I just returned from St. John’s Hospital where Fr. Frank Johnson, Jan Henderson, and I represented St. John’s Church at a ceremony in which the hospital board recognized the church for founding the hospital in Jackson Hole 100 years ago. It is inspiring to see the first rate medical center that has emerged from that log hospital. It made me think about what lies ahead in the future, for this hospital and for all of us.
On the way out of the hospital, Jan Henderson reminded me of former White House speechwriter and author Daniel H. Pink. Ten years ago, he published a thoughtful and informed commentary on how right brain thinking is superseding left brain thinking as we make the transition from the Information Age and enter the Conceptual Age. The book is called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, and even though a decade has passed since its publication, I believe it provides an important perspective for us as we look to tomorrow.
In this new age, high tech is no longer enough. Well-developed high-tech capabilities will have to be supplemented by high-concept and high-touch abilities. Pink contends that in much of the Western World, the demand for left brain directed emphasis is diminished due to three causes: Abundance, Asia, and Automation.
Abundance - Our left brains have given us an abundance of things and that has lessened their significance. So, we look for those things that stand out. What makes things stand out is often a function of their design, a right brain directed activity. We want not only utility but significance in our stuff. We have a desire for beauty and transcendence.
Asia- People in other parts of the world are capable of performing left brain directed work at a fraction of the cost. That usually elevates their quality of life but reduces the demand for similar positions here. Pink suggests that we think of the increase in outsourcing of jobs to other countries as an opportunity to develop a new set of aptitudes, using right brain directed abilities “such as forging relationships rather than executing transactions, tackling novel challenges instead of solving routine problems, and synthesizing the big picture rather than analyzing a single component."
Automation- Many heavily left brain directed professions and pursuits can now be done by machines. However, machines have not yet been able to accomplish what our right brains do. So, software can now write software that was formerly written by human programmers, leaving them free to devote more attention to creativity, tacit knowledge, and the big picture.
Much of medical diagnosis can be guided by computers that process the binary logic of decision trees used by physicians, moving this profession more toward empathy, narrative medicine, and holistic care.
In the Conceptual Age, we will need to complement our left brain reasoning by mastering six essential right brain aptitudes. “Together these six high-concept, high-touch senses can help develop the whole new mind this new era demands.”
Not just function but also DESIGN.
Not just argument but also STORY.
Not just focus but also SYMPHONY.
Not just logic but also EMPATHY.
Not just seriousness but also PLAY.
Not just accumulation but also MEANING.
Of special interest to many of us is the author’s treatment of meaning. He stresses the importance of taking spirituality seriously. "At the very least," he writes, "we ought to take spirituality seriously because of its demonstrated ability to improve our lives - something that might be even more valuable when so many of us have satisfied (and over satisfied) our material needs."
A Whole New Mindoffers a positive look at a future that has already dawned and leads us to a new way of thinking about what we'll need in order to thrive in it. There are significant implications for those in positions of religious leadership as we consider how to chart a course for the future and reinvent the way we go about being the Church.
I invite you to think and pray about this during our time of transition as you envision entering a new era of mission with your next Rector. Get involved, build relationships, share your spirit, and receive what others have to offer.
We are having tortellini soup today. The aroma itself is nourishing. Here's the story of our special Tortellini Soup Recipe.
About this time in 1987, I came down with a horrible case of the flu. Gay confined me to the house and that is where I stayed for a week. Toward the end of that week, when my fever had broken, I was improving but was weak, bored, and had absolutely no appetite.
Our friend, Jerry Jones (the REAL Jerry Jones, not the owner of that Dallas football team) called to say he’d be dropping by with a pot of soup. I was grateful but unsure what kind of soup would restore my faith in my poor, dead taste buds.
Jerry arrived and delivered the soup to the kitchen stove. On his way out of the house, he said in his finest United States Marine tone of voice, “This is tortellini soup. Heat it up, eat it, and you’ll be on your feet in no time. I left the recipe.” With that, he was out the door and headed off on the next mission of mercy. Semper Fi!
I followed Jerry’s instructions, heated up the soup, sat down at the table, and put a spoonful in my mouth. Instantly, my dead taste buds were restored to life! It was the first time in a week I had tasted anything. The flavor was amazing and I don’t think I’ve ever had any kind of “comfort food” that can equal that bowl of soup. It was an epiphany for me.
I cherish that recipe. The soup and the act of kindness that brought it to me did indeed have me on my feet in no time. And the flavor of both has remained with me all these years. I love Jerry’s Tortellini Soup! Whenever I prepare this soup, the memory his gift is rekindled in me. I always hope that anyone who tastes it will detect the subtle flavor of the primary ingredients in Jerry's unwritten recipe – generosity, friendship, compassion, kindness, and love. Those are the ingredients that make Jerry’s Tortellini Soup such a healing concoction.
I love to share it with others and always do so in the spirit of Jerry, one of the world’s finest examples of a faithful friend and brother in Christ. Semper Fi, Jerry!
This will reach you during The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This annual observance always begins on January 18, the Confession of St. Peter, and continues until January 25, the Conversion of St. Paul.
Once we thought Christian unity meant all Christians should be organized into one big church. Today’s approach is summed up in a Latin phrase, In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas, commonly translated as “unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things.” The phrase has often been attributed to 4th century bishop St. Augustine of Hippo, but has also been attributed to 17th century Croatian Bishop Marco Antonio de Dominis and English author and Puritan Richard Baxter of the same era. Regardless of who said it, it is worthy of contemplation as we pray and work for Christian unity.
St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (I Cor. 1:10).
I wish other groups of Christians, especially the Primates of the Anglican Communion, could know the kind of unity that exists in our parish - an inviting, unity of heart, mind, and purpose that is in contrast to the day-to-day conflicts that plague us. This unity is not based on agreement in everything, but is similar to what St. Paul described in another message he sent to the Ephesians, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:1-6).
Perhaps there is some way it can be exported. Let me tell you about a place that did just that.
On November 14, 1940, much of the City of Coventry, England was reduced to rubble by German bombs. The Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels, at the heart of the city, burned with it. In the terrible aftermath that followed, Provost Howard wrote the words “Father forgive” on the smoke-blackened wall of the sanctuary. Two of the charred beams that had fallen in the shape of a cross were set on the altar and three of the medieval nails were bound into the shape of a cross. The people of Coventry found the grace to overcome the anger they felt toward their enemies who destroyed their Cathedral and almost destroyed their entire city.
After the war, they decided to share that grace with others. Crosses of Nails were presented to Kiel, Dresden, and Berlin, cities shattered by Allied bombing. Out of those ashes grew a trust and partnership between Coventry and the German cities. The Community of the Cross of Nails came into being. There are now 160 Cross of Nails Centres around the world, all of them emanating from this early, courageous vision, and all working for peace and reconciliation within their own communities and countries. The Cross of Nails has become a powerful and inspirational symbol of reconciliation and peace.
The original Cross of Nails is now incorporated in the cross on the new Cathedral’s High Altar. The twisted arms of the High Altar cross symbolize the charred timbers from the roof of the original Cathedral, which were made into a cross to replace the original High Altar cross. The nails and twisted arms also symbolize Christ's suffering on his Cross.
Give thanks to God for our unity and pray that we will be a light to others who seek oneness in Christ. Every shining example of a community of Christians living into the oneness for which our Savior prayed is part of the answer to his prayer “that they all might be one” and all prayers for unity among all God's children.
The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah to the gentile world. In the season following the feast, we are reminded of various ways he manifested his messianic role – miracles, healing, preaching, teaching, and calling people to follow him.
He spent time with those who responded to his call, forming them into a community and equipping them to continue his messianic work in the world. Each follower of Jesus was given gifts for this work. Some were placed in positions of leadership to provide the formative experiences for others in the generations that followed. In this way, the community of followers of Jesus, the Church, was strategically ordered to advance his mission from generation to generation.
Writing to the followers of Jesus in the city of Ephesus in the first few years after Jesus ascended into heaven, St. Paul wrote of this way of ensuring the future of Christian mission:
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:7, 11-13).
Notice that the “work of ministry” is entrusted to “the saints.” Who are the saints? The saints are the members of Christ’s Church, the followers of Jesus. Our Episcopal catechism expresses it this way, “The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members” (BCP, p. 855).
Larger congregations, like ours, have several members of the clergy and a number of staff members. It is easy to see the clergy and staff as the ones who carry out the Church’s mission. Sometimes even the clergy and staff begin to see it that way. However, when that happens, the saints are deprived of their missional opportunities. It is not the job of the clergy and staff to do the work of ministry for the saints. Our vocation and our ministry is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Under the leadership of our Bishop, clergy and staff strategically order the life of the community of faith, recruit, teach, train, equip, empower, and nurture the members in their ministries. It is our responsibility to help each member discover his or her gifts and discern ways in which Christ wants those gifts to be used his ongoing mission.
Some of the members are called to serve primarily within the life of the Church. Others are called to ministries out in the world at our doorstep. Many are called to do both! Christ calls each of us to be engaged in his mission. Every member has a ministry! Vibrant, fruitful churches are filled with people who believe that and exercise their ministries to the glory of God, thereby building up the Church in pursuit of Christ’s mission.
So, during this season when we recall those whom Christ called to follow him during his earthly ministry, we reclaim and reaffirm our own vocations. Where are you called to serve Christ in his Church? If you know, your clergy and staff are here to assist you and support you. And, if you are not sure, we are here to help you find a ministry that is right for you.
There is a long list of possibilities in a brochure we have placed in various locations around the campus. It is also HERE on our website. I invite you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to take some time to review the opportunities and respond to the call to serve in one or more ways. There are places of service every week and places of service that may last for months. Some service requires little preparation and some requires more. A number of roles are for leading others and many are for following. All are important to our life together and to Christ’s mission in the world.
By responding to your vocation, you give us the privilege of fulfilling ours! Please let us hear from you.
There is an ancient legend about a sea king who longed for the fellowship of a human being. One day, upon hearing a cry, he left his palace beneath the sea and rose to the surface of the water to investigate. There he discovered a lonely child in an abandoned boat. The sea king's heart was uplifted by the thought that the child could be the companion for whom he longed. Just as he reached for the child, a rescue party intervened and he missed the prize he wanted so much. But as the child's rescuers left the spot, the sea king threw a salt wave on the head of the child. And as he submerged to return to his undersea palace, the sea king said to himself, "That child is mine. When he grows to young adulthood, the sea will call him, and he will come home to me at last."
It is only a legend, but it holds the suggestion of a larger truth; that God has placed eternity in our heart. We are restless and constantly on a quest for something better, something eternal.
The story of the Magi is the account of humanity's quest for something more, something always just beyond, something that makes us pilgrims on the earth, always in search of something of eternal value and significance.
Those wise men followed a star. The star led them to the Only Begotten Son. They worshiped him. And then they returned to their own country to live out their lives. When they returned, they were different people. They had encountered eternity in their journey and it must have transformed them.
Throughout our own lives, there are those times when we too encounter eternity. In these personal epiphanies we are changed, made new, and enabled to reach a little higher, to show a deeper reverence, to walk in new ways, and to allow the Only Begotten to be made manifest to others whose paths intersect with ours.
Each year, during this season, we read accounts of ways God was manifested in the life of Jesus Christ - for example, in his Baptism by John in the Jordan River, at the Wedding Feast in Cana of Galilee, in his preaching and teaching, in the calling of his disciples, in works of healing, and in his Transfiguration.
Each example proclaims the good news that God's manifestation in the Only Begotten Son was for all people in all times. Our Baptism declares that we are included in that manifestation! Baptism launches us on our quest for eternity. In Baptism, we are "sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own for ever."
What God says to us and to the world in our Baptism is similar to what the sea king said after splashing water on the head of the child for whom he longed, "That child is mine...and will come home to me at last."
How is your quest going? Perhaps this is a good time to renew your pilgrimage, or to seek Christ in new places or different ways. There may be a ministry to which you are being called and that will allow God to be manifest to others in new ways through you. You may have gifts or talents that you need to share with your community of faith to build it up and extend its influence in the lives of others.
This season of Epiphany is a good time to check to see if there is forward movement on life's most important quest. If you'd like to talk about it, priests and spiritual guides are available to you. Don't pass up the opportunity.
Your thoughtful comments will make a visit to e-piphanies a richer experience for everyone. By clicking on the "Comments" link beneath each post, you can read the remarks others have written or add your own. If you leave a question, I will respond in the journal. In order to maintain the integrity of this blog, all comments are reviewed before being published on line.