Monday, August 31, 2009

Gnaw on This ... The Gospel for This Sunday

The Gospel isn't just to be gulped down on Sunday morning, but gnawed on throughout the week so it really becomes a part of us. Here's the Gospel for this Sunday (and some notes and more "food for thought"). You can click here to find all the readings for this Sunday.

Mark 7:24-37

Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go-- the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

Where is this in Mark's Gospel?
This immediately follows last Sunday's reading where Jesus tangles with the Pharisees about his disciples not following purity laws. Here he's breaking more barriers -- and even bigger ones -- associating with, healing and even touching people who are unclean.

A few things to chew on:
*The Syrophoenician woman argues with Jesus, comes back at him even after he insults her (he calls her a dog!). Sparring with God is nothing new in scripture - think of Jacob wrestling with the angel and Abraham bargaining with God in Genesis. All three examples lead to closer relationship with God. How has a "good fight" been a part of your relationship with God? Can you think of a time when a "good fight" has been an important part of a relationship with a spouse/partner, friend, child, etc? How can we help each other not to shy away from those fights but to have them well?

*The man who was deaf and had a speech impediment had two conditions that cut him off from full participation in the community. That means Jesus' healing wasn't just making him right physically but restoring relationship. What are the "impediments" in your relationships with each other? What kind of healing do you need?

*Mark says: "Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it." What's the last thing you remember being that excited about? What makes your heart sing with joy? When was the last time you were truly astounded and filled with wonder?

Try this:
Find a quiet place each morning when you get up and take one minute in silence. Hear God saying the words of Jesus to you, "Be Opened." Just sit with that for one minute. Hear it. Then as you lie down to sleep at night, review the day and think of experiences of God you were able to have because you were open to them ... and ones you might have missed because you weren't.

Feasting on the Gospel together -- Sunday at 9 am in Schuyler Hall
The Syrophoenician woman argued with Jesus. She just couldn't understand why he was saying the things he was saying. Why they were so hurtful. This Sunday we're going to talk about what questions we would love to ask Jesus. What things we just don't understand and would like to argue with him about. Come grab a cup of coffee with us at 9 am on Sunday in Schuyler Hall and hang out with us as we kick it around.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"What Exactly Do You Do Here?" -- 13th Sunday After Pentecost

Click above to listen to the sermon streamed online.

Preached by the Rev. Renee Fenner at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, August 30.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"A Moment of Opportunity" - Provost's comments on the Cathedral's financial health and the mission of the church

Click above to hear the provost's comments during the announcements on Sunday, August 23 on the current financial situation of your Cathedral and the opportunity God is giving us to "grab hold of the mission of the Church with both hands."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jesus is Slow Food - 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Click above to listen to the sermon online.

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, August 23.

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

Most of you know we have a new puppy, she’s a little yellow lab named Frinkles. Now Frinkles has two speeds when she eats. The first is when you put food in her dish. It’s this sort of puppy hyperdrive. I swear you put about a cup and a half of food in there and you look down 10 seconds later and it’s absolutely gone. Only you don’t have to look down to know that it’s gone. You see in order to take in food that fast, Frinkles probably inhales about a cup and a half of air right along with it so before you even have a chance to look down you hear the slurping and crunching stop and all of a sudden you hear this BUUUUUUUURRRRRRRPP that you would swear could never come from something that small.

That’s the first speed.

But then there’s what happens when she’s in the mood to settle down, and you give her a bone. Then she’ll flop down and man, she really sets to work. And it’s not SLURP it’s more like ARRGGHH ARRRRRGH ARRRRRGH. It’s something different entirely. There’s almost a desparation about the first speed. Oh my gosh, I’ve gotta eat! I’ve gotta eat! I’ve gotta eat! But there is a satisfaction, a savoring to the second. And when she breaks a piece of that bone off, maybe I’m just projecting here, but it almost feels like she’s saying – Yeah, all right, that’s the stuff.

There is a quality of life that exists when Frinkles eats that bone that isn’t there when she inhales her breakfast. I don’t know if it means anything to her. I think it does. But it sure means something to me sitting on the porch watching her.

But here’s the thing. You see, I don’t think Frinkles is that different from us.

How many of you have eaten fast food in the last week?

Did you know that 75% of Americans eat fast food more than twice a week? Did you know that one in three American children eat fast food every single day? Now we could talk about what that means in terms of nutrition, but let’s just think about what that means in terms of the pace of our lives!

How about this one? How many of you have eaten in your car this week. 19 percent of American meals are eaten in cars.

We all do it … or almost all of us do. And whether it’s followed by a burp like Frinkles’ I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there is an anxiety to the pace that drives us through that drive-through. Maybe it’s not the famished desparation of the five month old puppy but it’s that “I’ve gotta eat because I’ve gotta get to the next thing. And the next thing. And the next thing.”

So let’s slow it down for a second. I want you to picture something else for a minute. I want you to think of your favorite food or drink? What is your favorite taste in the world.

Is it an inch-thick medium rare steak so fresh off the grill you can still hear it crackling? Is it a peach that is so ripe you can just feel the juice dripping down your chin when you bite into it? Is is a Chateau Neuf de Pape that’s just been aging just the right number of years and when you put your nose in the glass you can feel all the different intricate parts of the wine wafting together as you breathe them in?

Whatever it is, I want you to imagine it. What it looks like. Close your eyes. Now breathe in through your nose. What does it smells like. Imagine yourself taking a bite and just letting it sit in your mouth. What flavors are swirling around your mouth?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Chew. Taste. Swallow. Be whatever it is you are eating or drinking.

Now isn’t that better than wolfing down a Big Mac and a large fries on 44?

This morning’s Gospel finds Jesus at the synagogue at Capernaum, and he says something absolutely stunning. He says “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.”

This was shocking to the people of the synagogue. We know it was because after he said it, John’s Gospel tells us there was a big division and many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. And it’s no wonder. For one thing – the biggest thing -- Jesus was putting himself in the place of God. But it’s not only that. If the concept wasn’t scandalous enough, the language he was using was almost vulgar. This was not the language of dine and dash. The greek word John uses here for eat is “trogo”. Trogo doesn’t just mean to eat, and it certainly doesn’t mean to gulp. Trogo literally means to gnaw on. Those who gnaw on my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.

Now that’s really graphic language, and it’s no surprise the people in the synagogue where pretty freaked out by it. But there is a larger message there. And that’s that communion with Christ is not fast food. It is a long, slow process. It is a process of gnawing and savoring and working. You’ve gotta want it. You’ve gotta work it.

Jesus is slow food.

Think about that. Let me say that again. Jesus is slow food.

That has profound implications for us. I think about it in terms of our liturgy and how we receive communion, which sometimes seems more like going through the drive-through than anything else. On one level is there anything that seems less like gnawing on the life of Christ than coming forward for 10 seconds and having someone put a quarter-sized wafer on your tongue?

But even as we look at how we change our liturgy the clock is a primary concern. One thing the 9 o’clock worship design team has struggled with is how do we create this experience that communicates the luxurious love of Christ knowing that we’ve gotta be done in an hour so we can move onto the next thing. There are ways I long for my time in Ghana and Sudan and Rwanda where church began when everyone got there and it ended when we were done praising. That’s slow food.

But it’s more than just not having to look at your watch.

When I was a college chaplain at Wash. U. we used to do a Sunday evening Eucharist at St. Michael and St. George and after the Eucharist there’d be a dinner … and that’s where we’d all catch up from the week and share our lives as we broke bread a second time together. And one of my students, Amber Stancliffe – who is now a priest in the Bay Area – said to me once that she always felt that dinner was our real Eucharist. Because that’s where we really put our lives on the table and shared them. That’s where she really felt the presence of Christ. It was leaving that table that she really felt renewed.

It’s not just freeing ourselves from the ticking clock. It’s what that allows us to do – really share our lives with each other. Really taste. Really gnaw on Christ in word and relationship.

So how can we embrace a slow food Jesus? What does it mean to gnaw on the Body of Christ?

Well, first it means not doing with our relationship with Christ what we do all to often with our meals and that’s shoe-horn it in. We need to take time. And that’s hard because even more than money, time is so often the thing we seem to have less and less of. We need to spend time in prayer. We need to spend time studying scripture. Every week in the e-newsletter I send you the scripture readings for the coming Sunday. That’s so you can taste the slow food Jesus. That’s so you can gnaw during the week and not just come here for the McNuggets. Try that this week. I’ll even send them out early so you can do it. Take five minutes each day this week and just sit with the Gospel for next week. Breathe it in. Chew on it. Maybe call a friend and talk about it. Then see if what you taste next Sunday doesn’t taste a whole lot better.

But if we are the body of Christ it also means something else. It means spending that same time with each other, gnawing on, savoring, working at each others’ lives. It means that the old joke about Coffee Hour being the eighth sacrament of the Episcopal Church really has some truth to it. That Amber was right, that the time spent with each other sharing our lives is sacrament. It is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace – God giving us to each other.

It means one of the best things we can do for our relationship with Christ is to make sure our families actually sit down to dinner together more often than not. That we have regular date nights with our spouses or partners or time just hanging out with the friends without any agenda but doing life together. That we take time to reach out to new people with no other goal but to meet and experience Christ in them. That we consistently let the tyranny of the to-do list take a back seat to the sacrament of real presence – with each other.

It’s hard. Ask me how many times I have been home this week for a family dinner and I will be ashamed of the answer I give you. The truth is, I need your help to live this kind of life. We all need this help from each other. But as much as anything that’s why we’re here. Because God’s dream for us is not life lived juggling the dipping sauce and the McNuggets as we cruise down the highway. It’s not a life of desperation of trying to cram what we’re doing in so we can get to the next thing.

The abundant life of Jesus Christ is the ultimate slow food. It’s life like that juiciest of peaches. Life that spills out the corners of our mouth when we bite into it. Life that we suck the marrow out of.

God’s dream for us is not a life that is inhaled so quickly we rattle the windows with our belches. It’s life gnawed at and worked at and savored like a dog with a really, really awesome bone. Yeah, that’s the stuff. Amen.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Be a lobbyist for the poor -- faithful mobilization for health care reform.

Remarks made by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at the Metropolitan Congregations United Prayer Vigil for Health Care Reform on Saturday, August 22 in St. Louis.

I want to take a minute this morning and tell you a story about my friend Josh. Josh lives and works in Rwanda. What you probably know about Rwanda is the genocide that happened 15 years ago that killed nearly a million Rwandans. What you might not know about Rwanda is that since then, the new Rwandan government has made huge strides in improving the lives of its people – including a community based national health insurance program called Mutuelle.

But there was a problem when they set up Mutuelle. And that was getting people to subscribe to it. In fact when my friend Josh arrived in Rwanda to start a development project in one of the villages that had been hit hardest by the genocide, a village called Mayange, he had people tell him that he was wasting his time because the people there didn’t even want health insurance when it was offered to them for almost nothing. Even when because of lack of basic health care one out of five children never made it to age five.

And so Josh did something absolutely simple and absolutely extraordinary. He went to Mayange and actually listened to the people. And here is what they told him. They said in order to subscribe to Mutuelle, they had to get a photo ID card. Ok, fair enough. But the only place to get that photo ID card was Kigali, the capital. And that meant a day’s journey roundtrip to Kigali, paying a fee to have your photo taken and the card made. Then a week later, it meant making another day’s journey roundtrip to Kigali to pick up the card. It was too time consuming and too expensive for people who were only living on less than 1 dollar a day.

Well Josh did what most of us would have done with this information. He said, “man, this is crazy.” And so he went to his friend the health minister and said what if we put a computer with a camera and a printer in Mayange and we covered the cost of the ID card so people could get them locally for free. The minister, said, “Go ahead, give it a try.” And soon people in Mayange were streaming into the health center to get their cards. Today there is 100% subscription to the Mutuelle system in Mayange. The government has taken this model of subscription and recommended it for use across the country and, most important, when I visited Mayange a couple years ago they had not had a funeral for a child under five in the past nine months. In fact I was telling Josh that it was very clear to me that the people of Mayange, Rwanda, had better access to basic health care than the people of St. Louis, Missouri.

How did it happen? Simple. Because someone with power was willing to listen to the voices of people without power. Because someone with power was willing to use their power to bring healing to lives of people who need it.

Now there are people who will tell you the answer to this health care crisis is that we need to get rid of the lobbyists. Those are the bad people. Get rid of the lobbyists and everything will be just fine. I say no way. I say we need even more lobbyists. We need lots and lots more lobbyists. Because the problem isn’t that some people are being lobbyists. It’s that the rest of us aren’t.

Being a person of faith is about being a lobbyist. A lobbyist for the poor. A lobbyist for the powerless.

Moses was a lobbyist. Moses saw his people in poverty and slavery and used his position of power in Pharaoh’s court to lobby for their release. And he didn’t take no for an answer. He said, Pharoah: my God and me, we’re like a couple of bad pennies, and we’re gonna keep turning up until you see the error of your ways and the wisdom of ours. And it took some time, ‘cause Pharoah was a stubborn customer, but the people of Israel were set free.

Jesus was a lobbyist. Oh, man, was Jesus a lobbyist. Jesus stood up in the synagogue in front of all those church leaders and said he was there to bring recovery of sight to the blind and preach good news to the poor. And those people tried to throw him off a cliff for saying that, but that didn’t stop Jesus, ‘cause he had a lot of Moses in him. Jesus went right to the seat of power with his message of love and healing and refused to stop speaking it even when faced with the cross. Jesus was a lobbyist not just with his lips but with his whole life. A lobbyist for the poor. A lobbyist for the powerless. A lobbyist for love.

Moses was a lobbyist. Jesus was a lobbyist. Josh was a lobbyist. And I’m lobbying you right now. I’m lobbying you and you and you and me and all of us to be lobbyists too. Lobbyists for the poor. Lobbyists for the powerless. Lobbyists for love.

Because we have listened to their voices. We have heard their stories of being denied health care. We have heard their stories of having homes forclosed upon because all their money was sucked up by medical bills. We have heard their stories of fear and frustration. Like Moses and Jesus we have heard the cries of our people, and there are those among us who have cried those tears as well and are crying them right now. We have heard our people crying for health care for all.

And if every person here. If every person in each one of our congregations. If every person of faith in this country rises up and claims that mantel of lobbyist for the poor with the tenacity of Moses and the passion of Jesus we will flood the halls and phone lines and email inboxes of Washington with such force there will be no power on heaven and earth that can stop us. And minds will be changed. And hearts will be turned. And health care for all will not just be a dream but will be a reality.


Health care reform depends on our elected officials hearing from us that guaranteed affordable choice of health care for all is a priority. Use the links below to contact our Missouri senators.

To contact Senator Claire McCaskill, click here.

To contact Senator Kit Bond, click here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

You are what you eat!

Preached by the Rev. Mark Sluss at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, August 16

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.”

When I was little I remember those Saturday morning educational commercial shorts, you may remember the ABC's “Time for Timer” series, the segments never carried official titles, but are referred to by memorable catch phrases in the songs' lyrics. Perhaps most memorable was "I Hanker for a Hunk of Cheese" in which the character Timer, recast as a cowboy with a thick Western accent, suggests "wagon wheels," sandwiches made with cheese slices and crackers as an easy and nutritious snack. (When Timer prepares one on a kitchen counter, he rolls it down the counter on its edge and proclaims, "Look! A wagon wheel!") Others included “Quickie Breakfast" (leftovers and other foods as an alternative for kids who don't have time, or are unable, to cook breakfast), and "Sunshine on a Stick" (how to make ice pops with fruit juice, an ice tray, and toothpicks, and of course "You Are What You Eat" (a simplified explanation of nutrients and how the body uses them), " When I began studying nutrition and metabolism in college, I saw how the various components of the food we eat are transformed by the enzymes of our body, into components to build our bodies, we truly are what we eat. The food we eat is broken down into it’s components and is transformed into the useful molecules that can be incorporated directly into our cells to become part of our physical body. What is a little disturbing here is that Jesus insists that his flesh is the bread that he will give for the life of the world. He says that who ever eats his body will live, because of him. You know it’s no wonder that those early Christians in Rome were accused of cannibalism.

How can we be expected to eat God?!? It seems so disrespectful. We have for the majority of our lives been taught about the food chain, that the stronger animals kill and eat the weaker or the smaller. How can we be stronger than God? How can we eat God?

It is the mystery of god in Christ, it is the gift of grace that allows us to understand this. God cares about us so much, God wants us to be together with God so much, that God is willing to come among us and to die. When God as Jesus came to be with us, Jesus strives to teach us, he tells us how things should be. Teaches us how we should treat one another, how we should treat God. But Jesus also teaches us that time, and what we currently understand about life and death are changed. We understand through life experience that to take and eat flesh means that the source of flesh must be killed. What Jesus leaves us with, by his life and resurrection, is that death is not the end of living, but a transition into something greater. Through his death, and the implementation of the Eucharist, Jesus spreads his life out to all of us. We become a part of Jesus and he becomes a part of us. Just as those bits of carbohydrates, and amino acids become integrated into our bodies, Jesus becomes a part of us. So Jesus through the act of dying on the cross, and offering himself as food for the world, spans time and jumps through us the saints and children of God to our present time. What we share at our Eucharist, is the same feast offered in that upper room prior to Jesus’ arrest. It goes on, and on, even though he is not physically with us. If we are so intimately connected to Jesus and understand this, how can we not know Jesus when he returns? We surely will be able to recognize that part of us that has been missing from us.
Jesus is a part of us and not just physically, for when we learn about nerves and how thoughts and memories are triggered by releases of chemicals in our nerves and brains, we can understand how Jesus can be a real component of our thoughts it’s also most assureadly that what we consume not only becomes part of our thoughts and memories, but the experience of eating also becomes part of our thoughts. Realistically, the action of eating also can become memories for us. Memories of meals can be some of the strongest memories we have. I remember quite vividly memories as a child, sitting with my twin brother Mike, on our dad’s knee, eating stick donut’s and drinking chocolate milk, while dad read us the Sunday Comics. That is a very treasured memory. Who among us hasn’t learned many lessons of life, sitting at the dinner table? Who hasn’t learned proper behavior or etiquette, at the dinner table? I think it is the same for us, at our Eucharistic meal, by what we hear and learn through the scripture readings, Jesus’ teachings become part of us as well. Jesus lives in us, and we in him. He promised us this. It is a mind blowing revelation that Jesus LIVES, through the lives of each of us, personally and individually. More importantly is the revelation that we live in Jesus as well. Our frail humanness becomes complete and divine through that relationship. God, through Jesus takes on our bodily form, to understand us completely. To reconcile our relationship to the God creator, by atoning for all our shortcomings and sins. We through Jesus, return to the same type of relationship humankind enjoyed with God in Eden. So how can we treat the members of our community differently or with hate or disdain, since we are all returned exiles, we are all citizens of Eden? Citizens of Eden we should rejoice at our homecoming. Welcome home to Eden.