Friday, April 1, 2011

Message from the Bishop

In lieu of my usual post, below is an email that was sent today by my bishop.  Please take the time to read it.  

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,  
As I write this, we are approaching the Fourth Sunday of Lent, sometimes known as "Refreshment Sunday" - a time to take a deep breath and regroup for the final approach to Holy Week and Easter. So far, our Lent has proceeded against the backdrop of painful world events. We have all been disheartened by the deteriorating situation in Japan, and increasingly preoccupied with the conflict in Libya and our participation in it.
These things may seem like intrusions on our spiritual journey. We may feel that they keep us from focusing our thoughts on God, or, worse yet, that they cause us to doubt the existence or goodness of God. But, in fact, it is precisely our faith in Christ that helps us to face the challenge of human fragility in the face of an earthquake and a tsunami, or the reality of human cruelty in the face of dictatorship whenever and wherever it arises.
There are no easy answers here. But the Christian tradition does offer guidance. With regard to natural disaster, Scripture calls us over and over to embrace the physical universe as a good thing. This includes our own existence as physical beings. But clearly our embeddedness in the physical universe exposes us to tectonic shifts, violent weather, and all kinds of dangers that are just part of life on a living planet. Is it a good thing for us to be flesh and blood, to be children of such an earth? Is it worth the cost?
Again, there are no easy answers, but it does matter that we are followers of Jesus, the Eternal Word made flesh. The world was made through him, yet he became fully part of this world. In doing so, he affirmed that earthly existence is something good - something to be redeemed, not done away with. It follows that our physical existence has deep spiritual meaning. Our bodies are not a mere add-on to what and who we truly are. We are of the earth and totally connected to the earth.  In the resurrection we will have bodies, even though we cannot now imagine what that will look like. Are we not then called as Christians to love the earth, from which our bodies are derived and to which they return when we die? If earth is our home base, should we not care for her, even when this may involve sacrifice, and should we not embrace our nature as her children, even when this means our vulnerability to natural disaster?
I speak as one who has not suffered directly from anything like Katrina, or the tornadoes that ravaged Xenia and Montgomery years ago, or the floods that afflicted our sister diocese in Ohio not long ago. But I will never forget the night about twenty-five years ago when I learned that a number of ninth-graders at Oregon Episcopal School had perished on Mount Hood in an unanticipated May snowstorm while on an annual school-sponsored wilderness adventure. Two of those ninth-graders had been in my youth group in Portland. If you are flying into Portland from the east, you pass by Mt. Hood on your left. For many years, I could not bear to look at that beautiful mountain, either from the air or from the safer distance of the city. I am only now just beginning to "forgive" Mount Hood for its treachery.
Of course, it is God whom I am daring to forgive - God, who made the mountains, and snowstorms, and the children themselves. No easy answers. But I will not be shaken from my conviction that God is love, and Mt. Hood is part of that. Why? Because Jesus died on the cross to make God's love known. This is why we can stand, Sunday after Sunday, offering to God our prayers for our brothers and sisters in Japan, knowing that God is ultimately responsible, yet confident that God, who knows every victim of the Japanese tsunami by name, is holding each of them close in ways we cannot imagine.
On a much smaller scale, Margaret's father, Ross Garner, died on March 18. He would have been ninety-seven on March 28th. My father-in-law was a teacher, mentor, and father to me. He loved the Episcopal Church, and had a clear vision of its distinctive mission as an ancient institution aimed at the future. Ross hated Rite 2, and he and I continually argued about this. But he believed in the vitality of our tradition, and struggled in his day for the ordination of women, the acceptance of gays and lesbians, and an open door to Mexican immigrants to Oregon.  May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
As I write this, I am just back from the spring meeting of the House of Bishops at the Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina. The spring meeting is always a retreat where little business is done - otherwise I would have sent daily updates. We did discuss one matter that affects us all - whether or not to sign onto the proposed Anglican Covenant. The bishops took no position at this time. We all agreed that the proposed Covenant needs to be discussed thoroughly at the diocesan level. Your deputation to the next General Convention (2012) will be engaging you in conversation about this in the coming months. Stay tuned.
May Christ, who refused to turn stones into bread, strengthen us against the temptation to escape life in a world in which stones are stones.
May Christ, who became one with us, and is one with us forever, guide and grace us to serve the whole world he came to save - our human brothers and sisters, all living creatures, and the earth itself: mountains, forests, and oceans.
May Christ save us from all tyrants, and give us grace to witness to the cross of Christ.
In Christ,

Thomas E. Breidenthal
Bishop of Southern Ohio

No comments:

Post a Comment