28 November 2009

Auguries of Innocence --Today is the Birthday of William Blake

(Today is the Birthday of William Blake)

356. Auguries of Innocence

William Blake (1757–1827)

 TO see a world in a grain of sand,
and a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
 And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage      5
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.       10
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing, 15
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul. 20
The wild deer, wand’ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus’d breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve 25
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov’d by men. 30
He who the ox to wrath has mov’d
Shall never be by woman lov’d.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite 35
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgment draweth nigh. 40
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer’s song 45
Poison gets from slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy’s foot.
The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist’s jealousy. 50

The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so; 55
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine. 60
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Throughout all these human lands
Tools were made, and born were hands, 65
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright,
And return’d to its own delight. 70
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags, fluttering in air, 75
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier, arm’d with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore. 80
One mite wrung from the lab’rer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant’s faith 85
Shall be mock’d in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death. 90
The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt 95
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour’s iron brace. 100
When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket’s cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile 105
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out. 110
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street 115
Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born, 120
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie 125
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night; 130
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

--William Blake

24 November 2009


When we are asked to think of memorable Thanksgiving dinners, I know we are supposed to recall huge tables of turkey and dressing, laughing kinfolk, general merriment and good cheer all around. When pressed, we can probably remember the ones we are actually trying to forget, too – the ones when the food was awful, the tempers turned bad, and when we finally gave up.

But I actually remember another dinner, one that occurred just after I was ordained a priest in the church. It was not a Thanksgiving dinner at all, but it sure felt like one. It is my most memorable Thanksgiving dinner because it is the one dinner I will forever be thankful is over!

I was a young priest, around 27 years old, I suppose; and my lovely wife was thankfully younger. Both of us had been raised to be ever so polite, and so we made a great impression on the Episcopal parish to which I had been assigned. Parishes still love young couples, especially polite ones, and especially when one part of the couple is the Assistant Rector.

We were invited everywhere for dinners, and we courageously sallied forth, rarely knowing who our hosts would be, what kind of setting it would be, or who else would be there. The agenda was simply, “Let’s get to know the young priest and his wife.” Lovely. It’s still at the heart of parish ministry.

We were asked to be at this dinner early, for the hosts were early diners. No, 4:30 pm is not too early for us. We immediately noticed that the average age of the five other couples there was a number too high for me to count. We could have been their great grand-children.

The other guests and our hosts were even more polite than my wife and me. They asked if we wanted something to drink, and I eagerly accepted. I thought that, if 4:30 was too early for a cocktail, maybe a small glass of wine would be nice. They didn’t offer me a choice. We got prune juice. Actually, I had never had it before, and it wasn’t bad.

Our hostess talked incessantly, and with an unfortunate tone that reminded me of a hen being chased around the chicken coop. Like many a Southern hostess I have known, she rarely sat down, thinking that she had to be constantly moving in order to be gracious (not true!). Actually, the house was quite small, and she liked yelling to us –or talking to herself—even when she was in the kitchen right beside us. I have politely forgotten what we had to eat before dinner. I remember the conversation revolved around coin collections.

Suddenly, we heard the voice of our hostess rise to an even more elevated pitch. Something bright in the kitchen caught my eye. Yes, something was definitely on fire. She had been preparing hundreds of special dishes for us – well, at least 15—several with wicker containers for the glass casseroles. Her small kitchen had run out of space, her wicker containers were on the stove, and one of them was ablaze.

As the young and agile priest, I dashed into the kitchen in order to save the day. After more squawking and maneuvering in the tight space, we got the fire out. The kitchen was smoky, but most of the food was already prepared without having been burned.

Here beginneth the procession – the long procession around the sideboard (actually two sideboards) laden with delicious Southern goodies. At this point, I must admit that I am not a fan of many Southern goodies. I actually do not like pickles, and at least half the dishes were pickled something or another. The second chapter of every Southern meal always begins, “Have a little more of this, have a little more of that.” I was desperately trying to find something without pickles.

We passed the largest silver casserole around the table while we were sitting, all twelve of us around a table meant for about six. Actually, this silver casserole frame was designed to hold a wicker container and then the glass inside dish; and it didn’t quite fit right. In fact, its original wicker holder had burned up. But our hostess pressed forward, even if the glass dish was rattling inside the large silver frame; there was no more wicker basket to hold the glass dish.

I had neglected to notice that I should grasp both the silver frame and the ill-fitting glass casserole dish, at the same time, when it came around. So, when I politely took only the outside silver frame instead, the entire glass inside fell through the frame and smashed my plate to pieces. I was horrified, and I immediately pushed my chair back and stood up to prevent further damage. As I did so, my chair hit the crowded sideboard behind me. Another crash resulted; every plate and dish standing so handsomely on its shelves fell flat – or fell completely off.

Much more squawking and cackling ensued. I was trying to be helpful, but I was rather wedged in between a sideboard, three chairs, a table, and much broken china. It was not a pretty sight for the new young Episcopal priest. Of course, when the clutter and clatter had subsided, we still had to actually partake of the dinner.

And now, for some reason or another, the house had run out of china plates. I will just use a paper plate, I insisted; that would be safer. The hostess would hear nothing of it. I had to eat on her china, or what was left of it. So I used a small dessert plate. Now I had to arrange 15 different items on a four-inch plate. Lovely.

I remember little of what else occurred at that meal (though my wife probably does). Actually, we might have had a bit of sherry at dessert. If so, it was not enough to forget the grand dinner, full of frantic fire and crashing chinaware. I will never forget it. And I will never be so thankful for a meal to be over than I was for that one to be over.

So, enjoy your meals this Thanksgiving, from the smallest meals to the grandest, no matter what age the guests are, no matter what people sound like, no matter how many pickled things are served, no matter what burns up, no matter what comes crashing down on you, no matter what you have to eat on, no matter how clumsy the local minister is. No matter. The idea is to give thanks. Give thanks. There is always, always, always, something to be thankful for – even if you are giving thanks that it is over!

23 November 2009


The day had already been satisfying and successful. I had led a men’s retreat on a beautiful piece of property about an hour and a half south of Atlanta, Georgia. The crisp November air had nourished a new sparkle in the oak and poplar leaves. Some of us went fishing; some of us shot guns. The trailing wind and rainy remnants of a distant hurricane had came through and opened up the night sky, revealing a thick and lush panoply of stars.

Out in the open country, the retreat itself was also thick and delightful. I remembered how Herodotus described the war discussions of the ancient Persians. Apparently, when deliberating about whether to go to war, they made such decisions twice. First, in the steady light of reason and tempered discourse, they reached one rational decision. Then, apparently, they would engage the same question while they were drunk. If they came to the same decision in both situations, they would act on it.

So it went on our men’s retreat. After Thursday night, on Friday, we discussed manhood and spirituality. What are the masculine features of a healthy spirituality? What does it mean to be a liberated man in our current economic situations? What is the love of the father, and why are there masculine images for God? We considered the four archetypal “soul types” that Richard Rohr presents in his book, “From Wild Man to Wise Man.” (those types are king, warrior, magician, and lover; more about those soul types on another day.)

On the way back to Atlanta, I drove through the county where I had grown up. I was actually trying to get to the county airport, where my son was preparing for a two hundred and fifty mile cross-country airplane trip. He has been obtaining the necessary licenses to be a commercial airplane pilot. But I just missed him. By 2:00 pm, he had already left with his instructor, flying southward. I texted him with our familiar family lines: “Have fun and be careful.” Those lines have informed our family blessings for almost thirty years.

Back home in Atlanta, I sat outside to catch up on mail and necessities. Given the late hour of my previous evening, I thought perhaps I should take a nap. But then, I heard the sounds.

I heard the familiar, wonderful, and guttural sounds. They sound like gurgles first, so clear and so loud – especially so on a crisp fall afternoon in Georgia. But they cannot be true gurgles, for they come from above, from the air. I have heard them almost every year of my fifty-three years. They are as dependable as these flaming November leaves on maple trees before me.

They were sandhill cranes. I counted at least eighty of them, not far above me this year, undulating in the breeze, substituting the lead, flanking out asymmetrically and raggedly. They were beautiful. This year, with the crisp afternoon sun on them, I could observe astounding detail in their necks and heads.

They were flying right over the developed city of Atlanta, which is nevertheless still blessed with trees and some open land. No matter how congested the Atlanta traffic becomes, and no matter how frantic our daily human lives are at this time of year, the sandhill cranes are an annual prayer flag for me. God sends them fluttering southward in the wind. They are being led and piloted by a power that has existed long before I was born.

Inevitably, I always hear the birds before I see them. So it is, Jesus said, with those born from above, those born of the wind of the Holy Spirit. “You hear the sound of the wind, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes.” The Holy Spirit pilots those birds up and down the continent every year.

This year, I am waiting for that telephone call or text message or email from another pilot, my son. No matter how different he is from me, and no matter how much he faithfully differentiates himself from me, still, a piece of me is with him all the time. A piece of me is up there with him in the Cessna airplane right now, flying freely to the south.

This year, my spirit has leaped up to join the sandhill cranes. Maybe I can fly with them. I’ll try to catch up to that airplane that took off a few hours ago. It has landed now, and the cranes will catch up to him. I hope he remembers to look up, even after he has landed. Even after he has succeeded in the day’s challenge, I hope he remembers to pause and to look up.

I think he’ll see those same sandhill cranes flopping and flapping overhead. They are always there this time of year, but most humanity in this generation has never seen them.

The Holy Spirit, too, is flying over us – and maybe through us and among us; but we will not glimpse that power until we pause and look around. Maybe we will look up, on a retreat; maybe we will have to look down, toward our own children. Maybe we will hear the Holy Spirit before we see anything, and maybe the sound will seem like guttural foreign tongues. The Spirit speaks like that sometimes. But she always soars, and she always waves for us to follow.

(This piece was also published at www.episcopalcafe.com. Check it out!)

22 November 2009

The Ad for The Episcopal Church in USA Today

Here is the Episcopal Church ad that appeared in the "USA Today" newspaper last week:
(click on it to see it more clearly and legibly)

Some have criticized the ad for being too wordy, for trying to say too many things, or for not being visual enough. I, however, did not mind it. It seems to me that this ad uses brief summaries of our doctrines and policies precisely because those issues have been stake in recent well-publicized controversies.

I would have phrased a couple of the statements differently, but I didn't write it. The ad tries to  proclaim both our Christian orthodoxy and our inclusive spirit, and I appreciate that.

03 November 2009


If we have the ears for it, blessing comes from all sorts of angles in this world; and what amazing blessings these last two weeks have brought to me. The blessings began when I was honored to accompany good friends to the latest Leonard Cohen concert in Atlanta. I realize he is too somber (and worse!) for some people. But, strangely, I have always found Leonard Cohen’s deep and dark poems to have a wonderfully uplifting spiritual effect. He was born Jewish, in Canada, and his spiritual explorations (including holy time in a Buddhist monastery) have blessed me.

He is the one who always sings “there's a blaze of light in every word; it doesn't matter which you heard - the holy or the broken Hallelujah.” Some of us have been following him ever since he sang “Suzanne,” right on through “Bird on a Wire,” “The Sacrifice of Isaac” (now there is an accurate interpretation of Genesis 22), to the modern “First We Take Manhattan,” and “A Thousand Kisses Deep.”

I commend Leonard Cohen to everyone, though I know only some will hear the blessing of his words. His concert was more like a holy recital for me; he began over half of his songs literally on his knees, as if he were coaxing the spirit from instruments and voices. He always left the stage literally skipping, dancing with the energy of a whimsical seventy-five year old man.

The words of Leonard Cohen that I have most often quoted in sermons and presentations are from his song, “Anthem,” and they bear repetition: “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (If I am feeling feisty, I will juxtapose those words with those from the song, “Jazz Police,” which start like this: “Can you tell me why the bells are ringing? Nothing’s happened in a million years.”)

Leonard Cohen blessed me. A week later, Richard Rohr blessed me. I know that for several weeks, we have heard reactions to the news that the Roman Catholic Church will announce a process whereby certain Anglicans can join the Roman Church as a group. The world still does not know strict details about this process, but that absence did not keep many from speaking irresponsibly about “takeovers” and “sheep-stealing.”

Meanwhile, however, at the Cathedral of St. Philip, we were busy being blessed by the ministry of one of the great contemporary writers on contemplative spirituality, Father Richard Rohr. Yes, he is a priest. Yes, he is actually Roman Catholic, ordained as a priest in the Franciscan order.

He spoke on delightful issues, such as his claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the first non-dualistic thinker in Western Civilization. He reminded us that true contemplative spirituality is really just another phrase for “prayer,” and that true prayer is about observing the world non-dualistically. (His recent book, The Naked Now, has a special section about how important the little word “and” is.)

Over five hundred members and friends of the Cathedral heard Richard Rohr on a Saturday. What a great day it was (even with competition for parking places with the Cathedral Farmers Market)! Richard Rohr came to the Cathedral of St. Philip not in order to take sides, or even to represent a certain faithful Christian denomination. He came to share his life and experience of the holy. It just so happened that he spoke while many other pundits were trying to pit the Roman Catholic and the Anglican churches against one another! On Sunday morning, he delivered the final blessing at our Episcopal eucharist. I was truly blessed.

Then came All Saints Day at the Cathedral of St. Philip. We were blessed to read the names of saints during the Sunday afternoon Requiem Eucharist. We remembered holy people with holy names, all in the setting of Gabriel Faure’s moving Requiem Mass. We were blessed, and God was blessed.

That was our first Requiem Eucharist. The day afterwards, Monday, we held our twenty-first annual Requiem Eucharist and Dinner for the Homeless. Each year, using buses, the homeless from all over Atlanta are our guests for dinner. Then, at the huge evening Eucharist, we read the individual names of the homeless men, women, and children who have died in the past year on the streets of Atlanta. We ring the Cathedral bell at each name; each name was a gift of God to this world. We always have a guest preacher; and, this year, we were blessed by the Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery.

In the same way we welcomed Father Richard Rohr, I was proud to welcome the Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery. Naturally, he was proud of having spoken at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. But his deeper words reminded us of an image from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that “there is no separate path to black fulfillment and power that does not intersect with white paths, and there is no separate white path to power and fulfillment that does not share that power with black aspirations.”

For Dr. Lowery, that means that, no matter who we are, all our lines intersect. For me, however, that means our lives are always forming angles of blessing with other lives. All our intersecting lines form blessing. Some of those angles of blessing are Jewish, and some are Roman Catholic, and some are Anglican. Some of those angles might not be considered religious at all. Some of those angles are black, and some are white.

This season of All Saints has reminded me again of the various lines of light that have shined on my life. There is no perfect religion, no pure denomination that we can convert to, nor even any perfect saint, who always gets it right. There is always another angle of blessing, and God uses every one of us, no matter what our condition. “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

02 November 2009


“Behold, the home of God is among mortals.”
Revelation 21.3
(a sermon for All Saints Day)

On All Saints Day, it is appropriate to ask the question, “What is a saint?” But I want to start the sermon this morning by talking about ideas. Have you had any good ideas lately?

Here at the Cathedral, whenever we have a staff planning meeting, or a strategy meeting, the staff is accustomed to hearing me say some predictable things. One is this: “Good ideas do not count. There is no such thing as a good idea….Unless. Unless someone is willing to act on it. Unless someone is willing to lead it. Unless someone is willing to follow and attend it.” We hear all sorts of suggestions about new projects and classes and strategies. None of them can be called “a good idea” unless someone is willing to lead it or act on it, or attend to it.

By definition, I claim, the only good ideas are those that have results. A good idea takes on some sort of physical reality.

This morning, I want to make the same claim about the spiritual life. Surely, most of you (if you are here this morning) agree that there is something good about the spiritual life. Even if we have varying definitions about what the spiritual life is, we agree that it is a good thing to be spiritual. Maybe our definition of the spiritual life is the life of love, or being aware of the transcendent, or living in joy and peace, or living in harmony with the world and other human beings.

These can be classified as spiritual qualities; they are lofty ideals. But I make the same claim about these qualities as I do about good ideas. The only true spiritual life is one that has results. The true spiritual life has someone acting on it, has people attending to it.

In fact, the true spiritual life always takes on some sort of physical reality. Let me say that again: the true spiritual life takes on some sort of physical reality.

The Gospel of John put it this way: In the beginning was the Word. In the beginning was the “Logos.” In the beginning was the Idea. Yes, the Greek word “logos” can mean all sorts of things; it can mean word, or rational principle, or even idea.

What an idea the mysterious God of the universe must have had! In the beginning was the idea! And then, says the Gospel of John, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Idea became flesh and dwelt among us.”

This verse summarizes eloquently the “incarnation principle” of Christianity. The word does not stay merely word. The idea does not stay merely idea. We Christians believe that, in Jesus Christ, the word became flesh and dwelt among us.

But the incarnation principle of Christianity holds that the word continues to become flesh. Incarnation means not just that God became flesh once, in Jesus of Nazareth, but that God continues to become flesh. This is what today’s scripture from the Book of Revelation means, “the home of God is among mortals” (Rev 21.3). God dwells with humanity. God lives in humanity.

It has been said that this continuing doctrine of the Incarnation is a primary doctrine of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition of Christianity. I agree. The Incarnation means that we take flesh seriously. In outreach, we serve flesh and blood. In liturgy and worship, we appeal to the physical human senses. In fellowship, we enjoy relationships with other physical beings. In theology, we love to use our brains and intellect. These are all ways that we take flesh seriously.

We see God in other people, in other flesh. On this All Saints Day, we acknowledge with gratitude all those people, all that flesh, in whom we have glimpsed something of God. When we acknowledge the communion of saints, we are acknowledging the presence of God.

I still enjoy quoting the wise writer, Frederich Buechner, when it comes to defining a saint. When he tries to explain how a saint is someone who shows us God, Buechner says it this way: “In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking. 1973. p 83.)

Other people have called saints icons, or windows. “A saint is a window through whom one can see God.” Surely we know that saints are human, often filled with the confusion of both tears and laughter, both anger and good will, both gentleness and impatience. Saints come in all shapes and sizes, just like all these Halloween costumes that we have seen in the past few days. Saints come with all sorts of beliefs and doctrines, too. Saints are flesh.

Where I grew up, down in Coweta County, there were always people around us who were just too spiritual. They were so spiritual that they were oblivious. They were idiots when it came to ordinary life. Maybe you’ve heard the expression we used: Well, old so-and-so, he is so heavenly-minded, that he is no earthly good!

“So heavenly minded that he was no earthly good.” That’s the trouble with a lot of spiritual people these days. So what if we have incense and chakras and herbs and alternative prayers strewn all around us? Are we actually connecting to anything here on earth?

The great examples of faith are those who are both spiritual and industrious. They are able to turn their spirituality into physical reality. In fact, they turn their spirituality into flesh. They get things done. They are down to earth. In fact, they are really “down to earth.” They are humble, and the root of the word “humility” is “humus,” “dirt.” Humility means being “earthly;” and “humus,” as every gardener knows, means “good soil.” A humble person is good soil, full of potential and good life.

And a good gardener knows how to tend that good soil. The good gardener knows how to coax that seed of an idea so that it becomes a physical, growing, organism. The seed of an idea takes on flesh.

Good soil helps a spiritual possibility becomes a physical reality, I call this move from spiritual reality to physical reality something else. I call it that very word which many of us consider “scandalous” these days. I call it “religion.”

Yes, religion. As soon as anyone attempts to transform their spirituality into reality, they have got religion. And I think that is a grand thing indeed. I believe that religion is the natural result of authentic spirituality.

“I’m spiritual,” people say, “but I don’t want to be religious. I don’t want to be connected to all that other stuff. I don’t want to worry about whether the ankle bone is connected to the knee bone and then connected to the thigh bone. I don’t want to worry about taking care of blood vessels and muscles. I don’t want to worry about exercising tendons and ligaments. I just want to be spiritual. I don’t want a religious body.”

That’s what they are saying. But they are wrong when they say that. For, it is impossible to be spiritual without some sort of physical reality, some sort of religious body. This is the great truth of spirituality. Consider the very resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he had a body. He was not simply a dis-embodied ghost, a free-floating spirit bounding around from dream to dream. (When you see all these little ghosts dressed up for Halloween, use them as object lessons for this principle: each of those little ghosts, those little “spirits,” is really a living, physical body! Each of those skeleton costumes indicates a body!)

The truth of the Resurrection is that God resurrects bodies! God needs that ankle bone to be connected to the knee bone and connected to the thigh bone. God needs those tendons and ligaments. God lives in the physical world around us.

The word “religion” comes from the same root word as does our word “ligament.” Ligaments tie bone and cartilage together in our bodies. “Religion,” too --“re-ligio”-- means “to tie something back together.” Good religion ties together. Good religion holds together our spirit and our body. Good religion is good relationship! Good religion is good incarnation!

So, there is no such thing as healthy spirituality without religion, without relationship. The moment we actually try to do something with our spirituality, the moment we try to connect our spirituality with other people, or with some project, or with the world, --we become saints! Saints occur when we turn dreams into deeds.

That is how Clarence Jordan defined faith. Jordan was the great Baptist farmer and scholar (and saint) who also started Koinonia Farms down in south Georgia, a great example of making his spirituality religious. He made a delightful translation of the New Testament into colloquial south Georgia dialect, which he called the “Cottonpatch Version of the New Testament.” The usual translation of Hebrews 11.1 is something like this: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Clarence Jordan said that “Faith is the turning of dreams into deeds.”

“Faith is the turning of dreams into deeds.” Faith turns ideas into physical reality. Behold, the dwelling of God is with mortal flesh! Saints are the physical realities of God’s presence in the world.

My word this day to all the saints is this. Don’t just be spiritual. Be religious. Turn your dreams into deeds. I know we have spirituality. I, too, long for the transcendence and love and joy and peace of spiritual experience. But I long for religion, too. I long for those spiritual qualities to be connected to the physical world.

I long for the Word to become flesh. Behold, the dwelling of God is among mortals! When the word becomes flesh, we have saints.   AMEN.

The Very Reverend Samuel G. Candler
Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip

[NOTE: This sermon uses material from two of my previous sermons and presentations. See “I Am Spiritual, But I am Not Religious,” the sermon by the Very Reverend Sam Candler for Easter Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Philip on 23 March 2008. See also “Faith Always Seeks Knowledge,” a presentation by the Very Reverend Sam Candler for the Piedmont College Convocation on 27 August 2008.]