The Love of Christ and the Holy Spirit Make All Things New

I’ve been saying goodbye to a lot of colleagues and friends this past week. At times it’s been hard – it’s been the bitter half of this bittersweet time – especially where the prevailing sense has been one of worry about what’s next. While I fully acknowledge the hard part of this transition, today I invite you to draw your attention to the sweet half of this bittersweet time.

Begin your reflection by considering the timing of this leave-taking – it is in the midst of Eastertide. It was, is and shall be during this very season that disciples sort through the recent revelations of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and their implications. It is a season that evokes the realization that everything changes – the old passes away and gives way to something new. This is the season when disciples reconsider their relationship with the risen Lord and the Holy Spirit, and the implications of these relationships as we discern how we will live our lives in a new context; one in which we are invited to set aside our anxiety and embrace Jesus’ command to love one another as he has loved us, and to embrace the gift of the Holy Spirit – our counselor, advocate and guide. Easier said than done.

Perhaps for this reason, the lectionary of Eastertide offers lessons and insights into what’s next when we, despite our anxiety, allow Jesus’ Passion and the Holy Spirit to lead our process of learning and discernment. Consider, for example, what happens if we try to reason our way through challenges solely on our own merits, yet fail to give voice to our fears. For illustration, I offer, from the Acts of the Apostles, the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

Even as the community of believers is sharing all they have with one another, Ananias and Sapphira seem plagued by a sense of insufficiency that trumps their ability to love their sisters and brothers in the way that Jesus has loved them. Perhaps they consider it unfaithful to express their misgivings – their concerns. As a result, their anxiety over sharing the entirety of their gifts with the community leads them to hold some things back. What they hold back include some of their treasure, and some of their fear. It is the withholding of their fear that is the most disconcerting for me, for it is a denial of Jesus’ last commandment to “love one another …[j]ust as I have loved you….” Jesus give us this command in the face of his own crisis yet he names the crisis and acknowledges its cost, he holds nothing back from us. In contrast Sapphira and Ananias fail to honestly share their anxiety with the community. They hold back from expressing their doubt. Perhaps they fear being judged by others. But I think they don’t trust the love of Jesus within the community and they don’t trust the Holy Spirit. Their holding back is simply a reaction to the uncertainty they feel in the face of something new. Their holding back is a desire not to risk too much – not to be vulnerable in an uncertain time. Such a feeling is understandable to anyone who has been in their shoes; yet ultimately giving in to such anxiety is a denial of the power of Jesus’ love and the Holy Spirit. And to deny the love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is akin to calling it a liar, which has consequences.

As a counterpoint, consider Peter’s appearance today before the apostles in Jerusalem. He is offering a report of his work among the gentiles. To the conventional Jew or God fearer, Peter has gone off the reservation. He is a bit like the prodigal child in the eyes of his older brother; yet he is heeding the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus. The apostles’ and believers’ anxiety over Peter’s association with gentiles and uncircumcised men is leading them to recrimination and perhaps condemnation, until they hear Peter’s testimony to the role of the Holy Spirit in his mission. As a result, the apostles and believers are silenced and accept his testimony. Led by the Holy Spirit in this and other acts of faithful riskiness, the apostles and other believers forever set the way of Jesus Christ on the path of love, inclusiveness and possibility that we now know. May we too listen to the Holy Spirit and trust the love of Jesus and be led to a way forward that challenges us and reveals the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus making things new in our lives.

Speaking of making things new, through the love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit even the most frightening of texts can be made new. Consider the Revelation to John with its account of a new heaven and a new earth. Though Revelation’s myriad of metaphors and fearful imagery causes many to be preoccupied with the end times and the anxiety they generate; in contrast, today’s reading offers us a glimpse of what awaits us following our own passion and resurrection. Set following the final judgment and the opening of the book of life, this reading affirms and reminds us of what we have to look forward to: a new heaven and a new earth; the home of God among us; and the promise that death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more. Because the end belongs to Jesus it is no ending at all for his disciples but a new thing, thus there is nothing to fear at all. If we keep this promise before us the present departure is not an ending but a life-giving transition to something new.

Why does Jesus command us to love one another? He does it because love makes room for honest expression of our fears and dread, and by making room it disarms the power of fear or dread in our lives. Love changes our perception – just as a prism refracts light into colors – love harnesses Christ’s light and bends our expectation toward new things and life without end. The alternative is a perspective that is frozen or fixated upon our present anxiety or pain, which is a perspective void of love and new life. Yet Jesus and the prophets implore us to see the Lord who is active among us – this is the sweetness of this bittersweet time.

But what do we do now in the face of departure? Don’t hold back, expecting someone else to take responsibility. Give voice to your fear. Share the gifts you have to share. And above all love one another as Jesus loves you. For it is there you will join Jesus in proclaiming, “See, [we are] making all things new.”

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Why am I here?

“Why am I here?” And no, I have not just stepped into the pulpit and forgotten what I came here for! This is not like where did I leave my phone. No, this is one of those meaning of life questions like, “Who am I?” Most everyone I know, above a certain age, has asked them self – and perhaps others – a question like this. Existential questions like these are a fundamental part of our desire to know about our self – to understand our selfness – to understand our individuality.

But right about now, you may be asking your self, what on earth is he going on about? To which I might reply, your and my very existence is defined – at least in our minds – by who we understand our self to be. That is our identity, if you will. In fact I might go further to assert that our identity is the defining pursuit of our life. To which you might understandably reply, what has this got to do with church and faith in this season of Eastertide?

Well, I’ll tell you. We have just heard the Word of God, and our identity and selfness is at the core of today’s readings and all scripture. We and the Divine are the protagonists – or maybe the antagonists – not only of these readings but of the entire canon of scripture. The push and pull among us as we struggle to understand one another and our relationship with each other and God is the central story. It is our story.

Today, our story may give us some insights into our selfness. Each of our readings is about identity. But two of them are about fundamental changes of character that are so far reaching that they are best exemplified by a change of name, such as Abram experienced when he went from being a wandering migrant from Ur of the Chaldeans to become Abraham “the ancestor of a multitude of nations.”[1]

In our first story we hear about the blinding conversion of Saul. If we were to go no further than that, this is an impressive conversion story. But by now you know me better than that; so let’s delve a little deeper.

Saul spends three days without sight, three days in darkness, three days in darkness like a tomb. The similarity to our Easter story is unavoidable. Saul’s old selfness dies and a new selfness emerges from the tomb to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be baptized. In just a few chapters Saul’s name will change as well. Saul’s birth name means “desired” as in wanted or privileged. But Saul will become known as Paul, which means “small” as in insignificant or humble.

Paul will shed the identity of privileged persecutor and put on the selfness of persecuted preacher of the Gospel and apostle to the Gentiles. Like his ancestor Abraham, Paul’s selfness and legacy will be forever changed.

And then there is the conversion, if you will, of Simon Peter. This conversion is similar to that of Saul or Paul in that Simon’s birth name and legacy are forever changed. But it is also different because Simon lacked the social standing and privilege of Saul. Unlike Saul, Simon, as a disciple of Jesus, has had a front row seat for the entirety of Jesus’ ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection.

If anyone’s identity is grounded in the good news of the Gospel, you’d think it is Simon’s. Yet with the greatest story ever told behind him, Simon still seems to be at loose ends. He seems to have fallen back on his old sense of selfness. He seems to no longer feel the call to be a fisher of people. Instead he has reverted to being a fisherman; and a questionable one at that, at least today. Simon is still – if you will excuse the pun – casting about for his former identity and coming up empty. He is so at loose ends that he doesn’t recognize that it is his Lord that calls out to him telling him to try the other side.

Still, gradually the fogginess of Simon’s perception lifts as he is told, “It is the Lord!”[2] But recall that Simon is a tough nut, or slow learner if you will. It takes lessons in intervals of three for him to get the point, maybe that’s why they call him Simon. You see, Simon means “listen.” Thus “Simon, listen” means “Listen, listen.”

This puts the game of Simon Says in a new light. This game is not about anticipating or reacting, but about listening carefully. Every time Jesus says Simon’s name, he is literally being told twice to “Listen, listen.” I wonder if Simon has ever been very good at listening. For here, after three years of teaching, and on Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples following his resurrection, that after their sea side breakfast Jesus asks Simon three times, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”[3]

It seems to me that Simon is so hung up on or vexed by Jesus’ questions that he isn’t listening to the significance of the instructions. “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, and “Feed my sheep.” Simon is being called to be the chief shepherd just as Jesus was and is the first shepherd. Simon is called to tend the flock – the church that will be built upon his new identity –“Peter” – the Rock that he is to become.

But inseparable from this new identity is the cost of discipleship. John the Evangelist continues by telling us “the kind of death by which [Peter] would glorify God.” I wonder if this is not a reference to Peter’s physical death, but the shedding of his youthful Simon selfness in favor of his Petrine identity of obedience and selflessness to be lead “where you do not wish to go,” also known as following Jesus.

Much like Peter, when we encounter scripture (our story) and fellow followers of Jesus, who do we understand our self to be? Are we too bit by bit pulled, tugged, and pushed toward this path or identity of follower? If so, for some of us it may seem to come slowly just as it does for Peter, bit by bit, hardscrabble year after hardscrabble year. For others of us it may come upon us and wash over us as it did for Paul in a three-day deluge of darkness. Regardless of how we stumble upon the our selfness – our identity as a follower of Jesus, remember that like Abraham, like Paul and like Peter our legacy is forever changed; so that we are able to walk this way of love together, and so that we walk this way of love not for our own self but for the One who loves us!

[1] Genesis 17:5

[2] John 21:7

[3] Ibid. vv. 15, 16, and 17

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

This is the beginning of the good news, and it is joyful news indeed. But it is also news that may stretch us in ways we don’t expect; it may lead us to places we don’t expect to go, especially if we take it seriously.

Truth often does this. The light of truth often reveals things we do not expect; and sometimes it casts what we take for granted as truths in a different light. Consider this morning’s events. Mary Magdalene finds the massive stone improbably removed from the tomb, and what’s more – the tomb is empty. How could this be? She watched Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus place Jesus’ body there and saw the tomb sealed with the stone. An open and empty tomb doesn’t gibe with any rational expectation. It defies common sense. Something irrational has happened.

In this moment of surprise Mary doesn’t remember Jesus foretelling his own death and resurrection. Perhaps she has tucked this knowledge away into a forgotten corner of her consciousness because it seemed so implausible at the time. Like an inconvenient truth she’d prefer to overlook. In this moment of shock, Mary would probably like to linger before the empty tomb in dismay and grief, but something compels her to tell this story, to find witnesses. She runs to Peter and John to tell them what she has seen. In this act Mary Magdalene becomes the Apostle to the Apostles. Still, even Peter and John, the closest of Jesus’ followers, fail to recognize the truth because grief and competition clouds their vision. What will it take to remove the veil from their eyes?

Having found two witnesses to verify what she may think is a grave robbing; Mary can finally fully confront her grief. As tears cloud her vision, it is her ears that allow Mary to hear the truth – the truth that is Jesus standing right in front of her and speaking to her. This is as improbable and unexpected as can be yet it is the truth.

In this moment and throughout the Passion narrative, it is the women – the second-class denizens of their society – who have the ability to be present – to stand in the grievous shadows of suffering and death to see and hear the truth. I don’t think this choice of a disenfranchised typology is an accident on the part of John the Evangelist. It is an intentional choice to remind us whom our Savior favors: the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised and the foreigner – those who find themselves at the margins of society. The neglected and uncomfortable often have the ability to see contradictions between reality and the divine.

Such is the life of Cornelius and his household. A Roman citizen living in a foreign land surrounded by people hostile to his very existence because of his position and authority as an occupier of their homeland. Unwelcome by all around him, yet favored by God because he is a devout God-fearer. Yet, despite this, there is a seemingly insurmountable gulf of suspicion between him and the followers of Jesus because of entrenched differences. On one side, affiliation with the occupying forces of the empire, and on the other fixed, ideas about what is kosher, what is acceptable to a skittish Apostle with limited imagination – the same Apostle that struggled to recall Jesus’ promise of resurrection. The only thing that can bridge this gulf is divine intervention.

God recognizes in the Roman Gentile Cornelius an otherwise improbable righteousness that needs to be revealed to Peter. But to accomplish this God needs to disabuse Peter of his Judaic prejudice. As with all lessons learned by Peter, it takes three times for Peter to get the message. In a hunger induced trance Peter must hear a disembodied voice proclaim three times, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”[1] While Peter puzzles over this vision, the Holy Spirit directs him to follow a Roman soldier and two slaves to the home of Cornelius. Given Peter’s exclusive and xenophobic upbringing it’s not difficult to imagine him thinking, “You gotta be kidding me!” as he follows these three untouchables to Cornelius’ home. But it’s the truth.

And, by God’s grace, he is able to proclaim to Cornelius’ household, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”[2]

What a dramatic change of heart this is for one who is so convinced of his own righteousness! To be honest, we know that this conversion is not perfect – not whole. Peter will continue to waffle a bit when confronted with differing opinions, but this is a monumental change of heart that follows the arc of Jesus’ Last Supper “commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”[3]

I thank God for the example of the Apostles: for their imperfect wavering in the face of human realities; and especially for their openness to what the Jesus and the Holy Spirit reveal to them. I thank God there is room for wonder, curiosity and questioning in our faith. Otherwise the Apostles may never have changed their minds and enlightened their understanding; and we might go mad meandering after purely rational explanations.

May you and I, through the love of Jesus Christ, be like Mary Magdalene, Peter, and Cornelius. May we have the imagination and vision to stand before the contradictions and prohibitions of our earthly life, and choose to follow the way of love wherever it may lead us on the path to resurrected life.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

[1] Acts 10:15

[2] Ibid. v. 28

[3] John 15:12

Hedgerows

If you’re keeping track of the days until Easter, today is the penultimate – that is the next to last – Sunday of Lent. Now, why would we be counting down the days to Easter? Well I would like to tell you it’s because I’m in the zone – that penitential, repentance-filled, spiritual place of oneness with my Creator – and I can’t wait to proclaim that Jesus is risen!

But truth be told, while I do think – by God’s grace – I have made some spiritual progress in this season of Lent; if I’m completely honest, my inclination to count the days is because the fast – the forgoing of an unnecessary indulgence in my case – has me a little rattled. Part of me wants to turn back toward that indulgence; and part of me wants to leave it behind. It’s a bit like standing in the midst of a hedgerow. You can see a way out on the either side, but being in the middle among the poking branches and brambles is uncomfortable, and causes one to rethink the way through. Perhaps I should turn back, or do I press forward?

During Lent, I’ve been thinking a lot about the hedgerows – the uncomfortable places – in my life. While the hedgerow is not a bad place to be, it’s not perhaps what I am looking for, nor where I’d prefer to be. It’s a bit bewildering and it feels a bit like being stuck.

As we are gathered here today a fortnight from Easter, can you see a clear path to Easter on the horizon? Or is your view obscured by the branches and brambles of your expectation or desire to put it behind you? Perhaps you’ve been here before; bewildered by your circumstance or surroundings. Or perhaps this place reminds you of a well-known story passed down to you by your elders and ancestors. Just because the circumstance or story is well-known doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable when you’re confronted with it.

Consider, for example, the circumstance of our spiritual ancestors as Isaiah confronts them with the wilderness imagery of the Exodus as they stand on the cusp of their release from Babylonian exile and their return to the promised land. While there may be some assurance to be found in this familiar story, I can’t help but imagining there is also some bewilderment as they consider what lies before them. Do I turn back or do I go forward? In this hedgerow dilemma do I choose Babylon – the wilderness I know, or Judah – the wilderness I’ve only heard stories about?

The Lord tries to assuage their bewilderment, telling them “do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”[1] But sometimes it’s hard to know the way forward when you’re being poked by branches or brambles of bewilderment. And new things can involve a semblance of wilderness, such as the leaving of something familiar behind for something new and uncertain.

Just as a new and peculiar thing is presented to the Hebrews by Isaiah, a new and peculiar thing is presented to us in the Gospel lesson from John. While this familiar story may seem straightforward on its surface, you can always count on John to tap into a story behind the story.

Given its place and timing in John’s Gospel – that is shortly after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and shortly before the triumphal procession into Jerusalem – this dinner at Lazarus’ house is about much more than the particular words or actions of the people involved. And while this story is pointing to what is going to happen in Jerusalem within weeks, for now we need to focus on the context – the people and place – of this dinner.

In the story of Lazarus’ death, Martha is quite outspoken about Jesus’ failure to arrive in time to heal her brother. Yet in today’s story, Martha is unusually silent, which is quite unlike her. Is she still angry with Jesus because he did not come in time to spare her brother death? As a result has she retreated into a customary role of serving so she can sulk? It seems Martha may be stuck in her own kind of hedgerow of bewilderment, uncertain of whether to move forward or dwell in the past.

As for Lazarus, everything has changed. He now sees through the eyes of a man who has died and returned from the dead. Perhaps he has glimpsed what is to come for Jesus and simply wants to break bread and spend time with his friend? Or, perhaps, having tasted death, Lazarus has left his own hedgerow behind, no longer fearing what is to come.

Mary, like Lazarus, seems entirely attuned to Jesus. It’s as if she senses something momentous is going to happen, and she is doing what she can to prepare Jesus and herself for it. Like her brother, I don’t think Mary is entangled among the branches and brambles of the hedgerow. I think she has pushed her way through and found herself basking in Jesus’ light and love.

As for Judas, while John is clear about his opinion of Judas as a traitor and thief, there are theories that argue Judas is a zealot, part of a cadre of revolutionaries looking for a messiah to lead them in the violent overthrow of the Romans and their collaborators. One theory is that Judas betrays Jesus in an attempt foment rebellion over the arrest of this beloved teacher and miracle worker.

If this is Judas’ hedgerow, he sees only one way forward. He thinks or hopes he knows what is to come. He’s hoping for a revolution, and – in anticipation – he is marshaling resources. Thus he is appalled by Mary’s seeming extravagance because he is ensnared in the branches and brambles of his own expectations. Judas is so blinded by his expectations that he can’t even imagine a different outcome. Thus he will be bewildered by what he witnesses in the days to come.

In looking at this familiar story through the experience of these four followers of Jesus, we see a number of ways to relate to Jesus. Martha exhibits wariness, as if she’s not sure, a kind bewilderment. Lazarus exhibits quiet acceptance, perhaps his quiet demeanor is a testament to his release from the grip of fear of the unknown. Mary, lacking Lazarus’ insight just wants to make the most of the time she still has with Jesus, and is pouring out her love for him. And Judas is just determined to make this narrative about his own hopes.

Martha and Judas strike me as a little rattled as they shelter in their hedgerows. These hedgerows are not necessarily bad places to be. In fact they can offer a little protection for the same reason they can be uncomfortable. But they can be disorienting and uncomfortable especially if you’re poked by branches and brambles of resentment or fear that keep you from moving forward. Like our ancestors the Hebrews, do we choose the story we have heard and known, or do we choose the new story we’ve only heard about? Am I wary of the promise, or do I completely trust Jesus?

May we all have the grace to trust the promise of Jesus and claim it for our own so that we too can do and become a new thing.

[1] Isaiah 43:18-19

Harvest Letter, Winter 2018

My Dear Siblings in Christ,

Since our election of Bishop-elect Bascom, people often ask me if I feel that a burden has been lifted from my shoulders. Generally my response is no. No, because the Council of Trustees continues to function as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese until Bishop-elect Bascom is ordained and consecrated, God willing and the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church consenting, on Saturday, March 2nd.

But this terse response is purely a canonical response. The fuller – and truer – response is that I hear a sense of lightness within the diocese that I attribute to the abatement of anxiety. In the face of a bit more clarity, I hear more aspiration for the possibilities before us. This change in tone is a delight, and something for us to harness.

The Council of Trustees has certainly been wearing this aspirational harness for two years now; this is the principal reason why I have not felt burdened in our service together. Now, in the remaining days of this transitional period, the Council’s aspirational view is expanding – making room for the 10th Bishop of Kansas to join us in this harness. Not to remove the harness from us, but to share it with us as we envision our direction together.

The sharing of such a harness makes the work lighter and more likely to be accomplished. It helps direct the way in which we pull; it makes it more likely that we pull together rather than apart; and it allows those who are new to harness to learn and grow into invaluable members of the team. This last point is critical to appreciate.

So often I hear people say, I can’t serve on this or that committee or vestry because I don’t have the right experience or don’t know this or that. Harness is a great way of training – of gaining skills and experience – so that one can move up into leadership and make room for the next disciple. This sort of team building also has the advantage attracting other members because people witness the vibrancy and accomplishments of the team and want to be apart of it.

Where are the teams in your community, congregation, convocation, or diocese that you would like to be in harness with? In case you haven’t noticed, as a baptized Christian, you’re already in harness with the most life-giving and loving team ever conceived – the body of Christ.

In thanksgiving for your giftedness, I am …

Yours in Christ’s harness,

Foster+

We, the Council of Trustees, believe in and trust the God-given gifts that abide in the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. During this season of transition, we will not be fearful. Directed by the Spirit, together we joyfully walk with Jesus the road ahead. [Council of Trustees, February 1, 2017]

Blank Spaces

Blank spaces [pregnant pause]. Like this pregnant pause – how do blank spaces make you feel? Perhaps it’s awkward. Perhaps there’s an urgent need to fill it in, or a need to withdraw from it. Perhaps it’s filled with anticipation. Depending on the state of our minds, or more importantly the state of our spirit, we may feel all of the above and then some.

The transitory process of searching for and calling the 10th Bishop of Kansas has – at times – felt like a protracted, 20-month blank space. At times it has been awkward as the Council of Trustees has learned to function in different ways. At times there has seemed to be an urgent need to fill the blank space rather than abide its emptiness. At times there has seemed to be a desire to withdraw from the blank space. But much of the time – especially since the names and faces of possibilities presented themselves – the space has been filled with anticipation.

Thank goodness, today marks the first time in over 20 months that what may have seemed the biggest blank space in the diocese has the very real prospect of being filled, for we have a bishop-elect in the person of The Reverend Cathleen Bascom.

We are gathered here to celebrate and give thanks for the fruits of the blank space of our election process, and to anticipate and reflect upon what the future holds for us under her episcopal leadership. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, allow me to remind you that what the future holds is also blank space to be filled. This space also begs our attention and contemplation.

To help us contemplate the character of this new space, I invite us to reflect upon the nature of other blank spaces in our lives in the light of the excitement and anticipation we feel right now. In this light, I suggest that they are not simply spaces to be filled in so that we can move on to the next thing. Rather, I propose that these spaces are an opportunity to cultivate an entirely new thing. In fact we can gain glimpses of the possibility of such blank spaces in our lectionary today.

In Isaiah we find a people who have been subjected to generations of both: exile from their homeland; and a lack of rights in that exile. And now these people are invited to leave these empty spaces for another seemingly blank space – one in which their history has been nearly expunged by the passage of time and the occupation of others. These blank spaces seem to speak of abandonment, emptiness and hopelessness. Yet, this prophet assures us this space teems with water, wine and milk! And as if that’s not enough, we are told we can buy it all “without money and without price.”

If we allow ourselves to be defined by the emptiness or exile of our blank spaces, we might be inclined to argue that buying anything “without money and without price” is an oxymoron – itself just another blank space. From this perspective the prophet’s promise is absurd.

However, if – in the light of our current experience – we are willing to acknowledge that an aspect of blank spaces is the opportunity to imagine something new, perhaps we can make the leap of reconsidering what “without price” means. Perhaps we can entertain the notion that “without price” means “priceless.” Perhaps we can begin to consider the blank space as a place of possibility where what is being offered is invaluable and precious, or having worth in terms that can’t be defined by material value. Or, perhaps better yet, we can think of it as delightfully amusing, odd, or even absurd.

Through any of these lenses, any blank space has the potential of becoming something radically new – a space filled with unanticipated treasure. A space where the Lord may be found. A space where there is an abundance of pardon. A space where the Lord’s word shall accomplish the thing for which she sent it – the restoration of all things to Adoni, the Creator.

To my ear, this is beginning to sound like the kingdom of God. What do you imagine the kingdom of God is like? Mustard seeds and yeast? If I stand in the blank space of self-infatuation or self-concern, the mustard seed and yeast are absurd similes because they seem so insignificant and mundane. But the fact that these parables are uttered by Jesus in almost identical words in all three synoptic Gospels, suggests that we are to look beyond the absurd and to anticipate something priceless.

So what does the kingdom of God look like through the lens of priceless anticipation? It looks like a blank space in which disciples are absurdly sharing gifts “without price.” These priceless gifts are the simple gifts of love: sowing; baking; praying; story telling; teaching; feeding; listening; and showing up.

What the kingdom of God does not look like is grand gestures, or a trophy room full of counted and catalogued accomplishments, or ASA and pledge in the plate. Rather the kingdom resembles a place where improbable things and acts of love have grown beyond measure and calculation; and in doing so have ensnared all creation and restored it to its Creator.

Through this lens, we and the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas won’t be defined by the apparent emptiness of our blank spaces, but be encouraged by the opportunities and possibilities they present – for these blank space are the in-breaking of the kingdom of God.

Harvest Letter, Fall 2018

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As we approach the end of our search process, the sense of anticipation is palpable. Following 20 months of listening and discernment we are about to elect the 10th Bishop of Kansas, whomever she may be. Then, God willing, and the dioceses and Bishops consenting, she will be ordained, consecrated, and seated March 2nd, 2019.

I wonder what this sense of anticipation feels like for you? Perhaps it is one of relief because a demanding task is behind us. Perhaps it is one of apprehension because we don’t fully know what to expect.

The sense of anticipation I am most aware of is one of excitement. Excitement that the process of listening and discernment will continue: continue to draw upon our various gifts as we incorporate this person and her family fully into this part of the Body of Christ that is the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas; and continue as we join her in imagining and envisioning the trajectory of the Jesus Movement in this place.

As I reflect upon different senses of anticipation, I realize that we are not experiencing the end of a period of transition nor the beginning of a period of tenure. Rather we are continuing along the long arc of God’s witness and work in the world. We are the transitory pieces of this story, while the story remains the continuous draw of all humankind toward God’s abiding presence.

Nevertheless, how we respond to our senses of anticipation can affect the telling of God’s story. Therefore, may we all “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”[Ephesians 4:1-3]

In gratitude for your giftedness and grounding in the Spirit, I am …

Yours in Christ’s Love,

Foster+

We, the Council of Trustees, believe in and trust the God-given gifts that abide in the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. During this season of transition, we will not be fearful. Directed by the Spirit, together we joyfully walk with Jesus the road ahead. [Council of Trustees, February 1, 2017]