Standing on the Shoulders of Those Around Us

Standing there feeling incredibly uncomfortable, as if a bright light was being shined in my eyes, a moment of grace happened, and my focus turned to the front pew where my beloved and others were sitting. The occasion was the Church Divinity School of the Pacific Alumni Convocation to celebrate the honorary degree recipients, and I was humbled to be one of them.

FullSizeRender (2)Honestly, being complimented is, and has been for a long time, a growing edge for me. Thus, standing there in the chapel while a litany of accolades were being read was very challenging. That was until I changed my focus to the aforementioned pew.

The epiphany in the moment was that all of the cited accolades where shared. Family, friends, and colleagues are all full participants or teammates in whatever has been accomplished. I have accomplished nothing on my own; it has always been a team effort.

The consistent message I shared with those I was fortunate enough to coach, was that we stand on the shoulders of those around us, and those who have gone before us. That is, for me, the foundational understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ.

So with that said, thanks for being a part of the team…a part of the body of Christ!

The Incarnational Experience of the Gospel Story of the Widow’s Mite

Photo Credit: James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The Widow’s Mite” by James Tissot

I walked into their sweltering hot, cinderblock home that had nothing but dirt floors. Immediately my senses were on overdrive. The large gathering of multiple generations who happily knew this as home, were laughing and talking all in rapid fire Spanish. The air was filled with this beautiful aroma of spices; it was beckoning me to the kitchen. And there were little niños who embraced my hands and clung to my legs as I made my way through the house.

“Hola Padre!” said the matriarch as I entered her bustling kitchen. “I’ve brought chicken!” was my exuberant greeting to Maria… and the look on her face, and that of everyone else in the crowded kitchen, said it all. Their overwhelming gratitude was beyond humbling. Meat was not a regular staple for these folks. It was an economic choice for this family, not conscious objection.

Every time in church when I would tell them I would like to come by for a visit, the response was always the same… “We will make a meal!” To which I always responded, “Absolutely not necessary.”  But they did as promised, and made what they could with what they had, and with gladness they celebrated my visits. This family was the incarnational experience of the Gospel story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12: 41-44 / Luke 12: 1-4).

A week and a half after our ECMN Convention, I am blown away by the countless stories of how folks are working on Ending Hunger in Minnesota. I continue to hear the words of our Convention keynote speaker, Rob Zeaske, “Hunger is the most solvable problem in Minnesota.”

What I am proudly witnessing thus far is that ECMN is rolling up our collective sleeves and going to make Ending Hunger in Minnesota a reality! Blessings on your long term efforts! Blessings on your new endeavors! Blessings on the new missional partnerships you are establishing! We can do this, Episcopal Church in Minnesota!

ECMN Convention 2014 Wrap-Up

JLM_9880 copy“Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”

These words by Robert Robinson, sung at our 157th Convention, encapsulate the overwhelming sense of blessing experienced at our gathering:

* First time meeting in Bemidji, in an arena on top of ice, under a jumbo-tron screen surrounded and supported by the warm hospitality of the Northwest Mission Area folks.

*Generous individuals offered their gifts to serve on our Elected Bodies and we affirmed the transformative ministry of The Rev. Denzil A. Carty.

*We learned that our financial health continues to be strong including a significant increase of participants in our Pooled Investment Fund which has doubled in the last five years to nearly $33 million.

*Missional Innovative Partnership Grants were launched, providing exciting possibility for our faith communities to build capacity as they engage God’s mission in their neighborhoods.

*We heard inspiring preaching by The Rev. Dr. Mark Olson who encouraged us to “keep showing up”. And the wonderful moment when Doug Sparks was presented with a Whipple Cross.

*Transitions in ECMN were highlighted with special note to the number of clergy who have been ordained for 30 years.

*Rob Zeaske from Second Harvest Heartland gave a phenomenal presentation confirming that he, too, believes we can End Hunger in Minnesota.

*There were great opportunities for learning, networking, and resource sharing.

*Music, prayer, and praise were consistently offered – with lots of appreciation to Eilert Helm and Coke Smith.

Our “Fount of every blessing” in ECMN overflowed at Convention and I am truly grateful to all for being a part of that blessing!

P.S. I also let Convention know that my name was put forth for consideration for nomination of the next Presiding Bishop and that I am declining this gracious offer as I feel called to continue to serve in Minnesota.