"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’
The Gospel reading for Wednesday in Holy Week includes this segment from John. Bishop Smith read it as part of the Eucharist our Sudan mission team celebrated tonight in our last meeting before we leave.
And this line stuck with me. It got me thinking about Jesus being betrayed by his friend.
We concentrate so much on the physical pain of the beatings and the crucifixion, the mental pain of the ridicule and the abandonment. But what about the betrayal. Maybe of all that Jesus suffered, the betrayal was the worst of all.
I think betrayal is just about the worst pain you can suffer. There is something incredibly sacred about our most precious relationships, and when betrayal enters in it is really nothing short of blasphemous -- taking that which is holy and profaning it.
When we give ourselves to each other, when we trust people with all we are, with all our hopes, dreams and fears, to have that trust betrayed is a wound that goes much deeper than a lash. And victims of it are all around us.
John's Gospel says that, before saying he would be betrayed, Jesus was "troubled in spirit." Damn straight! If any group of people would have been tight, it would have been him with those disciples, after all they had been through. To have one of them turn on him had to just be the most excruciating pain ... not just Jesus feeling hurt himself but still loving Judas and feeling pain for him.
And then look at the disciples' reaction. In the face of Jesus, whom they love, saying that he was going to be wounded in this deep way, their concern was not for him but for themselves! Who is it? Who is the one who will do it? "Is it I?" is the question another Gospel puts on the disciples' lips. No concern for Jesus, but plenty for themselves ... which in itself is another layer of betrayal.
And so what does Jesus do? He responds to this betrayal with the New Commandment ... "Love one another as I have loved you." With a love that doesn't stop even when betrayed. With a love that doesn't stop even at the cross.
When we talk about the passion, Jesus' betrayal almost feels like a warm-up pitch, just part of the list of the week's events. I think it was more than that. I think it was probably one of the most intensely painful pieces of the passion of Christ.
Jesus being faithful in the face of beatings and ridicules is admirable. Being faithful in the face of the cross is incredible. But being faithful and loving in the face of betrayal ... that's divine.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005 I've enjoyed the conversation about the House of Bishops' Covenant statement (the latest installment of "As the Anglican Communion Turns") on the Gen X clergy listserve I'm on ... mostly because it is markedly different in tenor from the unending debate about same on the House of Bishops and Deputies list. There is a gentleness to it that I really appreciate ... maybe we just haven't been at it long enough to break out the flamethrowers, but I also think there's something more there.
I taught a class in Generational Theory and Ministry at our diocese's school for congregational development last weekend. It's been a couple years since I'd really waded into the generational theory stuff so it was interesting in preparing to get back into it ... and I found it really interesting to look at the "late unpleasantness" (the phrase Haywood Spangler, a seminary classmate of mine from the deep South, used to describe the Civil War) in light of it.
Now, I don't worship at the altar of generational theory ... it paints in broad brushes and really only applies when you've got the foundational levels of Maslow's pyramid taken care of. That said, in those broad terms it is remarkably accurate and can be applicable globally.
So you look at Strauss and Howe and the like and what they say about the Boomer generation. It's stuff most of us know intuitively. They looked at the world they grew up in, thought it really sucked and were absolutely convinced that they were the generation who could fix it and turn it into the ideal world. They are a generation of passionate people, but also of people who tend to see the world in black and white without a whole lot of gray. That combination makes for Holy Wars when they line up on opposite sides of issues ... each side convinced they are right, each side refusing to see nuance or the possibility for the other being right, each side convinced that the issue in question is so central that compromise would be betrayal of their deepest values.
Hmmmm... this was starting to sound familiar. In the late 1990s, Strauss, Howe, and others wrote of the "impending scorched-earth culture wars" that were already starting and which would grow as Boomers lined up against each other. And, sure enough, we see it in our culture. You can certainly see it in the way the current presidential administration operates ... but you could also see it in the workings of President Clinton -- both, of course, are Boomers.
Then I started to check birthdates in the church. The silent generation, which is the one that is not the crusaders and are instead the architects of the therapeutic model of ministry the church grew into in the 60s and 70s, gave us Edmond Browning and also gave us Frank Griswold (late silent). But you look at the list of Boomers -- V. Gene Robinson, Peter Akinola, Robert Duncan, Rowan Williams, Michael Hopkins, Kendall Harmon, Justice Akrofi, Henry Orombi ... the list goes on. Sure, there are some silents like Ed Salmon and (can't think of one on the left off the top of my head) who are providing powerful backstage support in the battle ... but this is pretty much a war being waged by the Boomers against each other. And it has all the characteristics of a Boomer "scorched earth culture war".
So where does that leave us? Well, it's been interesting to gauge the reaction of Xers ... not even primarily on this list or primarily clergy, but everywhere (including those places). Some passionately take either side ... my experience of those Xers who take sides (and perhaps I'm biased here), is that they are still more willing to see nuance and gray and listen to and hang in their with their theological opponents than the Boomers. But many do not take sides. Many, even those who recognize that this is an important conversation and issue, just don't get why it has to mean EVERYTHING. Just don't get why this is worth blowing the whole place up. Many just want everyone to shut up so we can all get on with being the church. We want "them" to stop shouting.
If that view is accurate, then we are acting just like we should ... and just like we have. Think about what is happening. It's a Boomer screaming match where the main issue is divorce ... and they are fighting over who is leaving whom. How many of us have been THERE before in our lives? How many of us are already children of divorce ... perhaps several times over! And what do the children do in a divorce battle like this? Well, some take Dad's side passionately. Some take Mom's side passionately. But a huge number just want them to shut up and want their lives back, because this really sucks! Like the Everclear song: "Please don't tell me everything is wonderful now!"
The big question is ... what about the Millennial generation? Because the Millennials, not us, are the ones who are going to build and be the new church. Well, my experience with my students and other Millennials is that while they may care about issues such as GLBT rights (along with LOTS of other things), they are almost completely disengaged from the church battles over these things. After General Convention, I had a lot of students who were in favor of what we did ... and their reaction was pretty much "Well, duh!". I also had some students who were opposed and their reaction was "well, I don't agree with that, but it's not like I'm going to leave the church over it." Mostly, while I came back from convention expecting everyone to want to talk about it, pretty much they were pretty nonplussed the whole way around and kind of said "yeah, OK. Let's move on."
I actually think this is incredibly hopeful!
I also have been wondering what our generation has to contribute to it that isn't just picking up a gun and choosing a side. Maybe it's what (I think) we should be doing in a lot of other areas ... encouraging Millennials to claim their own unique voice, trying to get those in power in churches to give that power away to Millennials and let them start shaping the church, and continue to encourage them to live a Christian life in the way they are uniquely called and in so doing shape the church and the world.
Anyway, I realize that generational theory isn't perfect and that individuals can certainly fall outside generational definitions ... still, I thought it was really interesting how well what I see happening dovetails with it.
| Mike at 3/22/2005 04:49:00 PM
Wednesday, March 16, 2005 Good news - bad news day.
Bad news ... I had a chance to go on a trip with some folks from the National Council of Churches to Sudan in May that would have included a trip to Darfur. The trip has been cancelled because there are too many difficulties in pulling it off.
Good news ... I got floor tickets to U2 on December 14 here in St. Louis!
I leave for Sudan in 12 days. Really should start preparing at some point!
| Mike at 3/16/2005 11:57:00 AM
Sunday, March 13, 2005 MARCH GLADNESS IS HERE!
Once again, Wash. U. Episcopal Campus Ministry is doing March Gladness ... it's your usual NCAA basketball tournament pool -- with a twist. If you win, you don't get to keep the money, you get to donate it to a charity of your choice! We all have fun. It's good healthy competition and in the end some people who really need it get some help.
And it's only $5 an entry to join. You can't beat that!
This year, we've gone hi-tech (sort of) ... well, actually we've just gone kind of lazy. We're letting Yahoo run the pool for us. In fact, we've arranged it so you can do the whole thing ... fill out your bracket and give your $5 "donation" (see that, FBI guys, no illegal gambling here!) all online. Here's how it works:
1) Just go to the game front page and click on the "Sign Up" button to create a team. After completing registration, or if you already have a team, click the "Create or Join Group" button and follow the path to join an existing private group. Then, when prompted, enter the following information...
Group ID#: 36417 Password: love
The only catch to this is that if you don't already have a Yahoo ID, you have to sign up for on (it's free, I've had one for years and never had a hassle with it).
You have to have your bracket entered by Thursday morning. NO LATE ENTRIES!
2) You can give your "donation" through Network for Good with your major credit card. Just click on this link or on either of the Network for Good buttons on this site. Then...
-click on "Donate Now"
-contribute $5 (or more, if you like!)
-under "donation preferences" put in that you want your name and email address revealed (otherwise we won't know you've paid!)
-under "designation" put WUECM March Gladness
-under "dedication" put the name of the charity you want to receive your winnings.
You can bring $5 by Rockwell House or mail it to ECM March Gladness at 7023 Forsyth, St. Louis, MO 63105. Be sure to include a note with your name and designated charity.
IT'S THAT EASY!!!!
Tell your friends and family about it! The more people who enter, the larger the pot for some worthy cause! In case of a tie, the money will be split. Otherwise, it's winner take all!
March Gladness is the brainchild of ECM alum Lesley McCullough! Yeah, Lesley!
| Mike at 3/13/2005 09:34:00 PM
Thursday, March 10, 2005 I AM ALIVE!
Yes, I am. I haven't posted in several weeks because I was immersed in all the arrangements for the Anglican primate of Southern Africa, Archbishop Ndungane, coming to St. Louis as part of a three-city tour sponsored by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.
He was an amazing person to spend time with. He is a tireless advocate for the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the church's leadership in the world in that arena. He also had very interesting perspectives on the just completed primates meeting.
I could write and write and write about his visit, but right now I've got so much going on in the near future, I have to turn my attention to that. The next few weeks are a whirlwind. This weekend, I'm doing a workshop at the diocesan leadership conference and guest preaching at St. Stephens, Ferguson (talking about the Sudan trip). Next weekend I'm teaching 3 two=hour classes at the school for congregational development going over generational theory and how it relates to the church. Then I preach Palm Sunday morning at Holy Communion. Then it's Holy Week (which I am SO looking forward to. I love Holy Week.) And then the day after Easter we leave for Sudan.
It's a lot in a short time ... and I don't think I'll even have a chance to think much about the Sudan trip until almost the day we leave, which is kind of weird.
Had a great meeting with Blair Henneke Martin, her husband Kevin Martin and their co-worker Meg Palm today. They are the staff of The Educational AIDS Mission or TEAM Tanzania ... the group that Jen Coil and Steve Scharre have gone to work with in the past that does AIDS education work through the diocese of Mpwapwa in Tanzania. What in the past has kind of been a shoestring organization sounds like it is really getting some good structure. I'm excited about the possibility for continued partnership. It was also just great to talk with people who share these passions.
There's lots more going on, but I'll close for now. More later ... promise.
| Mike at 3/10/2005 08:02:00 PM
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."