My sisters and brothers in Christ:
We worship on the Second Sunday of Easter at 8 and 10 a.m. (no service on Saturday), when we’ll hear the story of our LORD’s friend and follower, Thomas, who said he wouldn’t believe in the Resurrection unless he saw the risen Christ for himself. While we don’t always get our chance, Thomas got his. At left is Caravaggio’s conception of that moment. Then Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
How have you come to believe? How do you think God is at work in the world and your life? What keeps your moored to your faith and your faith community at St. John’s? In other words, what’s your theology? You might not think you have one, but you do. My mentor, the Rev. Canon Mark Shier, likes to say that every adult – which is to say everyone who has experienced a discrepancy between God’s values and the world’s – is a theologian.
For two Sundays at 9 a.m. in the Bishop’s Room – this Sunday, April 23 and again on May 7 – our own Wayne Kempe, coordinator of our weekly Education for Ministry program, will offer a class entitled “Building A Theology.” He’ll show us how to weave our scripture study, Christian tradition and doctrine, and our personal experiences and outlook into a coherent system that deserves the designation “my personal theology.” (For instance, I call mine “progressive neo-orthodoxy.”) Wayne will have everything you need to enjoy the classes. All are welcome. (Wayne is shown with recent EfM graduates Robin Nelson and Bill Schultz. Ask them about EfM!)
Finally, my fellow ministers, a personal word about the week ahead.
Like many of us, when practicing my vocation, I want to do the best I can in the moment. Preparing to complete my ministry at St. John’s Church after twelve and a half years, I confess that, while focusing on the details of the work at hand, I’ve been holding emotion at bay. (Rereading that, it sounds like a windy way to say “Folks, I’m in denial!”)
But on Monday, I begin my last week of work at our church. Though I have school commitments through early June, I cease being your vicar on May 1 and take up my work as bishop coadjutor-elect at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Echo Park, near downtown Los Angeles. Finally, as countless “lasts” accumulate – last Easster service, for instance; last caregivers meeting; last hug from a toddler on Sunday morning; last Bible Fellowship (coming up this Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Bishop’s Room!); my last “St. John’s e-Vangelist” (this one) — it becomes harder and harder to say no to strong feelings.
I always urge people to let their tears flow, because the tracks of our tears are a map of God’s heart. In my case, the tears show that God has welcomed, loved, and forgiven me, because you always have. They show that God offers Kathy and me a home with him, because you have been home to us.
And the tears remind me that each season of my Christian vocation is precious and unique, not to be taken for granted, not to be duplicated or improved upon. I will relish serving as your bishop (and your St. John’s rector). But I will never love any work more than the work I have had the blessing and privilege of doing with you – people of faith and love, brilliance and jooy, commitment and energy, generosity and service, welcome and acceptance. I can’t wait to see how God, you, and your new vicar will dazzle the Diocese and the world.
As most of you know, one service only next Sunday, April 30 at 10 a.m. Somebody please be sure to bring me a box of Kleenex. And please remember that by means of the gracious ministry of the Rev. Karen Maurer, our God in Christ will tenderly bear St. John’s through all the Sundays until Pentecost Sunday, June 4, when you and your vicar will glorify God together for the first time and The Episcopal Chorale, under the direction of Canon Chas Cheatham, will once again raise the roof.
In the meantime, don’t forget what our Cindy Drennan always says: “God is good – all the time!”
Yours in Christ’s love,
P.S.: Also don’t forget to register someone relatively small whom you love for this year’s Vacation Bible School, “Maker Fun Factory: Created By God, Built For A Purpose,” scheduled for Monday-Friday, June 19-23 from 9 a.m. to noon. VBS is open to children four years old (by May 1) through current fourth graders. To register, visit www.stjohnsrsm.org and look for the Maker Fun Factory logo.