Friday, January 27, 2017


Jesus didn’t call the disciples to leave their nets
and follow him so they could become holier than thou,
or more enlightened than thou,
or learn 12 steps to highly effective living.
He called them to become fishers of people,
            to catch people up out of the sea of despair
where so many of us are drowning.
Jesus recruited his disciples into a mission “for others.”

World War II martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
            called Jesus “the man for others.”
Bonhoeffer then said, the Church is Christ’s Body,
so, “the Church is the Church only when it exists for others.”

We are not here to save our spiritual skins,
            stay out of Hell and go to Heaven when we die.
We are not here top off our spiritual gas tanks,
or to enjoy the music, architecture, and pageantry.
We are here to become the Body of Christ
ushering God’s Love-Kingdom into a hurting world.

Over a quarter century ago,
            I made a rule for myself.
Don’t preach about the Church.
People don’t come to hear about the Church.
I am going to break that rule today.
I don’t break it lightly.
So, I hope you’ll stay with me on this.
It’s important.

You have undertaken to be our Cathedral.
The most important part of a Cathedral’s mission
            is to model for all our congregations
the true way to be the Church.
Becoming the Cathedral is about being the Church for others
on steroids.

Your new role is to constantly remind our diocese,
            that we all have the same mission,
            we are all on the same team,
            we are all part of one body – the Body of Christ.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
            “Each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’ or ‘I belong to Cephas’
            or ‘I belong to Apollos’ . . . Has Christ been divided?
You are the Body of Christ and each of you is part of it.”
I want to paraphrase Paul.
            “Each of you says, ‘I belong to St. Paul’s’ or ‘I belong to St. Peter’s’
            or ‘I belong to Trinity’ . . .  Has Christ been divided?
            You are the Body of Christ and each of you is part of it.”

Bishops and Cathedrals are ligaments holding the diocese together.
The Cathedral serves the other congregations this way,
modeling life as a church for others.”

That mission flies in the face of spiritual consumerism.
Spiritual consumerism means: we want our spiritual needs met.
But here’s the Catch 22 of that desire.
We can never get our spiritual needs met
            as long as we’re trying to get our spiritual needs met.

The New Testament says it over and over and over.
The way to happiness, wholeness, and completion,
            the way to be born all the way
            is to forget about yourself in the love
of brother, sister, neighbor, and even enemy.
Mohandas Gandhi said,
            “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself
             in the service of others.”

Have you heard people say,
            “I stopped going to Church
            because I wasn’t getting anything out of it”?
If we go to Church to “get something out of it,”
            we may get something but it won’t be the gospel of Jesus Christ,
            because his gospel is about taking up our cross
            and living for the broken, bleeding world.

That can be Mother Theresa stuff, Martin Luther King stuff, or
Dietrich Bonhoeffer stuff.
But it isn’t usually that dramatic.

It’s more like holding a training event for other congregations,
            having something fun for Reno kids whose parents don’t belong here,
            hosting a music event for the community,
            or a blood drive or a 12-step group.
You are already doing a lot of this ministry.
That’s why you are the Cathedral.

But what’s this got to do with each of us individually?
Everything. It makes all the difference for who we are,
            not just at Church on Sunday but wherever we are all week.
Cleopatra’s Shadows is a novel about first century Egypt.
The Egyptian gods were a violent bunch,
and things had turned violent in the earthly palace of Queen Berenice.
The queen’s servant made the theological connection.
She said, “Bloody gods birth bloody people.”//

Nothing shapes our souls more than who we worship
            and the character of our worshiping community.
If our God is a genie in the bottle to support our personal ambitions,
and our Church is a spiritual filling station catering to our preferences,
            it makes us mean-spirited, hard-hearted, and small-spirited.
But when we are a Church for others
worshiping the man for others,
            something gracious seeps into our very souls,
            something at odds with the expectations and demands
                        of me-first consumerism.

Our hearts begin to beat in sync with the heartbeat of God,
            the God who loved the world so much he gave his only son
                        to save it.
We start to think with the mind of Christ,
            who, as Paul said,
            “though he was in the nature of God . . .
            emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant
            being made in human likeness . . . .”
“In human likeness” -- with all its vulnerabilities, frustrations, and sorrows.
Like Jesus, we join the human race.

That sets us free from our essential loneliness.
We call it Communion.
Albert Einstein said we belong to the universe
            but we are deluded into thinking we are separate.
That delusion is, in Einstein’s words,
            “a prison . . . restricting us to our personal desires
             and affection for a few persons nearest us.”
“Our task,” Einstein said, “must be to free ourselves from this prison
            by widening our circle of compassion
            to embrace all living creatures
            and the whole of creation in its beauty.”
That’s Communion.

Anglican priest John Donne explained Communion this way:
            “No man is an island
             Entire of itself
            Every man is a piece of the continent
            A part of the main . . . .
            I am involved in mankind . . . .”//

That’s what it means to be a Christian.
It is to be involved in humankind.

Jesus is God choosing to be involved in humankind.
A Cathedral,
            starting with the other congregations
            and the world right outside your walls,
            is involved in humankind.

Do you see what you get out of that?
Release from the prison of self.
Communion with all living creatures
            and creation in all its beauty.

 Jesus called it “abundant life.”