Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Good Friday Pastoral Meditation

To the Federal Ministries Episcopacy of
The Episcopal Church
April 22, 2011
The Rt. Rev. James B. Magness

As we hear the old story of our Lord’s death upon a cross, we are challenged to enter into the journey with Jesus that will enable us to experience the richness of a background story of contrasts, both in the 1st Century and in the 21st Century.

Good Friday is set in the middle of the Triduum Sacrum between Maundy Thursday and Easter. Good Friday is the anchor that gives substance to our faith. There is a seamless transition from the barrenness and impending sadness of Maundy Thursday to the desolation and depression of Good Friday. According to the late Richard John Neuhaus, Good Friday “…is the drama of love by which our every day is sustained by the events of the first century.”

Good Friday, in earlier times known as God’s Friday or as Good bye Friday, is the short season of a journey onto which we are all bid to go. The faithful journeyers are challenged to say good-bye to their Lord and enter into the mysteries of God’s gift for us in the cross. Yet, our human temptation is to either hang back in the subdued glories of Maundy Thursday or to race ahead to the festival glories of Easter. Tarry, pause and linger with the events and experiences of this second day.

Good Friday may best be understood as a pilgrim’s journey into which we allow ourselves to be drawn. In the journey the pilgrim has all the possibilities of coming face-to-face with the mystery and wonder of our Lord Jesus’ sacrifice.

A primary component of the journey is that of loss. What do Jesus’ death and the story of Good Friday have to do with me? How do these events relate to, if at all, our own struggle with life and death? The old and often forgotten proverb, “You never know what you have until you risk losing it,” is nowhere more true than with Jesus and his church on Good Friday. Not too many days ago my heart was intentionally stopped for nearly an hour during open heart surgery. Of course I was under the effects of general anesthesia and did know when or how this heart stoppage occurred. Yet, during my recovery my thoughts frequently have gone back to the thought that had my heart not been successfully re-started, my life, as I had known it for over 60 years, could have come to an end. On Good Friday we are challenged to know what the implications are for the loss of what we have in life.

In company with the idea of loss, the 1st Century Good Friday story is beset with contrasts: contrasts between those who had political power, money, and influence with those who did not. The contrasts of Good Friday are between those who have religious power and those who have authentic spiritual depth. The religious leaders, chief priests, scribes, and elders, are determined that their religious power will not be undermined. After a not-so-kosher Jewish trial under the cover of darkness that flouted Jewish law, through an execution fit for the most despicable persons of society, Jesus’ life, as he had known it, was brought to a violent end. Yet even then, many began to realize that something was different about this Jesus; that he was not just another revolutionary religious leader. Jesus, speaking out of the spiritual depth that grew out of His deep ties and connections with his heavenly father, merely exclaimed, “‘…Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’”

Jesus bears witness to a different measure of a person’s life. Jesus measures greatness not by power or influence, but by service and sacrifice. Jesus, you will remember, is the one who identified with the weakness of a child and with a poor woman who gives him a cold cup of water. These people are not, in our way of thinking powerful. As a matter of fact, they are vulnerable.

So, in the end who will win: the rich or the poor? the powerful or weak? the Christian, Jew, Muslim or Hindu? The Good Friday message calls the pilgrim on a journey to start with a new answer to the question. None of these actually can win. The striking irony of Good Friday is that through God’s willingness to sacrifice his Son for us, God’s love has won. Today LOVE WINS!

Friday, April 15, 2011


If you haven't yet registered for the Chaplains' Conference May 2-6 at the Roslyn Center in Richmond VA, there is one more week to do so. Please visit our webpage at www.episcopalchurch.org/federalministries or go to https://www.signup4.net/Public/ap.aspx?EID=FEDE26E. Please call the office if you have any questions or need assistance.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Military Family Appreciation Week: Serving Those Who Stand And Wait

Posted: 04/13/11 06:50 PM ET

The English poet, John Milton, in a poem entitled, "On His Blindness," says, "They also serve who only stand and wait." It is no stretch to think of the families of military service personnel standing, waiting, and serving. The service of military family members, their sacrifices and service on behalf of the nation however, is seldom seen and little acknowledged.

Having served a full military career as a U.S. Navy Chaplain, I have seen, served and cared for those who stand and wait for loved ones. I have seen spouses, children, parents, grand-parents, siblings and other family members standing on cold piers in the early morning hours to bid farewell to Sailors and Marines departing for a protracted deployment, and my own family has been among those waving teary-eyed goodbyes as our ship left port. The families of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen have all stood and waited while their service members did the hard work of defending the nation and protecting the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The stress and strain of the current operational tempo of our military service members has exacted a high cost from our military families. Multiple deployments into harm's way; regular cycles of changes in duty stations; and lack of outside employment opportunities have pushed military families to, and in some instances beyond, the breaking point.

The United States Army has created specific programs to deal with these stresses. Family Life Chaplains are given two years of study and 500 hours of counseling with families to train and equip them to help families deal constructively with the pressures of today's military life. Parenting skills, marriage enrichment and healthy family lifestyles are just some of the areas of emphasis provided under a $160 million program entitled, "Strong Bonds Program" sponsored by the Army Chief of Chaplains.

A current active duty military chaplain told me in a recent conversation, "There is nothing mysterious about caring for military families. All you have to do is love them." Another chaplain said, "Pastoral Care is not rocket science, but it is intentional." Military families are well cared for by military chaplains working side-by-side with health care professionals, social service experts, command sponsored Family Readiness Support Assistants and others.

The recently announced White House initiative, "Joining Forces," to honor military families and to provide much needed support in the areas of education, health, employment and business is a welcome expression of caring for military families and is being well received by them.

We would all do well to remember Milton's words as we think of our military families, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

This story is part of Military Families Week, an effort by HuffPost and AOL to put a spotlight on issues affecting America's families who serve. Find more at jobs.aol.com/militaryfamilies and aol.com.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Last Day to register for the Chaplains' Conference May 2-6 is this Friday by close of business. If you need more time, or if you need some travel assistance, please let the office know. Registration is at https://www.signup4.net/public/ap.aspx?EID=FEDE26E&OID=130.


Bishop Jay had successful open-heart surgery at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia to correct atrialfibrillation that resulted in chronic arrhythmia for the past three years. He was moved from the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit to a Coronary Step-Down Unit on Saturday afternoon and expects to be discharged this afternoon (Monday, April 11). His convalescence will continue at home for about 3 weeks.

Bishop Jay asked me to convey to all of you his thanks for the prayers and support of Carolyn and him during his surgery. Although Bishop Jay will convalesce at home for the next three weeks, Maggie and I will be in the office to continue the day-to-day work of the Office of Federal Ministries. Bishop Jay is looking forward to seeing all of you who will attend the Annual Federal Chaplains’ Conference at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia, May 2-6.

Wally Jensen

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bishop Jay Magness Scheduled for Heart Surgery

Please remember me in your prayers. Today, April 8, 2011, I will be having what is described as "minimally invasive open heart surgery" to correct a errant cardiac rhythm I have had for almost 5 years. The surgery, known as the "maze" procedure, will be performed at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute of Inova Fairfax Hospital, Fairfax, VA. My surgeon, Dr. Niv Ad, tells me that I should be in ICU for 24-36 hours and in the hospital for 3-5 days. I expect to recuperate at home for about 3 weeks. I might add that I am very eager to have this procedure performed in that all three of my cardiologists have spoken to me about the strong prospect for "getting my life back." Thanks.