Friday, December 10, 2010

The Only Advent Hymn You'll Ever Need

Check this out. There is a music group in England who is covering John Cage's 4'33". A work that bears listening for this time of year. Listen and ponder the Advent season. The genius is that the music group is trying to have this song on the top of the pops type Christmas single.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Morning Prayer Sermon in COTA

Read this first, really, read it: Luke 15:1-10
No, no, no!

No Jesus. In fact, if I had one hundred sheep, and lost one, I would NOT go looking for it. And neither would anyone else!

Jesus, look, I know you are just a carpenter, and I guess that others handle the money for you, or something, they must, because you show complete ignorance of the realities of a market economy.

One sheep for ninety-nine? Are you kidding? It’s too risky! Now I know that you are from Nazareth! One sheep, that’s a one percent loss, one percent! That’s acceptable, that’s better than acceptable, that’s great!

Rabbi, you cannot be serious! You would leave the other 99, really? Please. You’re talking about a shepherding situation here, right? So what happens to the others, sheep aren’t corralled you know? You just leave them alone to get the one? What about wolves? What about thieves? What about the general stupidity of the sheep? You would honestly leave the other sheep? You know, it’s not fair to those sheep!

That’s it! You’re being unfair. The one sheep does not deserve to be looked after in such a wasteful manner. It’s extravagant!

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Now, now, no, no, don’t change the subject. I don’t want to hear about some lady’s lost coin, let’s talk about these sheep. Look, I get it, ok. You’re trying to making a point about you eating with these sinners. But your premise is all wrong, don’t you see that? It makes no sense. The risk! Don’t you see that there is no utility, no virtue, and certainly no duty in going after that one lost sheep? One percent!

Jesus, please listen to reason, it is not right for us to be here with these sinners. You see, these sheep, . . . I mean theses sinners, they don’t deserve . . . Jesus, really, you’re a good rhetorician, I like your style, I like your stories, but this one, this one with the sheep and that utterly irresponsible and ultimately unfair shepherd, it’s too much. It’s just too much to believe.

You would do better, in this story to secure the other 99, have the shepherd corral those sheep first, you see. That would remove all doubt about the foolishness of that shepherd, change that and you’ve got something. No, Jesus, what you really need is an editor. That shepherd, he’s just too much; he’s unfair and dangerously risky.

I mean, in your example, who is this one sheep? Might I assume that I, a Pharisee, that has lived under, and expanded the law, am fully righteous in the eyes of the Almighty, what about me? Am I a one or a am I a 99? Am I the lost, that God comes to find, or am I one of the 99 that get left?

What? Say again.
I might be the shepherd? But that’s . . . well I . . . but. . .
That shepherd, me? That shepherd, he’s too much, me? But, he’s so risky!

Well, I think I interrupted you back there, you wanted to change the subject, something about a lost coin . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Greetings from last night's gala dinner for the VC of Sewanee

Dr. and Mrs. McCardell, I bring you greetings and prayers from your seminarians at the School of Theology. The students at the School of Theology are very pleased that the university has chosen a historian as its Vice-Chancellor, a person who is well acquainted with the many ghosts and saints of this storied place. We are also happy to see, in thought, word, and deed, that you are a devoted churchman. And, I will warn you, as leaders in the church you can expect us to approach you about serving on a committee very soon. I can’t really say that I’m kidding about that.

But more importantly, we recognize that you speak our language. You do not use words of our tradition for rhetorical affect. No, you are enrolled in the story of God and we thank you for your proclamation. We see you in chapel. We are glad that you worship with us and hope that you will consider the Chapel of the Apostles a place of spiritual nourishment.

Thank you for praying with us. Thank you for listening to us. Most of all, thank you for joining us in our work, in God’s work, of letting the Gospel of Jesus Christ loose on this broken, yet blessed world.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hub bub

a lot of it online today about this quiz. Give it a shot, then post your score, if you dare.

Not for nuthin', 100%! I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What if this were an icon?

What would it say about God?

inter // states from Samuel Cockedey on Vimeo.

I've been radically reshaping my ideas of iconography, especially visual perception. What would this icon have to say about God and humanity?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Speech, Speech!

Here's the address I gave to the University of the South, on the occasion of the "Celebration of a New Year." I spoke, the president of the Student Senate, the Order of the Gownsmen student leader, and the Vice-Chancellor.

Good afternoon, my name is Josh Bowron, I am the student body president for the St. Luke’s community, also known as the School of the Theology at the University of the South. It is an honor to be asked to speak on behalf of the seminarians about our upcoming year.

First, a few words of introduction: The student body of the school of theology is comprised of 70 full time students ranging in age from the early 20s up to . . . something past the early 20s. We hail from Alabama to Atlanta, Maryland to Miami, from California to Korea.

One thing we all have in common is that we are being prepared to serve the church, although in many different capacities. This is the student body. But the seminary is also made up of families, spouses, and dozens of children. All who have left lives built elsewhere to lay down roots on this mountain. While the seminary is an academic institution it is also a place for people and families to be formed for the ministry of the church.
Now, when I was asked to give a preview of our year, many thoughts went through my head. I could talk to you all about the academic rigor. How in our first year we are to, in the words of Dr. Benjamin King, “Learn every event that ever happened in the history of the Church.” I could tell you about the experience of reading the Bible again, but for the first time in the language of the original writers. I could tell you about the mind-blowing and heart-wrenching activity of doing theology. I could tell you all of this: how seminary, much like college, is so thorough and so rigorous that it is, I think, by design, impossible to accomplish on one’s own, so we lean on each other. We help each other. I could tell you all of this.

But I won’t.

Instead I’ll tell you what we are really looking forward to this year.
What we are looking forward to this year is nothing less than a daily encounter with the Creator of the universe. What we are looking forward to this year is to be infused with the dynamic and Holy Spirit of life and growth and love. What we are looking forward to this year is nothing short of a daily visitation with Jesus Christ who is both our dearest, closest friend and our God.

These daily encounters are called grace, and the church recognizes certain ways that grace is to be sought. One is to study, and study we will, along with the undergraduates. Individually we will study within our discreet disciplines but all of us are seeking the same goal: the truth.

Another way we grow in grace is to pray and worship, which we do 15 times each week. Please. Join us. Everyone is always welcome. We will also gather in this Chapel, to celebrate, pray, and yes, to consol each other in those unavoidable tragedies that come with life lived together.

Finally, we can grow in grace in that hottest of hothouses of grace: a community. In case you haven’t noticed, community is a big deal up here, and it’s not just an advertising campaign, it’s real. We are a community: the college, the seminary, the old-timers, the newcomers, the LAND, all in community.

We believe that God can be encountered through the simple give and take of community, whether in the classroom, on the sidewalk, on mission, in argument, at the library, or in line at McClurg.

This is what we look forward to this year: to encounter God in our studies, in our prayer together, and with each other in this place.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My orientation sermon

John 12:24-26

A seed.

A tiny seed.

A seed, by all appearances: nothing more than a speck of wood.

Hidden compactly within the wood is a vast expanse of DNA which can lay dormant for thousands of years. This DNA is triggered with soil and water, it doesn’t even need light!

The seed awakens.

The seed begins to order its environment, the seed takes the dirt and the water and it reconfigures their chemical structure into a plant. When the plant reaches sunlight it uses the light to further reconfigure soil and water into more and more useable resources.
The plant, all under the initial impetus of the seed, flowers and attracts pollinators, which leads to fruit and more seeds: a thousand-fold.

Finally the seeds are shed from the life giving plant, the gentlest breeze sends them off into the world. The many seeds die and lie cold through the winter, and then the Spring comes . . .

Jesus, of course, didn’t simply heave this mini parable upon the crowd, without a context. This is one of the dangers of the lectionary, we might be forgiven for thinking that Jesus commonly springs into figurative language without connection to anything else. Jesus: the divine non-sequitur. In fact, Jesus’ teaching on the seed is something of a crescendo of chapter twelve, which is turning point in the Gospel of John.

John’s gospel is divided into two main sections, the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory. The Book of Signs, as you remember, is a collection of seven signs, miracles, of Jesus’ authority, which is his Sonship with God the Father. The first sign is the wedding in Cana, where Jesus turns water into wine, and the seventh sign is the raising of Lazarus, which happens at the end of chapter 11, just before today’s reading. After this, we enter the Book of Glory, and it is important to remember that in John, glory is always death, death and resurrection.

So here we are at the beginning of the book of Glory. There are nine more chapters to go in the book, and John throws in Palm Sunday. Right here, in about the middle of John we get Jesus entering Jerusalem and beginning to talk of death, his death, his glorification.
Why does John do that? Why does John take all that triumphal imagery, which the other gospel writers save to ratchet up the tension, and put it smack dab in the middle? Is John a bad story teller? Is he a bad historian? Doesn’t John know the rules of drama: tension, action, climax, and denouement?

Personally I think he does, and very, very well, but the point is that John is doing a different thing from the other gospel writers; John is making a claim about Jesus as lord from before the beginning and throughout all time. There is no messianic secret in John. Jesus knows who he is what he is about, all throughout John.

But it is after Palm Sunday that the Greeks begin to come to Jesus. Seeing this, Jesus says, “Now, it is time for the Son of Man to be glorified.” John is saying, “The world now recognizes Jesus for who he is, and now it is time to finish the Work.”

Thus, Jesus begins his Glorification, but before he dies he teaches about his death and what it means to follow him in light of that death.

Again, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Now I don’t want to be too specific, or personal to the people in this room who are about to start their seminary careers; but I feel lead to, at least, briefly note that in this parable, Jesus is talking about his own death. Ok? Jesus is talking about his own death. It is not for us to die. And there are lots of ways for us to die, but here, Jesus is talking about his death. I think this is really important to remember, sometimes there are particular actions that are for Jesus only and we enjoy the benefit of those actions. It’s called gratitude.

"But preacher, isn’t one of the themes of the Christian life about giving up ourselves, our souls, and bodies over to God, like Jesus did? After all, today we remember Saint Laurence, who, when demanded by Roman officials to reveal the treasures of the church brought in the homeless, the sick, the widows, and orphans, and declared, 'Here are the treasures of the Church.' For that they killed him, isn’t that how were supposed to be?"

Yes, but I think that witnessing to Christ is what Laurence wanted more than anything, which, in his circumstances, meant witnessing to Christ in his death. Which is why Laurence died to himself, much earlier than he died at the hands of the Imperial torturers. Martyrs don’t seek physical death, martyrs are not spiritual death-wishers. Death is never sought for death’s sake, in Jesus’ death there is great meaning. And all Christians are martyrs, witnesses, to the death and resurrection of Christ. Here, in this parable, Jesus is the seed.

And we are the fruit.

“That’s all well and good preacher, but what about verse 25: Those who love their life lose it and those who hate their life in this world will keep it in eternal life.”
Alright, since you brought it up. Is Jesus asking us to hate our lives? Is Jesus asking us to hate our lives just so we can have more of what we have hated, but then eternally?
Does not compute; especially when we consider the importance that God places on life and incarnation. There are two key words here life and hate, that need our consideration in their Semitic contexts.

As an aside, you should never use Greek or Hebrew terms in your preaching, it makes you sound pretentious.

The Greek word for life in this text is psuche and the word for hate is misone. Psuche doesn’t simply mean life as in this plane of existence, life as cradle to grave, it means the animating principle, the nephesh, the breath of life. Psuche is equally used for soul throughout the New Testament and other contemporaneous literature.

The problem is our culture, greatly shaped by Greco-Roman culture, but mostly our own fault, that sees a bifurcation in the human person between body and soul. To the Jews of Jesus’ time, there is no such division, life is simply a continuum of being, with Body and Soul being poles along a spectrum, but fundamentally connected and interrelated. Jesus is doing something more here with yuch, than a kind of Gnostic life-hating. Afterall, why would a God who incarnated Himself be so against life?

Misone, hate, as well offers a dilemma when we remove it from its Semitic context. To the ancient Hebrews, their word for hate had more to do with disregard and detachment. In terms of holiness, hate has to do with holding onto something necessary for living but not grasping, lest we fall into that source of all sin: idolatry.

Jesus is saying to hold loosely to this life, this soul. Hold, but do not grasp. Perhaps God chooses not to manhandle us, but only works with that which is held ever so lightly. This might be what Jesus means in when he says the grain must fall and die. Seeds hold on just barely. This is so they can fall off and be of some good. But the seed that holds tightly to the plant, no matter how devoted, ultimately does not serve itself or the plant.

Paul says it well in 2nd Corinthians today, the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly. The one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Can you imagine a sower who grasps the seeds? That’s just a madman out in a field, flailing his arms around.

This brings us to the final verse of today’s reading; it is a trademark Johhanine whirligig of pronouns:
“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

Right. Almost makes you want to draw a flow chart. But this is the beating-heart of the gospel and it is repeated over and over throughout John. What is means is that when we follow Jesus, we become like him and are identified with God. A daunting proposition to say the least.

But fear not. The acorn does not fear its “oakness.”

And here we come to the conclusion of the sermon and I can think of no other place to go for our new seminarians than advice. And here, I promise, is the only, unsolicited advice that I will give you: Hold lightly what you think you are. Hold lightly what you think you are capable of. Hold lightly your past and credentials.

The Sower stands ready in the field, seeds in hand.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Anne Rice and J.C.

Hmmm . . .

Things like this blog and the penchant that Anne Rice has for declaring everything she does and thinks gets a little tiresome.

The gist of the above interview is that Anne Rice doesn't like the way the Roman Catholic Church is meddling with secular affairs, especially related to gay marriage. I'm right with her. But I think she makes (ironically) the great Protestant mistake: She has divorced her insides from her outsides. What I mean is that too many people think that we must be Jesus lovers and the rest get the pieces. Christianity and, more importantly, following Christ are necessarily communal acts. We must be the Church and find the body of Christ among eachother.

It's too bad that Anne Rice didn't raise such a ruckus over ecclesial abuses that she got herself excommunicated. Instead of calling much attention to her complaint she has quietly bowed out with not much more than a squeeky facebook post and excommunicated herself.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sermon from this past Sunday

Read: Luke 12:13-21

or watch:

The scene is a typical rabbinic one. The teacher sits amid the crowd and they challenge him with various legal and ethical quandaries. While Jesus is not a rabbi in the strictest sense, his reputation for authority has spread and now someone in the crowd approaches him.
“Teacher, settle this family dispute, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Now, we know nothing of this man, whether he is entitled to his fair share or not, whether he is just or a thief, we are given nothing of the circumstances. But Jesus seizes the opportunity to teach about what makes a life, or, more precisely, what life isn’t made of. Jesus says that life does not consist of the abundance of one’s possessions. Then he illustrates his point with a story.

A rich man has a good year. He wants to hang on to what’s his; he gets great satisfaction from his abundance. God steps in and announces that the man is going to die and the things, in which he once had so much satisfaction, are nothing.

Note two things from the outset: it is the land, not the man that produces abundantly. Second, the man is rich before the land has a good season. These are red flags for Jesus’ hearers. “AH!” they say, “This man is doubly blessed by God, rich and with good, fertile land.”

Then the rich man begins to deliberate: What shall I do with my windfall?” To the ideal man of Jesus’ listeners, the man should of course give generously to the widows, and the orphans and to the undocumented immigrants of his community because they are the ones who are on the fringes of the economy, they have no place in the system. God clearly lays this plan for the poor out again and again in the voices of the prophets.

But it isn’t to be. The man says, “I’ll do this, I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and I will store up all my goods.”

How extravagant. It’s not enough that he builds an extra barn. No, he is going to tear down his barns. Then he will build bigger ones. This is where we see Jesus as the great storyteller. He has baited his audience with a man who, by all available evidence is blessed twice over by God, only to blow it. I can only imagine the mischievous joy that Jesus experienced in turning the blessed character of the rich man into such a dolt.
Jesus’ listeners, shake their heads in disgust over the rich man’s crass denial of God’s will. One man in the audience spits on the ground and says, “We don’t do that!”

Jesus nods gravely, and then continues…

The rich man then makes an introspective turn, “Soul, you’ve done alright, you’ve got everything you’ll ever need, relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” This spiritual turn inward is what gets God’s attention, indeed, God finishes the famous maxim, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you WILL die! And what will you do with all that stuff?”

This is a lesson we all need to hear, again and again: Life is not what we have. But it’s not that simple, Jesus adds a conclusion that is supposed to summarize the entire parable, but to me it just confuses things: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Rich toward God? What does it mean to be rich toward God? If this is a summary of the parable, maybe we’ve been looking at it only in one way, maybe the parable of the Rich Fool is about more than the accumulation of things. I think that part of the answer lies in how the man addresses his soul. This is the part of the parable where the man goes from being a greedy jerk, to setting up a personal theology based on his own desires. “Soul, you have ample goods, laid up for many years.”

What does a soul need ample goods for? A soul only really needs the minimum of goods to keep its body healthy. I’ll repeat that, a soul doesn’t need much to keep its body healthy.
The bumper sticker says, “I am a spiritual being, having a physical experience.” This belies our sometimes overly spiritual bearing. Although we believe in the incarnation and the ascension, and all that they entail for us, too often we want to escape the body. But the church teaches that it goes the other way too, our souls have bodies. Part of the parable is a teaching on incarnation, flesh and spirit are intertwined and not opposites, but poles along the great spectrum of being. And for that we say, thanks be to God.
But the fatal mistake of the rich man is that he thinks his soul can be satisfied with more. More stuff, more doing, more searching, more saving. The rich man is under the impression that he can find spiritual fulfillment within himself, on his terms, with what he’s got. Thus, the rich fool is a kind of narcissist.

Narcissus: one of the great love affairs, the love affair between himself and himself. Most of us know the story of the man who was in love with only himself. But that is not the whole story; the myth says that many loved him. The problem was that Narcissus loved no one, indeed he was known as the scorner of love. Thus he was cursed to love only himself. Cursed. And what a horrible curse: to have love solely for oneself. The ages have memorialized Narcissus with the flower that blooms near the reflection of water, forever cursed to gaze upon his beloved.

The rich fool is our Narcissus, finding spiritual satisfaction within himself, he stands cursed. The rich fool goes inward when he ought to go outward. The Christian life is a matter of introspection, at times, but always at the service of going out. In terms of physics, the life of the spirit is centrifugal and not centripetal. We go out continually from a strong force at the center, casting a wider and wider circle. Being rich towards God is about letting go of everything, whether for our soul or its body, so that we can become more like God: spontaneous, generous, merciful.

Being rich towards God means taking every part of our lives to him. So take your disputes to God. Take your greed to God. Take your abundance to God. Take your deliberations to God. Take your foolishness to God. Take your soul and its body to God. Take your very life to God, who demands it.

Yet, God doesn’t simply take away what we bring to him. God is not greedy. God transforms and blesses what is brought to him. Just like the prayers, and the bread and wine we are about to offer, God works to make holy whatever is brought to him.

When we kneel to confess our sins, and when we receive the sacrament, may we all be rich toward our God, offering ourselves, our souls, and bodies to Him who transforms and makes all things holy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Ohio to Minnesota Time Lapse from Dave Lucius on Vimeo.

I find it to be one of God's greatest mercies that we are finite. This video reminds me of a lot of things, but mostly that we don't know the whole of our lives, and that is good. The nighttime scenes here are especially telling of how we only see a few moments ahead and never the whole journey. But the whole trip can be made this way...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I like really big categories to think in: here's 6 new ones.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A perk of...

the three year, residential seminary: Picking up the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. How often does one get an 1.5 hour conversation with the PB?

Wonder is the beginning of all theology

This semester has been crazy. I bit off more than I could chew. I made a big mistake by taking on so much. I loved it all individually, but came to resent most of it collectively. This semester I really went against one of my core values: leisure. I hold leisure in high esteem, not because I am a slacker (which I can be) but because leisure is so very important. Simply having the time to reflect and make sense of life is the promise of the modern age, so why don't we make use of leisure? First there is this sense that we need to be productive and fill up our time. Second, the scale, not the pace which is often the culprit, of modernity is too big. We sometimes travel more in a single day than our great-grandparents did in their entire lives, we see to many images, and talk too much.

My spiritual director has assigned a time for me to stroll aimlessly each morning. I do this when everybody is still asleep, except the birds and the occasional frog. This time has reacquainted me with the pace and scale of human life: the walking footstep, the human hand.

This "getting slow and small" is the proper kind of prayer and where all theology starts. There is great lessons in seeing and experiencing a different perspective of time, this is really what meditation imparts.

Here's yet another perspective on time: objectively sppeding up to subjectively slow us down.

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All I know is that this picture was taken in a Beijing mall.

Questions: What is your first reaction upon seeing this?

Is it appropriate that this image is in a mall, in China, with Mickey's head?

What is being conveyed in the image and context (the mall, in China)?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In Praise of Media

I'm getting into finals these days, but for some reason I have been more aware of my media diet. Usually I think if media as fat, tasty but it really ought to be taken in moderation. Indeed, in the past I have gone on media fasts, no reading of magazines, no news, no t.v. But these days I have been feasting, gorging, on media.

It is not a far cry to link the way that people use and create media and how we think about God. The best theology is a narrative, which is a media. For more on this see the Bible.

Here's a run-down of what I've been reading, looking at, and listening to:

Watch this, it's a good example of how little it takes to tell a full-blooded story.

My friend Mike sent me some comics. The first was American Virgin, a excellent story of a fundamentalist coming to terms with theodicy. The second was Invincible, the most lovingly rendered super-hero comic that I've ever read.

All this comic reading sent me back to the work of Scott McCloud, he is comics' greatest interpreter. Reading McCloud again, I just had to finally get his masterpiece, Zot!, and I did, it does not disappoint. Browse this beautiful collection right here:

If you are a snob and think comics have nothing real to offer, watch this.

Apart from Comics, I've been reading for classes, especially alot of Liberation Theology, Kenneth Leech in particular. I met Kenneth Leech when I interviewed at Sewanee, I think he is my hero.

I've also been getting into the Gospel according to John, in the greek. Instead of the blazing speed that I need get through the material for my classes, when I go through John, with my professor we go slow, sometimes spending 15-30 minutes on a single word. I always thought of John as strictly a theological document, but now i see it as a midrash on the Old Testament, told from this side of the Resurrection.

There is also this blog, and this blog, and don't forget this one.

Also I've been playing a storytelling game, over email, my friend Jonathan created. It has taught me about economy of language to convey as much information as possible, a technigue many preachers could learn alot from

There's alot more, but as you can see I've been a glutton...

Friday, April 16, 2010

selling souls

Souls as part of a license agreement.

Gospel of Venkman

John 3:31-36
“He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”


This evening we get a pretty good summary of John’s gospel in the mouth of…somebody. Who’s speaking anyway, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Nicodemus, Jesus? It really doesn’t matter, what matters is what is said. Essentially, the speaker says, God is God and the creation is the creation. The creation can’t comprehend God, God is utterly unknowable to the creation. Yet, God has revealed himself to the creation, to us, in Jesus. When we know Jesus we know God the Father.

This is the theme of John’s entire gospel. The writer never grows tired of saying, “The father and the son are one.” “All mine are yours and yours are mine.” “As you, father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.”

What John sets up and reinforces throughout his gospel, from the beginning to the end and beyond, is that God’s holy spirit has been an ever-flowing stream in all creation, Jesus came to do the works of the Father and show God in the world, so that we might believe,
…and in believing…what? To receive the Holy Spirit and receive it without measure.

Bishop Spong says. . . and this will likely be the first and last time you will ever hear a quote from Bishop Spong from this preacher or this ambo, for that matter. But, Bishop Spong describes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as an overflowing tub of water in a basement, there is no controlling where the water goes, and it gets all over everywhere, splashing under things and into the darkest neglected corners. God gives the Spirit without measure, it is all, and I mean all, or nothing. God is extreme in this instance, wasteful, decadent.

So when we believe through Christ, we become identified with Christ through the Holy Spirit, and with Christ, God.

So we believe that God became a person through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All Christians agree, I hope, that in Jesus Christ a bridge was made between God and humanity.
But that bridge. That bridge between God and us. Is it a one way bridge? Is the bridge between God and us just for the Holy Spirit to go down, from God to us? The ladder that the angels ascend and descend upon Jesus, is it just for angels or is it for us too?

What was Athanasius talking about when he said that, “God became human that we might be made god.”?

In the great American cinematic masterpiece, Ghostbusters, there is a scene that might have an insight.

It seems the Ghostbusters have tracked down the big bad, Gozer, a powerful lighting fingered demon-lady who greets the guys with, “Are you a god?”

One of the Ghostbusters considers the question and says, “No.”

Gozer answers, “Then die!” She zaps the guys thoroughly, leaving them hanging off a skyscraper.

Finally, one Ghostbuster says to the other, “When somebody asks you if you are a god, you say YES!”

We are all created in the image of God, and lest we forget, God is a trinity. The God image that we bear is the image of dynamic and spontaneous love. No matter what happens to us or what choices we make, that image of dynamic love can never be removed. But through God’s giving of the Spirit, without measure, just might make us gods too.

Now, before I get harassed for heresy. Let’s look at what capacity people might have for divinity. First we all bear the image of God. But since we are creations with a creator, we are distinct from God. God is outside of time and space and utterly Other. Yet this other God, reaches out to us.

The Orthodox say that we can know God’s energies, not his essence. We can seek and achieve union with God, yet we retain our distinctiveness, our personhood. Our union with God is sanctification, not annihilation. While we don’t become God in essence and nature, we can become divine by grace. By the grace of God.

In our western arm of the church, we would have been toast against the question, “Are you a god?” For our eastern brothers and sisters they say,”Yeah, that’s pretty normal.”
Of course we will all achieve our full deification upon the consummation of all things and us Anglicans love to proclaim the eschatological horizon of the church.

But Jesus, here in John’s Gospel, is repeatedly inviting us into the divine life NOW. Yes, we still sin, we still fall, but we don’t fall alone. We are made in the image of the triune God whose property it is to love; therefore our deification is possible when we live the Trinitarian life, a life with, and for others.

So, while we might not be fully ready to answer yes to the question, “Are you a god?” We might, through faith in the measureless pouring of the Holy Spirit, stand with Christ and say, “I’m with him.”

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Sermon

Good Friday Sermon
John 18:1-19:37
The Death of Jesus, the Death of God?

Today is our second day on the Triduum. The Triduum, which began last night on Maundy Thursday with the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Our three day journey with Christ will culminate with us gathering at the gloriously empty Easter-tomb. For now, today, we are at the cross. Yet, we know how this ends. We know that the cross is not the ultimate fate of Jesus, indeed it is the penultimate.
I have a friend, and perhaps you do too, who always reads the last chapter of a book first. I have asked my friend why she does this and she says that she likes to know what she is getting into before she commits to the entire book. Some of us like to know the ending first. Others don’t want to know how the story ends. Instead, they trust the author to bring them along and lead them to discovery. No matter the story, no matter the ending and how we get there; we crave closure, we desire the tidy ending.
But today, perhaps we could hold off on our need for closure and resolution. Let us not wish away Good Friday to get to Easter. Yes, we know the story brings us to the Risen Lord; but today, this morning, I invite you to dwell on the cross, to live with the reality of the death of Jesus, to settle into the insecurity of our God, crucified. Might we, in our minds and imaginations, put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples who lived and endured those insecure shaky days from Friday until Sunday; those days when “Our Teacher, Our Master, Our God has died!”
The question remains: Does God die on the cross; indeed, can Nietzsche be right, just for one day? There is a heresy, patripassianism, which maintains that when Jesus Christ suffers, God the Father suffers. This presents a problem with the Church’s doctrine of the impassability of God, the doctrine that God is beyond creation and unable to be diminished or changed. The church rejects the notion that God can be changed through the suffering of Christ, but it holds a similar yet more nuanced view. Since Jesus has both human and divine natures, one which is corruptible and one which is unchangeable. It is Christ’s human nature, not his divine nature, which suffers and dies. The rub really comes when we ask what happens to the suffered humanity of Christ. Does it simply die away and leave us with a fully divine Jesus Christ? No, what happens to the sufferable humanity of Christ, and even mortality itself, is that God assumes it; God takes in humanity and death, and He redeems it. One of our church fathers, Gregory of Nazianzus said that “whatever Christ assumes, Christ sanctifies.” In other words, it is precisely in Christ’s human suffering and especially in his death that we are saved.
This statement of orthodoxy is extremely helpful for beginning to understand what happened on the cross. But the church’s teaching was developed over 500 Easters, for us, standing here in the disciples’ shoes, we here on the First Friday, we don’t have the benefit of orthodoxy. Perhaps one of the purposes of Good Friday is to imagine, however briefly, a world without Christ; an insecure world where we thirst for God, but get no guarantee of any impending Easter. Can we reside in a faith, a true trust in God, despite the blatant facts of life and death? Can we be confident in our unknowns?
Let’s not jump to the conclusion. Forget the last chapter.
Just for today, rest uneasily in the unresolved ambiguity of Christ crucified, died, and buried.
And that God inexplicably walks with us into death, even death on a cross.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunday Sermon on the OT reading

I kinda went on a limb with this one, please comment.

What do you seek?

How is God connected to this burning bush? When did the bush stop burning? When, and if, it finally did stop burning, what happened to the goat that nibbled on the burning bush? Did the goat die? Did it not die, as in ever? Should there be such a thing as a picture of the burning bush? Doesn't that go against the whole idea of a burning bush? Can there be an icon of the Unknowable?

Why am I only asking questions? Why won't I make a statement? Can an entire sermon be written in the interrogative mood? Does English have an interrogative mood, or just interrogatory words? Given your own life, would you rather have God talk to you out of a burning bush or something else that burns, "yet is not consumed"? What would it be, a car, a desk, a professor? What defines Moses? Is Exodus in the Old Testament? Did the writer of Exodus think that his or her writing would ever be "old"? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people?

Shouldn't there be some form of introduction? What defines me? Is it that I am Josh Bowron, that I am a husband and a father, and a seminarian? Am I who I am because I am from Atlanta? Why do I love this Mountain? Is this a good idea? Would you like to know me better? What do I seek? Can we know a person by the questions they ask? Shall we continue?

What does it mean in the Old Testament when it says LORD, in all caps? What does taking off shoes on holy ground mean? Why don't we take off our shoes in church? Who were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Why does it matter? Should I care that I don't care? Can God hear? If so, does God hear with ears or is he psychic like that lady in the X-Men? What's so great about milk and honey? If they flow, you know, out of doors, won't they spoil? Wouldn't it stink?

What will happen to all those people that are already living in the land? Is God advocating for ethnic cleansing? What about all those Canaanites, and Hittites? I know some Israelites, but where are all the Amorites? Is "I AM" really God's name? How do I read the Bible anyway? How does the Church read the Bible? Do we have to think the same thing as the church? What happens when the church disagrees? What is my obligation to the church?

Is there anything outside the text? Am I a text? Can I tell my own story? Is telling my own story like biting my own teeth? Does the church read me? Am I on God's night stand?

What do you seek? What does this story of Moses and God in the Burning Bush mean? What is going on, back then and over there? What's it got to do with us, or, more importantly, me? Does God call people? Why does everybody talk about God calling us? Can God nudge? Can God hint? Does God ever say..."pssst!"?

Does God speak in tectonic plates?

Do you assume that I know the answer? Given all the characters in the Bible that God calls, is there a single one who was not offensive or messed up in some way? What is going through Moses' head? Was he afraid, was he nervous? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people? Why does God continually insist on calling the unrighteous and the broken? Can this shepherd be a liberator? Can this yokel be face to face with God? Did it happen? Did it not happen? Does the difference scare you, energize you, leave you flat, or something else altogether? What was Moses seeking, up there, on the mountain? Was he simply curious or did he have any idea whatsoever that he would encounter the long lost God?

What's God's voice like? Is it a tornado, an atom splitting? Is it a Big Bang or more like Yoko Ono? When you look at stained glass do you notice the colors first or the story? Who here will end up depicted in a stained glass window? If God can come to a person as a burning bush, why not as a chunk of bread and a sip of wine? Would the story of Moses and the Burning Bush have been possible without Moses? What I mean is, in any sacrament, we are there, so can a sacrament be a sacrament without us? Do we make it sacred? How important are we to God? Who's we? Why does God bother? Is He serious? Given the apparent cheapness of life, what is sacred?

What do you seek? What is going on with us? I mean me and you right now in this big marble room, are we o.k., you and me? Where, whence, whither, and how does the time go? What are the fundamental differences between Moses and me? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people? Why does God continually insist on calling the unrighteous and the broken? Is there some ulterior motive on God's part for talking to us through stuff, why does matter matter to God? What will tomorrow bring? Did Moses know how to be a patriarch? Do I know how to be an adult? Do I have to be an adult? Did God show Moses how to be a patriarch? Did you ever wonder why there is such a close etymological connection between adult and adulterated? What is my agenda in bringing that up?

Is God a micro-manager? Is God a. . . C.E.O.? Are you tired of questions? Does God tire of questions? Does God tire? Ought there be a moratorium on the word "God," as Bishop Spong suggests? Can you argue both sides on that issue?

Can a sermon consist of nothing but questions? What will my preaching teacher say? Will you tell on me? This is just silly, didn't Desmond Tutu preach here? Should I make a point and sit down? What is the cumulative effect of this barrage of questions? Will I ask a certain question just to get a laugh?

What is air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

What is the what, anyway? Who tells the truth more in Shakespeare's plays, the priests or the Fools? In terms of strict literary definitions, is the Bible a comedy or a tragedy?

Given the state of nature and society why do we still get our hopes up? Is that too pessimistic a question? Another way, given the changeability of life, why do we seek security? Can we remember life before life? Is anybody else here attracted to, and at the same time, utterly repulsed by post-modernism? What's the rush, where's the fire? No really, Church: Where's the Fire!? What's stopping you?

What do you seek? How can we proclaim a mystery? What is the use of experience? What defines you? If we talked for an hour could we come to an agreement on the taste of vanilla? Should we? How do we come to believe? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people? Why does God continually insist on calling the unrighteous and the broken? Is there some ulterior motive on God's part for talking to us through stuff, why does matter matter to God?

How will you meet God at this Table behind me tonight?

What do you seek? What does God seek? What do we seek?

Will we know it when we have found it? Can I find God at this table?

Will God find me at this table?

God, find us at your table.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last Friday's Morning Prayer Homily

And the disciples had places to be.

So they left Jesus while he was telling yet another parable about the Kingdom of God. The disciples got into the boat and shoved off, Thomas looked over his shoulder and thought, "I think we forgot something...oh well." "And a great storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling." The disciples began to bail out the water, but the waves, did mightily crash against the boat.

The disciples cried out, "Where is the Teacher, does he not care if we perish!?"

Thomas said, "Verily, I remember now! We left Jesus on the shore."

"Well...we had somewhere to be." explained one disciple.

"And now we're sunk." complained another.

The scene I describe is not the biblical account of Jesus calming the storm, but you recognize the story I told, as your own...don't you?

How often we have heard the actual Gospel account of this story preached: the story of the panicking disciples, Jesus calming the storm, and his chastisement of the disciples for their unfaith. How often we hear the preacher lambasting the meager faith of the disciples. Since Jesus excoriates the disciples for having no faith, it is open season on those poor guys, "The disciples really ought to have had faith, tsk tsk tsk."

But, not so fast, the missing piece happens before the storm. "And leaving the crowd, they took him with them into the boat." They took Jesus in the boat with them. All the parallel accounts agree, that it is Jesus that goes with them into the boat. They don't go with Jesus, Jesus goes with them. It's a fine point, but an interesting one, Jesus goes with the disciples, they least in this instance.

But for us, more often, we leave Jesus on the shore. We don't bring him into the boat with us.

Jesus is the rebuker of winds, the calmer of stormy seas. But can He do that if he is not in the boat?

All metaphors are limited of course. I recognize that there is a problem with suggesting that Christ must be invited to work in our lives. Yes, Christ is co-eternal with the Father. Yes, Christ acts out of his own spontaneous mercy, not out of propitiation, or any other works-righteousness.

But leaving all those doctrinal issues aside for a know what I mean. We leave Jesus on the shore. We get into our boats, we get to our schedules, to our thoughts, to our ambitions. We get to our service to our fellows and to the church; and eventually the storm hits. The storm hits and we look around for Jesus. We look around and we don't see him asleep in the stern, we look around and find him where we left him: on the shore.

This is not another, "Let go and let God, " homily. This is a call to the sober reality that sometimes, in the storms of our lives, we forget the one that deals with storms. Our God is not a pie in the sky god, we have a flesh and blood, practical God who wants to be in the thick of it with us.

Yes, Jesus can calm our winds and raging seas. But today's reading shows me that Jesus is so ...VERY ... comfortable in the turmoil, in the roiling waters. So comfortable, in fact, that he can nod off in the midst of the chaos!

Bring Jesus on board with you, before the storm hits, he'll be the quiet one, sleeping, back there, in the stern.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sermon from Sunday, in the raw.

Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18


Abram, Abram,
Not AbRAham, but Abram
Abram, who was called out of his hometown by, who, God?
Did Abram know all that we know about God?
Abram is the first person God has spoken to since Noah, several hundred years prior.
who, or what is this voice that calls to Abram?
Yet, Abram listens to the voice and heeds the call.
The next several chapters of Abram's life, chronicled in Genesis, is one swirling adventure after another
Abram leaves his hometown, takes a wife, Sarai, not yet Sarah.
Abram goes into Egypt, allows his wife to be..ahem...compromised, by the very icon of ancient political power, the Pharoah.
because of his deceit about not claiming Sarai as his wife the Pharoah and his house is plagued, Pharoah knows what's going on and sends Abram and Sarai away.
Abram the trickster.
Abram prospers along with his nephew Lot
they prosper so much they need to split their holdings so as not to despoil the land.
Where Lot goes, there is military intrigue, he is kidnapped.
Abram assembles a crack squad of warriors.
Abram gets Lot back.
Abram is praised by the mysterious Melchizedek.
The kings of the area try to reward him, but noble Abram refuses.
Through all this adventure: (raise the tension)

and then we are met with these quiet words:
"The LORD came to Abram in a vision"

And God says to Abram:
"Fear not"
A few weeks ago, our Chaplain, Annwn Myers, noted that "Fear not" is one of the most common sayings of God in the Bible.
Now, being a seminarian, I was immediately seized with the hermeneutic of suspicion, so I, of course, looked it up.
and...she's right
there are hundreds of instances where God, or an angel says, "Fear not."
And the funny thing is, when God says fear not, the ones hearing it...the ones hearing GOD...SPEAK...well, they FEAR NOT.
And Abram fears-not and listens to and even talks with God.
We read the most amazing things in the Bible,don't we, just hear that again, "Abram speaks with God."
What follows is a story with extrodinarily potent imagery.
There is a vision
Abram argues with God
God widens Abram's perspective to a literally cosmic scale,
"Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them."
"So shall your descendents be."
But Abram needs more, he still wants to know how he can trust God.
Then God, and it is hard to tell whether what follows happens in the physical world or within the context of the vision,
such are the misty-myth-realities of God-encounters
But God tells Abram to take select animals, and in a very specific manner, slaughter them, each laid, "half over against the other."
to us this a strange thing for God to ask
But to Abram, he is thinking: God is speaking my language!
God is implementing a covenant ceremony so solemn, so permanent, that our pre-nup-divorce-broken-lease-culture cannot even come close to understanding it.
God is linking his destiny to Abram's destiny.
God is linking His destiny to Abram's.
All theology starts with mystery.
God is so very big, and we are so very small.
God is God, and I am not.
Our Arch-bishop of Canterbury says that we come to theology with "wounded knowledge," the wound in our knowledge of God is the essential incomprehesibility of Him.
When asked what God was doing before the creation of the universe, Martin Luther, responded that God was whittling switches for people who ask such useless questions.
Since God exists outside of creation as its creator, He is ultimately unknowable.
Met with such a large and wholly OTHER God, we can almost be forgiven one of our great sins
the sin of abstracting God,
the sin of seeing God as force.
the sin of knowing God's ways as if God were a reducible formula.
But the rub is that... God.... meets us.
God came to Abram.
While the infinite, eternal Creator God is absolutely unknowable
that same God meets us, comes to us, reaches out to us,
is destined to bring us to him.
The Unknowable God makes himself known.
Julian of Norwich called this unknowable God that makes himself known, the Courteous God.
How courteous of God to make himself known to us!
How merciful that God doesn't let us flounder in our being.
Instead, God mercifully makes himself known, and not only that, but he lets us know in no uncertain terms, indeed,on our terms, like he did with Abram, that the foundation of the entire creation and the motivation of the creator is Love.
This is the greatest glory that we can experience of God, not his power, but his presence,not his majesty, so much as his ministry.
From the first covenant with Abram to the new covenant through the Word made Flesh, the same refrain rings throughout all space and time: Emmanuel. God with us.
How merciful that God is so courteous as to regard us to be his companions.
Incidently, it is worth noting that the derivation of the word, companion, means someone you break bread with.
May all of us here, and all creation, come to know our Unknowable Companion.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Could Lent be more than chocolate?

Could Lent be less than discipline?

Could Lent be the addition of subtraction,
the blaring silence?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In the Begining...

For your enjoyment:

In Doctrines class we have been discussing the doctrine of Creation. It is amazing how such a simple word can have such powerful implications. The video above reminds me of sitting in the class and, in a cavalier fashion, we paint the entire scope of EVERYTHING with a very broad brush. When we say the creed, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, CREATOR of heaven and earth, of things, seen and unseen." Do we ever stop to think about what we are saying? It's big stuff, and it's not enough to say, "God made us and that settles it." What does it mean to believe that God created the Universe? Why? What is his relationship to creation? Does he need creation? And what is the "unseen" stuff?

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Ethics of Villainy

Here is the wonderful "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" I cannot recommend this highly enough. It has wonderful music, smart, subtle comedy, and a certain darkness that is a trademark of all Joss Whedon's work. The best part about all of Whedon's work is that he has the moral fiber to tell stories that are not the normal fair for t.v., movies, comics, internet, whatever. If you care to, watch all the episodes, and we can discuss it in the comments section of this post. I will offer a spoiler alert for the comments section, so watch before you read.

Act 1 part 1

Act 1 part 2

Act 2 part 1

Act 2 part 2

Act 3 part 1

Act 3 part 2