Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, June 26, 2016


A sermon preached at St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Laurel, DE
(the Rev'd Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton 
Note: After I preached this sermon, after the Creed and the Prayers, the Confession and Absolution, came the Passing of the Peace and the Announcements, at the end of which the young girl who had been crucifer asked if she could make an announcement. I'm guessing she's around 14, maybe 15. She looked very nervous but absolutely determined. 

She took hold of my hand and, in a faltering voice said, "Can I ask you all something? Can I ask you all to pray for the people of Orlando. I mean, everyone who got hurt. Everyone who got killed. They need our prayers. No one should die - no one should get HURT - just because of someone they love." She would look at me every now and again for reassurance. I squeezed her hand and nodded affirmation. "Look," she said, "I know your generation thinks differently about this. Mine doesn't. So, well, at least you can pray. Okay?"

Everyone in the congregation nodded their heads. And then, they applauded. 

You know what? With determined kids like this, I think the world is going to be okay.

This is a sermon about determination, which is its own form of inspiration. And, inspiration is a gift of the Spirit, which brings much fruit.

I remember a time, early in my years of ordination, when I felt called to preach on a particularly difficult topic in the church and in the world: domestic violence. Not too many churches were preaching on it – at that time, or since. A woman in our neighborhood had been shot to death in her home – in her own bed - by her husband from whom she had gotten a restraining order. This was just two months after the city council had turned down a permit to open a shelter for women and children affected by domestic violence. The issue generated no small amount of controversy.

As it happened, the Epistle that Sunday was from Ephesians 5:22-33 which begins – just begins: “Wives submit to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” Well, you know, the preaching door just doesn’t get opened much wider than that.

What I remember about that sermon was what people – men and women – said to me afterward. “I knew we were in for a barn-burner because you could see it in your face. Your jaw was set and you got into the pulpit with authority.”

Well, that wasn’t my memory. At all. What I remembered was being really anxious and thinking, “Well, here goes. I just may get run out of town after this sermon.”

That’s because the sermon not only went headlong after the sin of domestic violence but how the church is complicit in that sin by offering passages like the one to the ancient church in Ephesis – and, offering it out of its historical and complete context, leading people to believe that the bible sanctions the subjugation and mistreatment of women. 

Scripture doesn’t do that any more than it sanctions slavery for the modern Christian.

So, I set my face toward the pulpit and preached a sermon that made a few people uncomfortable, yes, but it also got a few people to rethink the issue of domestic violence and what we, as Christians are called to do about that. 

What I learned is something I’ve heard Bishop Jack Spong say that is absolutely true: The church will die of boredom long before it dies of controversy.

And, I learned this: Determination is its own form of inspiration.

I have a new granddaughter – the youngest of six  - who is just about ready to turn the corner on 15 months old.  As I watch her gaining more and more physical ability to walk and gain control over the use of her body, I delight in her ability to risk and dare to explore more and more of her world.

I especially love it when she is trying to learn a new skill – or perfect an old one like opening up a box or a door. Her face is absolutely fixed with determination. I don’t think she’s aware of it. She is just fully focused on the task at hand. And, without that sense of determination, that energy, that focus, she’s less likely to achieve her goal.

Sometimes, when I watch her – as I have watched my other grandchildren and their parents before them – I wonder just how much technology has helped us and how much it has hurt us.

I know I risk sounding like an old foggie here so I want to be clear: I’m not saying that technology is bad. Indeed, I think the technological advances we’ve made and have available to us are, well, downright miraculous. I’m saying that these advances have improved our lives in innumerable ways. 

I’m saying that I am deeply grateful for cell phones and bluetooths and texting (but not while driving, of course) and lap tops Apple Watches and iPod Nanos and yes, even FaceBook.  

What I’m saying is that I fear we’ve allowed it to become the tail that wags the dog. What I’m saying is that maybe, just maybe, what will “make America great again” – whatever that means, really – is not someone or something to do more things for us.

Rather, I’m saying that we need to rediscover – as individuals and a nation and yes, as a church – the kind of determination which allows us to focus our energies and stand firm in what it is we say we believe and take the risks involved to achieve what we’ve been called to do.

What I’m saying is that determination and focus is a force of energy which carries with it its own energy which attracts more energy. I’m saying that that kind of determination is inspiring to others.  Determination is what makes people and nations and churches great.

There are people for whom just getting out of bed in the morning requires them to “set their face” into the day. People with disabilities. People who struggle with depression. People who struggle with various addictions to alcohol or drugs or gambling or food. People who are filled with paralyzing anxiety. People who are struggling with jobs that do not pay enough to pay the bills. People who battle every day to make a better life for themselves and their families, sometimes against all odds.

We don’t hear much about those struggles – especially in church – but they are real. You and I know that to be true. They may not be aware of it, but their determination to overcome obstacles and challenges is inspiring. Indeed, some people require as much determination and focus as we see in Jesus as he sets his face on the task he’s been called to do.

I believe that the gospel can inspire us to stand firm in our beliefs and values and principles and find the determination we need to meet the challenges of this life. That’s because I believe the Bible is not a rule book but a guidebook. Let me say that again: The Bible is not a rule book but a guidebook. St. Paul reminds us that we are no longer slaves, bound by the law, but rather called to live by the Spirit.

Determination is its own form of inspiration. And, inspiration is a gift of the Spirit.

There is so much in the world that is deeply troubling – gun violence, war, poverty, fires, floods, mudslides, and disease. At times – especially of late – the world seems to have gone mad with massacres and economic instability and a kind of political rhetoric that makes your hair stand on end. It can shake you to your very soul. 

In times such as these, we need inspiration. We need determination. We need to set our faces toward the challenges life brings to us and stay focused on that which calls us to our better selves. Now, more than ever, we need determination to stand firm in what we say it is we believe and trust the Spirit to guide us to all truth.

St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us that the Spirit bears much fruit. I don’t know about you, but now, more than ever, I need that fruit. 

I suspect we all could use more love. More joy. More peace. More kindness. More generosity. More faithfulness. More gentleness. More self-control.

The only way I know how to achieve these is through determination to live in the Spirit and by the Spirit and with the Spirit. Because the alternative is, well, no alternative at all. Not for those who profess to follow Jesus.

Come. Let us set our faces toward the Spirit.  Because, determination is its own form of inspiration. And, inspiration is a gift of the Spirit. And, in the midst of all of the challenges and struggles of this life, there is a bounty of the fruit of the Spirit, a banquet to which God has invited us to feast.

Let us determine not to eat the bread of anxiety but, rather, to feast on the fruit of the Spirit.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

More than thoughts and prayers


“Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you."

 (Luke 8:26-39)

A Sermon Preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Georgetown, DE

Well, I think we can safely say that this has been one heck of a week.

I don’t know about you, but I am still reeling from the death of Christina Grimmie, the 23- year old woman from NJ, a finalist on the TV program, The Voice, who was shot down after a performance while signing autographs in Orlando, Florida. 

Then, 49 people were murdered and 53 people seriously wounded in a gay club in Orlando. The murderer was a NY born American who was shot to death by police, bringing the actual total to 50 dead. 

Finally, in an horrific incident that has to be the vacation nightmare of every parent, a 2-year old boy was dragged into the water by an alligator at Disney World in Orlando and, despite his father’s heroic measures, was killed and later found dead in the water near his parent’s hotel room.

How do we make sense of any of this? It’s so tempting to move to the safety of the simplistic. Must be something about Florida, right? Is there something in the water there? Or, something in the air? Maybe it’s something about Orlando? Is this some sort of divine retribution or message?

The junior senator from FL is quoted as saying that these events happened because God was trying to send him a message about how he needs to run for reelection because his leadership is desperately needed. Imagine? It really is tempting to move into the safety of the simplistic, especially when you, personally, benefit from that position.

Some people joined one of the presumptive presidential nominees in believing the tragedy was vindication for the position to close our borders and deport all Muslims. Yes, the man who killed 49 and injured 53 in Orlando was a Muslim. And, so were the two men who set off bombs in Boston, MA. 

But the man who killed the men and women in a Charleston, SC Church one year ago this week was not. The man responsible for the mass shooting in the Aurora, CO movie theater was not.  The young men who killed their classmates at Columbine High School in Colorado were not. The young man who killed children and teachers in Newtown, CT was not.

There are some people who will move to the safety of the simplistic because, well, because it’s easier than employing critical thinking. It’s easier to blame one group of people than to look more deeply into the multiple facets and causes of the tragedy.

There were some days this week when I felt like I had met that man in this morning’s gospel lesson, the man possessed of many demons who lived in the country of Gerasenes, which is just opposite Galilee in Jerusalem. (Luke 8:26-39) There were so many demons that, when Jesus asked him his name, the voices in the man responded, “Legion.” 

It would seem as if “Legion” in Scripture did not really die when sent into a herd of swine who tossed themselves over the steep brink and drowned in the lake below. “Legion” seems to be alive and well and living among us in our world today.

It seems as though legions of demons have infected our country and our culture and our people. The world seems to have gone mad with violence and hatred, rape and murder. And, what we don’t do to each other, nature seems to come up from out of the abyss to do to us and to our children.  It makes no sense. No. Sense. What.So.Ever.

We seem to be plagued by simplistic thinking that only adds to the madness. We want simple answers to complex questions. We want to assign blame to others so we don’t ever have to take responsibility for the bad that happens in the world. 

Blame it on the pigs and let them be tossed into the lake. Then, we can be done with it. Wash our hands of it. Then, we won’t have to think about it anymore. Just send “our thoughts and prayers”.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have any easy answers for you about what is really going on in this story from Luke’s gospel. I also don’t have any easy answers for you about what happened this past week in Orlando and the rest of this country.

I don’t know why bad things happen to good people any more than I know why good things happen to bad people. St. Matthew’s Gospel (5:45) tells us that God “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.”

What I do know is that a lot of good happened last week in Florida, too. While many people were content to “send thoughts and prayers” other people lined up for a full city block, waiting hours to donate blood. A major fast food company with a history of dislike of and prejudice for gay people brought sandwiches and iced tea to the people standing in line.

A major airline offered free airfare to the relatives of the deceased and wounded so loved ones could be together at this time of grief and crisis.

A Go-Fund-Me account started by a local gay organization has brought in over $3 million dollars to help defray the cost of medical and burial expenses.

A man who lived 1,200 miles away fashioned 49 crosses, painted them white and put the names of each one of the 49 people who had been killed on those crosses. And then, he drove them down to Orlando in his pick up truck so that the families of those who died would know that their loved ones had not been forgotten. That they were remembered and thought of and prayed for by a total stranger. 

The Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida, who has been notoriously opposed to blessing the sacred covenants of marriage between gay people organized a Prayer Vigil at the Cathedral and invited the Gay Men’s Chorus to sing in the very church where gay men are not allowed to sing in the choir and the previous dean had declined to baptize the adopted baby of a married gay couple. One of those who was murdered was buried out of the Cathedral yesterday.

And, in this country, it looks like there may be – may just be – some real movement to bring about public policy and changes in the law to at least control the sale of assault weapons to those who are on the “no fly” list. So, if your behavior has been suspicious enough not to fly on commercial airlines, you may also not buy an assault weapon.   

“No fly? No buy.” Sounds good to me.

The movement to bring a discussion about legislation to end to gun violence was started by a senator from Connecticut who organized a filibuster to bring the issue to the floor of the Senate. He was soon joined by two other senators. After a little more than 15 hours, everyone agreed to have the discussion and now a senator from Maine is working to make sure that those discussions result in legislation that is passed into law.

That’s a whole lot more than “thoughts and prayers”. Talk about tossing out demons over the sharp brink and letting them drown!

No, none of those acts of kindness and generosity – not even the effort to bring legislation to end the insanity of gun violence – is the solution to the problem of what happened in Orlando, FL or Charlotte, SC or Aurora, CO or Boston, MA.  

These are all just small but important steps in the long, complicated journey to live into what St. Paul wrote to the ancient church in Galatia: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

And, that, I think, is the real message of this morning’s gospel. The real miracle is not in “thoughts and prayers”. The real miracles happen when we put our thoughts and prayers into deeds of love and care.  

This morning’s gospel tells us that, when the people saw that the man who had been possessed of many demons had been healed, they were afraid. Indeed, they were so fearful that they asked Jesus to leave them. Imagine!

Just stop and wrap your head around that for a minute. Jesus healed the man, freed him from his tormentors, set him in his right mind, removed his chains and clothed him – and the people were afraid of what they saw. 

Had they become so used to the evil and the demons in their midst that they could not tolerate the absence of them? Is it easier to deal with insanity in our midst – because, at least then, we have someone else to blame when things go wrong?

One Senator from FL said, “Look, these things happen. It was just Florida’s, turn.” Seriously? Have we become so numb, so accustomed to evil and insanity and gun violence in our midst that we think it’s simply inevitable? We must simply wait for “our turn”.

I think Jesus would beg to differ with that position. And, so should we. This is a time – this is the day, this is the moment – for us as Christians to reexamine the teachings of Jesus. It’s not the time to send Jesus away but to embrace even more closely what we know of him and our identity as Christians given to us in our baptism.  

Indeed, in place of the Nicene Creed, I’m going to ask us to renew our Baptismal vows this morning. And, when we do, I want to ask you to think about the five promises we make. I want to ask you to consider how you are living into those promises. And, if you’re not, what you can do to make a change in your life to live more fully as a child of Jesus.

Fear is the path to anger. And, anger is the path to hate. And, hate is the path to violence. And, violence is the path to suffering. We’ve seen this pattern enough to know this to be true.  Fear leads to anger which leads to hate which leads to violence which leads to suffering.

We also know that this path can be diverted. Scripture teaches that “perfect love casts out fear”.

It is time to perfect the love we have from God in Christ Jesus in deeds that push us past our numbness to and passive acceptance of the insanity in our midst and, instead, into the reality of God’s unconditional love for all humankind. 

We don’t need simplistic thinking but we do need to get back to the basics. At one time, there was a slogan in The Episcopal Church that went like this: “Love in deed is love, indeed.”

Today, this Father’s Day, might be just the time to examine what it is you believe. Now, this day when we celebrate and honor the men in our lives who serve as a reflection of God’s love for us, might just be the best time to think about how it is that we put our faith into action. Today, this day, might just be the day to take the love that is in our hearts and make of it some deed of kindness and generosity.

“Love in deed is love, indeed.” Yes, it’s a simple thought, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. It takes effort – more than just “sending thoughts and prayers”. 

It won’t protect you from the bad things in the world – like preventing hurricanes and floods and wildfires, or alligators and snakes coming up from out of the water, or bears coming out from the woods – but it’s an important place to start to change the world.

In fact, it’s the only way I know how to change the world. Love. Love in deed.

One person. One pew. One church. One city. One county. One state. One nation at a time.

It begins with me. It begins with you. Today. Now. In this moment.

And, if God has healed you, if you have been changed and transformed, hear what Jesus said to the man he had healed, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you."


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando: A word of hope from our history

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

If Queer people can start a riot in a gay bar in the 1969 and, in doing so, launch an entire movement to bring Pride to being Queer and start a Civil Rights Movement to insure our rights as citizens;

AND . . .

If we can actually convince the medical research community to suspend the centuries-old scientific method to stop double-blind studies and fast track drugs during the AIDS crisis;

AND . . .

If we can make it possible for Queer people to create our own families by taking in foster children, adoption, insemination and surrogacy; 

AND . . . 

If we can start a Civil Rights Movement to provide Marriage Equality; 

AND . . .

If we can - after thirty long, hard, well fought years - get the venerable Episcopal Church to authorize liturgical blessings for the covenants of marriage made by Queer people;

AND . . . 

If we can actually start a movement so that people can pee in public toilets where they feel safe (are you kidding me right now?): 

Then, by God (indeed) . . . 

I think we can help to successfully complete a movement to ban assault weapons and bring about sensible gun control. 

They done messed with the wrong demographic this time.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage

NOTE: The following are the Prayers of the People which I wrote at the request of Jack Spong for the service at 3 PM Sunday, June 5,  at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Morristown for the 40th Anniversary Celebration of his consecration as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. At the end of every diocesan convention during his episcopacy, we all rose and sang, "God of grace and God of glory," by Harry Emerson Fosdick (always to the tune of CWM RHONDDA ). It just seemed to make sense, then, to set the petitions within the framework of that great hymn. 
Prayers of the People
for the 40th Anniversary Celebration
of the Rt. Rev’d John Shelby Spong

The voice of one: God of grace and God of glory,

It is always a privilege to come before you in prayer. We gather together today in prayers of thanksgiving for the ministry you have given us in baptism, the priesthood of all believers, and in celebration of the prophetic witness and ministry of John Shelby Spong, the 8th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
The voice of many: For the living of these days.

Christine Mary Spong
One: God of grace and God of glory,

We praise your name and thank you that Jack’s ministry raised up and empowered lay and ordained leadership to create vehicles of your abundance in endowments and granting agencies such as ACTS/VIM, Ward J. Herbert, and George E. Rath to fund the creative ministry of people and congregations, tend to the physical maintenance of churches, and fund the higher education of children of clergy.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Many: For the living of these days.

One: God of grace and God of glory,

We praise your name and thank you for the gift of reason and intelligence and for Jack’s unwavering commitment to tend to the minds of your laity and clergy. We thank you that through the New Dimensions and the John Elbridge Hines Lecture Series, your people were able to be challenged by renowned theologians, engaging in passionate debate at diocesan conventions and local congregations, and studying the issues that challenge the church’s life as well as that of our nation in task forces whose reports set policy for our own diocese as well as the wider church.  We have learned that we are blessed to be a blessing.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Many: For the living of these days.

One: God of grace and God of glory,

We praise your name and we thank you for the gift of the Anglican Communion and our place in it as The Episcopal Church. We thank you that Jack’s leadership has called us to honor and cherish this gift, even when we found ourselves in sharp disagreement and discord which stretched the bonds of our mutual affection and Anglican tolerance. We thank you that we were able to provide hospitality and sanctuary to visiting laity, clergy and bishops from around the world, to learn from them and they from us, so that we might live more faithfully into the high priestly prayer of Jesus to be one, even as he and you are one.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage.
Many: For the living of these days.

Janet Broadrick, rector, St. Peter's.
One: God of grace and God of glory,

We praise your name and we thank you for the gift of your prophets who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We thank you especially for the prophetic ministry of your servant, Jack, who took to heart the words of his mentor, John Hines, that “the Body of Christ risk its own life in bearing and sharing the burdens of those who are being exploited, humiliated, and disinherited.” We thank you that the ministry of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people found oasis and sanctuary in the Diocese of Newark at a time when their lives were not valued and their gifts in the church and to the world were rejected.  The cost of discipleship has been a challenge and a burden, an honor and a source of joy.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Many: For the living of these days.

One: God of grace and God of glory,

We praise your name and we thank you for raising up among us shepherds for your flock who care tenderly and kindly to your people. We are especially grateful for Jack’s ministry as our chief pastor who knew each one of us and called us by name, pastoring the pastors who work in your vineyards,

John Zinn, former CFO of the DioNwk
challenging our thoughts with difficult conversations and nourishing us with meals meticulously planned and cooked to perfection by him and his beloved Christine. We thank you for the blessings of kindness and generosity which create a culture of care and compassion and even greater blessing.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Many: For the living of these days

One: Holy One, we thank you for all of these many gifts which we celebrate this day. We thank you that we the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, the priesthood of all believers, the saints of God, past, present and yet to come, have been, are and will be changed and transformed by the episcopacy of your servant, John Shelby Spong and are, as such, his greatest legacy.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Many: For the living of these days. Amen.

PS. It was more than wonderful to see all the former staff and leadership of the laity and clergy of the Diocese of Newark. Jack was very gracious and generous, as always, and gave everyone who participated in the service an autographed copy of his latest book, Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy, which also contained a private note. It's just so Jack.  I'm already 1/4 of the way through it.

Funny thing about "the good old days". You never know you're in them until they have come to pass.

I am such a grateful debtor.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Dust in the Wind

I think the words in the Book of Common Prayer that have had the most profound spiritual effect on me are these from the Ash Wednesday liturgy. 
Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
They are both sobering and terrifying, providing a sense of fleeting finiteness as well as being an integral part of something that is infinite and enduring.

I was never more aware of this than during the five years (1996-2001) I worked for Jack Spong, bishop of the Diocese of Newark, as Canon Missioner to The Oasis, the ministry with and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, their families and friends.

He was not the easiest boss I've ever worked for, but that doesn't necessarily mean what you think it means. Yes, I worked hard and traveled far, spending more time living out of my suitcase in hotels and inns than I care to remember.

In my position as Canon Missioner, I faced more hostility than I had ever previously encountered in my life, and I thought that had been quite a lot. I really didn't think enduring a court custody battle for your children could have been more violent - except for the violence of the "ordination process" in The Episcopal Church, during which the integrity of my faith and authenticity of my family were continually questioned because of the orientation of my sexuality and identification of my gender.

Turns out, those life experiences had only served to prepare me for the blunt force trauma of misogyny and homophobia that were - and still are, in fact - part of the church and the world.

As difficult as that was, I was astounded by how much hostility I took on which was actually directed at Jack Spong and his audacity, as a bishop in the church, to expose the ignorance which shapes and forms the prejudice and bigotry and oppression women and other "minorities" experience in the world and, yes, in the church.

I'm not going to lie. It was difficult to be the target of all that hostility and hatred.

Lambeth 1998 was the absolute worst. It is no dramatic exaggeration to say that there were times when I actually feared for my life - or, at least, that some physical harm would be done to me. And, all in the name of Jesus, of course. And, to "save the church" from the evils of Jack Spong and "his minions".

It was, in a word, traumatic. 

All that having been said, it is also true that it was under Jack's leadership that I was challenged to think - very carefully and with great clarity - about what I really believe, what I value, and the philosophical, spiritual and religious principals that shape and form my life and my work.

I had to ask myself - frequently - why am I doing this? Is all of this hostility worth it? Does it make sense to continue to try to put out small brush fires of prejudice when the forest is burning with bigotry? To provide small drops of water to those who thirst for justice in the midst of the killing drought of oppression?

There were times when my work as Canon Missioner was all-consuming. Times when I was away from my family. Times when, even when I was with my family, I was so preoccupied with my work that I couldn't really be fully present at one of our children's basketball game or dance recital, much less at the dinner table.

Participating in and presiding at Eucharist became a source of strength as well as a force for my transformation on an even deeper spiritual level.

It became startlingly, crystal clear to me the need Jesus had to be remembered. To leave something behind that would make the sacrifice worth it. 

To justify the pain.

It wasn't so much as being about a legacy - it's not about illusions, or delusions of grandeur - but something that turned the sacrifice into a contribution to something greater than the "I am that am" which contributes to the desire to continue the work.

I found the need to satisfy that impulse for anamnesis in the words of the Ash Wednesday liturgy. I heard the words about being dust and returning to dust making deeper sense to me.

Looking back, I see, now, that my little specks of dust were caught up in the swirl of many particles of human dust in the justice movements of that time - to further the civil rights of people of color and women and to insure the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Jack Spong's ministry as bishop served as a vector, a carrier. A vector is what is needed to move a thought or an object from point A to point B.

That is not a ministry unique to Jack Spong. It is what bishops do.

Or, at least, what they're supposed to do. When they are actually being leaders in the church. Which means that they have to kick up some dust and stir stuff up.

Which is also why the episcopacy is called "pontifical".  It doesn't just apply to the Bishop of Rome.

It may be folk etymology but the word pontiff derives from the Latin root words pons (bridge) + facere (to do, to make), and so to have the literal meaning of "bridge-builder".

Jack's legacy is that he was a vector of justice for women and LGBT people, building bridges across parched deserts of prejudice and bigotry into wellsprings of liberation and justice.

I have come to see that my human dust was a small part of that turbulent wind storm of justice.  I have come to believe that the small specks of the dust of my work and ministry helped to contribute to disturbing the peace.

That's what justice does. It disturbs the peace of the self-satisfied and those in power.

I learned that justice is, as Cornell West is quoted as saying, "the public face of love".

And thus, I am a few small dust particles of the windstorm that was - and is - Jack Spong.

It helps me to make sense of all that horrific prejudice and bigotry and hopefully, contributes to an understanding of what has been and what still needs desperately to continue. 

That's good enough for me.

Tomorrow at 3 PM at St. Peter's Church in Morristown, NJ, I will take part in the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the consecration of John Shelby Spong as 8th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark (NJ). 

Jack honored me by asking me to write the Prayers of the People for the occasion. I will be printing them here after the service.

Until then, I am both heartened and humbled to know that I am Dust in the Wind of the ancient song of justice. It helps to think that my ministry provided a few new notes to an old gospel hymn, and perhaps, a bit of understanding as to why the work needs to continue. 

As Jack would say, "The only way you can worship God is to is by daring to be all that you can be and not bound by the fears of yesterday."

To that end, I have and will continue to worship God with my whole heart and my whole soul and with my whole mind and with all my strength (Mark 12:30).

I am the priest I am today, in part, because of the experience of Jack's episcopacy.

I know that the work of - the struggle for - justice continues.

I am dust, and to dust I shall return.

And, even at the grave, my song will be Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!