Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Following the Dove

During our Wednesday night study of Saint Mark’s Gospel we seek to explore the words of the Gospel writer and the words spoken by Jesus as if we were part of the original listeners. The opened winged dove represents the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that can lead us as we seek to be present to Jesus.

I would like to suggest one way of doing this that has been very important to me in my spiritual life of prayer and meditation. This method invites us to write out the entire text of a particular portion of the Gospel that we are exploring. This past Wednesday we discovered that by writing out the text our reading was slowed way down which allowed us to see the Gospel in a whole new way.

I invite you to take this week’s reading from chapter 9 of Mark’s Gospel and try this powerful path for yourself. Simply put:

1. Leave a space of 3” as the left margin of your writing. In this space, you will place words, phrases, or ideas that jump out at you as you slowly copy down the text printed below. Some have used the computer to do this, but I would strongly recommend writing the Gospel in your own hand writing.

2. Next, slowly copy the text down on the right side of your paper. Allow yourself to make some words larger and some words smaller depending upon how each word strikes you.

3. As a word or phrase or idea comes up that grabs your attention, spend some time with it. Write it down on the left side of the sheet opposite where it occurs.

4. Ask the text questions in the left margin. If you don’t understand something or if you question why Jesus would say this or that, ask a question addressed to Jesus or God.

5. Don’t try to answer the questions you ask. Simply write them down, think about them, and then move on to the next portion of the text. Asking questions is very important. When we ask questions, God usually finds a way of helping us come to a better understanding of our relationship with him. “Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find.”

Here is the Gospel reading for this week. Please spend some quality time with it and see what happens. The members of our class reported back some very interesting outcomes. Let me know if you have any unusual or interesting experiences as you follow this path of reading through writing the Scriptures.

Mark 9:38 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us."

39 But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.

40 Whoever is not against us is for us.

41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

42 "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.

47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,

48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 "For everyone will be salted with fire.

50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Leadership and the Child in the Middle

Happy birthday Lucca!

Lucca Franz celebrated her second birthday at Christ Church last Sunday. Here she is surrounded by some of our other Christ Church ministers as she prepares to blow out the candles on her cake. (check out the new Christ Church Kids' Art blog at

In our Gospel reading for this coming week, we read:

Then Jesus took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

Why did Jesus say that welcoming a child was the same as welcoming himself, but even more, welcoming God into the midst of the community?

I remember childhood as a time of extreme vulnerability and powerlessness. My parents were my protectors from all that might harm me. They sheltered, fed, and clothed me because without such care, I would have perished in my first year of life. The dependency needs of children seem to demand that parents move beyond what is best for them-selves in order to meet the needs of the children.

Jesus points to the child’s vulnerability, dependence, and powerlessness as the clearest expressions of the way God is known within a human community. God comes to us as a vulnerable, dependent, and powerless baby. That is the story of Christmas or the Feast of the Incarnation. Jesus comes to the human family, not with a conquering army or a divine mandate to rule over us, but as one who always robes himself as one of the least powerful, most dependent and vulnerable.

Jesus found a way to show his disciples that they were just like the little child that he held in his arms. He knew that each of them would experience their own vulnerability and powerlessness in the moment of his arrest. Jesus took on his disciples' vulnerability and powerlessness and gave it a body in which to dwell. They saw in the suffering and death that he predicted the very vulnerability and powerlessness of a small child.

The disciples, like us, would probably have preferred a god who would blow away those who opposed him and who would rescue us from our own fears that haunt us. As children grow up, the protective arms of our parents loosen as we strain to become autonomous adults. We become the parents to our own children and offer them the love and protection that they need to survive and thrive.

Here is the full text of our Gospel reading for this Sunday:

Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

As we consider the whole Gospel reading for this Sunday, I would like to offer the following questions for our consideration:

1. Does the leadership of this church (not just the paid staff, but the people who call Christ Church home) see Jesus and God in the least of our brothers and sisters?

2. If you were to make a list of folks who are the most vulnerable and powerless in our society, who would be on that list?

3. The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among Jesus’ followers. What did Jesus say to this behavior?

4. How would you describe the leadership style of this congregation?

5. When you consider “bad experiences” you may have had in other churches, what core Christian beliefs or personal beliefs informed you that these experiences were bad?

6. What does the expression “servant leadership” mean to you?

7. In the first paragraph I mentioned "other Christ Church ministers" surrounding Lucca. Why did I call our children ministers? Would you agree?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Diet for the Heart

Christ Church is blessed with many very talented and dedicated folk who provide me and the rest of the community with many wonderful gifts. One such gift giver is Lizz Beitzel. Week after week, Lizz writes a commentary called Lizz on the Lectionary. I read her work each and every week as part of my preparation for Sunday’s gathering. Lizz offers us insights into the readings and collect for each Sunday which are intelligent, down to earth, and helpful in understanding the Bible within our community (see Lizz's insights into the Collect for Sunday below).

Your worship experience will be deepened and strengthened by making a visit to Lizz’s weekly commentary; the Gospel Reflection; and the Adult Christian Education (ACE of Hearts)

We call this processs of deepening formation, the education of the heart. Life brings us many opportunities for such deepening. As our hearts are formed around the love and mercy of God, we begin to experience changes in the way we view the world. Faith has sometimes been called seeing the world through the loving eyes of God. Our physical vision is processed through the brain, but our spiritual vision passes through the heart. As we spend time reflecting on God's love through our reading and study, our hearts can begin to see God present in others and in ourselves. I hope that through some of the offerings provided by Lizz and other members of our community, you will experience the patient presence and love of God in your heart.

I have included below Lizz’s commentary on the Collect for this Sunday, but I encourage everyone to go to her blog site and read her offerings on the lessons for this Sunday. Here is the Lectionary Lizz blog site:

Collect for Sunday/September 17, 2006

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Just a few weeks ago in the gospel Jesus spoke out to tell people that it is what comes from within that makes the difference, not what we eat. What we call the heart is where the blessing or the curse comes from. So this week we pray, “grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts”. When I truly allow God into my day I find that I have new ideas to act on. Some of them are just not what I consider “my style.”

So there is always the question, Is this God’s style?”. My plumb line is “love your neighbor.” If it doesn’t look like love, real concern for another, think carefully before acting. On the other hand there are some of those far out actions that have yielded wonderful returns. I heard myself invite an acquaintance to recover after surgery at my house. What a gift from God she turned out to be! She was great, she just oozed that love that is from the One God. Get personal with this prayer. Let God surprise you.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Greed-Is IT Really Such a Bad Thing?

Images of Greed
What is so deadly about greed? Does wanting more than someone else really lead us to do evil? Isn't competition for resources and the wealth that such resources can create the backbone of our American economic system?
Allan Greeenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve Board, testified before congress on the state of the American economy in 2000 saying:

"Why did corporate governance checks and balances that served us reasonably well in the past break down? At root was the rapid enlargement of stock market capitalizations in the latter part of the 1990s that arguably engendered an outsized increase in opportunities for avarice. An infectious greed seemed to grip much of our business community."

He concluded that "It is not that humans have become any more greedy than in generations past. It is that the avenues to express greed had grown so enormously. "
So, greed may be a constant in human nature. Greenspan does not condemn greed, he simply says it needs to be properly regulated so that it does not negatively impact our economic system.

I would now like to turn our attention to this week's Epistle from James. The Christian community to whom he wrote has obviously developed habits around how the treat people with wealth and the poor. I offer James' letter to the leadership of the church and ask that you allow it to guide your exploration of the way we deal with wealth and poverty today.

James 2:1-14

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

Do you agree with James that showing favoritism for the wealthy members of the church is the result of not really believing in Jesus as Lord? What do you think James is saying?

How does making distinctions among ourselves make us "judges with evil thoughts?"

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

Why do you think James says that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith an heirs of the kingdom? How does loving God result in poverty that is rich in faith?

How are the poor dishonored today?

What do you believe the church should do in response to poverty?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, "You shall not commit adultery," also said, "You shall not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Why do you think James wrote that "judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment."

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

James says that faith without works is dead. What do you think he means by that?

Is greed at work in the problems James addresses in the church?

Does Allan Greenspan call for a sort of secular economic repentance? If so, what is the basis for such a call? Utilitarian (infectious greed versus greed that stimulates economic growth)? Moral (greed is inherently evil)? Religious (greed is a denial that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the God of heaven and earth)? What other reasons might greed be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing?

Do you ever wonder if and how greed has changed your behavior or values?