Shield Your Joy

Shield Your Joy

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:11

I’ve noticed something this September in my Sunday visitations, various gatherings with clergy and lay leaders throughout the diocese, one-on-one conversations, and the wondrous celebration of ordination and consecration of Bishop Paula Clark in the Diocese of Chicago–a palpable spirit of joy in our churches.

In some instances, the joy is exuberant, as was certainly the case in Chicago; in others, it is more subdued, but no less real. At times, the joy is a direct correlation of a happy event; at others, a welcome respite from grief or fatigue that remains, but no longer has the final word.

How to account for this joy, I find myself wondering. While it is not universal, there is a noticeable energy among us for which I give thanks.

For many, I suspect, the joy is the result of being together, and having the freedom to enjoy social events and simple human interactions that we once took for granted. Although Covid 19 is still present and causing many to suffer, we don’t have to live with the same levels of fear and extreme caution that defined our lives for nearly two years. Worshiping God with one another once again in our sacred spaces can bring us to tears.

Joy, we know, is not the same as optimism or cheerfulness. It goes deeper than happiness can reach, into the realm of meaning. It comes to us, often in unlikely times and places, giving us hope, even as we face real challenges and struggles. “Happiness,” wrote the late Frederick Buechner, “turns up more or less where you’d expect it to–a good marriage, a rewarding job, a pleasant vacation. Joy, on the other hand, is as notoriously unpredictable as the One who bequeaths it.”1

The Scriptures speak of being filled with joy, or of joy breaking forth, descending upon those who live in darkness or fear, underscoring the fact that joy is a gift. They also describe what is surely the most costly joy of all, that we can experience on the other side of what the 23rd Psalm describes as “the valley of the shadow of death.” Jesus spoke of the way of the cross as the way of life. It is the joy of having made it through the hardest things, forever marked by them, but with our hope and love intact.

That’s what we saw on Bishop Paula Clark’s face during her consecration on September 17th–the joy of having come through the loneliest valley to the other side. She bears the marks of suffering, yet she is still Paula, only wiser now, clearer about what is most important, and without fear, for she knows that nothing can separate her, or anyone of us, from the love of God revealed to us in Jesus.

I have seen that same joy on many of your faces here in the Diocese of Washington; I’ve felt it in our midst and as we continue on the path God has set before us. And I say to you what I said to Bishop Paula and the Diocese of Chicago on Saturday: shield your joy.

Protect, cherish, and nurture joy in one another. Make space for it. Where it is lacking, pray for the gift to be given you, so that it might continue to be, or become once again, a defining characteristic of your ministry. For without it, the church is a dreary place, and life itself becomes a routine of daily obligations. Remember that Jesus came–he lived, died, and rose from the dead–so that our joy may be complete.

The presence of joy in Christian community is, I daresay, one of the most accurate indicators of vitality and of what is possible in its future–far more so than size, money in the bank, or programmatic sophistication. That joy is Jesus’ promise, and gift. Don’t miss out on the chance to experience and share it in your congregation.

Link to Sermon for the Consecration and Ordination of the Rt. Rev. Paula Clark, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago English | Español

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13. Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABCs, (HarperOne, 1993) 57-8.

Protege Tu Alegría

Protege Tu Alegría

Estas cosas les he hablado, para que mi gozo esté en ustedes, y su gozo sea completo.
Juan 15:11

He notado algo este mes de septiembre en mis visitas dominicales, en varias reuniones con el clero y los líderes laicos de toda la diócesis, en conversaciones individuales y en la maravillosa celebración de la ordenación y consagración de la Obispa Paula Clark en la Diócesis de Chicago – un espíritu palpable de alegría en nuestras iglesias.

En algunos casos, la alegría es exuberante, como fue ciertamente el caso en Chicago; en otros, es más tenue, pero no menos real. A veces, la alegría es una correlación directa de un acontecimiento feliz; en otras, un bienvenido respiro de la pena o la fatiga que permanece, pero que ya no tiene la última palabra.

Me pregunto cómo explicar esta alegría. Aunque no es universal, hay una energía notable entre nosotros por la cual doy las gracias.

Para muchos, sospecho, la alegría es el resultado de estar juntos, y de tener la libertad de disfrutar de eventos sociales y de simples interacciones humanas que antes dábamos por sentadas. Aunque el Covid 19 sigue presente y hace sufrir a muchos, no tenemos que vivir con los mismos niveles de miedo y extrema precaución que definieron nuestras vidas durante casi dos años. Adorar a Dios juntos una vez más en nuestros espacios sagrados puede hacernos llorar.

La alegría, lo sabemos, no es lo mismo que el optimismo o la felicidad. Va más allá de lo que la felicidad puede alcanzar, al ámbito del significado. Viene a nosotros, a menudo en momentos y lugares improbables, dándonos esperanza, incluso cuando nos enfrentamos a retos y luchas reales. “La felicidad”, escribió el difunto Frederick Buechner, “aparece más o menos donde uno espera que suceda: un buen matrimonio, un trabajo gratificante, unas vacaciones agradables. La alegría, en cambio, es tan notoriamente impredecible como Aquel que la da”.

Las Escrituras hablan de estar llenos de alegría, o de que la alegría irrumpe, descendiendo sobre los que viven en la oscuridad o el miedo, subrayando el hecho de que la alegría es un don. También describen lo que seguramente es la alegría más costosa de todas, la que podemos experimentar al otro lado de lo que el Salmo 23 describe como “el valle de sombra de muerte”. Jesús habló del camino de la cruz como el camino de la vida. Es la alegría de haber superado las cosas más duras, marcadas para siempre por ellas, pero con nuestra esperanza y nuestro amor intactos.

Eso es lo que vimos en el rostro de la Obispa Paula Clark durante su consagración el 17 de septiembre: la alegría de haber llegado al otro lado del valle más solitario. Lleva las marcas del sufrimiento, pero sigue siendo Paula, sólo que ahora es más sabia, tiene más claro lo que es más importante, y no tiene miedo, porque sabe que nada puede separarla, ni a ella ni a ninguno de nosotros, del amor de Dios que se nos ha revelado en Jesús.

He visto esa misma alegría en los rostros de muchos de ustedes aquí en la Diócesis de Washington; la he sentido en medio de nosotros y mientras continuamos en el camino que Dios ha puesto ante nosotros. Y les digo lo que le dije a la Obispa Paula y a la Diócesis de Chicago el sábado: protejan su alegría.

Protejan, cuiden y alimenten la alegría de los demás. Hagan espacio para ella. Donde falte, oren para que se les conceda el don, para que siga siendo, o vuelva a ser, una característica definitoria de su ministerio. Sin la alegría, la iglesia es un lugar aburrido, y la vida misma se convierte en una rutina de obligaciones diarias. Pero Jesús vino – vivió, murió y resucitó – para que nuestra alegría sea completa.

La presencia de la alegría en la comunidad cristiana es, me atrevo a decir, uno de los indicadores más precisos de la vitalidad y de lo que es posible en su futuro, mucho más que el tamaño, el dinero en el banco o la sofisticación programática. Esa alegría es la promesa y el regalo de Jesús. No pierdas la oportunidad de experimentarla y compartirla en tu congregación.

Enlace al sermón para la Consagración y Ordenación de la Reverenda Paula Clark, Obispa de la Diócesis Episcopal de Chicago Español | Inglés

The Story About Money That’s Not About Money

The Story About Money That’s Not About Money

Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Luke 16:1-13

Good morning, friends of Ascension and St. Agnes church! I’m thrilled to be in worship with you once again, to greet old friends and to meet those of you who have made Ascension and St Agnes your spiritual home in the time since my last visit. A special welcome to anyone who is a guest with us today. We are glad you are here and pray that through this service God speaks to you in a powerful way.

Today Jesus’ words, taken from the Gospel of Luke, cause us to consider our relationship to money–the money we earn, the money we save, the money we spend, and the money we give away.

Jesus spoke a lot about money, quite apart from the rather curious story about the rich man’s manager that we’re just heard. He spoke so often about having a right relationship to money and possessions that we have no choice but to conclude that for Christians, how we relate to whatever wealth we have is of great spiritual concern. For how we earn, save, spend and share our money reveals core values and life priorities. “Where your treasure is,” Jesus said in another place, “there your heart will be also.”

Today’s text leaves us with another of Jesus’ rather famous one liners: “You can’t serve both God and wealth.” My first thought whenever I read these words is that none of us wants to serve wealth. We value money because of how it can serve us, free us from worry or want, and allows us to live in the ways we like.

In important ways money does free us. If you can’t afford health care, or new clothes for school or work; if you have to decide which bills to pay with a limited paycheck, or don’t feel welcome in a certain social setting because you can’t afford what others take for granted; or worse, if you can’t feed your family and or secure adequate shelter, or lose sleep at night wondering how you will pay for retirement, you know some of the ways that poverty can imprison us. We want money to free us from that aching worry or feeling that we don’t measure up.

Jesus understands what we seek in our possessions and in our wealth or the pursuit of it. But he also loves us enough to speak the truth. Be careful with money, he says, for it can also trap you. It can seduce you into believing that it’s the most important thing, and it’s not. The most important things can’t be bought or sold; they can only be given and received.

For all that Jesus spoke of wealth, he didn’t really care about it when he walked this earth, and he doesn’t care about our wealth. He doesn’t care–in the sense of valuing us more or less–if we are rich, poor, or somewhere in between. Jesus doesn’t judge us according to our balance statements or credit card debt. Unlike practically everyone else, Jesus doesn’t want our money. He wants a relationship with us. All this to say that money is not important to him, except in the ways it affects our experience of life. He cares about that a lot.

There were people in Jesus’ day, as there are in ours, who were trampled on, ruined by economic exploitation. Jesus cares when people are trampled upon. He cares because such cruelty deprives people of life. Likewise he cares when we exploit others, consciously or unconsciously, because it diminishes us as it dehumanizes them. I can’t say that I know Jesus’ opinion of global capitalism, but I do know this: he cares about the people who make our clothes in Malaysia, pick our coffee in Guatemala and lettuce in California, and produce in China the gazillion things we buy at Target. He cares about the people who wash our sheets when we stay at hotels and who pick up our garbage each week and who try to sell us things on the telephone or at our door. He cares about the migrants, some of whom have traveled thousands of miles from their home to reach our southern border, and are now being bussed to cities like Washington, DC, arriving at our doors with nothing. Jesus cares for all who are at the bottom of our economic pyramid as much as he cares about anyone else. He asks that we care, too, and that we do our best to hold those at the top accountable for the decisions they make affecting the lives of millions.

Jesus cares about us when we’re caught in the deadening spiral of anxiety about money, when we max out our credit cards or worry about an impending lay-off and are ashamed to talk about it. Jesus wants us to be free. But the path to freedom, he says, isn’t necessarily by getting more. More money doesn’t always buy more freedom. Because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, poverty is a subjective experience. The richer we become, the poorer we can feel, as our tastes and expectations change, and particularly when our material wealth distances us from true wealth, not defined in possessions but rather depth of being, quality of relationships, and generosity of spirit. If we use our material wealth to serve true wealth, Jesus says, then our money becomes an instrument of grace. But if it distances us from what matters most, money becomes our master and we its slave.

More than anything, Jesus cares about the quality of our lives. The only way I can make sense of the comical scenario in the story of the rich man’s manager is to conclude that it’s not a story about money. It’s about life and what we do with what we’re given. Use what you have for good, Jesus says. Use what happens to you, your life circumstances, and your resources, he tells us, no matter how much or little you’ve got and how you feel about it. Use everything about your life, for good. Be creative. Be persistent. Be crafty if you must. You’ve been entrusted with one messy, imperfect, glorious life. Stop being squeamish and jump in, headfirst.

A friend of mine married into a very wealthy family. While she seemed to enjoy the luxury of her husband’s wealth, she found herself resenting it for how it defined her and for many years she kept it all at arm’s length. She complained about it quite a lot, having no idea how ridiculous she sounded to those of us not burdened with multi-million dollar trust funds. To be fair, her pain was real. Who among us would want to be defined by someone else’s money? It’s not my money, she would say, it’s not my family. Finally, when she was in her fifties, she realized that she had imprisoned herself in a veneer of passivity and learned helplessness. She decided it was time to take the reins of her life. One way she did that was join the leadership circle of the family’s foundation and there she helped set the course for its future. It is now one of the important sources of funding for organizations committed to social justice in the nation, and her mark on it is everywhere.

I realize that most of us can’t even imagine what living with that kind of wealth would be like. But no matter where we are on the spectrum of riches, we are surely more blessed than we realize, and at the same time, there may be a lot about our lives that we wish we could change. We may find ourselves in situations that frustrate or hurt us; or disappointed by the attributes we wished we had but don’t. We see others who seem to walk through life with more grace and joy and we wonder, why can’t it be like that for us?

But that, in the end, is a false question, in that it leads nowhere. The real question is, what are we going to do with what we have? What we have may not be what we want and it may seem paltry compared to what we see others enjoy, but so what? As Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in little is also faithful in much.”

Our Jewish friends are about to celebrate the holiest days of their faith, beginning with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year on September 25-27 and followed by Yom Kippur, a solemn day of self-reflection and atonement for sin on October 4. Years ago I read a newspaper article by a journalist named Gail Rosenblum entitled “A Question for the Jewish New Year” with the byline: “How do we know, finally, whether we’re living the good life?”1

“I once knew a man,” the article began, “who confessed that he read the obituaries every day to make sure he wasn’t in them.” “I confess that I also find my way to the obituaries every day,” Rosenblum continued, “but not for the same reason. I go because Entertainment Weekly only gets me halfway to the answer I seek. I’m pretty clear on how the rich and famous choose to spend their time and trust funds, but the obituary pages are even richer. There, in black and white, is our society succinctly summarized: the workaholics and tireless volunteers, the billionaires and custodians, the blue-ribbon bakers and golf fanatics. Read the sweet tributes–‘she loved her library card and a good game of Scrabble’–and the tragedies that some did not escape: ‘She was 24…she died after a long and courageous battle with cancer, ALS, or depression.’ Or, ‘he died suddenly.’”

“Who among them had lived the better life?” Rosenblum wondered, “The right life? Who was happier?” It was an impossible question to answer, she realized. Yet it haunted her, particularly when it was her task to pick eight outstanding members of the community who would be elevated from paid obituary to recipient of a more fully reported story. “How could I choose?” she asked. “It felt like playing God.” In the end, she was spared the task. But a question lingered for her: “What about me? Would my life make the cut? And if so, what would I want written?”

What, indeed. One thing is for certain: when assessing the quality of our lives–how well we live and how happy we are–what matters is how we have embraced our life and given of ourselves for others. How we use our money figures into the equation, but only as it relates to the most important question of all: how well are we living the one life we have to live? Whoever is faithful in little is also faithful in much.

So let me leave you with a few questions to ponder, and with an offer, should you be interested.

  • How would you describe your relationship to money?
  • Do you have a financial plan–a way of managing your money? If so, how is it working for you? If not, would you like to explore the possibility of establishing one?

For all of us living in a capitalist, consumer-driven society, intentionally thinking ahead and making informed and generous choices is the wise thing to do. Having a plan ensures that our money serves us and not the other way around. If you don’t have a plan–or a satisfying one–or if money is a real source of anxiety for you, I invite you to talk about it with someone who could help. There are many such people. Speak or write to Fr. Dominique or to me and we’ll create such a space for conversation and support, without judgment. Trust me, you are not alone. And you’ll be glad you did.

  • And the final question: when it’s time for your obituary to be written, what do you hope that people will say about you?

I’d love to pray for us.

Gracious God, I have attempted to interpret Jesus’ words about the distinction between serving wealth and serving you; of what it means to be faithful with what has been entrusted to us, and how to live with the kind of freedom you long for us all.

I pray now for all of us, asking that you speak to our hearts with the word that we each need to hear, to be assured of your love and your desire that we can truly live the best possible version of our lives.

Thank you for all that you have entrusted to us–materially, relationally, and spiritually. Help us all to use the many gifts entrusted to us wisely and generously, and to live well. In your name, I pray. Amen.

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1Gail Rosenblum, “A Question for the Jewish New Year,” in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week there was an article by Gail Rosenblum entitled, “A Question for the Jewish New Year” September 15, 2004, p. E-1.

Sermón para la Consagración y Ordenación de la Reverenda Paula Clark, Obispa de la Diócesis Episcopal de Chicago

Sermón para la Consagración y Ordenación de la Reverenda Paula Clark, Obispa de la Diócesis Episcopal de Chicago

El espíritu del Señor está sobre mí…
Isaías 61:1-4

¡Cante al SEÑOR toda la tierra! 
Sirvan al SEÑOR con alegría; vengan cantando a su presencia.
Salmo 100:1-4

Estoy convencido de que nada podrá separarnos del amor de Dios: ni la muerte, ni la vida, ni los ángeles, ni los poderes y fuerzas espirituales, ni lo presente, ni lo futuro, ni lo más alto, ni lo más profundo, ni ninguna otra de las cosas creadas por Dios. ¡Nada podrá separarnos del amor que Dios nos ha mostrado en Cristo Jesús nuestro Señor!
Romanos 8:18-39

Jesús fue a Nazaret, el pueblo donde se había criado. El sábado entró en la sinagoga, como era su costumbre, y se puso de pie para leer las Escrituras. Le dieron a leer el libro del profeta Isaías, y al abrirlo encontró el lugar donde estaba escrito: ‘El Espíritu del Señor está sobre mí, porque me ha consagrado para llevar la buena noticia a los pobres…’
Lucas 4:14-20

Dios bondadoso y misericordioso, gracias por el dulce espíritu de este lugar, y por el regalo de este día, que hemos esperado durante mucho tiempo. En tu nombre, Creador, Cristo y Espíritu, Amén.

Primero, permítanme saludar a todos los de habla español presentes o participando en línea. Me alegro que hay traducción simultánea, pero tenía que decir algo en el idioma del cielo, expresando la alegría que todos sentimos hoy. Lo que sigue es una canción de amor y admiración para su nueva obispa.

Es un honor dar voz a nuestra alegría colectiva, y dirigirme a ti, mi amiga, hermana en Cristo, y futura Obispa Paula Clark; y a la amorosa familia de Paula y a su gran círculo de amigos, a los fieles seguidores de Jesús de esta gran diócesis, a nuestro Obispo Presidente y a los obispos colegas; y a todos los que se han reunido desde lejos para estar aquí.

Mientras estamos aquí, está a punto de comenzar otra reunión de igual alegría en la Diócesis Episcopal de Utah, durante la cual una de las amigas y colegas más cercanas de Paula, Phyllis Ann Spiegel, será consagrada y ordenada obispa. Phyllis me dijo que iba a ver este servicio en línea hasta que comience la procesión en Salt Lake City. Así que, únanse a mí para saludar a la obispa electa Spiegel y expresar nuestro amor y apoyo a ella y a la Diócesis de Utah.

Es un buen día para nuestra iglesia.

Uno de los grandes maestros en el arte de la predicación, el difunto Fred Craddock, hizo una vez la observación de que a veces un predicador habla a una congregación y otras veces para una congregación. Lo que tengo que decir es un poco de ambas cosas, y me atrevo a decir que lo que diré ya ustedes lo saben.

Estar en la presencia de Paula Clark y verla en acción es como recibir una clase magistral de liderazgo cristiano. Eso era cierto antes de todo lo ocurrido en los últimos dieciocho meses, y lo es aún más ahora. Me recuerda a un hombre que conocí en Minnesota y que se llamaba Rod. Cuando nos íbamos a Washington DC, Paul y yo fuimos a despedirnos. Rod se estaba muriendo, y sabíamos que esa sería nuestra última conversación a este lado de Jordania. Después de expresarle su alegría por mi nueva vocación y por todas las aventuras que nos esperaban, y de decirle lo mucho que significaba para nosotros, dijo: “Voy a vivir estos últimos días como si todo lo que decimos el domingo fuera cierto. Ahora ve y vive tu vida de la misma manera. ”

Paula, has vivido los últimos dieciocho meses como si todo lo que proclamamos como seguidores de Jesús fuera cierto, y no sólo de forma abstracta, sino que podemos confiar y aferrarnos a ello, como diría tu héroe Howard Thurman, “cuando estamos entre la espada y la pared”. Nos has mostrado que Jesús hablaba en serio cuando decía que el camino de la cruz es el camino de la vida.

Has caminado por el valle de sombra de la muerte. Y por la gracia de Dios, y con el amor y el apoyo de muchos, y a través de tu propio sudor y lágrimas, has salido al otro lado. Así que sabes, no sólo en tu cabeza, sino en tus huesos que nada puede separarte, a ti ni a ninguno de nosotros, del amor de Dios en Jesús. Y sabiendo eso, y habiendo atravesado intacta el valle con tu alegría, esperanza y amor por Dios, por el prójimo y por ti misma, no tienes miedo.

Cuando cualquiera de nosotros logra atravesar el valle, la primera constatación impresionante es que todavía estamos aquí. Y que seguimos siendo la misma persona que éramos antes de entrar, pero más aún, habiendo sido refinados por el fuego.

Ahora bien, Paula sería la primera en reconocer que el costo del valle es alto, y todos sabemos que no todo el mundo lo consigue, y algunos que lo logran son una sombra de su antiguo yo. Incluso para aquellos que tienen una historia de resurrección que contar, el valle de sombra de muerte sigue siendo la muerte. Al igual que nuestro antepasado bíblico Jacob, que caminó siempre cojeando después de su larga noche de lucha con un ángel, atravesar el valle te marca, física y emocionalmente. No es una experiencia que le desees a nadie que ames, ni te gustaría volver a pasar por ella.

Pero, Paula, habiendo pasado por ello, y como Jacob, no dejándolo ir hasta que recibiste su bendición, eres más fuerte -¿es esa la palabra?- más agradecida, con los pies en la tierra, en sintonía? No sé si hay una palabra que capte el cambio, porque, como he dicho, sigues siendo tú, pero hasta tu esencia, más clara, quizá.

Tal vez el salmista lo dijo mejor: habiendo caminado por el valle de sombra de muerte, el miedo ya no tiene poder sobre ti, y ciertamente no el miedo a las cosas menores.

Para ser claros, desde que conozco a Paula, ella siempre ha sido intrépida, sin duda porque este no era su primer viaje a través del valle. Nunca he sabido que tuviera miedo a la incomodidad, ni a la suya ni a la de los demás. Porque sabe que la mayoría de las cosas que merecen la pena en la vida -como el crecimiento espiritual, la madurez personal, el amor en acción, como decía Dostevesky, en comparación con el amor en los sueños, los logros que nos satisfacen y nos deleitan, y ciertamente la búsqueda de la justicia y la transformación social- la búsqueda de estas cosas buenas implica, como mínimo, aceptar alguna incomodidad, y mucho más probablemente, lo que el Dr. King llamaba el sufrimiento redentor.

Por si no lo han notado, Paula Clark tiene una gran tolerancia a la incomodidad y al sufrimiento, tanto para ella como para los que ama, no por el sufrimiento en sí, sino al servicio del bien, y porque sabe que el camino de la cruz es el camino de la vida.

Por eso, si te diriges a Paula para expresarle tu descontento o tu insatisfacción con algo que está ocurriendo en la Iglesia, aunque ella te escuchará con un oído agudo y compasivo, se apresurará a corregir el rumbo si le parece que es lo mejor, y reconocerá si ha cometido un error, el hecho de que estés descontento, o -Dios no lo quiera- incómodo, no invocará necesariamente la respuesta que deseas. Porque sabe que la cruz es el camino de la vida. Nuestra incomodidad forma parte del camino de la transformación.

Ahora bien, por supuesto que no encontrarás en Paula mayor defensor contra el dolor de la injusticia, las frustraciones de la burocracia, o la inmadurez mezquina y la mezquindad casual de los demás. Pero incluso entonces, si te sientes hundido en el seductor papel de víctima, ella no puede saltar a tu rescate, porque no puede ahorrarte el costo de tomar la cruz que es tuya, más de lo que los que la aman pueden ahorrarle el costo de tomar la suya.

En nuestros años de ministerio juntas, me asombraba la capacidad de Paula de no precipitarse y tratar de arreglar las cosas para los demás. Siempre estaba presente, empática, la primera en arremangarse y ayudar, pero sin el tipo de energía ansiosa de un líder, que es, como describe el apóstol Pablo, “zarandeado por todo viento”. Esta es una de las razones por las que todas las personas de nuestro equipo de trabajo a las que Paula supervisaba te dirán que era la mejor jefa que habían tenido.

Otra cualidad de Paula que ha sido destilada y refinada por la enfermedad, el largo camino de la recuperación y el dolor, es su conciencia del tiempo relativamente corto que tiene en este planeta. Esa conciencia tiene el efecto de aclarar las prioridades.

Paula es muy consciente de que ella y la Diócesis de Chicago tienen un trabajo importante que hacer, y que no tienen todo el tiempo del mundo. Como escribió en la hermosa carta que adorna la portada de nuestros boletines, Paula está planeando un largo episcopado. Pero incluso los episcopados más largos no lo son tanto, y todos los obispos tienen la tentación de dedicar un tiempo desmesurado a un trabajo que puede ser importante, pero que en última instancia no es fructífero. Esa tentación, creo, es la estrategia más exitosa del Maligno para mantener a la Iglesia Episcopal pequeña y, como resultado, menos efectiva e impactante de lo que podríamos ser. Lo cual es una vergüenza y, me atrevo a decir, un pecado.

Paula también ha sido una estudiante de liderazgo durante toda su vida, observando a los líderes a su alrededor y aprendiendo de su ejemplo y de sus errores. Así, llega a su episcopado experimentada y sabia. Lo que significa que lo que el Espíritu está a punto de hacer en y a través de la imposición de manos es llevar a una mayor fructificación y poder lo que ha sido cierto en su liderazgo durante algún tiempo.

Esta combinación de capacidad de liderazgo y conciencia del tiempo es de crucial importancia en este momento de la vida de nuestra iglesia. Para todos los que residimos en este planeta, para los que amamos a la Iglesia Episcopal, y que, a pesar de los muchos pecados históricos y actuales de nuestra iglesia, hemos encontrado una forma de seguir a Jesús que nos ha salvado; nosotros que anhelamos que nuestras comunidades de fe sean lugares convincentes de vida y práctica cristiana no sólo para nosotros sino para nuestros hijos y nietos, bueno, basta con decir que tenemos que estar en el trabajo de cambio adaptativo, y el tiempo es esencial.

Para complicar este proceso de transformación, somos una iglesia bendecida con un número desproporcionado de visionarios y profetas, lo cual es realmente una de las cosas más inspiradoras que tenemos. Sin embargo, el lado sombrío de toda nuestra pasión es una evaluación lamentablemente inexacta de nuestra capacidad para llevar a cabo las muchas visiones que Dios nos ha dado. Debido a que anhelamos convertirnos en la iglesia inspiradora, visionaria y profética de nuestros sueños, tendemos a comprometernos en exceso, a saltar de una causa apremiante a otra, a establecer objetivos que no podemos cumplir y luego, si no tenemos cuidado, a caer en patrones de cinismo y desesperación de que cualquier cambio duradero en un sistema tan defectuoso como la iglesia sea siquiera posible.

Lo que necesitamos, además de profetas y visionarios, son creadores de capacidad, aquellos que se dedican a la lenta labor, entre bastidores y lejos de ser glamorosa, de la formación de la fe, el desarrollo del liderazgo, la revitalización de la comunidad y la buena administración de los valiosos recursos.

Bendita seas, Diócesis de Chicago, porque Paula Clark es tanto una visionaria como una creadora de capacidades, siempre lo ha sido. Tiene un agudo sentido de la prioridad, lo que significa que puede decir que no a cosas más a menudo de lo que te gustaría, no porque no sean importantes, sino porque no son, en su opinión, o en la de la comprensión colectivamente discernida de la diócesis, las cosas más importantes en las que centrar sus energías en ese momento. Pero cuando diga que sí, cuidado con el mundo, porque su sí será firme y apasionado, claro y centrado. Mantendrá el rumbo en la realización de la visión que Dios ha puesto en sus corazones, haciendo que todos los que la rodean sean responsables de los más altos estándares evangélicos, como ella misma lo es.

Paula también te amará y te apoyará de manera que saques lo mejor de ti. Debido a que no tiene miedo de probar cosas y fracasar, y de aprender del fracaso, es rápida para perdonar y animar a los que la rodean cuando fallamos. Créeme, porque he fracasado estrepitosamente en la órbita de Paula, y ella siempre ha sido la primera en ayudarme a levantarme, a aprender lo que tenía que aprender y a seguir adelante.

Una última cosa que me gustaría decir sobre ti, Paula, que, de nuevo, me doy cuenta de que es obvia, pero que es importante señalar dado el tiempo que ha pasado desde tu elección y todo lo que has pasado para llegar aquí, y es que estás llamada por Dios a este trabajo, en esta diócesis.

Para ser sincera, hice todo lo posible para convencer a Paula de que seguir siendo canóniga del Ordinario en la diócesis de Washington sería más divertido que ser obispa. Fue egoísta, lo sé, pero seguramente puedes entender por qué no queríamos perderla. Sin embargo, a medida que el proceso se desarrollaba, el llamado era tan clara, tanto por un sentido interno de lo que el Espíritu Santo estaba despertando en ella como por lo que ustedes, como Diócesis de Chicago, sentían que eran las cualidades esenciales que necesitaban en su próximo obispo.

Luego, cuando Paula enfermó y se enfrentó a un camino tan largo de recuperación, algunos de nosotros queríamos que supiera que no tenía que hacer esto, que podía alejarse con gracia, y que todos lo entenderían. Pero no. Luego, cuando el cáncer de su esposo Andrew salió a la luz y murió, nos preguntamos si el dolor, por fin, la haría alejarse. ¿Cuánto puede aguantar un corazón? Pero Paula nunca vaciló, ni una sola vez. Paula sabe cómo dejar ir cuando sabe que eso es lo mejor, y nunca los dejó ir a ustedes, Diócesis de Chicago, ni al llamado que Dios puso en su corazón.

Ese llamado tiene dos caras. En nombre de toda la Iglesia, me gustaría expresar nuestro agradecimiento y admiración colectivos a los líderes de la Diócesis de Chicago. Su fidelidad, su esfuerzo sacrificado y la claridad de que Paula iba a ser consagrada, de hecho, como su obispa, fue una inspiración para nosotros. Gracias también a los colegas de las diócesis vecinas que se apresuraron a intervenir y ofrecer ayuda; al Obispo Presidente y a los miembros de su equipo por su orientación y apoyo; y una palabra especial de agradecimiento para la Obispa Chilton Knudsen. Nosotros tampoco queríamos que dejaras la Diócesis de Washington, pero también tenías claro que este era el llamado de Dios, una oportunidad para servir a tu diócesis de origen, y en apoyo a Paula, cuyas cualidades de liderazgo defendiste y apoyaste durante mucho tiempo.

Amigos, tienen en sus manos un boletín de adoración que, junto con los talentosos liturgistas y músicos que nos dirigen, Paula ha elaborado de principio a fin. Cada oración, cada pasaje de la Escritura, las selecciones musicales revelan algo de su corazón, la intimidad de su vida de oración y su compromiso con el camino de amor y justicia de Jesús en este mundo. Mantén este boletín cerca. Ponlo cerca del lugar donde rezas, no sólo como un recuerdo de este día, sino como una fuente de consuelo e inspiración. Porque a través de sus páginas brilla otra cualidad espiritual que Paula aporta a todo lo que hace, que también es válida para esta diócesis y que seguramente será una característica permanente de sus años de ministerio juntos, y esa cualidad es la alegría.

Paula y yo a veces nos poníamos en contacto después de nuestras respectivas visitas dominicales por la diócesis y reflexionábamos sobre lo que llamábamos “el cociente de alegría”. ¿Cuán alta era la alegría en el servicio de adoración? Se convirtió en un diagnóstico crítico para nosotros a la hora de trabajar con el clero y las congregaciones, ya que la presencia o ausencia relativa de alegría revelaba mucho de lo que era o no era posible en ese lugar, mucho más que el tamaño o el presupuesto o la sofisticación de la programación. Es un diagnóstico revelador para todos nosotros en nuestra vida y testimonio cristianos.

Mi última palabra es una exhortación y una oración: protege tu alegría. Protejan, cuiden y alimenten la alegría de los demás. Hagan espacio para ella. Donde falte, oren para que se les conceda el don, para que siga siendo, o vuelva a ser, una característica definitoria de su ministerio. Sin la alegría, la iglesia es un lugar aburrido, y la vida misma se convierte en una rutina de obligaciones diarias. Pero Jesús vino -vivió, murió y resucitó- para que nuestra alegría sea completa.

El Espíritu del Señor está sobre ti, Paula Clark.
El Espíritu del Señor está sobre ti, Diócesis de Chicago.
Vive como si todo lo que estamos diciendo aquí en el servicio fuera cierto, porque lo es.
Nada puede separarte del amor de Dios revelado en Jesús.
Aquel que te ha llamado es fiel, y alabado sea Dios, tú también lo eres.

Amén.

Sermon for the Consecration and Ordination of the Rt. Rev. Paula Clark, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

Sermon for the Consecration and Ordination of the Rt. Rev. Paula Clark, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me. . .
Isaiah 61:1-4

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; 
serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song.
Psalm 100: 1-4

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:18-39

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. . .
Luke 4:14-20

Loving and gracious God, thank you for the sweet spirit in this place, and for the gift of this day, for which we have long been waiting. In your name, Creator, Christ, and Spirit, Amen.

Primero, permítanme saludar a todos los de habla espanol presentes o participando online. Me alegro que haya traducción simultánea, pero tenía que decir algo en el idioma del cielo, expresando la alegría que todos sentimos hoy. Lo que sigue es una canción de amor y admiración para su nueva obispa.

It is an honor to give voice to our collective joy, and to speak to you, my friend, sister in Christ, and soon-to-be Bishop Paula Clark; and to Paula’s loving family and great circle of friends, the faithful Jesus followers of this great diocese, our Presiding Bishop and colleague bishops; and all those who have gathered from far and wide to be here.

While we are here, there is another gathering of equal joy about to begin in the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, during which one of Paula’s closest friends and colleagues, Phyllis Ann Spiegel, will be consecrated and ordained bishop. Phyllis told me that she was going to watch this service online until the procession in Salt Lake City begins. So will you join me in greeting Bishop-elect Spiegel and expressing our love and support for her and the Diocese of Utah?

It is a good day for our church.

One of the great teachers on the art of preaching, the late Fred Craddock, once made the observation that sometimes a preacher speaks to a congregation and at other times for a congregation. What is on my heart to say is a bit of both, and all of it, I daresay, you already know.

Being in the presence of Paula Clark and watching her in action is like taking a master class in Christian leadership. That was true before all that transpired in the last eighteen months, and it is even more so now. I am reminded of a man I once knew in Minnesota whose name was Rod. As we were leaving for Washington, DC, Paul and I went to say our goodbyes. Rod was dying, and we knew that this would be our last conversation on this side of Jordan. After expressing his delight in my new vocation and all the adventures that were waiting for us, and I told him how much he meant to us, he said, “I am going to live these last days as if everything we say on Sunday is true. Now go and live your life in the same way.”

Paula, you have lived the last eighteen months as if everything we proclaim as followers of Jesus is true, and not merely in an abstract way, but rather one that we can trust and cling to when, as your hero Howard Thurman would say, “our backs are against the wall.” You have shown us that Jesus meant it when he said that the way of the cross is the way of life.

You have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. And by God’s grace, and with the love and support of many, and through your own sweat and tears, you have come out on the other side. So you know, not just in your head, but in your bones that nothing can separate you, or any of us, from the love of God in Jesus. And knowing that, and having made it through the valley with your joy, hope, and love for God, neighbor, and self intact, you are fearless.

When any of us make it through the valley, the first stunning realization is that we’re still here. And that we’re still the same person we were before we entered, but more so, having been refined by fire.

Now Paula would be the first to acknowledge that the valley’s cost is high, and we all know that not everyone makes it, and some that do are a shadow of their former selves through no fault of their own. Even for those who have a resurrection story to tell, the valley of the shadow of death is still death. As for our biblical forebear Jacob, who forever walked with a limp after his long night of wrestling with an angel, going through the valley marks you, physically and emotionally. It’s not an experience you wish on anyone you love, nor would relish going through again.

But Paula, having gone through it, and like Jacob, not letting go until you received its blessing, you are stronger–is that the word?–wiser? more grateful, grounded, attuned? I don’t know if there is one word that captures the change, because as I said, you’re still you, but down to your essence–clearer, maybe.

Perhaps the psalmist said it best–having walked through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no longer has power over you, and certainly not fear of lesser things.

To be clear, for as long as I’ve known Paula, she’s always been fearless, no doubt because this was not her first journey through the valley. I have never known her to be afraid of discomfort–her own or anyone else’s. Because she knows that most things worth pursuing in life–such as spiritual growth, personal maturity, love in action, as Dostoevsky said, as compared to love in dreams, accomplishments that satisfy and delight us, and certainly the pursuit of justice and social transformation–the pursuit of these good things involves at the very least accepting some discomfort, and far more likely, what Dr. King called redemptive suffering.

If you haven’t noticed, Paula Clark has a high tolerance for discomfort and suffering, both for herself and for those she loves–not for suffering’s sake, but in the service of the good, and because she knows that the way of the cross is the way of life.

So should you come to Paula to express your unhappiness or dissatisfaction with something that’s happening in the church, while she will listen to you with a keen and compassionate ear, be quick to make course corrections if that seems best, and acknowledge if she has made a mistake, the fact that you are unhappy, or–God forbid–uncomfortable will not necessarily invoke the response that you want. Because she knows that the cross is the way of life. Our discomfort is part of the journey of transformation.

Now of course you will find in Paula no greater champion against the pain of injustice, the frustrations of bureaucracy, or the petty immaturity and casual meanness of others. But even then, should you feel yourself sinking down into the seductive role of victim, she may not jump to your rescue, because she cannot spare you the cost of taking up the cross that is yours, anymore than those who love her can spare her the cost of taking up hers.

In our years in ministry together, I was in awe of Paula’s ability not to rush in and try to fix things for other people. She was always present, empathetic, the first to to roll up her sleeves and help, but without the kind of anxious energy of a leader, who is, as the Apostle Paul describes, “tossed to and fro by every wind.” Which is one reason why every person on our staff whom Paula supervised will tell you that she was the best boss they had ever had.

Another quality in Paula that has been distilled and refined by illness, the long road of recovery, and grief is her awareness of the relatively short amount of time that she has on this planet. That awareness has the effect of clarifying priorities.

Paula is well aware that she and the Diocese of Chicago have important work to do, and that you don’t have all the time in the world. As she wrote in the beautiful letter that graces the front of our bulletins, Paula is planning on a long episcopate. But even the longest episcopates aren’t that long, and every bishop is tempted to spend inordinate amounts of time on work that may be important, but ultimately not fruitful. That temptation, I believe, is the Evil One’s most successful strategy in keeping The Episcopal Church small and as a result, less effective and impactful than we could be. Which is a shame, and, I daresay, a sin.

Paula has also been a life-long student of leadership, watching leaders around her and learning from their example and their mistakes. Thus she comes into her episcopate seasoned and wise. Which is to say that what the Spirit is about to do in and through the laying on of hands is to bring to even greater fruition and power what has been true of her leadership for some time.

This combination of leadership capacity and awareness of time is crucially important in this moment in our church’s life. For like all who are resident on this planet, for those of us who love The Episcopal Church, and who, despite our church’s many historic and present-day sins, have found a way of following Jesus that has saved us; we who long for our faith communities to be compelling places of Christian life and practice not only for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren–well, suffice to say that we need to be about the work of adaptive change, and time is of the essence.

To complicate this process of transformation, we are a church blessed with a disproportionate number of visionaries and prophets, which is truly one of the most inspiring things about us. The shadow side of all our passion, however, is a woefully inaccurate assessment of our capacity to accomplish the many visions God has given us. Because we long to become the inspiring, visionary, prophetic church of our dreams, we tend to overcommit ourselves, jump from one compelling cause to another, set goals that we cannot accomplish, and then, if we’re not careful, fall into patterns of cynicism and despair that any lasting change in a system as flawed as the church is even possible.

What we need, in addition to the prophets and visionaries, are capacity builders–those invested in the slow, behind-the-scenes, far-from-glamorous work of faith formation, leadership development, community revitalization, and the sound stewardship of precious resources.

Blessed are you, Diocese of Chicago, for Paula Clark is both a visionary and a capacity builder–she always has been. She has a keen sense of priority, which means that she may say no to things more often than you would like, not because they aren’t important, but because they aren’t, in her estimation, or that of the collectively discerned understanding of the diocese, the most important things to focus her energies on at that time. But when she says yes, watch out world, for her yes will be robust and passionate, clear and focused. She will stay on course on the realization of the vision God has placed in your hearts, holding everyone around her accountable to the highest of gospel standards, as she holds herself.

Paula will also love and support you in ways that bring out your best. Because she is not afraid to try things and fail, and to learn from failure, she is quick to forgive and to encourage those of us around her when we fail. Trust me on this one, for I have failed spectacularly in Paula’s orbit, and she was always the first in line to help me get back up, learn what I needed to learn, and move on.

One final thing I’d like to say about you, Paula, which, again, I realize is obvious, but important to note given how long it has been since your election and all that you have gone through to get here, and that is you are called by God to this work, in this diocese.

In full disclosure, I did everything in my power to persuade Paula that remaining as Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Washington would be more fun than being a bishop. It was selfish, I know, but surely you can understand why we didn’t want to lose her. Yet as the process unfolded, the call was so clear–from both an inward sense of what the Holy Spirit was stirring within her and what you, as the Diocese of Chicago, felt were the essential qualities you needed in your next bishop

Then when Paula got sick and faced such a long road of recovery, some of us wanted her to know that she didn’t have to do this, that she could gracefully step away, and everyone would understand. But no. Then when her husband Andrew’s cancer came to light and he died, we wondered if grief, at last, would cause her to step away. How much can one heart hold? But Paula never wavered, not once. Paula knows how to let go when she knows that’s what’s best, and she never let go of you, Diocese of Chicago, and of the call God placed on her heart.

There are two sides to this call. On behalf of the wider church, I would like to express our collective thanks and admiration for the leaders of the Diocese of Chicago. Your faithfulness, sacrificial effort, and clarity that Paula was, in fact, going to be consecrated as your bishop was an inspiration to us. Thanks, too, to colleagues from neighboring dioceses who were quick to step in and offer help; to the Presiding Bishop and members of his team for their guidance and support; and a special word of appreciation for Bishop Chilton Knudsen. We didn’t want to see you leave the Diocese of Washington either, but you were also clear that this was God’s call, a chance to serve your home diocese, and in support of Paula, whose leadership qualities you long championed and supported.

Friends, you hold in your hands a worship bulletin that, alongside the gifted liturgists and musicians leading us, Paula has crafted from beginning to end. Every prayer, each Scripture passage, the musical selections reveal something of her heart, the intimacy of her prayer life, and her commitment to Jesus’ way of love and justice in this world. Keep your bulletins close. Put them near the place where you pray, not only as a memento of this day, but as a source of solace and inspiration.

For through its pages shines another spiritual quality that Paula brings to everything she does, that is also true of this diocese and will surely be an abiding feature of your years of ministry together–and that quality is joy.

Paula and I would sometimes touch base after our respective Sunday visitations across the diocese and reflect on what we called “the joy quotient.” How high was the sense of joy in worship? It became a critical diagnostic for us in working with clergy and congregations, for the relative presence or absence of joy revealed so much of what was or wasn’t possible in that place, far more so than size or budget or sophistication of programming. It is a telling diagnostic for all of us in our Christian life and witness.

My last word is both an exhortation and a prayer: shield your joy. Protect, cherish, and nurture joy in one another. Make space for it. Where it is lacking, pray for the gift to be given you, so that it might continue to be, or become once again, a defining characteristic of your ministry. Without it, the church is a dreary place, and life itself becomes a routine of daily obligations. But Jesus came–he lived, died, and rose from the dead–so that our joy may be complete.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, Paula Clark.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, Diocese of Chicago.
Live as if everything we’re saying here in the service is true, because it is.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God revealed to us in Jesus.
The One who has called you is faithful, and praise God, so are you.

Amen.

Bishop and Dean Mourn the Death of Queen Elizabeth II

Bishop and Dean Mourn the Death of Queen Elizabeth II

Together with people the world over, we give thanks today for the lifetime of devotion and service exhibited by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and pray with all those who mourn the loss of this extraordinary woman.

Queen Elizabeth was more than a monarch. Through 70 years of service to her God and to her people, Queen Elizabeth embodied an unrivaled sense of duty, devotion and fidelity. Across seven decades of tumultuous change, she was a model of stability, and carried her nation in her heart with grace and dignity. We mourn the passage of all that she represents; she was an icon of honor, duty and service.

Her Majesty had deep and abiding faith in God, and we celebrate the many ways that she reflected what the Scriptures describe as the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

As she said just last month in a message to Anglican bishops gathered in Canterbury, “Throughout my life, the message and teachings of Christ have been my guide and in them I find hope. It is my heartfelt prayer that you will continue to be sustained by your faith in times of trial and encouraged by hope at times of despair.”

When this Cathedral dedicated the War Memorial Chapel to honor the sacrifices of World War II, Her Majesty was with us for the dedication. She returned in 1976 to witness the completion of the nave inside this great American house of prayer for all people. Across her remarkable life, Queen Elizabeth visited this Cathedral four times, and we cherish our connections to our brothers and sisters who now mourn her passing throughout her beloved Anglican Communion.

Our hearts are linked across the oceans with the people of the United Kingdom, and our prayers are with her son, Charles, as he assumes the weighty responsibilities of the throne.

Remember thy servant, Queen Elizabeth II, O Lord, according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people, and grant that increasing in knowledge and love of thee, she may go from strength to strength, in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Washington

The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Dean, Washington National Cathedral