Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Brief Introduction to Holy Week

The word “holy” means to set aside something for God and for ourselves as a community of faith for a particular purpose. When we bless water at a baptism, we are literally setting it aside to serve a very important purpose. Likewise, when the wine and bread are blessed, they are set aside to be for us the very body and blood of Christ.

Holy Week means a week in the church year which is set aside for a particular purpose. During this week, we allow our imaginations, Scripture, and Tradition to be set aside for the purpose of hearing the story of the end of Jesus’ life and contemplating how his death can change our lives.

For many people, Holy Week comes to them during times of crisis when things are not going well either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Our fears, resentments, guilt, and shame play through such times in powerful and sometimes paralyzing ways. Sometimes this sort of Holy Week can last an hour or go on for years. In the midst of crisis we feel our identity has been stolen or lost; things which seemed to matter and which made up our meaning and purpose in life seem to vanish, leaving us alone and frightened or finally simply numb.

Mark’s Gospel records Jesus’ last words in the Passion Sunday drama: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Whether we have experienced Holy Week in our personal lives or not, Jesus’ words reach deep into our hearts and invite us to spend this yearly observation of Holy Week in prayer and openness to how God can save us from despair, alienation, and meaninglessness.

I invite you, therefore, to the observation of Holy Week through personal prayer, meditation, contemplation and worship with your brothers and sisters at Christ Church. The schedule of services offered here at Christ Church will assist you in preparing for the celebration of Easter morning and a life of forgiveness and grace.

God’s Peace in this Holy Week,


Passion Sunday, April 5, 2009
Liturgy of the Palms with Passion Gospel & Holy Eucharist @ 8 AM and 10 AM.

Monday, April, 6, 2009
Evening Prayer @7PM

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Stations of the Cross @ 7PM

Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2009
Holy Eucharist with the liturgy of the washing of feet will be offered @ 7 PM.
The altar and the adornments of the church will be removed immediately following the service and returned for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday celebrations.

Good Friday, April 10, 2009
Veneration of the Cross with Communion from reserved Sacrament @ 10:00 AM & 7 PM
The church will remain open for personal prayer and meditation from Noon until 3 PM.

Easter Celebrations

April 11, 2009 @ 6:00 PM Easter Vigil with Readings and Holy Eucharist

April 12, 2009, Easter Sunday Choral Eucharist at both 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM with Easter Egg Hunt following the second service.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The Road Out (The Exit) Is

uncharted territory.

I know I don’t want to stay
where I am,

But the ROAD OUT disappears
into trackless waste
just beyond where

I am standing
and I fear being lost.
I cried out for help
and Moses appeared.

My feet brought me to this
place of exit
with hesitant speed, but now they shuffle
back and forth between
the clearly marked path of yesterday
and the wind-blown,
directionless dust of tomorrow.

I stand here watching
Moses move down the Road Out.
He sees something before him
which guides him—a vision to which
I am blind.

I begin
to follow him,
trusting his vision of what lies ahead
more than
my own blindness.

My eyes see
fearful creatures which haunt
the Road Out.
The nights are desolate, dark, cold.
The days are dazzling brightness and blasting

Nothing I brought with me shelters me.
I keep walking.
Moses has been down the Road Out many times.
He leads.
I follow.

He teaches me to see
The vision he follows—
a cloud by day, a fire by night.
He teaches me to trust that vision
in the middle of my fear.

He teaches me to find shelter
in the Rock of the Wilderness.
He teaches me to keep walking
and I do.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Wind of God Blows Over Us: John 3

Here is a paraphrased expression of John 3 that is the preface for the Gospel we will read at Christ Church on Sunday. I am posting it so that you can look at it; struggle with it; correct and improve it; or simply offer what this expression of the Gospel invites you to consider in your own spiritual life. Bob+

Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of Israel, wanted to know more about Jesus, but he did not want any of his friends and other leaders of the Sanhedrin to know about it. He was afraid that if anyone found out that he was in a serious conversation with Jesus, it would damage his reputation and he would be ejected from the community that had given him his identity, purpose, and meaning.

So, he slipped out of his home late one night when darkness was so dark, that he could not be seen as he made his way through the streets. He was looking for some light in the darkness of his spiritual life.

Nicodemus was a polite seeker after religious truth, but was not prepared for what he heard from Jesus. Nicodemus opened his conversation with Jesus by complimenting him as a true rabbi or teacher sent by God, saying that no one could do the signs that Jesus performed unless he came from God.

Perhaps what Nicodemus really meant to say was that no one had better change water into wine using jars that were set aside for purifying unclean people unless he had a clear order from God.

But the last sign Jesus had performed was very troubling. He had dared to make a huge scene by chasing sheep and cows out of the Temple by swinging a cord in his hand; setting birds free to fly away from their captivity and date with death; and then to pitch the coins of the money changers up in the air to fall un-spent. This sign without God’s ordering it, was a very serious crime.

For a person to do such things would be either trickery and deceit or scandalous and outrageous behavior if God were not directing Jesus. For most of the religious leaders, God would never have sanctioned Jesus’ actions, so there was no reason to seek or consider further information. But Nicodemus desired more. Something deep inside of him or outside of him, drove him to seek out Jesus.

Before Nicodemus could continue his questioning, Jesus spoke to him, heart to heart, and told him that no one could possibly enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless they were born again. This startled and confused Nicodemus.

He asked: “How can an old man like me enter again into my dead mother’s womb to be born all over again?”

Jesus told Nicodemus that the second birth he was talking about was unlike his first birth. Nicodemus had been born of flesh and he had come to understand the way the world works as a human being following other human beings and trying to be a good religious Jew amidst the conflicts and confusions of life. This often seemed like sheep without a shepherd, following one another and getting lost together.

Jesus challenged Nicodemus to follow God as his Father and Jesus as the shepherd who leads his people to the green pastures and still waters. To follow God as Father and Jesus as the good shepherd meant that Nicodemus had to leave behind the certainties of his parents and his community for life in the Spirit.

Jesus said: “The wind blows wherever it wishes to blow.” The wind cannot be controlled by human beings, their institutions or other systems organized without God. The wind is free and so is the Spirit of God. For Nicodemus, such a challenge to follow the windy Holy Spirit instead of his tried and true ways was overwhelming.”
That is when Jesus said to him: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus came from the heart and mind of God. The Holy Spirit had blown him into the world and offered him to all of those whose first birth seemed to lead only to self-righteousness and self-protective passions which played out in the world as violence inflicted, violence suffered, or violence avoided at someone else’s expense.

Jesus said again: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.”

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to do what human beings are already doing to one another. We condemn one another without mercy and we create a world of judgment and wrath.

Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world from such harsh judgments and self-destruction. It was by following Jesus that such a salvation of mercy and forgiveness was coming into the world.

Those who are born into the new life of the Spirit by water, Word, and the breath of God leave behind their old ways of self-righteousness, judgment, and condemnation of others and are therefore saved from such self-condemning and crucifying ways;

But those who cling to their first birth and the ways of self-righteousness, judgment, and condemnation of others are already suffering the condemnation and wrath that is the darkness in which we have all lived. They have chosen to live according to the ways of the world. The love letter sent from God is written in Jesus’ flesh. When this love came to us, rather than accepting God’s love and forgiveness, we required that the letter be written in the blood of his Son.

Do you want to know what the judgment is? Here it is then: The light of God’s love and forgiving mercy has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because the light of God exposed that the way they were treating one another was evil.

People preferred what they knew and had always done. We did not like to have it shown for the evil that it is. The great cover up continues for those who are lost and perishing in the darkness, while those who are true to their Father in heaven follow Jesus in leaving judgment and condemning others to the charity of God. The wind blows and brings others into the community of Jesus. The light shines in the darkness.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Ten Commandments, Desire, and Violence REVISITED FROM 2006

This photograph was taken on September 11, 2001 as the Twin Towers collapsed. The cross of the Episcopal Church nearby is seen in the forefront.

This week our readings on Sunday will include the giving of the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20. These God-breathed gifts were given to the people of Israel to move them away from the ancient and venerated ways we use to avoid violence spiraling out of control. The Ten Commandments continue to identify and address the basic reasons for human violence, but the Gospel takes us to a new way of becoming a more peaceful and loving community.

From earliest recorded history, the fear of internal violence, violence within the community, has been addressed in several ways. The Gentile world out of which the Jewish identity emerged practiced a sacrificial religion that was bolstered by taboos and prohibitions against certain behaviors that seemed to spark rivalry and violence.

In contrast to such safe guards, Israel sought to follow a new path. The Ten Commandments given to them at Sinai while they journeyed in the wilderness between the slavery of Egypt and the Promised Land sought to limit violence by forbidding the violent acts of killing, stealing, bearing false witness against one’s neighbor, and finally the desiring of what belongs to one’s neighbor. The Ten Commandments contain wisdom and grace that far surpass even our most modern taboos and prohibitions for avoiding human violence.

Human desire seems to be mimetic, that is, we desire what others desire. What has value (what is desirable) is driven by its popularity. If others have product X in sufficient numbers, then more people will want to have what seems to be gaining popularity. Advertising uses all sorts of cues to encourage us to buy this or that product.

While at Lloyde High School, I watched kids from poor families walk into school wearing $150 shoes just so that they could be part of the “in crowd.” I also saw kids wearing such shoes get “jacked” (slang for robbed) by other kids who wanted to wear their shoes.

Competition to have what others have and to be who others are, is a continual driving force in the ebb and flow between the peace for which we hope and the conflict and violence that flows from desiring what belongs to others.

Just in my life time, I have seen the end of the last World War; the erection and destruction of the Berlin Wall; the ascendancy and break up of the Soviet Union as a world rival and threat; the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought us to the brink of thermonuclear war; drop and cover drills in school; the Korean and Viet Nam Wars; terrorist attacks around the world; and now two wars in the Middle East.

I have seen the struggle for human rights in our country for people of color, women, and now people of varying sexual orientations. I have seen us divided into citizens of the First, Second, and Third Worlds based upon who controls the wealth of the planet.

In a real sense all of these observed historical events and realities of our day represent our best efforts to maintain peace and reduce conflict and violence. It is our best thinking that is held captive by our desiring to have what others have. As long as our desire is focused on and formed by what others have, conflict and violence will continue to run a course between the fear of weapons of mass destruction being unleashed and the hope for peace at someone else’s expense.

Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, was clear about our best thinking:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. As it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

Where is the one who is wise?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

As I prepare for this week's sermon, I invite you to participate by responding to any or all of the questions posed below and sending them to me at or by posting them on this blog.

God's Peace in Reflection, Bob+

What are some of our modern day methods of reducing out of control violence within the box of human desire that is fixated on having what others have?

Do you find the Ten Commandments, understood as a new way of limiting violence, more or less contemporary and relevant?

Is God completely opposed to our ways of reducing violence through our own best thinking?

Do you think God understands how difficult it is to try to live in a world of desiring that is always focused on what is owned by others?

Why does Paul say that the cross is “God’s wisdom and power” to save us from the way we desire?

Is desire the problem in our world or is the focus of our desiring the problem?

What makes the way we desire so lethal and violence producing?

As you think back over your life time, can you cite examples of times you have really wanted something (desire) just because others had it? What prevented you from using violence to get what the other person had?

Paul says that the cross “saves” us. If our salvation is about being delivered from the idolatrous desiring of what others have that produces a violent world, then salvation is not just an individual matter. If we desire what God desires, how would that change the world in which we live? If what God desires is not just a carbon copy of what we desire as individuals or a nation, how can we live “in this world” without being “of this world?”