Archive for August, 2018

Increasing PSI

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2018 by timtrue

flat-tyre

John 6:56-69

1.

I begin with a framing image:

My first car was a 1968 Dodge A100 Sportsman van—3 on the tree, manual everything. With lots of windows all around, it kind of looked like an old VW. But this van was so much better, with a 318 V8, 210 horsepower—not a piddley 60 horses, like the VWs!

How I loved that van! I replaced the factory seating with a loveseat, chair, and ottoman—this was before seatbelt laws went into effect. Many were the days I loaded friends up and went to the beach or mountains or wherever, for yet another adventure!

As happens, I began to be associated with this van. People would see it coming and say, “Here comes Tim.”

So, one night a friend of mine and I decided to play a prank on another friend, Bobby. We TP’d his house, you know, snuck over, late at night, and threw a bunch of toilet paper rolls all over the place.

Well, Bobby woke up when we were up to our shenanigans; and, as I learned later, looked out his window but did not recognize the culprits. However, he did recognize a certain van parked across the street: my van.

And Bobby hatched his plan to avenge himself; which happened a few weeks later.

I’d gone to see a movie. And when I came out of the theater, there was my van all right, right where I’d parked it; but three of the tires were flat! Bobby had let the air out of them.

Well, I had only one spare. What was I to do? I couldn’t drive home. My van was effectively useless.

So I got in and started it up, dropped in into gear, and crept slowly as I could across three parking lots to a service station with an air hose. And then, finally, with air again in the tires, I was able to drive the van home, to use the van as it was intended.

Anyway, this is the framing image I want us to consider as I continue with my sermon: a van without air in tires is effectively useless.

2.

Now, fourteen weeks ago I mentioned that we were making a turn.

Up till that time, the church year had been focused on the person Jesus. Starting with Advent—the coming of the Christ—it then continued with Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter—all various manifestations of the Incarnation, God with us, in the person and work of Jesus—until finally, fifty days after Easter, Christ sent his Spirit to be with his disciples, the Church, until his promised return.

This was the turning point: Pentecost. Here, as a church, every year we turn our attention from thinking about who Jesus is to the work he has left for us to do. At Pentecost, we shift our focus to the question, “How are we to be the incarnate Christ to the world?”

This is the question that frames every Sunday from the Day of Pentecost to what we call Christ the King Sunday, about half of every year.

Now, this year, Lectionary Year B, we will spend most of these six months exploring this question through the lens of the Gospel of Mark. But for five weeks in the middle—concluding today, as a matter of fact—we have found ourselves instead in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.

Which leaves me wondering why. Why does the Gospel of John interrupt the Gospel of Mark? More particularly, why do we find ourselves in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John?

Or, to reframe the question: What is it that we are supposed to be learning from these five weeks that will shape us as a local body of Christ, to carry out his mission, to be the Incarnation to the world around us?

Today’s our last chance for quite a while: we won’t encounter John 6 again until three years from now, the next time it comes around. I’m not suggesting we’ll find the absolute, once-for-all answer. Still, we can get somewhere.

3.

So then, here’s what we know about the Gospel of John as a whole: John was writing, probably in the early second century, to a new community defined by their being ousted from the local synagogue.

But John was not written merely to guide an ancient community in its new life together. It was also written for all Christian communities, which includes us, today, with our unique set of challenges in our particular cultural context.

Narrowing our focus then, from chapter 6 Jesus teaches crucifixion and resurrection, incarnation and love—profound ideologies—through metaphor; and predominantly the metaphor of bread.

Two weeks ago I walked us through the bread-making process, from harvesting rye to separating the grains from the stalks to sifting and cleaning to grinding the grains into flour to finally baking.

Jesus said that his flesh was bread for the life of the world. Harvested, separated, sifted, ground; arrested, mocked, spat upon, crucified—for the life of the world.

Last week we explored what it means to eat his flesh and drink his blood, to ingest him so completely that Christ becomes a part of us and we become more him.

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. . . . But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

The Incarnation doesn’t mean that God is with us as a person sitting among our community. Rather, the Incarnation is within each one of us; and intends to permeate every corner of the world in just the same way.

And now, we come to today, this final portion of John 6, where we read that many disciples turn away from Jesus, for this is a difficult teaching.

What are we supposed to learn? What is our takeaway?

4.

Maybe something to do with spirit.

“It is the spirit that gives life,” Jesus says; “the flesh is useless.”

But didn’t Jesus just say that his very flesh was the true bread from heaven, the bread given for the life of the world?

Yes, he did.

So what can he mean now by saying the flesh is useless? Certainly, his flesh wasn’t useless!

Ah, but it is useless without the spirit.

Jesus’ flesh, smitten, broken, and lifted up on the cross for the life of the world—if it remains there, dead on the cross, why then it’s just a corpse.

Taken down, carried away, and laid to rest in the tomb—if Jesus’ flesh remains there, lifeless, without a spirit to animate it, why, again, it’s still just a corpse.

What about Jesus’ flesh set on the altar, consecrated, given, and received? It seems an appropriate parallel, drawn from our guiding bread metaphor: without the spirit, it, too, is lifeless; or, to use Jesus’ word, “useless.”

The people to whom John originally wrote this Gospel—the Johannine Community—experienced this lifelessness first hand.

They had been formerly a part of a synagogue—maybe even the synagogue at Capernaum, mentioned in today’s Gospel. But the synagogue’s leaders had excommunicated any and all who followed the teachings of Jesus—including a man born blind! (Read chapter 9.)

So, consider: local synagogues were a lot like modern local churches. People gathered as spiritual communities in buildings created for that purpose. Their worship services followed a liturgy very much like our own Morning Prayer liturgy. In addition to Sabbath worship services, synagogue congregations would gather, much like today’s church congregations, for times of communal celebration and grief—like bar mitzvahs and funerals.

And yet, as John writes to the ousted and re-organizing Johannine Community, he has Jesus say, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.”

Without Jesus, that local body of the synagogue was lifeless, a corpse.

5.

What is our takeaway?

We are smack dab in the middle of the season after Pentecost. It’s a six-month season, primarily focused on the question of Jesus’ mission: How are we to be the incarnate Christ to the world around us?
For the last five weeks we’ve encountered Jesus presenting a particularly difficult teaching. He presents the crucifixion and resurrection, the Incarnation and love in an altogether new way—through a metaphor involving the very common, everyday practice of eating and drinking.

It’s a difficult teaching because it involves a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice from Jesus’ followers.

As we learned from the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, we often want to follow Jesus for the wrong reasons, self-focused reasons, like utility, political expediency, seeking the miraculous, or as a mere intellectual exercise.

Following Jesus requires from us so much more: to let go of our egos; to let Christ fill each of us as air fills a tire—air without which the van tires are effectively useless.

The same can be said for us as a corporate body.

We gather weekly as a spiritual community. In our gatherings, we pray, worship, hear the word of God together, respond, and commune around Christ’s Table.

But if we do this for the wrong reasons—utility, political expediency, and so on; any reason, really, that strokes our own egos—we do not allow the air that is the spirit of Christ to fill us—air without which we are effectively useless.

This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it?

But—and here at last is our takeaway—when we do accept it, when we abide in Christ and take him out to those who truly hunger, he is life-giving both to us and to the world all around us.

Outward. It sounds so simple.

Why, then, are we interrupted in the middle of the season after Pentecost in Year B? Why are we told so often to go in peace to love and serve the Lord?

Maybe because it’s so difficult actually to do.

God give us grace to go outward!

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And It’s Visceral

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2018 by timtrue

FatherTim

John 6:51-58

1.

How does one describe an altogether new concept, something that has never been described before? Words are limiting.

So, as a starting point, let’s turn to Greek mythology. There are many monsters in Greek mythology that look like nothing else, monsters that the authors of the myths had to describe to their readers who had never seen them before.

Scylla comes to mind: a hideous beast presumably that lived on the side of a cliff in a narrow strait and fed on sailors as they passed beneath. How would the myth’s author describe Scylla?

I strained my eyes upwards, and she came.

She was gray as the air, as the cliff itself. I had always imagined she would look like something: a snake or an octopus, a shark. But the truth of her was overwhelming, an immensity that my mind fought to take in. Her necks were longer than ship masts. Her six heads gaped, hideously lumpen, like melted lava stone. Black tongues licked her sword-length teeth. . . .

She crept closer, slipping over the rocks. A reptilian stench struck me, foul as squirming nests underground. Her necks wove a little in the air, and from one of her mouths I saw a gleaming strand of saliva stretch and fall. Her body was not visible. It was hidden back in the mist with her legs, those hideous, boneless things that Selene had spoken of so long ago. Hermes had told me how they clung inside her cave like the curled ends of hermit crabs when she lowered herself to feed. . . .

She screamed. The sound was a piercing chaos, like a thousand dogs howling at once.[I]

That comes from Madeline Miller’s recent book Circe.

But do you see? To describe a monster her readers have never seen, the author builds on what they already know: gray as a cliff, necks as long as ship masts, heads like lava stone, sword-length teeth, the cacophony of a thousand dogs howling at once, and so on.

To describe a new concept, metaphor is essential—metaphor based on what is already known.

So then, Madeline Miller described a creature—something concrete. What about when the new concept is abstract? How does one describe a new idea?

2.

For the people in Jesus’ day, the incarnation, God with us, was just that: a new idea.

Whether with the pantheon of Hellenism or the High God of Judaism, the common understanding was that God ruled and reigned from on high, far away, aloof and distant.

To communicate this up-close, new idea, then, Jesus used metaphor, building from what his hearers already knew: food and wine, eating and drinking.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.

Now, to clarify, the concept of the incarnation was not totally new. Israel’s God was seen traditionally as a warrior. A God who gets right in the midst of our army and fights our battles with us—that’s incarnation.

Also, glimpses of the incarnation appear throughout the OT.

God spoke to Abraham. Isaac listened and watched as God provided a ram in his place. Jacob wrestled all night long with God. And God appeared to Moses as a burning bush.

God was a pillar of cloud by day and a column of smoke by night as the nation of Israel wandered the wilderness. God’s spirit possessed the artisans who built and furnished the Tabernacle and Temple. And God fought with Israel’s army as the chosen nation took possession of the Promised Land.

The concept of the incarnation was already there, at least in seed form. But Jesus chose not to build on this traditional knowledge. Why?

Well, a suggestion: What about the victims?

God may very well have been with the army of Israel, fighting their battles as they overtook the Promised Land. But, at the same time, is that to say God wasn’t there with the victims too, as they were overcome, stricken down, and, as the Bible reports, slaughtered?

As he builds the concept of the incarnation from bread and wine, Jesus is teaching the common people of his day, people who likely would have identified more with the victim than the victor. Was God with them? At the same time, was God—could God be—with their Roman oppressors? If so, surely God was with each group of people in a different way!

So, today, Jesus talks about the incarnation in a new way.

And it’s visceral.

To eat his flesh and drink his blood is to ingest God. We bite, break apart, chew, swallow, digest, and expel God. The nutrients of Christ become part of our very flesh and blood. God is so incarnational that the Christ becomes part of who we are just as we become more of him and less ourselves.

3.

This was an altogether new concept, a unique way to view God.

So incarnational that we eat, digest, and expel him? Why, that’s just too earthy, too profane!

But is it?

I remember a scene from a high school Bible study I attended regularly—I’m not trying to be crass here; just to illustrate a point. The topic was prayer; and one of the girls made the mistake of telling the group that she prayed whenever she used the restroom.

Now, to be fair, in her own spiritual life she was trying to practice St. Paul’s exhortation to pray without ceasing. But, of course, the rest us, and especially the male percentage of the rest of us, giggled and laughed and jabbed each other in the ribs.

“You’re not supposed to do that,” one person said; “or at least you’re not supposed to tell us you do it!”

“Well, why not?” she asked.

“Because you’re not supposed to pray there!”

And yet the Apostle Paul does exhort us to pray without ceasing. Which began a weeks-long debate; and the phrase “praying on the potty” became a part of our Bible Study verbiage for the rest of the year: “How’s your prayer life doing?” someone would ask; “Still praying on the potty,” another would reply.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that the kind of language Jesus uses today to describe the incarnation is earthy, maybe even profane-feeling.

This language made a lot of people squirm in Jesus’ day; and it makes a lot of us squirm still today.

4.

We have no problem with the belief that God is transcendent; it’s our belief in immanence that we have trouble with. Understandably, we want to be reverent; we don’t want to be sacrilegious.

There is weighty precedence for what we do here each Sunday, namely approaching Christ together and communing at his Table. But God is also in every moment of our day and in every molecule of our being.

It’s okay to pray on the potty!

God is in here, in every moment and molecule of our being; and God is outside these walls too, in every moment and molecule of creation—

in the holy and reverent acts that are taking place in this and other houses of worship;

and also in the homeless hovels down in the riverbed, in the dregs of skid row, in rehab centers where people are recovering from addictions, in hospital ICUs where the sanctity of human life by necessity must take priority over matters of decency and modesty, and in anywhere else that might seem somehow too earthy or profane for our comfort levels.

And here’s where it all goes, as the rest of the Gospel of John proclaims: where the incarnation is, there too is God’s love.

Incarnation and love: you can’t have one without the other.

[i] Madeline Miller, Circe, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2018, p. 114.

Everyday, Commonplace, Mundane Bread

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , on August 12, 2018 by timtrue

untitled

John 6:35, 41-51

1.

What does it mean for Jesus to identify himself as the true bread of heaven?

Bread is something we can relate to: “Give us this day, our daily bread,” we pray.

But is bread all we eat?

I don’t know about you, but when I go to the grocery store, I’m not spending the bulk of my time in the bread aisle. I may buy a little bread, sure; but the majority of my time is spent on other items—eggs, chorizo, green onions, cheese, hot sauce, an avocado or two, tortillas, juice, dark chocolate, ice cream, coffee, beer, wine—

Good thing I’m not the only one in my household doing the grocery shopping!

Point is, in the phrase “our daily bread,” the word bread is a synecdoche. “Our daily bread” is more than just literal bread; it’s the food we eat: both what we need to survive and what fills us.

Jesus both nourishes us and satisfies us.

By the way, have you ever tried to live solely on bread? Or, to clarify—just a little bit ago Jesus also called himself “living water”—so to clarify, have you ever tried to live on just bread and water?

So, imagine this dialogue with me:

“Hey, Mom, what’s for breakfast?”
“Bread and water.”
“Okay, what’s for lunch?”
“Bread and water.”
“Well, then, what’s for dinner?”
“Bread and water.”
“Um, okay, any chance I could have some peanut butter to go with it?”
“No.”
“Oh, okay, well, um, then what about tomorrow?”

A diet of nothing but bread and water would get tiresome in a hurry. It’s so everyday, commonplace, mundane; something, without variety, we grow tired of in a hurry.

“Oh,” Mom says, “but wait till you taste it! This isn’t just any old bread from the local bakery. This is bread from the bakery in heaven.”

And you’re thinking, “Didn’t Moses already try that?”

2.

Moses. Wandering in the wilderness. For forty years. With a bunch of people. Complaining about bread from heaven!

By the hand of God, Moses liberated the slave-nation of Israel from its oppressors. Together Moses and the Israelites fled; together they feared; and together they crossed the Red Sea on dry land and watched as Pharaoh and his army were consumed.

But now, some time later, they were hungry. And so, rightfully, they cried out to God, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And God heard their prayer and provided another miracle: manna; bread from heaven.

And God gave them some instructions:

“Hear and listen, O Best Beloved,” God said. “Take a look at all the delicious manna lying all around you on the desert floor when you wake up tomorrow morning. But gather only what you need for the day: don’t be lazy and gather too little, for each of you should work according to your ability; neither be greedy and gather up too much, for it will rot and stink and your neighbors will not be happy for all the flies. For I will rain down manna the next day and the next, everyday, and will thus provide for you. No worries.”

Imagine: bread from the very bakery in heaven!

But what happens?

Some of the people did in fact gather too little and thus had to deal with hunger pangs until the next day; and others gathered too much and they and their neighbors had to deal with an excess of flies—not to mention odor.

But most of all, after the novelty had worn off, wrongfully, the people complained!

“Why did you lead us out of Egypt?” they asked. And before Moses could even open his mouth to remind them that, duh, they had been slaves, they continued: “There we had delicious food, leeks and garlic; not this everyday, commonplace, mundane bread. Oh, the monotony!”

They were no longer happy about the bread from the heavenly bakery. They took the bread from heaven for granted.

3.

And yet Jesus’ flesh is the true bread of heaven.

This is an image worth pursuing: Jesus’ flesh; and the image of eating his flesh; and, contextually, we might add, drinking his blood.

For what do we have to do to wheat in order to transform it into bread for our benefit? What do we have to do to grapes to transform them into wine?

Of course, these processes are easy for us to gloss over: we just go to the bread and wine aisles at the grocery store or online and buy them already in their transformed states—not yet consecrated, sure; but already transformed.

However, I recently had a chance to participate some in the bread-making process while at Camp Stevens—not wheat but rye.

Early in the morning—the campers had to arise early due to the excessive heat that week—we harvested the rye by hand. We used scythes—not tractors; no automated equipment. Our goal was relatively simple: make several small loaves of communion bread for about 120 people.

So, after the rye was cut and bundled, we hauled it to the kitchen, where we did the more finely tuned work of picking out the grains from the stalks: separating the wheat from the chaff, if you will.

At this point—the grains placed in bowls and the stalks in compost bins—we went through the grains again, searching for small pebbles mostly, for the soil in Julian is loamy; but also for anything other than the grains—pieces of stalk, weeds, dirt, bugs.

Now we washed the grains and spread them out on towels in the sun to dry.

And only after they dried thoroughly were we able to grind them into flour—using mortar and pestle—until, finally, we had something that could be baked into bread.

Harvested, carried away, separated, picked through, cleaned, dried, and broken! All so we could bake a few loaves for our end-of-week Camp Eucharist! All for our benefit! And I haven’t even mentioned planting and germination!

So, do you think this bread-making process has anything to do with Jesus saying, “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”?

Harvested, carried away, separated, picked through, cleaned, dried, and broken—all for our benefit!

4.

So, what does it mean for Jesus to identify himself as the true bread of heaven?

Those who eat of him will never hunger; those who drink of him will never thirst.

Jesus has left us a mission; we are called to share this true bread of heaven with the hungry world all around us.

His mission is not about adventure or fun or reward or accolades or otherwise feeling good about ourselves. Rather, it’s quite the other way: everyday, commonplace, mundane; even monotonous; transforming the world one needy person at a time, with all the intent and labor it takes to separate grain from stalk. It’s easy to take his mission for granted.

Indeed, there’s a lot to distract our attention. Leeks and garlic are tasty! Or, we remove ourselves so much from the bread-making process that we forget just how earthy the Incarnation is.

But the Son of God, the true bread from heaven, born of Mary and Joseph; both divine and human, is in our midst.

Even though he is everyday, commonplace, mundane; even though some of us neglect him and take too little; even though others horde and take too much; even though we all take him for granted—those who eat of him will never hunger; those who drink of him will never thirst.

We are called to share the true bread of heaven with the hungry world all around us!

Following his Lead

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2018 by timtrue

Part 2 of last week, really.

TECshield

John 6:24-35

1.

Last week we explored together the feeding of the five thousand.

Jesus saw a large crowd and realized they were hungry; and he quickly formulated a vision to feed them.

But remember Philip? He heard Jesus and was immediately overwhelmed by the vastness of his vision. “How we gonna do that, Jesus?” he asked. “Six months’ wages wouldn’t buy enough food to feed everyone even a little!”

Jesus’ vision was big. The funding seemed impossible. Philip was paralyzed.

But then there was Andrew. A little hope, it seemed, shone through his cloud of doubt. “Here’s a boy,” he told Jesus, “with five barley loaves and two small fish. Oh,” (and the silver lining fades) “but what are these among so many?”

Maybe in Andrew, maybe in the boy, maybe in both, there was a little bit of faith. And Jesus took that little bit and, through love, turned it into so much that twelve basketfuls were left over!

A miracle!

Now, a question I did not ask last week is this: Do you think the crowd knew a miracle was happening in their midst?

The five thousand people were sitting there, probably engaged in conversations and small talk, just as you and I would have been today, when all at once baskets of bread and fish came to them; and they did just what you and I would have done: they took some food for themselves and passed it along to the next group of people.

Of course they didn’t recognize a miracle was happening in their midst! I would wager money on it! It was just routine, normal behavior: grab a basket; take some food; pass it along to the next person; thank you very much.

Well, so why ask this question? Because of what happens next, in today’s Gospel.

2.

Today we find people from this same crowd—people who do not know that a miracle just happened in their midst—seeking Jesus for all the wrong reasons.

Some seek him for utility.

These folks are hungry. Jesus fed them quite satisfactorily yesterday; and so, they reason, maybe he will feed us again today. They’re asking, “What can Jesus do for me?” Not the right question!

Others seek him for expediency.

Jesus was the organizer of the event, after all; and he showed no small amount of competence. He gathered and fed us all; and he had some really good things to say. So, “I know!” some of them declare; “let’s make him our king!”

Overnight, Jesus has become not only their religious but also their political champion. They seek Jesus because he is a potential mover and shaker in society, because he will promote their political agenda (or so they imagine).

But again, to seek Jesus for expediency is self-focused rather than God-focused; asking, “What can Jesus do for me?” rather than, “What can I do for Jesus?”

Others still seek him for the miraculous.

“What sign are you going to give us then,” some of them ask, “so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?”

Really! “What sign are you going to give us?” Didn’t Jesus just feed about 5,000 people yesterday; and today you want a sign? A miracle took place right in front of your noses. How did you miss it?

The irony thickens even more when they say that Moses gave them a sign: manna from heaven. They know about manna, that famous narrative from their nation’s history; yet they fail to see the true bread of heaven right in their midst!

Anyway, do you see where this is going? Those who seek Jesus for the wonderful, the spectacular, the miraculous are more than likely going to miss it when it happens—and it does happen, right in their midst.

And others still seek him as a kind of intellectual pursuit.

“When they found him on the other side of the sea,” the text reads, “they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’”

They got to know Jesus some yesterday—they sat at his very feet in Bible study—and figured they could know him fully. Trouble is, how can we finite humans ever comprehend the infinite?

Anyway, whether for utility, expediency, the miraculous, or intellectual satisfaction, the crowds in today’s Gospel seek Jesus for all the wrong reasons.

Nevertheless, once they re-prioritize their focus, they find him easily.

Right in their midst, the miracle occurred; right in their midst, he is the true bread from heaven.

3.

Last week, also, as a kind of modern-day parallel to the feeding of the five thousand, I posited to you an idea I’ve been chewing on for some time: creating an Episcopal residential school for foster youth in Riverside County.

Full disclosure here: positing this idea wasn’t just an exercise in conjecture; I wasn’t merely throwing out some impression off the top of my head to consider hypothetically. Rather, I’ve been thinking through this outreach vision for a while now.

For a few years now, I’ve been working with Vida Joven.

Over the past year, I’ve been on the phone and in email conversations with people from the NAES, San Pasqual Academy, and Imago Dei Middle School.

In the spring I presented this idea to our diocese’s Executive Council.

In June, while in Sewanee, I brainstormed with a headmaster there about whether he might be able to bring a similar program to his school.

Just since last week, several of you have approached me about the next step. You’ve said things like, “This idea sounds awesome, Father Tim; how can we do more?”

And in two weeks I will host an initial gathering, to form the New Life Academy Exploratory Committee—a team that will be formally recognized by the NAES.

This vision is getting real!

But, to be honest, like Philip, the whole thing feels overwhelming to me; even paralyzing. It feels risky and vulnerable even to speak about it to you all today.

I mean, what if it fails?

So first, before telling you how I envision going forward with this idea, I want to admonish us all—myself included—really to hear this week’s Gospel.

Do we really want to do this? Do we really want to apply Jesus’ mission in this way, the creation of an Episcopal residential school for foster youth in Riverside County?

If so, then let us not do it for the wrong reasons.

Let us not do it for utility—seeking things that feed our egos but do not fulfill our souls.

Let us not do it for expediency—hoping to promote a political agenda.

Let us not anticipate the spectacular or miraculous—missing Christ in the world all around us because we are looking for him only in the grandiose.

And let us not engage in Christ’s mission only as some kind of intellectual exercise—failing to see God’s image in those we serve because we are preoccupied with doing it right.

If any one of these is our chief motivation for realizing this vision, then we are headed for failure right from the starting gate.

Advancing Christ’s mission in the world around us is not about any of these things. It’s not about us! Rather, it’s about Jesus—seeking, finding, and leading others to him; and when we re-prioritize our focus we realize that he’s already here, right in our midst, waiting to be seen.

4.

So then, my sermon’s over, really; but for those who are interested, here are the important logistical details: “how I envision going forward with this idea.”

I mentioned an initial gathering. It will take place here at St. Thomas on Saturday, August 18, from 10am to noon. The plan is to meet in the St. Benedict Conference Room; but if the crowd is too large we can move into Julian Hall—or even the nave (although, so you know, I am not planning to feed you).

The agenda is simple: introductions, introductory comments, a video, and maybe a Powerpoint presentation; followed by group discussion and strategy. My hope is to put together an exploratory committee to carry this vision forward.

Please call the office and let me know if you plan to attend.

Jesus is in our midst. Let’s follow his lead and see what happens.