Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Dog-loving Bishop

The spark of reading the excellent new book by Larry Witham, A City Upon A Hill, How Sermons Changed the Course of American History, has rekindled my interest in the history of the Episcopal Church in this Country, as evidenced by my obsession with Arizona Missionary Pioneer Endicott Peabody (see the entry below).

It is amazing how much interesting material is available on the Internet, thanks to such sites as Project Canterbury. This weekend, I stumbled across a great picture of the Rt. Rev. William Doane, who was the first bishop of Albany. He also was for a time the rector of St. John's Church in W.Hartford, where I was curate back in the 1980's. I found on-line a contemporary biography which included a poem he had written about his St Bernard dog, Cluny. It's not bad theology, and is a great picture, both of which I share with you here. Could Bishop Doane ever have imagined that his work and likeness would be found in an electronic archive and flashed around the world 150 years later?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Message

A Christmas Message from Bishop Smith

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.

---Philips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

“Be born in us today.” This is my prayer for all of us in the Diocese of Arizona this Christmas season. As followers of the Christ Child, our celebration is far more than just a commemoration of a stupendous act that happened long ago. Our calling is rather to reflect in our own flesh and blood the reality of God’s becoming flesh and dwelling with us as one of us. Just as God took our full humanity in Jesus, so he expects our humanity to reflect his divinity in all that we do. If God was incarnate in Jesus, that means that Jesus can be incarnate in us. We become the means through which Christ is born into the world.

How would those around us know that Christ is born in us? Simply through the countless small ways that we reflect God’s love for all creation. As St Francis used to say, “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, us words.” They would see it in the way we treat each other, in how we spend our time, with what we do with our talents and possessions, and above all in our willingness to share the Good News with others.

As I have traveled around the Diocese this past year, I have witnessed countless ways in which Arizona Episcopalians have birthed Christ into the world. I have seen a new courage among church members to share their faith with others. I have been impressed with the growth of programs for children and youth. I have rejoiced in a renewed concern for creation and especially for the needs of the desperately poor of the world.

Of course, we still have along way to go. Our growing State needs more communities of worship. Our country needs to learn from us what it means to care for the stranger in our midst. Congregations need to understand that mission to others, not maintenance of the status quo, is the essence of our baptismal promise.

It is well neigh impossible to ignore an impending birth. That baby is coming, ready or not, whether means being born into a sterile hospital, the back seat of a tax cab, or into a feeding trough in a barn. God has been born into our world. That is a fact we cannot igmore. Now it is time for him to be born into our hearts.

May you all have a blessed and holy Christmas season!

Icon image copywrite: Laura Fisher Smith