Sunday, May 19, 2013

"I have a ... strategic plan!" -- said no inspirational orator, ever.

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, May 12, 2013

`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

Fifty years ago this August, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of nearly a quarter of a million people. They were gathered there to be inspired. Because something in Dr. King’s message had touched something deep inside them. Because they felt history moving and they knew they just had to be a part of it.

And Dr. King looked out on that crowd, and the crowd fell hushed and the great man opened his mouth and said:

“I have a strategic plan.“

Wasn’t that what he said?

You know, King and the leaders of the civil rights movement did have a plan and it was strategic. They knew that the next step was lobbying Congress to ratify the 24th amendment that would eliminate poll taxes and other barriers to voting. They knew that once that was done they would mount massive voter registration drives and lobby the president and Congress to pass sweeping civil rights legislation.

They had a plan and it was strategic.

But that's not what he said. He didn't say, "I have a strategic plan" --  even though he did have one.

What did he say?

I have a dream.

Come on, say it louder!

I have a dream!

Yeah -- I have a dream!

Now, strategy is important. Tactics are important. Planning is important.

But those things do not touch us deep inside. Those things do not move history forward. Strategy, planning and tactics might get things done but they are not the reason we get things done.

The reason we are motivated to do great things is not because we make great plans

The reason we do great things is because God touches us. And we see visions. And we dream dreams.

We are wired for dreams. We are created in God’s image as people of awesome ideas, as people who long to be inspired, people who long to be part of something greater than ourselves. We are created in God’s image as people who aspire not for the perfect plan, but to prophesy and see visions and dream dreams.

We are created to dream because we are made in the image of a God who dreams. And God gives those dreams to us as gifts to share with God and with each other. And that is what this day is about.

Pentecost is to remember that we are dreamers with God.

In the words of Desmond Tutu, God says to us “I have a dream. Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts.

Where there will be more laughter, joy and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing.”

God says to us, “I have a dream that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, my family.”

We are people of a dream. God’s dream. And God’s dream and ours is reconciliation. Of bringing together and making whole that which is divided and broken.

God’s dream and ours is for us is to be one. God’s dream and ours is a world where diversity doesn’t mean division but instead an opportunity to celebrate the many, many, many ways God can be expressed in the beauty of human life and all creation.

This morning we hear the Pentecost story from the Acts of the Apostles. And we hear some familiar things happen. We see the people touched by the spirit of God dreaming out loud. And we see other people confused by this .. and even thinking they are crazy or drunk. And then Peter says, no, they’re not crazy, they’re not drunk. This is what happens when God touches us. We don’t sit down and make a strategic plan, at least not at first. No.

We prophesy.

We see visions.

We dream dreams.

But there’s one other thing we notice from this Pentecost story. And that is that the group that was touched by the Spirit of God. The group of people that was given this gift of God’s word, of God’s dream to share and to live … was a very, very diverse group. It contained at least 15 different peoples from different races and cultures and languages and economic strata and political and theological viewpoints.

Think about that for a second.

God touched them all.

God gave each of them the gift of God’s spirit, invited each and all of them to share in God’s dream. And that meant that every single one of them had a piece of that dream that was integral to the dream of God being lived on earth … thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

We make a tragic and costly error when we believe that only people who look like us or believe like us or live like us or vote like us have exclusive claim to the spirit, word and dream of God. The truth of Pentecost is that God can and does touch all. And each is given a piece of that dream. And that all need one another. Because it’s not just any dream. It is the dream that we heard Jesus pray in last week’s Gospel before he went to the cross when he said, “that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me.”

You might have noticed something different when you walked into the Cathedral this morning. Something that has returned, perhaps?

The congregational banners that we took down a year and a half ago for the icons exhibition are back up. We’re putting them back up for a season – the season after Pentecost -- from now until the beginning of Advent. And during that season, we’re inviting the congregations of the diocese to dream with us a little.

To ask ourselves what it might look like to have this diocese truly live into Jesus’ dream of “that they may be one, as we are one” and what role this Cathedral as a gathering place for this diocese might play in that.

To dream how this space we share might represent the diversity of peoples of this diocese and our conviction that God gifts us all with a different piece of God’s dream.

To dream how in this society where we are characterized more by what divides us than what unites us. Where we are Fox News or MSNBC. Republican or Democrat. Rich or Poor. Black or White. And never the twain shall meet. To dream how this Cathedral might through our own embracing of God’s spirit resting on one another dream a different dream and offer a different vision for the world.

So for the next six months, I invite us to look at these banners and not think so much about whether we like how they look, but look at what they represent. And dream what it might be like to be a Cathedral where St. Peter’s, Ladue and Trinity, St. Louis gather at the same table and listen for God’s still small voice on the lips and lives of one another.

Dream what it might be like to be a Cathedral where All Saints, St. Louis and Trinity, Kirksville listen to one another’s stories and share their challenges and dreams.

Dream what it might be like to be a Cathedral that bears witness to a God whose dream can rest on all regardless of politics, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any of the other very real things that make us different from one another but need not separate us from one another.

We don’t have a plan for what will happen when we take the banners down at Advent. The plans will come. But for now, we have something more important and more lasting and more life-changing than any plan or strategy.

We have a dream.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Come! The drinks are on us!

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The drinks are on us.

The drinks are on us.

+

Last week, Fletcher Harper walked us through the end times in the book of Revelation – both the popular notion of what it says and what it actually says.

He reminded us that the popular view – where Jesus MediVacs Christians off the earth into the clouds and then takes off with them into deep space where God lives and when they are sufficiently far away, God presses a button and blows up the earth – that that view isn’t even close to Biblical.

Then he walked us through the text of last week’s reading from Revelation and showed us that what the Bible really says about the end times is that God gives us a renewed and rejuvenated heaven, a renewed and rejuvenated earth. That the “end times” is not the earth exploding but a heavenly city right here. A city that does not battle or exploit the created order but emerges out of it, within which the natural world and all that it represents is integrated and there is a fullness and a mutuality and a peace between the city, the height of human civilization and the natural world.

That is our destiny. That is who we are to be. That is what we are to be about. A city. A new Jerusalem that like the psalmist sings is “a city that is at unity with itself.” A city where all people are restored to unity with God and each other in Christ, where Jesus’ prayer of “that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me” is reality.

A city whose streets are lined with trees bearing fruits whose “leaves are for the healing of the nations.”

A city of God. A city with waters of life and healing. Where

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The drinks are on us.

The drinks are on us.

Christ Church Cathedral has stood on this spot for nearly 150 years as a living sign of all creation’s destiny. That like every city, this city of St. Louis is a work in progress, and that we aspire to and in fact believe our destiny is that renewed, rejuvenated city of which the psalmist sings and God promises. And that the work we have been given to do is to help God in that work of renewal. To make this a city that makes glad God’s heart. To be a spring from which the river of life will flow and to plant the trees whose leaves will be for the healing of the nations.

And the role of a Cathedral in that cosmic process of urban renewal is to be the place to which God gathers and from which God’s voice booms out. Our role is to be a place from where that water of life springs, and sings

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

It is to invite everyone in, to hold out the water of life and say

The drinks are on us.

The drinks are on us.

So what does this look like? It looks like any number of things. It looks like things of which we have not even conceived yet! It looks like ways of being the church, ways of being Christ Church Cathedral that are yet to be discovered and adventures yet to be embarked upon.

But it also looks like some things that we have seen. Places where we have looked out and seen the deep brokenness in our city and asked the question “what does the water of life look like there?” And then where we have said, “Let everyone who is thirsty, come. Take the water of life as a gift.” Where we have gone out there and invited people in here and said:

The drinks are on us.

Saying the drinks are on us looks like this past Wednesday night when 20 months after Becca Stevens brought women from the Magdalene program in Nashville into this Cathedral so we could hear their stories of coming from the depths of prostitution, violence and drug abuse into a community that bathed them and filled them with the water of life. It looks like 20 months later, 400 people filling this Cathedral – people not just from this Cathedral, not just from this diocese, but from all parts of this city coming together to dedicate their time and talent and money to open the door to Magdalene St. Louis and to be a part of opening that first house by the end of next year. Let everyone who is thirsty come.

Saying the drinks are on us looks like Dr. Huldah Blamoville looking out and seeing so many homeless and low-income people with undiagnosed medical conditions and putting together her own physicians group, Mound City Medical Society with the people from BJC and coming to Chapter with a proposal that last month they unanimously approved for once or twice a month on Saturday mornings the back of this Nave and the Chapel to be used for a referral clinic for our guests at Miss Carol’s Breakfast. Let everyone who is thirsty come.

Saying the drinks are on us is as simple as these doors being open every day for anyone to come in and sit and think and pray. To let anyone who wants to come slake their thirst for beauty and peace in this space and at the foot of that cross. Let everyone who is thirsty come.

Saying the drinks are on us looks like Debbie Nelson Linck and the “As If We Weren’t There” photo exhibit. It looks like Lena Loewenstine gathering new, younger members of the congregation taking church outside these doors to Gelateria Tavolini on a Tuesday night to talk about The Screwtape Letters. ->->->->
It looks like Hopey Gardner taking our Lenten challenge to see what new thing God might be doing and discovering a call to teach kids to read through the YMCA community literacy program and inviting anyone in this congregation to join her.

Saying the drinks are on us looks like us as a Cathedral seeing what Hopey saw … seeing children in our city starving for education and welcoming into our space an elementary school that can give that high quality of education to children across the racial and economic spectrum. It looks like our Sunday School teachers, children and parents working so hard to share the space they love, and Cathedral members getting trained to go door to door in low income neighborhoods telling them about Lafayette Preparatory Academy. Please come and join us. I’ve gotten the training. You can get it too. It’s a public school. It’s not proselytizing and yet when we are inviting people to send their children to this school in this place where they can thrive and grow, we really are doing nothing less than saying “let everyone who is thirsty come. Take the water of life as a gift.”

The drinks are on us.

When we embrace our destiny as a spring from which the waters of life run. When we cry out to a thirsty world, “Come! The drinks are on us!” we are living not just our ultimate destiny but God’s earliest dream for us. Fletcher told us last week that God giving us dominion over creation in Genesis was not about giving us license to control and exploit but a call to nurture and tend for the common good of all creation. Well, the same is true for us and this Cathedral. If we view this Cathedral as a resource for us to control and use only for ourselves, we are no better than those who pump pollution into our air and dump chemicals in our rivers.

I don’t care what any deed of title says. This Cathedral is not the property of this congregation or Chapter or even the Diocese of Missouri or even the national Episcopal Church. This Cathedral is a herald of the heavenly Jerusalem. And we have been given the great honor and opportunity to nurture it and tend it not for ourselves but for the renewing and rejuvenating of the entire city. It is sacred public space owned by God for use by all who thirst. It is to be a place to which God gathers and from which God’s voice booms out.

And it’s the best thing ever. Because that means we don’t just have to be one more old church building. One more failing nonprofit whom people used to use looking back wistfully at the past and staring ahead at the same financial projections as newspapers and bookstores.

No. We get to be a place from which the river of life springs. We get to look out and point others to the deepest thirst that is out there and say we’ve got something here for you. And with the Spirit and the bride, say, “Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, “come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Come. The drinks are on us!

Saturday, May 11, 2013