Bishop's Blog

Bishop Scarfe shares his experiences, reflections, and sermons.







Sunday, February 17, 2019

From Nzara

You awake to drums, and are summoned by drums to tea breaks during your workshops or to prayer in the Cathedral in the morning. Rosters crow incessantly in the morning, just in case you didn’t get the message that a new day has dawned. Days are not taken for granted here and so with genuine gratefulness, you greet God’s blessing of the new day. Life is God’s ongoing gift, and it is offered in the age long refrain “And it was morning and evening—(another) day.”

As jet lag from the thirty-hour journey wanes, you find a new rhythm to life. It is life in community, where the bishop’s house is home not only to his own children but to any number of others whom he has taken under his wing—some from early childhood to becoming adults. All of this is in a life uncompensated by the artificial notion of salary.

Somehow travel expenses are met in a busy global ministry; schools are expanded to accommodate increasing number of students; and solar panels are the building blocks of their own electrical grid. The great gift of water—clean though not yet “running” except to its five points of distribution around and outside the Cathedral compound. This is a Cathedral and Diocesan staff that lives together in community, in a growing village of “tukols,” or huts fashioning an intergenerational homestead.

Is this a way of life that commercialized urbanization has never reached or has left behind? Or is it an ongoing, ancient choice of how to live that we have forgotten and lost to our sorrow? Certainly it is a choice seeking best of all worlds as modern technology increases its reach. Laughter rings out from morning to night. Children lead prayers, and people know how to welcome strangers and how to open their lives to say thank you for being with us.

I have just enjoyed two days of workshops with the clergy of the Diocese, tackling the thorny question of blending Hebrew and Christian scriptures on the first day, and going deeply into the Lord’s Prayer on the second day, showing how to use it as a faith telling course for baptism and confirmation preparation. And now we have begun to experience the open and honest accountability sessions which make up the Nzara Diocese in Synod.

In the meantime it has been a joy to see the Iowa team absorbed in their specific work here – helping the Mother’s Union find the confidence to make their own uniforms (Abigail and Marci from St Timothy’s West Des Moines) or exploring the set up of creating their own diocesan pineapple wine for communion (Mel Schlachter). This is about capacity building—and saving the expense of Ugandan imports for both entities. And yet everything is done around prayer and singing, laughter and joy. And if we wonder how is all this possible even as the clouds of civil war have barely broken open to let in sun rays of peace, well I think the clergy group know the answer—for do we not pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done—on earth as it is in heaven?” Live as in heaven, and seek to bring its reality to this land surface of ours. That is the secret of this place. We might almost say “Is this heaven? No it’s Nzara!” But they live as if it is so!

+Alan

Photo Credit: M. Mordecai

Photo Credit: M. Mordecai

Photo Credit: M. Mordecai

Photo Credit: M. Mordecai

Photo Credit: M. Mordecai

Photo Credit: M. Mordecai


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

February 2019

“I have done what was mine to do. May God show you what is yours.” This quote from St. Francis was offered to the Iowa diocesan delegation in a response to the case study we presented at the Living Stones annual conference on the ministry of all the baptized. Our case study shared the story of four new ministry initiatives that have popped up in Iowa—Breaking Bread, The Way Station in Spencer, the Beloved Community Initiative, and Wild Church in Dubuque. We realized, as we presented, that we could have included so many more—Messy Church, Laundry Love, the Faith and Prairie Gardens, or even the shaping of a tree stump in Glenwood into “Praying Hands.” In fact, the people reflecting on our study wondered whether these new ministry initiatives, and the enthusiasm and support for them, were seen as a source of envy or threat or was the source of some dispiritedness among congregations that were struggling. It’s a worthy warning not to get overly excited by new and shiny things that we lose focus of everyone else. Again, we could have also referred them to the Revival, Growing Iowa Leaders or Engaging All Disciples consults and to the small church gatherings being planned for this Spring and Summer.

Part of the process of Living Stones is that the case study presenters get thirty minutes to speak, and then have to be silent for an hour and forty minutes while their reflectors enter into conversation about what they have heard. The reflectors obviously get only a slice of the whole picture but often their insights and wisdom prove invaluably for our movement forward. “Are these singular initiatives or can they be replicated in other places in the diocese?” was another insightful question.

“I have done what was mine to do. May God show you what is yours.” This is what engaging all disciples is all about. The assumption is that God is at work in everyone, and seeks for us to discover and engage what that work is. Most of it is found in the routine course of living our lives—of being in the Way of God’s Love for us and for everyone we encounter.

As I am never ashamed to repeat, I had the blessing of a pastor who asked, in prayer, “What will God do with this one?” for every one of his church members, and especially the younger ones. He threw us into preaching ministry in our late teens, encouraged us when we wanted to set up summer camp for children living in poverty and who had never been outside the city. And he prayed and discerned with us for God to show us what was ours to do. Ministry is a way of life; it is not a profession. It’s a call on our lives, and it takes as many forms as human beings vary from one another. There are so many gifts in ministry that I see manifest across the diocese: people who respond to need and hurt that is so obvious to them, and yet to which others of us might be oblivious. It’s through this ability to learn what is ours to do that God manages to bring about the Kingdom.

Near the end of the interaction in our Living Stones group, it was suggested that what we had presented were not really new initiatives; they were continuing initiatives—for God is always setting the whole ongoing work of Christ in new contexts. In that sense they seem new. If, however, through our new initiatives, Jesus is proclaiming forgiveness to sinners, purity to the unclean, hope to the joyless and oppressed, and life to the lost and despairing, then His work simply continues in our time and place as it did when St. Francis first heard in his time and place the Gospel call to sell all he had and give it to the poor.

God simply repeats this pattern, and invites us to engage. May God show you what is yours to do.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

January 2019

According to Susan Shain, writing in The New York Times, 31 December 2018, there are seven important elements of a successful New Year resolution of “new year, new you” (“How to Crush Your Habits in the New Year With the Help of Science”).

As I began reading the various formulas for developing the newly resolved you, the byline “From the Bishop” caught my attention. Is a bishop really into the pop psych business of New Year resolutions? Isn’t it more appropriate to reflect on the significance of January 1 being the Feast of the Holy Name? After all, it is into that Holy Name of Jesus that we all obtain our identity and the purpose of our resolved lives. We are followers of Jesus and are seeking to lose our lives to gain them as enriched, enhanced, and celebrated in Him. We believe that in that Name is our source of love, joy, and hope to which all our selves aspire.

We are also people who carry such a “treasure in an earthen vessel.” Muscles need exercising; love, joy, and hope are not solo efforts but communal; thoughts need the provocation and inspiration of listeners and storytellers alike. There’s always a personal readiness expected even as the Kingdom of God seeks to transform. It always helps to put ourselves in the way of potentially good becoming, and to acknowledge the freedom of moving away from what doesn’t help that same becoming.

And so I have overcome my uncertainty and am glad to offer the collective wisdom of the research of a New York Times writer, and invite you to consider how these seven principles may assist you as you grow more fully into the Name you have been given.

First, think big. What is the change you want to see by next New Year’s Eve and having picked the theme, find the satisfying ways that help you get there.  Don’t pick the habit just because it’s meant to help, rather first pick the theme of change you desire. And in an atmosphere of trial and error discover what moves you closer to the chosen theme.

Second, be patient. Find the trigger and reward of the behavior you are trying to break, and seek to transform bad habits into better ones.

Third, break the new behavior down even to a two minute activity. Want to read more? Start with a page a day, and see where that can take you over a six month period. You’ll be surprised by the impact of “mastering the art of showing up.”

Fourth, embrace snappy rewards. These are not necessarily physical activities, but the way your new actions make you feel. “Choose the form of habit that brings you joy in the moment” (James Clear)—like volunteering in an environment you enjoy.

Fifth, prime your environment. This includes placing yourself in supportive places—like-minded groups, like a book club, or in a room with an unplugged tv, or in the presence of encouraging post-its. My best gardening season was when I chose to sit outside for morning coffee and devotions. I can spend days inside and then be amazed (and overwhelmed) at what happens to uncontrolled natural growth outside.

Sixth, plan to fail and have a recovery strategy on hand. Outsource your willpower by sharing your intentions with others who can hold your intention with you when you are hesitant or exhausted by your efforts.

Seventh, celebrate often. Take a selfie of the post-workout you. “Celebration is one of the emotions that propel persons forward....That gratitude, and authentic pride along with hope, social connection and compassion are the most effective emotions for promoting long-lasting behavior change. The least effective are shame, guilt and fear” (Kelly McGonigal).

It is obvious that much of the life of spiritual practice and attachment to a community of faith are already present in the seven elements. We just don’t always see our faith as a way of life. We separate our “personal” state from Church. And yet all we need is found together and it begins in the worshipping community of our local Episcopal congregation. Every week we come together to celebrate. We know how to outsource our willpower as a praying people. We promise that when we fail, we will turn again to the source of forgiveness and restoration. Failure is never the end of the road. And we will hold each other up.

We painstakingly work on creating an environment that reminds us of the beauty and fulfilment found in the presence of God and we probably could do more intentionally in this department. We are also learning how to create sacred space beyond Church buildings. It is a worthwhile exercise to take inventory on how our environments inspire aspiration and good resolve.

We are a “think big” people; and we have the tools if we would create the time and opportunity to break things down to their basics. This is a leadership challenge for the annual meeting and the vestry planning retreat. If you are a vestry of the whole, take a series of weekends early this year and ask where you want to be as a people of God by New Year’s Eve entering 2020; and set out the baby steps to move towards it. What would the two-minute challenges look like for you and yours? And don’t be afraid to extend creative rewards. Have fun with being Church, and let Church be fun. There was something God wanted to reflect when God placed a sense of humor and absurdity within us.

All of this is about growing in Christian mindfulness so that we may be the alert people God seeks to use each day to hallow the world. It is also about being available for “that day”—of the disaster, of the unforeseen consequence, of the time when those around you need your composure and faith; as a people prepared for any moment because we have learned to live in the moment which is what mindfulness, and our annual resolutions, seek to preserve.

A blessed New Year to you in the peace and love of Christ,

+Alan

The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa

Sources: Charles Duhigg, “The Power of the Habit”; Kelly McGonigal, “The Willpower instinct”; James Clear, “Atomic Habits”.

Monday, December 3, 2018

December 2018

What would it be like to imagine standing within the time frame of the first Advent season? Of course, there is nothing specific to be waiting for; just a sense of confusion, fear, distress, even some fainting fits at the state of the world. We might ask how we got to be where we are? What do we anchor our lives upon? How do we assess what we decide is of value? Change seems to be the prevalent experience, and things of sturdiness in the past are growing fluid around us. We keep on in our religious traditions, with its promises of hope and expectation, but no real signs of responsive intervention or new options from the divine are evident to us.

Yet in the words of the Psalmist, something is stirring. “My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps 139:15-16).

Mary knows, and Joseph knows. Elizabeth knows. Three people and some excited angels know that God’s answer is on its way. And so in them and with them, we wait. Light is about to shine in our darkness. That, however, is not the end of it all. It’s the beginning. Another stretch of unknown looms before us.

For after the joy of the Savior’s birth we wait some more—a whole generation in fact, rather like the people of Israel having to spend a generation to reach their promised land. Confusion, fear, distress and fainting fits re-appear, as we wait for Jesus to grow up— so that God can become human like we are and in every way. Another period of things happening in secret and hidden away lies before us.
Finally, that grown up Jesus, God serving humans as a human being and revealing how God is Love, tells us all that there will be times when there will be “distress among the nations, confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken…Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:25-28).

It seems to me that we never stop being Advent people, even as people of the resurrection. We don’t seem to leave Advent in the rear view mirror. It’s the ability to stand and lift up our heads that is different. It’s the assurance that Jesus’ words that have finally come will not pass away. It’s the awareness that God’s Kingdom is always near and our redemption with it, that is our hope, and the hope of the world. So, confusion, fear, distress and fainting from exhaustion are also with us. It’s our alertness that matters, and our opportunity to pray for strength to escape such negativity and always to stand before that Son of Man who is none other than God who cared to experience our existence for the sake of love. And its our faith that confesses belief that “He will come again” to roll up time—with the living and the dead—and weigh it all in the balance of that very same experienced love Incarnate.

In the peace of Christ,

+Alan

The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa

Friday, November 2, 2018

November 2018

It was a wonderful sight to see the crowds of Episcopalians teem into the Marriott Ballroom for the Sending Eucharist of this year’s Convention. I wish I had been present to greet you as you came off the buses or as you came through the lobby. As Kent Anderson, minister of ceremonies with Elizabeth Popplewell, welcomed our live stream community, diocesan youth and liturgical ministers gathered outside the hall with the Presiding Bishop, receiving instruction from Elizabeth Popplewell to the service that would unfold. I am grateful to Kent and Elizabeth, for shepherding us all, and to all those who took part in this work of the people.

It was a glorious weekend, worthy of all the early planning from a year ago onwards. Much work went into it, not the least being the connectivity project which allowed almost every congregation to be linked with the sending worship. And so, even after remarkably uplifting reports, videos, and addresses of Convention, we still had the final climb of the technological live-stream. It was rather like facing Alpe D’Huez at the end of a grueling Tour de France stage. And with God’s help we climbed that mountain. I am sorry to hear that the live stream did not come through for everyone because of local conditions, and I have heard that some managed to use personal phone hotspots to boost receptivity. On the whole we connected in Eucharistic worship across the state.

One retired priest described his dilemma. He was at a point in his life where crowds, the cost of Convention, the energy required to travel to be present were unsurmountable obstacles. And he wondered where he would worship that day of the Sending Eucharist. Then he recalled, “a picture came into my head of watching an Iowa State basketball game at a local sports bar and of my telling many people that I much preferred, at this point in my life, not to attend large sporting events. But rather to watch (participate) in an important game, locally, with locals, seated at a comfortable table…The answer to prayer! If I felt that way about a sporting event, then surely as an old man—and a priest—it would be good to view the sending Eucharist among friends…..from my perspective 100s miles away, it was great. We sang the hymns and service music well, we laughed, we said AMEN, loudly, we heard and saw the PB Michael. Yes, there were technical glitches but they can be corrected. It was a memorable occasion.”

In Convention itself, we honored Nancy Cogan of Trinity, Iowa City for her more than 14,000 volunteer hours as a visiting hospital chaplain; we rejoiced and congratulated Cathleen Bascom on being elected as the Tenth Bishop of Kansas; we welcomed our companion Bishops from Nzara and Brechin, Samuel Peni and Andrew Swift; and we played with technology some more in utilizing a reporting system called Mentimeter, which offers the opportunity for the whole gathering to see people’s responses to questions in real time. People left Convention making more than 250 commitments to God of mission resolve. Also using Mentimeter, together we created a word cloud of the things that give us confidence and courage to engage in ministry, and top of the list was Eucharist. Love and Jesus were the top responses to another word gathering exercise on how people imagine the Growing Iowa Leader weekends will impact their congregations.

My own address was interwoven with other voices via videos on things like the extraordinary work started by the Beloved Community Initiative, a reflection on General Convention, and Growing Iowa Leaders 2018, and an introduction to next year’s theme of Engaging All Disciples. The address shared our financial aims through GILEAD, the diocesan campaign being launched during Eastertide 2019, and more immediately through the 2019 Budget. 

The Presiding Bishop called us to be God’s witnesses of the Love we find in Jesus. He invited us to engage the Way of Love through turning to God, praying, worshiping, studying, witnessing, serving and resting in God’s grace. And Bishop Swift reminded us at Evensong that often the sweet words of God turn in our stomachs because we seek to follow in an imperfect world and as imperfect people. This was brought home to us as we wrestled with responses to the emerging events around us as we met—transgender discrimination, the responses to the approaching caravan of migrants, and the murder of eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which happened over the Convention weekend. As Carl Mann wrote in a memorial resolution for Don Twentyman, deacon of this Church and this diocese who died this past year, he is received in the Church expectant while awaiting the Church triumphant. 

It is in this world still struggling with evil in so many forms that the call to witness goes forth. Jesus had no question about the kind of society into which He sent His followers; or into which He sends us. He promises to be with us even to the end of the ages.

A little more than twenty-four hours later, a number of us were at the synagogue on Polk Boulevard in Des Moines in solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers, lamenting and reflecting on the murderous shooting in Pittsburgh. I was invited to give a brief statement. As I stood at the lectern, with eleven candles flickering before me, I chose to recall how the day before we entered into the final worship service of our Convention in the Marriott Hotel. I told how we were in two minds about the celebratory final hymn, which also had a Jewish flavor to it. We decided to place eleven candles around the baptismal font in remembrance, and at the same time honor the deep place of our common creation in the image of God, and that the water before us was also the water of life itself. 

In that final hymn, Sharon led us out with the slow, haunting clarinet, and gradually we entered into a place of joy. It was not shallow joy, but provided a depth of spirit because we were willing to sing while carrying our compassion and mourning with us.  And that experience leaves us no doubt that there are many places where we must carry on God’s work of witness to. As a prayer in the New Zealand Prayer Book asks: “God, give us work till our life shall end, and life till our work is done” (125). May that be a prayer we take home with us.  

In the peace and love of Christ,

+Alan

The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa





Friday, October 5, 2018

Companionship

October 5, 2018 Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, Companionship is a significant Christian virtue. It stands at the heart of our worship. “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers?” When we are a companion with someone, we are literally breaking bread with them. In the letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul invites them to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” That law or commandment was “to love one another as I have loved you.” The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, and especially the courageous testimony of Dr. Ford, opened up cavernous wounds in the lives of many. Memories of similar experiences of trauma and assault, and of times of fearing for their lives, came to the forefront especially for women in all walks of life. For some, years of private therapy have come unraveled in half a day of television testimony. What I had never really understood is the message women and girls have been given, consciously or unconsciously, that they are fully responsible for their own safety. And if that safety breaks down and they are found at the receiving end of harassment or in a compromising situation, the one they are made to feel to blame is themselves. “The hardest thing to do (after my own experience of assault) was not to forgive the perpetrator, but to forgive myself; that I let myself down in not preserving my safety.” This was one comment I recently heard. We know of internalized victimization in matters of racial and classist discrimination. We may rarely however extend it to half of the human race in terms of gender. At General Convention, the Bishops led a “Liturgy of Listening”—a worship service of reconciliation and truth-telling around sexual harassment and assault. Testimony from across the Church was received, and sample letters were read out aloud as acts of witness, of bringing dark secrets into the light of Christ among God’s people. No one chosen to recite a letter stood alone. This practice of standing with a person sharing vulnerable and personally sensitive testimony became practice throughout the more intimate moments of the House of Bishops in Austin. “O God, you manifest in your servants the signs of your presence; send forth upon us the Spirit, that in companionship with one another your abounding grace may increase among us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer, 125). That is an evening collect offered for prayer every night. The Church started out as a place where women found a safe place. Where in Christ our gender identity was said to be indiscriminate. Jesus made the most vulnerable among us feel noticed, loved and protected. As we know the Church has never fully lived up to that ideal. We were soon telling women to cover their heads, and not tempt the angels, and to keep quiet in worship, to submit to their husbands. The new creation God had made in Jesus Christ has taken thousands of years to shine through. But it is beginning to appear. Or at least its implications are beginning to dawn on us because Jesus has been shining through women from Mary at the tomb onwards. No one should stand alone. Christians accompany people because God has come among us. And no woman should think that they bear the responsibility for their own safety among men who are allowed to say “I couldn’t help myself” or “boys will be boys.” One of the actions taken from General Convention was to invite each diocese to look into its culture of bias in relation to women. How affirming are we as a community to women in leadership and especially young women? How safe are we as a community for women whom we invite to be our pastors and spiritual guides? What are the hidden messages of our community in these matters? Dr. Ford may not have been truly heard at the Judiciary Hearing where her testimony was already being drowned out by the noise of our party politics. But through her I began to hear the testimony of others, and the burdensome responsibility we in society make women in particular bear for the preservation of their own safety. I hope that hearing is also a beginning for us men to look more deeply into why we feel the need to impose such a burden in the first place. What are we afraid of? Maybe companionship itself? In the peace of Christ, +Alan The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa

Sunday, September 30, 2018

October 2018

In a very short time, we will be together in Convention with the Presiding Bishop. There are a couple of new things to report about what we will be doing together. And just in case you have not yet heard, I want to repeat them here.

The Diocesan Convention runs from Friday evening through Sunday morning. At 11am on Sunday, October 28th, we are holding one Eucharist in many locations across the Diocese. Every Episcopalian is invited to attend in person the Diocesan Convention Eucharist in the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines at which I will preside and the Presiding Bishop will preach. For those unable to travel, I have asked each congregation to hold only one local worship time at 11am on that day when they can participate in the very same Eucharist that will be live-streamed across the Diocese. Hence, we will be celebrating one Eucharist in many locations. I have authorized worship leaders in each congregation to distribute the elements of bread and wine from the reserved sacrament on that day. It is expected that the elements will be consecrated “in special intention for the upcoming Convention” the week before. Local gatherings will follow the same order of service, enjoy the same hymns and prayers, hear the same readings and sermon from the streamed Eucharist from Convention, and to that end you will receive bulletins to follow along.

I am not sure if a Presiding Bishop has ever been to Diocesan Convention. I know that the Archbishop of Canterbury visited on one occasion. Nevertheless, this will be a new way to experience being One Church in Many Locations, the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement in Iowa. We also want to give the Presiding Bishop as much opportunity as we can to minister among us. He will address Convention on Saturday afternoon at the late afternoon session, around 2:30 pm, just before the break for Evensong. This is a move away from the Convention dinner keynote speaker spot of our usual schedule. It is intended to allow visitors to register and attend Convention for that Saturday afternoon, stay on for Evensong at the Cathedral and then sign up for the evening Convention banquet. This year, the banquet will be “buffet-style,” at which the Presiding Bishop will hold a “question and answer” session at 6pm prior to a more casual, buffet-style dinner. There will be some opportunity during the buffet for informal interaction with him. He ends his evening with the youth. Clergy will have a session with Bishop Curry on Friday afternoon at the Cathedral.

This year we open Convention on Friday evening, October 26th, with a Gathering Eucharist at the Cathedral at 7pm. I will preach and the Presiding Bishop will preside. Convention business begins at 9am on Saturday morning. The Presiding Bishop has been fascinated by our commitment to holding forty Revivals last year, and is eager to hear stories of its impact and about the follow-up sessions, “Growing Iowa Leaders.” He is promoting “The Way of Love,” a rule of life for contemporary disciples. He is committed to inviting all of us to take personally and seriously this life of Jesus offered at baptism and nurtured by the Spirit of God within us. That’s why he wanted the General Convention to hear of our Iowa Revivals and invited me to address the plenary session of both Houses on our experience. He then asked dioceses’ deputations to discuss there and then at General Convention on how to adapt the local revival concept to their situations. I want to hear from Bishop Curry what may be transpiring because of that.

Watch out for revivals! Invariably they have signaled difficult times ahead for society, and for the Church in serving the needs of society. They are not spiritual entertainment, but an aspect of God seeking to find ways to get our attention. There is evidence that other awakenings are happening around us. This has become clear in the energy and creative genius offered to us by the various presenters at Growing Iowa Leaders. Most of them are young people, and mainly women, for whom solutions to sustaining the Church today is a matter of urgency. In Des Moines, an ecumenical group, called together for conversation by Jennifer Harvey of Drake University, is committing to twelve months of public worship witness each first Sunday of the month at 1pm at various locations in Des Moines, and different denominations are invited to take their turn in leading. Their proclamation of “We are Church Confessing” seeks to respond to what they see as “the nation going through an unprecedented and truly devastating and frightening historical moment. This moment is marked by increasing hostility and violence against communities of color, immigrant communities and religious minorities, and attended by evidence that authoritarian tendencies are emerging at the highest levels of government.”  Some of their inspiration is taken from the statement “Reclaiming Jesus” which the Presiding Bishop and several nation-wide denominational and Church leaders developed at the beginning of Lent this year.

It has been a helpful challenge to concentrate on the message of the epistle of James these past few weeks. I take some mild comfort in realizing that James had to say what he did because the early Church, within decades of those who walked and talked with Jesus, and possibly saw Him die and risen, was made up of people like you and me. They showed preference to the wealthy and disparaged the poor; they fought with each other and had to be reminded as to where that anger came from. They had to be warned against the treachery of the devil in sowing seeds of dissension, and about the power of the tongue in reaping a whirlwind of conflict. They had to be told that “thoughts and prayers,” or even a “God bless you” were inadequate expressions of faith when a person’s physical vulnerability remained unaddressed. They were invited to show their faith by their works—to walk the Way of Love in relationships. And all of this was theologically underpinned by a personal understanding and embrace of how God showed them mercy, and forgave them, and provided for them. Is this where we are being led today? To let Jesus be known in us by how we practice upholding dignity, equality, justice, or practice a reconciling spirit and a way of sharing? Our world is larger than that which James knew; and we have no excuses for not knowing what is happening to billions of people in poverty, or hundreds of millions in economic and sexual slavery. If the technological revolution is only a couple of decades old, it stands to reason to me that God is hard at work creating a revived people for our time; and that Jesus’s concept that “by your love, people will know you are My disciples” is being reframed!

It is no coincidence that our Chief Revivalist is coming to Diocesan Convention to help us accentuate our Revival efforts. Don’t let the opportunity to receive him and let him point us to Jesus’ way of love pass you by. It is our time for God’s preparation of us as effective Jesus followers and for “our light to shine forth like the day.”

In the peace and love of Christ,

+Alan

The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa