Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WHAT IS AN HONORARY CANON?



This past Sunday Bishop Jon Bruno came to Christ Church for our bi-annual Episcopal visitation. It was a grand day for our parish. Kate Kious, Sierra Brown, Cayla Hailwood, and Sue Steward were confirmed and Jianulla Zimmerman was received into the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

This is a very powerful drama in which those who are confirmed and received promise to live into what it means to be a Christian within the Episcopal Church. Kate, Sierra, Cayla, Sue, and Jianulla have already been active participants in the life of our parish. They have been faithful in worship, service, and learning and have promised to continue this life dedicated to seeing the holy in themselves and other people. As the rector at Christ Church, I am delighted by their growing faith and deepening love of God.

Liturgy is a form of play and work and after our formal liturgy in the church, we went outside and the liturgy of the croquet mallet and ball began. My thanks to Barbara Ramsey-Duke for being our leader in creating this liturgy. She had a vision of what the day would look like and with the help of Susan Mulledy-DeFrank, Gail Connolly, and the generosity of Elizabeth and Sandy Pringle, the day was a great and wondrous.

Thank you to Barbara, Susan, Gail, Sandy, Elizabeth and the many Christ Church faithful who brought tea cups, food, and other necessary items for the day. Thank to those who served tea, sandwiches, or who helped clean up as we went along and afterwards. Each and every person who participated allowed us to play in the presence of God and one another and for that I am thankful and joyful.

Something else happened on Sunday which came as a big and happy surprise to me. During the announcements Bishop Bruno said that he was announcing that I would be welcomed as a canon of the Cathedral at the Diocesan Convention in Riverside this December. Some of you asked, “What is a canon?” Others asked, “Does this mean you have a new job and are leaving Christ Church?”

To answer the second question first, “no.” As they say, I am “not quitting my day job.” To answer the first question here is what the Diocesan website says about honorary canons.

Honorary Canons

From time to time, the Bishop names clergy and laypersons honorary canons of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul or the Pro-Cathedral of St. John in recognition of significant service to the larger Church.

The title "canon" dates from medieval times to denote a key advisor to a bishop or a cathedral community.

In the Diocese of Los Angeles, an heirloom walking stick is traditionally passed successively to the clergyperson who ranks as Senior Canon. (http://www.ladiocese.org/bishop/honorary_canon.html)

I want to be clear that just like our Sunday liturgies, I represent Christ Church in whatever I have done in the diocese and would never have been possible without the full cooperation, encouragement, and support of the Christ Church parish family. At Christ Church we do things together. We are, like the whole church, the body of Christ. When one of us is honored it is the whole parish family that is honored. I am delighted to serve Christ in our parish family, in the diocese, and in the universal church. Thank you for your love, care, and support.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jesus Is Not A Mind Reader


Jesus wasn’t a mind reader, but he knew the human heart. After sharing with his disciples for the second time that his future included rejection by the world resulting in his suffering and death, his disciples argued over who was the greatest among them. Arguing for supremacy is not just a secular preoccupation, it is a human preoccupation.

Winning, being dominant, overcoming others is a major value in human society and so the disciples expressed this value even after having heard Jesus say clearly that those who were the current winners of who is in charge would put him to death. We always hope that such dominance of “our” candidates will result in a better use of power, but it is clear that the very process for determining dominance reflects how power will eventually be used.

The disciples were fighting over who was the greatest among themselves. There are no details offered, but how do you really claim to be the greatest in a community whose leader becomes the victim of such power? How do you define greatness if Jesus is the definition of greatness and he refuses to use any sort of humanly valued power to overcome anyone?

Jesus came to save the world from the exercise of human power which usually ends in the violence that put him on the cross. Jesus came to be the way to a new way of living, a new path for the human heart to travel. He is the way, the path and he demonstrates this new way of being human in the simple call of discipleship: “If any wish to be great, they must become the slave of all.”

To demonstrate his point more clearly, Jesus took a young child who was near him and held him like a loving mother would hold their first child. Then he told his disciples that they must embrace all such “little children” as if they were receiving him. The world seems to have a very mixed view of children. When they are young their value is in their becoming just like their parents and their parents value is in their ability to produce children who will be accepted by their family, tribe, community, and nation. On the other hand, we want our children to be exceptional and gifted, but gifted seems to always be judged by how children stack up against other children.

In Jesus’ day, children were given less status because they had not yet been formed by their parents. They were works in progress and not yet ready for prime time. As the old saying goes “Children are to be seen, not heard.” But it is this very quality of children that Jesus sets before the disciples that they are to receive and embrace. He sees children not as future adults who have been formed by a culture of violence and exclusion, but as intrinsically of value because they were created by God’s love and bear his image of love and forgiveness.

Jesus bore this same image as an adult. His parents loved him from the beginning not because of what he might become in the world, but for who he was, a child of God. Jesus, like the child he embraced, brought into the world the love of God that is changing the world, even in the midst of a church that continues to live in two worlds, the Kingdom of God and the world of domination and violence.

Mark’s Gospel notes in the next chapter from this story that people were bringing little children to Jesus to be blessed and that his disciples were forbidding them. To forbid children is to forbid Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven he is bringing into the world. Children learn how to dominate others and value being better than others from the way they are brought up. Once we have been indoctrinated into these values, it requires real “born again and again” experiences to go back to that wonderful state of being able to learn anew. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”

This Sunday we will confirm those who wish to renew their baptismal vows and promise for themselves to join Jesus and his disciples on the way to Jerusalem and the cross, but also the resurrection. We pray that this recommitment will allow them to begin again to walk with greater child-like teach-ability the way of Jesus. Who is the greatest? The one who serves others as Christ serves us. AMEN.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

TO WHOM IS JESUS SPEAKING?

Mark 8:27-38
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.


The horizontal beam of the cross has come to represent for me my relationship with others. The vertical beam represents God's relationship with me. I carry the horizontal beam in so far as I love as God loves me. This is not a burden, but an abundant life.



In two weeks, several of our parish members will be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church. With them, we will all be invited to renew our baptismal vows in the presence of the Bishop of Los Angeles, Jon Bruno. If you decide to renew your vows and I hope you will, you will be offering yourself to be the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and mouth of Jesus in the world.

This week’s Gospel raises the questions that need to be addressed before we commit to any set of promises. The first question is not about who Jesus is or about what other people say he is, but about who we think we are. I mean who am I as a person and who are we as a community.

First, let us look at our personal sense of “I.” So much of life is spent trying to be someone from our earliest moments of life until our last breath is drawn. If you were to write your own obituary today, what would you want people to know about you? Who would you ask to write your obituary? Who knows you well enough to capture the truth of who you are?

The I that is me is a work of many people and the cultural structures of family, region, schools, sports teams, bosses and fellow workers, and maybe the church. Most of us have a social security number that serves to identify us within the structures of government and many other numbers from ATM to credit cards that define our economic viability. But all of these understandings about who we are as individuals end in death.

Jesus addresses each one of us personally which is very different from our sense of being separate and different from everyone else. It is the person each one of us was created by God to be that Jesus speaks to in us. It is the “I” that is much more than we or anyone else can really know us to be. It is the “I” that God in Christ created, redeems, and sanctifies. The “I” that others say we are is important, but Jesus came to redeem us for the people we were created to be.

In The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a prayer found on page 63 that reads:

“God, I offer myself to Thee to build with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always. Amen.

The self that this prayer speaks of is mentioned by Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel too.
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

To deny the self is to affirm the personal “I” that is spoken to by Jesus. To take up one’s cross is to own the personal “I” whom God created and loves and seeks to redeem. To follow Jesus is to be released from the bondage and restrictions imposed by what other people believe about you and to accept the grace and love that creates, redeems, and sanctifies each one of us.

So, what do we call those who have responded to the voice and call of God? We call ourselves the Church or the gathered together ones. The Church is the community that in hope supports our hearing God speak to us as persons. The world in which we live might define us much more like a commodity rather than a person, but the Church simply accepts us as persons who are in need of God’s gentle and loving voice, touch, and nurture.

On Confirmation Sunday, September 20th, we will reaffirm Jesus calling us persons into this community of faith called the Episcopal Church, the Body of Christ. And as our brothers and sisters of A.A pray, we will pray to do God’s will, to be the ones God created us to be. As we do, we bear witness to the powerful love of God at work in us and among us and through us.

This Sunday while you are waiting for the service to start, read carefully the promises and vows to which we will say “yes.” Be prepared to affirm the person God created you to be. Be ready to pick up your cross and follow Jesus in loving, serving, and bearing witness to the God who in Jesus Christ is not our shame, but our friend and savior.

Sunday’s Gospel is not pedaling cheap grace. God’s love is poured out freely and abundantly, but this love has been rejected and thrown out of the world before the crucifixion and resurrection and since. To call Jesus our friend and our savior is costly in a world that is blind to the pain, suffering, and death it inflicts in order to “defend itself.”

To be a Christian is not to inflict pain, suffering, and death, but to sometimes suffer such pain, suffering, and even death. To be sure, most of us will probably never be required to lay down our lives in the name of God’s love and service, but the bishop will remind us of this possibility by gently hitting those who are confirmed as a sign that being a Christian person follows a different path than the world would have them travel.

Being confirmed is like getting married. We fall in love, make promises, and then live out that love in the real world. I pray for all of us as we respond to Jesus’ personal call to us.