orleans, a strongly Catholic town at the time, my priest showed me this chart with Anglican churches clearly labeled as being in continuity with the main trunk of faithful people. With some pride he talked about how we Anglicans were the third largest branch of the Church. So in spite of what those Roman Catholics would say, we are a branch of the true church.  And, just as icing on the cake, he then would reference the “I am the vine, you are the branches” statement, as if that settled the matter.  But of course it didn’t. 


It was a useful image for me as a teenager, in love (as much as I could expresse it) at that time with Roman Catholic young woman. It gave me talking points in conversations about our religious beliefs.  IT kind of gave me a pedigree.

 

The reference, “The Episcopal branch” is a hint back to the assurance that what we are about is both part of the core activity of being followers of Jesus, and being part of the “true” church.  May it be so.

 

But the problem is that the Jesus Movement, which is not apparently an edifice or tree or vine or any other definable organized entity, is that it is not something that has branches.  It is not an organization (like say a bank) that has branch offices. It is not a tree or vine organized as a living organism that has tendrils or new growth extensions.

 

I believe the Jesus Movement is an aspirational and spiritual declaration, and as a result, it is part of the personal side of the baptismal covenant.  The individual (I) joins this movement towards belonging to and engaging with the beloved community. But the beloved community is itself “not of this world.”  It is not an organized entity of any sort. Rather beloved community is found as we gather in a whole variety of ways to live out what Moses, Micah, other prophets, and  Jesus (and a whole host of others) point us towards. 

 

The notion that The Episcopal Church is a “branch” of some ongoing historical organization called “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” is an institutional claim.  But what is it to say we are a branch of the Jesus Movement? I think it means almost nothing.

 

Fostering beloved communities is not the same as establishing new communities that will somehow BE beloved communities. We can foster beloved communities in every parish in the church, but the funds for such efforts tend to go to “new” work, not to support of already existing parishes so that they become agents of new community. The new work being funded looks increasingly parallel to, but not included in, the ongoing effort to foster beloved community IN parishes.  Giles Fraser in an article posted this week https://unherd.com/2020/08/the-neoliberal-revolution-within-the-church/

points to a similar dynamic in the Church of England.

 

Episcopalians can be, and I hope are, part of the Jesus Movement. I hope I am. I hope we take our baptismal vows seriously. And I believe I am not the vine, but a really small tendril from that vine, one of the followers of Jesus.

 

But the Episcopal Church is not such a branch. People are.

 

So when there is this rush to do “new work” we in the church may be told that this is all about being the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, but don’t believe it.  It may indeed be about doing or supporting very important and good work “fostering beloved community.” Those ongoing communities of faithful people gathered in congregations across the land will be mostly left out of the conversation.

 

Existing parishes will mostly be left to their own devices, the bigger and better off will make it. The smaller and less financially capable will mostly die off.  And new work will be mostly unrelated to the institutional Church at all.  The branch of the tree may whither even as new shoots are planted. 

 

All of this may be part of moving on, and if so let it be. But don’t mutter about the Episcopal part of the Jesus Movement. I am not at all sure that there will be any need for bishops in the Jesus Movement at all, much less The Episcopal Church. 

 

Time to clean up the language, or else, to use Fr. Fraser’s insight)  face into the new-liberal deconstruction of the church as we now know it.

 

I believe we need to make the destination clear.  If the call to be the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is a post-denominational claim or an extra-institutional claim, then be clear that what we are asked to join and support is not new work of The Episcopal Church but rather the work of Jesus people moving on towards the realization of the beloved community. This is the new wine, new wine skin crowd. . If we are The Episcopal Church AS an organization fostering Beloved Community in our own corporate life, perhaps we might better start by helping existing communities to be more like the communities we are called to be. This is the crowd that seeks to be born again, even when old. 

 

Me, I’d like to see the church that perpetually seeks a rebirth of wonder. (To cop a phrase from Lawrence Ferlinghetti).  But if it must be, get a new wine skin for new wine.

 

Either way: Make the path clear.

 

7/27/2020

Ambiguous loss and the increase and multiplication of mercy

Sermon, Sunday July 26, 2020. St Peter’s Lewes.  Mark Harris

“Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal”

This is from the Collect, a prayer at the beginning of the Eucharist that sets a direction for our meditation on the readings. And today this collect rings true. We could do with a multiplication of God’s mercy in these days. As Mary Gauther says in her song, “We all could use a little mercy now.”
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Last week, in the middle of the night on Tuesday, I tried to cry. There was this deep sense of grief within me, and I wanted to let tears wash that grief out. But the tears did not come. I could not cry. I retuned slowly to sleep, without the consolation of tears.

I realized that there was a grieving in my heart that was beyond words, and even beyond my ability to summon up the tears to cry.  Since I spend lots of time in my studio doing printmaking art, I’ve tried to find picture words to use.  Nothing!  My prayer to let the tears come was not met, for the words or even the pictures were not there. I wonder if you have been there too in these strange days? Grief without tears.
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There is great comfort in Paul’s comment, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

“That very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  Sleep returned that Tuesday night, not as consolation but as space for the Spirit to intercede with sighs too deep for words, or images, or even tears. I believe I went to sleep with the Spirit sighing.
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It got me to wondering, in all the pandemic concerns, in the economic uncertainties and in our time of political and social uncertainty I have not taken time to grieve, and it has all caught up with me. And maybe you too.
We are grieving for ambiguous losses.  Unambiguous losses are by comparison clear. We lose a loved one, we deal with debilitating illness, we suffer disappointment, we lose a job. Concrete losses. But here there is an uncertain, ambiguous loss.

Krista Tippitt recently interviewed Pauline Boss who coined the phrase “ambiguous loss” to refer to loss that just does not seem to have any resolution. Someone who has disappeared and now must be declared dead, the loss of someone to dementia without losing their body presence, and in these days for us Episcopalians, the loss of the comfort of the Sacrament without any resolution of the problems that make it impossible to actually receive. And for all of us, a loss of innocence and trust in others.

With ambiguous loss we quickly turn to “what’s next” in part because our losses are not clearly defined, and our grieving, like the losses themselves, seem unending.

I grieve for the ambiguous losses in my life, and I suspect maybe you do too:

I grieve for social engagements that have died. The world of pressing the flesh is gone. But it is not a concrete death, but rather death by a thousand slights.

I grieve for the church I was used to. It has died. St. Peter’s was known as a parish where people sang together, where we jostled our way to the line to receive communion, to go for prayers of healing, and later to robustly gather at the table for eats at coffee-hour. We came together with abandon for meetings of all sizes, like a family of puppies gathered at the food dish. And all of that is gone. Yes, we do come together via the internet, but as we all know, “it’s not the same.”

Even what we experience as family is affected. I grieve the awkward and hesitant meeting with those I love. Dare we embrace? Can we laugh together? Distance seems so artificial, even as it is necessary.

We have experienced a thousand little deaths. And yet we have not set a time for grieving or even allowed for grieving, and no time for tears. We don’t know even know how to name our losses. Instead we essentially admonish ourselves, and are admonished by others, to suck it up, to get on with it, to find a new normal. No time for grieving, move on.

To some extent this is necessary. We are admonished that we need to let the dead bury the dead. We do need to face into the new. That is true, but still the grief is there to be named. And until named that grief hangs on as a ghost, a specter. Until then we cannot hear the Spirit that both sighs and calls us forward.

The Spirit remembers, and “intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” And in the sighing, perhaps those griefs are named, whispered, by the one who comforts us,  like a parent comforting us when we hear sounds under the bed, and holding us close, whispering, “It’s OK, it’s OK. Don’t be afraid. Just go to sleep.” Our wordless grief is met by the Spirit of God, who connects with us, sighing on our behalf. And having interceded, what now? What does the Spirit call us to after the sighs too deep for words?

And it is here, in the acknowledgment of our grief, that we hear the words of the collect echo, “Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal”

The grief is indeed for things temporal…our small ways of life, our normalities, even our ways of being community. We miss them, but we also remember that they were pretty dusty, pretty tattered. Perhaps it was more than time for them to finally be put to rest.

Maybe it is alright to have our old normalities die… do we really want to miss our misogynistic ways, or our racist past, or our reliance on economic inequities as a matter of course? Perhaps we grieve and then finally let go.
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Jesus, in his parables often presents us with the promise of the age to come, the Kingdom of God. He calls us beyond our normality and all its impediments.  

He does not teach a reinstitution of old ways whose loss we grieve. He does not offer a program for remedy for the failings of the old. Instead he proposes a radically different new age, one which is a response of the Spirit, who having interceded with sighs too deep for words, now calls us forward.

The mustard seed, like our hopes, made dormant in grief, will grow amazingly.
--------That’s what to expect from God’s reign.

God’s new world will be yeasty, wild in its expansion. There’s a new heaven and new earth for you!

In the Kingdom of God you will find immeasurable joy, like a pearl of great price, and for this you will give everything.

Bury your hopes in grief, then buy the plot so you can have those hopes when you are finished grieving.

Cast your hopes out wide in great expectation and hawl in many things, only to keep what fulfills those hopes.

The Spirit, who sighs with and for us, will also return not to console, but to dance with us a new dance. 

God willing we not find a new normal at all, we will not get back to business as usual, we will not overcome our grief by repetition of who we have been, but by becoming new.
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“Behold,” says the Spirit, “I make all things New.” First, we grieve, then we rise from our grief, made new.  Death and Resurrection.

Paul is right, “It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”….” I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I believe our practice in this hour is to make the destination clear:  To do this we must make unambiguous the losses we now grieve for. We need to name those losses, grieve our lost former selves, and rise to new life. That new life will be unambiguously expansive, as generous as the net that draws all in, the tree that gives shade to the birds, the treasure and the yeast that grows explosively. Jesus offers a multitude of mercies, just as we prayed for in the Collect.

And then we can say in High Expectation, as did the Prophet in the Revelation of John the Divine, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

And so, I say, at long last weep dear friends, and then Arise in great expectation!  Amen.