Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chapter workday focuses on growing Cathedral community.

On Saturday, June 26, the Cathedral Chapter met in Washington, MO for a daylong strategic planning meeting to look at two major issues in our Cathedral life:

*How can we better welcome newcomers and draw them into our community?
*How can we continue to draw current parishioners more deeply into our community life?

The morning session on newcomers used materials from the Rev. Stephanie Spellers on moving beyond being inviting or even inclusive to what she calls “Radical Welcome”: What does it really mean to embrace people as who they are without expecting them to become who you are. (Go here - - to hear more about this concept). They then spent time identifying more than 30 different points of contact we already have with visitors entering our space, discussing what our core message is that we want to communicate, looking at the existing means of communication (and talking about the ways everything from the way someone is greeted to the structure of our liturgy and what hangs on the walls is part of communication), and finally identifying immediate tasks to move us forward.

The afternoon session included an examination of the four orders of ministry (lay, bishop, priest and deacon) and a discussion of church involvement as opportunity to grow deeper into Christ. There was also a discussion of the work of author Daniel Pink’s work on what really motivates people and how the matches up with our call to ministry (for a sense of Pink’s work watch this 20-minute talk here - The day completed with conversations about the importance of personal relationship and invitation and Chapter members’ commitments to model this behavior for the congregation in getting to know people and specifically inviting them into ministry.

Chapter workdays will happen twice a year and are times for in-depth, strategic work that monthly meetings cannot hold. Got questions? Want to know more? Ask the provost or a Chapter member!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sermon for Pridefest 2010

Please make yourselves comfortable. If you brought chairs please sit, or if you feel comfortable enough, just sit on the grass. Of course you can remain standing as well.

I want to take this time to wish all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons and our wonderful friends and allies, a very happy Pridefest!

I remember my very first Pride Event, I was living in Chicago, I had not come out of the closet to my family, and to be honest I was a bit apprehensive. You see fear was really holding me back. I was caught in that old trap of “what if someone I see from work is here?”, “what if this makes the news and my fundamentalist preacher grandfather sees me?!, heck what about my mom?!” You see Fear is so big of an emotion that it can utterly paralyze us. But I bucked it up and marched with the Integrity Chapter of the Diocese of Chicago. I took that first step away from being paralyzed with fear. I was being cheered on, by people watching the parade, it made me elated. It gave me courage! I hadn’t realized just how held back I had become. How much of my life I was hiding from my family.

You see it was that paralysis that persuaded me to come out of the closet. From my baptism and confirmation at Calvary Church in Columbia at 22, I was a very devout church go-er. I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, joined a parish there, helped to start a young adult campus ministry, then moved to Chicago, became involved there. I was the GO TO guy for helping out at church events. You need a volunteer for Happening or for Vocare, count me in. Work the parish picnic sure no problem. I knew that I was gay, but I sort of figured if I immersed myself with many activities, then I wouldn’t have to deal with that aspect of my life that cause me such fear and anxiety.

That is until, I started some education for ministry classes, and it was the exercise of writing a spiritual autobiography, that got to me. I was just hit with the realization that I could not become the man I was to be, the man that God wanted me to be. Until I came clean with whom I was.

Being held back by fear and shame is a way that the world inhibits us. Heck it’s the way we inhibit ourselves.

It prohibits us from claiming our faith, and our due place as a child of God, and as a true part of the body of Christ on earth!

If we are to truly follow the gospel as Christ proclaims, humankind cannot set up boundaries, between those in society who are different , or to whom we may judge to be ‘unfit’ to associate with.

Those whom others would judge too wicked to even walk through the doors of a church.

For you see that type of thinking truly limits God, it hamstrings God into only saving those who have somehow followed all the rules and have done everything right, those who have checked every task off their to-do list, adhered to every formula.
The truth is that those types of people who follow the rules and live a truly godly life, are saved, but God in Christ didn’t just come to save those types of people. God came to save the worst of us.

Theologian Karl Barth, in his voluminous writings titled Church Dogmatics, states and I paraphrase, that “God so wants to be with us, that God does not desire to be God without us.”

And in my understanding of God’s actions toward humanity through Christ, that means ALL OF US, LGBT, Straight, and questioning, closeted, etc!.

The Gospel of Luke which we read today, shows Jesus instructing the disciples in the manner they are to act. They are not to act out of malice and destroy the city that doesn’t welcome them. This is what we may like to do at times to those who disparage us, or who call our faith “unchristian”. Jesus tells them that they should just move on to another city. And certainly LGBT persons have moved on to other towns, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Heck some even coming from small town Missouri to the bigger cities of St. Louis or Kansas City. But what if we stayed? What would it be like if we “tried to convert” those who preach a different exclusive gospel to us? For centuries those brothers and sisters in Christ have tried to convert us from our lives. Using the “Christian Faith to condemn others”, preaching to us of the separation of sin and always assigning that sin to us. And they preach very little about the reconciling love of God! What if we confront a shaming fearful gospel with one of hope and love!?! Shouldn’t we feel obligated to save them from perpetuating this hell that they are creating for their neighbors, save them from placing stumbling blocks in front of those who want to walk with Christ?

That my friends is what the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered persons in our community are looking for, to walk with God and to take a rightful place as an adopted child with the support of their church families. And for many of our allies, it is important to them that they belong to such an open and welcome family of faith!

We who for so long have been told we are not worthy of God’s grace. We who are told that we are steeped in sin, and that we are unforgiveable.

We as children, in our rooms prayed to God to change us, to make us like everyone else.

The shame so great, that we dare not tell anyone. We retreat to our closets, to protect ourselves, and ultimately perpetuate that lie and shame over and over in our lives.

Until finally the gospel comes to us!

The gospel that Christ preaches and proclaims and the Gospel that this church here proclaims, that grace and forgiveness come to all.

That each of us no matter where we are or where we have been is capable of receiving forgiveness and love.

That who we love is NOT sinful.

That love is NEVER sinful.

That it is the abuse of power that is sinful.

But even those who abuse power are forgiven, because God doesn’t wish to be God without them either.

Next in our service we will approach the table of god, and receive even more grace; we will receive those things that will nourish us: The Blood and Body of Christ.

Those gifts, that unite us with all the community of believers past and present as EQUALS, equals in receiving the grace and forgiveness that flows down upon us.

And that is what this church has chosen to do by expressly welcoming the outcast LGBT person into our congregations, proclaiming the reconciling love of God to them.

Especially through our Oasis Congregations, Christ Church Cathedral (Downtown St Louis), St. Mark’s (St. Louis Hills), Trinity (Central West End), Church of the Advent (Crestwood), Washington University Campus Ministry, Church of the Transfiguration (Lake St. Louis), Trinity Church (Kirksville), and our newest Oasis Congregation Hope Church (Columbia), along with the Integrity Proud Parish Partner St. John’s (Tower Grove), we explicitly state that LGBT persons are welcome in our congregations as worshiping members, lay leaders, and clergy!

For we now banish those feelings of shame and fear from our lives, so that we may take our spot as faithful fully participating members of the body of Christ.

May the rest of the body of Christ come to realize fully the gospel that “Oasis Congregations” and “Believing Out Loud Partner Congregations” have discerned, in the name of God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of the world. Amen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Naming Our Demons" -- Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, June 20, 2010

Click below to stream audio

Last Sunday, John Kilgore talked about sin last week as something we Episcopalians don’t usually talk about. Well if you thought that pushed the Anglican envelope, well buckle your seat belts, because today we’re going to talk about demons.

The Episcopal church doesn’t talk much about demons because because we take pride in being a reasonable, rational faith. You know that three legged stool we have of scripture, tradition and reason … and we take particular pride in the reason piece of that. And demons feel an awful lot like superstition. Like cartoonish figures or creatures from horror movies or classic literature. If there is such a thing as Episcopal street cred, you certainly lose major points by talking about someone being possessed by a demon. Demons seem like fundamentalist territory, and we never want to be considered fundamentalists.

But here they are in the Gospel. Jesus meets a demon. Talks with a demon. Casts out a demon. And later on he gives his disciples power to cast them out, too. So demons seem like a pretty important thing for us to talk about – whether it feels like an Episcopalian conversation or not. And if we’re going to figure out what we make of them, a good first step is to look at what scripture makes of them. So let’s first look at what demons do in this story.

The first thing we notice is that demons change people. When you’re possessed by a demon, you’re not yourself. It affects your whole life – but particularly your behavior. In this story, the man possessed by demons didn’t wear any clothes and walked around shouting a lot. A demon prevents you from being wholly the person God is calling you to be.

The next thing we see is that demons separate you from your community. They isolate you. In this story, the man possessed by demons was described as “a man of the city” … except he wasn’t living in the city, he was living outside the city in the tombs, a place of uncleanness where only dead people went. People didn’t go near people with demons. They were afraid of them. Part of that is because people possessed by demons tended to be pretty scary, but also they were afraid they would get possessed too. So demon possession is isolating.

Finally, we see that demons are powerful. In scripture, demons are not exerting a little influence here and there .. they POSSESS people. They control them in ways that make them feel owned by them and powerless against them. These are not little things.

So that’s what we know about demons:
-they change people
-they separate and isolate people
-they are incredibly powerful, so powerful we feel like we are powerless against them.

So what fits that description in our life?
Some people have looked at people who are possessed by demons and said they had severe mental illness, and that’s just the only way people in that era knew how to explain it. I think there’s probably something to that. If you’ve ever suffered from depression or bipolar disorder or any severe mental illness or know someone who has, you know what I’m talking about. It changes people. It isolates people. It’s incredibly powerful, makes you feel powerless against it.

There are addictions and compulsions that can be demons in our lives. Things that can take over our lives to the point where they change who we are, make us unable to be wholly ourselves. That either isolate us or make us feel we can’t talk honestly about with other people – or even be honest with ourselves about it – because of fear of isolation. Things that are incredibly powerful, so powerful we feel like we are powerless against them … in fact that’s the first of AA’s 12 steps … admitting that you are powerless by yourself to stop your addiction.

Finally, let’s give the devil its due. There are forces out there that we don’t understand, that makes us afraid to consider. Forces that are truly demonic, and that can change people, separate and isolate people and that are incredibly powerful. The genocide in Rwanda doesn’t just happen. The Ku Klux Klan doesn’t just happen. The rise of Nazi Germany didn’t just happen. I got an email this morning from a friend of mine who is rector of a church in Massachusetts and he was asking for prayers because a parishioner of his murdered his wife and kids and mother in law. That doesn’t just happen. This isn’t about absolving people of personal responsibility, but things like this don’t just happen. There are forces out there that act on individuals and on humanity that draw us away from everything God dreams for us , that make us our worst even as God dreams our best. And if we dismiss those forces or if we think they are merely superstition and we are smarter than that we do so at our own peril.

So demons are real. And not only are they real, we in this room are struggling with them right now.

So what do we do? Well, we look back to the Gospel this morning and look at what Jesus did when he was confronted by a demon. And he didn’t run away. He didn’t pretend it didn’t exist. He didn’t say “Nananananana I don’t SEEEEEE you!!!”. He acknowledged its reality. He learned its name. He had a conversation with it. You could even say he made friends with it.

So that’s the first step for us. If demons are real. And not only are they real, they are right here in this room. The first step for us is to acknowledge that. And that’s a tough and scary thing to do, because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of our demons ourselves and what might happen if other people found out. We’re afraid of other people thinking of us as damaged or weak and powerless. We’re afraid that people might treat us differently … or isolate us. And we’re afraid of these things for good reason because we’ve seen it happen to other people before and maybe we’ve had it happen to us before.

But isolation is not just one of the characteristics of demon possession, it’s how demons thrive. They thrive when they lie to us and convince us to keep them hidden, keep us living with the myth that either they’re not real or that we can handle them ourselves. And so our silence about them plays right into their hands.

So this morning let’s all take a first step.

Everyone close your eyes.

If you or someone you love has a demon in your life

Maybe you or someone you care about is struggling with mental illness

Or maybe you or someone you love has an addiction or compulsion, something powerful that you feel prevents you from being who God dreams for you to be. Maybe it’s your relationship with alcohol or another drug. Maybe it’s sex or internet porn. Maybe it’s your relationship with your iphone or blackberry and compulsive connectivity.

Or maybe you feel there is an actual outside force acting on you or someone you love and drawing you or them to a place of darkness.

Keep your eyes closed. If you or someone you love has any of these in your life, raise your hand.

Put your hands down. Open your eyes.

I need to tell you there were a whole lot of hands up in this room .. including mine. That’s the first step. The first tiny, baby step. Just acknowledging that there are demons in this room.

There are. That’s OK. They’re in every room.

But there’s one other thing we know about demons from this morning’s Gospel. And that is Jesus is more powerful than they are. As powerful as demons are, as fearful as they are, the power of God in Christ is more powerful – and even the demons know it. And that power is also given to us as followers of Christ.

And so the power to cast out those demons is also right here in this room. It’s not here in me as a priest, it’s here in us as the body of Christ. And while I believe in the power of in the moment miracles, I don’t think that’s the way it usually works. Our work of casting out demons in the name of Christ happens as we continually do what Jesus did in this mornings Gospel. When we acknowledge the demons among us, name them, even become friends with them and know them well … and then together continually, invoking Christ’s name, order them away.

It’s about us naming the demons in our midst and refusing to let them isolate. It’s about saying when the person has the courage to come forward to say they have a mental illness or a problem with alcohol that we still see them as God sees them, as beautiful and holy and as a friend … and that not only will we not isolate you, we will stand with you even closer because now more than ever you need this community to cast that demon out.

It’s about saying that there is no such thing as YOUR demon. That every demon in here is OUR demon. Because we carry them together and it is together that we will cast them out.

In a few minutes we are going to have a rite of healing here. We do this four times a year. And in addition to inviting you to come forward and ask for prayers for other types of healing for yourself or for others, I invite you to come forward and name your demons so we can work on casting them out. So you can feel the hands of God and this community on you and know that you are not alone. Know that there is a power greater than whatever it is that has power over you … and the name of that power is Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Miracles -- Second Sunday after Pentecost

Preached by Mr. Peter Linck at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, June 6, 2010

Help me, O Lord, to keep guard over my lips. Save me from words that hurt, from gossip and slander and lies. Let me speak only to encourage and cheer and to keep people on their feet, so that all my words may minister grace, to your honor and glory.

I’ve known this church my whole life, and as the church has changed, I’ve changed right along with it. And as I’ve grown up, much like everyone else, I’ve started thinking. Thinking really is the mark of maturity, and it’s all I’ve been doing for the past couple of years. And I suppose Reverend Kinman noticed that I’ve been growing up and he wanted to know a little more about my perspective on things, so here’s my own personal take on today’s Gospel.

In case you were a little less attentive than you would have liked to have been during today’s Gospel reading, as I myself have done many times in the past, allow me to give you a brief synopsis. Jesus goes into a town and notices a funeral procession going on. He touches the bier (which means the stand on which a corpse or coffin is placed), utters a few magic words, and the dead man rises. Everyone is astonished and begins glorifying God claiming that a prophet has risen among them.

So I get asked to preach. And I decide to preach on this gospel reading. Why this gospel reading, you might be asking yourself? “Mostly because I just sort of randomly picked it,” I reply.

This is a gospel reading about Jesus performing a miracle. Darn it. Why didn’t I pick the gospel reading where Jesus gives money to the poor or uses good table manners or helps an elderly woman to cross the street? Those would be easier sermons to give. I’d give some light, plucky message about how we should all do exactly what Jesus did thousands of years ago, and in repeating his actions, we’d all win at the game of being good Episcopalians.

But no; I have this story. The other reason I decided on this reading because it sort of mimics my confusion about spirituality. Nowadays, I don’t really spend too much time thinking about religion…mostly because it makes my head hurt. When it comes to spirituality, at the end of the day, I’m just a confused little kid. Questions always arise like: What is God? Why do I exist? Why the Bible? But specifically, as I’ve pondered this reading, the question has been “What is a miracle, and how do I perform them?” I’ve asked myself this question time and time again as I’ve re-read this passage. Can any of us bring people back to life like Jesus? No, we can’t. So if we’re trying to aspire to some ideal-level human being and we’re really looking at the Bible as some sort of template for our lives, then it’s going to be hard to be like Jesus if we don’t even have the same abilities that he had. But what if the definition of miracle was broadened? What if miracles are more prevalent in our lives than we think?

Let’s switch gears for a moment. High school for me was pretty terrible. It was exhausting and frustrating and monotonous and most any other bad adjective you’d like to assign to it. Teen angst complicates any situation by about twenty fold, and I practically lost my sanity every couple weeks due to some person or event or test or something. But I got through it. It dragged on day after day, but I got through it, and that’s probably a miracle. A miracle doesn’t have to bring someone back from the dead. Jesus was just doing what he could. And if the idea is to follow him and be christ-like, then we need to do what we can. The first step should be just noticing all the miracles around us.

A miracle doesn’t have to be huge. What’s miraculous to me is any number of things I see and experience on a daily basis. This congregation that I’ve known for 18 years is a miracle. A black president is a miracle. Waking up each day is a miracle. There’s soooo much music that I find to be miraculous. And considering how pessimistic I’ve become about a lot of things and how bogged down I can get, I bet just living is hard for a lot people. But the fact that human kind continues on day after day it is miraculous.

I think we exist because of miracles. I don’t know why the world is full of catastrophes and terrible people and monotony, but I do know that some things are just so breathtaking that they have to be miracles. We exist because whatever deity there is out there can do nothing but make miracles, so he created us and our world. That’s the only real conclusion I’ve ever reached about my stance on religion; God is perfection. Now, what does that mean exactly? There’s so much that is wrong and terrible and flawed in the world that the only thing that makes sense to me that can be perfect is God. And this God that I believe in performs miracles, all day every day. I’m not sure exactly what form this takes, but I can see its products. I can see gorgeous people and hear beautiful music and feel profound emotions that must be some divine creation.

So I’ve reached this conclusion. We’re all just a bunch of miracles. So what now? Do I just tell you to count your blessings? Nah, counting isn’t enough. Marvel at your blessings. Be inspired by your blessings. Ponder your blessings. And then, if you really want to be Christ-like, then it’s time to start creating some miracles. It’ll make living a little bit easier for someone else, and it’ll hopefully make you feel a bit stronger. Lots of people believe that faith is nothing unless you act on it, and I think creating miracles is a good way to get started.

So in conclusion, I’d like to implore everyone here to do small things like tell people that you love them or stop and smell the roses once in a while. Because the fact that that person or those roses are there in the first place could be much more miraculous than you know.

Famous poet Walt Whitman tends to agree in his poem befittingly titled “Miracles.” And it reads:

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?