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February 2018

newSpin 180222

newSpin, the newsletter
February 22
, 2018 – Bill Lewellis


TopSpin
• Since Sandy Hook, more than 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings[NYTimes, Feb. 15] When a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, it rattled Newtown, Conn., and reverberated across the world. Since then, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. In those episodes, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed. The data used here is from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that began tracking school shootings in 2014. Read on.

• Two nominated for IX Bishop of Bethlehem
The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem released the names of two priests who will stand for election for the ninth bishop of the diocese. They are the Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and the Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, 55, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Colorado. The search committee had chosen three nominees, but one withdrew shortly before the slate was presented to the Standing Committee, which oversees the election. More info and photos.

• Special Electing Convention and Diocesan Convention Updates
… 
A Special Electing Convention with the sole purpose of electing the IX Bishop of Bethlehem will take place April 28 at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. The new bishop will be ordained and consecrated on September 15 at The First Presbyterian Church, Allentown.
   The Diocesan Convention, including the seating of the new bishop, will take place October 12 and 13 at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Allentown Bethlehem Center Valley. Eucharist and the seating will be held at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. Please note the change of dates and location. The seating will be held during diocesan convention rather than the Sunday morning after the ordination and consecration so that everyone in the diocese has the opportunity to attend.
   Certificates of Election of Lay Delegates, who will serve at both the Special Electing Convention and at the Diocesan Convention, are due February 28. Certificates must be completed and sent to the diocesan office through mail, fax or to office@diobeth.org.

   Download the Certificate of Election of Lay Delegates (fillable PDF).

Jubilate, Lent Year B 2018 (WORD)
Jubilate, Lent Year B 2018 (PDF)


• DioBeth Leadership News, Feb. 15Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, Feb. 8
Here.
• DioBeth General News, Feb. 8
Here.
• DioBeth General News, Feb. 1
Here.
• Bishop Search Committee websiteHere.

********  [A DioBeth newsletter (General or Leadership) or the unofficial newSpin newsletter is published online on Thursdays in the following rotation: (1) Leadership News, (2) The newSpin newsletter, (3) General News, (4) The newSpin newsletter. If you are not receiving these newsletters by email, be in touch with Paula Lapinski (610-691-5655, paula@diobeth.org). If you find something online or in print(or if you'd like to write something) that you think might warrant inclusion in the newSpin newsletter for the sake of many, please send the link or your text to bill.lewellis@gmail.com ********

Intersection: Religion, Culture, Politics.
• Heavy on bluster, thin on facts [Commonweal, John Gehring, Commentary by Commonweal Editors] John Gehring comments on White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s remarks that Dreamers are “too lazy” to register for protected status. Gehring points out that Kelly is “either oblivious to the irony of someone with his family’s background trafficking in pernicious stereotypes or knowingly tapping into the power of caricatures to dehumanize people.” It is “galling” that Kelly, Paul Ryan, and others enable such xenophobia when their own Irish Catholic ancestors faced similar nativism a century ago. But there is good news. “In the face of craven politicians who perpetuated fear and ugly stereotypes, those immigrants persevered and made America great.” Read on.

• "What terrifies religious extremists
like the Taliban are not American tanks or bombs or bullets, it’s a girl with a book.” –Malala Yousafzai

• The United States of Guns[Jason Kottke, Feb. 14]
Like many of you, I read the news of a single person killing at least 17 people in Parkland, Florida today. While this is an outrageous and horrifying event, it isn’t surprising or shocking in any way in a country where more than 33,000 people die from gun violence each year and guns that can fire dozens of rounds a minute are perfectly legal America is stuck in a Groundhog Day loop of gun violence. We’ll keep waking up, stuck in the same reality of oppression, carnage, and ruined lives until we can figure out how to effect meaningful change. I’ve collected some articles here about America’s dysfunctional relationship with guns, most of which I’ve shared before. Change is possible — there are good reasons to control the ownership of guns and control has a high likelihood of success — but how will our country find the political will to make it happen? Read on.

• Trump's 'best people' and their dubious ethics[NYTimes Editorial Board, Feb. 18] President Trump’s White House has been so scandal-plagued that controversies involving cabinet members and other high-level officials that would have been front-page news in any other administration have barely registered in the public consciousness. Where to begin? Trump officials have been accused of wasting taxpayer dollars when they travel for work — or, in the case of one cabinet secretary, when they travel for a work trip-cum-European vacation. Others have appeared to misuse their positions to benefit special interests and political allies. Then there are those who have conscripted family members to help them do their jobs, possibly under the mistaken belief that it takes a village of people with the same last name to run a government department.  
Perhaps we should not be surprised by these ethical lapses, given that the president himself has little interest in ethical niceties. He has refused to disclose his tax returns or divest businesses that may create conflicts of interest between Mr. Trump the executive and Mr. Trump the president. And he has given his daughter and son-in-law, who have no government experience, plum White House jobs. Here are some of the recent scandals in Trumpland that deserve greater public scrutiny, or even congressional hearings and investigations. Read on.

• Whatever Trump is hiding is hurting all of us[Thomas Friedman, NYT, Feb. 18] Our democracy is in serious danger. President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering
fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy. Read on.

• How the survivors of Parkland began the Never Again movement[TNY, Emily Witt, Feb. 19] By Sunday, only four days after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, the activist movement that emerged in its aftermath had a name (Never Again), a policy goal (stricter background checks for gun buyers), and a plan for a nationwide protest (a March for Our Lives, scheduled for March 24th). It also had a panel of luminary teens who were reminding America that the shooting was not a freak accident or a natural disaster but the result of actual human decisions. Read on.

• How banks could control gun sales if Washington won't[NYT, Feb. 19] Andrew Ross Sorkin proposes a way to bypass a dithering Congress to make AR-15 sales harder: Cut off the credit carT NYds. He notes that Apple Pay, Square and Pay Pal don’t allow gun purchases on their services. Extend that, he suggests, to Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. Put it in the terms of service. Read on.

• Why the Second Amendment does not stymie gun control[The Economist, Feb. 20] the Second Amendment is not the primary obstacle to gun control. If legislators in the state capitols and Congress find the political will to clamp down on America’s millions of powerful and often loosely regulated weapons, it seems there is a constitutional way. Read on.

• Will America choose its children over guns?[NYT Editorial Board, Feb. 20] As surely as there are camels’ backs and straws to break them, moments arrive when citizens say they’ve had enough, when they rise up against political leaders who do not speak for them and whose moral fecklessness imperils lives. We may be witness to such a moment now with the protests by American teenagers sickened — and terrified — by the latest mass murder at the hands of someone with easy access to a weapon fit for a battlefield, not a school.

   These kids have had enough. They’ve had enough of empty expressions of sympathy in the wake of the sort of atrocities they’ve grown up with, like last week’s mass shooting that took 17 lives at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Enough of the ritualistic mouthing of thoughts and prayers for the victims. Enough of living in fear that they could be next in the cross hairs of a well-armed deranged killer, even with all the active shooter drills and lockdowns they’ve gone through. Enough of craven politicians who kneel before the National Rifle Association and its cynically fundamentalist approach to the Second Amendment. Read on

SpiritSpin
• Good Book Club among diverse Lenten tools offered by the Episcopal ChurchHere.

• Lent – Time for a Cool Change … If there's one thing in my life that's missing, it's the time that I spend alone. Listen.


• Recognizing God in the moments[Episcopal Café, Laurie Gudim, Feb. 15] Practicing the presence of God is a very simple devotion, but, especially to start with, it does take an almost continual shifting of awareness. We don’t often recognize that God is with us in each and every moment of our lives. Intellectually we might have come to that understanding, but actually talking to God, listening for God, and knowing God is present as we participate in meetings, write reports, prepare dinner, teach classes, talk to the kids and grandkids, and so forth, is a different matter. We have to keep drawing ourselves back from an illusion that we are alone. Read on.

• The clear relationship between spirituality and mission[Bill Lewellis] A committee planning a conference on "Spirituality and Mission" scheduled 12 workshops on spirituality for the morning, and a similar number on mission for the afternoon. More than three decades ago. Separating the workshops in this way was a logistical -- not a theological -- decision. We needed a way to pre-empt the message that spirituality and mission were separate-but-equal, and need not converge.
  
We discovered a story. A child wandered into a sculptor's studio and watched a master sculptor work with hammer and chisel on a large piece of marble. Marble chips flew in all directions. Months later he returned. To his surprise, where once stood only a large block of marble, there now stood a majestic and powerful Aslan-like lion. "How did you know," he asked the sculptor, "there was a lion in the marble?" "I knew," the sculptor replied, "because before I saw the lion in the marble, I saw him in my heart. The real secret, though, is that it was the lion in my heart who recognized the lion in the marble.
  
Henri Nouwen told this story of the Christ within who recognizes himself unformed in the disguises of the world to illustrate the relationship between contemplation and action. [Clowning in Rome, Image Books, 1979]. We used it to show how clearly related were spirituality and mission.
   The story suggests to me also, as one who has worked in church communication for some five decades, that, for each of us as Christian disciples, our basic ministry is communication. It's about God's word becoming flesh. Incarnation continues. Communication in the church is about proclaiming the gospel. It is your ministry. Communicate… Your Ministry. Live God's love: tell what you have seen and heard.

• Aging[Bill Lewellis] Monica's and my books inhabit two floors and a basement. On shelves. On tables. In piles on the floor. We need a library and a librarian. Were I younger, I might advocate for turning our old-style and unused parlor into a library, with bookshelves against every available wall. I frequently find a book I want to read again. But do not. Earlier this morning, Monica gave me a 1976 Doubleday Image Book with a $2.45 price tag: "Aging," by Henri Nouwen and Walter Gaffney. I began reading it immediately. But I can't read without sharing.  
   The introduction includes the following.  An old Balinese legend might help us to think more clearly about our own society and the way we relate to those we have labeled "the old" or "the elderly."  It is said that once upon a time the people of a remote mountain village used to sacrifice and eat their old men. A day came when there was not a single old man left, and the traditions were lost. They wanted to build a great house for the meetings of the assembly, but when they came to look at the tree-trunks that had been cut for that purpose no one could tell the top from the bottom: if the timber were placed the wrong way up, it would set off a series of disasters. A young man said that if they promised never to eat the old men anymore, he would be able to find a solution. They promised. He brought his grandfather, whom he had hidden; and the old man taught the community to tell top from bottom.

• Nine times Mr. Rogers said exactly the right thing[Vox, Feb. 19] For one, on where to turn during tragedy: When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." I remember a cousin telling me many years ago that when he came home from work somewhat stressed, he watched Mr. Rogers. He was then in his early 30s. Don't miss the video clips. Shout out to Bob House. Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian. Read on.


• The Book of Common Prayer ... every edition from 1549 to 1979. Here.

• Prayers and Thanksgivings from the BCP ... Here.
• The (Online) Book of Common Prayer ... Here.
• The Daily Office ... can be read online in Rite I, Rite II or the New Zealand Prayer Book versions. At Mission St. Clare.
• The Daily Office ... from the Diocese of Indianapolis. Here.
• The Prayer Site ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Speaking to the Soul ... Episcopal Café blog. Sermons, reflections, multimedia meditations and excerpts from books on spirituality. Here.
• Spirit Resources
 ... way below


Columns, Sermons, Reflections, other Spin
• Everyone a changemaker [NYTimes, David Brooks, Feb. 8] Bill Drayton invented the term “social entrepreneur” and founded Ashoka, the organization that supports 3,500 of them in 93 countries. He’s a legend in the nonprofit world, so I went to him this week to see if he could offer some clarity and hope in discouraging times. He did not disappoint. Read on.

• Welcoming Dreamers, the obvious choice [Bishop Sean Rowe, The Morning Call, Jan. 29] The current political morass in Washington has thrown light on a deep and ugly divide in our country and in our faith communities on the issue of immigration. Read on.


DioBeth
• Two nominated for IX Bishop of BethlehemThe Standing Commit

• DioBeth General News, Feb. 8 … Here.
• DioBeth General News, Feb. 1 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, Jan. 25 … Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, Jan. 18 … Here.
• Bishop Search Committee website … Here.



Episcopal/Anglican
With piety and steel, Justin Welby has the church in his firmest grip
[The Guardian, UK, Andrew Brown, Feb. 16] Last Saturday in central London, two archbishops joined a small group of people protesting about sexual abuse. Though you might expect – or at least hope – to find archbishops on the side of the angels, what was remarkable was that they were protesting against their own church. The building in question was Church House, in Westminster, where the Church of England’s General Synod was meeting, due later that day to discuss the problem of sexual abuse, with the church facing more than 3,000 historical claims. By standing with the protesters, the Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu were making a loud statement about where their sympathies lay. You had to listen very carefully under the noise to notice that the synod debate was in fact a presentation of a report and there were no survivors speaking in it. Read on.


Evangelism/Stewardship/Church Growth/Migration/ERD

Episcopal Migration MinistriesHere.?
Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN)Here.
Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD)Here
• Episcopal Asset Map
Here.
• Additional Resources

... way below


People

• DioBeth's COM Jane Williams has retired as chair of the Diocese of Bethlehem's Commission on Ministry. She will be succeeded by Tim Alleman, staff chaplain in the Geisinger Health System and rector of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre. Read on.


In the Media


TaleSpin
• Religious test for office holders? [Commonweal, Feb. 6]
When the drafters of the Constitution returned to their home states to defend their work, they faced complaints that the document was too secular. It made no mention of God, and when coupled with the ‘no religious test clause,’ many complained that the Constitution reflected political atheism. The Article VI ban, they argued, belittled the role that religion played in fostering a free and virtuous democratic society. Proponents of the ban framed Article VI as a promotion of religious liberty. Religious tests were the tools of tyrants, they insisted. But many Americans were still wary. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison lamented that one of the primary objections to the federal Constitution was that, “by prohibiting religious tests,” the founders had “opened a door for Jews, Turks, and infidels” to serve in public office. Americans wanted religious liberty, but many insisted that their public officials meet certain religious standards. Read on.


Requiescant in pace
• The Rev. Elizabeth Diely, 75 … died February 3. Betsy had been assisting priest at St. Margaret's Emmaus where she was also a member. Obituary.

• Billy Graham, 99, dies. He filled stadiums and counseled presidents [NYTimes, Laurie Goodstein, Feb. 21] The Rev. Billy Graham, a North Carolina farmer’s son who preached to millions in stadium events he called crusades, becoming a pastor to presidents and the nation’s best-known Christian evangelist for more than 60 years, died today, Feb. 21, at his home in Montreat, N.C. Read on. Also at AP.

• Justin David Skoniecki, 19 … died on February 16. He had been a memb of Grace Kingston where he served as an acolyte. He was a 2017 graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School. Obituary


• Denise E. Ruch, 63 … died on February 12. She was a member of St. Mark's/St. John's in Jim Thorpe. Obituary.

• Frances C. Malpas, 92 … died on February 13. She was a member of St. Alban's Sinking Spring. Obituary.

• Joseph Guzzi, 86 … died on February 15. He was a member of St. Luke's Scranton. Obituary.

 

Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
How Protestants made the modern world  [Religion and Politics, Feb 20] The combination of free inquiry, democracy, and limited government is pretty much what makesup liberal, market democracies. It runs the modern world. And though it seems obvious to us that liberty and equality should go together, it is not at all an obvious combination. It is that distinct heritage of Protestantism in holding those models together that is its most significant contribution to the modern world. Read on.

A Catholic priest pens the Archbishop of Canterbury's prayer book for Lent[CruxNow]
For those who have followed the close collaboration and friendship between Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, it will come as no surprise that the spiritual head of the Church of England selected a Roman Catholic priest’s manuscript for his 2018 Lenten prayer book. Luigi Gioia, a Benedictine priest and academic scholar, has spent the past two decades bringing together ecumenical thought and spirituality in both the Church and the classroom. Gioia spoke with Crux about what monastics offer the modern age and how “the more we grow in authentic prayer, the greater our compassion grows.” How did a Catholic priest end up writing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lenten prayer book? Read on.

• ‘Stations of the Cross’ art exhibition follows Jesus’ path to crucifixion across Manhattan … [ENS, David Paulsen] Although the subject matter is drawn from Christianity’s most solemn and foundational story, this “Stations of the Cross,” sponsored by Trinity Church Wall Street, is presented as an explicitly interfaith experience. Read on.


Evangelical Lutheran Church
• ELCA WebsiteHere.

• ELCA News ServiceHere.
• ELCA BlogsHere.
 

Moravian Church
• Moravian Church in North America  Website.  

• Moravian Church Northern Province Website
• Moravian Theological Seminary Website.

United Methodist Church
News Service Here.
Communication Resources ... Start here.
Eastern PA Conference website Here.
Facebook Here.
Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.

Presbyterian Church USA
• Website
... Here
• News & Announcements ... Here.

Roman Catholic
• Teacher marries her girlfriend, and then Catholic School fires her[NYT, Christina Caron, Feb. 7] Parents at a Catholic school in Miami said they were astounded that administrators had fired a first-grade teacher just days after she married her girlfriend, and now some of the teacher’s supporters on the faculty are scared that the school will retaliate against them as well. The teacher, Jocelyn Morffi, was by all accounts one of the most popular educators at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School in Miami, where she taught for nearly seven years. “I consider her the Mother Teresa of teachers,” Samantha Mills, a parent whose son was in Ms. Morffi’s class last year, said on Monday. But on Feb. 8, Ms. Mills and other parents at the school received an email from the principal saying that the school had made a “difficult and necessary decision,” and that Ms. Morffi would no longer be teaching at the school. The email was shared with The New York Times. She was fired just days after marrying her girlfriend of about two years. Read on.

Diocese of Scranton ... Here.

Diocese of Allentown ... Here.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here
Catholic News Service ... Here.
Crux Now ... Here.
 

The Vatican

• Vatican Information Service blog
... Here.

• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.


Health and Wellness



Film and TV
• African cosmologies: spiritual reflections on the 'Black Panther' movie … [RNS, Yolanda Pierce, Feb. 19] Yes, Wakanda is a fictional place and Black Panther is just a film, but the spiritual imagination that undergirds the movie can be an opportunity for learning, and even a fostering of faith in the idea that we can build a better world, if we are willing. In a real world that has so maligned black peoples and the continent of Africa, and questioned if any good can ever come from this place, director Ryan Coogler reminds his viewers both of the beauty that already exists on the continent, and also what may yet be possible. Read on.

Media, Print, Music, Tech

• The Treble Choristers of the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys Will Perform at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem[Liza Holzinger] The world-renowned professional boys choir, the Treble Choristers of the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys (Fifth Avenue, NYC) led by Daniel Hyde, will perform a 90-minute concert in the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, 2344 Center Street, as part of a concert tour in the Lehigh Valley. The world-famous choir will perform at the church on Friday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m. The choir is the leading ensemble of its kind in the Anglican choral tradition in the United States. Full article here. Suggested donation is $12 at the door. More info: visit www.fpc-bethlehem.org. or phone 610-867-5865.


Websites
The Episcopal CaféHere.

AnglicansOnlineHere.
Diocese of BethlehemHere.

The Episcopal ChurchHere.
Episcopal News ServiceHere. Story here.

Podcasts and Blogs
• The most powerful religious denomination
[The Bible for Normal People] In a recent podcast, The Bible for Normal People, the hosts spoke with Brian McLaren about the dangers of a "weaponized Bible" and how our own bias and interpretation may cause us to reach some incomplete conclusions. At one point, McLaren said he thought the most powerful religious denomination in the U.S. was Fox News because it's on in many homes 24/7 and gives them a way of seeing the world: these are the good guys, these are the bad guys. And they tend to find a church that confirms that narrative. Listen.

• Making Obama[TNY, Sarah Larson,  Feb. 19] Our memories of the Obama Administration heighten the surreality of the Trump era: every Trumpian indignity seems to have a counterpoint—an Obama meme, a Pete Souza photograph. Last week alone gave us multiple occasions to marvel at the dissonance: the unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery of the Obamas’ official portraits, by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, reminded us of their thoughtful sophistication. A Valentine’s Day tweet from Barack to Michelle evoked their natural affection and mutual respect. And the Parkland, Florida, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reminded us of the empathy that Obama brought to national tragedies. The new podcast “Making Obama,” from WBEZ Chicago, hosted by Jenn White and produced by Colin McNulty, helps the Obama-nostalgic to push past wistfulness and despair by reacquainting us with who Obama was before he became mythologized—and to see what lessons we can glean from the making of political leaders. … The six-episode series traces Obama’s career from his arrival in Chicago to his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention—at which point, White told me recently, “the story becomes more familiar to people. Then he’s this national figure.” Read the story. Listen to the podcast.


Varia


Abbreviations of Sources
AM … America Magazine
AO
… Anglicans Online
AP
… Associated Press
BCP
… Book of Common Prayer
CJR
… Columbia Journalism Review
COM
… Commonweal
CN
… Crux Now
CNS
… Catholic News Service
DoB
… Diocese of Bethlehem
EC
… Episcopal Café
ENS … Episcopal News Service
ERD … Episcopal Relief & Development
MC … Morning Call, Allentown
NCR … National Catholic Reporter
NYM … New York Magazine
NYT … New York Times
R&P … Religion&Politics
RNS … Religion News Service
TA … The Atlantic

TEC … The Episcopal Church
TLC … The Living Church
TNY … The New Yorker
WaPo … Washington Post
WSJ … Wall Street Journal

newSpin? … I decided years ago to call this newsletter and its related blog newSpin. The "S" in the middle suggests that some items are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Items I include as well as how and how often I present them are clues to my leanings. I think all of us spin. There's a lot more spin in the world of news than most editors own up to. Watch out for that upper case S in the middle. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.
   The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on a newSpin list of some 2,000 addresses every other Thursday. Many recipients forward it to others. It comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop, the Standing Committee, the Canon to the Ordinary or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bethlehem Episcopalians (if you have joined that interactive FaceBook group).

Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998-)
Blog, Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]


Selected Posts from Past newSpin Newsletters that may still be of interest

• For the Poor and the Neglected[BCP] Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

• The Serenity Prayer … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. Read on.

• The Toolkit … of the Public Affairs Office is located on the Public Affairs pages of The Episcopal Church website here. Among the items are: Topics – topics of interest and dates of importance. Catalog – a list of important topics along with actions taken by The Episcopal Church and General Convention. Getting started - an easy how-to for getting started in preparing materials, media releases, op-eds, etc. For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org, 212-716-6080.

Sermons that work … The Episcopal Church welcomes many different points of view, and sermons offered during an Episcopal service may vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Although there is no “typical” or on'e-size-fits-all sermon for Episcopal congregations, the sermons in this series are selected for their universal qualities so that they may be useful to a wide variety of small congregations without full-time priests on staff, where lay leaders often shoulder the responsibility of delivering the sermons on Sunday. To assist these small congregations, the Episcopal Church offers Sermons That Work, new sermons each week for Sundays and major feast days throughout the liturgical year. Here.

Weekly bulletin inserts … provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Here. There's also an archive dating back to 2006.

• The Episcopal Churchis currently in full communion relationship with the following churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India. Coordinating committees support the implementation of some of these relationships, which involve full mutual recognition of ministries and sacraments. Clergy of these churches may serve in Episcopal churches, and vice versa. We also have warm relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
   The Episcopal Church is in active dialogue with three traditions: the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Methodist Church. Our dialogues meet regularly to discuss matters of common concern, doctrinal agreements and disagreements, and possibilities for the emergence of full communion relationships. Each diocese of The Episcopal Church has a designated officer responsible for promoting ecumenical and interreligious conversations on the local level. Canon Maria Tjeltveit of the Church of the Mediator in Allentown is the designated officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Read on.

 

 


newSpin 180208

newSpin, the newsletter
February 8
, 2018 – Bill Lewellis


TopSpin
• Two nominated for IX Bishop of BethlehemThe Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem released the names of two priests who will stand for election for the ninth bishop of the diocese. They are the Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and the Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, 55, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Colorado. The search committee had chosen three nominees, but one withdrew shortly before the slate was presented to the Standing Committee, which oversees the election. More info and photos.

• Special Electing Convention and Diocesan Convention Updates
… 
A Special Electing Convention with the sole purpose of electing the IX Bishop of Bethlehem will take place April 28 at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. The new bishop will be ordained and consecrated on September 15 at The First Presbyterian Church, Allentown.
   The Diocesan Convention, including the seating of the new bishop, will take place October 12 and 13 at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Allentown Bethlehem Center Valley. Eucharist and the seating will be held at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. Please note the change of dates and location. The seating will be held during diocesan convention rather than the Sunday morning after the ordination and consecration so that everyone in the diocese has the opportunity to attend.
   Certificates of Election of Lay Delegates, who will serve at both the Special Electing Convention and at the Diocesan Convention, are due February 28. Certificates must be completed and sent to the diocesan office through mail, fax or to office@diobeth.org.

   Download the Certificate of Election of Lay Delegates (fillable PDF).

• Welcoming Dreamers, the obvious choice [Bishop Sean Rowe, The Morning Call, Jan. 29] The current political morass in Washington has thrown light on a deep and ugly divide in our country and in our faith communities on the issue of immigration. Read on.

Jubilate, Lent Year B 2018 (WORD)
Jubilate, Lent Year B 2018 (PDF)


• DioBeth General News, Feb. 8Here.
• DioBeth General News, Feb. 1
Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, Jan. 25 … Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, Jan. 18Here.
• Bishop Search Committee websiteHere.

********  [A DioBeth newsletter (General or Leadership) or the unofficial newSpin newsletter is published online on Thursdays in the following rotation: (1) Leadership News, (2) The newSpin newsletter, (3) General News, (4) The newSpin newsletter. If you are not receiving these newsletters by email, be in touch with Paula Lapinski (610-691-5655, paula@diobeth.org). If you find something online or in print(or if you'd like to write something) that you think might warrant inclusion in the newSpin newsletter for the sake of many, please send the link or your text to bill.lewellis@gmail.com ********

Intersection: Religion, Culture, Politics.
• Paul Ryan faces an urgent moral challenge [RNS, Paul Gehring, Feb 7]  A proud Catholic, Ryan speaks often about his Church, has traded letters with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and enjoys name-dropping Thomas Aquinas. But his policy priorities often clash with traditional Catholic social teaching. Ryan and President Trump are getting an earful from Catholic bishops, nuns and other Catholic leaders. The president’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected Dreamers, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote, was “reprehensible … a heartbreaking moment in our history, and a short-sighted vision for the future.” Read on.

• Not enough preaching in the world that can make people change their hearts – Courageous conversations are no longer optional
[Amy Butler] I hosted a conversation in which Brené Brown and DeRay McKesson engaged in a public dialog about race and vulnerability. While the conversation they had is no longer available to view, the idea to host such a conversation came from a Twitter exchange they had about the same topics a few months be. My job as host was not to contribute any deep wisdom to the conversation; if you saw the event you already know that their exchange was so deep and intense that there was very little possibility I would succeed at even interrupting them. Rather, I was there to prod the conversation along if needed, to offer questions from the viewing audience, and to listen intently … which was what I was doing when Brown responded to a comment by McKesson: “There’s not enough preaching in the world that can make people change their hearts.” I was startled when I heard it. I am a preacher, after all. Read on.

• President Trump, if you're innocent, why act so guilty?[NYT, Nicholas Kristof]
President Trump and Devin Nunes have been muddying the waters of the Russia investigation, so let’s try to clarify those waters. Here are a dozen things we know. Read on.

• Trump wants a big parade. It would be a big mistake. … [NYT Editorial Board, Feb. 7] Mr. Trump is trying to exploit the armed forces as a political prop, even as he daily undermines the country’s other real and enduring strengths, including an independent judiciary and a free press. During the Cold War, such military spectacles were a hallmark of the Soviets. Today, North Korea regularly stages its own robotic displays of military power in an effort to intimidate adversaries. Read on.


SpiritSpin
• Good Book Club among diverse Lenten tools offered by the Episcopal Church Here.

• The Book of Common Prayer ... every edition from 1549 to 1979. Here.
• Prayers and Thanksgivings from the BCP ... Here.
• The (Online) Book of Common Prayer ... Here.
• The Daily Office ... can be read online in Rite I, Rite II or the New Zealand Prayer Book versions. At Mission St. Clare.
• The Daily Office ... from the Diocese of Indianapolis. Here.
• The Prayer Site ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Speaking to the Soul ... Episcopal Café blog. Sermons, reflections, multimedia meditations and excerpts from books on spirituality. Here.
• Spirit Resources
 ... way below


Columns, Sermons, Reflections, other Spin
• This  is no time to be cute [Andrew Gerns] When I was a kid, I was taught to sail a boat. It was at a summer camp off the Penobscot Bay in Maine, and we learned the basics of sail-handling, working as a team, and navigation. It was great fun and it was also no time to fool around. One could get clonked on the head by the sail when coming about, or fall in the water, or burn your hands on the line. It was a blast, but one of the lessons I learned at nine years was focus on what one was doing. To be present, attentive, and disciplined. As one of the wise “old” college-aged camp counselors would say while navigating the sail boat across the bay, “this is no time to be cute.” I am remembering that lesson because this is one of those strange years when Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day and when Easter is also April Fool’s Day. This is no time to be cute. Read on.

• Demons, Certainty, Messianic Secret, Why were you not you? [Bill Lewellis, Sermon at Nativity Cathedral, Feb. 4, Mark 1:29-39]
You may agree with me that the bible includes strange stories and verses. You may agree with me also that today’s gospel passage includes both. For starters, how about Jesus forbidding the demons to speak … because they knew him. Tell no one about me. A good motto for Episcopal evangelism? Tell no one about me? I’ll get back to that. First, however, the elephant in the room, the elephant in the gospel passage: demons. Read on.

• Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me [NYTimes column, Kate Bowler, Feb. 13, 2016 – Note: Two years ago]
On a Thursday morning a few months ago, I got a call from my doctor’s assistant telling me that I have Stage 4 cancer. The stomach cramps I was suffering from were not caused by a faulty gallbladder, but by a massive tumor. I am 35. I did the things you might expect of someone whose world has suddenly become very small. I sank to my knees and cried. I called my husband at our home nearby. I waited until he arrived so we could wrap our arms around each other and say the things that must be said. I have loved you forever. I am so grateful for our life together. Please take care of our son. Then he walked me from my office to the hospital to start what was left of my new life.
  
But one of my first thoughts was also Oh, God, this is ironic. I recently wrote a book called “Blessed.” I am a historian of the American prosperity gospel. Put simply, the prosperity gospel is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith. I spent 10 years interviewing televangelists with spiritual formulas for how to earn God’s miracle money. I held hands with people in wheelchairs being prayed for by celebrities known for their miracle touch. I sat in people’s living rooms and heard about how they
never would have dreamed of owning this home without the encouragement they heard on Sundays. Read on.
   Kate Bowler was recently interviewed, TIME Magazine Feb. 5 issue, about her cancer diagnosis and her faith. Did Christianity fail you? Sometimes it felt like that, in part because of the stuff people said using the Christian faith to be incredibly trite. Christianity also saved the day. You really want a brave faith, one that says, in the midst of the crushing brokenness, there is the something else there, the undeniable, overwhelming love of God. Read on.
   I like the title of her new book: “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved.” Here.

•  What to say when you meet the angel of death at a party [NYTimes column, Kate Bowler, Jan. 26, 2018]
Durham NC — Every 90 days I lie in a whirling CT machine, dye coursing through my veins, and the doctors look to see whether the tumors in my liver are growing. If they are not, the doctors smile and schedule another scan. The rhythm has been the same since my doctors told me I had stage IV colon cancer two and a half years ago. I live for three months, take a deep breath and hope to start over again. I will probably do this for the rest of my life. Whatever that means. When my scan is over, I need to make clear to my friends and my family that though I pray to be declared cured, I must be grateful. I have three more months of life. Hallelujah.
   So I try to put the news in a little Facebook post, that mix of sun and cloud. I am trying to clear the linguistic hurdles that show up on my chart. Noncurative. Stage IV. I want to communicate that I am hoping for a continued “durable remission” in the face of no perfect cure, but the comments section is a blurry mess of “You kicked cancer’s butt!” and “God bless you in your preparations.” It feels impossible to transmit the kernel of truth. I am not dying. I am not terminal. I am keeping vigil in the place of almost death. I stand in the in-between where everyone must pass, but so few can remain. Read on.


DioBeth
• Two nominated for IX Bishop of BethlehemThe Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem released the names of two priests who will stand for election for the ninth bishop of the diocese. They are the Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and the Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, 55, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Colorado. The search committee had chosen three nominees, but one withdrew shortly before the slate was presented to the Standing Committee, which oversees the election. More info and photos.

• DioBeth General News, Feb. 8 … Here.
• DioBeth General News, Feb. 1 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, Jan. 25 … Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, Jan. 18 … Here.
• Bishop Search Committee website … Here.



Episcopal/Anglican
Diocese’s call for ‘expansive language for God’ sparks debate on gender-neutral Episcopal liturgies
[ENS, David Paulsen, Dec. 7] The Diocese of Washington is calling on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to consider expanding the use of gender-neutral language for God in the Book of Common Prayer, if and when the prayer book is slated for a revision.
  
He? She? Those pronouns aren’t preferred, the diocese says in a resolution it passed Jan. 27 at its convention, held at Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital city. Instead, the resolution recommends using “expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition.”
  
The diocese’s convention passed two other resolutions, voicing support for immigrants and the transgender community. But it was the call for more inclusive language in the prayer book that drew national attention, especially from conservative-leaning critics. Read on.


Evangelism/Stewardship/Church Growth/Migration/ERD

Episcopal Migration MinistriesHere.?
Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN)Here.
Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD)Here
• Episcopal Asset Map
Here.
• Additional Resources

... way below


People

• Mother Laura Howell … On January 7, Trinity Bethlehem held a special celebration to give thanks for the ministry of the Rev. Canon Laura Howell upon her retirement. Emeritus Archdeacon Rick Cluett delivered the sermon at the Eucharist. Find the text here. Retirement? "You are sending me off to assist St. Margaret’s in Emmaus and St. Barnabas in Kutztown, two small parishes which are in need of clergy," Mother Laura said during her own reflection at Eucharist. "The spiritual formation and experience which I gained working with you will now be shared with yet more people in your name."


In the Media


TaleSpin
• What does it mean to die? [The New Yorker]
When Jahi McMath was declared brain-dead by the hospital, her family disagreed. Her case challenges the very nature of existence. For the past four years, Jahi McMath has breathed with the help of a ventilator. A neurologist described her as “an extremely disabled but very much alive teenage girl.” Read on.


Requiescant in pace
• The Rev. Elizabeth Diely … died February 3. Betsy had been a priest at St. Margaret's Emmaus. 

• Anna C. Kernan, 90 … died January 18, She was a longtime member of Nativity Cathedral Bethlehem where she taught Sunday School and was a member of the Albar Guild. Obituary.

• Eleanor A. Tannous, 82 … died on January 27. She had been a member of Grace Allentown for most of her life. Obituary.

• Bill Gessner, 92 … died on January 27. Husband of Barbara, he had been a member of Trinity Mt. Pocono. Obituary.

• Carol J. Bray, 65 … died on January 27. She was a member of St. George's Hellertown. Obituary.

• Stuart Hutchinson, 85 … died January 28. He was a member of Trinit
y Bethlehem. Obituary.  

• Sue Carroll Rush, 85 … died January 28. She was a member of Nativity Cathedral Bethlehem. Obituary.
 

Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
Rebel Monk  [NYTimes Op-Docs, Feb/ 7] In Germany, everybody has his own Martin Luther. Our view on the monk whose 95 Theses redefined Christianity 500 years ago depends on any number of variables: where you grew up (north or south, or East or West Germany), for example, and whether your parents were Communists. Luther is probably more interesting today than while he was alive. The Luther who translated the Bible and reformed the corrupt Catholic Church is the Luther Germans are proud of. For some, Luther is a brave man who challenged the powerful. For others, he’s a spiritual leader whose ideas changed the world forever. There is also the fugitive Luther, the one who spent years hiding in the Wartburg, a fortress in southeast Germany. And there’s a darker side of Luther, the Luther who hated Jews, the Luther we don’t like. Read on and View.

• The Episcopal Churchis currently in full communion relationship with the following churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India. Coordinating committees support the implementation of some of these relationships, which involve full mutual recognition of ministries and sacraments. Clergy of these churches may serve in Episcopal churches, and vice versa. We also have warm relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
   The Episcopal Church is in active dialogue with three traditions: the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Methodist Church. Our dialogues meet regularly to discuss matters of common concern, doctrinal agreements and disagreements, and possibilities for the emergence of full communion relationships. Each diocese of The Episcopal Church has a designated officer responsible for promoting ecumenical and interreligious conversations on the local level. Canon Maria Tjeltveit of the Church of the Mediator in Allentown is the designated officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Read on. REPEAT?


Evangelical Lutheran Church
• ELCA WebsiteHere.

• ELCA News ServiceHere.
• ELCA BlogsHere.
 

Moravian Church
• Moravian Church in North America  Website.  

• Moravian Church Northern Province Website
• Moravian Theological Seminary Website.

United Methodist Church
News Service Here.
Communication Resources ... Start here.
Eastern PA Conference website Here.
Facebook Here.
Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.

Presbyterian Church USA
• Website
... Here
• News & Announcements ... Here.

Roman Catholic
• Vatican rejects three wome speakers from Voices of Faith Conference[NCR, Sarah MacDonald, Feb. 2] Including former Irish President Mary McAleese. Organizers move conference outside the Vatican, make McAleese keynote speaker. Read on.

• The scariest Catholic in America
[NYT, Frank Bruni, Sunday Review, Feb. 3] The Rev. James Martin is a Roman Catholic rock star. His books, including one on Jesus Christ and another on the saints, have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The director Martin Scorsese has twice hired him to consult on movies with religious themes. Television producers love him: Back when Stephen Colbert had his Comedy Central show, Father Martin popped up frequently as its “official chaplain.” So the reaction when he agreed to speak this month to a group of parishes in central New Jersey was unalloyed elation, right? Wrong. Within days of the announcement, parish officials were in a state better described as dread. Read on.


Diocese of Scranton ... Here.

Diocese of Allentown ... Here.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here
Catholic News Service ... Here.
Crux Now ... Here.
 

The Vatican
• A Time to Judge: Pope Francis must be held to account
[Commonweal, The Editors, Feb. 6] When it comes to the crisis that has devastated the church, it increasingly looks as though Francis is only offering more of the same—or worse. He might not be inclined to judge, but the church and the world are watching, and will not hesitate to do just that. Francis has demanded accountability from priests and bishops, and now must be held to account himself. Read on. Also, at RNS.

• Benedict XVI says he is on 'pilgrimage Home'[The Tablet, UK] The retired Pope, 90, made the remarks in a nine line letter to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, who had presented him with letters from readers asking about his well-being.
Read on.

• Vatican Information Service blog
... Here.

• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.


Health and Wellness
• This year’s flu season is now more intense than any since the 2009 swine flu pandemic and still getting worse [NYTimes, Jan. 26] Nationally, the number of people falling ill with flu is increasing. More worrying, the hospitalization rate — a predictor of the death rate — has just jumped. It is now on track to equal or surpass that of the 2014-2015 flu season. In that year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, 34 million Americans got the flu, 710,000 were hospitalized and about 56,000 died. “We’ll expect something around those numbers,” Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, director of the C.D.C.’s influenza division, said during a telephone news conference Friday. This week, the deaths of seven children were reported to the C.D.C., bringing this season’s total to 37. In 2014-2015, there were 148 pediatric deaths — which the agency tracks individually, not by estimates as it does with death totals. Read on. Also here. And here.


Media/Print/Films/TV/Music/Tech

• Two new Netflix original documentary series
Dirty Money, premiering Jan. 26, takes on


Websites, Podcasts and Blogs
The Episcopal CaféHere.

AnglicansOnlineHere.
Diocese of BethlehemHere.

The Episcopal ChurchHere.
Episcopal News ServiceHere. Story here.


Varia


Abbreviations of Sources
AM … America Magazine
AO
… Anglicans Online
AP
… Associated Press
BCP
… Book of Common Prayer
CJR
… Columbia Journalism Review
COM
… Commonweal
CN
… Crux Now
CNS
… Catholic News Service
DoB
… Diocese of Bethlehem
EC
… Episcopal Café
ENS … Episcopal News Service
ERD … Episcopal Relief & Development
MC … Morning Call, Allentown
NCR … National Catholic Reporter
NYM … New York Magazine
NYT … New York Times
R&P … Religion&Politics
RNS … Religion News Service
TA … The Atlantic

TEC … The Episcopal Church
TLC … The Living Church
TNY … The New Yorker
WaPo … Washington Post
WSJ … Wall Street Journal

newSpin? … I decided years ago to call this newsletter and its related blog newSpin. The "S" in the middle suggests that some items are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Items I include as well as how and how often I present them are clues to my leanings. I think all of us spin. There's a lot more spin in the world of news than most editors own up to. Watch out for that upper case S in the middle. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.
   The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on a newSpin list of some 2,000 addresses every other Thursday. Many recipients forward it to others. It comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop, the Standing Committee, the Canon to the Ordinary or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bethlehem Episcopalians (if you have joined that interactive FaceBook group).

Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998-)
Blog, Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]


Selected Posts from Past newSpin Newsletters that may still be of interest
• Letter to the Episcopal Church from the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies  [Jan. 22] In recent weeks, compelling testimony from women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by powerful men has turned our minds to a particularly difficult passage of holy scripture: the story of the rape of King David’s daughter Tamar by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13: 1-22). It is a passage in which a conspiracy of men plots the exploitation and rape of a young woman. She is stripped of the power to speak or act, her father ignores the crime, and the fate of the rapist, not the victim, is mourned. It is a Bible story devoid of justice.
  
For more than two decades, African women from marginalized communities have studied this passage of scripture using a method called contextual Bible study to explore and speak about the trauma of sexual assault in their own lives. Using a manual published by the Tamar Campaign they ask, “What can the Church do to break the silence against gender-based violence?” Read on.

• Salvadorans at risk of losing immigration status find support in churches [RNS, Jan. 17] When German Fernandez learned last week that the Trump administration plans to end Temporary Protected Status for him and around 200,000 other immigrants from El Salvador, it was a nightmare come true. “When I saw the news, I could express no words,” he said. “TPS has protected me for 18 years.”
   When the program allowing undocumented Salvadoran immigrants to live and work in the United States ends next year, many will be at risk of deportation to a country that is racked by horrific gang violence. But rather than succumb to despair, many Salvadorans — who are overwhelmingly Christian — are finding hope, support and empowerment in churches that are working with advocacy groups and faith-based coalitions to offer assistance. Fernandez, who has been sending money he makes in the U.S. back to his family in El Salvador, has found support at St. Matthew’s Parish, an Episcopal church in the Washington suburb of Hyattsville, Md., where about 40 percent of the congregation’s roughly 800 members are Salvadoran TPS holders. Read on.

• The Republican's Guide to Presidential Etiquette [NYTimes Editorial Board, Jan. 20] When the editorial board published the first edition of the Republican’s Guide to Presidential Etiquette last May, we hoped to provide a helpful reminder to those morally upright members of the G.O.P. who were once so concerned about upholding standards of presidential decorum. Remember the hand-wringing when Barack Obama wore a tan suit or tossed a football in the Oval Office? Yet even as the current occupant of the White House continues to find new and shocking ways to defile his office, congressional Republicans have only lashed themselves more tightly to him. The examples come so fast that it’s easy to forget that the last one happened just four days ago, or just this morning.
  
As part of our continuing effort to resist the exhausting and numbing effects of living under a relentlessly abusive and degrading president, we present, for the third time in nine months, an updated guide to what Republicans now consider to be acceptable behavior from the commander in chief. As before, these examples, drawn from incidents or disclosures in the last three-plus months, do not concern policy decisions — only the president’s words and actions. And no, we’re not even opening that Michael Wolff book. Read on.

• For the Poor and the Neglected[BCP] Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

• The Serenity Prayer … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. Read on.

• Are we there yet? Imagine that! [Bill Lewellis, The Morning Call, Jan. 21] Are we there yet? You may remember saying that. You may remember how slowly time moved. Your fullness of life was ahead of you. You perceived your days as plodding on. Toward fullness. That perception was your reality. Fullness came. Too busy to notice? You became used to time’s movement, perceived usually as neither slow nor fast. Now in my 81st year, time flies. In two-week increments. Read on. Also here.

• The Toolkit … of the Public Affairs Office is located on the Public Affairs pages of The Episcopal Church website here. Among the items are: Topics – topics of interest and dates of importance. Catalog – a list of important topics along with actions taken by The Episcopal Church and General Convention. Getting started - an easy how-to for getting started in preparing materials, media releases, op-eds, etc. For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org, 212-716-6080.

Sermons that work … The Episcopal Church welcomes many different points of view, and sermons offered during an Episcopal service may vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Although there is no “typical” or on'e-size-fits-all sermon for Episcopal congregations, the sermons in this series are selected for their universal qualities so that they may be useful to a wide variety of small congregations without full-time priests on staff, where lay leaders often shoulder the responsibility of delivering the sermons on Sunday. To assist these small congregations, the Episcopal Church offers Sermons That Work, new sermons each week for Sundays and major feast days throughout the liturgical year. Here.

Weekly bulletin inserts … provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Here. There's also an archive dating back to 2006.

• Study asks: Why are young Catholics going, going, gone? [NCR, Julie Bourbon, Jan. 22] A new report on young adults who no longer identify as Catholic is attempting to understand why so many have "disaffiliated" from the faith they were born into. It comes at a time when more young people than ever before are leaving the church, even as those losses are being offset by Hispanic immigration to the U.S. Whether it's feelings of being judged by religious leaders who don't know or understand them, or being forced by their parents to attend church, or witnessing the sexual abuse scandal and the hypocrisy of church hierarchy, young people are expressing a desire both to break free from organized religion and to be part of a community. Read on



 

 

 


Demons, Certainty, Messianic Secret; Why were you not you?

Epiphany 5B – February 4, 2018
Bill Lewellis
Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Mark 1:29-39

Strange
You may agree with me that the bible includes strange stories and verses. You may agree with me also that today’s gospel passage includes both.

For starters, how about Jesus forbidding the demons to speak … because they knew him. Tell no one about me.

A good motto for Episcopal evangelism? Tell no one about me?

I’ll get back to that. First, however, the elephant in the room, the elephant in the gospel passage: demons.

Demons
If you’ve seen movies like The Exorcist, get them out of your head. If you’ve heard anyone equate demons with mental illness, get rid of that lie as well.

Stay with this: A demon is anything that has power that is not of God.

What/Who are today’s demons?

Racism?

Xenophobia, Nativism? i.e. fear of strangers, leading to denigration of those not like us. Accordingly, ban immigration. Get rid of the “Dreamers,” the Haitians, the Salvadorans and, of course, the Muslims. Just as people before us wanted to get rid of or make life difficult for the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, Lithuanians and Slovaks.

Another demon: whatever leads a person into addiction and keeps him/her there.

A true story might illustrate this.

Monica and I were members of Grace Allentown for some 30 years. One Wednesday evening, we welcomed some 125 people who gathered for a funeral Eucharist for Pablo Bonilla, a 52-year-old recovering drug addict, recovering alcoholic and a client of AIDS Outreach where my wife then worked. After beginning not to use, Pablo may have truly loved and helped to heal more people than I might imagine.

Many in that congregation were people in recovery. A man who spoke reminded them how often Pablo said, “Flacco [the drug dealer] doesn’t love you. I love you.”

Those who were there loved Pablo in whom they saw someone from “the rooms” who had chosen not to use and wanted to turn his life around.

They experienced, in Pablo – though they might not put it this way – they experienced in Pablo the healing touch of Jesus. Just as Jesus touched Peter’s mother-in-law, raised her up and healed her, they experienced themselves in need. Waiting for someone’s touch.

Aren’t we seeking the healing touch of Jesus? Jesus came to heal, you know, not to confer lifetime achievement awards.

Flacco, the drug dealer, was the demon. Pablo was the exorcist, the healer. “Flacco doesn’t love you, I love you.” Pablo said to them.

 

Need over certainty
A bit of an aside.

Have you noticed that we Christians often trivialize God by arguing over superficial things, lashing ourselves to the mast of tradition or doctrine or certainty rather than admit we don’t know the way.

Not so far from here, Bethlehem’s First Presbyterian Church on Center street had, a year or so ago, a very large congregation. Now, some 1100 of them are temporarily using the auditorium of Bethlehem Catholic High School for their Sunday worship.

Fewer – I’m not sure how many – remain at that large church and its 31.5-acre campus. Why the split? Those who left are certain that God does not approve of the ordination of gay ministers and gay marriage.

I don’t mean to judge any church, any group. (Episcopal churches have undergone similar disruptions.) I simply mean to say that we Christians often trivialize God by betting the house on superficial things. And that, I think, makes God weep.

One part of wisdom is recognizing our limits, letting go of our certainties, recognizing our neediness, asking for help, inviting God to do what we can’t do.

Every church needs regularly to ask why it is taking up space on God’s earth.

One reason might be to see people in obvious need as mirrors of our own hidden needs. To seek the heart of God.


The Messianic Secret
Perhaps the strangest part of today’s gospel passage is that Jesus would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him.

Tell no one who I am.

One might understand not permitting the demons to speak – but because they knew him? Wouldn’t you think Jesus would want anyone who knew him to tell the world?

An underlying theme of Mark’s gospel is that Jesus did not want people to know too soon that he was, indeed, the Messiah.

They might act on their own derived certainties and seek him out for miracles and try to remake him according to their own images and certainties about one they were expecting. You know the old saying: God made us in his own image – and we have returned the favor.

Jesus did not – and does not – want people to follow him for the wrong reason.

He knew that what he was about was not what many were looking for. They didn’t yet know about Friday on Calvary hill.

Jesus suspected he would be a scandal to those who lived by their petty certainties about their small God. He wanted to give them – and wants to give us – time to discover a larger God.

So, he would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him. In biblical theology, this theme in the Gospel according to Mark has been called, fittingly, “the Messianic Secret.”

On the move
The next morning, Mark tells us, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place to pray. When Simon and his companions found him, they told him everyone was looking for him. (For the wrong reasons, Jesus thought.)

“Let’s get out of here,” Jesus said to his disciples.

And Jesus was on the move.

I am quoting someone here, and don’t know whom. Christians have tried “to portray Jesus as the serene champion of stability, place and permanence, arguing endlessly about tradition and orthodoxy… We have sunk fortunes into standing still in the name of one who never stood still… while the restless love of God leads us on to places we haven’t seen before.”

The Glory of God
Remember, now. Don’t tell anyone who Jesus is.

One last thing. It’s open-ended – I like open-ended – It’s so open-ended.

Irenaeus, a second-century theologian and Church Father, said this: The Glory of God is a human person fully alive.

Coupled with that, I think of an ancient Hasidic story that I’ve baptized: When you die, God is not going to ask you why you were not Jesus … or Einstein … or Dean Pompa or Felicia … or Oprah … or Pope Francis … or Bishop Sean … or [name a few people from the congregation].

He will ask you why you were not you. Or, as it has been said: Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.  

Please say your first name – aloud – at the end of my sentence:  God will ask me why I was not  ??????

The Glory of God is a person fully alive!

Thank you.

Amen.