Wednesday, February 24, 2010

C.S.A. stands for more than the Confederate States of America

Community Supported Agriculture is another meaning of the acronym, C.S.A.

Last Thursday afternoon, I participated online in Trinity Institute's continuing discussion of ways that parishes can help create a more ethical economy.

One way is by supporting local farmers.

My CSA person is Dale Burton. On Saturdays from 8 am until noon, you'll find Dale at the Farmer's Market on the southeast corner of the Battlefield Mall, Springfield. He and his family operate a farm near Billings, MO and raise chickens, wheat, cattle, and more.

Twice a month, Penny and I pick up our order of healthy, economical food items from Dale--a young, hardworking, happy man. It's worth the trip just to go out and chat with him. I like to know the person who is producing my food. And a chat with Dale always lifts my spirits.

For a little more than $40 a month, we get free-range chicken breasts, homemade wheat bread (it makes delicious breakfast toast, spread with butter and local blueberry preserves. Yum.), eggs, and sometimes steaks. It's all pesticide and antibiotic free, and we can tase the difference.

Trinity Institute's presenter last week said that ordinary American consumers could move this country toward a more sustainable and more ethical economy by patronizing local farmers through Community Supported Agriculture.

Watch the films "Food Inc." and "Fresh," and you'll know why that's important.

Last Saturday when I picked up by bi-montly order, I asked Dale whether it would be possible for parishioners from Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, to join his CSA program as a group, picking up our food from him twice a month at church. He said yes, with a smile and lots of enthusiasm. Saturday afternoons would be a possibility for pickups.

Is anyone interested in supporting CSA and being part of the change that America needs: healthier, locally produced agricultural products and a more ethical, even Christian economy? Just let me know. Post your response here or email me at I'll see what we can organize.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No limits to God's love or to ours

Last Saturday, I preached the sermon at the Absalom Jones Celebration Eucharist at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City.

The Racial Reconciliation Committee of St. Andrew's and St. Augustine's Episcopal Churches, Kansas City, invited me to preach.

I was was the first white pastor or priest to be invited to preach at this annual commemoration of the first African-American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church.

Jones's ordination took place in 18th Century America, when slavery was still firmly entrenched, including in the North. Here is the sermon, "No limits to Love," which is based on John 15.12-15

You’ve probably seen the sportswear imprinted with the slogan, “No Fear.” This is a fit group. Your own cycling or running jerseys might say just that.

Well, as worthy as that slogan is, I’d like to see a very different one printed on shirts, on banners, even on the signs outside our Episcopal Churches.

Instead of “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,” our signs should say something weightier:

How about? “No Limits to Love.”

After all, isn’t that how Jesus loves?

In the gospel reading today, God the Son commands his followers to love one another as I love you. He says perfect love is this: that a person is willing to lay down his or her life for friends.

We’re to love as Jesus loves, working actively for the wellbeing of the others, and Jesus loves with no limits.

Look at him:

He never sends anyone to the back of the bus. Never restricts the right to vote. Never segregates schools and lunch counters. Never tells people of color, “You can’t sit in that pew. Sit in that balcony.”

Jesus loves with no limits--even when it means the whip, spit in the eye, a crown of thorns, death on the cross.

Supremely, on the cross Jesus shows us love that has no limits. There, he offers his life for us, while we were yet sinners. And in doing so sets us free from slavery to the Devil, our sins, eternal death.

Jesus’ cross is our Emancipation Proclamation. It is our freedom papers.

The Good News, in Jesus, is that God’s love is not limited to the few, but is lavished on all: people of every color; gays and straights and transgendered persons; rich and poor; Republicans and Democrats; Barak Obama and Sarah Palin.

The saint whose life we celebrate in this Eucharist today, blessed Absalom Jones, an African American slave, who worked for years to buy his and his wife’s freedom-- Absalom Jones knew the gospel and lived it.

And when he saw God’s love limited, he acted.

One Sunday, a white man asked Jones to sit in the balcony of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where whites and blacks had worshiped in the same pews side by side from Sunday to Sunday.

Jones and a fellow Christian, an African-American named Richard Allin, said, “No.”
They left St. George’s, followed by all the other blacks of the congregation.

Richard Allin remembered, “…we all went out of the church in a body, and they were no longer plagued by us” (PBS, “Africans in America, Part 3: Narrative: The Black Church.”).

In 1787, Jones and Allin organized the Free African Society. They built a congregation and, eventually, a church.

And with the support of Bishop White of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, their church was admitted to the diocese as St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, Philadelphia.

Jones said, “We are now encouraged through the grace and divine assistance of the friends and (of) God opening the hearts of our white friends and brethren…to arise out of the dust… and throw off that servile fear, (which) the habit of oppression and bondage trained us in” (PBS, “Africans in America”).

Jones, first as a deacon and then as the first black priest of the Episcopal Church, served St Thomas—preaching, teaching, organizing, pastoring his people. And speaking out against slavery and every other limit to God’s love, until his death in 1818.

May we do the same in our own time, as the followers of Jesus who carry on his ministry, actively working for the good of the other, whoever the other is.

And inspired by Absalom Jones, and empowered by the Holy Spirit given to us in Baptism, we must act when we see love limited by a narrowness of vision that says, “Care for needy people here, not in Haiti.”

We must act when we see love limited by lack of education, too few jobs, denial of health care; limited by illness or disability; limited by gender, sexual orientation, age or race.
We must act whenever we see a limit to God’s love and God’s children pushed out of the pews and into the balconies of church and society.

We must act and, yes, even suffer taunts and spit in the eye; the club, the fire hose, the snarling dogs; the loneliness of jail; the cruel death of the cross.

After all, that’s the way Jesus lived, the way Absalom Jones lived, the way those Freedom Riders and marchers lived in the American South of the 1960s.

And that’s the way we will live as Jesus’ followers, keeping his great commandment and loving all others and bearing the fruits of love: a world where “No limits to love” is not a slogan but a reality.


Monday, February 15, 2010


Penny and I recently stopped by the Kemper Museum of Modern Art in Kansas City for a visit. I wandered around, noticing two women sitting on a bench in a gallery. They sat silently before a painting, a landscape of farm land in Iowa somewhere. It was a large piece, perhaps 12 feet long and four feet wide, a panorama.

I walked on, peeking into that particular gallery again and again. The women were still there, each time I looked, still staring at the painting. Perhaps they were Iowa expatriates in Kansas City and missed the rural countryside, and this painting was their way of visiting home.

Or perhaps something else was going on between them and that painting.

Perhaps it was adoration. They were sitting still and in silence before beauty and drinking it in with their eyes-- appreciating and delighting in it.

That's what adoration is--adoration also being a form of prayer, according to The Book of Common Prayer. When we adore God in prayer, we simply appreciate God for being God in all of his goodness, beauty, wonder. Adoration is being in the presence of the Holy One; it's a moment of oneness with him.

That oneness can happen while looking at a painting in an art gallery, a sunset over Table Rock Lake, your grandchildren asleep, or the altar at church, adorned with sprays of flowers on the last Sunday before Lent.

In Lent, take time just to sit still before God, wherever you see him revealed. Be quiet. Adore God. And know that God adores you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cage fighting at church?

The New York Times today reports that some evangelical Christian churches are reaching out to young men (and women?) who practice martial arts.

No, that's not news.

But this is news: these churches, the report notes, are offering Christian martial arts practitioners the opportunity to put some punch into their worship, a kick into their relationship with Christ.

They're offering Christian cage fighting as a worship experience.

So, instead of singing "Amazing Grace," worshipers are shouting, "Knock him out. Hit him harder. Kill him." All for Christ's sake.

Jesus heard those shouts of "Kill him" on the cross. He saw people delight in his suffering and death.

And he repudiated violence in his living and teaching. Remember? Jesus preached, "Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the humble. Blessed are the peacemakers."

What would Jesus think of "Christian" and "cage fighting" placed side by side?

Now, I'm all in favor of reaching out with Christ to all people, including martial arts practitioners. But the Christ I know and believe in, the Christ I invite people to trust themselves to is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

He is the God of gentleness and compassion, the God who makes himself known in weakness and humility--not in power. He's the God who dies on the cross for his opponents, not the god who nails his opponents and then struts around in celebration, hands upraised in Rocky-Balboa fashion.

So, Christians, evangelical and otherwise: go on reaching out to non-Christians with praise bands and cappuccino and blue jean worship and hipster clergy, but not with cage fighting, too. Please anything but that.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thinking about economics--with the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured with me here), spent three days reflecting on the nature of faith and economics at this year's Trinity Institute at Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, in New York City.
Father Jonathan and I attended, and both of us met Dr. Williams and chatted with him. The archbishop, a poet, and I talked about poetry, not economics.
This was the 40th national theological conference hosted by Trinity Church. It took place at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, the center of world finance, in the historic nave of Trinity Church. Alexander Hamilton, one of the founders of the Republic and father of our banking system, was a member of Trinity and is buried in the church's graveyard.
During the conference, we participants reflected on how our Christian faith could help build an ethical economy.
Dr. Williams, who holds a DPhil.,,in theology and who taught at Oxford and Cambridge, said that faith in God and the values of the gospels, such as compassion and generosity, should contribute to economic decision-making, not just considerations of profit and loss.
He reminded us that the word "economy" comes from the Greek word for "household" and commended the model of a household for economic planning and action. The household " is where life is lived in community," he said. "Good housekeeping seeks common well being, starting with stability (and) balancing the needs of all and maintaining relationships."
Economists, together with people of faith should ask "What is the long-term well being we seek?" What kind of home do we want to build together? Dr. Williams asked, citing a phrase of the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.
Theology, Dr.Williams said, contributes two things to ethical economics. It challenges the mystery of economics and proposes a model for human life together. And theology tells us what people are made to be--beings with value and of virtue.
"What makes us human," he said, "are gift and love."
And if you follow economics as closely as I do--I used to be a banker--you know that economists who speak about gift and love are rare, but people of faith, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the people at this year's Trinity Institute, who talk about economics and ethics are becoming more abundant.
And we're actively discussing ways to build an ethical economy in which people are valued primarily because we're created in the image of God, and not because we're simply sources of productivity and profit.