Friday, December 26, 2008

A Gift of Christmas Music

When Susy and I were in England in 2004 Pete and Mary Pat Luley took us to Evensong at Gloucester Cathedral.

This setting of the Christina Rossetti poem "In the Bleak Midwinter" is one of my favorites.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day, 2008

My Christmas Eve sermon in the entry below, but here, very wonderful, the Christmas Message of the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury: The Archbishop's Christmas Sermon.

And blessings to all in this Christmastide.


Christmas Eve, 2008

Madonna and Child,
Domenico Ghirlandaio,
c. 1470

December 24, 2008 Christmas Eve

Before us: in the dark, in the simplicity of the stable and his manger bed. These few shepherds as witnesses, and Joseph, and of course his Holy Mother, the young girl who becomes our Mother and the Mother of the world.

As the ancient prophet whispers this night, across the centuries: The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. Or as from John: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Literally the Greek, eskenosen, “pitched his tent” here. Here, with us.

In this night of blessing and hope, grace and peace to you. Grace and peace. As we have come to this place at this late hour and at the end of this year, we can all use as much grace and peace as we can find.

In our wide world a time of unsettledness, with concerns about financial crisis, war and rumors of war, transitions of leadership. In the bleak midwinter. With our prayers for those whose lives have been disrupted, for those far from home this evening, serving in places of danger, for our city and our nation and our world. Christmas Eve. And bringing all of what we have in the stories of our personal lives. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

In all this, I would thank you for sharing this evening of worship, this holy night. As our hearts are warmed and our spirit is nourished by such beautiful music, as we hear once again from the pages of Holy Scripture the announcement of God’s gracious action, his generous gift of love, the miracle of incarnation, Word made flesh, born in Bethlehem, to live for us and to die for us on the Cross, so that we might live in fullness of life, to know the possibility of reconciliation with God and with one another, and in the promise of life eternal. Glory streams from heaven afar. Heavenly hosts sing alleluia. Christ the Savior is born.

Born in the stable, born in our hearts, our food and drink at the altar. Born to be our joy forever.

I want to take as a text this night the last couple of sentences from the traditional Christmas Eve reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, not to say a whole lot about it, but to lift it up again, this amazing New Testament hymn to God’s Christ, his only Son: Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

It is all about him. Tonight. Every night, every hour, in every corner of the spinning cosmos. Bethlehem’s Child. See him in a manger laid, whom the angels praise above. Sometimes there just aren’t words enough or songs enough or images and ideas big enough to carry the fullness of what flows from the heart. Overflowing. To say that he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, above and beyond, world without end. Our Lord Jesus: Born to be our joy forever. No crib for his bed. No universe wide enough to contain him, who is the creator and preserver of all things, of one substance with the Father. Who made heaven and earth.

Eternally here in the manger, eternally here, at the Cross. Here on the altar, and born anew in the perpetual Christmas of our minds and hearts. From everlasting to everlasting. With us at our beginning, and with us at our ending. God’s benediction and good word and highest hope for us, his best gift for us, the gift of himself. Pouring himself out, in such abundance. That in a renewal of our own lives, as we are renewed in him, we might set out this night to live by his grace lives of joy and peace and gentleness and generosity, forgiveness, reconciliation, faithfulness. Faithfulness to one another, in the integrity of our lives, and above all, most of all, faithfulness to him. To know for ourselves the deep refreshment and blessing of holiness that can be found in him alone.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people; and hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, in the house of his servant David. Luke 1

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem. Isaiah 52

Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Revelation 21

The song goes on and on and on. World without end.

Again, may this holy night be a blessing for you and for those you love, in all ways, as we gather in his name and then as we go forth in his name, in Christian fellowship, to be his people. A wonderful Christmas and New Year. Grace and peace. As in the darkness of the night those two figures make their way slowly through the hills, and into that little town, and it was, and is, and will be Christmas, and he will be born, and we will be born in him.

Merry Christmas!

Bruce Robison

Sunday, December 21, 2008

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent

William Everson (for many years a Dominican monk, Brother Antoninus, O.P.) was one of the really wonderful American poets of the mid-20th Century. He lived in Santa Cruz, California, and Susy and I heard him read at Wheeler Hall, U.C. Berkeley, in the early 1980's. He died in 1994. Since Deacon Chess is preaching at St. Andrew's this morning, I thought I'd share this.

Out of the Ash

Solstice of the dark, the absolute
Zero of the year. Praise God
Who comes for us again, our lives
Pulled to their fisted knot,
Cinched tight with cold, drawn
To the heart’s constriction; our faces
Seamed like clinkers in the grate,
Hands like tongs—Praise God
That Christ, phoenix imortal,
Springs up again from solstice ash,
Drives his equatorial ray
Into our cloud, emblazons
Our stiff brow, fries
Our chill tears. Come Christ,
Most gentle and throat-pulsing Bird!
O come, sweet Child! Be gladness
In our church. Waken with anthems
Our bare rafters! O phoenix
Forever! Virgin-wombed
and burning in the dark,
Be born! Be Born!

William Everson (Brother Antoninus, O.P.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ordination at St. Paul's, Mt. Lebanon

I spoke about this sermon in my homily at the 9 a.m. service at St. Andrew's on Sunday, December 14, with a note that I was especially moved by the depth and simplicity of the Charge to the Ordinand at its conclusion. Bishop Jones was kind enough to share a copy of the sermon.

Sermon Preached by the Rt. Rev. David Colin Jones, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia of the Episcopal Church and Consulting Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, at the Special Convention Eucharist and Ordination to the Priesthood of the Rev. Kristian Opat, December 13, 2008, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon.

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

It is on honor to be present at this service of ordination. I have had the privilege of working with your Standing Committee and meeting a number of your clergy. I am especially grateful for the generous and loving approach to the future of this diocese that has been presented by Dr. Simons in his address. His spirit of generosity is profoundly Anglican and will be a good foundation for your life together.

I bring you warm greetings from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and from Episcopalians across this country. I know that I also speak for the Pennsylvania bishops as we pledge the support and prayers of the wider church for your future life.

He described himself as a ruined man – a man of unclean lips. He did not feel worthy. His sin weighed him down.

But he had met the living God, in the year that King Uzziah died. That experience so transformed him that when he heard the voice of the Lord calling “Whom shall I send and who will go for us”, he responded, “Here am I, send me.”

In response, the prophet was sent to a people who did not understand, could not see, whose hearts were hardened and whose eyes were closed. And to this situation, the Lord said “Go and say to this people.”

This afternoon, Kris Opat is being ordained to the priesthood. Like the prophet Isaiah, he has answered a call. The Living God has conspired to direct His life toward a ministry of Word and Sacrament.

He is being sent into an increasingly secular environment, one that is sometimes hostile to the Church. And like the prophet Isaiah, he is being sent out with a similar command “Go and say to this people.”

But Kris is being sent with the words of Jesus himself who said "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Kris is being ordained to
Proclaim the gospel
Administer the sacraments
Bless God’s people and
Declare pardon and absolution to sinners.

He will GO equipped with Gifts for Ministry
• armed with the Word of God
• filled with the Power of the Spirit
• and bearing a message of salvation

He is to care for God’s people
to go the suffering and needy,
to the powerful and rich,
to the lonely and oppressed

The message he will bear is good news for all times and for all people.

But the message of salvation will not always be welcome. Discouragement, disappointment, and frustration come with ordained ministry. No priest is free from rejection. We live with the presence of sin,

But that need not define the ministry of Jesus. We proclaim resurrection. We proclaim the possibility of healing and forgiveness and reconciliation. We encounter the world as it is with the grace and power of God.

The message of John the Baptist “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” speaks of readiness for life and ministry. To engage in life with vitality, we need to be ready.

I have been struck in recent days with the image of the back up quarterback standing on the sidelines, assisting the coach and calling in plays. He is watchful on every play –knowing that he might be sent in at any minute. He knows the plays, he knows the players, and he knows the defenses. All he needs is a nod from the coach. To the back up quarterback, there are no distractions that stand in the way of entering the game.

In ministry, we are called to that kind of watchfulness – an awareness of the presence of others near us – a willingness to respond to Christ’s prompting and a desire to do what God is calling us to do. When God calls, a response is expected. This response requires taking a step – a step of faith – moving toward God’s call without full knowledge of how the journey will end.

To carry the image of the quarterback even further, we are reminded of training camp and the weight room and hours and hours of practice. An essential dimension of ordained ministry takes place off the field and out of sight.

To fully engage in ministry on the field, the ordained person needs a healthy and balanced life off the field. And this includes taking time for Sabbath rest and for family, for personal retreat and personal vacation, for daily prayer and nurturing friendships, and for studying the Word of God and engaging in local culture.

Lay leaders need to encourage their clergy to have a life off the field so that they can give their absolute best on the field. On any given day of ministry, we rarely know what will unfold. So we need to be ready.

An important part of our preparation for ministry is the discipline of saying our prayers and reading our Bibles. It is not a waste of time, therefore, to sit in silence and wait for inspiration. Nor is it a waste of time to play with our children or to set aside a date night for our spouse.
We need to be ready and to stay ready.

An image of readiness that inspires me during this Advent Season is that of the young choristers at Kings College Cambridge at the Festival of Carols and Lessons on Christmas Eve.

King’s College Chapel is absolutely quiet. The appointed hour arrives. Each chorister is prepared to sing the first verse of the carol “Once in Royal David’s City” and then the choir master points to one of the boys who immediately begins to sing.

That is the kind of readiness to which we are called as we respond to God’s call “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?

Kris, will you please stand.

You are called to exercise the office of priest in the Church of God.

As you go about this ministry, keep your heart and your mind on Jesus. Pray for his strength and power. Know that it is Jesus who will empower your ministry.

Let the Bible be your guide and your inspiration and the source of your strength. Read your Bible. Mark your Bible. Love your Bible and the Lord of the Church.

Remember that your ministry will extend far beyond your congregation. You are part of the ministry of bringing Christ to all nations and peoples – that the name of Jesus may be known above all other names.

Prepare every day for ministry and the Lord will go before you and follow you. And at the end of the day when you go home, go home and entrust your ministry to the One who gave his life for our salvation.

So, as you move from altar to sick bed, from funeral home to wedding reception, from a baptism to sermon writing, and from a vestry meeting to a grieving person, know that you are about the ministry of the Lord, Jesus himself. In Him, you will find ultimate satisfaction and joy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11, 2008

December 11, 2008 Burial Office

Lucille Fitzsimmons December 31, 1905 - December 3, 2008

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God. And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God.” This great passage from the First Letter of St. John, as great-grandson Hunter read it for us just a moment ago, runs in a highway directly to the heart of the deepest mystery and the deepest beauty of Christian life and Christian faith.

A simple statement, yet so very deep, with layer upon layer of complexity in the way we would understand who we are, in our relationships with one another and in our relationship with God, our heavenly Father. All the ways God manifests himself to us in love.

It seems to me the right passage of Holy Scripture to lift up this morning, as we come together, with I know a sense of sadness and loss, but with even more a sense of joy and thanksgiving, to offer back to God with such a sense of gratitude this act of worship—as we would commend to his unfailing care and love Lucille Mariah Higgins Fitzsimmons, whom we know here today as mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, as friend, as a member of this parish family, as a neighbor here for so many years in her home just a few blocks away on Jancey Street.

Born at the dawn of the 20th century, she lived to see it all, and into this new century as well. A remarkable story, a remarkable life, just a few weeks short of 103 years.

I mentioned to David yesterday that I have found it just plain impossible to talk about Lucille in the past days, and in the weeks and months before, as she began her last journey—impossible to talk about her without beginning to smile, to smile with real enjoyment. Thinking about her way of speaking, her frank, open, genuine, honest sense of being directly-to-the-point. A graciousness, a tenderness, a generosity, a vulnerability, for all that: but on the other hand, I don’t think I’d ever want to be on the other side of her in a debate or an argument. (Perhaps some of you have had that experience.) Not pulling any punches; calling things as she saw them.

Of course who she loved was you all, most of all. Her family: her “boys” and their families. A life that began in such difficult circumstances, with instability—and from that she built a family. With hard work and all her energy and passion. I think about the parable of Jesus, about the man who built his house not on shifting sands, but on solid rock. Wife and mother and grandmother, and with a spirit of family that then extended out to so many others.

It was interesting to me, and really touching and meaningful over the past year and these past months especially, as Lucille began to drift often away from the sense of being connected to the realities of what was going on around her, that in her mind and imagination she would talk often about how she was hoping, as she would say, “to get out of this place and go home.”

I know that was sometimes partly confusion. But it was I think more than that, and there was a sense of depth and meaning. She had spent a lifetime in love, making a home, and it seems just right that she would use that language to talk about this last turning of her life. She would talk about people from long ago as though they were in the next room, and to say that she expected them to return to her soon. She was this Baptist Catholic Methodist Presbyterian Episcopalian, and a mystic, I think, in her own way. Though maybe a little more straightforward than we usually expect mystics to be . . . . “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God. And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God.”

The gospel reading from John 14 is appropriate at every Christian burial, but especially today: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Some of the more contemporary translations say, “in my Father’s house are many rooms.” It may be a better translation of the Greek, but I’m going to stick with mansions, if it’s all the same to you. “I go to prepare a place for you, a mansion, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Lucille knew she was headed onto the next leg of a journey that had begun so long ago, and she spoke about that always just as she would: with confidence, with expectation, with a sense of Christian hope.

It has been for me a privilege over these past few years—and more than a privilege, truly a pleasure, to know Lucille as a member of the extended parish family, and as a friend, and to come to know your family at least in a small way, and I give thanks for that. We gather to worship, and as there is a sense of sadness, of loss, of the end of an era, it is for us at the same time in that right to give thanks and praise and to know the victory of our risen Lord and Savior. Lucille sang in church choirs in her earlier years, and I’m sure she did so with the “gusto” that she did everything else, and it’s fitting that we should have this wonderful music this morning. A tribute to her, and a reminder of the song of new life that God has placed in all our hearts.

May her soul, with the souls of all the faithful departed, by the mercy of God, rest in peace. May Light Perpetual shine upon her.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Advent, 2008

Sanzio Raffaello
The Prophet Isaiah , 1511-12

December 7, 2008 II Advent
(RCL, Year B) Isaiah 40: 1-11; 2 Peter 3: 8-15; Mark 1: 1-8

At we looked at these lessons at Bible Study this past Wednesday morning Beth Middleton commented that for those of us who know and love the great music of Georg Frederic Handel’s “Messiah” it’s almost impossible to read the first words of the 40th Chapter of Isaiah without beginning to sing. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” I asked Melanie to print the reading this week in the King James Version. One of those passages of scripture so deeply ingrained in our Biblical and cultural heritage and memory.

The Prophet as we open the second part of Isaiah is speaking to this community of exiles, still under the dark cloud of their defeat and degradation, scattered in refugee camps and urban slums in what would be modern Iraq and Syria and Egypt and Iran, decades later, holding on in spite of every setback, the memory of their city in ruins, their homes ransacked and burned by the marauding infantry of the Babylonian Emperor, their sons cut down in the flower of their youth and vigor, a field of bones and death around the perimeter of the city, their daughters taken to be sold as slaves, the priests massacred where they stood in the Holy Place, the ancient Temple defiled and ransacked, the King, God’s anointed, the Son of David, led away in chains. An ocean sweeps over them of humiliation and loss.

The battered survivors scattered, lives continuing somehow. 2,500 years before the diagnostic manual would provide a clinical definition, but a universe of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. And the years pass, and the decades. The old die, children are born, stories told, fading memories passed from one generation to the next.

And then in the far distant world of international geo-politics, the empire of Babylon is overrun by the empire of Persia, and a new, powerful Shah of Iran, Cyrus, begins his strategy of approach to the ancient enemy of Egypt by tearing down the colonial structures of the Babylonians and Assyrians and re-establishing a system of client-states across the fertile crescent. And the word goes out, to the refugees and conquered peoples of so many lands: the way is cleared, permission is given, and we may return home.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Comfort ye my people.

It is a second Exodus, a second Wilderness, and now a second crossing of the Jordan, and healing, and reconciliation, and restoration, and new life. The Land of Promise, of Milk and Honey, the place of Covenant, and fulfillment.

For us it is the song and story and theme of Advent. John the Baptist, in these Sundays, speaking into our dislocation, our exile, our brokenness: “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill made low, the crooked ways straight, the rough places plain, and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed.”

And as in this wonderful passage from II Peter, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth. If it were only a story about a baby born and laid in a manger, and angels singing and shepherd’s worshiping, all that long time ago, what would it matter? But it is a story not of the past, but of the future, of our future, God’s best hope and all his love given to us in Christ, in the manger and on the Cross and in our hearts and our minds and our lives. Where Jesus is to be born, in us, and to make in us a new heaven and a new earth and a new hope. Promised land. New Jerusalem. Healing, forgiveness, restoration and return, his grace and love. Christmas.

Bruce Robison

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Anglican News

Cartoon by Dave Walker at Cartoon Church.Com


Many will have seen news reports over the past few days about developments affecting those from our diocese who departed from the Episcopal Church and "realigned" their sense of affiliation with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone--and I've received a few phone calls and e-mails asking about what is going on. The story was in the New York Times: Times Story December 4

And for those who would like to see a more extensive compilation of press coverage, I'd refer you to a piece on the "blog" site of my friend Jim Simons: Three Rivers Episcopal Blog.

In a sense, simply, this news doesn't have anything directly to do with us at St. Andrew's, or with those others of the 25 or so parishes of our diocese who have determined to remain within the Episcopal Church. We will be participating in a Convention on December 13 to complete some of the needed reorganization of our diocese after the division that took place on October 4, and in so very many ways indeed that process of reorganization continues with a sense of health and good spirits and a faithfulness in Christian life and mission. While there is much to be sorted out in the practicalities of institutional life, two roads have diverged.

Nonetheless, we have all been one community and one diocese with one another since 1867 at least, and thus our sense of relationship and interest doesn't necessarily disappear overnight. For many of us this is a story that concerns old friends, colleagues, family members.

While I and we here at St. Andrew's have been clear in our discernment that God has called us to continue in faithful ministry within the Episcopal Church, we can offer our prayers as well for these friends, asking God to bless their ministry during the months and years ahead in a way that will honor Christ and bear the good fruit of the Spirit in their lives as well, as Paul in Galatians 5: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."

All best,

Bruce Robison

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Sunday, 2008

November 30, 2008 Advent Sunday (RCL, Year B)
Isaiah 64: 1-9, I Corinthians 1: 1-9; Mark 13: 24-37

The first morning of the year, dawn and sunrise . . . the first morning of the world . . . the new world . . . the day stretching out before us in a mysterious openness, full of hope and possibility, unpredictability, and at the same time hints of a darker tone, a premonition of danger, out at the edges. But all ahead of us, potential, the prospect of glorious victory or catastrophic defeat, winning and losing. The first morning of the year, the first morning of the world, the curtain rises: Advent Sunday.

As I have often said, I am descended myself from a long line of Northern European introverted males, well practiced in the fine art of the suppression of deep emotion. All the heated passion of a Scandinavian. And on this first morning a temptation to minimize, to avoid, to suppress. Roll over and go back to sleep.

But the alarm comes. “Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding.” And from a place deep within we are lifted into the morning. “Sleepers wake.” And the evasions and defenses of our lives are surrounded and embraced and overcome by his new advent. Ready or not, there is light at the horizon, and the stirring up in us of a sense of ourselves that is new and fresh and ready for something more.

And there is for us here, and we hardly can tell where it came from, how we came to feel it, a sense of a profound yearning. A yearning. An anticipation stirring down in the foundations of our hearts, beneath all the things we want or crave, our deceptive appetites. I found myself thinking of what I think is my favorite Psalm, Psalm 84, not the one appointed for this morning in our lectionary, but deeply familiar and true to the spirit of this Advent, a poetry to lift in song something almost unspeakable. How lovely is thy dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

“My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the LORD.” Where does that come from? That breathless longing? What does that mean—in this world of financial meltdown and sudden economic dislocation, terrorism, war and rumors of war, fragmenting churches, fragmenting societies, fragmenting nations? This longing of Advent, this sense of a space opening up in us that can be filled only by his presence, his blessing.

So Isaiah, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.” All of us together, like the Christians of Corinth, discovering in our yearning for him a richness beyond anything we ever expected. As Paul says to them, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge . . . so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end.”

The story begins anew. Early morning, Day One. As the old dorm poster had it, “the first day of the rest of our lives.” Bethlehem, Gethsemane, the Cross and the Empty Tomb and the Upper Room, the outpouring Holy Spirit—the whole story, ahead of us, again, for the first time. And the spiritual discipline of this season—a little more challenging for us Northern European introverts, but so for all of us—not to turn away, but give ourselves up to it, to allow it to enter us: the mystery of our yearning for his presence, to sustain our lives, and to bring us from our wanderings to the home he has prepared for us.

So simply to say: Happy New Year, on this Advent Sunday. As we hear the Word, as we know the spiritual benediction of his offering at the Holy Table, as we go forth into the world in his name. Carrying within us this yearning, as the Holy Mother carries within herself the Holy Child. May there be in this day, this Advent, and all the new year ahead, the richness of his forgiveness and healing, a renewal of life, and always, his blessing.

Bruce Robison

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, 2008

November 26, 2008 Eve of Thanksgiving Day

You read the papers these days or catch the evening news, and for the last couple of months anyway it’s been all economic crisis, all the time.

We’ve become a nation of experts, talking about subprime mortgage-backed securities and credit-default swaps and the collapse of the international monetary system in casual conversation at the water cooler. The President-elect has announced about thirty-five new panels, think-tanks, and advisory groups to work with him on these issues, and I expect my phone to ring any minute now with word of my appointment to one of them. After all, I took two Econ courses at Cal, back in the early '70's . . . .

And there is more generally this undercurrent of anxiety, and not that deep under the surface. A friend recently told me that he had planned to retire next year, and he and his wife had their itinerary of travel all worked out--but that his 401K had taken such a beating in the past three months that he figures now he’ll need to work for at least five more years. And another friend talked to me yesterday about how she was dealing with having been laid-off from the job that she had so deeply loved. And wondering what to do next.

Hard times. Kind of scary. I’ve been thinking lately about the stories my dad would tell about his growing up during the Great Depression. Used to seem like ancient history. But maybe things to learn there for us now. He was even back in the 50’s and 60’s always wanting to impress upon me and my sister that there were so many things that we simply would take for granted, that we shouldn’t take for granted. And mostly I think this sense that it would be so easy in the midst of material prosperity to lose sight of the things that turn out to be most important. Certainly relationships, family, friends and neighbors, caring for each other. And the deeper sense of God’s presence and care for us. Not as a God who is always showering us with goodies, but as one who helped us to know and live on a stronger foundation.

There is a lot to give thanks for, even in unsettled times. And we would highlight then the first sentence of the gospel reading this evening, on the Eve of Thanksgiving Day. Jesus to his friends. “Put away anxious thoughts.” Easier said than done, of course. And which doesn’t mean live in denial, which doesn’t mean forget about careful planning and responsible stewardship, which doesn’t mean “eat, drink, and be merry” until the last of the seed corn has been consumed.

But to remember where we are called to put our trust. In whom. Our confidence. Our hope. Not in material things. Not in political programs. Not in popularity or prestige. But to put our trust, our confidence, our hope, in the One above all others who is faithful. The old saying from the 12-Step movement always wise, but especially in times like these: “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

We're all of us in different places this evening, as we would note that in terms of our care for one another, our sensitivity and awareness of need. And in all that, above all that, to know that this evening and always, as we are fed at his Table, we are secure forever in his love. And bound together, one to another, in his love.

So, may this day, however we observe it, be a day most of all of Thanksgiving for that.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, November 23, 2008

St. Andrew: Patronal Festival, 2008

November 23, 2008 St. Andrew (Observed)
Deuteronomy 30: 9-14; Matthew 4: 12-23

With thanks always to the Highlanders, who make this day every year such a great celebration, a reminder of our heritage, a homecoming, a gift.

The leaves have come down from the trees, pretty much, we’ve had our first snowfall, and it is that time of year again. St. Andrew’s Day.

“So that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: . . . the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

The observance of our patron St. Andrew’s Feast Day is something of an entry and threshold, with the New Year of Advent and the great incarnational drama of Christmas and the Epiphany stretching out before us, as certainly we would hear in Matthew’s quotation from Isaiah here, and in the story of the calling of Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John by the Sea of Galilee.

How the one born in the stable of Bethlehem is born for each of us, as for these four who are called now to be disciples, born in the midst of our lives, as he finds us where we are and speaks the simple word, the mystical word and powerful word of invitation, a word not broadcast on the radio or published in the newspaper, but spoken directly to us, one by one. Christmas always the 25th of December, but for each of us in the calendars of our own lives we would have our own date. When he showed up on our doorstep.

Perhaps you will remember the Stephen Spielberg film back in the late ‘70’s, Close Encounters of the Third Kind . Which had to do with Richard Dreyfus being contacted by aliens from outer space. But I want to borrow the title, simply to say that this St. Andrew’s Day and the dawn of Advent is for us a reminder of how we are called in this deepest mystery of all to a “close encounter.”

Those four by the Sea of Galilee, Mary that morning in Nazareth when the Angel Gabriel appeared before her, the two disciples walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Easter Sunday afternoon. This moment as we open ourselves to the reading of the Scriptures and to the great testimonies of faith around us in the signs and symbols of this place, as we hear and sing in the rich poetry of these hymns of faith.

Wonderful, as Moses in his great farewell oration, to the people in the wilderness, as they prepare to cross the Jordan and enter the land promised to them: “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth, and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

The Angel announces “God with us,” Emmanuel. St. John says, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Literally, “pitched his tent in our midst.” The story unfolding before us not about a God who holds us at arm’s length, who regards us from some distant mountaintop. Instead, about the One who seeks us out, who comes near, who can call us each by name.

So as the old song says, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Celebrate that today, as we sing with the pipers and remember all the saints and heroes, the men and women and boys and girls who have called this St. Andrew’s family their own over the past 171 years—as we lift up in the imagination of our hearts the men and women and boys and girls who will be a part of this place in years and generations to come. Newcomers and old timers—all in the church you find when you drive across the city and follow the signs to the zoo. It has been quite a place, is quite a place, and will be. Where his love is abundant, his forgiveness, his mercy, his healing. His promise.

Most of all because he meets us here. There is a children’s amusement park in Southern California called “Santa’s Village,” and they say in their advertising, “where it’s Christmas every day of the year.” So always, the potential in our lives, in this parish family, and in the wide world, which is in so much distress. Where we continue to await his arrival, where we continue to celebrate his birth, here with us.

St. Paul at the end of First Corinthians reminds us of what most think to be the most ancient prayer of Christian liturgy, from the earliest moments of the Church, Maranatha. “Come, Lord.” Come quickly. And so, here, for us: in the sacrament of the Word and the sacrament of the Altar, and in the sacrament of the cup of coffee in the parish hall.

In the sacrament of the shelter meal, the Godly Play story, the choir anthem that was already a sacred classic when Henry Tudor was a boy. Because he comes close to us in the life of the Spirit. Today. What a friend we have, in Jesus. As our St. Andrew heard his voice there by the sea—Christmas for him--as he put down his nets and got out of the boat, turned the page to a new chapter of life, to walk the way of new life with his Lord and Savior, may this day be as well for us, each of us, all of us together, one of grace and blessing and renewal.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Twenty-Seventh after Pentecost

November 16, 2008 XXVII Pentecost (RCL Proper 28A)
Judges 4: 1-7; 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11; Matthew 25: 14-30

“Hear, read, mark, learn, inwardly digest.” It’s important to begin this morning by acknowledging what we just prayed a few minutes ago as our Collect of the Day, this great tribute coming from the sources of our Anglican life and tradition, composed by Archbishop Cranmer back in the middle of the 16th century and until we got to our new American Prayer Book appointed for the Second Sunday of Advent.

A tribute and hymn and affirmation of the Holy Scriptures at the foundation of our lives as Christian people. And simply to notice that this is not a prayer about Scripture as a club that we might use to beat each other up, nor as a vaguely interesting collection of ancient texts towards which we are to have simply a scholarly interest, but as food, the nourishment of our lives, as comfort in our distress, God’s gift to us and presence with us, and as the blessing and assurance and promise of a hope that is above all a transforming presence in our lives.

In some sense the character most profoundly consistent with Christian faith and with the renewal of life that is ours in Christ, a sense of “falling in love” with the Bible. Not putting it on a pedestal, not, again, turning it into a weapon, but to experience in it the depth and wonder and joy and spiritual food of God’s goodness and mercy.

That said, we have this morning the beginning (and unfortunately just the beginning) of one of the most interesting stories in the Book of Judges, with Judge Deborah and General Barak and General Sisera and the surprising and unlikely hero Jael—and if those aren’t familiar names, we might notice that one of the intentions of our new Revised Common Lectionary is to recover for our common life and corporate memory some of the great Biblical stories where the key characters are women, and this is certainly one of those, and a very vivid and exciting one.

Jael and Sisera, by Gustav Dore

A story about inspiration, passionate loyalty, creativity, authority, and risk-taking in the shadow of an intense wartime conflict.

A story that fits well within a context of a work like the Iliad, with fascinating characters and vivid, breathtaking action—and just edgy enough to make it at least something like a PG-13 feature. And friends: I hope that inspires you to run home and read the rest of the fourth chapter of Judges, as with our observance of St. Andrew’s Day next Sunday and then with the beginning of Advent I’m afraid we’ll miss hearing the exciting development and conclusion of this story in our Sunday readings. I’m not going to tell you the story here—but do go take a look at it when you get home.

Having said that, I would build a bridge from the themes of this story to our gospel reading, in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew, and the Parable of the Talents. Perhaps a parable that we hear with slightly different emphasis in the midst of the current disturbance of the financial markets. But this story isn’t really set before us as a guide to the investment of our retirement accounts—just as the story of Jael and Sisera (which you may not have read yet, but will soon, I know!) isn’t really intended for us as a guide for how to deal with enemies in a time of war. What we look for here is something deeper, about attitude, character. About how we live our lives as a faithful expression of the hope that is in us.

And to say that in both of these stories, we have before us a spirit of confidence. Not fear, but a kind of holy boldness. Stepping forward. To use a word that is popular, this is about being “proactive.” Taking initiative. Thinking outside the box. Not waiting for someone else to do what needs to be done. As it is sometimes said, “not just to talk about change, but to be the change.”

In that context I would say a good word this morning for the great ministry of our Five Talents Prayer Circle, which is by the way an open and growing circle of friends. Always glad to expand the circle and add more members. It began here a couple of years ago as a group of us were inspired by the work of Five Talents International, a ministry that works by way of micro-lending in small, faith-based communities mainly in Africa and Latin America assisted by local Anglican and ecumenical partners to support individuals and to build up communities with a sense of self-sufficiency and independence and productivity.

Our Circle has sponsored a project in Lima, Peru, which has been very meaningful and very exciting in many ways, and that in turn led us to a friendship with Dean John and Susan Parks and a sense of collaboration with their ministry at the Anglican Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Lima, and to the little missions fundraiser and Harvest Brunch this morning. I know for the Five Talents Group, as for our “Off the Floor” volunteers and by way of the East End Cooperative Ministry and so many others of our missions initiatives, there is this sense of what it means in Christian community for us again “not just to talk about change, but to be the change.” To know Christ, to meet him in our own lives, and then to become his hands, his feet, his heart, in an active outreach that touches real people in real ways. Those whom he loves, and for whom he died, and whose lives he embraces and gathers in and lifts up into the eternal life of God’s heavenly kingdom.

This is what our new life in Christ is all about, as the reading from First Thessalonians would highlight for us also. Paul, in this encouraging word. The world may seem dark, but it’s not dark for us, not ever again, not for those who live in Christ, who have stood at the foot of his Cross, who have known his forgiveness, his grace, who know the great hope of his resurrection, who are transformed by his continuing presence, his love, and who anticipate his victorious return. For us, even the darkest night is bright as midday. “For you are all children of the day . . . not of the night or of darkness.”

Which is the word that calls us to the Holy Table this morning, to share the supernatural food and drink of his life with us. Which is why we can take those Five Talents, whatever they may be in our lives, and not hide them away, but send them out to increase to an abundance. There is no place among us any more for fear, but instead we are called to open our hearts and our minds and our lives to a spirit of confidence. To live from this time forward not in an environment of harsh judgment, hostility, defensiveness, but to be lifted up into a gracious and gentle and joyful future.

We know the end of the story. His victory. Therefore we will not be afraid. Never again. Because he first loved us, we are freed to love one another and to open ourselves to the world. Because he gave himself, so we can give ourselves to the world on his behalf, without fear, confidently, as agents of compassion, healing, reconciliation. “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Bruce Robison

Monday, November 10, 2008

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

See the introductory note about Bishop Jones in the preceding entry, or by clicking through to the diocesan website.

The Messenger of God Appearing to Joshua

Ferdinand Bol
Dutch, about 1640 - 1644

On RCL Proper 27 A, 2008 Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Given by the Rt. Rev. David C. Jones
at St. Andrew’s Church, Highland Park
Pittsburgh, PA on 9 November 2008


I am grateful for the invitation to preach. I bring you warm greetings from the clergy and people of the Diocese of Virginia. I am here to remind you that you are not alone – that the Episcopal Church stands behind the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

For the past 30 years, I have been serving in the Diocese of Virginia, the last 13 as a bishop. I visited Pittsburgh on a number of occasions as a boy visiting my cousin, Alexander Reed who at that time was the President of the Fidelity Trust Bank. I spent many of my Thanksgivings in Washington, Pennsylvania at the home of my Aunt Isabel Reed Clark.

I have been asked by the Standing Committee of the continuing Diocese of Pittsburgh to assist them during a time of transition and change.

It was also a moment of transition and change for Joshua when he was called to ministry. He had served as Moses’ assistant. Then after Moses death, God had called Joshua to succeed Moses saying, “My servant Moses is dead, now proceed to cross the Jordan.”

The task may have seemed impossible. Joshua may very well have felt inadequate. He might have asked, “How could I step into the shoes of Moses and lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land?” Might he have heard the words that were recorded at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, “Never since has there appeared a prophet in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face.”

I suspect that many of us have faced insurmountable challenges in life – tasks put before us that seemed utterly impossible – challenges that seemed beyond our comprehension.

As Joshua embraced his new role as Moses’ successor, he had one string of hope to which he could grasp. He could hold on to the words of his call – a promise recorded in the first chapter of Joshua:

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

As a young college student, I was resisting a call to ordained ministry. I sensed that I was called to ordination, but did not feel up to the task. I knew my own shortcomings and knew that I was not worthy to be called a priest. Encouraged by a college chaplain, I attended a conference on the ministry at the Virginia Seminary. I went there expecting to have my reservations about ordination confirmed. But in the first session of the conference, a question was posed to a retired bishop – an elderly man. A participant said that he had been resisting a call for more than 20 years because he did not feel worthy.
The retired bishop smiled. He replied that he had never felt worthy – that only God was worthy and that God’s grace made him worthy to be a priest and a bishop.

In one instant, my reservations vanished and I yielded to the call. Through one man’s testimony, I heard essentially the same message given to Joshua at the beginning of his ministry, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

Toward the end of the Book of Joshua, we meet the prophet at the end of his life as he is gathered with elders and heads, judges and officials. He reminded them of the words of his call saying “Not one thing has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed.”

Those words of encouragement are especially important to us today. We are reminded of God’s faithfulness and God’s gracious provision.

It is in the context of promises fulfilled that we hear Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel in today’s lesson, “choose this day whom you will serve … but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua’s challenge is founded on his experience and faith – not only in his life, but also through the life and experience of Moses, his teacher and mentor. It is not a blind choice, but one founded on trust in a faithful God.

The question of choice is evident in the parable of the five foolish maidens in Matthew 25.

At the heart of the parable is the rejection of the five bridesmaids who were not prepared for the bridegroom to arrive.

We can hear that parable in the context of Joshua’s question “choose this day whom you will serve.”

Obviously, the five had chosen to do other things and were not prepared. Might they represent those among us who try to get by in life with minimum effort?

Might the foolish maidens represent those who are too preoccupied to build their spiritual houses on solid ground – who take chances with matters of ultimate importance?

On too many occasions, I have been with people grieving over relationships that had NOT happened – over opportunities that were lost - about marriages that had slowly died because of lack of attention.

“I just didn’t realize” is the most common explanation for the profound grief that is experienced over an unnecessary loss. “If I had only known” is a common confession of a person experiencing grief.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

Second, the foolish maidens represent those who assume that material things can replace eternal things –
• who move too fast through life to make friends
• who offer their children things instead of relationships

We live in a fast food culture that prizes technology and speed more than feelings and relationships. But the fastest communications in the world still have to slow down for ordinary people like you and me.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

Third, the maidens represent those who try to defy the limits of humanity
• who want to beat the system and have life their way
• who are overextended financially
• who are too busy to meet their commitments
• or who risk their lives with excessive speed.

So there are really two messages in our lessons – the first is God’s promise that he will be with us and never forsake us, and the second is the importance of our faithful response to God’s gracious love.

One way that we answer that question is through our giving. I have already begun to think about what I might give at Christmas and what I will give to the Church next year.

I will give out of a sense of gratitude – the kind of gratitude expressed by Joshua as he gathered with the leaders of Israel – the kind of gratitude that brings tears to our eyes when we realize the gracious provision and protection of God.

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

Joshua’s question then can be very personal. Choose this day whom you will serve. We answer that question day after day, hour after hour. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Next Sunday at St. Andrew's

The Rt. Rev. David Colin Jones, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia of the Episcopal Church, will be Guest Preacher at St. Andrew's on Sunday, November 9. Bishop Jones has been engaged by the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as Consultant and Pastoral Liaison until a more settled Interim Episcopal Ministry appointment is made.

Bishop Jones will be participating in the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services and will be our guest at the 10 a.m. "between the services" Coffee and Conversation hour.

We will also have a 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. "Meet Bishop Jones" gathering for the wider diocese that afternoon.

For more information, Click Here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Saints Sunday, 2008

November 2, 2008 All Saints Sunday 1 John 3: 1-3

One of the great days of the Church Year, All Saints Sunday, and certainly here at St. Andrew’s, always a festival of celebration, such wonderful music, and enjoying a glimpse of the future as we celebrate with Ian Denshaw and Nikolas Schunn and Maeve Southard-Wray and Zach Spondike and their families on First Communion Sunday.

And remembering All Saints and heroes of ancient days and All Souls as we more immediately are remembering in our thoughts and prayers those whom we have known and loved but now see no longer, reminding ourselves of the challenges and opportunities of life and ministry that God sets before us, and aware even in the faces of our children that the intentions of God stretch out beyond all the boundaries of time and space that we can even begin to imagine. This mystery of community, of the Christian family, the Church, the Body of Christ.

There’s a poster you often find in locker rooms and I think also in some business and corporate offices with the saying, kind of a cliché, “THERE IS NO “I” in “TEAM.” The idea that the objective is to score the goal, win the game, complete the project, not to bring glory to any one individual—and especially not if, as so often happens, that one member’s drive and desire to be the Star of the Show ends up undermining the quality and effectiveness of the group effort. “I scored three runs, but we lost the game.” In the same way I’ve heard it said that there can be no such thing as a solitary Christian. That there is something essential to the foundation of our faith about life in community.

St. Benedict held that for the monk Christian life in the monastery was in many ways superior to Christian life as an anchorite or hermit, because, he said, it is only in community that we truly can learn and practice obedience to the Great Commandment that Jesus gave to his friends on that Holy Thursday evening, when as he washed their feet in such compassionate humility he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Obedience, humility, and compassion are just hard things to practice in a room by yourself—and those are for any Christian the chief signposts on the way of Spiritual life, of growth in faith and in relationship to Christ, as we come to know him together, with one another. So All Saints and All Souls not minor observances in the calendar, but essential and at the core of who we are and what our Christian life is all about, on a direct line with Christmas and Easter and Pentecost, and certainly a festival worthy of orchestral celebration. This vast community, across time and space.

Certainly a day when as with Ian and Nikolas and Maeve and Zach we would come to the altar this morning to receive what we are, and what we are becoming, the Body of Christ, to meet the One in whom we become more and more perfectly who we are in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, and to grow more deeply in companionship one with another. As that very word “companion” reflects relationship in and through the sharing of bread.

All that, then, and this wonderful, brief passage from First John, the opening sentences of the third chapter, in a kind of anthem of deepest feeling of that relationship grounded in Christ’s living presence. No “I” in this paragraph, almost as if the Apostle doesn’t know that word—it’s all “we.” “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.” It is this fellowship, all of us together, this communication, this living together in one holy family, brothers and sisters, in the miracle of heavenly life, that brings the fulfillment of our life together.

Not to negate or diminish our individuality, but to see that individuality lifted up into a greater identity, a life of more complete fullness and perfection. A transformation in Christ. “What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”

I can almost hear rumbling underneath an echo of Henry Wadsworth Lowry’s much loved 19th century hymn, “How can I keep from singing?” In a moment in the life of the wider church which sometimes seems to be more about conflict and division and separation in all sorts of ways, to be called back on this Sunday to the first principle of our life, and of our life together. “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” And that is then manifest in us as his life overflows the boundaries of our lives and fills the world.

Not just some joy, not just joy here and there, but in fullness, in perfection. That we will be like him.

As what we have seen in him, in his life, his death, his resurrection, and his glory, now we see as well: All Saints, All Souls—Ian, Nikolas, Maeve, and Zach, and all of you, all of us. Complete joy. The vision of the great All Saints Day hymn, as it echoes around us all this morning: From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia. Alleluia.

Bruce Robison

Monday, October 27, 2008

St. Andrew Lecture, 2008

Our good friend Dr. Jeremy Bonner has posted the text of his presentation on his personal web log. Again, with greatest appreciation from all of us at St. Andrew's--and especially from all in attendance at the lecture. Click on link below.

St. Andrew Lecture, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Pastoral Note

Abbey Church, St. Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, Michigan


I'll be away from Pittsburgh and St. Andrew's from Wednesday, October 22, through Monday, October 27, on my annual Fall Retreat at St. Gregory's Abbey, in Three Rivers, Michigan. St. Andreans with a longer memory will remember that I lived in this community for a month during my sabbatical, in February of 2004.

St. Gregory's Abbey

I'm thankful that our deacon, the Rev. Jean Chess, will be available, should any pastoral emergencies arise, and that my good friends and colleagues, the Rev. John Paul Chaney (Rector of Seeds of Hope, Bloomfield) and the Rev. Dr. Norman "Chips" Koehler (Assistant Chaplain, Presbyterian Senior Care, and Assistant Rector, St. Thomas, Oakmont) will be presiding at Wednesday and Sunday morning services while I'm away.

Please know that this great parish family will be in my thoughts and deepest prayers during these days of rest and reflection.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Twenty-Third after Pentecost, 2008

The Children of Israel Marching through the Wilderness, artist unknown

October 19, 2008 XXIII Pentecost (RCL Proper 24a) Exodus 33: 12-23

Fifteen years ago or so the Vestry and people of St. Andrew’s Church were going through the process of preparation for the calling and election of a new rector, and a part of that process, as some of you no doubt remember, was to assemble what is called the “Parish Profile.” That Profile really had two purposes. The first was to try to collate in a series of documents and descriptions and verbal snapshots an overview of the worship and ministry and all the varied activities of the parish, and an assessment of current resources, pledging statistics, budgets, records of reserve funds and endowments and trusts, a review of the physical properties, buildings and grounds. Which is really quite a daunting task, if you think about it. But even more important than that, and perhaps more of a daunting challenge, there was a need in and through this document to convey what you might call the “spirit” of the congregation. Its deeper character, themes of identity, values, goals, hopes and dreams.

And of course St. Andrew’s not a huge place, in terms of congregational size, but as we all know, in 1993 and of still in 2008, a place of much diversity—so many differences of background and perspective. Then and now quite a challenge, because either what you do is oversimplify, reduce, exclude, or you find yourself become so broad and general as to be saying essentially nothing helpful and meaningful at all. Older, younger, traditional, untraditional, liberal, conservative, multi-generational Pittsburghers and recent transplants, Democrats and Republicans, Evangelical, Bible-based spirituality and Catholic sacramental spirituality and a little Zen spirituality, and not much spirituality at all—and old-fashioned and modern, contemplative, action-oriented, white collar and blue collar, urban, suburban. I could just keep doing that all day long, and we’re just talking about three or four hundred people at most, and a lot of them related to each other. Pretty amazing.

So how to get at that? I mean, it sounds like a cross-section of random folks in line at the Giant Eagle, not like a “community,” a church family. And yet here we are, and to say that there is in all this a sense of deeper intuition that there is something—something that makes St. Andrew’s, St. Andrew’s. How to get at that, how to put it into words, and without making some of us feel left out of the definition?

And those of you who were here in 1993 will remember that in the midst of a prayerful and actually pretty-intense conversation about all that, with strategic plans and profiles and all the rest, there emerged a single image which at least at that moment seemed to capture something down deep, and unifying, and clarifying. Not the only image that came up, but the one that got the most traction. The image of the “journey.”

Understanding that the journey is something that is special, unique, private, and personal, for each one of us, as we grow and change, evolve, reform, transform in our own special moment and context of life. Related to our past, our families of origin, the cultures and heritages, the values that have shaped us, and no two of us alike in terms where we’ve been, where we are now, or where we’re headed. And yet also, this sense that the journey is something that we take together. That we’re going somewhere, together.

Many journeys, yet also, inextricably, one journey. The sense of connection, companionship. Not just a random assembly of individuals whose lives accidentally intersect in this physical space, but a people called to be together, to care for one another, to inspire one another, to push and prod and annoy and frustrate one another. To lift up the fallen, to rebuke the backslider, to encourage the faint-hearted. Like a great big family on a long car trip. At any given moment some having a wonderful time, some bored, some wanting to stop now for lunch, some calling out “are we there yet?” The whole experience.

Many journeys, and one journey. And with this sense that as we travel together we need to do so with a spirit of respect for differences. Some go to bed early and get up early, others sleep late, some travel best at night, others are morning people. Some aren’t even sure that this journey is the one they want to be on. Trying our best not to be too frustrated with each other when we don’t quite fit together perfectly. To keep a sense of humor. Cultivating even across all those differences a kind of deeper affection that is sometimes difficult to explain to those outside the family. The one place in the world maybe where Obama people and McCain people are still enjoying each other’s company. If that’s even possible to imagine any more.

In any event, with all this rolling along, and I think also of all the divisions that have just fractured our diocesan family over these past weeks, some parishes so painfully being torn apart—thankfully not so much a part of our experience here. Some strongly felt differences, as you might imagine, given that roster of categories describing who we are, but not the catastrophe we’ve seen some other places. That we have been able to find in ourselves a kind of resilience, a kind of spaciousness, so that the tensions haven’t overwhelmed us. That’s where the grace comes in. The miracle of it all. God’s hand in our midst, which I really believe we have known and felt as a blessing.

It has been very helpful for me, that during these past few weeks in our Sunday lectionary we’ve had this great Biblical image of the journey also before us in the story of the Exodus. This a people who before they went down to Egypt in the time of Jacob and his sons, were not much more than vaguely related clans of nomads and wanderers.

But in this great story, as we have been reading it these weeks, the people who were nomads and wanderers undergo this remarkable transformation. In that common experience of rescue from slavery, the parting of the Sea, the destruction of their enemy; and sustained by miracles: in those moments of starvation, when manna rained down upon them from heaven; in their hour of thirst, when water flowed out of the desert rock; and most of all in that dramatic encounter at the Holy Mountain, when in fire and smoke and so much drama there was a new Covenant, a new relationship, a new identity established. And then in that most horrible back-sliding moment of all, with the Golden Calf. Betraying the one who had given them life and purpose and direction. Somehow, in all that: still, even still, to be God’s “chosen people.”

Soft clay in the hands of the potter, hard granite under the chisel of the sculptor. And then gradually, transformationally, they are not wanderers and nomads anymore, not escaping slaves anymore. God’s people, and on a journey, on his journey, with a purpose and a destination, all of them together, the fast and the slow, the old and the young, wealthy and poor, high and low, all of them together, on the journey to the Promised Land. Off track as they may be from time to time. Not just drifting from one watering hole to the next. On a sacred journey. A quest. With purpose and direction, all of them together. We used some of that imagery in our Adult Education series last year—about how “nomads” become “pilgrims.”

I love this moment in the story, in Exodus 32, up there on the mountain, when Moses says to God, let me see you. Let me see you. I yearn to see your face, to know you, to see your power and glory and beauty and wonder with my own eyes. This deep spiritual yearning. Yearning for reassurance, for inspiration, for illumination. His desire personally, and Moses here speaking on behalf of all the people as well, at the heart of their journey. And speaking for us, on our journey. I yearn to see you, with my own eyes. Your power and glory and beauty and wonder—with my own eyes. And he receives an answer to his prayer. Not exactly what he expected. It never is. And not the end of the story and the fullness of revelation--but a glimpse, a hint, a foretaste.

Which is our privilege as well, here in this place, this gathering of friends, in the life we share and the work we have to do together, in the good times and in the hard times. Sustained along the way by miracles. Manna from heaven, water from the rock. Glimpses of the Father, Christ’s living presence, his Cross, his resurrection, his continuing life among us, in the Bread and Cup, in the Word, in one another, along the way of this journey, all of us together, on our way to the Land of Promise.

Bruce Robison

Monday, October 13, 2008

St. Andrew Lecture, 2008

Fort Pitt, where services from the Book of Common Prayer were read in November, 1778.

I've been passing around the following announcement of what I think will be a very timely Adult Programs Presentation this week at St. Andrew's.


2008 St. Andrew Lecture
Friday, October 17, 8 p.m.

In a season of uneasiness in the wider Anglican world, and as that uneasiness is felt with special emphasis here in Pittsburgh, the Adult Programs Committee of St. Andrew's Church has invited historian Jeremy Bonner to join us as our Featured Speaker for the 2008 St. Andrew Lecture.

Dr. Bonner is the commissioned author of the soon-to-be-published, Called Out of Darkness Into Marvelous Light: A History of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, 1750-2000.

The title of Dr. Bonner's presentation at St. Andrew's, Episcopal Dawn, Anglican Sunset: A Scholar's Reflections on Pittsburgh's Episcopal Experience,is intended to draw upon his work as author of the recently-completed history of the 250 years of Anglican and Episcopal Church presence and ministry in Southwestern Pennsylvania as a framework for reflections on the present crisis and as a context for thoughts about what the future may hold.

Jeremy Bonner received his PhD in history from the Catholic University of America in 2001 and was subsequently the J. Franklin Jameson Fellow in American History at the Library of Congress from 2001 to 2002 He is the author of The Road to Renewal: Victor Joseph Reed and Oklahoma Catholicism, 1905-1971 (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008) and over the past three years has completed a manuscript history of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. His published work has appeared in the Journal of Morman History and Anglican and Episcopal History, in which his most recent scholarship features as "The Pittsburgh Paradigm: The Rise of Confessional Anglicanism in Southwestern Pennsylvania, 1950-2000."

For over a decade the St. Andrew's Lecture has featured speakers addressing topics of significant concern in our community. Please invite your friends, and join us on October 17.

St. Andrew's is located at 5801 Hampton Street, between N. Highland and N. Negley Avenues, one block south of Bryant Street and four blocks south of the park, in the East End Pittsburgh neighborhood of Highland Park. Call 412 661-1245 for more information.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Twenty-Second after Pentecost, 2008

The Adoration of the Golden Calf
Nicolas Poussin, 1634

October 12, 2008 XXII Pentecost (RCL Proper 23A)
Exodus 32: 1-14

Fascinating how the image and theme of unfaithfulness permeates this ancient story of the birth of a people, a nation, a civilization, a tradition of faith. These stories certainly not passed down from generation to generation in an effort to polish an image or reputation.

To know who we are it almost seems first and foremost through our brokenness, our inability to get it right, our deeply ingrained habit it seems always to run off headstrong in the precisely the wrong direction. Headstrong, stiff-necked, stubborn, self-indulgent, impatient. So were our ancestors, so were our fathers and mothers, so are we. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Certainly there are moments of heroism, idealism, men and women of dynamic faith and confidence and power. We have that in us too. But we would not kid ourselves. To know us, you must know us in our sin, in our weakness.

Perhaps we beg the camera to find our good side, for once, but it seems as we read these lessons through Exodus week by week only to tell us the truth about who we are, where we come from, even if that truth isn’t always what we would want to hear. That if we are blessed, if we are healed, if there is anything good in us or for us, that comes about not as a result of our having deserved it, having earned our way there, but because--because it is his property always to have mercy.

Fifteen minutes on our own, and we were squabbling, stirred up by fear, rumors. Making idols. Creating delusional, fictional realities, a world of make-believe. Unwilling to trust. The story of our lives.

And of course we have Moses here in one of these set scenes that the early Christian readers of the scriptures saw as a prefiguring of the work of Christ, placing himself between a Just God and a humanity that seems without a prayer, hopelessly lost. Interceding for us.

And then the overflowing of grace, a moment of relaxation, forgiveness, hope, a promise of a future. That wonderful petition in last week’s collect: “Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy.” We don’t deserve it, don't deserve him, and he could certainly do better than us. But because there is one pleading for us: grace, mercy, and redemption.

One of the Biblical and poetic names for God’s heavenly throne: the “Mercy Seat.” That mercy planted in us grows day by day and generation by generation, in our hearts. That we would be a people not confident in our own power, not full of ourselves, but full of the spirit of the one who has saved us and set us free. To grow in us as joy, prayer, thankfulness, deep understanding and compassion, peace, and gentleness. To have confidence not in ourselves, but to rest always in his power and his love.

Not to say that there isn’t a lot of good work to do. Certainly this moment in the life of our suffering church and our suffering world will call us to new tasks with enthusiasm and dedication and open hearts. What kind of people are we called to be? To what life are we to aspire?

To know that it is his work and not ours, that it will be done in his time and in his way, for his purposes. There is a freedom in that—and something I think quite precious and wonderful to share with the world.

To be invited into his presence, his loving embrace. To be lifted up into his goodness, his purity, his holiness, his generosity. No need to be mean, though it may seem to rise up in us and around us. No need to be angry. No need to be afraid. No need to run for the exits. No need to fabricate false gods and easy answers to avoid hard questions and ambiguities. I’d just leave myself to meditate again on the passage I highlighted from Philippians 3:10 last Sunday. Paul from prison, to those who would carry on after him in life and ministry: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

If it were up to us, if it were about us, if we were going to figure out how to move through the tangled woods on our own, we’d be in big trouble, no question about it. Our track record is not good at all. We’ll be stranded in the desert, lost in the wilderness of our own brokenness. Luther on the character of humanity, without the work of Christ: incurvatus in se. Turned in on itself. Ever more tightly bound up. But it’s not just about us. Not just up to us. The story keeps going on from here after all. Continuing toward the Land of Promise.

It’s all his. This life, this world, this church, our lives together. It’s all his. All about him. His gift, his generosity. His standing for us, his interceding for us. And from him grace and freedom and new life.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Twenty-First after Pentecost, 2008

St. Paul at Philippi, Johan Staradanus 1674

October 5, 2008 XXI Pentecost (RCL Proper 22A)
Exodus 20: 1-20, Philippians 3: 4b-14, Matthew 21: 33-46

Friends, Grace to you, and Peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. This first Sunday of October and the 21st Sunday in this season of Ordinary Time after Pentecost most years might seem pretty much just in the midst of things in the pages of our calendar and the rhythms of life, but as we gather this morning I think we would all be aware that at least in the life of our wider church, the times are anything but “ordinary,” and the customary rhythms of the fall season have an aspect of unpredictability and turbulence to them as well.

Just read the morning paper. Our mothers might have said that good Episcopalians would expect to find their names in the newspaper in birth announcements and on the weddings page, perhaps occasionally on a published guest list for a charitable fundraiser, and then finally with the obituaries. But clearly we haven’t been paying attention to our mothers for a while--and in the context of our diocesan convention yesterday and news stories and of course much continuing controversy all around, perhaps we come to church this morning with a sense of instability, even anxiety, and certainly uncertainty about the future. Which is natural, given what has gone on—but which at the same time we need to find a way to understand and then offer up in the spiritual offering that we bring as we lift up our hearts and come to the Lord’s Table this morning.

A friend of mine once said, “nobody wants to go to a church in trouble.” And certainly I don’t know too many folks who wake up on Sunday mornings and say, “You know, my life is so calm, so serene, that I think what I need now is a good dose of conflict, stress, and disorder.” Most of us get enough of that the other six days of the week, thank you very much. And so, this morning, not “Welcome to Stress Central,” but: Grace to you, and Peace. The good message we have for the world: Grace and Peace. The good and generous gift of our Lord’s presence this morning, and it is all good, all the time. That’s where we need to be, first in our lives and at the center of our lives.

The Old Testament and Gospel lessons read this morning are rich in many ways--and especially as we have been walking with Moses and the Israelites across the Sinai and come now to this critical moment of covenant at the Holy Mountain. But as this past week I and so many of us have been in prayer over the events of the wider church, it is the reading from St. Paul that has called to me and fed me, and that I would highlight today, as we might ask what word there is for us, to guide us and keep us and sustain us as we now move into what I guess will be a new chapter of the story of our life in the church. And most of all, just this one phrase, which I have come to again and again, the very first part of the 10th verse of the 3rd chapter of Philippians: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

In this I think most tender and beautiful of Paul’s letters, as he writes from prison as friend and pastor to this most beloved of his congregations, near the end of his life, but in the midst of theirs, and at the very beginning of the life and mission of the church, pouring out his heart in a testimony of personal faith, this phrase then as a kind of mission statement, which is for them as well to adopt and incorporate into their lives. Just to let those words surround us, enter into our thoughts, our hearts. “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

So yesterday our diocesan family fractured. News all over the media. Good and faithful people, on all sides, broken people, on all sides, struggling in an ocean of differences and disagreements, conflicting loyalties and misunderstandings, pushing apart. Tragically. Those for whom Christ died, on all sides. With lots of complications to come, perhaps like the untangling of a messy divorce, with many layers of expectation and woundedness and perception and misperception. Someone said, “at last, it’s over.” But that of course is not the case, by a long shot.

Both groups now needing to find a way to move forward, but still profoundly enmeshed, emotionally, spiritually, and with all kinds of continuing entangled relationship—healthful and destructive. Reminding us of the famous line from William Faulkner. “The past isn’t dead and buried. It isn’t even past.” Our past is also our present, and it will be our future as well, and it seems to me a dangerous thing to pretend otherwise. It is a mess, it has been a mess, and it’s going to be a mess for a good long while. But this again, to say this first--Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

A lot of people have asked me about our future, here in the parish, in our diocesan life, in the wider church—and frankly up to this point I don’t think I’ve done all that well in the crystal ball department, so I’m not going to get into much of it now. I do know with the commitment of our Vestry, which I share, and which we understand to be the general desire of our wider parish, that we will continue in our life and ministry in this parish as a part of the family of the Episcopal Church-- and I know that I and many of us will have roles to play as we now begin the long process of rebuilding a common diocesan life.

Somebody said the other day, “it’s like trying to rebuild the engine on a 737—at 30,000 feet!” But a process that good people are working on, and that I know over time will work itself out in good ways. There is already an outline of the diocesan process, and there are copies on the Welcome Table and lots more information on what is now the new diocesan website, which is also referenced on those copies.

In any case, what we might have reason to restate this morning as our first point of focus, our over-riding goal now, for sure: that St. Andrew’s will continue to be St. Andrew’s. A place of where we dedicate ourselves to knowing Christ, and to serving in his name. Here today, receiving gifts and contributions for the United Thank Offering, which has for generations now been one of the mission and ministry highlights of the Episcopal Church, sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women. And here today as well, as over in Brooks Hall Wes Rohrer of our Outreach Committee and our Youth Group seek our support as they will walk next week in the annual CROP Walk, to address concerns of hunger both locally and around the world. Honoring the God who let manna fall like rain in the desert, honoring the One who fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish at the Sea of Galilee.

St. Andrew’s: people growing in him, growing in hospitality and grace and generosity, thoughtfulness, creativity, and care, meaningful and heartfelt worship, as in this service this morning—and with this gift of the Mass setting being sung by our Choir today. Wow—just so very beautiful. Here we are: an extended Christian family, with all kinds of differences and eccentricities, of course, and sometimes conflicting concerns, but also with a sense of deeper affection, good humor, and friendship.

There is a lot of strange language being used about the Episcopal Church these days, and what our decision to continue in that church might actually mean. Following the media and listening to the comments that have been in the air could be confusing. Drives me crazy, actually. But for a certain simple clarity I would quote from the letter my colleague and friend Jim Simons, the Rector of St. Michael’s in Ligonier and one of our key figures now in our reorganizing diocese, wrote to the Post Gazette the other day, as some of you may have seen this already, in response to a previous article making a number of claims, some true and some not true, about the Episcopal Church. Jim wrote, “We proclaim Jesus as Lord and we recite the creeds, without reservation, and with full knowledge and acceptance of what they mean. Our Book of Common Prayer reflects these beliefs. We believe the Episcopal Church continues to minister to the poor and needy, worship in spirit and truth and proclaim the saving power of Jesus Christ. We wish to stay and be a part of that faithful witness.”

We would be clear about that, even as we would honor the integrity and good and faithful intentions of those, some dear friends, who have chosen a different way forward at this time. My prayer is that they also will find that way to be one that will “proclaim the saving power of Jesus Christ,” not just in words, but in the fullness of their lives.

“I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.” Know him not only as an affirmation of doctrine, or as a symbol of generic spirituality, but as a living and personal presence in my life and our lives. Know him, as his death on the Cross accomplishes in us so deeply a renewal of life, with forgiveness, the healing of our brokenness. The Medicine of the World.

Know him, as from his Empty Tomb he is raised above all to accomplish the reconciliation and restoration of all God’s creation. Know him, as he works through us day by day, in the experience of prayer, in gifts of charity and compassion and in a deeper sense of his loving heart, and as by the gifts of the Holy Spirit we become his Body, his hands and his heart in the places of our lives.

“I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.” An old saying I think from the 12-Step movement: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Not to lose sight of it, not to lose sight of him, which might be easy to do in the confluence of institutional and political excitement. Instead: a daily process of growth. To learn, and to learn again.

What does it mean to be a member here, to be living in this corner of his church? To be fed on the Word, as the grace of that Word governs and shapes and blesses us. To be fed by the broken Bread and in the Cup with his Body, and so to become his Body. A daily process, and a great mystery: lifting up the offering of our hearts as we approach him again this morning. With so much broken, so much misdirected, to have this hunger and this yearning in our hearts. “I want to know Christ,” again today, more, and more, and more. Keeping the main thing the main thing: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection.”

Bruce Robison

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pastoral Note, Following Convention

I sent this message by way of the e-mail distribution list of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh.

Dear Friends,

I returned home a bit earlier this afternoon from diocesan convention at St. Martin's Church, Monroeville. The 143rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and my 15th since being received as a priest of this diocese in the summer of 1994.

For me the "highlight" of convention was a wonderful sermon preached at the Convention Eucharist by my friend the Rev. David Wilson, priest-in-charge of St. David's Church, Bethel Park, and President of our diocesan Standing Committee. His gracious and Christ-centered words I think spoke deeply to all of us. Certainly they did to me.

I would also simply share with you that I was sitting near the front of the church, and after receiving communion, administered on "my side of the church" by old friends Mary Hays, for ten years now our diocesan Canon Missioner, and Geoff Chapman, Rector of St. Stephen's Church, Sewickley, simply rested in a prayerful meditation as I watched so many dear friends and colleagues come forward also to receive. During the singing of one of the communion hymns I heard my voice catch, and I realized that I was crying. A very tender moment, and one that was extended for a good long while. And as I looked around, I saw that there were other tears.

In any case, as you may have heard already (and will be much news in the media), with something of a sense of inevitability at this point, in a majority vote by orders (clergy and lay) our convention approved today the second reading of an amendment to our diocesan constitution intended to sever the constitutional relationship of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to the Episcopal Church. Two objections were made to the validity of this effort prior to the vote, both of which were overruled by the Chair after consultation with the Chancellor. The actual vote was about 80% - 20% among the clergy and 65% - 35% among the laity.

Following that approval, a canon was adopted to "align" the diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America.

Since actions of convention do not come into effect until the convention adjourns, the members of convention were invited to remain in their places, singing a hymn, after adjournment, as members of the diocesan Standing Committee held a brief meeting. They then announced that in response to their invitation Archbishop Venables, of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, had appointed Bishop Duncan as his "Commissary" or I guess we would say "deputy" for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. (While Bishop Duncan's deposition ended his ability to function in the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church, he will now resume that ministry actively within the realigned "Southern Cone" diocese and congregations.)

The Standing Committee also announced that a special convention would be held for the Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Southern Cone on Friday, November 7, and Saturday, November 8, for the purpose of "electing a diocesan bishop" (presumably Bishop Duncan). The convention was then sent out, to lunch and home, with a dismissal sentence.

Although this convention was an incredibly sad and difficult event, it was led with dignity and restraint, and my own impression is that members on both sides of the critical question conducted themselves with grace and gentleness.

What of the future?

This we will speak about, learn about, and engage together in the coming days, months, and years. As you know, the Vestry of St. Andrew's has expressed with clarity that our parish will continue as a parish within the Episcopal Church, and will not recognize or participate in the organization of the "realigned diocese."

On leaving St. Martin's this afternoon canonically resident Pittsburgh clergy were asked to take certificates licensing them as deacons or priests of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Southern Cone Province, and I declined to receive the one with my name on it. As I have indicated to you, I will remain a priest of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.

Again: much sadness, and a sense of profound loss. I personally have expressed my deep respect and love for many dear friends and colleagues who have chosen today to walk in a different direction--and my hope and prayer that in many ways the spirit of friendship and shared ministry that we have known in the past may be able to continue. But of course there will be changes, and it will be necessary to move forward to the new challenges that await us without being overly-encumbered by what lies in our past. We'll have to figure that out as we go on.

I am glad to note that those clergy, laity, and congregations of Pittsburgh intending, like us, to remain in the Episcopal Church, have prepared carefully over the past months for this possibility, and I am confident in the strength and vision of our ordained and lay leadership. I will myself do what I can to support the reorganization of our diocese, and I know St. Andrew's will have an important role to play. I will again especially highlight the good work and leadership of two St. Andreans, Mary Roehrich and Tom Moore.

I would also note that the leadership of the Episcopal Church and the Presiding Bishop have been engaged, supportive, and respectful in their work with us thus far, and they have promised their continuing support as we make the decisions locally that will reconstitute the orderly life of our diocese.

As of Monday morning there will be a new office, mailing address, and phone number for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the "Across the Aisle" website will soon become our official diocesan website. You may wish to click on that link and bookmark the URL for future reference. There is information on the site now that may answer many of our questions about how the reorganization will take place. An important feature, on the "front page" of the site, is a letter from the Rev. Jim Simons, Rector of St. Michael of the Valley Church in Ligonier. As a member of our diocesan Standing Committee Jim will have a key leadership role in the coming days, as the diocese begins to reorganize according to our continuing Constitution and Canons.

In conclusion, I ask for your continuing prayer and spiritual witness. That we would continue in love and prayer with old friends from around our diocese--and especially Bishops Duncan and Scriven, and their families, and the clergy and people of all our congregations: those that will be in continuing fellowship with us in the reorganized Episcopal Diocese, and those that will now come into a new and different relationship with us in the "realigned" diocese. We would pray that God will shower his blessings richly upon the lives and ministries of all these friends, and upon all of us, with forgiveness and the gift of renewal in him. And that by our words and our examples all of us might be true and holy servants of our Lord Jesus--and most especially in these difficult days ahead.

At St. Andrew's, on Sunday morning, October 5, at the 10 a.m. "Coffee and Conversation" hour, our clergy and lay deputies will share their impressions of convention, and we are all invited to attend.

Affectionately, and in Christ,