Bishop's Writings Author: The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
May 31, 2021
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country's first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
Now a holiday to remember all those lost to us in war, Memorial Day touches that place of grief we all feel with the death of those we love. After a year of great loss in our land, we are united in grief and thanksgiving for the lives of those taken from this earth too soon. We honor their lives, and this day and every day, we remember them.
May 20, 2021
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
In church this Sunday we’ll remember a day when the Spirit of God showed up with unmistakable power, like a mighty wind, marking a new beginning for Jesus’ followers. No longer were they frightened disciples of a crucified man. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they became the bold apostles of a resurrected Lord, proclaiming God’s mercy and forgiveness, freedom from sin and the fear of death, and the life-transforming love of Jesus.
Prior to that day, Jesus was clear that his followers were to wait until the Spirit of God came to them. On that day, he was equally clear that they were to act upon the power they had been given.
What do you do, I wonder, with the power the Holy Spirit has given you?
Our relationship to power is complicated, for there are many sources of power and countless ways we can either abuse or deny the power entrusted to us.
Like many of you, I’ve been studying the history of our country through the lenses of both race and religion. That history reveals how people of faith are capable of horribly misusing power. That same history reveals that we can be persuaded or taught that we have no power to effect the change we long for in ourselves and the world around us.
While the heinous abuses of human power are terrible to acknowledge and soul-wrenching to witness, there is as much accountability for those of us who fail to use the power we have for good. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Those who passively accept evil are as much involved in it are those who help to perpetrate it. Those who accept evil without protesting against it are really cooperating with it."
In contrast, the Holy Spirit’s power working in and through us is always a force for good in this world. Always. It’s mysterious, in that we cannot control the Spirit. Yet sometimes we can feel it inside us, enabling us to accomplish, as St. Paul writes, “far more than we can ask for or imagine.” Others may thank us for a power that we didn’t know we had.
The Holy Spirit amplifies our own spirits, making us more, somehow, of who we already are. The Holy Spirit’s power amplifies and channels our own power, using even our sins for good. Thus it’s critically important for us to tend to our own spirits, and pay attention to the power we have, so that, as a friend of mine likes to say, “We give the Spirit more to work with.”
Thus while the Christian life does involve a lot of waiting for the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide us, it matters how we wait. Where do we show up? With whom do we interact? With what do we occupy ourselves? How are we tempted to misuse or downplay the power we already have?
In January 2012, I heard a sermon preached on the relationship between human power and God’s power that I’ve never forgotten. It was on the morning of President Obama’s second inauguration. The Obama and Biden families, and members of the President’s cabinet and their families, were gathered for prayer at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square. The preacher was Andy Stanley from Northpoint Community Church, one of the largest churches in the country.
From the pulpit Stanley looked President Obama in the eye, and then turned to the rest of us in the congregation and asked, “What do you do when you know that you’re the most powerful person in the room?”
He was speaking, of course, to the President of the United States, but also to everyone else. “We’ve all been that person,” he said, “at one time or another, though we may deny it. In relationship to our friends, coworkers, family or in casual interactions with others we might well be the most powerful person in the room.”
Stanley wanted all of us to acknowledge that God endowed us all with power, to think about how we use it, and make our power available to the Holy Spirit’s power working for good in this world. He reminded us of what Jesus did on the night of death, when he stripped to his waist, took a basin of water, and washed his disciples’ feet. Jesus--God’s Son, the most powerful man on he planet--gave his power away, in service of others.
In this season of Pentecost--the coming of the Holy Spirit--I wonder what you are doing with the power you already have? And how might the Holy Spirit work through you for good in this world?
May 20, 2021
Cuando venga el Espíritu Santo sobre ustedes, recibirán poder.
Hechos de los Apóstoles 1:8
En la iglesia este domingo recordaremos un día en que el Espíritu de Dios se presentó con un poder inconfundible, como un viento poderoso, marcando un nuevo comienzo para los seguidores de Jesús. Ya los discípulos no estaban asustados de un hombre crucificado. A través del poder del Espíritu Santo, se convirtieron en los valientes apóstoles del Señor resucitado, proclamando la misericordia y el perdón de Dios, la libertad del pecado y del miedo a la muerte, y el amor transformador de Jesús.
Antes de ese día, Jesús estaba claro de que sus seguidores debían esperar hasta que el Espíritu de Dios viniera a ellos. Ese día, él estaba igualmente claro que debían actuar utilizando el poder que se les había dado.
Me pregunto: ¿Qué haces con el poder que el Espíritu Santo te ha dado?
Nuestra relación con el poder es complicada, ya que hay muchas fuentes de poder e innumerables maneras en que podemos abusar o negarnos el poder que se nos ha confiado.
Como muchos de ustedes, he estado estudiando la historia de nuestro país a través de los lentes racial y religioso. Esa historia revela cómo la gente de fe es capaz de malusar el poder terriblemente. Esa misma historia revela que podemos ser persuadidos o enseñados que no tenemos poder para efectuar el cambio que anhelamos en nosotros mismos y en el mundo que nos rodea.
Mientras que los atroces abusos del poder humano son terribles de reconocer y desgarradores de presenciar, hay tanta responsabilidad para aquellos de nosotros que no usamos el poder que tenemos para bien. Como escribió el Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. en su Carta de una Cárcel de Birmingham (en inglés), “Aquellos que aceptan pasivamente el mal están tan involucrados en él que son quienes ayudan a perpetrarlo. Aquellos que aceptan el mal sin protestar contra él están realmente cooperando con él.”
En contraste, el poder del Espíritu Santo obrando en y a través de nosotros es siempre una fuerza para el bien en este mundo. Siempre. Es misterioso, porque no podemos controlar al Espíritu. Sin embargo, a veces podemos sentirlo dentro de nosotros, permitiéndonos lograr, como escribe San Pablo, “mucho más de lo que podemos pedir o imaginar”. Otros pueden agradecernos por un poder que no sabíamos que teníamos.
El Espíritu Santo amplifica nuestro propio espíritu, haciéndonos más, de alguna manera, de quienes ya somos. El poder del Espíritu Santo amplifica y canaliza nuestro propio poder, usando incluso nuestros pecados para bien. Por lo tanto, es de vital importancia que cuidemos nuestros propios espíritus y prestemos atención al poder que tenemos, así como le gusta decir a un amigo mío: “Damos al Espíritu más para trabajar con él”.
Así, mientras que la vida cristiana implica mucho esperar a que el Espíritu Santo nos inspire y nos guíe, importa cómo esperamos. ¿Dónde aparecemos? ¿Con quién interactuamos? ¿Con qué nos ocupamos? ¿Cómo estamos tentados a hacer mal uso o minimizar el poder que ya tenemos?
En enero de 2012, escuché un sermón predicado sobre la relación entre el poder humano y el poder de Dios que nunca he olvidado. Fue en la mañana de la segunda inauguración del Presidente Obama. Las familias Obama y Biden, así como los miembros del gabinete del Presidente y sus familias, se reunieron para orar en la Iglesia Episcopal San Juan, en la Plaza Lafayette. El predicador fue Andy Stanley, de la Iglesia Northpoint Community, una de las iglesias más grandes del país.
Desde el púlpito Stanley miró al presidente Obama a los ojos, y luego se dirigió al resto de nosotros en la congregación y preguntó: “¿Qué haces cuando sabes que eres la persona más poderosa de la habitación?”
Por supuesto, él estaba hablando con el Presidente de los Estados Unidos, pero también con todos los demás. “Todos hemos sido esa persona”, dijo, “en un momento u otro, aunque podemos negarlo. En relación con nuestros amigos, compañeros de trabajo, familiares o en interacciones casuales con otros, bien podríamos ser la persona más poderosa de la habitación”.
Stanley quería que todos reconociéramos que Dios nos ha dotado a todos de poder, que pensáramos en cómo lo usamos y que nuestro poder esté disponible para el poder del Espíritu Santo que trabaja para bien en este mundo. Nos recordó lo que Jesús hizo en la noche de la muerte, cuando se desnudó hasta la cintura, tomó una vasija con agua y lavó los pies de sus discípulos. Jesús --el Hijo de Dios, el hombre más poderoso en el planeta-- usó su poder en servicio de los demás.
En esta temporada de Pentecostés -- la venida del Espíritu Santo -- me pregunto qué están haciendo con el poder que ya tienen? ¿Y cómo puede el Espíritu Santo trabajar a través de ustedes para bien en este mundo?
May 16, 2021
Jesus prayed for his disciples, ‘‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
The majority of this sermon will be in English, yet I begin with a song in Spanish that expresses the essence of what is on my heart to say to you.
La mayoría de esta sermón será en ingles, pero quisiera ofrecer una palabra a la comunidad de habla espanol a traves de una canción que expresa el tema de mi mensaje:
El amor ha de traducirse en hechos,
es mucho más que palabras,
mucho más que sentimientos
obras son amores y no buenas razones,
el amor no falla nunca.
El amor busca ser correspondido
es la comunicación del amante y el amado,
es donarse enteramente,
el amor no falla nunca.
El amor es el sentido de la vida,
el amor es un derroche de alegría,
el amor es la cruz de cada día,
el amor es darlo todo sin medida. El amor.1
Even those who know only a few Spanish words might well surmise, the song El Amor is a musical interpretation of a Scripture passage most frequently read at weddings, St. Paul’s expansive definition of love found in his letter to the first century Christian community of Corinth. It’s certainly an appropriate reading for weddings, yet Paul wrote these words with a different context in mind--that of life in Christian community.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. El amor no falla nunca. (I Corinthians 13)
What an aspirational vision of love to live by.
When we hear love described in this way, we realize two things at once; how wonderful it would be to be loved so completely and unconditionally; and how hard it is to love that way. We have our moments when such love comes naturally, as easily as breathing; and yet other times when love as Paul describes and that Jesus lived is really, really hard, impossible even for us to realize. We fail in love as much as we succeed. Or speaking for myself, I know that I do.
And that is one of the most important reasons for us to gather in Christian community; to grow in our capacity to love as Jesus loves.
Today, we also gather to officially celebrate the new season of ministry at Ascension, Gaithersburg with the call of the Rev. Javier Ocampo to be your rector, although I daresay many of us have been celebrating for some time. For the relationship between you is not new; it has grown and evolved over the years you have shared life and ministry together.
At its foundation, your relationship is love--the love that Christ has for each one of you, the expressions of love you have experienced in this community, the love you have for one another, and the love you seek to share with others as Jesus’ followers.
It has been one of the great joys in my work as bishop to watch your relationship grow, to witness Javier’s love for you, and yours for him deepen; your confidence in one another grow, and the joy with which you made the decision to call him first as priest-in-charge and then as rector.
Javier, you are a blessing to all of us, at Ascension and throughout the entire Diocese of Washington. I give thanks to God for your call, your love, your decision to stay when other churches in other states wanted you. I’m so grateful to the leadership of Ascension who told me with complete confidence that you were the one to lead them in this next season of life and ministry here.
There is one phrase I’d like you to hold onto from today’s Scripture readings, the first line from the gospel text: Jesus prayed for his disciples. Jesus prayed for them, as his time with them was coming to an end, making four specific requests to God on their behalf.
Jesus prayed that God would help keep them together, that they would be one as He and the Father were one; that God would protect them from harm; they might know joy; and that they might grow in their understanding of what is true.
On this day, when we celebrate this new season of ministry at Ascension, I wonder what Jesus’ prayer is for you. What would the One who knows you better than you know yourself, loves you as unconditionally and completely as St. Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians, and invites you to be part of his great movement of love in this world pray on your behalf?
It could be that the prayer he prayed for his first century disciples is the same for you as those among his 21st century disciples: First, that you remain united--not all the same, because God obviously delights in diversity and wants us to appreciate the richness and complexity of human experience, but recognizing our fundamental one-ness as beloved children of God, all created in God’s image. Moreover, as fallen human beings, we all fall short of the glory of God and all are in need of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Jesus wants that kind of unity for you, and so do I.
Second, that you be protected from unnecessary harm, all the while knowing that as followers of Jesus you cannot be not spared suffering. Thus Jesus’ prayer is one of poignant longing that you do not endure undue suffering and that you be given grace to persevere in the midst of suffering.
Jesus wants that grace for you, and so do I.
Third, that you know the deep joy that comes from God’s love and the gift of your precious life. Joy is not the same as happiness, which is dependent on external circumstances. Joy is related to happiness, but it’s less dependent on what happens and more an expression of an internal sense of purpose and meaning. Joy can show up in the least likely places, often accompanied by God's presence and love.
Jesus wants that joy for you and so do I.
Fourth, that you be guided by what is true. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear and to bear at first, but it is always in the end what sets us free.
Jesus wants you to grow in your understanding of truth, and so do I.
Keep in mind that Jesus’ prayer for the first disciples, for you, and for all who follow him, is an expression of his love. Jesus loves you, Church of the Ascension. Jesus loves you, Javier. He invites you, and me, to join in his movement to love others in the way that he loves us--without conditions or agenda, in ways that place other people at the center of our concern, that seeks the good for other, a love that stretches us beyond what comes easily or naturally to us toward an expression of love beyond our capabilities--to the point that we hear ourselves say, as many have, that this love does not come from us but is of God.
Christian communities, at their best, and indeed sometimes at their worst, are like schools for us to learn Jesus’ way of love. We gather to experience Jesus’ love, for we cannot share what we do not know for ourselves, to grow in faith and love, to create a community of love, and to share love with others. In truth, churches often aren’t very good at love, because it’s made up of imperfect, wounded people like us. Yet we start where we are and we seek to live lives worthy of the one who came to show us the way of love.
My final prayer for you, Church of the Ascension, in the next season of your ministry, is that you go deep and wide in love. Be patient with one another, and kind. Seek the good in everyone, and strive to be the most courageous community expression of Jesus’ love that you can be. Ask yourself at every turn, at every decision, “What would love do?” And do that.
El amor es vivir comprometido,
el amor no es egoísta, el amor no es orgulloso,
el amor todo lo cree, el amor todo lo espera,
el amor no falla nunca. El amor.
1 Maite Lopez, ‘El Amor’ found on the album Deseos (2010).
May 13, 2021
Dear Friends in Ministry,
As we approach the Day of Pentecost, I give thanks for your leadership and the ways in which the Holy Spirit is blowing through our congregations, guiding all of us as we adapt in creative, new ways to the reality in which we find ourselves. Thank you for your faithfulness and courage in persevering throughout this past year.
At long last, we can all give thanks that COVID-19 cases continue to decline, and in response, local authorities are lifting restrictions. Mayor Bowser, for example, has recently announced that capacity limits on places of worship in the District will be lifted as of May 21, and I am sure other jurisdictions will soon do the same, if they haven’t already. Suddenly, it feels like reopening is happening faster than we anticipated.
At the start of the pandemic, I needed to place restrictions on our ability to worship and gather together, and I greatly appreciate your faithfulness in abiding by those guidelines. Now, as the pace of reopening picks up, I feel it is important to release you from that expectation.
Going forward, I trust you to monitor the guidance from civic authorities and adjust your practices accordingly. Where civic authorities do not provide guidance related to our life of faith -- serving food and drinks at coffee hour comes to mind -- I trust your best judgment as to what is right for your community and the health and well-being of your people.
Let me be more specific in some areas:
Parishes no longer need to submit a plan for regathering, though we are happy to talk through plans with you. Please email Canon Andrew Walter with your questions. Parishioners no longer need to sign the Covenant for Regathering prior to attending worship, unless you wish to ask that of them.
There is one restriction that remains in place for now in our sacramental practice. Until we have more information, please refrain from using the common cup and common loaf of bread in the sharing of Communion. Communion wafers for the bread is best for the time being, as is Communion in one kind or offering wine through individual cups or some other way you feel is safe. When we learn more from health officials, we will advise you further.
We have all missed singing, and recent CDC guidelines tell us that singing indoors by fully vaccinated people wearing masks is a safe activity. Therefore, singing is once again permitted by choirs and congregations, as you feel comfortable. This is an opportunity to encourage choir members and parishioners to receive the vaccine before returning, as the more people who are vaccinated, the safer all of us are in church. It is also within your authority, or that of your music minister, to insist that all choir members be vaccinated. I recommend that you do so, but leave it to your discretion.
COFFEE HOUR/ FOOD AND DRINKS
In addition to singing, we have missed gathering after church for informal conversation and social gatherings. Coffee hour and other activities with food and drinks may resume; I simply encourage you to think carefully about how food and drinks are served, avoiding potlucks and sheet cakes, where many people touch the same food and utensils. The safest alternatives are individually served items.
Please continue using your best judgement when it comes to making in-person pastoral care visits. You are the best person to decide when a visit can be safely made in-person and when a visit is best by telephone or Zoom. Trained Lay Eucharistic Ministers may resume making visits, bringing much comfort to those who need it.
Undoubtedly, this letter will not cover every nuance or circumstance of your ministry, but as I stated earlier, I trust you to use your best judgment to follow civic guidelines and do what is best for your people. As civic guidelines continue to relax, please feel empowered to regather as you feel is right.
Again, thank you for your careful, courageous ministry through this long and challenging time. You are an inspiration to me and to many.
May we continue to experience greater freedom and health for all people.