Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bishop's Remarks to the House of Bishops

The Rt. Rev. James B. Magness To the House of Bishops Kanuga Conference Center Hendersonville, NC On March 12, 2013 Good afternoon. Jay Magness: Armed Services and Federal Ministries. I want to use the next few minutes to update you on some things I am doing and in which my small staff and I are engaged. For the benefit of those of you who are new to the House, I was elected three years ago at the spring HOB meeting in Camp Allen, IAW Article II, Sec. 7. of The Constitution of TEC: "It shall be lawful for the House of Bishops to elect a... Bishop (Suffragan) who, under the direction of the Presiding Bishop, shall be in charge of the work of those chaplains in the Armed Forces of the United States, Veterans' Administration Medical Centers, and Federal Correctional Institutions who are ordained Ministers of this Church." This is my episcopacy on federal lands in this and in foreign countries. Having been elected by the House, I make periodic reports to you on the ministry you have called me to do in support of my Priest/Chaplains who serve in the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and in the (Federal) Bureau of Prisons. In the interest of time, let me tell you a story. In the 1970s I served at one of my first parishes which was in this county of this diocese. The parish, St. Paul's, is about 15 miles north east of here. St. Paul's is surrounded by some beautiful commercial apple orchards. In the autumn each year thousands of tourists frequent the area to buy apples and see the fruit laden trees. On one warm sunny September afternoon a man and his wife from Atlanta in their long black Lincoln were driving past one of the local orchards when they saw a very peculiar sight: a farmer standing beneath an apple tree with a pig upon his shoulders which pig was eating apples off the limbs of the tree. At first the man and his wife passed by, but upon doing a double-take had to return to check out this strange sight. They pulled up beside the man with pig, rolled down the driver's side window to inquire about what the man was doing. The quick and curt reply was, "The pig was hungry." The man from Atlanta, who fashioned himself as having great knowledge of how to do things in the most efficient way, said, "Wouldn't it take a lot less time if you just put the pig on the ground and shook the tree so the ripe apples could fall within snout's reach of your hungry pig." The farmer, without so much as a slight pause said, "Time don't mean nothing to a pig." When I came into this episcopacy I reasoned that I had plenty of time to do what we needed to do to perform our highest priority task: recruiting priests and seminarians to serve as military, VA and Bureau of Prisons chaplains, but particularly military chaplains. I have since determined that time is not on our side. Recent events have demonstrated that we are in a dire need to increase our numbers of very capable and thoughtful clergy of this church to serve as chaplains within the branches of the armed forces. Why, you might ask, do we still need more clergy to serve as chaplains when we have shut down the war in Iraq and are winding down the war in Afghanistan. Though I could cite many, there is a primary reason. Even though Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, my chaplains are serving in an environment that is increasingly dominated by severely conservative to fundamentalist clergy, who are on one hand bent on expressing all of what they see as their First Amendment liberties to impose their version of the Christian faith upon everyone with whom they come into contact and also who embrace a sense of imperialistic nationalism by means of which they are eager to bless and condone almost any expression of armed warfare in any situation. In contrast, our clergy offer a very important reasoned influence to the environment. That influence is increasingly important because in all of the military services, not only are chaplains expected to provide pastoral, liturgical, and sacramental care to service members and to members of their families, also chaplains also expected to provide advisement to command leaders. When more so than ever before our military units are being employed as agents of international stabilization and diplomatic power projection, it is very important to me, and I hope to you and the people you serve, that their senior command leaders have the best moral and spiritual advise that is available to them. Last year for the first time we recruited more chaplains than we lost. Though it took us longer to change the loss trend, a trend that had been in place for the last 6 to 8 years, now we have the momentum to move forward, and I do not want to lose this momentum. This week we have talked about grief, pain and catastrophic personal loss. I can think of few environments where such loss is any greater. We need your best and most capable young priests. We need bright and young seminarians who can enter our student programs. While I am very thankful to all you who have supported this episcopacy, please continue to send us the excellent applicants. My second point is to let you know how much I appreciate your collaboration in receiving active duty military chaplains of other faith traditions through Title III, Canon 10 and enabling them to transition into the priesthood of this church. This is a crucial part of our recruiting effort. Currently we have 5 other-faith-tradition military chaplains in 5 different dioceses who are in some stage of transition into Holy Orders in The Episcopal Church. I recognize how difficult this can be for you and your Commissions on Ministry. I can and will assist you through this process. We know how the military system works and what is crucial for the soon to be priests to function in their operational environments. Call me and I will help you. You do not need to do this in isolation. Finally, very recently the Presiding Bishop received an email through the TEC web-site from the rather disgruntled spouse of a National Guard officer. Katharine passed the email on to me so I could contact the woman. To make a somewhat long story short, during her husband's second 14 month deployment to Southwest Asia she became very frustrated and hurt that she had become invisible to her parish priest as she struggled to be a working mom who was raising two small children on her own. After talking with her I got in touch with one of you, her priest's bishop, and we worked through the situation. What I found that what this young wife and mother wanted more than anything else was for someone to compassionately listen to her, both while her husband was away and after he had returned home; she did not need to be "FIXED," but to be heard. She wanted, as my former bishop Ted Gulick taught me, to carry her and her needs on my heart. In the end, this problem ended up being something we could work with and help. My take away is that some of the most invisible sacrifices in these long and tragic wars are being made by Reserve and National Guard service members and members of their families. Barry Bisner, who was for many years a National Guard chaplain, undoubtably can give you many examples of such situations. Unlike their active-duty counterparts, hometown Guard and Reserve people don't have the luxuries of being near large military installations with many family support resources. Please encourage your clergy to identify the Reserve and Guard families in their congregations and to monitor them. I know that it is important to remember that for these folk the war will not be over until long after the last round is fired and the last service member comes home. Many have experienced some horrendous sights and sounds, and have done some unthinkable things. The afterlife of their pain will endure for months and for years. Trust me, as a Vietnam veteran I know. In closing, more so than ever before I am fully aware that I can't do this without you. The work of Armed Services and Federal Ministries is a collaborative effort I do with your assistance and cooperation. Thank you for all you are doing to support the people you have asked me to serve.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

THE LAST DAYS OF ADVENT AND APPROACHING THE NATIVITY

I hope that you've all had a good Advent this year. Like many of you, my colleague Wally Jensen (my XO) tells me that Advent is his favorite season of the church year. If I've got it right, to Wally Advent is a season of penitential reflection without all the guilt of Lent. I get his point. Like Wally, this is one of my favorite seasons. I enjoy the emphasis upon disciplined reflection. One of my disciplines is to read The Anglican Theological Review. I'd be curious to know how many of you subscribe to (in paper or electronic form) the ATR. I find it to be a stimulating alternative to some of what we read that may be passed off as theological writing, when really it is a devotional exercise. Don't get me wrong. I know there is a place for devotional writings. I read them as well. However, I know myself well enough to realize that I need to do ongoing theological integrative work. In a recent issue (Spring 2011, V. 93, No. 2) I read an article by Jesse Zink about the work of Bishop Stephen Bayne who in 1959 was chosen to be the first Executive Officer of the Anglican Communion. One of his important tasks was to help the Anglican Communion confront their wistful legacy as somewhat ethnocentric missionaries from the west and to shift attention to very real mission challenges that confronted them. I have a couple of major take-aways from this well written article. The first is that Bishop Bayne was convinced that the Church exists for mission, and not the other way around. In other words, the church did not discover mission. Quite the contrary; because a mission oriented structure or organization was needed, the church was established. Look at the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul. Congregations grew up around the idea of living out the mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. The second take-away is that his words have been largely unheeded, at least until recently. Within the past decade or so it seems that everywhere I look people are talking about reclaiming the mission of the church as the primary reason for the church to exist. As I look at the writings of people who talk about the mission oriented and the emergent church (Brian McClaran, Phyllis Tickle, etc.) it is clear that this theme has a new life with a new urgency. Perhaps there has merely been a time lag between the utterances and taking Bishop Bayne's words to heart. I've often wondered if at times a visionary prophet can only be heard decades after uttering the prophesies. Perhaps we're being motivated to heed this all because we have reached the point of realizing that we are in the midst of a moment of crisis. The application of these mission oriented approaches to our federal ministry environments is at the very least a significant challenge. Yet, these challenges might well be easily met. For years it has been clear to me that in the federal entities in which you serve there is an ongoing challenge to be, in essence, missionaries. In the tradition of Bishop Jackson Kemper, first missionary bishop of The Episcopal Church (about whom I'll write on another occasion) and the Apostle Paul, your mission is to go to people and places our church and society have forgotten. You do this as members, at best, of the diaspora. Within the organizations where you serve you have little, if any, entitlement and you don't expect to be entitled. Unlike many of the chaplains with whom you work, you understand the dynamics of the Constitution's First Amendment and that you are not entitled to impose the Good News of Jesus on every person whom you meet; that you pray in Jesus' name when you are engaged in worship within the Christian worship community and OUTSIDE of the public square. Yet, you still know of and experience the passion to share and live out the essence of Christ's story with all the people whom you serve. In most of your federal ministry settings the body of Christ will never be formed in the same way it is formed in civilian congregations. So what differences are there between the ministry environments of civilian and federal cultures? I am aware that this week many of you are in the process of completing your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day sermons - as I am for a sermon I will preach on December 25th at Yongsan Garrison in Korea. How will your sermon differ from a sermon that you would preach to a congregation in your dioceses of canonical residence? What unique words and phrases do your people need to hear from you? How does your hermeneutic differ from one that would be applied within the diocesan congregation? I really would like to know, as would many of your colleagues. On this blog site it would be helpful and informative to read your comments and reflections. May the blessings of this Advent and the anticipation of the Nativity be with you. Bishop Jay

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bishop Magness' Sermon Nov. 13, 2011

Pentecost Season/A Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, TX (111113) A Sermon by the Rt. Rev. James B. Magness Isaiah 42:1-9 Luke 4:14-21 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me! “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind....” Each November around Veterans Day we engage in a pause as we remember the men and women who have served their country through being Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. These remembrances began almost a century ago with the creation of Armistice Day observances when World War I ended in Europe. Today we honor and remember persons who have worn a military uniform and who have served their country; who have blessed us by serving us. Often we describe their actions as patriotism, a term that engenders suspicion in the hearts and minds of some of our fellow Christians. At the root of their suspicion is a foundational concern – a concern of whether or not of people of faith in the risen Lord Jesus can be faithful believers and simultaneously serve their country in a military uniform. That thorny conundrum begs a question that probes even deeper into who we are and what we do as God’s people. * What makes a person of faith? * How are people of faith formed into the persons whom God wants them to be? * How should people of faith live out their lives? We have some clues to the question of formation in the reading from the Gospel of Luke about Jesus' formation. To unpack this question of formation I want to do a moment or two of Bible study with you. In the gospel of Luke there were three formative events in which Jesus was formed. Do you remember how, according to Luke, Jesus started his ministry? Think for a second. Yes, that's right; Jesus went down to the Jordan River to meet up with his cousin John and experienced John's primitive version water baptism. Everyone who saw what had happened knew full well that Jesus was, from that moment on, a marked man; Jesus was one with God his Father. How did they know that? Because when he was baptized the voice of God was heard to say, "You are my beloved Son..." At that moment the spirit of God DESCENDED UPON Jesus. Here Ends Jesus' Preparation Part I. Do you remember what happened next? Of course you do; Jesus went off on a 40 day wilderness fast and retreat when he was in mortal combat with Satan for his soul. Satan tempts Jesus to take an easier life path; one devoid of sacrifice and suffering. In response to each temptation Jesus kept his focus – a focus on the mission his Father had given Him. In the end the victorious Jesus was FULL of the Spirit. Here Ends Jesus' Preparation Part II. The next formative event is what we have in the reading we heard this evening. Jesus walks into the temple on the Sabbath, as the text tells us “…as was his custom ," to open a scroll of scripture to read about the power of God, his Father, to bless the poor, the captives and the blind. Considering where Jesus was, in the center of Jewish worship - the temple, and who Jesus was - the son of a common family, you'd have to be a bit crazy to go into the midst of such a potentially hostile crowd and say what Jesus said. Yet, through this act Jesus was filled with the POWER of the Spirit. Here Ends Jesus' Preparation Part III. You can see the linear progression. The Spirit descends upon Jesus. Jesus is full of the Spirit. Finally, Jesus is filled with the power of the spirit. And it is a good thing, because Jesus’ life is just about to get crazy. From this point on, both friend and foe alike, will never leave him alone. The power of the Spirit has filled Jesus because things are just about to get crazy and mission is about to happen.// In the 1940s there lived a man by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonheoffer was a German pastor, a theologian, and ultimately a martyr. During that time he was in prison because after a long dark fortnight of the soul, he decided that the ruthless and controlling German leader Adolph Hitler had to be assassinated; and Dietrich decided that he was the one who had to perform this act. However, Dietrich was apprehended and imprisoned before he was able to carry out the deed. While awaiting execution he was critical of the German Christian church. How, he wrote, could the Christian church in Germany allow a man such as Hitler to exist without challenge? In one of his letters from prison he wrote about what he described as “religionless Christianity.” His idea of Religionless Christianity is of a faith that is devoid of all of the outward appearances, trappings and structures of religion; but goes to the actual heart of what it means to be a Christian, especially a Christian servant. The true servant of the risen Lord is a person whose mission flows from the heart. The emerging connection is between servanthood and mission. Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us that there is a cost to being a servant engaged in mission - that through being a missional follower of Christ you could even be called upon to give up your life - for the sake of the lives of others. Over the years I've heard people say that true faith - true religion - is in the heart and can't be seen. Though I am not going to ask for a show of hands, I wonder how many of you believe in such a theory of the invisibility of faith and true religion. You see, I believe that the invisibility of our faith is a comfortable myth of which we've convinced ourselves. I believe that you have to be able to SEE faith in action if it is going to be real. • Faith is about reaching out to your neighbor / when reaching out to your neighbor may call for you to go through a public baptism. • Faith is about sacrificing for your neighbor / when there is an easier way that would be far less costly. • Faith is about responding to your neighbor's needs / when to respond to those needs will place you in a very hostile situation. It has occurred to me on more than just a few occasions that there are times and places in life when you have to be a little crazy, both as individual believers and groups of believers, to stand up and proclaim your faith in the risen Lord. However, the real "crazy" happens when the actions of your life bear witness to what you believe. This "crazy" is no less than "crazy like Jesus." When the power of the Lord's spirit is upon you, you are willing to walk into potentially hostile environments in the same way that Jesus walked into the temple. When you get crazy like Jesus, the scripture is being fulfilled in your life. As members of the body of Christ we are called to recognize that our world is marked by "... the reality of sin and the brokenness of the world... (God beckons us to follow) as the Spirit leads... (us) into the world to participate in God’s mission… (We know God’s mission is being accomplished when we hear the) creation itself, ‘…groan inwardly’ as all await release from the bondage of sin .” Our mission is to take the fullness of God – all God's creative and redemptive energy – to bear upon our world. We are the ambassadors and the emissaries whose work it is to bear witness – often without fanfare and in the midst of horrendous, compromising and complicated settings. Our calling is our mission to all God’s children as together we exercise the power of God – the same power Jesus came to know and use in the temple that day so long ago. The Episcopal priest/chaplains who represent you within the Armed Services are quite familiar with how and where our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen live out their lives. Your chaplains know that service members are men and women who have learned to embrace the values and virtues of honor, loyalty, courage, integrity and commitment. Your chaplains know that they embody these values in some very hostile environments that some of us can only grasp in the fantasy of our imagination. Yet for them it is no fantasy. It is real and is all tied up with mission – for our chaplains and for many others in uniform, who also are people of faith. * When a Soldier comes to one of my chaplains in a wounded warrior rehabilitation program at a sprawling Veterans Administration hospital and says, "Chaplain, I think I've lost my soul," I know it is about to get crazy, crazy like Jesus when mission starts to happen. * When a Navy explosive ordinance disposal officer sitting in an overseas USO passionately tells my wife the story of his inability to stop 4 suicide bombers from killing over 40 people in a packed Roman Catholic Church in Iraq, I know it is about to get crazy, crazy like Jesus when mission starts to happen. * When one of my chaplains is at the Dover Air Base Mortuary to meet the caskets of returning service members who had been killed in an aircraft crash in Afghanistan, and the wife of the pilot with two small children in tow comes up to him to ask where God was when her husband was killed, I know it is about to get crazy, crazy like Jesus when mission starts to happen. Such questions and statements bear witness to the incredibly difficult environment in which service members work and with which their families have to cope. Yet, also this is a witness to our call to Christian mission - into the midst of brokenness. Mission, after all, was what Dietrich Bonhoeffer was doing when he decided to end Hitler's life; he engaged in a dilemma wherein the greater good was deemed to require that he break one of the foundational understandings of people of God - that you do not kill. No one ever said that mission was safe, easy and devoid of sacrifice. Military people have a keen understanding of what it means to embark upon mission and the planning entailed to be successful. They know that to engage in a mission is to enage in sacrifice. Have you ever wondered how so many of the posthumus recipients of the Medal of Honor were able to sacrifice their lives? Though often we say that they did what they did for their country, which may be true, more so I am convinced that their heroic sacrifice was for the sake of their battle-mates whose needs they consiered to be more important than their own. This is the behavior that exemplifies the heart of Jesus - who gave his life that we might live. There is a certain craziness about having the heart of Jesus. You see, in our culture it is more than just a little countercultural to consider the needs of the other to be more important than your own - to break stride with the mantra, "enough about you, what about me." When you consider the needs of the other to be above your needs, you've opened the door to the possibliity of mission. The mission of gospel proclamation is about to happen, and it is about to get crazy like Jesus. The mission of Jesus is at the heart of a servant. It gets crazy when the rawness of a person's soul is laid open before you. Do you know what it feels like to be in front of a person who opens her soul up to you? Recently one of my priest/chaplains described a situation when a commander of troops in Bagdad took him to see the wreckage of an armored vehicle that had been destroyed by a roadside bomb, a bomb that killed two of his Soldiers. My chaplain told me about the commander's intense description of what it was like to be at the head of a convoy of vehicles and hear the explosion behind him; knowing full well what would come next. My chaplain told me how very small and weak he felt in the presence of the commander's powerful words. Then he said he knew that the power of the Holy Spirit was in their midst. The chaplain knew that his mission was to stand there and be a physical reminder to the presence of God. The mission at that moment involved very few words and lots of silence. That was the craziness of that moment when he learned the truth of Isaiah's proclamation: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind..." I am very proud that our franchise of the Christian church has a a serious mission to service members and veterans. Part of that mission involves a significant outpouring of pastoral care for people who hurt, but an even larger component of the mission is our calling to share the redemptive good news of God in Christ. We have this mission because we care about and for God’s children, ALL of God’s children. As I said earlier, November is the time of the year when we remember the sacrifice of our Veterans. These are men and women who have served and sacrificed for us - often for the sake of their faith. Many of these men and women felt compelled to address the dilemma between faith and military service. In the end, the men and women who chose to wear the uniform knew that for them the responsible action was to serve. The mission of our church, through your military chaplains, goes where our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen go. In time of war and in time of peace, we care for the service members who serve and have served us; service members who give and have given much; some gave all they had and, as vividly we are learning today, some gave even more than that. I will conclude with stanzas from Laurence Binyon's 1914 poetic remembrance, For the Fallen, ultimately used for the first Armistice Day. I offer this as a tribute to those who wore the uniform of their country, whose lives were given for us and whose sacrifice is known only to God: They went with songs to the battle, they were young. Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known As the stars are known to the Night; Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. May their souls and the souls of all the righteous rest in Christ. AMEN.

Bishop Magness' Sermon Nov. 13 2011

Pentecost Season/A Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, TX (111113) A Sermon by the Rt. Rev. James B. Magness Isaiah 42:1-9 Luke 4:14-21 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me! “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind....” Each November around Veterans Day we engage in a pause as we remember the men and women who have served their country through being Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. These remembrances began almost a century ago with the creation of Armistice Day observances when World War I ended in Europe. Today we honor and remember persons who have worn a military uniform and who have served their country; who have blessed us by serving us. Often we describe their actions as patriotism, a term that engenders suspicion in the hearts and minds of some of our fellow Christians. At the root of their suspicion is a foundational concern – a concern of whether or not of people of faith in the risen Lord Jesus can be faithful believers and simultaneously serve their country in a military uniform. That thorny conundrum begs a question that probes even deeper into who we are and what we do as God’s people. * What makes a person of faith? * How are people of faith formed into the persons whom God wants them to be? * How should people of faith live out their lives? We have some clues to the question of formation in the reading from the Gospel of Luke about Jesus' formation. To unpack this question of formation I want to do a moment or two of Bible study with you. In the gospel of Luke there were three formative events in which Jesus was formed. Do you remember how, according to Luke, Jesus started his ministry? Think for a second. Yes, that's right; Jesus went down to the Jordan River to meet up with his cousin John and experienced John's primitive version water baptism. Everyone who saw what had happened knew full well that Jesus was, from that moment on, a marked man; Jesus was one with God his Father. How did they know that? Because when he was baptized the voice of God was heard to say, "You are my beloved Son..." At that moment the spirit of God DESCENDED UPON Jesus. Here Ends Jesus' Preparation Part I. Do you remember what happened next? Of course you do; Jesus went off on a 40 day wilderness fast and retreat when he was in mortal combat with Satan for his soul. Satan tempts Jesus to take an easier life path; one devoid of sacrifice and suffering. In response to each temptation Jesus kept his focus – a focus on the mission his Father had given Him. In the end the victorious Jesus was FULL of the Spirit. Here Ends Jesus' Preparation Part II. The next formative event is what we have in the reading we heard this evening. Jesus walks into the temple on the Sabbath, as the text tells us “…as was his custom ," to open a scroll of scripture to read about the power of God, his Father, to bless the poor, the captives and the blind. Considering where Jesus was, in the center of Jewish worship - the temple, and who Jesus was - the son of a common family, you'd have to be a bit crazy to go into the midst of such a potentially hostile crowd and say what Jesus said. Yet, through this act Jesus was filled with the POWER of the Spirit. Here Ends Jesus' Preparation Part III. You can see the linear progression. The Spirit descends upon Jesus. Jesus is full of the Spirit. Finally, Jesus is filled with the power of the spirit. And it is a good thing, because Jesus’ life is just about to get crazy. From this point on, both friend and foe alike, will never leave him alone. The power of the Spirit has filled Jesus because things are just about to get crazy and mission is about to happen.// In the 1940s there lived a man by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonheoffer was a German pastor, a theologian, and ultimately a martyr. During that time he was in prison because after a long dark fortnight of the soul, he decided that the ruthless and controlling German leader Adolph Hitler had to be assassinated; and Dietrich decided that he was the one who had to perform this act. However, Dietrich was apprehended and imprisoned before he was able to carry out the deed. While awaiting execution he was critical of the German Christian church. How, he wrote, could the Christian church in Germany allow a man such as Hitler to exist without challenge? In one of his letters from prison he wrote about what he described as “religionless Christianity.” His idea of Religionless Christianity is of a faith that is devoid of all of the outward appearances, trappings and structures of religion; but goes to the actual heart of what it means to be a Christian, especially a Christian servant. The true servant of the risen Lord is a person whose mission flows from the heart. The emerging connection is between servanthood and mission. Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us that there is a cost to being a servant engaged in mission - that through being a missional follower of Christ you could even be called upon to give up your life - for the sake of the lives of others. Over the years I've heard people say that true faith - true religion - is in the heart and can't be seen. Though I am not going to ask for a show of hands, I wonder how many of you believe in such a theory of the invisibility of faith and true religion. You see, I believe that the invisibility of our faith is a comfortable myth of which we've convinced ourselves. I believe that you have to be able to SEE faith in action if it is going to be real. • Faith is about reaching out to your neighbor / when reaching out to your neighbor may call for you to go through a public baptism. • Faith is about sacrificing for your neighbor / when there is an easier way that would be far less costly. • Faith is about responding to your neighbor's needs / when to respond to those needs will place you in a very hostile situation. It has occurred to me on more than just a few occasions that there are times and places in life when you have to be a little crazy, both as individual believers and groups of believers, to stand up and proclaim your faith in the risen Lord. However, the real "crazy" happens when the actions of your life bear witness to what you believe. This "crazy" is no less than "crazy like Jesus." When the power of the Lord's spirit is upon you, you are willing to walk into potentially hostile environments in the same way that Jesus walked into the temple. When you get crazy like Jesus, the scripture is being fulfilled in your life. As members of the body of Christ we are called to recognize that our world is marked by "... the reality of sin and the brokenness of the world... (God beckons us to follow) as the Spirit leads... (us) into the world to participate in God’s mission… (We know God’s mission is being accomplished when we hear the) creation itself, ‘…groan inwardly’ as all await release from the bondage of sin .” Our mission is to take the fullness of God – all God's creative and redemptive energy – to bear upon our world. We are the ambassadors and the emissaries whose work it is to bear witness – often without fanfare and in the midst of horrendous, compromising and complicated settings. Our calling is our mission to all God’s children as together we exercise the power of God – the same power Jesus came to know and use in the temple that day so long ago. The Episcopal priest/chaplains who represent you within the Armed Services are quite familiar with how and where our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen live out their lives. Your chaplains know that service members are men and women who have learned to embrace the values and virtues of honor, loyalty, courage, integrity and commitment. Your chaplains know that they embody these values in some very hostile environments that some of us can only grasp in the fantasy of our imagination. Yet for them it is no fantasy. It is real and is all tied up with mission – for our chaplains and for many others in uniform, who also are people of faith. * When a Soldier comes to one of my chaplains in a wounded warrior rehabilitation program at a sprawling Veterans Administration hospital and says, "Chaplain, I think I've lost my soul," I know it is about to get crazy, crazy like Jesus when mission starts to happen. * When a Navy explosive ordinance disposal officer sitting in an overseas USO passionately tells my wife the story of his inability to stop 4 suicide bombers from killing over 40 people in a packed Roman Catholic Church in Iraq, I know it is about to get crazy, crazy like Jesus when mission starts to happen. * When one of my chaplains is at the Dover Air Base Mortuary to meet the caskets of returning service members who had been killed in an aircraft crash in Afghanistan, and the wife of the pilot with two small children in tow comes up to him to ask where God was when her husband was killed, I know it is about to get crazy, crazy like Jesus when mission starts to happen. Such questions and statements bear witness to the incredibly difficult environment in which service members work and with which their families have to cope. Yet, also this is a witness to our call to Christian mission - into the midst of brokenness. Mission, after all, was what Dietrich Bonhoeffer was doing when he decided to end Hitler's life; he engaged in a dilemma wherein the greater good was deemed to require that he break one of the foundational understandings of people of God - that you do not kill. No one ever said that mission was safe, easy and devoid of sacrifice. Military people have a keen understanding of what it means to embark upon mission and the planning entailed to be successful. They know that to engage in a mission is to enage in sacrifice. Have you ever wondered how so many of the posthumus recipients of the Medal of Honor were able to sacrifice their lives? Though often we say that they did what they did for their country, which may be true, more so I am convinced that their heroic sacrifice was for the sake of their battle-mates whose needs they consiered to be more important than their own. This is the behavior that exemplifies the heart of Jesus - who gave his life that we might live. There is a certain craziness about having the heart of Jesus. You see, in our culture it is more than just a little countercultural to consider the needs of the other to be more important than your own - to break stride with the mantra, "enough about you, what about me." When you consider the needs of the other to be above your needs, you've opened the door to the possibliity of mission. The mission of gospel proclamation is about to happen, and it is about to get crazy like Jesus. The mission of Jesus is at the heart of a servant. It gets crazy when the rawness of a person's soul is laid open before you. Do you know what it feels like to be in front of a person who opens her soul up to you? Recently one of my priest/chaplains described a situation when a commander of troops in Bagdad took him to see the wreckage of an armored vehicle that had been destroyed by a roadside bomb, a bomb that killed two of his Soldiers. My chaplain told me about the commander's intense description of what it was like to be at the head of a convoy of vehicles and hear the explosion behind him; knowing full well what would come next. My chaplain told me how very small and weak he felt in the presence of the commander's powerful words. Then he said he knew that the power of the Holy Spirit was in their midst. The chaplain knew that his mission was to stand there and be a physical reminder to the presence of God. The mission at that moment involved very few words and lots of silence. That was the craziness of that moment when he learned the truth of Isaiah's proclamation: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind..." I am very proud that our franchise of the Christian church has a a serious mission to service members and veterans. Part of that mission involves a significant outpouring of pastoral care for people who hurt, but an even larger component of the mission is our calling to share the redemptive good news of God in Christ. We have this mission because we care about and for God’s children, ALL of God’s children. As I said earlier, November is the time of the year when we remember the sacrifice of our Veterans. These are men and women who have served and sacrificed for us - often for the sake of their faith. Many of these men and women felt compelled to address the dilemma between faith and military service. In the end, the men and women who chose to wear the uniform knew that for them the responsible action was to serve. The mission of our church, through your military chaplains, goes where our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen go. In time of war and in time of peace, we care for the service members who serve and have served us; service members who give and have given much; some gave all they had and, as vividly we are learning today, some gave even more than that. I will conclude with stanzas from Laurence Binyon's 1914 poetic remembrance, For the Fallen, ultimately used for the first Armistice Day. I offer this as a tribute to those who wore the uniform of their country, whose lives were given for us and whose sacrifice is known only to God: They went with songs to the battle, they were young. Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known As the stars are known to the Night; Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. May their souls and the souls of all the righteous rest in Christ. AMEN.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bishop Magness' Veterans Day Article for The Huffington Post

Veterans: A New Era of Serving God and Country For many people of my generation who came of age through rites of passage in the 1960s, military service most often was looked upon as THE least preferred life choice. Even amongst those of us who joined the military service through our own choice - often to avoid the Selective Service which, we reasoned, surely would have resulted in Vietnam duty - it was fashionable, and at times expected, that we would let it be known to anyone who would listen that we detested military authority and wearing a uniform. Those of us who grew up with a religious dimension as a part of our lives knew that we would receive little if any support for our choice to serve from our faith communities. Within the communities of worship in America attitudes about military service were often angrily expressed. In fact, for those of us who were spiritually formed in the main-line religious traditions, the only support we could expect was if we had chosen to become conscientious objectors. Today the social and religious landscape of America is changing. While seeking the status of being a Conscientious Objector may be an honorable choice, there are other honorable choices as well. During that era I chose to be one of the draft-avoiders and joined the Navy. Though by that time I had a mostly dormant faith in God, even I knew that I need not expect much support from people in the pews - and perhaps not even from the clergy who led the congregations. For those and other reasons many of us today struggle to understand why young men and women, frequently people of faith, are so eager to line up at Armed Forces Recruiting Offices to join up, be administered the oath of office and take the roller coaster-like ride of basic training or boot camp. The Marine Corps, the military service with the highest expectations and most demanding standards, has so many requests to join that an applicant may have to wait 6 months or more to go to boot camp. Considering that we have just completed 10 years of a brutal and ongoing war, and that there is no requirement for compulsory military service, something is happening that most of us may have missed. My observation is that a new ethos is emerging about military service. Even though far less than one percent of our citizens of our country serve in any branch of the military, as a society we have become very connected with men and women in the military services. A significant part of this positive connectedness in no small part has come as a result of all the National Guard and Reserve members from our communities who serve alongside their active-duty counterparts. It is very possible today for a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman to be in Afghanistan one week and then the very next week be back at home working in the office and sitting beside you in the pew of your synagogue, church or mosque. I recognize that any war, by the very nature of what people who are engaged in armed conflict do to one another, will always be viewed through the lens of moral questions. Some of these questions will be faith based. It is always possible that military service will result in periods of being immersed in the moral tension of war. As a follower of Jesus Christ I hope we will never cease to view the actions of our military within the context of the scriptures and teachings of the church. Though the wars of the current era are no exception, our military leaders and actors impress me as having an incredibly high standard of moral and legal requirements that must be met before engaging in doing personal harm to our enemies. Accordingly, I think it is certainly very possible that people of faith can honorably serve in our country's Armed Services. Within my own Christian tradition I am reminded that Jesus viewed the service of others and self-sacrifice as one of the superior virtues (Matthew 23.11-12). To those of you who are in some way related to a service member, thanks for supporting your loved one in uniform. The life of a service member is not easy, nor is it easy for you to be connected to her or him. I hope that on Veterans Day this year, you will be able to suspend your fears and anxieties, even if only for the day, and simply be proud that you are related to a person who is serving her or his country, and who may be serving as an expression of faith

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Report on the House of Bishops Meeting

September 21, 2011 St. Matthew the Evangelist Dear colleagues and friends, As I write this I am aboard a flight from Miami returning to Washington, DC. Early this morning Carolyn and I left Quito, Ecuador where for the last seven days I've been attending the Fall House of Bishops meeting. The 9000+ feet altitude takes a little bit of getting used to. However, we found Quito to be a charming Latin American city. Perhaps the most impressive attribute of the city is the people who live there. We found them to be gracious in ways that far exceeded any of our expectations. There are many things I could tell you about our HOB meeting. Since I am aware that you can get the most of this information from the Episcopal News Service where Ms. Neva Rae Fox, our Public Affairs Officer has posted daily stories, I'll limit myself in this brief missive to a description of three particular things. Some of you may be wondering why in the world we decided to meet in Ecuador. Quite honestly, I found myself asking the same question. What I have come to realize, some of which I already knew, is that in going to Quito we never left the confines of The Episcopal Church (TEC). Quito is in Province IX of TEC and consists of these dioceses: Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Columbia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. On occasion I hear some of my colleagues refer to TEC as the "national church." Quite literally, because our church borders stretch far beyond the confines of the continental United States, it has been ages since TEC has been a "national church." If anything, we are we are an international communion of Anglican provinces and dioceses in the Americas, and not the "national church." One of the most significant benefits of being in Quito was to have an opportunity to be a witness to the mission of the Diocese of Ecuador Central. Last Saturday Carolyn and I, and many other bishops and spouses, boarded a bus early in the morning and took a day trip to the town of Tulcan on the Ecuadorian-Columbian border. While there we learned that for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the ongoing armed civil conflict in Columbia, the refugee population moving from Columbia to Ecuador is one of the largest in the world. On that Saturday the bishops and spouses gathered on the bridge that connects Ecuador to Columbia and engaged in prayers for the people who were literally leaving all they had, sometimes to include beloved family members, to escape the instability and violence of Columbia. Later in the day we spent time at the border Episcopal mission congregation people as they bore witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. The work of our Episcopal mission is to use word and deed to tell the refugees how important they are in the sight of God. My final observation has to do with a speech I made on your behalf to the entire HOB. I made a request to work with bishops diocesan when a chaplain from another Christian faith tradition wants to become an Episcopal priest and a chaplain of this church. Currently there at least five chaplains, in five different dioceses, who are engaged in discernment about becoming a priest of this church. I spoke to the bishops about our efforts to recruit women and men to become chaplains in each of the three federal entities of this episcopacy. I told my colleagues that in order to become a federal chaplain the applicant needs to be agile, flexible, healthy, smart and missionally committed. In other words, we are looking for the best of the best. Finally, I issued a request for invitations to the diocesan councils and conventions of TEC in order to bear witness to the excellent work you will do. It is greatly important to me that the people of our church know what you do for the women and men whom you serve. Upon leaving I had numerous invitations. Though I estimate that it will take four to five years to visit the majority of our dioceses, I am committed to making these visits for one very simple reason: my pride in who you are and what you do. Sisters and brothers, you are some of the hardest working and most dedicated front-line missionaries of this church working in the most difficult settings that anyone could ever imagine. Be faithful and know that I pray for all of you each day. +Jay