27 October 2009

Louie Crew to Visit Columbus in Two-Day Affair

Trinity, Capitol Square Hosts Episcopal Church Champion for Justice and Inclusion of All

Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1 (All Saints’ Day)

Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, welcomes Louie Crew, a founder of Integrity USA the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group of The Episcopal Church, and longtime General Convention Lay Deputy from the Diocese of Newark (NJ). Louie is excited to return to Trinity, having worshipped with the congregation during the 2006 General Convention, and among the 1,200 people gathered for the Integrity liturgy that Trinity hosted. A Saturday morning event entitled “Singing Songs of the Saints of God: Discipleship, Justice, and Joy,” will allow us to meet and talk with Louie Crew about several important matters concerning The Episcopal Church and our common witness. The sessions begin at 9:30 a.m. in Trinity’s undercroft (3rd and Broad Streets in downtown Columbus), and will conclude with noonday prayer in the chapel.

Dr. Crew will also preach on All Saints’ Sunday, November 1st, at a Celebration of Holy Baptism and Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. A brunch and further conversation with our guest will follow. All are welcome at the Saturday morning gathering, Sunday worship, and the brunch following on Sunday.

A “Meet and Greet” Reception will be held at 6:30-7:30 PM on October 31, 2009 at The Burgundy Room (641 North High Street) with cash bar and light hors d’oeuvres sponsored by IntegrityUSA and Province V Coordinator, The Rev deniray mueller. Anyone is welcome to can stay for dinner at their own expense. Additional information about the reception can be obtained by calling The Rev deniray mueller at 668-6036 or email at deniray@deniray.com.

06 July 2009

Last Gasp Futility or Keeping Hope Alive for Ohio Biennial Budget

HungerNetOhio #6.9:Last Gasp Futility or Keeping Hope Alive

Email conversations about "ending hunger in Ohio through changing conditions which cause poverty"ON July 6, 2009

TO Advocates for reducing hunger

FROM Hunger Network in Ohio

ABOUT Extended Legislative Leverage

Baffled about what's going on at the Statehouse these days? You're not alone. Maybe a football analogy will help clear up some confusion. In a seldom used play for passing a biennial budget as time ran out at the end of the fiscal year last Tuesday, both teams punted. Legislators, unable to agree on the Governor's last minute gamble, requested an extension to what has become both a partisan and philosophical contest over the next two years of critical public services in Ohio. The governor yielded ground, agreeing to an extra quarter in the form of a one week grace period for completing the gamesmanship-if not the game--by next Tuesday. Quickly queasy about whether they had given themselves enough time, the House has pressed for another week, ending on July 14th. But who knows how long will be required and what will be the final score?

The main contention is about how, with a projected deficit of $3.2 Billion, to balance the budget (which is constitutionally mandated, although ways around strict compliance are being contemplated). How much and what programs will be cut AND/OR what and how much revenues added?

The Governor seemed to be confidence, with seconds on the clock, he had kicked a winning field goal by offered his approach for scaling back $2.3 of the gap by decimating services to huge and vulnerable populations of Ohioans. He then filled in the remaining gaping whole with $933 million in new money from an unlikely, contradictory (with his previous pronouncements), and thoroughly arguable source--video slot machines at race tracks.

So after this past holiday weekend of celebrating the wonders of democracy, many Ohioans will be at risk of being denied the assurance of human justice. At stake--and in the hands of public official--is the threat of depriving life's essentials to the neediest. These include food (funding for pantries) and health care (physical and mental medical coverage). Additionally, gutting county Jobs and Family services could occur as exponential unemployment claims and drastic reductions for schools, including special education, and libraries. Further shaving these and countless other pivotal services would deny necessities, especially to persons in poverty. Perhaps not experiencing "sudden death," many will be gradually (and severely) injured by these actions and inactions.

Two pivotal legislative committees meeting this week will likely shape the ultimate course the State will choose. One in the Senate will ruminate over the notion of gambling as a revenue source and the other, the House Finance Committee, will weigh how to cut almost a billion dollars deeper in case the Senate rejects the Governor's proposal.

We've no guarantees for changing the outcome, only stated willingness of all three governmental entities, with additional public scrutiny and input, to re-negotiate.

SHORT CUT:For those who insist, "JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO!"







For those who plead, "GIVE ME MORE DETAILS"

We abbreviate and blend here thoughts from Jon Honeck, a fellow in public policy at the Center for Community Solutions in Cleveland, who covered the field succinctly at the end of the week (see “Time for straight talk on the state budget”)

Ohio legislators are faced with one of the most difficult state budget problems in memory as revenues fall but the need for government services grows while more Ohioans lose their jobs and ability to meet basic needs. In response, we are following a pattern of previous decisions to make deep cuts in state taxes regardless of the need for public services.

State leaders have in previous recessions cut spending first, and then found ways to raise revenue. Each of the past five agreed to some kind of tax increase when the cuts simply could not continue.

The real story for House Bill 1, the state budget bill for the next two years, is that the governor and legislative leaders are using massive cuts and short-term budget gimmicks to address the vast majority of the revenue shortfall. This allows Government to shirk its responsibilities but postpone hard choices for another year or two.

In the worst recession in a generation, the state will cut support for low-income disabled adults, protective services for the elderly and children, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, child care for low-income workers, and need-based financial aid for college students. These cuts will be magnified by the loss of federal matching grants which become penny-wise and pound-foolish moves.

The real long-term issue is that Ohio will be faced with another huge budget gap when federal stimulus aid expires in 2011.

A major contributor to today's budget crunch is a tax overhaul costing the state treasury well over $2 billion each year in badly needed revenue.

Discussions about taxes create hand-wringing about where Ohio's tax levels stand in relation to those of other states. The reality is, we're about average.

The most obvious option is to start plugging tax loopholes. Thus far, legislators have not closed a single loophole in the budget bill but instead have added new ones. Given the size of the budget hole, some of the cuts to the state income tax and to business taxes should be reverse.

Instead of passing seven-day continuation budgets, it's time for state leaders to admit that it's time for a balanced approach to Ohio's budget problem. It should not be solved through cuts for services to children, the elderly, disabled individuals and the unemployed, but through shared sacrifice.

Wonder what to say or how to say it? Contact Hunger Network in Ohio (below) today for help with your presentation and/or arrange to join us on Tuesday at noon before the 2:00 House Finance Committee hearing.Connections with Public Officials

The Honorable Bill Harris, President; 614-466-8086

The Honorable Tom Niehaus, President Pro Tempore;

The Honorable Capri Cafaro, Minority Leader; 614-466-7182

The Honorable Shirley Smith, Assistant Minority Leader; 614-466-4857

The Honorable John Carey, H.B. 1 Conferee; 614-466-8156

The Honorable Dale Miller, H.B. 1 Conferee; 614-466-5123

The Honorable Mark Wagoner, H.B. 1 Conferee; 614-466-8060

The Honorable Armond Budish, Speaker of the House; 614-466-5441

The Honorable Matt Szollosi, Speaker Pro Tempore; 614-466-1418

The Honorable William Batchhelder, Minority Leader; 614-466-8140

The Honorable Louis Blessing, Assistant Minority Leader; 614-466-9091

The Honorable Vernon Sykes, H.B. 1 Conferee; 614-466-3100

The Honorable Ron Amstutz, H.B. Conferee; 614-466-1474

The Honorable Jay Goyal; H.B. Conferee; 614-466-5802

Representative John Adams:
district78@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1507
Representative Amstutz: district03@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1474
Representative Batchelder: district69@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8140
Representative Blessing, Jr.: district29@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-9091
Representative Bolon: district01@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8022
Representative Boyd: district09@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-5079
Representative Brown: district48@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1401
House Speaker Budish: district08@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-3246
Representative Burke: district83@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8147
Representative Carney: district22@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-2473
Representative Celeste: district24@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-6005
Representative Chandler: district68@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-2004
Representative Dolan: district98@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-5088
Representative Driehaus: district31@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-5786
Representative Dyer: district43@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1790
Representative Evans: district87@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1366
Representative Fende: district62@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-7251
Representative Gardner: district06@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8104
Representative Garrison: district93@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-8728
Representative Goodwin: district74@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-5091
Representative Goyal: district73@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-5802
Representative: Grossman: district23@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-9690
Representative Hall: district97@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-2994
Representative Heard: district26@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8010
Representative Jordan: district02@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-6711
Representative Luckie: district39@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1607
Representative Maag; district35@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-6023
Representative McClain: district82@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-6265
Representative McGregor: district72@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-2038
Representative Mecklenborg: district30@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8258
Representative Morgan: district36@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-8051
Representative Sayre: district96@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8035
Vice Chair Rep Sears: district46@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1731
Representative Skindell: district13@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-5921
Representative Slesnick: district52@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-8030
Chair Rep Sykes: district44@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-3100
Representative Szollosi: district49@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1418
Representative Ujvagi: district47@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 644-6017
Representative Yates: district33@ohr.state.oh.us; (614) 466-1308

You're own Ohio house of representative member: (http://www.house.state.oh.us/) or senator (http://www.senate.state.oh.us/)
Governor Strictland (http://www.governor.ohio.gov/Assistance/ContacttheGovernor/tabid/150/Default.aspx)ArticlesTime for straight talk on the state budget (Jon Honeck)http://www.ohio.com/editorial/commentary/49669772.html
Our View: Time to rethink the proposed budgethttp://www.wnewsj.com/main.asp?SectionID=42&SubSectionID=201&ArticleID=177926&TM=51162.35
Poorest aren't getting enough aidhttp://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/12467827584880.xml&coll=2Ready for examination: At the Statehouse, they emphasize spending cuts. Why, then, the reluctance to look closely at 'tax expenditures'?http://www.ohio.com/editorial/opinions/49962777.html
Will Ohio burn as its leaders fiddle?http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/politics/hershey-will-ohio-burn-as-its-leaders-fiddle-190367.html
No room for error if plan backfires, critics sayhttp://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/07/05/redflags.ART_ART_07-05-09_A1_K7ECMOO.html?sid=101
Wonder how Ohio got into this mess? Here's how: A record number are on food stamps and tax revenues have plummetedhttp://www.daytondailynews.com/news/politics/wonder-how-ohio-got-into-this-mess-heres-how-190276.html
Massive cuts weigh on governorhttp://www.dispatch.com/live/content/editorials/stories/2009/07/05/halcol05.ART_ART_07-05-09_G5_5REC6FO.html?sid=101
Budget cuts make job tough for Ohio governorhttp://www.daytondailynews.com/news/politics/budget-cuts-make-job-tough-for-ohio-governor-190296.html
State legislators will determine how much Ohio cares about its elderlyhttp://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090704/COLUMNIST24/907040305
Would money from slot machines all go to Ohio schools?http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2009/07/would_money_from_slot_machines.html
Latest plan would slash total funding to schools: Many districts to lose 1% first year, 2% nexthttp://www.ohio.com/news/49962832.html

***Previous issues of HungerNetOhio, including an introduction to this Email Network, are available along with background information on the issues discussed.If you know of other persons who might be interested in receiving these emailings, please provide them with our email address and encourage them to contact us directly.If you prefer not to be included on this email list, simply press"Reply" and tell us to remove your name.

Thank you.
Bob Erickson,
DirectorHunger Network in Ohio
82 East 16th AvenueColumbus, Ohio 43201
614.424.6203 (Phone)
www.hungernetohio.org (Website)
HungerNetOhio@aol.com (email)

05 March 2008

The Bishop's Daughter

There has been much to-do about the release of the biography of The Rt Rev Paul Moore by his daughter, Honor. And in fact, its revelations do present a conundrum of issues.

Having come out over forty years ago (in the pre-Stonewall, Mattachine era as Jim Guthrie reminded me), I can emphatize with the bishop's reticence to 'come out'. And let's face it -- had he come out, the world would have destroyed him. . . no question about it.

And we all know that even today there are several 'closeted' bishops. We all know who they are but respect their need to stay hidden.

Would the church be better off if they would come out of the closet? Would there be less pressure on Gene Robinson if they would publicly stand with him, rather than giving him a 'wink-wink-nod-nod'? Would those who nail Gene on the cross feel differently if it was their bishop, or dean, or priest?

Does all the great work that Paul did make up for the damage he did to those who were the closest to him by living in an 'open secret'? I have my own opinion on that, but I did not walk in his shoes.

With the persmission of The Rev Elizabeth Kaeton, I am including her column Telling Secrets. She more elequantly says what many of us in the LGBTQ community feel. Blessings to her for letting me share this.

The Bishop's Daughter: Telling Secrets with Honor

Honor Moore, the daughter of Bishop Paul Moore, Jr., has written a book in which she struggles to make sense of her life and her father's legacy. The book is due out in May, but there is an excerpt of the book's Prologue in the March 3rd issue of The New Yorker. You can find it here.

You can pre-order the book here.

There is also a poignant, powerful, wonderful interview with Honor Moore here on New Yorker Online in which she talks about the 'open secret' of her father's sexuality as she struggles to make sense of her own sexual journey.

There will be rending of garments and much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth on both sides of the aisle about this book and her revelation.

Some will cry that many LGBT people could have been helped and the church's journey to greater social justice advanced years sooner "if only he had told the truth."

Others will cry that the church and his legacy is soiled by this truth that should have remained secret - that nothing good can come of any of this.

There will be those who will laugh and scorn the Body of Christ in its incarnation as The Episcopal Church and say this is but one more piece of evidence of its 'internal decay' which provides them with one more reason to leave 'this apostate church.'Still others will say, "I told you so!" and smirk, "See, Gene Robinson is not the first gay bishop. He's the first honestly gay bishop."

Is it dishonest not to answer a question if it is never openly asked? Is it a lie to keep a secret when no one has asked you to tell the truth, or when someone assumes the truth about you?

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. The time wasn't right for Paul Moore. The time is right - and, behold has now come - for Gene Robinson. And, me. And, you.

Then, it wasn't. Now it is. But, only you can determine that for yourself. It is still a very dangerous thing to do - depending on where you live and who you tell and the nature of your personal or vocational aspirations. No one can come out for you. You have to do that work yourself.

Now is the time for the part of Paul Moore that had to remain secret to be told. Now is the time for Gene Robinson to tell the truth of his own story. The time for the healing of the secret shame of Paul Moore has come. The time for the end of the shame of what it means to be created an LGBT person has come.

My grandmother used to always say, "Live your life as if everyone will know every detail because, eventually, everyone will." I found some solace in that statement in the darkest hours of my own journey, when I cried out and none but Jesus heard me, and none but God and my beloved loved me.

Honor Moore has lived up to the name given to her by her parents. There is much honor - and much to honor - here in the story of this bishop's daughter. She brings honor to her father, to the church he loved and served, to the God who wonderfully made and even more wonderfully restored his and the full humanity of all LGBT people and, ultimately to herself.

Of this I am quite certain: there is great rejoicing in heaven. All the choirs of angels and archangels are singing. For, as Jesus himself told us, what is bound on earth is bound in heaven and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven.

I'm willing to bet that even Paul himself is smiling. The man who was always 'larger than life' finally is.

18 February 2008

Who Me??????

This sermon was delivered at the Procter Conference Center, Diocese of Southern Ohio, as part of my ordination exams on 6 January 2008

Based on Matthew 9:35-10:8

O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my mouth and in the thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.

Today’s scripture can be called ‘The Great Commissioning’. From Matthew 10, we heard the following:

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out.

Jesus had been traveling through the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, healing with compassion and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. He was healing with compassion people he saw as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

He knew there was much work to be done than He could accomplish by himself – that He would need help. So he began to select his apostles.

The world ‘apostle’ in Greek may be translated as ‘sent ones’. These apostles he selected followed Him, watched him preach and teach, heard his parables and became prepared to help Jesus with his work – sort of a ‘disciple school’. (They were now prepared to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leapers and cast out demons. More importantly they were to proclaim the good news, just as Jesus had done.)

It is important to notice that Jesus called all sorts of people – you don’t have to be pure as the driven snow. Saint Matthew was a tax collector, one of the most hated people of the times. But Jesus went right into his office, grabbed him by the collar and called him to be an apostle. Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were common fisherman, probably with little or no education. And Simon the Zealot, an assassin, was one of those people that nobody wanted to meet in a dark alley.

None of these men were born leaders, highly schooled, well-positioned in the church. And although Matthew does not tell us this, we also know from other scriptures that Jesus called women to be disciples. None of his followers had training to heal or preach before they met Jesus; none would be considered persons worthy of martyrdom. But they dropped their nets, left their jobs and families and followed Jesus as apostles. What a motley crew they were. I am sure that they didn’t even get along with each other; there was all kind of jockeying to be Jesus’ favorite.

But, as C. S. Lewis once said,

“Dogs and cats should always be brought together – it broadens their minds so”.

The apostles were told to gather the ‘lost sheep’ into the fold. Sheep without a shepherd are a foolish lot; they will wander off and not be able to find their way home. There is absolutely nothing more pitiful than a group of sheep with no one to lead them. Jesus commissions the apostles to bring these sheep back to the fold. Jesus clearly gave them the power to do so. In Matthew 10:19-20 Jesus told them:

“do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time”

This unusual and diverse group of people clearly gained through His example and teaching and power, the skills to do the work Jesus commissioned them to do.

It seems Jesus purposely called people from all walks of life to follow and serve Him. Jesus could see the possibilities that people found disgusting or repugnant. But He sees into the heart and knows their worth.

Christ wants all to be saved, to be a part of the Kingdom of God. So He sends apostles, prophets, evangelists, priests, deacons and teachers to go and preach the gospel of salvation.

And YES, he even sends YOU!!!!

Each and every one of us is called to be disciples for Christ. The word disciple comes from the Greek word meaning ‘learner’. We are called to be disciples when those three handfuls of water are poured over our heads in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You can’t escape that calling from the baptismal covenant. As members of the Body of Christ, we are called to proclaim the Gospel.

As Christians, we have a special responsibility to not let the church become complacent and forget its commitment to God and God’s purpose. We are asked to build a community where it does not exist or reinforce a community that is fractured. We are challenged to bring calmness to the chaos of individual’s souls.

Just as the apostles were directed, we must reach out to bring lost souls to the grace and salvation of Christ. As members of His body, it is up to us to do His work. And just as the apostles were varied and an unusual lot of people, so are we. Just as Jesus looked into their hearts and knew what they were capable of, so does he look into our hearts and knows us far better than we know ourselves.
Now, I know some of you think that you can’t be shepherds to lost sheep, that you are not called to do the work of Jesus. We all have hundreds of excuses why we can’t be disciples for Christ:

  • I don’t know what to do;
  • There are too many;
  • There are professionals to do this;
  • It’s not my job;
  • I don’t know what to say to people;
  • I’m not a good enough Christian to witness to others.

So I ask you, how did YOU get to know the love and grace and salvation of God through Jesus???????

Didn’t someone gather you in like a lost sheep? Didn’t someone show you the grace of God and welcome you into the fold, regardless of who or what you are?

  • Was it a religious professional?
  • A friend who listened to you in a time of need?
  • A stranger who helped you when you dropped a heavy load?
  • A co-worker who helped you finish an impossible task?
  • An acquaintance who brought you food when you were sick?
  • Someone who loved you when you thought you were unlovable?
  • A child who smiled at you when you were sad?
  • Someone who gave you forgiveness when you couldn’t forgive yourself?

Are not these lost sheep just as precious as you were then? The love of Jesus comes to us through the eyes, hands and hearts of everyday people, just like you and me. We are all called to be shepherds, to love and guide each other in the path of Jesus.

A voice from the fourteenth century, Saint Teresa of Avila, reminds us:

God has no hands but our hands, to do his work today;
God has no feet but our feet to lead others in his way;
God has no voice but our voice to tell others how he died;
And, God has no help but our help to lead them to this side.

You say you do not know what to do. God has equipped us all with the tools necessary:


  • Go with prayer.
  • Pray for God to strengthen and nourish those that are lost . . . and those already found
  • Pray for the ability of others to hear and receive the Word
  • Pray for opportunities to be disciples
  • Pray for open hearts, ready to hear the hope in God’s love
  • Pray for the strength and courage to share that hope with others
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to work his power in the hearts of others.

The best evangelist is one who reaches those around them. Perhaps first learn to talk about your faith to fellow church members through study groups and witnessing. Through this you may then learn to talk about your faith to the disenfranchised and strangers. Most of all, be an example of the gospel message and the needs, hurts and fears of the lost sheep will be made known to you.

For example, I know a graduate student, who through a living example of Christ’s love and an open invitation to attend church, has brought a fellow student to know the grace of God. It was a simple act of friendship. Let the Spirit move you and give you the words to say.

We know where lost sheep are – those who have been thrown away or abandoned. In ancient days, if you did not want your newborn, you threw it out or abandoned it in the desert. Lost souls are like these helpless children - left to die in the wilderness, without any word of comfort of God’s love. There is no one to come and help them. Jesus saw these lost sheep and sent his disciples to gather them in. He is sending us!

Do you want to be one of those lost sheep . . .

Or are you willing to be committed to Jesus?

When we see those lost sheep and we do nothing, we are sinning! We are not trusting in God to show us the way! We are being selfish, thinking more of our own comfort than the spiritual welfare of others!

God is loves in this world!

God sent His Son Jesus, to live as a man and die a most painful death as a man to teach us God’s love.

This love is free and undeserved.

This love is complete and total, with no restrictions and no boundaries.

This is the love that we can grow into and learn to give each other,

  • our friends,
  • our families,
  • our fellow church members,
  • strangers,
  • criminals,
  • those who would hurt us,
  • people we don’t understand,
  • our enemies,
  • people who have never seen the love of God as shown through the life of Jesus

This is our great commission: to live this love every day, to show it in every choice we make and to everyone we see.

God will give us the tools,
God will give us the words,
God will give us the strength,
God will teach us

To quote Isaiah 6:8,

Here I am, send me.

From Darkness into Light

Delivered at The Church of the Good Shepherd and Lindley Assisted Living Center in Athens, OH on 17 February 2008

Based on John 3:1-17

Today’s scripture from John contains probably one of the best known pieces of text in the Bible. You can’t watch a football game on television without seeing at least one sign saying: “John 3:16”. You can find this reference on billboards and marquees, spray-painted as graffiti on walls in tenements and rocks and rooftops.

We, as Christians, know that God sent Jesus so “that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

But, as Paul Harvey says, ‘this is the rest of the story’.

This passage of scripture is probably also one of the most misunderstood or misapplied.

Here we have Nicodemus, a very educated Pharisee, who acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God. But he wants to know more; so he secretly goes to Jesus in the night.

Now, why did he go in the night?

In the Jewish tradition, studying of the Torah was reserved for the night time – when things were less bustling and one could concentrate on the Word. Nicodemus was not sneaking to see Jesus so that his fellow Pharisees would not see him, or the set Jesus up for heresy. He truly wanted to learn more – he was seeking.

We might call Nicodemus the Patron Saint of the Seekers. . . he was seeking to find his spiritual soul. He was a truly observant man, but he found himself lacking. If you remember, Jesus’ response to Nicodemus was that physical observances were not enough. No matter how stridently Nicodemus followed the Jewish law, no one could enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit.

This being born of the water and spirit is one of the phrases that is so often translated as ‘born again’. This becomes the core of the fundamentalist belief that anyone who has not been ‘born again’ is doomed for Hell. And, unfortunately, we find in this day and age a lot of people who use this interpretation as a hammer to lessen the worth of anyone who does not agree with their theology.

But let’s look further at this text.

To begin with, the original Greek is actually translated as ‘born from above’. This is not baptism of water, but the descending of the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds. We as Episcopalians, when we baptize, become members of the fellowship of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

One who enters the kingdom of God by being born of the Spirit has experienced the reign of God, which cannot be experienced by someone who is simply born of the flesh. This ‘second birth’ involves a complete reorientation of one’s goals, desires, affections, values, and direction of life

-- in other words, a changing of our heart and spirit. . .

and accepting the great love and supreme sacrifice when God sent His Son, Jesus, so that we may have everlasting life.

Everything is oriented toward the kingdom of God as the center from which life is lived out.

Nicodemus, this Pharisee, the patron saint of seekers and the curious, understood this and changed his life dramatically to follow Jesus, not only in his daily religious observances but by accepting the Holy Spirit.

Do you know that this is not the last time that we hear of Nicodemus?

In this scripture, he moves around in the darkness, looking for the Light of the Word. He sees that divine Light in Jesus and leaves his darkness of spirit by being ‘born from above’ into the light.

During the trials of Jesus with the Sanhedrin found in John 7:45-52, who speaks up for Jesus, but good old Nicodemus. He questions the other Pharisees:

“Doth our law judge [any] man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?”

As a Pharisee, his defense of Jesus was not without risk – after all, he was one of the respected establishment and now he was following this heretic Jesus!

He is willing to put his life on the line to defend his faith and Jesus. What a change from the man who came in the dark seeking to learn how to enter the Kingdom of God. What a transformation when he was ‘born from above’.

And we hear about Nicodemus one more time in John 19:38-42 --- after Jesus’ death on the cross. Everyone ran away. . . afraid. But Nicodemus, along with Joseph of Arimathea, came back to the cross. They came to the cross in the darkness of that Black Friday to remove the broken body of Jesus and lay Him in the tomb. Only these two were there to give Jesus a proper Jewish burial.

Nicodemus wrapped Jesus body in cloth and anointed it with precious myrrh and aloes and spices. He and Joseph lovingly carried Jesus’ body to the tomb. They rolled the stone over the opening and left Jesus in the darkness.

But in three days, the Light of Jesus did shine again! The darkness of the soul and death would not EVER overcome the world again. By the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are all saved and marked for everlasting life.

There is no more darkness!!!

Let us all be seekers like Nicodemus. . . may we be ‘born from above’ and live in the Light of the World. When others reject or ignore Jesus, let us be Nicodemus and defend his words and works and meaning for the world. May “we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen.”

Let us pray:

Nicodemus, Patron Saint of Seekers: May you protect the seeker in each of us from condemnation and condescension. May you guide our steps in the way that leads us to eternal life. May you place us in the company of compassionate teachers whose love defines a new community of hope and grace. May you give us courage to dare to love God with heart, mind, soul and strength.


Fishers of Men . . . And Women!

Delivered at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, OH on 27 January 2008

Based on Matthew 4:18-22

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart by acceptable to you, my Lord and my Redeemer.

Last week we heard John’s version of Jesus calling Andrew and Simon as disciples. Today, we heard the very familiar scripture calling them to be ‘fishers of men’. Last week Jesus asked Andrew and Simon to ‘come and see’; this week his calling is for more active participation by both these men.

There are many stories within the Bible that are known as ‘call stories’. A call story related how someone is invited by God to become something new and unexpected. God calls this person to begin, and not only begin, but persist so that this new thing can take place.

One day Andrew, Simon, James and John got up before the sun came up, walked down to the sea and hurled nets into the water, anticipating a catch of fish. It was a day just like every other day – it was dark and probably cool and the nets were smelly and heavy. They were doing what they did every day. There were, after all, fishermen.

Jesus comes down to the seaside, amid the water and nets and fresh fish, roughly hewn boats of wood, the rhythm of the waves. He stands on the bank watching these men throw out the nets and then haul them back in, loaded with fish. He looks at these men, and in a very commanding voice, announces:

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people”.

I imagine they looked at this man on shore as if you he was a little crazy. Obviously, he knew nothing about fishing – the very idea that they could fish for humans!

Who is the crazy man, this itinerant preacher who calls them to ‘fish for people’? And where did he come from?

They were fishing near Bethsaida, an outpost of Palestine. This area was far removed from the country of Judea, part of Israel.

What was this man doing there? And why had he come all this way from his home in Nazareth?

Jesus had come to the area around Capernaum, which is close to the Gran Trunk Road which led from Damascus to India, Afghanistan and China. Along the coast beside the Mediterranean Sea was the Via Mares, connecting Cairo to Asia Minor. This was the trade crossroads of the existing world. What better place for Jesus to escape to after the arrest of John the Baptist; here he could preach and teach to all sort of people traveling through Galilee.

And why did he chose these men?

We know that Jesus did not read resumes before he calls people to be his disciples. He didn’t care what their history was. And as we now know, sometimes he didn’t always make the best decision on who he calls. Simon, who became known as Peter, denies Jesus three times during his trials. James and John, often called the Sons of Thunder, think this calling is going to enthrone them in glory – quite the opposite of what Jesus taught. But Jesus called them, and in spite of their own personal deficiencies, he still made them his partners. And they left their old life, its security, and even their families – they may have been afraid, but not so afraid that their faith in Jesus does not lead them forward.

And why did they follow Jesus?

When they were called by Jesus, they must have felt the joy of the new world that Jesus was preaching. They were about to see miracles performed and illnesses cured. Jesus was going to show them a wonderful new world, touch everyone who heard him and then make the ultimate sacrifice to bring about the new world.

If Jesus called this group of imperfect humans to be His ‘fishers of men’, then why wouldn’t He call each of us to follow Him? Our discipleship means the same kind of new beginning; each of us are called to go to that edge of safety so we can bring people to Christ. Jesus comes to us and chooses us, and sends us out to do something new.

We Christians are called to be evangelists. . . to look for and bring people to Christ. We are called to say to others ‘Come and See’. But we can’t be fishers of people until we have been ‘caught’ by Jesus. We need to fish for others using our own personal experience as bait.

I remember giving a testimony at a church as part of the stewardship campaign about how the church and God had gotten me through a very rough time when my partner of 27 years was dying of cancer. After the service, a young man came up to me and thanked me for my testimony. It seems that he was so depressed and sure that God hated him that he had been planning to go home and commit suicide.

Imagine how I felt at that moment. I certainly had not given the testimony with the intent of ‘fishing for people’. But with God’s help and direction, my little testimony was the bait that brought a young man back to God and salvation.

We are called to bring others to the kingdom of Christ. . . where we are all one in His love.

This is the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – a time when Christians around the world pray unceasingly all week to bring about unity. A hundred years ago an American minister, Paul Wattson, began the tradition of praying for Christian unity over the course of eight days, from 18 to 25 January. So as we pray this year, we can find strength not only in the prayers of brothers and sisters across the world who pray with us at this time, but also in the prayers of Christians of all denominations over the past century. With them, we root our yearning in the prayers of Jesus Christ, the source of our unity – Jesus Christ, who, died and prayed among us ‘so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him’ This unity is the oneness in Christ that Jesus preached and taught – the thing that he is calling us to.

How do we become a member of the oneness of Christ?

What can we do to facilitate Christian unity?
Within our church?
Within the Christian community?
Within the world?

By praying unceasingly!

Let us pray:

Open our hearts, God, to your vision of peace, where our jealousies vanish because we are whole, and our pride falls away because we are healed. Open our hearts, God, to your vision of peace, and inspire our work as we make it real. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deep desiring God, in the secret of our hearts you teach us wisdom. Teach us to encourage each other along the road to unity. Show us the changes needed for reconciliation. Amen.

Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, who was crucified in weakness but lives by the power of God, help us to know our own weaknesses as well as those of others, that together with them we might experience your risen power. Amen.

We are lazy sometimes, God. Sitting comfortably here, it’s easy to ignore the suffering of others, easy to forget the challenge to see your image in friend and stranger, easy to expect others to work for justice. We are lazy sometimes, God, and that diminishes me. Make us uncomfortable, make us alert, make us responsive. Above all, make us love, in your name. Amen.

God, perfect unity, keep our hearts so burning with the desire and hope for unity that we will never stop working for the sake of your gospel. We ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Trinity in unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, grant us the grace to pray without ceasing for the unity of your Church. May we reflect in your Church the unity in diversity that is yours. Amen.

Are You The One?

Delivered at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, OH on 16 December 2008

Based on Matthew 11:2-11

Today we enter the third week of Advent – with it the anticipation of the Birth of Christ. In just a little over one week we will be sitting in this sanctuary celebrating Jesus’ birth. . . the Advent of the Messiah.

But today’s scripture is not foretelling the birth of Christ. We are dealing with another advent – the advent of the New World, the New Jerusalem. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, we are in the midst of the preparations for the coming of the Kingdom of God in the end time.

In today’s scripture we find John the Baptist languishing away in prison, put there because he renounced Herod Antipas’ marriage to the wife of his brother. He has been there for over a year and probably getting very cranky – not that he wasn’t before. He hears rumors that the Jesus he had baptized and proclaimed to be the Messiah was traveling the countryside. His hopes high, he was sure that Jesus would ride in on a white horse and rescue him.

But what does he hear?

He hears that Jesus is out there performing miracles, preaching mercy and compassion and love. This is not what he expected of the Messiah!!! Jesus was not proclaiming himself the Messiah King, bringing about the destruction of Rome and overthrowing Herod’s rule. He was not preaching revolution and smiting evildoers! He was proclaiming good news for the poor and destitute, the broken-hearted and downtrodden, the captives and oppressed. He was even saying people who believed in Him would be persecuted.

Even though they were cousins and had known each other since the womb, John was no longer sure that this Jesus was the Messiah.

He sends his disciples to speak with Jesus. After all, John had been prophesying that the Messiah would come with fiery judgment, pitchfork in hand and with an axe. Here was this man, preaching and teaching hope and love and healing, not fomenting revolution. What was going on here?

Imagine you were John and had been extolling the virtues of this Messiah, only to find out that He was not a revolutionary – or at least not in the sense John expected. Jesus was preaching and healing, not riling up the citizens. There was no message of revolt in his stories. He stressed compassion and inclusion of everyone in the Kingdom of God. The Jews had been waiting with expectation for the appearance of the Messiah that would save them from the Roman oppression and restore them to their rightful kingdom. This Jesus was certainly not acting like that Messiah!

John wanted to know if their waiting was over or if there was another Messiah who would be coming.

Had he been wrong about Jesus?

Was he looking like a fool?

I don’t think so.

The scripture goes on to say that Jesus affirms John and his prophecy. Jesus reminded John that he was ‘the voice crying in the wilderness’, in goat skins for clothes, eating locust and honey. He reminded him that his calling was as a preparer - he had called many to the wilderness to be baptized. He was more than a prophet; he was a forerunner and reformer, a way-preparer.

Those times for which John was baptizing people and foretelling had come to pass. Just as Elijah foretold of Jesus’ birth, John was foretelling of Jesus’ life on earth. John’s purpose was to prepare the people for the arrival of Jesus among them.

That prophesy was fulfilled in the person of Jesus:

  • A Jesus that was a man of words and compassionate actions
  • Not one of authority and military might.

Jesus sends John’s disciples back, telling them to tell John what they had seen. Tell him about the:

  • Healing the sick
  • Casting out demons
  • Raising the dead
  • Forgiving sins
  • Preaching to the poor

We can only hope that when the disciples returned and told John what they had seen, he remembered the prophecies of Isaiah about the marvels that would take place in the wilderness. And he remembered his faith in that man he baptized so long ago. But wouldn’t it have been natural for John to have been a little upset that he was sitting in prison for an itinerant preacher who gave mercy to anyone who asked (even Romans) and would lead his followers into a brutal death. Possibly John sent his disciples to Jesus to try and prod him into the action that he expected from the Messiah.

But Jesus, the Messiah, was not what John the Baptist expected. He was not coming to destroy Rome; they could and did do that without his help. He was here to establish the Kingdom of God.
A Kingdom of God where everyone is welcome, all are loved and mercy and compassion flow like waters.

This is the even that we are waiting for as we continue this Advent Season.

The Kingdom of God!!