Habits of Grace

Habits of Grace, July 27, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[July 27, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’  A new meditation will be posted each week. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.

July 27, 2020: Prayer into action

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Earlier this week, I was preparing a very brief meditation for a kind of public service announcement on prayer in the time of pandemic. And as I was preparing, something dawned on me that I wanted to share with you. There are two instances and there may be others to be sure, in both the Hebrew scriptures and in the New Testament where you see prayer linked directly with action.

One example is found in First Kings where the prophet Elijah is fleeing for his life. He, in Chapter 19, says he ends up at a cave near Mount Horeb, which is Mount Sinai in other places. And there for 40 days, he’s in prayer, fasting and struggling. And after that time of prayer, when he kind of senses what God wants him to do, he then goes out and leads a reformation in Israel that was really significant.

His prayer led him to action. You see the same kind of pattern in Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, he’s praying about what he should do. And that leads him to make the decision to give his life, to show what love looks like for the cause and way of love. But it’s that prayer that leads to action. It occurred to me that in this time of pandemic, it may be helpful to remember that our prayer can lead to actions. We can’t do all the things that we used to do, but we can do some things. We can pray, pray for all of the conditions and all of the situations that we are aware of in our world, and that we are aware of because of this pandemic, but also take some action. There are ways we can support causes that help people in this time.

There are ways that we can support ministries that are helpful, but there’s some simple ways. We can keep social distance. That’s a way of action. It’s an act of prayer. We can pay attention to public health officials and their guidance, that’s an action. And we can wear, of course, these. We can wear these face masks. And so I was trying to think of what is a prayer that combines prayer and action in the Book of Common Prayer? And I found it, there are many, but this one stands out.

It’s the prayer of St. Francis:

Lord make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, union. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Pray and do what you can.

God love you. God bless you and keep the faith.

Habits of Grace – The Growing Edge

Habits of Grace, July 7, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[July 7, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted each week. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.
July 7, 2020: The growing edge
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The 4th of July weekend has just concluded and a new week has begun, but the titanic struggles of the old world continue. The struggles to face painful truths of our racial past, the struggles to find ways to fashion a new future, the struggles for racial justice and human equality and true human reconciliation. Even in the midst of these struggles, we still face a pandemic that is worldwide. Now the United States itself is gravely threatened and affected by COVID-19. And even in the midst of all of that, we enter a season of electioneering, campaigning, a presidential election that could well be a profoundly polarizing and divisive election for our country.

In this time, I remember the words of Howard Thurman, who I often go back to. Dr. Thurman was one of the founders of probably the first interracial and interreligious church in the United States in San Francisco, back in the forties and fifties. He was the author of Jesus and the Disinherited. He was one of the people who went and met Mahatma Gandhi in the 1940s, and brought back his teachings of non-violent social change that influenced an entire civil rights movement. He was quietly, if you will, the spiritual director of many of the leaders of the civil rights movement. Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, Martin King, many others went quietly to Howard Thurman to talk, to reflect, to pray. He wrote this in one of his meditations about times of great transition and turmoil:

Look well to the growing edge. All around us, worlds are dying and new worlds are being born. All around us, life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such as the growing edge. It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed. The upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason. A source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of a child — life’s most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge!

God love you. God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

Habits of Grace

Habits of Grace, June 16, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[June 16, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted each week.These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.
June 16, 2020: In this month of June
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During this month of June, we find ourselves in the midst of great titanic struggles, hardships, and difficulties. When important things are at stake, when the lives of God’s children, and the life of the world in many respects is at stake. Even as I speak, protestors march through our streets, protesting the way we have been. Protesting for the way we could be. Black Lives Matter, protesting in our city streets that we might learn to live the ways of justice, and mercy that reflects the heart of God’s love. And even as I speak, this month of June is Pride Month when our LGBTQ siblings remember and recall, and continue their struggle for equality and mutual respect, and human dignity in our society, in our church and throughout the world.

And even as I speak, the COVID-19 pandemic continues in strange and unanticipated ways, but it continues. This is the month of June. These are some hard times. Hard times for all, but really hard times for so many. Sometimes it’s helpful to go back and look how others navigated hard times. I went and picked up a small book. There’s a book of sermons by Harry Emerson Fosdick. It was published in the mid 1940s, in 1944 I believe. It was a collection of sermons that he preached as the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, during the Second World War when the entire world was in an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil. One of the sermons he titled, “In such a time as this, no dry-as-dust religion will do.”

He pleaded with people of God to draw closer to God for strength and energy. To live lives of love, of faith, of hope. In that same period of time, he composed the hymn that’s found in many of our hymnals, and I would offer it for us this week in this month of June.

God of grace and God of glory,
on thy people pour thy power;
crown thy ancient churches’ story,
bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour . . .

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of thy salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving thee whom we adore.

(Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1930)

God love you. God bless you. May God hold us all in those Almighty hands of love.

Reference: “No Dry as Dust Religion Will Do,” A Great Time to Be Alive: Sermons on Christianity in War Time, Harpers & Brothers, 1944

Presiding Bishop’s Opening Remarks at Executive Council

[June 9, 2020] The following is a transcript of the opening remarks of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, currently meeting virtually through June 11.

Executive CouncilJune 8, 2020Opening Remarks

In the context in which we find ourselves, allow me to offer some opening remarks. Before I do that I want to say a word of thanks to Secretary Barlowe and the General Convention Office. Members of Council may note this is a massive undertaking to be able to enable us to meet this way. We are blessed and privileged to have a team such as this, to do this, and on your behalf I thank them and thank God for them.

Allow me also to offer a text. It comes from Isaiah Chapter 40:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
   and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
   and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
   they shall mount up on wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
   they shall walk and not faint.

When the cameras are gone, when public attention has moved elsewhere, we must not be distracted. The work goes on. The struggle continues. God is still God. And we must keep the faith. I am profoundly grateful and thankful for the continued witness, not only of Episcopalians, but people of all faiths and people of goodwill and decency in this time in which we live. But I have to say I am particularly thankful for the people of this Episcopal Church, many of whom, bishops, clergy, and lay people who have gone on to witness to Jesus and his way of love in public protests, in political actions, and willingness to stand and speak when it might be more convenient and comfortable to remain silent.

I want to note in particular the people of the Dioceses of Georgia and Atlanta in light of Ahmaud Arbery’s death. The people of the Diocese of Kentucky, and the particular quiet courage of Bishop Terry White in light of Breonna Taylor’s death. The people of the Diocese of Minnesota in light of George Floyd’s death. The people of Washington, the Diocese of Washington and St. John’s Church in particular, Bishop Mariann Budde. She reminds me of the courage of Queen Esther. The people of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, and many of our dioceses that ENS and others have covered how they have borne witness to Jesus, his teachings, his example, his spirit, and his way of love in our personal relationships, our interpersonal relationships, in our social and in our political. I want to thank God for them.

But it is important to remember the cameras will go away. Public attention will go elsewhere. And we must not be distracted. God is still God. The work must go on. The struggle must continue. And we must keep the faith. These words from Isaiah 40, if I’ve got the context correct, come from a moment when the people of God had been set free. Abraham Lincoln of the ancient world, otherwise known as Cyrus of Persia, set the Jewish people free from their captivity in Babylon. And they were then free, if you will, to go home. Like that biography of Nelson Mandela, it was a long walk to freedom. And many gave up. Many didn’t leave Babylon and just stayed. And a smaller number stayed the course and went on that long walk to freedom.

Freedom’s walk is always a long, arduous walk, fraught with setbacks, filled with hardship. It is that walk like Jesus walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows. It is that walk, like those who walked at Selma. It is that walk of those who had to walk the Trail of Tears. It is the walk of those who have stayed and stood for the freedom of any human child of God from any kind of captivity that would hold them down. It is a long walk to freedom, but we must remember they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary. And more importantly, they will walk and not faint. When the cameras are gone, and the attention has moved elsewhere, God is still God and our work goes on. The struggle continues. And sisters and brothers and siblings, we must keep the faith.

At our General Convention in 2015, we kind of had sort of a covenant renewal, if you will, sort of like Joshua in Joshua 24, when all the tribes of Israel were gathered at the river entering the promised land. It was a covenant renewal to work that this church has engaged in for years, the work of racial justice and reconciliation. We recommitted in some deeper ways to that work. And we said we’re not going to quit. We’re going to stay the course. We likewise made a commitment to the work of evangelism, a particular way of lifting up Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, his example, and his spirit as the way and the face of what it is to be a Christian. We said we were going to do that work and continue to do that work. And even in addition to that, knowing that our arms are short, and our hands are small, we made a commitment to do everything we can to save God’s creation, to save this world. We made a commitment to that being the shape for all of us together embodying a Jesus movement in our time, that would dare to lift up Jesus of Nazareth as the face of what it is to be a Christian, what it is to follow in the way of God’s love.

But in our time, we have seen false representations of Christianity and Christian nationalism on display for all the world to see. We have seen the blatant face of brutality, of the brutality of racism that is very often far more subtle, and pernicious, and systemic, and institutional. But we have seen its brutal face. We have seen fundamental challenges to the ideals of freedom, justice, and human equality that are foundational ideals of the United States. In spite of the fact that the United States has not always lived up to it, the ideals were there. We have seen fundamental challenges to the democratic fabric of American society, something I never thought I would live to see. We have seen a ruthless virus, a plague in the land, sickness and death and hardship visited to one degree or another on all of us, but particularly on the most vulnerable among us. And it has exposed inequities and moral wrongs that shouldn’t be in our land or in our world. We have seen increased danger to the very earth itself. And the failure of the nations, including this one that I love, to stand up for our mother the earth. Thank God there’s a little girl in Scandinavia who is willing to stand up. When the cameras are gone, when public attention has gone elsewhere, God will still be God, and we must not be distracted. The work goes on, the struggle continues, and we must keep the faith.

Earlier this week, I was being interviewed and I’ve forgotten who the interviewer was, and they caught me off guard with a question I hadn’t actually anticipated. The interviewer said, “In light of all of this in, in light of the fact that, that George Floyd was a black man just like Barack Obama, one was president of the United States and one was killed by an officer of the United States. In light of that horrible paradox of our reality, what gives you hope?” And for a second, I didn’t have an answer except that I remember my grandma used to say, “God will always have a witness. God will always have a witness.”

And I’ve seen a few witnesses. I’ve seen witnesses in those protestors. Most of them peaceful, non-violent, exercising their constitutional right for freedom of assembly and to give voice to their concerns. I’ve seen them. But more than that, we’ve protested before. This is not the first time there have been… There were protests after Ferguson. There were protests after Eric Garner. There were protests after Trayvon Martin. There’ve been protests before. But something’s different about this one. This time it’s not just black folk and a few white folk protesting. This time it is the rainbow children of God. This time they are black and white and Anglo and Latino. It’s amazing. They’re gay, they’re straight. They’re Mitt Romney, a Republican. This is something different going on. And that gives me hope. God’s got a witness and it is a multiethnic, it is e pluribus unum. It is the rainbow children of God coming together to bear witness that we don’t want to be like this anymore. We want a better world. We want a better America. Let the true America rise up. Let America really be America. One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice, not for some, but for all.

But even if the crowds and protestors weren’t there, even when the cameras have gone away, even when the public attention has moved elsewhere, God will still be God, and our work goes on. Our struggle continues. And we will not quit. We will, like Simon of Cyrene in the New Testament, who when Jesus fell under the weight of the cross, picked up that cross, followed him, and carried the cross.

Amen.