Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
This past weekend Sharon Tatlock, George Sowersby, Chris Butterworth Deacon Anita and myself attended our annual Diocesan Convention at Kanuga in Hendersonville. It is a time of fellowship, worship, learning and listening. On Friday evening Bishop Taylor gave his Convention Address which was half update and future and half sermon. He used the phrase "Let's begin again" and he invited us to join in these words as he moved from section to section.
Bishop Porter introduced these words by reminding us of the words of St. Francis of Assisi near his death. Francis gathered the friars around him and even though he was infirmed and tired, this is what he said: "Up to now we have done nothing. Let's begin again."
And so the Bishop began. What follows is the concluding half of his address that is more sermon than status report. Our delegation found his words powerful and resonating and so today I share them with you. Let's begin again.
A British Theologian once said, "The Church is like a swimming pool----the noise comes from the shallow end."
When I am upset with people and when I am anxious or worried about the diocese, as much as I'd like to think the problem is them, I know it's me. Probably my prayer life is off, and I am not centered in the love of God nor rooted in the Sacred Scripture. We can only begin to deal with the changing culture around us by knowing who we are as followers of Jesus Christ and lovers of God. That's the keel we need lest we go in circles. We begin again by remembering God and by embracing God's radical grace and mercy and living from that place.
It's easy to be contentious and negative about this world. It's easy to focus on everything that is wrong, and it's easy to be cynical about the bureaucracy of the Church. It's easy to find someone to blame, but none of those acts feeds our souls nor brings God's kingdom near.
Someone asked me what I had done in ten years as your bishop. I can't point to any buildings; the only thing that's named for me is a hermitage at Valle Crucis-which is about right I think; and I haven't been interviewed by newscasters for any trendy programs.
What I have tried to do is what we all are trying to do: live a faithful life in public as a witness to our Lord. The measuring rod for that is not so much numbers as it is the depth of our souls. In a contentious, frightened culture like ours-we could do no better than align ourselves with the Fruits of the Spirit from the Letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.
Are we growing in these? When we look at our interactions, do we see signs of these? Can we tell a difference between our conversations and the ones on Fox News or MNBC or in the walls of Congress?
We will hear a lot about our outer work tomorrow and that is good. God's kingdom won't come simply by prayer. But the keel of Christ's boat called the Church is the inner connection to the living God. It is the Alpha and Omega of the Christian life. The world doesn't want to know what we know about Jesus; they want to know if we know Jesus.
If you are out of relation with your brothers and sisters, the first step is to deepen your connection with the living God. If you are in despair about the world; if you don't feel alive inside; if you find yourself angry and upset about what is going on around you, before you can be the messenger of the Good News of Jesus Christ, you must know the Good News yourself.
There are twenty million programs for this. Read the Scripture each day; practice Centering Prayer; say the Daily Office; use a breath prayer; pray the rosary-it doesn't matter. But it is time for us to show the way to the deep end not by what we say, but by who we are.
The word for this is "holiness" and that is our calling.
Holiness. Knowing the Lord and letting God's presence come out in our daily interactions and activities.
I believe with all my heart that this is our gift to the world. In 2015 we aren't going to build any grand structures, and, God knows, I hope we aren't going to launch another capital campaign. We need to get more intentional about who we are. We need to move out into the world to be signs of God's reign of peace and justice and mercy. But first we must know who God is as revealed to us in Jesus Christ and given to us through the Holy Spirit. And that knowledge comes from setting ourselves enough apart to receive that knowledge-which is holiness.
So in the year before us, let's do great things. Yes, let's catch the wind.
But first, let's go the deep end and stay there because that's where our Lord is.
Up to now we have done nothing. Let's begin again.
Thanks for being our Bishop Porter!
See ya Sunday!
Peace & Blessings,