Sermon preached by Bishop Paul Marshall at the Marriage of Andrew Reinholz and Kimberly Rowles. 1/14/12

Christ Church, Reading
(c) Paul V. Marshall
Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 8:6-7; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 7:21,24-29

We are all here to express in one way or another our love for Kim and Andrew, our joy in their happiness, and our hopes for their long and happy future.

And to have a party. That, it turns out, is the very biblical thing to do.

At the same time, the bride and groom are trying to express something to us. I don’t think I have ever seen a couple put as much time and care into the choice of scripture lessons, thus our attentively reflecting together on the texts they have chosen is a way of honoring Kim and Andrew, giving their choices serious attention.

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Bishop's Beach Party with Youth on January 21st

[From Ellyn Siftar, Youth and Young Adult Missioner]

Happy New Year from the Diocese of Bethlehem!  I pray that your Christmas and Epiphany were filled with the Holy Spirit.   I am writing to invite you and your youth to celebrate a beach party with the Bishop, your friends and neighbors in the diocese on Saturday, January 21st.  This is a very special event with a great band, games and activities, time to chill and hang out with friends, dinner and ending with worship.   It will be held at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.   Doors will open at 3:00 pm, program begins at 4, and youth should be picked up by 9 pm that evening.  I know that this is late in the evening, so if you are coming from the north, please let me know if you’d like to stay overnight at the Cathedral (we have room for up to 15), have breakfast together and then join them for church in the morning.  Parents can then pick you up by noon.         
The event is open for youth in grades 6- 12.  The cost is $20.00 per person; this covers the cost of a T-shirt and dinner.  Reduced group rates ARE available, as space permits.  Registration is now open on http://www.diobeth.org/Ministries/Youth/youth.html and is filling up fast!!  In order to be registered for the event, please also fill in the Diocesan Medical Release form and Youth Covenant.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact me directly at esiftardiobeth.org or 610-751-3931. 

Blessings,

Ellyn Siftar
Missioner for Youth and Young Adult Ministries
Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem


Working with what we don't know about Sudan

Bishop Paul wrote the following to the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem on Bakery, the list-serve of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

Some of you have noticed reports about the archbishop of the Sudanese church recognizing the Anglican Church in North America as the true Anglican presence in North America, and pledging his church to work only with "orthodox" dioceses within The Episcopal Church. The archbishop of Sudan has accordingly withdrawn his invitation to our Presiding Bishop to visit Sudan. The issue is the status of gay and lesbian people in our church.

It is my hope that Bishop Anthony of Kajo-Keji and I can have personal communication before there is any public analysis from either of us on the substance of this matter, or of the theological and ecclesial dimensions of an individual national church taking decisions about how the Anglican Communion is present in another place, and I wrote to him on Saturday and have forwarded other correspondence to him, including this. It is my hope to get some sense of why the letter was written, why it was written now, and what nuances may be lost on westerners (and vice versa--I couldn't begin to compose a theological statement in a second living language). Until I hear from Bishop Anthony about any _actual_ change in the nature of our relationship, including our perceived status as orthodox (or orthodox enough), I am simply pausing, on both the personal and administrative levels, and have communicated that sense of pause to the New Hope administrators as well as to Bishop Anthony. To me, this is one of those times when it is necessary to do nothing.

Ideally, Bishop Anthony and I will write to you together, as we have done in the past when there was tension. In any event, I will share what I learn from him.


WHILE WE WAIT

1) Here is what I am remembering as I wait for more information: every day up to 1600 Sudanese children go to school because you and I have cared about them. That concrete fact will anchor us as we try to understand a particular moment in the always-changing contours of any living relationship.

2) Those of us who have a passion about sisters and brothers in Africa will need to continue believing that love always finds a way. The question of the giving and receiving love between those who may not understand or approve of each other is absolutely essential to the gospel of reconciliation, and this issue always comes before fine points biblical interpretation or ecclesiastical politics. Politics can be about love, however, in the long run.

3) Advent is about waiting, as Canon Anne Kitch has reminded us so movingly over the last four weeks in her daily columns. But to those who have grown weary through millenia of waiting for dignity--or physical security--because of who they are sexually, and who may be beyond-tired of being an issue for other people to debate yet again, I express my profound and lasting regret, a regret really too deep for mere words, along with my admiration for their bothering to be Christian at all and my belief that there will be another set of circumstances if we really choose that as God's people.

Blessings,
+Paul

posted by Andrew Gerns


Diocesan Life for December 2011/January 2012

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Memories are made of this

Sermon, All Saints Day, 2011
Ordination of Frances Hlavacek and Charles Warwick to the Sacred Order of Deacons.
The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, Bishop of Bethlehem

Dean Leander Keck used to say that a sermon is biblical if it has the same function of the text. How, then, might we duplicate what St. John saw in his vision for our new deacons?

Let’s try this. When you visit Rome today, on its rush to St Peter’s Basilica, the tour bus passes a much smaller church with a disproportionately large dome. If you make your way back to it, you find yourself in a former Roman temple, the Pantheon, the building once dedicated to all the gods.

When Christians took over the Pantheon they re-dedicated it to St. Mary and all the martyrs. What had been the temple of all the gods had become the shrine of Christ’s holy ones.

The Pantheon is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, and the dome makes the building. The dome is constructed with molded coffers, indentations, and the rays of the sun play with them as it moves through the sky. But when the light entering from the top is just right, the dome shimmers. The statues of the gods must have seemed alive and present to visitors at such moments, a bit of heaven. Out of all the recycled temples, this is the room Christians took over to remember their heroes of faith, bathed in heavenly light and still with them, holy ones always praying for them as they worked to be faithful disciples.

Since I first saw it, I have often imagined what it was like to live in a world before electricity and to go into the Pantheon, to be stopped still in one’s tracks by the light, aware of the holiness that is always all around us and now concentrated so that we can see it better. The builder’s intent was that you would be transfixed, and it works. I also wonder what it was like to enter that space a little tired, a little discouraged perhaps, and just stand there. Stand there letting the light do the evangelizing as it changed the room and bathed the images of the saints in the light. On such an occasion the unspoken words might be “you are not in this alone; many have walked the path; many garments have been cleansed in the blood of the lamb; they dwell in light—and they pray for you, they cheer you on. How God is glorified in them!”

All Saints Day has fallen onto hard times of late, and currently exists for many people as a kind of memorial day for remembering everyone they ever knew and loved. It seems that the skinny cow of All Souls Day has swallowed up the fat cow of All Saints Day. I cannot do anything about that latest victory of sentimentality except regret it. Let me nonetheless remind our ordinands that for most of our history, this day was a celebration for those martyrs and other believers who struggled very intentionally to make Jesus Christ real in this world at considerable cost to themselves. The Church gratefully cherishes their memory and humbly invokes their prayers.

Of course they of the skinny cows are right when they remind us that everybody has her or his own little pantheon of more contemporary people who have touched them, and those memories are vital to the shape of their own souls. I have my list of people who shaped me, and am profoundly grateful for them as I pray for them on All Souls Day. All Saints day is about corporate memory, however, a concept it took about four centuries for the Church to develop under a number of influences. The result is that on All Saints Day we remember those lives in which Christ’s people together have seen God at work, mightily, subtly, beautifully and for the sake of Jesus. At all times, and in all places, nations, languages and people. Sentimentality and individualism are only overcome by great common stories, myth in the best sense. Myth provides the common story into which individuals grow. A people without a common mythology fragments into solipsism and hedonism, and this is a point any newspaper illustrates every day. It is why there will always be a price to pay for the Reformation’s necessary emphasis on the individual. People with a common story have common will and are very effective. That is why we tell the stories of the saints as our story, not my story. The saints show us how the wheel came to be invented, so that task need not delay us.

Fran and Charlie, this great feast day speaks to the occasion of your ordination.

Memory is a pretty flexible thing, if I recall, so let that fact work for you and install a memory with me now. Whenever our common ministry seems challenging or heavy, “remember” how you and I stood together in Rome under the shimmering dome of the Pantheon on that bright summer day not too long ago. Especially remember the light. We are always walking in and toward the light, doing our best to assist God’s people on that very same journey to the central flame of the Light of Christ. Remember the light.

Remember how many saints we saw there that day. As deacons you will interpret the needs of the world to the Church. This is why corporate memory and corporate awareness are so important. You will indeed spend much of your ministries attending to the needs of individuals. That is necessary and saintly, but even more is asked of you. Because you deacons are on the front lines, so to speak, you are in the very best position to reflect on what you see and hear, and get us to see and hear it too. When you have a reverence for who we are together, your ability to speak gracefully and in proportion can only grow in effectiveness. When you are aware of the great company in which you stand, you have so much more to offer to people whose defining quality may be crushing aloneness. Invite those lonely or hurting souls to meet the family.

The saints of the undivided church are the heroes of the Bible, the apostolic era, and the centuries following. Martyrs, teachers, servants, they are none of them perfect—even Jesus’ mother had to be corrected by him on at least three occasions. They were, however, all willing to use the particular gifts God gave them in service to the kingdom. It is vital that you internalize this truth. Our heroes did not get everything right, and it is a tragedy when those invested in the work of the church grow despondent over their own imperfections. There are certain basic competencies ordinands must have, and you two have demonstrated them in order to be here tonight. Beyond that, God and the Church ask that you use the gifts you actually have, to hone the skills that are uniquely yours. Leave it to others to perfect cold fusion.

There are shadows in the Pantheon; that is how the building works. In tonight’s gospel Jesus promises all of his followers that if they follow him intentionally they may expect to be reviled and they may expect to be persecuted. The Barnabas Fund says that 160,000 people were murdered by Muslims in 2010 just for being Christian. The grand total of Christian deaths for the year is over half a million by their count. Let’s say the Barnabas Fund is exaggerating, and it is only a quarter of a million slaughtered. I understand that it is not this or any other administration’s state interest to make these deaths a cause, but why are Christians so silent in the west? Where are the deacons?

Persecution in our own culture is usually more polite, if not benign, unless you start meddling, and meddling is, alas, the deacon’s duty, so be ready. Historically, quite a few people on our calendar of saints died at the hands of fellow Christians, and we who preach remember our patron John Chrysostom in just that regard.

So it happens, it can happen to you. Along with the reminder to stand up for all victims of persecution, Jesus says do not be discouraged or even particularly surprised if your devotion to serving him in the person of the poor, the troubled, or the dishonored gets you into difficulty. Do not be surprised if even conventionally religious people push back when you speak for the voiceless.

Science tells us that being immensely powerful and hugely successful does indeed create a chemical rush that changes brain functioning. That rush does not excuse, but does explain how family values politicians can also be molesters and not think it odd. In our vocabulary, it is one of the expected consequences of superbia, malignant pride. The lesson for deacons is that it is hard to speak truth to power because power doesn’t think you have anything to say because it is too busy being drenched in serotonin. I do not say this to aggravate your defiance circuits, but as a reminder. I want to evoke that part of you that is wiser than a serpent—and deacons must be very wise. What are the means of persuasion left to you when shouting does not work? Well, for just one example, Jesus exposed evil by naming it, submitting to it, showing it up for what it is. He is the one whom God vindicated, and in him we all are vindicated as we strive to be faithful.

When the push-back comes in big or little ways, Jesus asks you to remember that you are in good company. One of the marks of being a prophet is being persecuted. But how will you remember that if you haven’t been studying their stories?

When the push-back comes, remember how you and I visited the Pantheon that summer day and marveled at how many, more than anyone could count, had come through all manner of tribulation and now praise God eternally.  Remember how our hearts were brave again and how our arms grew strong—and back to the work we will go, remembering, aware of the light that is and remains around us.

May God bless many through your ministry as deacons.


After the Three-Legged Stool, This

Sermon, Clergy Day 11/3/11
Commemoration of Richard Hooker
The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, Bishop of Bethlehem

Would you, with all your gifts and talents, want to be remembered for a piece of furniture? I thought not, so let’s mention the three-legged stool and move on.

As our own Phil Secor and countless others have reminded us, Richard Hooker was no mere pragmatist or compromiser. He was a theologian. As John Booty has pointed out in his Reflections, some of Hooker’s major themes are community, worship, and sacramental completeness.

Just coming from All Saints Day, we have had occasion to think about “happy are they,” happy being a limping translation for makarios, a Greek word for that state of completeness, integrity, and way-beyond-good-feeling that the gods enjoy. Hooker’s explication of community and worship were not so much meditations on the Elizabethan settlement as they were exploration of what it takes to make people “happy.” For him the answer was wholeness of relationship to God and society.
 
The Church was, for Hooker, a special locus within general society where mutuality and cooperation were manifest. In his time people argued about the “marks” of a true church, and it is instructive to imagine how those lists would have changed if mutuality and cooperation were benchmarks against which each body tested itself and others.

Mutuality and cooperation. That is not a pragmatic formulation from the mind of one who sought peace at any price. These words reflect how Hooker understood the universe: “God has made nothing for itself.” (Sermon on Pride)

In a famous passage in the first book of The Laws, Hooker points to the whole cosmos working together in all its parts, concluding that our attention to the facto of fundamental created interrelatedness is “the stay of the whole world.” Do we do our part to keep the cosmos humming smoothly?

Our times demand that we add emphatically that Christ the reconciler is the center of that world. For Hooker, our response to recognition of the truth that the world is centered in fundamental interrelatedness is worship, awe, and…wonder. Hooker is way ahead of us is anticipating that delightful prayer that concludes the baptismal rite, asking for the new Christian, “the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.” To be makarios, happy, is to have the joy of contemplating God’s creation of a universe of interrelation. That will preach 411 years after his death.

That attitude of wonder is Hooker’s “needful sword” to slice through the knot of eucharistic theology. After, all, one cannot come to the table doing math. Hooker the communicant was ready to leave Hooker the academic at home and came as his more basic self when he came to communion:

“Why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant but this, ‘O my God, thou art here, O my soul, thou art happy.’”
 
Hooker considered the shape of the liturgical container for this experience of happiness a non-trivial matter. Rather like Jacob’s Dream or a Gary Larsen cartoon about the afterlife, Hooker imagined worship as including a kind of two-way escalator, with angels constantly bringing down truth, and taking back praise and prayers.

Occasioning such an event was not to be an off-hand matter. Book Five of the Laws has historical and theological concern for liturgy, but it argues for the maintenance of public form and private freedom in a highly pastoral way (and forgive me here for reading from my dissertation of 30 years ago). Hooker says that fixed liturgies work to help that imbecility and weakness in us, by means whereof we are otherwise of ourselves the less apt to perform unto God so heavenly a service, with such affection of heart, and disposition in the powers of our souls as is requisite. To this end therefore all things hereunto ap­pertaining have been ever thought convenient to be done with the most solemnity and majesty that the wisest could devise. It is not with public as with private prayer. In this rather secrecy is com­mended than outward show, whereas that being the public act of a whole society, requireth accordingly more care to be had of external appearance. (V.21.1)

Imbecility. Participating in a common liturgy invites me to confront my own randomness, immaturity, and lack of direction by letting the rite, the cosmos, the community, and my apprehension of those escalator angels shape me. Imbecility ministered to by majesty.

There is a warning here. We who are asked to lead the church must always care for our imbecility through liturgy and personal prayer, as Hooker says. And care for the imbecile next to you.

Care for the imbecile next to you. I have spent many years now noticing chatter, sometimes even running commentary, by clergy and other church leaders gathered for public worship. I have seen crowds talking away while world-class musicians have played world-class music. I have known some of you to tell me that you won’t sit by so-and-so because you cannot worship through the constant chatter. Let’s respect the imbeciles around us. Some may be bearing heavy burdens; others may be struggling to see light; still others may trying to lose themselves in adoration of God.

I’ve wondered why we do this. Is it anxiety about not being in the driver’s seat in this liturgy? Is it difficulty in accepting that other people have ways of functioning that reflect integrity as much as ours do?  Or is it a defense, a defense against the numinous or even a defense against our doubts? Is it a way to cut God down to size?

In any case, Hooker calls us to transcend such behavior so that the neighbor and we ourselves are more free to notice the angels going up and down, receive what they bring, and load up their pouches with our praise and prayer. In this, he says, we will be happy.

Remembering Richard Hooker is remembering that ultimately God makes us happy by making us connected, connected to the universe, our maker, and each other. He invites us to discipline ourselves for wonder, to care for our imbecility and the imbeciles around us, that that all may say, “O my God, thou art true; O my soul, thou art happy.”


Diocesan Life for November 2011

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Resolutions of Courtesy from Diocesan Convention

By Canon Anne Kitch

May it be resolved, that we who are gathered in this place do most graciously give voice to our joy in thy worshipful servant Bishop Paul, and that we offer unto him deep gratitude for that he hath led us on to ponder "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;” and for that he doth continually translate God’s Word for us.

Resolved, we salute Bishop Jack for being an all around holy man and for proving that it is possible to take our faith seriously while maintaining a light heart.

Resolved, we admire Canon Jane Teter for knitting the Diocese together through the warmth of her spirit and the multitude of her ministries.

Resolved, we humbly honor Stephen Tomor, the New Hope Campaign Coordinator in Kajo-Keji, and offer heartfelt gratitude for his faithful oversight of the construction of the schools in South Sudan.

Resolved, we applaud and support the deep Christian compassion manifested by the spontaneous outpouring of aid from parishes and individuals in our Diocese in response to those grievously afflicted by the recent flooding.

Resolved, we celebrate The Congregational Renewal Committee, for establishing the Diocesan Renewal Assemblies, summoning us to lives of prayer, showing us how to celebrate our blessings and inviting us to connect the dots.

Resolved, we marvel at Tom Lloyd, who has given 50 years of service on the Peace Commission of this Diocese and been a stalwart champion for matters of justice and peace.

Resolved, we glorify the Holy Spirit who has inspired us to bear a common witness in a hurting world with our sisters and brothers of other denominations and other faiths thereby finding strength in unity.

Resolved, we express copious gratitude to the people of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity for lavishly hosting us and for inspiring us by their gallant example of how we might cope gracefully with all impediments—scaling new heights and crossing hazardous terrain with confidence.

Resolved, we praise our merciful God for gifting us with new ministry, new schools, and new hope in our Diocese and for the favor poured out upon this Convention evident in the first four consecutive days in four months without rain. May God bless us and give us the courage to climb the mountain and the inner silence to hear God’s word.

Respectfully presented by the Committee on Resolutions of Courtesy

The Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch, chair
The Rev. Earl Trygar
Ms. Melody Lewis


Bishop Paul's Diocesan Convention Address

Convention Address, Oct. 7, 2011
Bishop Paul V. Marshall
Diocese of Bethlehem
Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
 
To enjoy each other and grow together in the Lord
I greet you with joy and affection as we gather again for convention. It is good to see new faces and to welcome back those who have moved back into the Diocese.
 
Those of you who are new or who are coming to our convention for the first time will notice something a bit unusual about this gathering. The time we spend debating and discussing resolutions is not particularly long. We put our energy into being together, in praying together, in eating together, and into learning together. The gathering is one piece, so there is no discount, so to speak, for skipping the eucharist or not having dinner.
 
So if you are here for the first time, please do not think of this as a two-day vestry meeting, but rather like a small and discrete camp meeting. Our goal is to enjoy each other in the Lord and to grow together. Every group has only so much energy, and by long tradition we spend ours in this communal way.
 
The King James Version of 1611
You will also notice that our scripture readings at all services are from the King James Version of 1611. It is the foundation of the modern translations we use in all our parishes; it served our ancestors very well. We gratefully remember at this Convention that “God’s word written” can only reach us if someone translates it. We remember how the 1611 translation gave shape to the thinking and language of every English-speaking person, usually without their knowing it. We remember that it was, as all memorable English Bible translations must be, an effort at Christian unity. All of that said, it is also just fine to sit back and enjoy its language.
 
Scanning a few headlines of the past year
A lot has happened since we last met, much of it joyful, some of it challenging. Let me just scan the headlines of Diocesan Life for you.
 

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Diocesan Life for October 2011

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Sermon at Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Hope

Bishop Paul V. Marshall
Cathedral Church of the Nativity
September 11, 2011

On behalf of the Episcopal Church in these fourteen counties of NE PA, it is my privilege to welcome to this place the distinguished leaders of several Lehigh Valley religious communities, and indeed all of you who are present at this moment of remembrance and hope.

It is, as each of us knows and feels, the anniversary of the vicious destruction of three thousand human lives ten years ago. Our worship tonight beautifully brings the riches or our several traditions together to assist us in the remembrance of those who have died. It expresses our concern for those who still live with the burden of grief or injury. We also remember those whose efforts at rescue and recovery ten years ago have cost them and their loved ones dearly.

Our technology allows us to relive the disasters of 9/11 on our screens at the touch of a button or click of a mouse. That fact informs some, but it has also kept wounds open for many more victims than we might suspect, and we remember all of those who are imprisoned by horrible memories.

Yet the words said and sung here may not in the long run be as significant as the very fact of our gathering together.  Our presence enacts our wish to work together in a way that promotes a just peace in every place.  We meet not on the level of our strengths or our defenses, but on the level of our grief, on the level of our tears. When we risk being vulnerable in each other’s presence, healing can happen.

The title on your leaflet is “Remembrance and Hope.” Remembrance and grief are well expressed in this worship service. We may have differing notions of what it means to remember the departed before Heaven and to ask the Creator to remember the dead. But surely we agree that to some degree the aspect of hope is left up to us to accomplish. I want to say a brief word about making way for hope.

This is hardly the occasion to say anything new, but I will try to put what we already know, and perhaps feel, into some kind of structured reflection. I hope I do so humbly and carefully.

The first hopeful observation is that tonight we suspend or at least transcend our reservations about those whom we perhaps sometimes presume to categorize as “other.” What we can do today we can do tomorrow, if we want to. Tonight we suspend or transcend our reservations because, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has said, while we may not share a single faith we certainly share a single fate. Only a change in all of us at the cellular level can avoid that devastating fate.

There have been, as there always are, people who wish to mitigate the evil of 9/11 through a version of “understanding” the perpetrators. I find that abhorrent. The idea that if one has suffered enough one has license to be a monster must be rejected out of hand. What moral authority organized religion has left must, I think, say that clearly.

The sad truth that concerns us as religious people is that 9/11 happened because an evil man used religious language to foster in alienated and angry people a hatred cold, vicious, and refined enough for them to murder three thousand human beings without warning or opportunity to defend themselves.

We who uphold spiritual values must confront in our fellow believers such a misuse of religion if there is to be hope for the world. It is for each of us to ask how much and how often we have confronted the extremists in our own communities. How often do we give bad behavior a pass because we do not wish to be seen as critical of our own side—and the others are looking?

There are followers of every religion I have encountered who have used religious language and religious loyalties to instill attitudes or even incite deeds that defy the will of the One who called Abram so that all the world might find a blessing. We must forbid that defiance of Heaven—not among others, but among our co-religionists. I speak not of old-fashioned brotherhood or tolerance, of even King Empathy itself, but of the survival of our species.

If there is to be a future, it belongs to our children. In that regard I report that I am essentially a city boy, and have been around long enough to know that every religious group—and lots of religious sub-groups—have words of casual distain for those who are not like them. Our words shape our thinking. Does training for hatred start as our children hear these expressions that are so much a part of many vocabularies? Can we live without them? Do we want to live without them?

I know a country girl whose earliest memory of seeing a black man is neurologically fused with her experience of her mother clutching her hand somewhat desperately as the stranger approached. What might have come from such an experience? Again, I am not interested at this moment in good feelings, but in survival.

In the interest of survival there is a need for every group and nation to cease rationalizing their own behavior or the behavior of those they support while condemning the same acts when others do them. Can we who lead religious groups, while surely decrying the evils we see, also root out in ourselves all that degrades others? Can we root out   all that externalizes blames and projects our negativity onto others? And here our various groups very much need each other’s feedback, as difficult as it may be to offer or to hear it. What is a casual remark in one vocabulary may be a grave insult in another.

We who bear, preserve, and hand on religious traditions have a very heavy responsibility in this regard. Religion by its nature touches and moves parts of us that are not entirely rational, not even conscious, and this can be a very good thing. Spiritual practices require a deliberate regression, just as art and music do, if we are to experience meaning deeply. It is because people come to religious moments in a regressed state that they are open to the sublime.

They are also open to demagoguery and hatred in those moments. They are especially vulnerable if they are afraid, or wounded, or if the speaker has some powerful slogans. If there is to be hope, those of us who lead or teach or influence religious institutions must remember the vulnerability of those who hear us and frame our words very carefully. A student once said to a professor that “with a little work you could be a mesmerizing speaker.” The professor told him that he worked even harder not to be mesmerizing. Our religious discourse ought never deprive our hearers of the ability to make moral and ethical judgments on their own, to say, “Hey, this is wrong.”

Just one more point. When I was a student back in the 60s, it was the politics of the left that was very critical and rejecting of the state. At this moment it seems that the right is having that experience. I don’t take a side here, but point out that everyone is capable of an attitude of alienation from their own country. The prophet Jeremiah, whom our several traditions all revere, had a word about that. To captives and exiles who had every reason to be bad citizens, he wrote: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In its welfare you will find your welfare. I don’t expect to live long enough to see them teaching Civics again to high school students, and that is a pity. We must do it. We need to teach by word and example the values of community, the responsibilities of citizenship, the importance of fair play, and respect for the potential that lies in every human being. Actively seeking the good of humanity right where we live defies narcissism, greed, and hatred--and opens the path to peace.  That is a hope worth pursuing if we are to survive and our children to thrive.

 

 

 


September 11 Services of Remembrance in the diocese

September 11 Services of Remembrance from around the diocese in chronological order

St. Anne's, Trexlertown:  8:00 and 10:15 A.M. During both services on September 11 we will have special prayers and remembrances to commemorate the lives that were lost on this dreadful day and to seek God’s guidance and wisdom as we live with the ramifications and impact of this national tragedy on our country and on the world. Please come to church prepared to stop whatever you are doing when you hear the sound of the drum and the cymbal. It will be a sacred moment of silent prayer. When you arrive at church on September 11, the greeters will remind you about keeping silence at these significant moments of September 11.

Christ Church, Forest City: 9:00 A.M. service with special hymns, prayers, and will host "first responders" from the surrounding communities.

Church of the Good Shepherd and St. John, Milford: 10:00 A.M. "Eucharist in Remembrance of 9/11" Church bells will be rung 10 times each on the times of the four plane crashes - 8:46am, 9:03am, 9:38am, and 10:03am. After a silent processional the service with continue with special prayers, hymns, and anthem. The church will remain open from 12:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. as a sanctuary for those who wish to observe a reverent silence, hosted by the Daughters of the King.

Trinity Church, Carbondale: 11:00 A.M. service with special hymns, prayers of the people and remembrances for the victims and their families.

Providence Place Retirement Home, Drums: 1:00 P.M. Members of a Gospel Quartet will lead the hymns, members of the staff and resident will assist with the readings. Lead by Deacon Marion Meiss of St. Peter's, Hazleton

Trinity Church, Easton: 1:30 P.M. organ voluntary followed by the service at 2:00 P.M. An Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Hope  to be webcast live on Sunday, September 11. The service will be streamed live at live.trinityeaston.org. A Service of Remembrance and Hope will include interfaith prayers and hymns. In addition, music will be provided by: a double quartet of members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus of New York City, a local Chamber Orchestra and the Easton Area High School Choir. Scheduled selections will include: Faure's "Requiem in d minor, Op 48" (Intoit and Kyrie; Sanctus; Pie Iesu; Agnus Dei and Lux Aeterna; In Paradisum.), Bach's "Cantata 106: Gottes Zeit ist dis Allerbeste Zeit" movement III a & b. Participating congregations include: B'nai Abraham Synagogue, Easton; College Hill Presbyterian Church; 1st Presbyterian Church of Easton; 1st United Church of Christ of Easton; St. John's Lutheran Church of Easton; Temple Covenant of Peace, in Easton; The Muslim Community of Easton/Phillpsburg and Trinity Episcopal Church.  Go to www.trinityeaston.org and click on the link to the webcast.. Read more about it, including compatibilities with your computer, smartphone or tablet here. You may also go to Trinity's UShare page, live.trinityeaston.org. For information, call Trinity Church at 610-253-0792

Grace Church, Honesdale: 2:00 P.M. Service of Remembrance for 9/11 Meditation, inter-faith prayers, music and sharing will all be a part of the service as we remember all who were affected by the tragedies, especially within our community.  A time to remember those who were killed in New York City, southwestern Pennsylvania and Washington DC will be an important part of the service.  Grief counselors will be on hand should anyone need to talk privately.  “It is our hope to move forward bringing God’s peace into our community,” commented Ms. Frances Hlavacek of Grace Church who has been a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem’s Peace Commission. The service will be held in the handicap-accessible Parish Hall of Grace Church, located on the corner of Church and Ninth Streets in downtown Honesdale.  For more information, you may call the parish office at (570) 253-2760.  All are welcome to attend.

Trinity, Mt. Pocono: 2:00 P.M. Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Prayer. Representatives and members of our global community, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh, will gather together to speak about our lives as one in community and to pray together as one for a world of peace and community which can only be gained through the gift of open dialogue as sisters and brothers who seek to move forward beyond the smoke and ashes and offer healing in order to embrace a renewed life together. Please contact the Parish Office at 570 839 9376 for information or go to www.tinitymtpocono.org for directions.

Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem: 5:00 P.M.  9/11 Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation, Nativity, Bethlehem 5:00 P.M. Clergy participating are: The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem; The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa, Cathedral Dean & Rector; Rabbi Allen Juda,  Congregation Brith Sholom; Metin Bor, Muezzin, Lehigh Dialogue Center; Mohamed Rajmohamed, Al-Ahad Islamic Center; The Rt. Rev. Hopeton Clennon, Bishop of the Moravian Church, Northern Province and Chaplain, Moravian College; The Rev. Canon Mariclair Partee, Cathedral Canon, Ministry of the Baptized; Cantor Ellen Sussman, Temple Shirat Shalom; and The Rev. Canon George Loeffler, Deacon and Bishop's Chaplain. Music provided by the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Canon Russell Jackson will present selections from Faure’s Requiem, with Naoko Cauller as soloist. A reception will follow in Sayre Hall, and all are welcome.

St. Paul's, Montrose: 5:00 P.M. Vesper Service to Remember 9/11will be held at the Second Sunday Vesper Service on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Church Street Montrose, PA  The solemn service will provide a time of deep spiritual reflection and include scripture readings, prayers, and music prepared especially for the anniversary.  The Rev. Canon Charles Cesaretti will welcome the congregation; the greeters are Linda and George Gardner.  The Lector will be Amy Johnson.  Sarah S. Bertsch will be the organist.  MaryAnn DeWitt will be at the piano.  A buffet supper will be served immediately following the service in the Parish House.  The cooks are Ed and Barbara Schmidt and John and Sharon Siedlecki.  Gail and Doug Overfield will be the servers. All are welcome on this special day to remember the victims and those who miss them, as well as the rescue workers and all responders.

Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit: 7:00 P.M. Service of Remembrance with two church joint choir, psalms and prayers


Bishop Paul Marshall request for flood relief for Northern tier parishes

Colleagues and friends,

Anticipating the worst, I have already designated the convention offering for flood relief in the northern tier. A general appeal is hereby launched: those not attending convention but desiring to aid those stranded or churches damaged, may send contributions to diocesan house, payable to the Bishop's Discretionary Fund. The address is 333 Wyandotte Street, Bethlehem, 18015.

Additionally, this summer I received a very generous gift of $1000 from a source in the northern part of the diocese. Appropriately, I will add that to the funds available.

I will ask Mo. Maureen Hipple and Fr. Charles Cesaretti to jointly apportion these funds--please direct requests and suggestions to them. The first $1000 is available immediately, so that those suffering from hunger or thirst can be aided.

It is not clear how bad it will be, but as I write this there is water in the streets of Wilkes-Barre and evacuation have begun; there is waist-high water in parts of New Milford, and no phone service in parts of Bradford County, and so on. This is a time for prayers, and prayers converted to action.

I spoke with Bishop Baxter in Central PA this morning. Parts of Harrisburg are being evacuated, and Hershey has experienced damage to animal life that cannot be evacuated from the zoo. And so on.

My physical therapist, a Hindu, observed this afternoon that nature has reminded us of our frailty. I replied that I agreed, and that we are also reminded of our power to to care for and assist each other.


Best,

+Paul


Diocesan Life for September 2011



Download the September issue of Diocesan Life as a .pdf
Download September2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL (3.3 MB file)


Diocesan Life for July/August 2011

 

You can download the .pdf version here as well: Download July-August2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL


Star Spangled

By Bishop Paul V. Marshall
Diocese of Bethlehem

Croutons,

Monday is a red-letter day in our calendar (=holy day of obligation), although sadly, it is not observed by some rectors.

I BELIEVE THAT THE PATRIOTIC OBLIGATION of our time is return to Stoic values of character rather than epicurean characteristics of greed, narcissism, or entitlement, as the defining mark of an American citizen. We are really not called to be an extension of the British bourgeoisie, the Gilded Age notwithstanding. If you want to observe the long weekend meaningfully, deny yourself something big, spend time relating to your loved ones, and do not purchase anything except food and a little fuel. If your town has a patriotic exercise of some kind, attend it--with your children and grandchildren. If you possibly can, make something by hand or personally pack a box for Good Will.

If you don't have a church service available on Independence Day, you might set aside a moment to give thanks for this extraordinary land and to contemplate for a moment the collect for the day:

"Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of the this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord," etc.

What I like about this prayer it that it assumes that the perception of liberty (as opposed to mere freedom) is an evolving concept, and one that needs diligent preservation as it develops and spreads. Democrat or Republican, the last two administrations and five congresses  have trod heavily on our liberties and need a bit of patriotic smacking down. (I imagine a sherry- not a tea-party here.) Politics is about the acquisition of power; democracy is about its dispersal, and there is no middle ground. I predict that my grandchildren will live under a kind of plutocratic fascism (with small hints of socialism as a sop to the masses) unless our citizens have a spiritual and social revival. The Koch brothers and the tax-and-spend people all need to be controlled. The legislature needs to reign in a rogue Supreme Court. A thoughtful church could lead such a movement toward self-control.

And after those things you might think about Episcopal vestryman Francis Scott Key's comment on the invasion of Blatimore-Washington during the War of 1812.The anthem reminds us that the UK, with which a "special relationship" was constructed during war years of the last century entirely for their sake, was our most-feared potential enemy right through the end of the 19th century (do remember that they took the wrong side in the Civil War precisely to destroy this country). Of course, they have hardly needed us since 1914. 

The third stanza may give us pause, but it is  nothing compared with Canticle 8 or many of the psalms, and reminds us that 9/11 is not the first time we have been invaded (nor was Pearl Harbor the last) and that an invaded people need to rally rather than make "covenants" with powers of death:

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust;”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave.

The feel-good revisionists of the last 50 (!) years have made patriotism something to be ashamed of by those of even mildly liberal inclinations. Certainly every nation has areas in which it needs to grow, and you know my hopes for the United States, especially as regards the care of the poor. But let's don't kid ourselves: what we have in this country is unique both in principle and in application. Neither Canada nor the UK enjoys complete freedom of the press, for instance. We need to discipline those who would destroy our freedoms in their efforts to preserve their power or the illusion of control--that discipline is our job as their employers. If you are more than a consumer and believe in this country, get educated and get involved.

Those of us who have lost loved-ones, or seen them maimed, in the defense of our national values cannot let our nation further decay into hedonism, socialism, or oligarchy. Unlike most of the UK's former colonies, we were formed as a nation on theologically self-evident principles. We need to insist that those whom we elect begin once again to honor those principles without sensational rhetoric or scapegoating.

And finally, as a third exercise, listen to our greatest July Fourth play, "Ah, Wilderness," by Eugene O'Neill:
http://www.eoneill.com/companion/wilderness/index.htm

And then, enjoy the fireworks--see if you can catch a hint of the flag in the rockets' red glare.

And enjoy the hot dogs!

+Paul


PS: The first reading of the Declaration of Independence outside of a governmental setting was in William White's living room, to the vestry of Christ Church, Philadelphia.

In my college years, six out of ten people hearing its words assumed the Declaration was from some anti-American communist because it assumed that government was accountable to the people and might be fatally wrong. You decide:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Then follows the famous preamble which ascribes our freedom to God, not to government or its unelected officers and agencies:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Of course, the writers of the Constitution weren't quite happy with that "abolish" part--it is illegal to speak of overthrowing our government the way we overthrew the colonial oppressors, no matter how far the government strays. 'Twas ever thus. Thus the need for the sherry party. Or Harriet Beecher Stowe. Or both.

Conservative Christians of course choke on the idea that government gets its power from the governed, rather, than directly from God (so much for Paul and Luther). To be an American patriot is to be a theological revisionist. And we all know what that leads to.

You can read the rest, with commentary, here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence


The real ecumenical/interfaith opportunity

By Bishop Paul Marshall
Posted on "Bakery" the interactive Internet list
of the Diocese of Bethlehem, June 25, 2011

I read this factoid on the web:

Using General Social Survey data, those identifying themselves as Southern Baptist fell from 8.9% of the U.S. population for the 1996-2000 survey period to 7% for the 2006-2010 period, a drop of 21%. The percentage of Episcopalians in the population fell by 14% for the same period.

So if this is true, the conservatives are losing members faster than the mainline! I wouldn't do the Schadenfreude polka just yet, but the numbers suggest that the propaganda that our church is shrinking because of its positions on various matters needs careful examination. The RCC has lost a breath-taking 30% of its membership.

Perhaps the real ecumenical/interfaith opportunity is to find ways to communicate to our culture the importance of religious belief, period.

Here is a starter on that project, from a Jewish doctor:
Download Kernberg religion.pdf

In case time is short, here is his conclusion:

In contrast to Freud, I would conclude that science and reason cannot replace
religion, that religiosity as a fundamental human capability and function has to be
integrated in our understanding of normality and pathology, and that a universal
system of morality is an unavoidable precondition for the survival of humanity.
Psychoanalysis has given us fundamental information regarding the origin of
religiosity, but not a world conception or an arbitration of the philosophical and
theological discussion regarding God.

At a clinical level, one of the functions of the psychoanalyst is to explore the extent
to which religiosity as a mature desire for a transpersonal system of morality and
ethical values as outlined is available to our patients. The function of the
psychoanalyst is not that of a pastoral counselor or a guide to such a universal
system of values; rather, the psychoanalyst's function is to free the patient from
unconscious conflicts that limit this capability, including the systematic confrontation,
exploration, and resolution of unconscious conflicts that preclude the development of
concern, guilt, reparation, forgiveness, responsibility and justice as basic aspirations
of the individual. Psychoanalysis also has to help certain patients to free themselves
from the use of formal religious commitments as a rationalization of hatred and
destructiveness directed against self or others. Perhaps one might add to Freud's
suggestion that love and work are the two main purposes of life, that the
commitment to morality and the appreciation of art are two further major tasks and
sources of meaning for the human being.


+Paul


A word about The Catcher in the Rye

By Bishop Paul V. Marshall

I was intrigued by the comments earlier in the day [June 3] about The Catcher in the Rye.

Perhaps I am missing something, but I see the book somewhat differently. The book is rightly considered an accurate and compelling portrait of adolescent confusion, anxiety, alienation and rebellion. Adolescent. Adolescent. Because Holden cannot find his own identity and so much needs a kindly voice at the end of the book to tell him that gently living for a cause has a lot more value than noisily dying for one, he lashes out at everything around him and spirals downward, alienating those who were his friends, even his girl friend.

"Phony" is his way to express the immature view that all who are not perfectly coherent are traitors to what is true and valuable. THis is, apparently, a necessary part of finding one's own identity. Anyone who has not felt the pain, anger, and rage-at-helplessness of Holden's plight was not, perhaps, having his or her own feelings at the time. It happens.

As I said,TCiR is a perfect and invaluable portrait of adolescent struggle to escape parental and societal introjects and form one's own ego and superego. For most of us that is a messy task, and for some it is real agony. Take one part hormones and add a dash of neuroticism and off we go.

Part of making it to maturity is making peace (a separate peace, in the words of a companion novel) with the phony in oneself and in the people around one. Transcending black-and-white and recognizing that everyone struggles with a flawed integrity, and that we can support each other in a halting growth in truth, describe the adult tasks. Being essentially principled without being essentially angry is a mark of a healthy adult.

While I think that genuine, unfeigned empathy for adolescent struggling is a part of our task, I think it is a seriously counter-maturational response for us to valorize it--it is part of the long process of cutting the cord. When the adolescent qualities so appropriate in Holden appear in adults, there is a problem. People who are proud of being a pain in the butt are perhaps stuck in a maturational phase in a way that needs help. Genuineness is not a state, it is a commitment to a process of growth.

Those of us of a certain age remember that the two decades that followed TCiR favored rage over reason, something we again see in the politics of our own day. If you want to see the less charming side of Holden's problems, give Philip Roth's American Pastoral a read. It doesn't have the hopeful ending.

Salinger's book was at one point the most-banned and most-taught book in American high schools. This can only be the case for a book that tells powerful truth. Salinger's truth is in the accuracy of what he portrays, and the meaning that Holden begins to seek after the fire slakes and he realizes that he needs help. He also finds that he needs human community. His last words in the novel, as he comes in from the cold, are "you start missing people."

+Paul