I am glad to have teamed up with others in the Acts 8 Movement to create a video Episcopal churches may use for free to advertise their Easter liturgies. Following the success of my Lenten cartoon, this year’s Easter invitation is made in the same style. You may download the video below to post to your own Facebook page, or just link to one of the YouTube videos found here, or to the Facebook videos posted on the Acts 8 Movement Facebook page.
Animated GIF files for those who want to experiment
This past Christmas, The Diocese of Central New York used the Acts 8 video to invite their neighbors to worship in the churches of the Diocese. You can read about their test and what they learned: How we invited 5,000 Central New Yorkers to Join Us for Christmas. In response to their idea to use a catchy graphic in a side by side test, we are offering a short, animated GIF file, which Facebook permits in its advertising. DO NOT upload the GIF file to Facebook as the image will default to a still frame. Instead, place the file online and point to that file when creating the Facebook ad. This option only works for those advertising on Facebook. Click here for more information: How to Post an Animated GIF on Facebook
Another Video Option in Nine Different Languages
Acts 8 still offers the 2016 Easter video which I made. That video includes the voice of the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in the opening line and is available in nine of the languages in which our church worships: Your FREE Easter Invitation Video.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue
A Note About Permissions
I created the animations using the website Animaker in keeping with their business license agreement so that there is no cost to any church. Earnest Graham drew the SuperHero Jesus character especially for this video. Adam Trambley wrote the script with his daughter, Julia, providing the English language voiceover. Sandra Montes recorded the Spanish language voiceover using her brother, Alex Montes-Vela’s Spanish language translation of the text. All of this is our gift to you.
With Lent underway, now is the time to look ahead to Holy Week and Easter. As you know, Easter is the best time to invite newcomers to church as many spiritual seekers are most receptive to an invitation at this time of year. Many persons with a past connection to a liturgical church also are receptive to a Holy Week invitation to a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday liturgy.
Here are seven ways you can prepare to welcome more people this Easter and then to follow up with them after the Holy Day:
Put your Holy Week and Easter schedule at your website and on your answering machine message now.
Create business cards or flyers with the schedule and encourage the congregation to share them with friends, family and co-workers. This can also be a PDF file emailed to the congregation, which they can forward to others adding a personal note.
Consider a joint ad in the local newspaper with other Episcopal Churches (if there are any in your area). Combined ads with several churches announcing their schedules together makes a powerful statement of unity which has the practical aspect of making a larger ad less expensive for each congregation.
It’s not too late to order a custom banner giving worship times. This is a low cost way to attract the attention of those who drive by your church.
Encourage the members of the church who are healthy and can easily walk to take the furthest possible spaces from the church on Easter to make room for newcomers. This should happen every week, but is especially important at Easter.
Have the latest newsletter, a church brochure, or some other easy to take away item for newcomers on Easter. Get the ushers to place this in the hands of visitors so that they will know of upcoming opportunities for Christian Education as well as your regular service schedules.
Plan now how you will follow up in the week after Easter with all persons newly signed in the visitor’s book with at least a letter. A quick visit from two members of the welcome committee offering a church mug, or fresh-baked bread is also offered by some of our congregations.
Looking for more ways to prepare for newcomers? Now is also a great time to work through the Welcome Checklist from Invite-Welcome-Connect.
How are you helping people find their way into your church? This key question gave focus to the Church Leadership Conference hosted this past weekend by the Episcopal Church Foundation and Kanuga Conferences. Speaking from her experience finding her way out of an evangelical upbringing and into the Episcopal Church, author Rachel Held Evans warned the gathering on Friday evening, “If you’ve found your place, don’t get too comfortable. God has this annoying habit of taking you to new places.” She read from her book Searching for Sunday and then pushed forward movingly with the sacraments of Communion and Baptism and how they speak to helping people find their place in the church. The many workshops offered tools for encouraging this work of the Holy Spirit in changing lives.
Leadership that can change a church
How can leaders effect change in their church? I was asked to give the Saturday morning keynote and I challenged the gathered leaders to, “Be the church you want to see.” Then I gave some examples: Want a welcoming church, then let others see you spending time in welcoming others, showing newcomers the ropes with prayer book worship and introducing them to others. Want to raise up new leaders, then ask someone new to run for election, offer to mentor them and let others know you will not stand for election as it is time for new voices. In this way elected leaders on the vestry and others who are leaders within a congregation can move a church by changing their own behavior. This is real leadership which can turn your church into a place of pilgrimage in which newcomers likewise find themselves challenged to grow.
Our diocese was well-represented at the conference: leaders from Holy Comforter, Martinez; Holy Nativity, St. Simons Island; St. Mark’s Brunswick; and St. Thomas, Savannah, took part in the three-day meeting. Kanuga will offer the Church Leadership Conference next year March 2-4.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
The tools of Invite-Welcome-Connect exist to assist congregations in more faithfully responding to Jesus’ call to reach our neighbors with the Gospel. If you are wondering how your congregation might answer this call to make a gracious invitation, to welcome others as welcoming Christ, and to assist long term parishioners and newcomers alike in more fully connecting to Christ’s Body, the Church, there is a single resource that captures the wisdom and challenge of this approach. Use the 20-page Invite-Welcome-Connect Booklet to launch your journey of discovery.
The basic concept is simple: all three of these areas are essential for successful newcomer ministry in any church. Do one or two of these well, but miss others, and you will still fall short of your expectations. But work on all three essentials together and you will find more people coming to worship, discovering an engaging welcome, and being offered the means to fully connect to the ministry. Because these are the essentials of newcomer ministry, you must address all three areas. In smaller congregations, one team can work on all three areas. Churches with more than 50 people in attendance on Sunday will benefit from having one small team (1-4 people) working on each of three essentials.
The best way to begin is getting a group together to watch Mary Parmer’s introductory videos found at invitewelcomeconnect.com. Give one, hour-long meeting a week for each essential. After watching the video, work through the checklist and resources for that area of the materials in the booklet linked above. Following those three weeks, the group can divide into smaller teams to begin working on the initial plans made as a group.
I spoke today with the Rev. Galen Mirate who is taking the steps outlined above at St. Patrick’s, Albany, and with the Rev. David Rose at St. Luke’s, Rincon, who has a group working on Connect and is working to get groups working with the Invite and Welcome essentials. As you begin this work, stay in touch with us so that we can share how this work is going with others around the Diocese.
I talked to the Rev. Johnny Tuttle soon after the tornado roared through Radium Springs on Sunday afternoon and I wondered aloud about the Stewarts. The Rev. Bill Stewart preceded Tuttle as rector of St. John and St. Mark’s and is now retired. He and his wife Sharon live nearby in the same neighborhood.
Johnny told me that whatever had happened when the tornado hit, Bill was probably more worried about his quail than his house at that moment. Bill had been raising 17 quail who lived in a two-foot high pen that sat on a three and a half-foot stand designed so that Bill could tend them from his wheelchair.
Later when I caught up with Bill, I passed on what Johnny had said about the quail. At that exact moment, Bill allowed, he was probably worried about his house which was enjoying more pine-scented freshness than usual with the trees that had been sheared about 15 feet off the ground and landed in his living room. But he added that within about ten minutes, he was worrying about his quail.
The only thing clear after the storm was that the whole pen and stand were buried under the debris of three oak trees. Either the storm lifted the pen and dropped it, or had just simply crushed it. By Monday, Bill’s son, Ryan, and a friend decided that if a bird was hurt, but not dead, they needed to know and take care of it. The two decided to do what they could to find out.
When they returned, Ryan’s friend said, “Bill I’ve got something for you.” He dropped a cold, wet quail egg in his hand and as Bill stared in wonder at the egg, Ryan told him that all 17 quail had survived the storm. Bill told me, “That egg looked like a rainbow.” The birds were in mud, with no food or water and looked quite provoked by the whole ordeal. Yet every bird survived. They have been steadily producing eggs since then, every egg a new rainbow in the wake of a tragic storm.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
We do have a serious problem with violence in this country, but the source is not the highly vetted refugees entering this country seeking a new life. The 18-36 month process that selects refugees who will come to the United States is by far more rigorous than any other process by which someone enters any country. I know because I have seen the process in detail. In 2015, my wife, Victoria, and I were able to see the refugee crisis first hand when we worked our way upstream through the system to a camp in Rwanda where a group caught in Africa’s world war in the Congo can never return home nor can they stay where the are.
Along the way, we observed the many steps in the vetting process that starts with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees interviewing the refugees. I spoke at length with a translator who heard their stories and told me how the UNHCR carefully works to corroborate stories. Multiple interviews uncover exactly what caused someone to leave their home to flee to another country. They get down to the micro level of what happened at what time of night in which village and then corroborate the stories with the accounts of others. In the process, they detail unspeakable tragedies of rape and torture, putting down with precision the inhumanity which causes humans to leave the only life they have known with the few possessions they can carry.
Again and again, we met people whose greatest desire was to return home. Pictured above is Kaltun, a 24 year old Somali woman She settled in Kenya where she shoulders an important work load as one of three Community Health Volunteers who go door to door where western aid workers rightfully fear to tread. Her work takes her into the homes of the urban refugees in the dangerous Easterly neighborhood. I share her picture in a post on refugees coming to America to show how many refugees return home or stay closer to home. In fact, the UNHCR is charged with finding a “durable solution” for those like her who flee their country to avoid persecution with three options on the table:
Resettle in their home country.
Resettle in the second country where they currently have asylum (like Kaltun shown above).
Resettle in a third country. Option 3 is the durable solution for just 1 in 100 refugees.
For those in this group who the United States is considering, our State Department takes over. Intense screenings follow with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense weighing in. This lengthy process follows the initial screening by the UNHCR. Additional security checks continue once refugees move to the States. The State Department then tried to place refugees in an area where they have friends and relatives, or at least in a city with an established community sharing the language and culture. (At right, though dressed in clericals, I play soccer with refugees in Gihembe Camp, Rwanda, while other look on and laugh).
News stories about persons committing crimes in this country, such as the shooting in San Bernadino, blur the lines to suggest that refugees attacked people in their new country. These attacks have been by lawful, permanent residents born in this country. We can, and should, talk about the problems we have in this country, but we need to do so knowing that refugees are not the ones committing acts of violence.
“You shall not oppress a resident alien;
you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens
in the land of Egypt.” -Exodus 23:9
Essential to Our Faith Jesus would come to distill the essence of his teaching to Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself. He would then define neighbor in such as way as to make it clear that the term is inclusive of all persons, with an emphasis on the poor and needy. Christians then do not have the luxury of deciding whether we would like to care for refugees so much as deciding whether we want to follow Jesus. For those who seek to follow him, caring for widows, orphans, and those in need, is all part of the journey that is essential to our faith rather than a possible extra curricular add on.
What the Episcopal Church is Doing
There is no denying that issues of migration are politically thorny. Working with refugees identified by the United Nations and U.S. State Department is more straightforward, but also involves a tangle of issues. Yet for those of us of faith, we can not simply consider these political realities with no reference to our theology which reminds us of our common identity binding us to all other humans.
Nine agencies resettle refugees in this country, including one run by the Episcopal Church. Through thirty affiliates across the country, Episcopal Migration Ministries makes the love of God real each year for more than 5,000 persons resettling in the United States. This is, of course, purely to serve others and without proselytizing or other motives other than assisting people in need, especially in there first months in this country. Through this ministry, the Episcopal Church practices what we preach about seeking and serving Christ in all persons and respecting the dignity of all. On average, our churchwide efforts help 100 persons a week begin a new life. While not every Episcopalian need support this great work of our church personally, we can still appreciate this ministry as an important part of what we do together that none of us could accomplish on our own.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
To get a better feel for the work EMM does, you will also find extremely helpful, the series of short videos they created. I have embedded one below, the others are found online here: EMM Media Page
“The commandment we have from him is this:
those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
-I John 4:21
If we only go about being the church for the sake of more people and more money, then God should not bless that effort, and I don’t believe that God will bless it. I write that as bluntly as possible so that you understand how strongly I feel that churches do not and should not simply grow in terms of more people sitting in pews on a Sunday or giving more money in offerings.
What God actually calls us to is to faithfully follow Jesus. While we know that faithfulness bears fruit, the fruit of our faithfulness varies. Sure, this may mean growth of the kind that can be charted with statistics. Yet, any spiritual growth always starts with the work of the Holy Spirit in human hearts and this slips through the cracks when we get solely data driven.
The Inward Journey
In her now out of print book Journey Inward, Journey Outward (Harper and Row, 1968), Elizabeth O’Conner shared the way The Church of Our Savior in Washington, DC went about being church. She noted that churches had become so concerned about numbers that concern for each individual soul with whom the church came in contact was being lost. She made the case that the renewal of of the church “cannot come to the church unless its people are on an inward journey” while holding “with equal emphasis that renewal cannot come to the church unless its people are on an outward journey.”
The Outward Journey
To simplify her text, on the journey inward, one comes to see onesself, God and others. This self-knowledge seen through relationship with God and lived into in community with others builds up a person into a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this engagement one’s God-given gifts are called forward. The disciple then continues on an outward journey in which one is truly present to others.
There is not an either/or with discipleship and mission or ministry. Without gaining a deeper connection to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, we cannot know ourselves and so can not really see others and be present to them. The inward journey is required. Yet, if we only take the journey inward, we can become like the Dead Sea (pictured here), which is continually nourished, but has no outlet and so is rich in minerals and devoid of life.
This simple concept of churches helping nourish and sustain people on their journeys inward and outward adds to the missional emphasis I often place in this Loose Canon column and most notable in my opening address for our diocesan convention a few years ago which captured much of the outward work of our congregations. A missional outlook is essential for the church as God did not come among us as Jesus to teach, heal, deliver, and then suffer, die and physically rise never to die again in order to start and institution. God came in Jesus to bring us into relationship, a life giving and life changing relationship. And this relationship needs both the journey inward and the journey outward to grow and flourish.
Balancing Inward and Outward Journeys
How do you see that balance in your church’s schedule of events? Is the inward journey of discipleship being supported with appropriate offerings to nourish the life of faith and to thereby challenge parishioners in helpful ways? Is the journey of service to God through ministry to others just as evident? How is your congregation doing at this balance of the journey inward, journey outward?
As we look to Invite, Welcome, and Connect others to our congregation, we are inviting them to these inward and outward paths of discipleship. Should you add more ways to engage in mission or discipleship? To grow disciples, you need to foster both journeys.
-The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Most churches open their buildings for use by groups made up of people who are not members of the congregation. These include Scout troops, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and other groups. A few churches also have a preschool, Mother’s Morning Out, or other group regularly bringing families into your space who do not attend the church. Beyond this, you may have other activities, such as a yard sale, which bring people onto the church grounds. As we look to Invite-Welcome-Connect with our neighbors, extend the invitation with people already coming to your church grounds. If you do not specifically invite these persons to worship with you, they are likely to feel, well, not invited, or even not welcome.
Make an in-person invitation
Creating a pathway into the congregation is not difficult, but it does take intentionality and persistence. The most straightforward way to make an invitation is for the priest or one of the church wardens to attend a meeting, if possible, to thank the group for meeting at the church and let everyone there know that if they do not have a church home, you would encourage them to come worship with you on a Sunday. Best practice will be to have something in print to hand out to interested persons whether a welcome card or the latest newsletter. This method would not work for AA, as attending the meeting would not keep the group’s anonymity. You could ask that a print invitation be put out for those who attend AA or other 12-step groups to let attendees know they are welcome.
Host an Event Together
Consider hosting an event with groups who use your church building. The best way is to ask the group’s leaders if they have any ideas for an event the congregation can host together with the group. This worked well, for example, for our All Saints Eve’ Trunk or Treat when I served as a parish priest. If you start not with your own idea of what you would like the group to do, but begin by asking where they have interest, you are more likely to find an event that works for all.
Without a specific invitation repeated from time to time, you are unlikely to get many, if any, church visitors from the ranks of people already coming to your building. Taking the steps to welcome people who are part of groups meeting in your church is well worth your time and energy as a way to expand your welcome.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Finding quality materials for engaging adults in a meaningful way about their faith in Jesus is never an easy task. Thanks to an Episcopal Church grant which underwrote the production of the course, Transforming Questions is an excellent course to encourage exploring faithful questioning in a small group setting, is available at no charge to your congregation. As we work on Invite-Welcome-Connect, this course fits well in connecting established members and newcomers around table fellowship and meaningful conversations.
Course creators, the Revs. Melody Shobe and Scott Gunn, provide everything you need for the 10-week course available as a free download from Forward Movement, the Episcopal Church agency that produces Forward Day by Day. Participants share a meal, listen to some solid teaching, and then discuss important questions including: Who is Jesus? Does God answer prayer? Why do bad things happen?
This is both a helpful introduction to faith in Jesus for people new to the church, or who have yet to attend worship. This is a great side-door for someone who is interested in Jesus, but not sure about a church yet. Transforming questions is equally worthwhile for those of us who are long term Christians. Having created and taught a similar course 16 years ago as a parish priest, I know that perhaps most important is the community built around table fellowship and honest talk about personal concerns.
Please note that this is not a drop-in course. Ask participants to commit to the whole 10 weeks as the work builds over time, especially with the meals and an ongoing small group. Don’t be afraid to ask for and expect a commitment. The format for an evening is five minutes for the opening collect and welcome, 25 minutes to share a meal, an hour split evenly between the presentation and a small-group discussion, and then five minutes for the closing collect and dismissal. The presenter shapes the course material with personal stories, but the good work of developing a solid course is done.
Interested? Download the file from Forward Movement, which includes both the facilitator’s and participant’s materials. While this material is also available for purchase in book form from Forward Movement, you do not need to purchase anything to have the full course. Click here to download the Transforming Questions materials.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Prepare the way of the Lord by taking steps now to make sure your congregation is ready to welcome visitors this Christmas. A little attention to these Invite-Welcome-Connect concerns will have you ready to greet newcomers:
Website and Facebook
List any special Advent and Christmas liturgies on your website. Also add this schedule to your Facebook page and then “pin the post” so that that schedule information stays at the top of your Facebook feed. Do this by first creating and posting the information, then click on the downward V in the top right hand corner of the post and select “Pin to Top of Page.” That will keep the information at the top even when you add new Facebook posts. After Christmas, click on the same V and select to unpin the post. To make the Facebook information more eye-catching, you can use the free video I created with Acts 8: Your free parish Christmas invitation video is ready
Answering Machine and Phone
Add the Christmas liturgies to your answering machine message now through Christmas Day. Then on Christmas Eve, best practice is to have someone answering the phone from a couple of hours before the service until the liturgy begins in case someone calls at the last minute looking for directions or to confirm the time.
Clean up any bulletin boards and tables with information. Make sure that everything is current and that the latest printed information is available, in case a visitor wants to pick up a newsletter or other information.
Newsletter and Announcement Reminder
In the remaining Sundays prior to Christmas, list in the newsletter or bulletin a reminder to ask parishioners to recall that we greet guests as if greeting Christ. If people you don’t recognize are nearby, after the liturgy, all they have to say is, “Hi, My name is _____. I don’t believe we have met.” Then just welcome them and if a newcomer, ask them to come back. At Christmas, we can all get so focused on the occasion and family gathered round, that it is easier to think we are being friendly, while failing to welcome the guest.
I worked with the Acts 8 Movement to once again create a free video for Episcopal Churches to use on social media or their websites. The English language version is above, the Spanish language video is below. Videos in other languages in which the Episcopal Church worships are in the works. You can find out more and download a copy for your congregation’s use here: www.acts8movement.org/your-free-parish-christmas-invitation-video-is-ready
The Evangelism Matters Conference brought together 425 people from across the Episcopal Church from Hawaii to the Dominican Republic and Seattle to, well, Georgia. As one of six members of the Planning Team, I was pleased not so much by the turn out as the energy around sharing our faith in Jesus Christ. I was especially grateful for the excellent workshops that came together. While the event has come and gone, videos of many of the presentations remain. The Evangelism Matters YouTube Channel offers 16 videos from the conference including our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s inspiring preaching and the full content of seven workshops. I recommend two videos in particular:
This video demonstrates a project any congregation can do (it was piloted by a church with about 20 people on an average Sunday). My colleague Stephanie Spellers walks the conference participants through an exercise you could do in your church on a Sunday between services or after the main liturgy. I will let her describe it for your, but I want to share how this exercise got me and a complete stranger first, discover how God had been in our lives anew and then, got us each talking about significant issues with each other in a very meaningful way.
The Episcopal Church’s highly skilled video team then cut a video showing the results. That is online here at Cardboard Testimonies
From Visitor to Member in 12 Months
When Mary Foster Parmer presented on Invite-Welcome-Connect to our recent diocesan convention, I really came to understand how the connect piece is the one I probably needed help with the most as a parish priest. Chris Girata and Elizabeth Carrière Peeples brought a workshop to the Evangelism Matters Conference on moving a person from a visitor to a member in 12 months.
While the 1 hour 20 minute video length will seem daunting, this is an excellent workshop ready to give you tools to connect with newcomers in a meaningful way. If you long for your congregation to help visitors become a vital part of your congregation, is there a better use of and hour and a half than learning proven ways to make this happen?
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at The Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, Texas on November 20, 2016
Seeing Rightly Luke 23:33-43
Our Gospel reading brings us to the foot of the cross to see Jesus’ with his arms of love nailed to the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of his saving embrace. Even as Jesus proclaimed forgiveness to those who are in the act of killing him, he is challenged to prove that he is Messiah and King by saving himself. We who follow Jesus two millennia later get the dramatic irony that it is only in not saving himself that Jesus will save us.
Those present at Jesus’ crucifixion who knew the scripture best failed to see what God is doing through Jesus. Rather than standing over creation in judgment, God came in the Second Person of the Trinity entering the creation in weakness. He who the universe could not contain was born to a poor girl in Galilee. Soon after he was born, his family were on the road as refugees. God took on human form in the person of Jesus. As the great champion of the faith Athanasius would put it, “He became like we are that we might become like he is.”
Jesus loved us so much that even when the cost of that love was suffering and death, he would not give up on that love. Through his death on the cross, Jesus broke the power of sin and death that we might have forgiveness and life eternal. And yet, the only one who sees rightly that salvation that can come through Jesus is the thief dying on the cross next to him. He knows that Jesus is sinless and yet is condemned to death.
Dying on a cross alongside Jesus, the thief has just heard words not of judgment or condemnation, but of forgiveness. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” The man who remains nameless to us was known to God. The thief wanted the forgiveness and reconciliation with God that could come through Jesus and he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Such unlikely words of faith. The thief knows that though Jesus is dying, the Reign of Christ is about to begin. How is this perception possible when everyone else is missing it? How does the thief on the cross see the truth that the sinless one alongside him proclaiming forgiveness is even then able to welcome him into paradise? This takes seeing with the heart.
As I prayed through this passage preparing for this Sunday, I recalled a favorite book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic, The Little Prince. I already knew by heart my favorite line from this gem of a book, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I decided to look the quote up and see the larger context for those words. I was amazed by what I found. I want to share that journey with you as we consider the story of The Little Prince alongside our Gospel reading. For “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I gave the Closing Plenary Talk for the Episcopal Church’s Evangelism Matters conference with Alex Montes-Vela. I summarized the conference and then Alex brought it all home with a challenge and a blessing. Here is my summary of the conference:
Alex and I were talking on the way to our hotel last night and he told me about meeting someone here he only knew through Instagram and the person told him how great it is to be in a place where you don’t have to explain yourself. That really resonates with me. We have spent this day and a half immersed in the love of God together with Episcopalians who want to share the joy of Jesus with others in a way that is both winsome and humble.
In recent years, we have heard “The church isn’t dying. We are killing it.” And yet in this time and in this place we have heard that Anglicans are not allergic to Evangelism and we need not take Excedrin before saying the word. This is a call to go back to who we really are. Instead of saying “The ‘E’ word”, we can claim Episcopal Evangelism not as an oxymoron. Evangelism is not about growing the church, but sharing the love we have experienced with a hurting world.
And as we prepare to go back out into the world renewed by the power of the Spirit, Alex and I want to first remind you of some of what we have heard in our plenary sessions and then to challenge you to consider how you will take this conference home with you.
Our Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation, Stephanie Spellers, let us all know as we began yesterday saying we are The Jesus Movement: We are following Jesus and growing loving, liberating and life giving relationships with God, with each other, and with creation, alleluia! This is not a program, she reminded us, but a way of life.
Beginning a theme that has threaded through our time together, Bishop George Sumner, reminded us that sharing the Good News is not about church growth. He said we might well in our Evangelism welcome people into our church, but what we are really about is getting people to join King Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Ride on King Jesus.
In our opening Panel Discussion Mary Parmer began a second thread woven through this conference saying Evangelism is helping people fall in love with Jesus. Carrie Headington said Evangelism is an invitation to a feast that is out of this world. Marcus Halley told us that the picture of evangelism is the cross, the nexus of God and man where we see those things that were cast down are being raised up.
Alberto Cutie said many in society have given up on Jesus without having even been introduced because the people they do hear talking about Jesus are scary freaks. So, our biggest challenge as church is what will we offer to help people want to connect with this Jesus we know and love?
Marcus Halley told us that in a society filled with fear and divisiveness, we need to trust in abundance; we have enough to do what God is asking us to do. We need to overflow into our world letting people know that you are always welcome at this table, because there is always enough.
Mary Parmer quoted no less an authority than Wikipedia in a way I found moving as the entry on Evangelism says, “The New Testament urges believers to speak the Gospel clearly, fearlessly, graciously, and respectfully whenever an opportunity presents itself.”
Then when the panel discussion opened up to the nave, we were given eyes to see the larger vision with a perspective from the Dominican Republic about how this a moment for the whole world and how much this work matters. Evangelism is work for the whole church toward the whole world. A participant from Mexico said that evangelism is walking with sisters and brothers and finding out that God has arrived first and then just being present.
We started to trend on Twitter with #evangelism16 as the panel continued. Carrie said, “We need people gossiping the Gospel.” Alberto said, “Sheep make sheep. Shepherd do not make sheep. This is a biological fact.” He was reminding us that work of making sheep is not for the clergy alone or even primarily. Marcus Halley said we need a church where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.
Then as we told in tweet length answers of the hope that is in us, from the nave we heard, “My hope is that the world becomes on fire for Jesus. I would not have a life if not for Jesus and so many other people are broken and need Jesus in order to have life.”
After lunch Bishop Curry did not preach a sermon. No he was clear it wasn’t a sermon right before he launched into a great sermon. He said that we may be taking part in a re- evangelization of the western world. Taking his text for what was definitely not a sermon, he chose II Corinthians 5 beginning at the 14th verse: saying that the “Love of Christ Urges is on”… “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Bishop Curry said, “Evangelism is about going home and helping each other find our way home.” We got the people and the brain power, he said, and we are working on the heart power. Then he opened up a real challenge.
What if we became Episcopalians without borders? My mind was blown. We could use the money from closing churches to start new ones as we steward the money entrusted to us even across diocesan boundaries. What if every person being preparing for ordained ministry learned Evangelism as we have learned Clinical Pastoral Education? We would change the culture of the church and would change the world.
Bishop Curry added, “I have no illusion of vast numbers of Episcopalians going out two by two with Forward Day by Day and The Living Church under their arms. But we have Episcopalians on Facebook. I know, I have seen your cats and your dogs!” To this I say, I have seen your cats and your dogs, but have your friends seen Jesus through your posts. Bishop Curry said, “This may be the new Roman highway. Facebook may be the way to help our brothers and sisters to find their way home to God and to each other.”
Then our Presiding Bishop talked movingly about helping someone find his way home. He met with a drug dealer who he came to know through his parish in Baltimore engaged in its community. Over time they shared stories and it became clear that this man who wanted out really wanted to know more than just to know about Jesus intellectually. He wanted to know Jesus. Eventually, the man wanted to be baptized. A small community gathered. Bishop Curry said that he never heard the service of baptism in that way. “When that man renounced Satan and the powers that rebel against God, he took his life in his hands.” You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. “He was out. He was free. Jesus set him free. That is the movement we are a part of and that is what is what evangelism is about, a love so profound it can call us home and set us free.”
>Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon spoke of the two legs of evangelism as proclamation and mission. Mission flows from first coming to experience the power of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Then the Archbishop took up the title of our Presiding Bishop as Chief Evangelism Officer and said that if we really want to have a movement, we need to add to this by getting each bishop to be the Chief evangelism officer of his or her diocese, and then each priest to be the chief evangelism officer of his or her parish, and then by getting each individual Christian to be the chief evangelism officer of his or her family. Then we would have a movement.
During the Eucharist, Bishop Curry took the Great Commission to go to all the world and make disciples and connected this to the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”
He gave us a song to sing “Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.” And I don’t know about you, but I have felt my heart revived in our time together. Bishop Curry then gave us a way of Episcopal Evangelism from the old spiritual, “If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, ‘He died for all.’”
Baptism is about being immersed in the life of the Trinity, which is a life of love. In sharing this love we see that the Jesus Movement is not about bigger churches; it’s about a better world. This connection to telling the love of Jesus means, “Evangelism isn’t about Christian imperialism. It’s about saturating the world in God’s love.”
This morning after Morning Prayer, we gathered in Plenary once more and Canon Stephanie Spellers asked “Why do we need a conference to proclaim that Evangelism Matters?” Proclaiming evangelism is counter-cultural to the Episcopal Church. She then noted how Episcopalians have shied away from this work and asked us to consider why. And shouting out the answers, participants said that we have a fear of rejection, a fear of looking tacky. Hurtful things have been done in the name of evangelism and people think this is for the clergy or that you have to be especially gifted in Evangelism.
Stephanie said that what we need to get out there and tell a different kind of story. We can begin this by noticing what God has done in our lives, seeing what God is doing in the lives of others and then letting people know how we see Christ in them.
Then she led us through cardboard testimonials. I don’t know about you, but I saw how readily we could identify the pain, the hurt, the loss in our lives. My partner in the exercise and I quickly got real about some deep hurts and then the great joy we found in Jesus. I heard the level of energy go up in the room as we all shared our cardboard testimonials. It turns out evangelism wasn’t as difficult as we thought. When you see the pain and the joy on inverse sides of those signs, you see that we are less interested in evangelism because it will get people to heaven one day as wonderful as that is. We share the joy of Jesus to get people out of the hell they are living in right now.
This work of evangelism is embedded within the baptismal covenant where the baptismal candidate, or his or her parents and godparents on behalf of a child, are asked, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” The answer is, “I will with God’s help.”
We know that this work is not about growing our churches. Evangelism is about falling in love with Jesus and then sharing that love as naturally as we recommend a restaurant, book, or movie. Then when we really listen to others and when nudged by the Holy Spirit humbly and gently proclaim the difference knowing our triune God has made in your life.
What I have heard is that this evangelism is a work of the Holy Spirit in which we get to participate. I have no fear that Episcopalians will hear this message and go out handing out Forward Movement pamphlets in front of the 7-11 or that you will get so inspired by the Good News of God in Christ that you will beat people up with Bible passages to prod them toward heaven. That is not going to happen. Fear not.
My hope is that we will really hear the word from our brother in Christ, Archbishop Josiah who said that if we really want this to be a movement, we have to move beyond our Presiding Bishop as the Chief Evangelism Officer. As much as I love and admire Bishop Curry, he is not Jesus and we need to not leave him alone to the work of lighting a fire across our church and then the world.
What excites me most about this day and a half is the passion I have heard, the joy in this gathering, and the hope of lives transformed by the loving, liberating, and life-giving power of Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen. The bishops among us need to go proclaim they are now chief evangelism officer of their diocese. The Rectors and Vicars need to proclaim that you are now chief evangelism officers in their parish. And all the baptized need to become chief evangelism officers in their families. That, my friends, is a movement.
In nearly two hours of training across the two days of diocesan convention, Mary Parmer brought the basics of Invite-Welcome-Connect to the Diocese of Georgia. Her work has been to gather the proven resources which are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and designed to shape an authentic culture of effective newcomer ministry. This is designed for congregations of any size. Whether you were at the convention or not, the tools to begin this work are readily available. I want to lay out a plan to implement this in your congregation.
Gather a Team
While larger congregations might end up with three teams, the work begins with a group meeting at the church in three sessions. In each hour-long meeting, watch one of the half-hour videos Mary offers at www.invitewelcomeconnect.com. You will find one video for each of the three essentials. In advance of the first meeting, download the 20-page booklet found on the Resources Page of our diocesan convention website: Convention Resources Page. This provides an overview together with checklists for each of the three areas.
Map out a Plan of Action
During the three sessions, begin to pick some of the strategies that will fit your congregation well. Mary calls the three areas essentials as churches that do one or more of these well, but fail in others will not succeed as well in attracting newcomers and integrating them into the life of your congregation. The plans will vary for each congregation as this is not a cookie cutter program, because one size never fits all very well. Instead, Mary highlights concerns and offers tools. Our largest congregations will want separate teams working on Invite, Welcome, and Connect, while most of our churches will benefit from one group working together to set out a plan and then begin working through the action items.
The One Step I Recommend for Every Congregation
Any size congregation in this diocese will benefit from a Sharing Faith Dinner, and those with fewer than 50 (or fewer than 20) in worship on Sunday may even find it more transformative than larger churches. This might sound scary, but this is the easiest option for Episcopalians. One person needs to download the full information at sharingfaithdinners.com Gather 8-12 people for a meal. Then follow the plan in which you pick a card with a question and in answering that question, those sharing a meal with you will learn more about you and how your faith in Jesus has shaped your life in some way. I guarantee that this will be eye opening even when everyone present has known each other for years (which is why smaller congregations will really enjoy this).
There are no silver bullets and no one idea will transform the world. But you will learn more about yourself and those with whom you worship in one evening than would seem possible. Discovering how faith matters also builds up deeper roots. Growth is not only about moving out, but also about deepening our connection to God and those we already know. While that is not the one solution that unlocks all the spiritual growth we need, Sharing Faith Dinners is an important tool readily available thanks to the Diocese of Texas.
As you begin this work, let me know how it goes. Nothing will help us as a diocese set about this work more than sharing stories of how it is working in our congregations. We will want to share your stories here.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Staff and volunteers move the Christus Rex that hangs over the altar at Honey Creek to provide safekeeping in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew’s arrival this coming weekend.
Having a video record of church belongings is great. Securing church property and removing any items which need to leave with those evacuating is even better. But the church is the people and in any disaster, preparing to stay in touch with parishioners is paramount.
Stay in Touch
Having up to date contact lists available is critical. Following any disaster, the first impulse is to make sure that everyone is okay. To do this, you need a system. Know who will call whom and how you will share the news if assistance is needed. If a few people have hard copy and electronic copies of your contact list, you will be able to reach any potentially vulnerable persons quickly. Having cell numbers and email addresses of members will be critical if this is to work as you will otherwise not be able to reach persons who evacuated. As a disaster unfolds, no member of the church should seek to assist another directly. Venturing into a flooded area to help may double the job of first responders. If you know someone is in need, alert emergency personnel to the issue and offer to meet up with him or her at a safe location.
Decide how existing communications channels will benefit the church in a time of disaster. If you have an active email newsletter and Facebook page, these will be more valuable than your website in getting the word out to parishioners. Let folks know in advance that an email and Facebook post will alert them if Sunday services are cancelled or moved to an alternate location. This information should also be added to the website. Before leaving the church ahead of a storm or other disaster that comes with some advanced notice, change the answering machine to let callers know where they can get the latest information on your church.
Staying in touch in the immediate aftermath and using existing communications channels well will greatly assist in caring for the people of your congregation.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue,Canon to the Ordinary
Sunday, September 25th has been designated Social Media Sunday–the day when Christians everywhere are encouraged to share the good news via social media. Started at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, Connecticut in 2013, Social Media Sunday has grown in the three years since to include people of faith everywhere.
Suggestions include using the hashtag #SMS16 with posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Go even further and add the hashtags #Episcopal and #DioceseofGeorgia. Instagram a selfie with the choir or congregation; tweet the sermon; update your status on Facebook to show that you’re at church; share a photo of your beautiful building and your beautiful friends.
And then, at the end of the day when you check those sites do a search for the hashtags and see how social media connects us and helps us share the good news!
To print out some bulletin inserts created by Acts 8, go here.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
The most effective means of attracting newcomers to any church is a personal invitation from a parishioner. If this makes you nervous about being turned down, know that survey after survey shows that three-quarters of people say they would go to a church if a friend, neighbor, or co-worker invites them. The question is, “Do you have a church home?” And if the answer is no, just say, “St. Swithen’s means so much to me and my family, I would love it if you would visit us sometime.” It is that simple.
In order to make the invitation even easier, Mary Parmer of Invite-Welcome-Connect recommends printing low-cost cards that church members can share with those you want to invite to worship with you. She prefers cards from moo.com as that company permit orders with up to fifty different photos on the set of cards. This means the prospective newcomer will see your church through photos of the building, or even better of worship or another parish event. Mary offers that the many images give a chance for you to fan out several cards with photos and let the person pick the image that appeals to him or her most.
On the backside of the card, offer information about the church including at least the physical location, phone number, web address, and Sunday service times. You may also want to add the web address for your congregation’s Facebook page, if that page is active.
Bless the cards during a Eucharist and invite members to pray about who to invite and then take cards with them. When I served as a parish priest, I had a map with directions and service times on the back of a business card. That one small item often converted a conversation in the community to someone showing up for worship.
We readily share restaurants, movies, and books with friends and co-workers. Why not also share your church with those you love. It is easier than you think.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Want to get closer to Jesus? Attending church helps, but the proven ways to really connect are in your daily life rather than in weekly worship in church. I know you are busy, but the busier you are, the more you need to carve out time each day to be with God. The proven method is simply this: Read the Bible and Pray every day. That’s it.
How not to use the Bible
The reason is that when life gets tough and we need answers, the Bible is a poor guide. The text wasn’t designed to work that way. There is no chapter or book on raising children or on dealing with problems in your marriage. The Bible is not a troubleshooting guide for life. The Bible is God’s living word created to speak to your heart each day. This is the story of God’s love for us and the story is meant to be read again and again so that we see the pattern in scripture of God’s unfailing love and then see it in our lives. The people I see who weather the storms of life well are those who have been marinating their hearts in the Bible for years. Folk like that don’t need a chapter or verse to know God will be faithful when times are tough. They know that truth in their bones. The way to get there, is to begin with baby steps.
Start small and reward yourself
Building new habits takes time. Make this one easy on yourself. If you are not used to reading the Bible, try reading your way through the Gospel of Luke. Read just one chapter each day for 24 days and you can build a new habit. Build in a reward. Read the chapter for the day and then treat yourself in some small way, such as with a piece of chocolate. After 24 days, move on to another Gospel. Once you are through all four, you will have spent months following Jesus.
Central to our identity as Episcopalians are Morning and Evening Prayer, which are known as the Daily Offices. These short prayer services have a pattern of scripture reading that will have you reading most of the Bible in two years. After months with the Gospels, you will be ready for Morning or Evening Prayer.
Praying these Daily Offices and reading the Bible with the lectionary that goes with them is to be practiced by all clergy and remains the norm for laity. Typically our churches have copies of Forward Day by Day, which offers reflections for each day to fit the same readings as found in the office. You can also find Morning and Evening Prayer online with the readings in place here:
The Church’s Role – Teach and Model
As congregations, if we are not teaching those who attend worship some practical ways to make our Triune God part of their daily lives, then we are teaching by omission that attending church is all there is to the life of faith. This is not only untrue, it is not fair as that sort of faith will not meet the demands of the real world. We know that daily scripture reading and prayer draw us each closer to God. Let’s be honest and both teach and model that these spiritual disciplines are important to our life of faith and will add immensely to the benefits of weekly worship.
-The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
A free smart phone game has hundreds of thousands of gamers standing around in front of churches. The new geolocation game Pokemon Go is a real sensation bypassing Twitter and catching up to Facebook in time spent engaging online. The free app created by the Google spin-off company, Niantic, uses the players’ GPS in the phone to locate where the gamers is and then makes Pokemon appear on the phone screen in real-life locations giving players a chance to “catch” all 151 virtual creatures on the streets of their town. Many Episcopal Churches (including Christ Church Savannah shown at right in a games screen) have learned that they are “PokeStops” and “Gyms” where players can gather in the real world to capture and battle their virtual Pokemon. The only way to find out if you church is in the game is for someone to download the app and to visit your church.
Turning your church into a “charging station” for players is one way to engage with gamers. As it is hot across south Georgia, offering cold water or a chance to come in air conditioning during church hours can be a way to show off your church to folks who may not otherwise find you. While this fad will fade and likely the vast majority of those playing the game will only find themselves standing near a church in their game play, not entering one, the Holy Spirit uses all kind of ways to get folks attention. Doing what you can reasonably to welcome those God brings your way is always a good idea.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
I worked with others in the Acts 8 Movement to create a 1-minute video any Episcopal Church may use for free to encourage their neighbors to visit this fall. To make the most of the opportunity, we also encourage you to review the Hospitality Checklist offered by Invite-Welcome-Connect to get ready for those newcomers.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Paul the Apostle Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia on May 14, 2016 for the ordination of Donald Holland, Ian Lasch, Tommy Townsend, and Ray Whiting to the Sacred Order of Deacons.
Send a tornado into their hearts – An Ordination Sermon Acts 2:1-21
“What does this mean?” Bewildered, amazed, astonished, and perplexed is how our reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the crowd gathering that Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Devout Jews from every nation under heaven are living in Jerusalem. Each person hears someone talking in their mother tongue, the language of home. The Good News of Jesus flows fluently from somewhere. As they gather, those seeking the source of the commotion discover a gaggle of Galileans full of the Holy Ghost.
The crowd levels at the disciples a version of the same complaint made against Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”. How can these hicks just in from the sticks be speaking clearly in the language of Parthians, Medes, Egyptians, and so on. In the midst of their bewildered amazement, one solution presents itself: These men must be drunk. The part left unsaid is, “Hello. Galileans.”
God is doing a new thing and the crowd gathering on that day when the Holy Spirit first came in power has only their old categories. Based on the existing prejudices about a group of Galileans, the way to make sense of this Pentecost event is to dismiss the clear proclamation of the Gospel as mere nonsense, because the messengers are fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and so on—far from the spiritual elite. The devout Jews from all over the world want to know can we possibly hear God speak through such clearly imperfect vessels as these men?
The question is probably more relevant than you would like me to admit. We are here this morning to take part in the ordination of Donald, Ian, Ray, and Tommy to the Sacred Order of Deacons. So I will repeat the question, “How can we possibly hear God speak through such clearly imperfect vessels as these men?”
Don’t hear me wrong. I think the world of all four ordinands, but to prepare for this sermon I read back through the spiritual autobiographies of all four men and read their extensive psychological reports and more in the five inch stack of paperwork collected by the Diocese of Georgia in the past four or more years. Certainly, those psychological reports did not reveal these men to be any crazier than the rest of us, but spending time with their life stories does show that the path to this day has not been a straight line for any of them. While no individual among the four shares all of these characteristics, as a group they have experienced severe health issues, alcoholism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, periods of doubt and unforgiveness or of notable pride and arrogance, broken marriages, and other twists and turns to their lives so that each of them has friends who will hear of today and think, “Really. What is the church thinking?”
This is where the deacons, priest, and bishop can say, “Welcome to the club.” We too gave some people who heard of our ordinations pause to wonder if the church might be scraping the bottom of the barrel. This has been the reaction to those God calls to serve him since before Mary spoke to an angel and learned, among other things, her next conversation with Joseph would be a doozy or even before Miriam learned that God called her stuttering brother Moses when he was on the run for murder.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on May 8, 2016
That They May Become Completely One John 17:20-26
Let me tell you about my friend Jesus.
Jesus was and is God.
In seeing Jesus, we come to know our Triune God more fully.
In Jesus life and ministry, we see God.
So let me tell you about my friend Jesus.
Jesus was born to a poor mama and poor step daddy. Jesus was a great kid, who grew up to be the man everyone wanted to hear speak. But Jesus was also born into the Roman Empire, so Jesus, the King of all creation, knew disrespect. Jesus grew up in a world that disrespected him at any good opportunity.
A good kid from a good family. A man who would change the world. But if Jesus ducked into a store catering to Romans to buy something for his Mama, he might have to wait a while. Standing there waiting for the others to be served first. Truth be told, the shopkeeper might act like he didn’t even see him until all the right people had been served first. They would not have seen the content of his character. One look at Jesus and they knew his kind could wait. That’s the world my friend Jesus knew.
And if anyone wanted to change the way the world worked, the Empire lined the roads with crosses. Get too far out of line, you would get hung on a cross as an example to the rest.
So what did my friend Jesus do?
He turned that world upside down every chance he got.
Oh the world fought back. The creation that had already turned its back on God always fights back against the way the world should be. But that kid from Nazareth conquered the Roman Empire and he has been conquering principalities and powers ever since. My friend Jesus sees the crosses, the beatings, the lynching trees, the electric chairs, the prisons full of lives of promise cut short. Jesus sees all the ways we put people down and it breaks his heart. Jesus sees the heart of every man and woman. He knows us, the good and the very bad, and he loves us anyway, completely, unreservedly.
As our friend Jesus tells us in our reading this morning from John’s Gospel, he and God the Father are one. He tells us that he is in the Father and the Father is in him and he wants us to be in them too. Our friend Jesus talks like that sometimes. Especially the way his Beloved Disciple John tells about Jesus.
Jesus wants us to know that before the very foundation of the world, God was in relationship. No I can’t describe it fully. The Trinity is a divine mystery. But Jesus wants us to understand something about the nature of God. Jesus tells us that he and the Father and the Holy Spirit were in relationship before the creation.
Somehow in God’s own being there was and is love. And when this Triune God did create, God created out of that love for love. Yes, it’s a mystery. No, we can’t fully comprehend it, but there is something to this Trinity of persons that is written in to the very fabric of creation. Everything is interconnected. All creation is meant to be in one harmonious relationship.
God did not create one kind of person just so another kind of person could put them down. God did not create some kid just to stand aside in a store unseen until all the right people bought what they came to buy. Sin created that mess.
God created a world out of love for love. God imprints on each human the very image and likeness of God. God sees us and calls us good. It’s sin that leads to world with roads lined with crosses and lynching trees.
In our reading from John’s Gospel, it is the night before Jesus is to die. He knows the Empire has a cross with his name on it. Jesus did not have to go looking for his cross. Jesus loved like there is no “us” and “them.” Jesus showed compassion to the lost and the left out. Jesus loved as God loved breaking down divisions among people. The cross found Jesus.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon
at Christ Church Frederica on Palm Sunday 2016
Remember Me Luke 22:14-23:56
On the night before he died, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” So begins the long reading of the Passion from Luke’s Gospel.
We begin with Passover. Later, Peter will forget Jesus prediction and will deny three times that he even knows Jesus.
Then much later as Jesus after he has been crucified and looked out on those killing him, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” A criminal dying alongside the innocent Jesus wants this mercy too. The thief says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Our reading begins with an act of remembering, then out of fear Peter feigns amnesia trying to forget his connection to Jesus, and finally a criminal next to Jesus asks that the Lord remember him. I want to pick up this thread of remembering, forgetting, and remembering as a lens through which to look not just at Jesus’ passion, but also at our lives.
Remembering is essential to any understanding of Judaism and so the roots of our own faith. The most basic statement of the Judaism, to be remembered by all, is the Shema, a simple prayer taken directly from the Torah which Jews are to pray twice daily and are, if possible, to be reciting as they die. The words are:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
These are the words written inside the phylacteries, the two small square leather boxes traditionally worn on the forehead and the left arm during morning prayer by Torah observant Jewish. These words also go into a Mezuzah, the decorative case that goes alongside the doorways of observant Jews. The central proclamation is to be recited to your children and talked about when you are at home and when you are away when you lie down and when you rise.
One story points to how powerful this act of remembering can be. Immediately on peace coming at the end of the Second World War, Rabbi Eliezer Silver went to Europe to find Jewish children hidden among non-Jewish families to escape the Holocaust. To find the children, he would later recount how he went to gatherings of children and call out:
Rabbi Eliezer would then scan the crowd and could see the children remember who they were as those words spoken by their Jewish parents spoke deeply to kids scarred by war. Just as they were trained to do from bedtime onward, the words Hear O Israel spoken in Hebrew broke the spell, cured the amnesia, and let the children remember who they were, and restored them to community.
The Torah instructs the faithful to tell of God’s great deeds to their children and their children’s children. This daily act of praying the Shema is coupled with the central act of remembrance, the Passover. At each Passover Seder, Jews recall that if God had not brought the children of Israel out of Egypt with a mighty arm, they would still be slaves.
An important part of every Passover Seder comes when a child asks the central question of Passover, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The traditional response is, “On this night we remember we were slaves in Egypt…”
That key question traditionally comes after the second toast of wine. And Luke records in his Gospel the two toasts as well as Jesus’ words. After the second toast, Jesus, as the head of the Passover celebration, would be expected to tell the Exodus story.
Jesus should have said, “On this night we remember we were slaves in Egypt…” But that’s not what he said. What Jesus did say was, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” And Jesus also said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Our word “remember” as we use it today is a weak compared to what is meant here. The Greek word is Anamnesis, which does mean remember, but it means this in a very real sense. If my arm or my leg is cut off, I am dismembered. Anamnesis is the opposite of dismembering. We re-member when our members are once more attached. We are made whole. We are fully ourselves once more.
Jesus said that when you do this, I will be re-membered. The Body of Christ will once more be whole. It is not that we will recall who Jesus was, but we will know fully who we are as he is present to us and we are part of his mystical body.
A Canon is an assistant to a Bishop. This "Loose Canon", as Bishop Benhase refers to me, is a Canon turned loose to do what he knows how to do to form persons for ministry, discern the right fit between clergy and congregations and to assist in the growth (discipleship as well as numeric growth) of the Diocese.
This blog collects various work created by the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. In this case, "Ordinary" refers to the Bishop, and title means I am his assistant or, the bishop's deputy.
The web journal contains:
Flotsam-things found floating around the Internet, in books and elsehwere, Jetsam-things I jettison out onto the Internet, and
Sermons, which are routinely added to the list further down this column, but do not appear in the feed to the left.
Videos, which are all linked at the My Videos tab above.