Saturday, December 8, 2012

The radical hospitality of waiting for Christ

This is the second Sunday of Advent in the church, which is sometimes hard to remember when the world around us starts frantically zeroing in on Christmas before we’ve pushed ourselves away from the Thanksgiving table. These days, more true than ever, when the Christmas decorations can be spotted at Walmart as the Halloween merchandise is pushed to the deep discount aisles, and retail workers are being required to forgo any semblance of a traditional Turkey holiday so that Black Friday can start on Thursday.

Advent is the season of waiting. A time of preparation in the spiritual sense when we reflect on the promise of the Messiah. That’s sometimes hard to do and gets lost in visions of sugar plums and this year’s Christmas sweater, holiday parties and list making and shopping. Waiting is hard.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago either, the Christmas tree wasn’t up in most homes until just before the actual day, in many cases, not revealed until Christmas Eve itself. We weren’t in such a hurry to have it all, NOW.

This week, the world is all a flutter because the Duke and Duchess, Will and Kate, are going to have a baby. Every news outlet, every magazine is agog with speculation about preparation for the royal heir to the throne. Well, I have news. Mary is having a baby, too. And her baby will be the heir to the greatest kingdom of all, God’s Kingdom. 

But he’s not here yet.

We are waiting.

The Prophets tell us, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. In today’s Gospel, we hear about John in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance, crying “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

I am reminded of the concept of Radical Hospitality in the church, described as an active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home.  Radical describes that which is drastically different from ordinary practices, outside the normal, that which exceeds expectations and goes the second mile.

It strikes me that what John the Baptist is asking us to do, in this time of waiting, of preparation for the coming of Christ, is a form of radical hospitality. We are asked, not to make shopping lists or decorate, but to repent. To go through the mental and spiritual process of self assessment, to acknowledge our shortcomings and failings, to experience some contrition, to repent.

Because a visitor is coming.  Think of the hospitality we show when visitors are expected. Before the holiday guests arrive, we clean, right? Everything cleaned and polished, gleaming in preparation. John is asking no less of us in preparing the way of the Lord than a little radical hospitality.

Advent is a time to wait upon the birth of the Christ child. To pause, to reflect. To set aside a quiet time apart from the holiday frenzy, to take stock of our lives and do some personal housecleaning in preparation to receive the gift of our Lord.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's all about the mission

It's the end of the first day, and the rest of the deputation has arrived. My  "work" day started at 8 a.m. with legislative committee work. I am serving on the Communication committee and we began by reviewing the resolutions submitted thus far and holding public hearings, hearing comments and questions as well as gathering information from staff members.

The resolutions we are dealing with are certainly fewer in number than many other committees, but a consistent theme I see running through them has to do with utilizing and promoting technology as the most effective and cost efficient way to facilitate the primary work of the church: mission. And that includes making sure church staff has the communication technology tools they need to work most efficiently (saving time cost), as well as helping dioceses and parishes access training and utilize communication technology tools they need to reach outside our own doors into the communities around us to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

The first significant recommendation is a resolution recognizing Communication as a ministry -- most especially of evangelism -- spreading the good news of the Gospel, which speaks to the first of the Five Marks of Mission. Communication is, after all, about sending and receiving well-crafted messages in an effective and meaningful way, and there is no more important work in the church than reaching people with the message of Jesus Christ.

The Five Marks of Mission are also shaping to be perhaps the most important touchstone at this GC relative to crafting the legislation that will guide TEC for the next three years. The Program, Budget and Finance Committee today announced that it will be using the budget proposal structured around the Marks of Mission recently submitted by the PB, who often stresses keeping mission first and foremost as the church finds its way forward.

Other events of the day included opening addresses by House of Bishops Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson.  The afternoon was rounded off with orientation sessions in both houses reviewing rules of order, protocols and voting mechanisms, followed by an early evening round of legislative committee meetings.  The Quincy deputation managed to squeeze in a first meeting together before a baseball game and other 4th of July evening festivities.

But as committee work progresses and we move into the first legislative session tomorrow morning, it seems clear that mission will be the centerpiece of the work we do here to reshape a church ready to serve in the 21st century.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

And the trip begins...

This Dame is packed for General Convention, and enjoying morning tea on the back deck before loading the car and hitting the road. Peggy Lee (Rev. Margaret) will be joining me for the ride to Indy and my guess is that we'll be there by 3 p.m. Eastern.

My son (today, personal bellboy) has already commented, "That's a lot of luggage."  Mea culpa. But among the benefits of driving is taking what you want/need instead of being held captive to airline restrictions, so for that I am grateful. My baggage includes a printer and paper reams for the use of the deputation. And many, many power strips, adaptors, multiple plug outlets and lengthy power cords.

Arriving today, beside myself and Peggy, are Anne Fulton and Bev Everett. Tomorrow we will be joined by Bob L'Homme, Tom Stone, Jim Clement, and Charlie Ziemer of the deputation, along with John and Maryfran Crist, friends of Quincy. Paula Engelhorn, Karin Johnson, Rachel DeJesus, attending the ECW Triennial, join us on the 5th. Rachel's little daughter Josie, will be with us as well participating in children/youth activities at GC. And although I've been to GC before, this will be my first time serving on a legislative committee. So Quincy will be both well-represented and fully engaged at GC, with joy.

And that hasn't happened in a very long time.

Friday, June 15, 2012

WATCH THIS SPACE! Starting July 3, I will begin blogging from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, where I will be a deputy and chair the deputation from the Diocese of Quincy.