Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Does Jesus offend you? Does Jesus' concern for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the unwanted, and outsiders offend you? The word translated "offend" comes from the Greek word, "Scandalon" that might better be translated "scandalized" or "that which causes someone to stumble." Jesus says that a person who is not scandalized  or caused to stumble by him is blessed. 

While Jesus might scandalize us or cause some of us to stumble because of his concern for those in need, he might also cause some to stumble because he is not a Rambo-type messiah on the side of the powerful or the oppressed. Perhaps John had concerns about Jesus' refusal to incite his followers to use  sacred violence for their just cause.

And so, from his prison cell, John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the One to come or not. In previous accounts from the other Gospels, John had called Jesus the One to come, the Messiah of God. But that was John's way of trying to make sense of Jesus' mission using the only available category he felt fit the circumstances. 

The Messiah was mostly seen as a very human military king, like Saul or David, who would lead Israel in battle against her foes. As John sat in prison, no doubt he remembered his own words he used to described the One who was coming as he who would set things right in the world by identifying the wicked of this world who oppressed the poor and used their wealth, power, and violence to maintain and extend their advantages. John was scandalized by the Roman Empire and by the Jewish religious establishment that catered to Caesar.

Our first reading from Isaiah and Jesus' response to John's question about whether he was the messiah seem to be very close to the same. The Isaiah passage sees a joyful time when those whose lives in their hometowns and especially Jerusalem were disrupted as the Babylonians captured the Holy City and destroyed it and took the leaders of the nation into captivity. 

Many of those being led captive were blinded by their oppressors; others had their legs broken and still others bore the shame of impurity as they were forced into circumstances that did not respect nor allow them to observe their laws that kept them pure. Their captivity was seen as a kind of leprosy that denied them the purity needed for worshipping God. 

Their joyful return to Jerusalem after their long captivity came to an end is described as a healing of the deep, deep physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds of their captivity. As they moved through the wilderness on their way home, the desert is not seen as hostile to them, but as flowering and welcoming and celebrative of the God who was bringing them home. 

The sign of God's forgiveness of their national sins, which many believed resulted in their captivity, was in the healing of those wounds and physical impairments. What joy Isaiah expresses!

I can imagine sitting on a hillside on the road that leads into Jerusalem watching the lame throw down their crutches; the blind no longer needing someone to lead them by the hand on the road home; those who could not sing nor hear the songs of Jerusalem sung in their captivity, are now jubilant as they hear the music of the pilgrims climbing up the final grade to Jerusalem. And I can imagine, the sense of forgiveness that made these captives feel pure as they anticipated the worship of God in the Temple. 

This is not a time of scandal or stumbling, but a time of rejoicing. This is not a time of payback against the oppressive Babylonians, it is a time of thanksgiving and praise. 

Jesus' response to John takes Isaiah's words and speaks them in answer to John's question: Are you the one we are we to wait for another?" He ends with the statement, "And blessed is he who takes no offense at me." Are God's ways stumbling blocks or scandals for us? Can the joy of coming home to a new beginning replace our need for vengeance and our own human wrath directed against our enemies?

Let the joy of God stirring up the power of grace and forgiveness and coming among us be with us as we celebrate this Rose Sunday. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jesus is headed to Jerusalem. Along the way he encounters 10 lepers. Nine of the lepers are Jewish and one is a Samaritan. They all beg for mercy and all of them are healed of their disease. The Samaritan returns in gratitude to thank Jesus and to praise God. 

Jesus tells the man that faith healed him. Did faith also heal the other nine who did not return to thank Jesus and praise God? Jesus sends the Samaritan home and he makes his way towards Jerusalem. 

In this moment of healing, Jesus is about collecting all that separates us from one another and God. Leprosy separated and created outcasts. Jesus took their place as an outcast. Jewish and Samaritans saw each other as inferior. Jesus took their place as the inferior one. 

Jesus had done this many times during his time of proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. Each time he healed someone; cast out a demon; raised the dead; fed the hungry; or gave sight to the blind, he took their place of being an outcast. By the time Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he is filled to overflowing with the burdens of the world that separate us. 

He took these burdens with him to the cross and they were nailed up with him in a very public way for all to see. He took what separates and kills us into himself and allowed us to judge him worthy of death. We acted out our usual ways of treating one another on him. 

On Sundays, we come together and Jesus continues to walk among us and collect the things that separate us and which unleash toxic wrath in our world. These things are gathered and given form in the Eucharistic bread and wine which when blessed become for us a way of giving thanks that overcomes everything that separates us from one another and God and which swallows up wrath in one gracious act of God in Christ.

When we come to the Words of Institution we hear that in the midst of being handed over to suffering and death, in the midst of bearing our burdens and enduring human wrath, Jesus gives thanks. No one would envy Jesus. No one would wish to take his place. The very thing for which he gave thanks, none of us would have wanted to fall upon us. 

But Jesus gives thanks (this very word describes our Sunday worship as Eucharist). 

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me." 

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, "Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me."

Come and join in the thanksgiving of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


If there is no love for what is lost there is no rejoicing when the lost is found.

 This past week my wife Madelyn was part of a search party to recover the old dog owned by one of our neighbors. The dog just disappeared from our neighbor'...s front yard. Neighborhood children and adults have scoured the area, but the dog named Max has not be found.

The word "lost" is used to describe something or someone being destroyed. It is a terminal word which when finally pronounced marks the end of searching. Just so, we have many people in our world who have been labeled lost causes and placed in a category that means that they have ceased to exist or do not deserve further concern.

But in Jesus' view of reality, the word lost was not a terminal category, but a temporary state. He knew that in God no one is lost as human society thinks of lost. Love that overcomes being lost or dead is acted out in Jesus' stories and presses us to stop categorizing others as lost.

God is the Eternal Searcher for the lost. What we are asked to do is to rejoice when God reverses our sense of terminal loss, death, and destruction and join in
the party that celebrates the untiring, ongoing, undefeatable love that searches for all that is lost in us and in creation.

Or, would you rather grumble that God's way of searching-love has trumped our way of dismissing others and ourselves as "lost causes?" 

 Luke 15:1-10

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus.

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."

So he told them this parable:

"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?

When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,

`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying,

`Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'

Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Here is another passage from Genesis that speaks of one who is lost in a particular way. Is Cain the lost sheep who is found?

Genesis 4

The Message (MSG)
Adam slept with Eve his wife. She conceived and had Cain. She said, “I’ve gotten a man, with God’s help!”
Then she had another baby, Abel. Abel was a herdsman and Cain a farmer.
3-5 Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.
6-7 God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”
Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him.
God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
He said, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?”
10-12 God said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling to me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. You’ll farm this ground, but it will no longer give you its best. You’ll be a homeless wanderer on Earth.”
13-14 Cain said to God, “My punishment is too much. I can’t take it! You’ve thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I’m a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15 God told him, “No. Anyone who kills Cain will pay for it seven times over.” God put a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.
16 Cain left the presence of God and lived in No-Man’s-Land, east of Eden.
17-18 Cain slept with his wife. She conceived and had Enoch. He then built a city and named it after his son, Enoch.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


A large crowd following a person would suggest that the one being followed is some sort of a celebrity. Over the course of history Jesus has surely been followed by large crowds who tried to get close to him.

So, imagine Jesus turning to this throng of people eager to follow him and saying:

"'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'"?

Might the number of folks following him suddenly drop? If you think what Jesus says about hating family members as a necessary thing for following him is hard for those of us living in the United States in the 21st century, please know that his words were even more shocking and repulsive to those who surrounded him as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Hate is a very strong word, especially as we understand it today. We take hate to mean the strong negative emotion directed towards another person, but the term in Jesus' world meant something more like rejecting the object of hate, but doing so in a way that is not violent or filled with emotional loathing or contempt. It is more like turning away from family and turning to something or someone that is not altogether known and whose ways are strange and demanding, but never requiring violence towards others or self.

We actually use a word in the baptism service which may be closest to the meaning of the word "hate" as Jesus spoke it. That word is "renounce." Candidates for baptism are asked if they renounce Satan and all of the spiritual powers that rebel against God. And the candidates reply: "I renounce them."

Is it possible that hating as Jesus used the word actually allows us to love our families, our selves, and our world even more? Is such hating a way of living with and loving even those who are enemies or who we see as at least unpleasant?

Why would loving our families be a stumbling block for those who follow Jesus?

What does the cross we are asked to carry have to do with discipleship? Didn't Jesus carry the cross so we would not have to do so?

In the Twelves Steps of Alcholics Anonymous, we hear a very similar idea in the first three steps of recovery:

1.We admitted we were powerless over _____-that our lives had become unmanageable.

2.Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3.Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

As you can see, the Gospel this week is challenging. If you consider the questions I have offered above and the wisdom expressed in the first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, you may find ways of considering Jesus' words as an act of communication that will touch your soul and move you closer to a new God of your understanding.

See you on Sunday.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Have you ever seen an angel? In the ancient texts of Israel and in the more recent writings found in the New Testament, angels are seen as appearances of God (angel of the Lord). Is it possible that God could appear to you and you would not recognize such an appearing?

I would say there is a very good chance that none of us will recognize the Angel of the Lord in our midst.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews offers sage advice to us, but it is important to truly hear what he is saying to those who have ears to hear.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."

What is a stranger? A stranger is someone who is not us, not one of our kind. A stranger is someone who is so not us that we can almost define ourselves as not being one of them. When I was in high school Redondo High and Mira Costa had a real rivalry. We had different mascots, we lived in different neighborhoods, we dressed in different school colors, and we were sure we were superior in every way to those Seahawks. I am sure that the Seahawks felt that way about us. We needed one another to be the stranger so that we could feel the strength of unity and a common rival.
It now seems very silly, but don't we continue to need strangers to define ourselves as "not them" and to create temporary and mutual interest groups that reinforce our kind over against those other strange people?

Note that the author of Hebrews begins this text with a declaration: "Let mutual love continue." The truth is that church was made up of strangers who were called together to live in mutual love. The word for hospitality has an interesting meaning in Greek. To show hospitality was to welcome the strange. In order to welcome the strange, however, we have to relinquish our need for the stranger to establish and maintain our own personal, familial, tribal, and national identity.

It is when a stranger comes among us and we welcome them with love that is mutual that we experience the angel of the Lord. Notice that mutual love can only be shared by two people who see one another as equal and non-rivals. So, in the coming of a stranger we discover something new about ourselves and about the stranger that our previously separate existence could not possibly reveal to us.

 An angel is a messenger. What is the message the stranger carries? Have you ever welcome someone who may have been an enemy or a rival into a relationship of mutual love? The core foundation of the church is mutual love shared by strangers. We are called out of our familiar lives and our identities that are mostly set before we know it. We are called out to be a strange people of mutual love shared.

It is in living together in mutual love that we actually experience the presence of the angel of the Lord.
Shall we welcome those whom God calls to be with us?



Thursday, August 22, 2013


We have all heard the question: Which came first the chicken or the egg?

But have you ever considered this question: “Which comes first forgiveness or the need to be forgiven?” The first question is about cause and effect. The second question is somewhat different in nature. 

 Is forgiveness necessary foundationally for a creation such as ours to come into existence. Is there any forgiveness in the very act of coming into being?

Of course, you can probably quote scripture to prove a point about this question, but I am more interested in seeing how you personally have experienced forgiveness as present before, during, or after you admit that you have done something that hurt someone else.

 Or, how is forgiveness a foundational reality of creation that makes it possible for us to function as human beings?

 Is the cross simply another expression of what preceeded and made possible the original creation, a reminder of God's very nature from before the foundations of the world?

Here is a quote from Richard Rohr that may help us consider the question I have posed.

"The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection-and told us that we must do the same or we would never be content on this earth. "

― Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Touched, Troubled, Tumbled, Torn, Tossed, or Tempted?

Lent is a time of reflection.

Year after year, most of us pass through this season that reminds us of the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness and underwent the temptations that we heard about last week, without being touched, troubled, tumbled, torn, tossed, or tempted.

Is that a problem?

This season also reminds us of the 40 year journey of Israel out of the slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea, across the trackless stretch of extreme cold and heat, dangers and temptations, struggling life and sudden death, success, but mostly failure, and finally exit from the wilderness and entrance into the land of milk and honey.

We hear this story that we recalled last week when we blessed the waters of baptism last Sunday, but how many of us will be exposed to such physically, spiritual, and emotional hardships during our Lenten season?

Is that a problem?

The answer to both of these questions is a qualified "No."

Most of us live lives with a certain amount of the very stuff of which Jesus and the children of Israel dealt with during their treks through the wilderness. The wilderness is a way of describing times and places in our lives when every fiber of our being is tested; when our certainties about others, ourselves, and God are shaken and challenged. It is, as Father Norm said on Ash Wednesday, a time of" bumping into ourselves" in a silence that does not allow us to hide or numb ourselves with substances, distractions, or companionship.

If such times correspond to the season of Lent then you will quickly identify with Jesus and the Israelites as you hear their stories, but if your Lents have been pretty much business as usual, you may find yourself simply going through the motions of "giving up" this or that or giving more generously of money, care, or attention to others. Perhaps your fasting and giving will give you a sense of having entered into the story of Jesus and Israel in the wilderness.

But, if you are feeling a bit out of the loop during Lent, if you feel that life is just too good to dwell on the challenges others have faced, and if your greatest hope and prayer is to be delivered from such tests, relax and simply hear these stories and store up in your memory and heart the reality that God is in your life, but will also be in your life if you are ever touched, troubled, tumbled, torn, tossed, or tempted. Or if you ever wander into trackless stretches of extremes, dangers and temptations, struggles for life in the midst of death, successes, but mostly failure.

To thankfully hear these stories and to be open to these images of God with those whose lives have endured the Lenten season of real life, give us hope and strength and understanding for those Lenten seasons that will come into our lives and will challenge us to seek God. Now is the time to reflect on these things and to prepare ourselves for the Lenten experiences that are surely part of every human life.

Monday, January 28, 2013


“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Francis of Assisi

"A miracle is when the whole Is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand."
Fredrick Beuchner

“Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the bod though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made
to drink of one Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

This year on January 22, I celebrated my 30th year of ordination and my 12th year of service as your priest at Christ Church (May 15th ).

On the feast day of Christ the King which will fall on November 24th of this year, we will celebrate 120 years of ministry as a faith community in this very church. This year all of these anniversaries are important to me because they are all interrelated.

They are also the fruit of a decision I made as an 11 year old. I chose to be baptized and then a few years later I chose to be confirmed with a huge assembly of adults and kids my age.

There were so many of us that we filled the rather large steps and front porch that led up to the entrance of Saint Cross Church in Hermosa Beach. Nan Wilson was among those on the steps with me that day.

Even at my young age I understood that baptism was not about washing away my sins, but about becoming a person I would never have become had I chosen otherwise.

You can certainly say that I would not have been any different sort of person had I never darkened the doors of that church, but from my insides to my outsides I know that this one decision changed me and my life forever.

I can also say that without this community of faith being called into existence 120 years ago, my life and the lives of so many other people might be very different.

Christ Church was part of my early story because Father DeGarmo was the missionary priest who establish the mission in Hermosa Beach called Saint Cross in 1919 and it was through the grace of God working in that faith community that I came to God and was adopted into the body of Christ, as St. Paul calls the church in our epistle today.

In my 36th year of life after spending 10 years off and on driving out to the Claremont School of Theology every other weekend; consuming a good deal of coffee; sleeping on the floor of the parish hall at St. Ambrose Church on Friday evenings; learning to love my classmates, teachers, and staff; and taking a multitude of courses with men and women who also went on to ordination and some who found vocations in other fields and careers, I was ordained to the ministry in the Episcopal Church.

On my 55th birthday, after serving as a public school teacher for 24 years and then the principal of that same school for 7 years, I came to this community of faith as your priest.

Those of you who are sitting here today at Christ Church could tell similar stories of how God has worked through this community and through other communities of faith and the people in our lives to bring us here today.

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.”

My vocation as a priest is limited. I have proven over my time here with you what St. Paul says so clearly that without each and every one of us living out the promises and vows we make in baptism, our work as a community will fail.

Paul lists all of the sorts of gifts at work in the church in Corinth and they were many and powerful to be sure, but his final comment in this passage is more powerful than all of the gifts that might cause envy, conflict, and resentment and tear apart the church.

“But strive for the greater gifts.”

This last line precedes Paul’s soaring ode to love in I Corinthians 13 in which Paul speaks of faith, hope, and love as the greatest gifts of God.

These are the gifts that make our other gifts come together in a powerful synergy called the body of Christ. Paul concludes the beautiful poem by saying,

“Now faith, hope, and love abide these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

During this 12th year of my call to serve at Christ Church; my 30th year as a minister of the Gospel of God’s love; and the 120th year of this community’s bearing witness to the love of God in the South Bay I offer the following observations:

1. Christ Church has seen difficult times over her long history, but God’s Holy Spirit working through the members of this faith community has pressed upon us and filled us with those greater gifts of faith, hope, and love.

I believe the church is in the midst of a massive cultural shift which some have characterized as secularization. A movement away from the traditional ways of being Christian
and an embracing of choosing to be a Christian and finding new and exciting ways to bear witness to that faith.

2. Christ Church has been a church that starts things. Christ Church started Saint Cross and Holy Faith Inglewood. Christ Church started low income housing in the South Bay by sponsoring, owning, and managing Casa De Los Amigos on

3. Christ Church has been a church that endures through over 120 years, four rectors, multiple bishops, and a good piece of United States and world history.

4. Christ Church has been a church that changes while continuing to offer the Good News of God in Christ. And in the decades ahead, those of you who chose to be baptized or who later in life decided to seek God and to be found by God will be called upon to be church in ways that are new and vital.

While the church of the 1940s through the 1990s offered a message of God’s love within the changing culture of the day and with the tools available to them, the church at the beginning of the 21st century will grow and thrive in new and wonderful ways because God’s Holy Spirit is at work in each and every one of you.

5. Christ Church has been given many gifts for the journey ahead. During the 12 years I have been your priest, we have been given gifts of wealth by a few members whose financial circumstances, love for God and sense of responsibility for the future of this faith community led them to give us almost $400,000.

Over the past 120 years the parish has acquired property that provides us with a source of income that supports our pledge and plate giving and our ministry in the South Bay.

6. Christ Church continues to have leaders who have led us wisely and well over the past century. They have been moved and guided to place God’s love for others ahead of their own personal agendas.

They have struggled to keep the doors open, pay the bills, fairly compensate those who labor here, and to guide and direct
in the power of the Holy Spirit the nurturing, reconciling, one on one love of God in their lives and community.

7. Christ Church has been and always will be the body of Christ working together for the extravagant purposes of God’s love and way on earth.

I have a few more years of ministry among you. I love you all and count my time with you as an absolute and joyous gift from God. We are called to take the gifts we have been given as a community of faith and to be good and faithful
stewards in using them to continue the work set before us.

We are called to do an extraordinary thing and we will need the gifts of faith, hope, and love.

Consider your decision to follow God and to be a part of his family and consider how God has used you, is using you, and might continue to use you to bless the world in Christ’s name and power.

"A miracle is when the whole Is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand." Fredrick Beuchner

May this coming year reveal new ways to serve in and through this wonderful community of faith.

God’s Peace in the Greatest Gift,