30 January 2011

4 Epiphany Sermon - "Blessed are you"

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon – 4 Epiphany
30 January 2011
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
Matthew 5: "Blessed are you"

Blessed are you.  Bless you.  God bless you.  The blessing of God, Almighty, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and his Son, Jesus Christ.

Blessed are you.

When do you hear that you are blessed?  When do you give blessing?  Often, we hear “bless you” as a kind of a knee jerk reaction when someone sneezes – whether in an elevator, in a meeting, or on the street.  Bless you.  We may offer a blessing over food, or ask God’s blessing upon the food that we are about to eat.  “Bless this food for us and us to thy loving service.”  Do we still worry, with the medieval people, that evil demons would flow up our nostrils when we sneeze, unless we are blessed?  What do we do when we offer a blessing before a meal, isn’t the food already blessed – for God made all that is and said “it is good.”

Blessed are you.

The word blessed is consistent with the words, “good,” and “happy,” and “fortunate,” and “healthy” and “well off.” 

In our common thinking, we say “we are blessed,” when we have much.  We say “we are blessed with plenty,” or “we are blessed with good friends,” or “ we are blessed with good health,” or “we are blessed with generous parishioners.”  “We are blessed” then, can be seen as consistent with having the things in this world that give prosperity, and health, and wealth and comfort and peace.

Blessed are you.

However, Jesus does something quite different, perhaps, with blessing.  In today’s gospel, from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, he lays out the reality of who is blessed.  He describes who is blessed, and if we have ears to hear, it may strike us as odd – and perhaps even inconsistent or in conflict with the value system that we cherish.  These blessings are often called “the Beatitudes,”

In the Beatitudes, Jesus reverses the general value system of his day, and also reminds us of the ways that our own value system may not be in accord with Christ’s vision. 

Blessed are you.

While they may sound like commands or instructions, they are not.  In these statements of blessing, Jesus is not commanding, he is not instructing his hearers about how to become blessed, rather, he is describing the blessed community. 
He is not exhorting his hearers to become poor in spirit, or to become peacemakers, ….(we’ll get back to this later)…he is not speaking in the imperative mood, he is not using the word “should”…or “must”…Interestingly, and most challengingly, he is using the indicative mood.  He is declaring blessing on the community by pointing out the qualities that are blessed by God.  The word blessing here could be translated, “fortunate”… “happy” … “in a privileged situation” … “well-off.” 

And it sounds strange when we translate blessing this way…the “well off are the ones who are poor”….the “happy are the ones who are persecuted”….the “peacemakers are in a privileged situation.”….These are quite strange statements to our ears, our ears which are far more accustomed to the sense of blessing as being happy and well off and comfortable;  blessed with plenty, with leisure, with goods, with toys, with vacations, with the stuff of the world. 

These are quite strange statements to our ears when we, in some sense, believe in the “prosperity gospel,”  … that if we believe in God, go to Church, and follow all the dictates of the church then we will receive wealth, health, and long life.  However, when we reflect deeply, we see that– the stuff of this world do not give us deep connections.  We also know that all too often whether or not we believe or go to church or follow the dictates, our lives can get messy, and the church is no protection against the vicissitudes of life – the ups and downs of every human life.  (And, we know that we are not getting out of here alive.)

When we truly enter into this text, it may resonate with us in a deep way – but we may have to set aside the myth of blessing meaning that we will have a lot of things, and life will be easy (even Jesus said he was not good, but only God was good). 

These sayings are not practical advice for successful living (quite the contrary, in some ways), but prophetic declarations made on the conviction of the coming (and already here) kingdom of God.

They do not merely describe something that already is, but brings into being the reality they describe.  The truth claim embedded in the message is not dependent upon the message itself, but, rather, rests on the shoulders of the speaker.  That is, the statements have weight, and have transformative power because it is Jesus who declares the blessings.  Isaiah 61:1 – Jesus is the anointed one – and he is here to bring about the year and the time of Jubilee…prisoners go free, hungry are fed…etc.  “what cannot be forgotten is that the one who preaches the sermon is the Son of God, that is, he is the Messiah, making all things new.  The sermon is the reality of the new age made possible in time.” (Stanley Hauerwas)

These crazy words only have meaning because they were said by Jesus, and Jesus alone has the power to enact them, to not only describe those who are blessed, but also to do the work to constitute the blessed community.  Hear in these words the presence of Jesus – to follow Jesus is to take on his journey – the one who is poor, the one who is a peacemaker, the one who is persecuted. These words describe, but also create community.  These are not merely a series of statements, but there is an enacting going on, a transformative quality.    “What cannot be forgotten is that the one who preaches the sermon is the Son of God, that is, he is the Messiah, making all things new.  The sermon is the reality of the new age made possible in time.” (Stanley Hauerwas)

They are not merely statements about general or cultural human virtues – because most of them will “get us nowhere” in the world’s currency.  They look opposite to common wisdom.    They are for the “eschatological community living in anticipation of God’s reign.”  “the sermon is not a heroic ethic.  It is the constitution of a people.” (–Stanley Hauerwas)

Jesus lived the message of the Sermon on the Mount.  He “put his money where his mouth was,” he “walked the talk” of his sermon, he “preached what he practiced, and practiced what he preached.”  Beyond being merely consistent, because he is the Son of God, he also created a community with these words.  As God created the universe by speaking it into being, “let there be light,” here Jesus created the beloved community. 

Blessed are you.

And so, here we are, sitting (or standing) here and wondering how our own sense of blessing, matches up with the blessing of Jesus.  For we may not be poor, we may not feel like a peacemaker, we may not be persecuted.   But Jesus does bless us, even us, in our incompleteness, even us in our brokenness, even us in our inconsistencies and our failures.  Jesus blesses us and binds us together as a community, including those who are poor, including those who are peacemakers, those who are persecuted….and through his words of blessing we receive the goodness of God, and we are given the strength and the charge to continue his mission in the world.

Blessed are you.

29 January 2011

A run on a "beautiful day"!

I had a great run today out in this beautiful day; what a blessing.

A "Beautiful Day" indeed!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Epiphany 4 Sermon Image

Here's an image of the sermon draft at this point...

...a few more edits to come!

"Blessed are you."

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

courtesy of www.wordle.net

Glorify the Lord

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, *
O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *
all winds and fire and heat.
Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, *
drops of dew and flakes of snow
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O nights and days, *
O shining light and enfolding dark.
Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

28 January 2011

Video of Christ Church, Philly

Christ Church, Philadelphia, is profiled in this new movie put out by the Episcopal Church...quite wonderfully done.  Check it out!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Transforming Churches - Christ Church, Philadelphia from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.

27 January 2011

John Chrysostom

O God of truth and love,
who gavest to thy servant John Chrysostom
eloquence to declare thy righteousness in the great congregation
and courage to bear reproach for the honour of thy name:
mercifully grant to the ministers of thy word
such excellence in preaching
that all people may share with them
in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The collect for today, the Feast of St John Chrysostom (347-407), 
Preacher, Doctor of the Church, Archbishop of Constantinople

25 January 2011

Kudos to EHS and VTS

Kudos to Episcopal High School (VA) and to Virginia Theological Seminary for working out a partnership and a win-win situation.  My eldest child attended the Butterfly House when I was in seminary and it was, and is, a great place.  Check out the news on Dean Ian Markham's "Dean's Commentary" today:

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Sometimes one cannot help and marvel at the energy and vision of earlier generations of leadership at the Seminary.  Stepping out in faith to make a difference was part of our DNA.  Congregations were founded by the Seminary; and today, we celebrate another Seminary offspring - the Episcopal High School.  

Virginia Theological Seminary founded the Episcopal High School in 1839.  We did so because we believed in the importance of the education of children.  The Rev. William Pendleton was the first Principal, but other Faculty would teach classes, including Dean William Sparrow.  In 1929 the Episcopal High School became independent from the Seminary.  And today, we have a vital, strong, neighbor which sends out alums that have a major impact on the United States and the world.

I am delighted to announce today that the Seminary and EHS are committing to working together.  Students are already enjoying the best gym facilities of any free standing Seminary.  When possible, we are making our Faculty Housing available to each other.  And on Thursday January 13, the Seminary signed an historic agreement.  Our much-loved Butterfly House will now become a facility capable of receiving children from both sides of the fence.  From six month old babies to children ready to go to Elementary School, the Butterfly House will provide an outstanding, educational home for growth.

The Board of Episcopal High School are providing a million dollar gift to help to realize this exciting vision.  And so two institutions whose histories are so intertwined find themselves coming together once again to meet an important need.  Today I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Headmaster of Episcopal High School, Mr. F. Robertson Hershey.

The Very Rev Ian Markham
Dean and President

23 January 2011

VTS Chapel photos

I recently made my way to see the VTS Chapel for the first time since the fire that destroyed it on October 22nd of 2010.  I snapped a few pictures as I walked around the chapel.  It was sad to see it in ruins, but also brought back many memories of time in that place.  I also have a deep and abiding trust in the leadership of VTS and Immanuel Church on the Hill who will discern the best way forward for a new chapel.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

21 January 2011

with room for ALL

at the Diocese of Virginia's Annual Council....

‎"we are a healthy church with room for ALL" 
~Bp. David Jones

19 January 2011

John Milbank's Stanton Lecture 1 - 19 January 2010


By John Milbank

John Milbank is delivering the prestigious 2011 Stanton Lectures at Cambridge University on the theme, "Philosophy: A Theological Critique." This opening lecture was delivered on 19 January 2011.
This series of lectures will not be concerned with either the philosophy of religion or philosophical theology. Instead, they will be about the relationship between philosophy and theology.
In terms of this relationship, the initial practical question, from the point of view of theology, is this: if theologians wish to invoke the aid of philosophy, in whatever manner this might be, to which sort of philosophy should they turn? Should they turn to the philosophies that enjoy good repute in their own culture, on the assumption that they are admired exercises of human reason, procedurally neutral from a religious perspective?
This question is usually answered in the affirmative, whether deliberately or by default. Thus today, much theology, doctrinal as well as philosophical, tries to relate itself either to the "analytic" tradition, or to the unfortunately-named "continental" tradition.
The alternative approach is for theology to continue to relate itself to what one some writers, with good reason, have termed the "perennial philosophy," the legacy of Plato and Aristotle, with which Christian theology has been intertwined almost from the outset.

Hat tip to Ben Myers at Faith-Theology Blog 

100 books in 2011



      2011 Reading Challenge


        Peter has    
           read 4 books toward their goal of 100 books.





        4 of 100 (4%)

        view books


14 January 2011

You brought us out of nonexistence

"You brought us out of nonexistence into being, and again raised us up when we had fallen, and left nothing undone until you brought us to heaven and gave us your kingdom to come." 

~ St. John Chrysostom

13 January 2011

Helping Haiti - the Church

Bishop Pierre Whalon is the Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, and has a long history of working with people in Haiti.  He has written a wonderful article posted at the Huffington Post on the good that the Church is doing in Haiti, and the essential and important work that is going on, and must go on in the future.  This is an article well worth reading.

Peace and Blessings,

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Publish Post
The Most Effective Help for Haiti --The Church
By Pierre Whalon, in the Huffington Post

Why bother with Haiti? There has been a lot of exasperation expressed that "nothing has changed in Haiti" since the earthquake a year ago. There is talk of God's punishment for "devil worship," of the bitter fruits of failed socialism, of the inability of former slaves to govern themselves effectively. Money given for Haiti is just "poured down a rat hole." In other words, let's blame the victims for their predicament and leave them in it. They brought it on themselves. What's it got to do with us?
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, there was a tremendous response from Americans and people across the globe. Even in the world's richest country, it will still require a long time before that one storm's damage will be completely effaced.
Contrary to media reports, a lot has changed in Haiti. For one thing, the dire predictions in January 2010 of massacres, civil war, massive epidemics, etc., have not materialized because of the efforts of many people, beginning with the Haitians themselves. We should not expect the much greater devastation in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries, to be rebuilt any faster. At best, it will be many years before Haiti will be back on its feet.
And while the Haitians themselves have often been their own worst enemies, the truth is that France first and then the United States have used military force and trade sanctions against Haiti several times over the past two centuries to promote their own economic interests. Once the world's biggest sugar exporter and a major rice producer, Haiti now has to import these commodities, principally due to American policies. Those who point a finger at the corruption of various Haitian governments have several pointing back at their own nations' involvement in sustaining those evil rĂ©gimes  .  .  .

Read it all HERE 

12 January 2011

Obama's speech in Tucson

Quite remarkable...and I do hope that hopeful rhetoric will help people, and our policymakers to change behaviors and tendencies....

Thank you, President Obama.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Up to us

‎"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."

 ~President Barack Obama

Hauerwas wlll preach at SSW commencement

From the website of the Seminary of the Southwest...

Stanley Hauerwas will preach at seminary commencement

May 10, 2011

Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School will be the preacher at the 60th Commencement for Seminary of the Southwest on Tuesday, May 10, 2011.  Professor Hauerwas was named "America's Best Theologian" by Time magazine in 2001. Dr. Hauerwas holds a joint appointment in Duke Law School.  In 2001, he delivered the prestigiousGifford Lectureship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
The Commencement service will begin at 10:00 a.m. at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 8134 Mesa Drive in Austin. A reception honoring the graduates will follow in the courtyard immediately following the service. 

MLK Jr., "We must learn to live together"

"We must learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or perish together as fools."

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

10 January 2011

Sermon - 9 January 2010 - A strange and wild story

1st Sunday after Epiphany Sermon
Greenwood, VA

What did Jesus do?  Upon his birth, he welcomed strange people, animals, and heavenly beings to himself.  First, the shepherds.  The shepherds were seen as strange and even vulgar and thieving figures in the time of Jesus.  Accustomed to rough living, contending with wild beasts and wild people out in the hinterland and wilderness of Judea and Israel, the shepherds protected their sheep with passion, but learned to be tough and learned to live rough.  They were shaped by their surroundings, by the work they did, and by those with whom they interacted.  The shepherds were, in many ways, wild and unpredictable – at least for those who lived in the towns and cities.  They were feared by many, and if people of Jesus’ time were asked to do a word association test and the word was “shepherd” they might respond, “thief,” “crook,” “undesirable.”

However, it was these thieves, crooks and undesirables to whom God sent the Angel – “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy.”  And they went to the manger (a strange and wild place to be born!) and they were welcomed there by Mary, and Joseph and Jesus.  Our image of this meeting is cleaned up in our imagination by artwork and by cute Christmas Pageants, however, it must have been quite a meeting, quite an encounter – quite an epiphany – for these thieves, crooks and undesirables as they encountered “God with us.”  From the start, Jesus, himself showed his radical hospitality and welcome to even those who might be outside the margins, who might be seen as “other,” and who were not “perfect” or “holy” or “cleaned up and ready for prime time.”  Jesus welcomed them though they were thieves, crooks and undesirables.  Jesus welcomed them not because they were good, but because he is good, and desired them to be with him.  Strangeness and wildness.

Strangeness and wildness continues in the story.  We hear that “Magi in the East” follow a star and end up visiting Jesus.  The Magi come from far off, perhaps India, perhaps present-day Pakistan, perhaps Babylon (Iraq), perhaps Assyria (Iran).  These Magi make the shepherds look normal and predictable.  The story does not tell us how many came to visit – but that they brought three gifts, but there could have been dozens of Magi.  Also, they weren’t kings – that’s a 20th century retelling (from the Hymn, actually).

Now these Magi were most likely strange and mystical figures who mostly spent their time attuning their senses to the ways of nature, to the stars, to the seasons, to animals, to whatever signs they might be able to notice.  They worked to be attuned to the workings of the Spirit.  Now, they wouldn’t have called it the Holy Spirit- the third person of the Trinity, for they were not Christian (well, no one was yet, of course, Jesus wasn’t even born); and they weren’t Jewish.  But still, they came.  These strange figures, living somewhere outside of the political structures of India, Babylon or Assyria, but who were possibly consulted from time to time, left their lands to visit this king.  They were, pretty much the definition of “other.”  They were not inside the community of Jews, they were not inside the Roman citizenry, and they were not identifiable as merchants, traders, soldiers, pilgrims, or visitors.  Strangeness and wildness.

And so, on this first Sunday of Epiphany, our story jumps over some key stories from Jesus’ childhood and moves right to his baptism.  However the story of strangeness and wildness continue.  The boy who was born outside in a barn to a mother and father who were away from home and unmarried had as his first visitors the shepherds – the thieves and crooks of their time, and the Magi – these strange mystical astronomers from other lands, lands that conjured up fear and concern in Jesus’ day, and in ours – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq. 

You know, when I was preparing to be a father the first time, there were many many guidebooks for mothers-to-be; understandably.  There must be a minor cottage industry of publishing these books.  However, there were only a few specifically for men.  My “research” centered on two, 1) Fatherhood, by Bill Cosby – which is full of wise statements and wisecracks about parenting.  The other 2) was something about fatherhood.  But the key thing I learned from the fatherhood book was that as a father, my role early on is to be the “lion” that protects the lioness and the young lion – I could be the gatekeeper for who would be able to visit the hospital room, and once we were home, who would visit us there.  I often think about Joseph, and the way that he must have had a very generous and hospitable style of welcome – risky, perhaps – as the shepherds and magi tromped in to visit the young child.

This child who was visited by these strange and wild people decides that to initiate his ministry, he would need to participate in something strange and wild.  You see, usually to receive absolution for ones sins, a good believer would go to the Temple – where a priest would offer absolution.  However, out at the River Jordan, some wild and strange things were going on.  Instead of relying on the Temple hierarchy, which had gotten itself tied up with the corruptions of Rome, people were going to the River.  At the River, John was dunking people in the water, and proclaiming them free from Sin.  For us, this sounds great – perhaps.  However, for people then, this would be heresy, and punishable by death.  But, this is where Jesus went.  To initiate his quite strange and wild adventure of ministry, he went to his cousin John and asked to be “cleaned up”…”washed up”….

The boy who was born outside of any house or Inn, and who was visited by strange shepherds and magi grew up into a man who would continue the theme of strangeness and wildness.  He would go to the places where pain was evident.  He would go to the people who were being forgotten.  He would call his disciples to follow him, to take up their cross, and to do as he did.  He went to the Jordan where he would “fulfill all righteousness” which means he would continue the process that God had laid out for Jesus to do.  He would be baptized and then would go to the desert where he would be tempted by the devil for 40 days – and where he would be cared for by angels. 

He would return to engage a remarkable and wonderful and hopeful and powerful life and ministry – one that was equally strange and wild, and one into which he called his disciples and into which he calls us.  You see (in contrast to what I said 4 weeks ago!) it is about What Would Jesus Do.  For Jesus would walk the strange and wild roads, and would go to the places where pain and grief dominate, where prisoners are lonely in their cells, where health fails, and where wealth cannot be found. Jesus would be, and is in Arizona today, helping to bind up lives cast asunder by a terrible event of violence.  Jesus would be, and is in Sudan today while the people vote about whether to split their country, with the risks of violence and civil war.  Jesus is there, and we should be too, making a witness of prayer and hope and peace, even in the midst of violence and fear.   Jesus walked the highways and byways of his time, offering hope and love, but also challenge, and offering a life of adventure – contending with the powers of his time, and the powers of our own.  

What Would Jesus Do.  Well, this boy born in a barn welcomed thieves and crooks, and strange mystical foreigners from wild places.  This boy became a man and set out for the Jordan River where he found that God’s reign extended beyond the boundaries of his time.  And so, we too are offered the opportunity to enter the adventure.  This is not a story that exists only in someone’s imagination.  This is not an imaginative tale of JRR Tolkien or …. Rowling.  This is not a movie cooked up by George Lucas or Ian Fleming.  This is a story that existed long ago, but exists today, and it is a story that we too enter into at our own baptism – followers of Jesus and fellow companions on the way.  It is a strange and wild story, and we are given the invitation to enter it together.  Shall we?

06 January 2011

T.S. Eliot reads Journey of the Magi

T.S. Eliot reads Journey of the Magi

The Journey of the Magi, T.S. Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, 
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the 
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and 
And running away, and wanting their
     liquor and women, 
And the night-fires going out, and the 
     lack of shelters, 
And the cities hostile and the towns 
And the villages dirty and charging high
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all 
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, 
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a 
     temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of 
With a running stream and a water-mill
     beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in 
     away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with 
     vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for 
     pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no imformation, and so
     we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment
     too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say)

All this was a long time ago, I 
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This:  were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, 
We had evidence and no doubt.  I had 
     seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; 
     this Birth was 
Hard and bitter agony for us, like 
     Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these
But no longer at ease here, in the old 
With an alien people clutching their 
I should be glad of another death.

Epiphany, by R.S. Thomas

Epiphany, by R.S. Thomas

Three kings? Not even one
any more. Royalty
has gone to ground, its journeyings
over. Who now will bring

gifts and to what place? In
the manger there are only the toys
and the tinsel. The child
has become a man. Far

off from his cross in the wrong
season he sits at table
with us with on his head
the fool’s cap of our paper money.

04 January 2011

The GOE is dead; Long live the GOE? from the Episcopal Cafe

This being the first full week of the new year, Episcopal Church senior seminarians are hunkering down to take the GOEs. Don't know what this means? Well, the GOEs are the General Ordination Exams which have been administered each year since 1972 by the by the General Board of Examining Chaplains to those who are in the ordination process for the priesthood.

If you want to raise up the blood pressure of your (otherwise docile and "pastoral") Episcopal priest, just ask their opinion about the GOE. Or, if you are courageous, ask them how they scored on the 7 areas of proficiency.

Some priest bloggers this week have offered their thoughts on the GOE, from Scott Gunn's testimony of support for them, to suggestions from "Oscar Late" for a decidedly Anglo-Catholic series of questions. What about you, what do you think of the GOEs? Are they an effective assessment of one's fitness for ministry? Are they merely an effective hazing ritual? Are they in need of revision? Are they just fine as they are, thank you?

Read it all HERE

03 January 2011

My GOE post from 2009....

I posted the following back in January of 2009...

"Blogging the GOE" "Should I stay or should I Go Now"

That's me, and Lester MacKenzie just after finishing our final GOE,
yes, we wore cassocks for the final exam
(I hit a 5 on that one, so must have brought me luck.)

There are two kinds of people this week, the kind who know what the GOEs are and the kind who have no earthly clue.  The GOEs are the "General Ordination Exams" that aspiring priests need to take over the course of about a week.  There are 7 canonical areas of the exams, and they are a bit of a stresser for just about everyone involved.  If you are a Harry Potter fan, they are something like the OWL exams, Ordinary Wizard Level, exams - I suppose, but without the bubbling potions and the fear that Voldemort may attack at any moment.

To be sure, the exams feel like a Dementor has come near, sucking the life and good will out of your very soul, but they are not really a hazing instrument, and are not meant to be an object of torture, to my knowledge no one at Guantanamo Bay was required to take them, and there is no proposal on the table for our President Elect Obama to do away with them as a torture device.

What I find extremely interesting this year, in the age of Facebook, blogging and the rest, are the number of blogs (and Facebook interactions) that have been devoted to the subject of the GOE.  There are calls to do away with it, there are pieces from some female clergy who point out that the dreaded GOE was started just about the time that women started to be ordained, there are people who argue that it is a necessary evil, others who complain that the administrators need to take a basic course in web design and hire someone who has more than a dial-up connection to the Internet.

From Episcopalians for Global Reconcilation, "This morning's GOE question--how would you answer it."

The "GOE Report" from "Rev-to-be-Mibi"

From "The Topmost Apple," a reflection on what questions crop up, HERE

From "The deacon's slant," on "God's Only Exam"

From "I will sing," "General Ordination Exams"

From "Telling Secrets," "GOEs" and "What you REALLY need to know for ministry!" a must read!

From "The Ultimage Word" ... "On the third day he rested"

From "Ember Days," "Twas the night before Ember"

A sermon that references the GOEs, HERE

From "OneJobOnly" "General Ordination Exams"

Some "Bible Brief" helps from VTS, referenced HERE

...and there are more...

Having been through the hazing process myself, I have a range of comments to make.  However, my main take on the GOEs is that I don't really understand why it is that bishops can't get some kind of consensus around how to use them or interpret them.   Some bishops and Standing Committees have told postulants (those working through the priestly process) that it does not matter what they get on the GOEs, that they will be ordained anyway.  Other bishops have rejected people for ordination based on failing (sorry, getting an unsatisfactory...or whatever) score on more than one (!) exam.   I realize that in many ways our House of Bishops is a kind of a house of equals, and the Presiding Bishop is not an Archbishop, not a Pontiff, who can make a ruling that all will follow (Lord knows we have learned this fact repeatedly about the human sexuality issue!), but I wonder whether the House of Bishops  should do some work to get some consensus around all of these GOE questions.  If not, it looks pretty lame (from the perspective of a seminarian) to look around when some people taking the exams are already transitional deacons, with a priestly ordination date, while other people are sweating bullets that they might fail (or whatever) one exam, only to have 3 years of discernment, 3 years of seminary education, and Lord knows what else, go down the drain over a mis-interpreted passage from scripture.

Do pray for all those who are working through their last couple of exams!  All will be well, and in all manner of things, all will be well.

And so, a little Youtube reflection, applied to the GOEs, .... "should I stay or should I go now"...

...just picture the "GOE" singing the tune..."should they stay or should they go"....probably some good work needs to be done on this question, don't you think?

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

A new "GOE"? - Thunderdome!

Bishops vs. Candidates for Ordination

To live, we must daily break the body

To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of creation.

When we do it knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament.

When we do it ignorantly, greedily, destructively, it is a desecration.

- Wendell Berry
The Gift of Good Land

02 January 2011

Lord it is night, from the New Zealand Prayer Book

Lord it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done.

Let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray.

The Tomten

01 January 2011

Thoughts for 2011

Some good thoughts, goals perhaps, for the new year...

"I am learning to shut up more in the presence of God." ~Archbishop Tutu

"Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee" 
~George Herbert, 1633.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
~Mahatma Gandhi