Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pain, Snoring, and a Prayer

Do I hear an “Amen?”

Madelyn and I waited together in the pre-surgery area of Torrance Memorial Hospital. Gall bladder removal is not a high risk procedure. When I was wheeled into the surgical room, I was greeted by a smiling and friendly anesthesiologist. That was the last thing I remember until I heard Madelyn say: “Bob, Norm is here.” I experienced a sharp pain and then I think I went to sleep. Despite my condition, I did hear Norm offer a prayer for me. Madelyn said I snored during part of the prayer, but that I said, “amen,” when Norm finished the prayer.

Father Norm was there at my bedside as a friend; a colleague; and a representative of God and the people of Christ Church. The prayer he offered, as I recall included thanksgiving for a successful surgery and an intercession for my continued recovery.

Once, when our youngest son, Matt, was in critical condition at the age of 6 months, our parish priest, Father Parker, said a prayer with us. I later thanked him for being with us and for the prayer he had offered. I admitted to him that I could not remember what he had prayed that difficult day. His response has stuck with me all of these years. He said: “It is not so much what I say that matters, but who I represent.”

In the midst of pain, unconscious sleep and awakening, I knew that Norm was at my bedside. His presence and prayer brought God and you all to my bedside. The next day, Bishop Bruno called to see how I was doing. His presence and prayer brought God and the larger diocesan community of faith to my bedside.

I have received many cards, emails, and phone calls from members at Christ Church. Each and every expression of concern and prayerful love brings God and the Body of Christ, which is the church, into my presence. I hope this week’s reflection is a helpful reminder for us all that most of the time, it is not so much what we say that matters, but whose presence we represent to one another. Thank you all for being Christ to me.

How am I doing now? It is Thursday morning, almost a week since my surgery and I am feeling much better than I did when I came up out of the anesthesia. My stomach is still tender. My taste in food has changed to a blander offering and I am eating smaller quantities.

I am looking forward to being with you this Sunday and to our celebration of what God is doing in and through each one of us.

God’s Peace in Healing,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Truth in the Palm of Your Hands

"Come and hold in your hand and taste on your lips
the love which we cannot comprehend."

Mike Foss, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, Minnesota

This is the third part of a series of reflections. The other reflections can be found at the following links:

The photograph above was taken by Bruce Hazelton as Christ Church prepared to search for a new rector over 6 years ago. When I first saw this picture I was moved by the powerful image of someone reaching for and receiving the Bread from Heaven that has been the center and nurture of my life as a Christian.

I was also moved because I knew the woman whose hands were stretched out and holding the small communion wafer. In fact, Betty had known me most of my life growing up at St. Cross Church in Hermosa Beach. I knew her son, Chris, who was close to my age. When her husband, Les, went through critical surgery at Kaiser Hospital in Harbor City and was unable to receive communion due to the nature of his surgery, I took him a stuffed animal instead, hoping that he would understand and experience the love that was offered and present in that gift.

Does regular and faithful receiving of communion, the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation, make a difference in a person's life? I believe it does. This is not magic, but faith. Magic is the art of deception. Faith is the art of living and telling the Truth. Magic covers up the Truth, while faith in the love and mercy of God uncovers the Truth.

Two weeks ago I suggested that we all live in a matrix that filters and interprets reality in ways that blind us to the presence and activity of the God of grace whom Jesus called Father. I am not suggesting a gnostic (only the insiders with knowledge have the True Faith) view of our faith, but simply reminding us that we are subject to the same matrix that has always allowed violence to find sanction in religion. Jesus opens our eyes to a reality that is based upon love and forgiveness and a peace which the matrix in which we live can't fully understand ("The peace of God which passes all understanding...").

The Matrix link (see Matrix, Jesus and Us above) showed a conversation between a character known as Morpheus and Neo. Morpheus offers Neo a choice of pills. One pill would allow him to return to his previous captivity in the matrix and "believe whatever he wanted to believe."
Within the matrix, we are all free to believe what we want to believe, so long as such beliefs do not challenge the core belief that holds the matrix together. What is this core belief? What gives the illusion of the holy, unity, and peace? How has this core belief formed us?

The second pill would open Neo's eyes to see the matrix for what it was and to discover the Someone and something of greater value that would make returning to the blindness of the matrix nearly impossible.

The broken bread we share when we gather together is the antidote for the blindness caused by the matrix in which we live. The body of Christ is the food which reveals the matrix of the world that put Jesus on the cross and which continues to violently reject, punish, and exclude large numbers of God's children.

Everything we do in our Eucharistic worship on Sundays is summed up in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the common cup. We hear the story of God seeking to liberate us from the matrix of the world's scapegoating violence; we ask forgiveness and receive pardon for our active and passive participation in the ways of the world; we pray for those whose lives have born the weight of the sin of the world; and we share the peace of Christ with one another in grateful and joyful thanksgiving for being called into this family of God.

The peace we share and the feast of bread and wine is a prophetic act. In these sacramental actions, we are given a glipse of life outside of the dominant matrix of the world. We embody the Reality of God.

Having been fed by word and sacrament, we are sent out into the world with eyes to see God in others and to love them as we have been loved.

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us.
Therefore, let us keep the feast.

Flying Wonder Bread

Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." John 6:51-58

The Wilderness?
Where hunger hunts you down and
you wish to God
you had died a slave in
the Land of Dependability.

The Wilderness?
Where you have to beg
to a god long unknown
and only recently called on for help.

Where your complaints are answered
With food falling from heaven-
Flying Wonder Bread,
Flying bread,
Good for a day,
No preservatives added,
Just God
In it,
Through it,
And by it.

How do you get to the Wilderness?

One step at a time.
Sometimes in doubt with faith,
Sometimes in faith with doubt,
But always hungering for that which satisfies.

Desiring to be delivered from the slavery
of having it all,
knowing it all,
being it all,
You come to the edge of that terrible freedom,
the wilderness of God
where daily you wait in
freedom and uncertainty
for the coming feast of bread.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Do You Know This Man?

The lights dimmed, the screen lit up, and suddenly an old man was making his way across the screen. He seemed so sad. He approached the ticket counter at a movie theater only to discover that all of the tickets had been sold. He turns and slowly, sadly walks away from the box office.

I turned to Madelyn and said excitedly, "I know that guy!"

Who is this man? He is the Reverend Canon George Cummings. George has served as the Secretary of Diocesan Convention for many years. So, the next time you go to the movies, look for George or check out the ad here:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Matrix, Jesus, and Us

Have you ever wondered why things happen as they do in our world? Have you publicly asked questions that challenge the basic assumptions of the culture in which we live? The problem with challenging the way most people see reality is that you may just get labeled a nut or bring the anger of others down on your head.

The culture in which we live functions like America On Line, invisibly and powerfully limiting what we experience and interpreting the meaning of these experiences. St. Paul said that it was God “in whom we live and move and have our being,” but culture, the matrix of our lives, even interprets how we understand God.

Biblical faith depends upon revelation to break through the matrix in which we live. Jesus is the revealed Word of God that comes to open our eyes and ears and hearts to see beyond the limited matrix in which we live. What truth did Jesus reveal to us through his life and death and resurrection that calls us to turn to God as an act of freedom?

Here is a brief scene from The Matrix that may illustrate the pervasiveness of culture.

If you have seen The Matrix, how would you describe the culture of the Matrix? Why was life in the matrix seen as slavery by those who had managed to escape it?

Consider the matrix in which we live. Is it a form of slavery? What are the true values of our culture that might be contrary to the Kingdom of Heaven for which we pray?

How did Jesus invite people to repent from the culture that had formed and shaped their lives and turn to the culture of God? On September 10, we will read that Jesus referred to himself as “the bread of life,” and that some people rejected his claim. If bread is the staff of life, it is the matrix in which we live. Jesus’ claim that he is the true bread of life challenges us to look at the false bread that promises life, but does not deliver.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Note of Thanksgiving from Bob and Madelyn

I would like to offer thanks to God for all of you who have been praying and standing watch during the past year on behalf of Madelyn and me. Your well wishing and acts of thoughtfulness have made the year easier for us.

Since her diagnosis a year ago, Madelyn has undergone radiation and chemotherapy combined with an experimental drug called Avastin. Each time her progress has been evaluated using CAT and PET scans, the tumors have shown a decided decrease in size and activity.

Today, we received additional good news that the tumors have shrunk by half from the previous sizes recorded. Her oncologist has given her a three month break from chemotherapy with the hope that the next evaluation will not show any increase in the size of the tumors. We are delighted, if somewhat cautious. Lung cancer is not curable at this point in time. We pray that the time we have is grace-filled and that Madelyn will be able to resume a more normal life style. We thank you all of you for your loving and supportive care and concern for her and for me.

As some of you have heard, I need to have my gall bladder removed soon. I will meet with my surgeon on Monday afternoon and I am hoping that the surgery can be scheduled during this coming week. In any case, please know that I am in medically good hands and I look forward to a successful surgery and recovery.

May God bless and keep you all until I see you in September.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Something to Consider

What is Your Theological World View?

Have you ever taken a quiz to see where your theological views might place you in the big picture of Christian theology. I just recently went to this web site and took such a quiz.

Here is the site.

What did my quiz reveal?

It says that I have the theological worldview of a Roman Catholic. Hmmm... If you read the reasons for why I scored this way, you will see that what is true of me is the high value I place on Church tradition and ecclesial authority.In the Episcopal Church, Tradition is one of the three sources of authority that helps us define the life of our church. We refer to Tradition, but are not dominated by it. It is important, but it must be balanced by Scripture and Reason.

So, while I value Tradition, I do not worship it or turn it into something of greater value than God. It is simply one of the three ways I have come to understand God.Neo-orthodox is my next highest score on this quiz. This score shows my very strong Protestant beliefs and demonstrates the balance with the Episcopal Church between Catholicism and Protestantism.

If you read about this post World War I theological movement whose advocates included many German theologicians (Barth and Tillich are two of my favorites), you will probably recognize why I have a passion for Scripture. Note that my lowest score was as a Fundamentalist. It is possible to be a lover of Scripture; someone who believes that God reveals who we are (anthropology) and who he is (theology) through Scripture without being a Fundamentalist.Jesus is the cornerstone in my reading of the entire Bible.

When I read the Gospel, I focus on the fact of Jesus' life and his death. The rest of Scripture, for me, can only be understood as it either reveals what Jesus revealed or fails to reveal what Jesus revealed. I believe the Word of God is contained in Scripture, but is most completely revealed in Jesus' life, death, and Resurrection. I believe that left to our own best thinking, without Jesus, we continue to repeat blindly the old relgious ways of scapegoating, exclusion, and violence. As we hear in Eucharistic prayer B, Jesus, brings us "out of error into truth..."My third highest score was as Post Modern/Emergent. My sense is that I am what is called a "liminal," in the language of Alan J. Roxburg, The Sky is Falling: A Proposal for Leadership Communities To Take New Risks for the Reign of God.

A liminal is someone who is tied into the traditional church and who would like to limit the impact and stress of the increasing changes that are happening in our daily lives. As liminal implies, we have reached a limit, a boundary, and we see the future that is quickly coming towards us as risky and changing. Roxburg reminds me that we can not stop the changes, but we can decide how we will respond to these changes. He suggests that many of the gifts of the mainline churches need to be offered to the emerging churches that sometimes seek to remove everything that is part of the past.

I value both positions and know that each expresses the needs of the other.So, I am a man born in the previous century (1946)who seeks to find creative ways of sharing the Good News of God with those whose experiences growing up have been very different than my own.

My youngest years of life did not include computers, televisions, IPods, cell phones, digital photography, increasing life spans, new forms of international terror,increasing fears and ignorance of pending global environmental disasters, and a globalized job market that is less and less dependable and ever shifting.

What is the Good News that God wants to share with this generation?

What treasures from our tradition will be considered gifts for the times of immense change?

Here is the summary of my test results:

You are Roman Catholic.

Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic 68%
Neo orthodox 68%
Emergent/Postmodern 61%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 57%
Reformed Evangelical 39%
Modern Liberal 39%
Charismatic/Pentecostal 32%
Classical Liberal 18%
Fundamentalist 7%