Tuesday – February 21, 2018

Cotton-Patch-Gospel

Mark does not tell us what happened to Jesus in the wilderness, only that the angels waited on him. In the Cotton Patch Gospels, (the Gospels recast in Georgia in the 1950’s), an angel arrived bearing a chili cheese dog for Jesus.

Each of us is driven into our wilderness, there we are tempted & there we are waited on by angels. We will face adversity, find subtle temptations and run into angels along our way. What angel (messenger) will bring us consolation today?  Wait, watch & enjoy! Thanks be to God.

Meditation – Monday in Lent I

1200px-Temptations_of_Christ_(San_Marco)

Temptations in San Marco, Venice

February 19, 2018

Mark does not tell us what happened to Jesus in the wilderness, only that he was tempted by Satan, not how the evil one did it. Temptations are tailor made for us. Perhaps an inventory of temptation and weak points is order. What are they (there is always more than one)? Foretold is forearmed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside heaven is a can with a sign – discard all tickets here

stough-rt-rev-furmanThe Late Bill Stough, Eighth Bishop of Alabama, used to say that outside the gates of Heaven there are huge trash cans with big signs beside them saying “DISCARD ALL TICKETS HERE!” Because you can’t get into heaven with a ticket. There are no tickets good enough to get us in. That’s not how you get in. In fact those tickets which we have spent our lives getting punched WILL KEEP US OUT IF WE INSIST ON PALMING THEM EARN OUR WAY IN! The tickets we have spent our very lives trying to get are as useless as lottery tickets the day after the winning ticket is drawn.

Of course,  all humanity has won the lottery of God’s love. It’s rigged that way.  All one need do it accept the gift of the already.  I appreciate God’s folk who have given me taken my had, inviting me into the Household of God.  Men like, Bill, who loitered by the door of the Kingdom to invite the unexpected wanderers into God’s house.  He ordained me over 36 years ago setting me onto the way of a servant of God’s people.  Having come to the end of that 2nd Act, I press on the ACT3!

JWS+

theotokos

The Theotokos (God Bearer)

“A person, whether human or divine, cannot be known — as a person rather than an image except by immediate presence.  If we want to project an image, either of Christians or the Church, we can do that by means of television, magazines, books, billboards, movies, bumper stickers, buttons, records, and posters.  If we want people to know Christ, we must be there face-to-face, bearing Christ within us.” 

Virginia Owens – “The Total Image or Selling Jesus in the Modern Age”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quote

The symbols of the sacraments no longer simply point to something: they also enable us to participate in it.

David Brown & David Fuller, Signs of Grace: Sacraments in Poetry and Prose, [1x]

Christ Trumps Everything!

leafing corss

At present I cannot ascertain where the following analogy entered my collection of such. I’ll continue to look for the source.  I’ve come to believe that this principle, this reality is the root of all genuine faith.  If we are in Christ and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ then nothing, no nothing must separate us from each other.  Christ trumps everything.

“An analogy can be helpful here: Imagine a woman, whom we shall call Betsy, who has a heart the size of the Grand Canyon.  She is gracious, loving, devoid of prejudice, and with an understanding and empathy wide enough to encompass everything and everybody.  Because she is so loving, she has a very wide variety of friends and one night she decides to have a party and invite them all. She rents a hall to hold everyone.  And her guests begin to arrive. Men, women, and children show up, of every description, ideology, background, temperament, taste, social standing, and religion.  A curious mixture of persons fills the hall. Liberal and conservative, fundamentalists and feminists, Promise Keepers and New Agers, priests and anti-clerics, union presidents and bankers, animal rights activists and persons involved in the seal hunt, meat-eaters and militant vegetarians mingles with each other.  Present is president of the local pro-life association, but the president of pro-choice is also there. Ian Paisley is there, as is the leader of the Irish Republican Army.  Alt-right and Al-left are there keeping one eye Betsey and one on each other.

Given the mix, there is a fair amount of tension, but because Betsy is there, because she is the center of the room, and because they respect who she is and what she stands for and is enough engulfed in a certain spirit of tolerance, respect, decency, and charity to stretch them beyond how they would normally feel, think, and act.

As you can imagine, such a gathering would work only while Betsy was actually present. Should she have to excuse herself and leave, or should persons get preoccupied in ways that would make them forget the real reason why they were there, you would soon enough get a combination of fireworks and dissipation that would empty the room.  This particular mix of persons can be brought together and kept together only around one person, Betsy.  Everything depends upon her presence and upon those present having her wide empathy whole they are in that presence, that is, upon being in her spirit.” [Pp. 119-120]

  Of course the point is that the apostolic community is built around the person of Jesus, the Christ, and nothing else. Outside of a focus on his person and happens in us and between us when we sense his presence, we get into terrible conflict and play sick and destructive games.

SOULWorks 6

SOULWorks Healing Service

To be church is to celebrate the word of Christ and the Eucharist.  This is more than just going to church on Sunday. To build our life around Jesus means that there has to be real sharing of life together, namely that we pray together; that we celebrate some of our everyday joys, fears, and feasts together; that we are responsible to each other and open to each other as regards mutual correction and challenge; that we are responsible together for the ministry of the church; that we have some common sharing of finances (even if this means only that we contribute to the support of the local congregation and its work.)

ACT3? What is ACT3?

1049 Chresthaven street view

ACT3, 1049 Cresthaven Road, Memphis, Tennessee ACT3Memphis@gmail.com

Two Octobers ago I was in Washington DC at a conference honoring, my teacher, the late Rabbi Edwin Friedman my teacher. As I sat there and the voice in my head I have known for 47 years said, “John, Today begins the Third Act of your life.” Nothing more. For a year I pondered, finally realizing that my work here was the end of ACT2. Last Wednesday I stepped down from my job as Rector. I did not step down from my work: The Cure of Souls. Stephanie Brown and I with the help of many are founding a new Non-profit, called  ACT3, Cresthaven Road 38119.

Sant Vincent of Lerins

Universality – Antiquity – Consensus

What is ACT3?  I begin with a confession of belief.  My deepest held value is faith in Jesus the Christ.  Having spent four decades moving through the various permutations, polities, styles and whatever of God’s church,  I today affirm my adherence to the Counsel  of Saint Vincent of Lirens when he said, “That a Christian should believe in what all Christians, at all times and in all places have agreed upon.”

I close this act with a thankful heart and a sign of relief.   Increasingly, I understand the hopefulness that my late spiritual father, Bishop Furman Stough longed when he often said with the twinkle in his eye, “I am grateful there will be no church in heaven.” Amen, preach it brother.  I end ACT2 with gratitude for those who have helped me along in the faith and a sigh relief that I managed to get through 36 years oversleeping only once on Sunday.

ACT2 was largely formed by teaching and thinking of  Dr. Murray Bowen, founder of the Georgetown Family Center in Washington DC, and the natural systems theory that bears his name.  I studied at the feet of Rabbi Edwin Freidman, the second most important rabbi in Christian History, at least for Anglicans.  Marilyn and I were sent to hear Ed lecture, as we prepared to marry over 31 years ago.

Through the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Ether and The Good Ole Boy & Girl club we call Episcopal Church, I began to make my way to Bethesda and under the influence the most brilliant mind I personally have ever met.

By way of analogy Edwin Friedman was Mark to Murray Bowen’s Peter. Neither of them was the savior, but they knew his message in and out.  The theory that bears Dr. Bowen’s name is also called Family Systems Theory.

Murray said, “A self is only possible in the presence of other protoplasm.”  Therefore self is relational not solitary. All living things have a strong impulse to join, herd, tribe.  At the same time there is an impulse to be and I.  The tension between The We and I. pulling and pushing, Bowen defined as “chronic anxiety.”

Failure of Nerve

When anxiety is low most people muddle through.  As anxiety rises soon the maturity or lack thereof began to sabotage functioning. High chronic anxiety marked by extreme polarization of our country is sobering evidence of the dangers of immaturity.  If this thinking interests you read Ed’s book, Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix.  If you want to talk about it,  shoot me a line.

I want to spend the balance of my working life, coaching, teaching and focusing on issues of systems from a Bowen perspective.

John Sewell

 

Are We Awake Yet?

I and the Not I  A Study in the Development of Conscious   – M. Esther Harding

Biologists, who in attempting to discover the nature of consciousness in animals, found themselves obliged to recognize that each creature sees only what concerns himself; everything else he seems to be blind.

frog

 This reminds me of the saying, “A Frog can only see what he can eat.”

Human beings, having an animal and spiritual nature, given circumstance can descend to the level of a frog, who can only see what he can eat or by the spark of the divine rise to the occasion, limiting themselves for the sake of others.  JWS

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 24, 2017

the-annunciation-by-henry-ossawa-tanner-philadelphia-1898

 

With the arrival of Mary Sunday we have reached the third trimester of Advent. We began Advent looking to the Second Coming of our Lord.  On the two middle Sundays we heard the words of John the Baptizer proclaiming the coming Messiah.  Last week we heard John say that he must decrease that the Messiah may increase.  Today we hear again the story of the Annunciation.  It is the story that is read on March 25 at the Feast of the Annunciation, which liturgically is set nine months to the day from Christmas.  It happened like this.

In the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptizer, The archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Galilee to visit Mary, the fiancée of Joseph.  Tradition has it that Mary was at the well drawing water when he (Gabriel) first appeared to her.  She was so disturbed by his appearance that, abandoning her water jar, she went home.   Later he appeared to here again.  Most artists have depicted her in her home reading.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Ave, Hail, or as we would say, Hello.” Greetings favored one!  The Lord is with you.”

She is troubled by his words and pondered what this might mean.  Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Let me say a few things about this passage.

  1. Angels are sometimes called God’s thoughts. They are everywhere but easy to overlook.  One must be sensitive to the greetings of angels. Tradition praises Mary as a model for dealing with angels, for her readiness to acknowledge the angel’s greeting, and of course for her willingness to embrace the fate announced by the angel.  Paintings show her in a contemplative mood, in her room, reading.  It would seem to take a degree of expectancy and intellectual preparedness to glimpse the angel when he appears.
  2. Mary is a model for dealing with angels because of her humility. “Humility is an important virtue of psychological life that allows things to happen, allows a world to exist beyond the one we know and understand. It is one of the most important psychological attitudes, required if we are to return to a life graced by angels.”  [Thomas Moore, The Angels]
  3. Word: St Bernard of Clairvaux speaks to the importance of words: “For God, word is the same as deed.  For God alone it is the same thing to do as to say.”  In Annunciation word is efficacious.
  4. “Overshadowed” This is a word full of Old Testament imagery. “The Spirit that comes upon Mary is closer to the Spirit of God that hovered over the waters before creation in Genesis 1:2.  The earth was void and without form when that Spirit appeared; just so Mary’s womb was a void until through the Spirit God filled with it with a child; but since Mary is a virgin who has not yet lived with her husband, there is no yearning for or human expectation of a child — it is the surprise of creation.  No longer are we dealing with human request and God’s generous fulfillment; this is God’s initiative going beyond anything man or woman has dreamed of.”  p. 314 Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah

The angel comes with a new idea.  Someone has said that God’s favorite practical joke in the Old Testament is old women getting pregnant.  Elizabeth, now pregnant with John the Baptizer, is the latest in a long line of Matriarchs, beginning with Sarah, who give birth after such conceiving should be impossible.

In western art we often see Mary wearing a red dress under a blue cloak.  The red symbolizes earth/humanity overshadowed symbolically by the blue of heaven/divinity.  Here God is doing a new thing.

 In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, The White Queen advises Alice to practice believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast.

Here God is doing an impossible new thing before breakfast.

What is that to us, we ask?

In his essay in the anthology, The Angels, [edited by Robert Sardello] Thomas Moore writes, “Annunciations happen every day in the plainest circumstances.  Religious festivals like the Annunciation always call to mind eternal happenings, forms and images that give structure and value to every life.  The Angel and the Virgin are always engaging in dialogue: the angel announcing some impossibility, the virgin taken aback, questioning, agreeing.  In this particular event the soul – virginal, patient, expectant, prepared, receptive, modest – begins to carry new life and personality, a child, as the paintings often show, miraculously fully formed from conception.  (Every time we use the word “concept,” an annunciation, probably hidden and forgotten, lies in its history.)

Here in the third trimester of Advent the angel announces the conception — pregnant moment of new life.

  • Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Poustinia “Wherever you go you must be pregnant with Christ. When a woman is with child, people recognize the life that is within her . . .. She is a witness to life.  She carries life around with her.”
  • Advent is about slowing down.
  • Advent is about watching
  • Advent is about waiting
  • Advent is about taking a wheel off
  • Advent is about decreasing, making room
  • Advent is about listening to the hello of the angel.
  • Advent is about accepting the new life announced by the angel
  • Advent is about preparing for new life.

As St. Basil the Great once said, “Annunciations are frequent; incarnations rare.”   Let us with Mary listen to the hellos of angels. For an angelic hello is a sign of grace now and always, that the Word will be born in us as well.

Amen.