Friday, October 31, 2008

Br. Reginald's Eulogy for Br. William Sibley, OHC - 28 Oct 2008

The "Last Words and Testament" of William Sibley, OHC
by Br. Reginald Crenshaw, OHC, presented at William's funeral
at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York,
on Tuesday 28 October 2008

Br. William, OHC
Originally uploaded by Randy OHC

The last words and testament of Br. William Sibley can be summed up with this refrain from the hymn “You are the salt for the earth.” It reads, “Bring forth the kingdom of mercy, bring forth the kingdom of peace, bring forth the kingdom of justice, bring forth the city of God.

Today we celebrate the life and witness of William Sibley. Bede Thomas in his article on William on one of the Monastery’s weblogs describes William as a “man larger than life both in the Order of the Holy Cross and the Church at large.” William has over these many years as Guest master at this monastery, as a member of the Mt Calvary community where I met him and he mentored me in my vocation process, As prior in Toronto, where for the first time I lived with him and observed how he and the community envisioned and developed the presence of OHC in Canada successfully. As superior of the Order of the Holy Cross he envisioned the Order whose core values would be that of a love of justice, a respect for every person God has made, both within and outside the community.

In his Superior’s newsletter throughout his term he included articles, about a number of issues that were designed to stimulate and enhance the perspective of the community. Throughout his life he counseled, preached to numerous persons particularly around addictive issues. And many now testify to his effectiveness in this area. He participated in the peace movement as a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and in the civil rights movement, attending marches and demonstrations and other activities that demonstrated clearly where his heart was. In those early days he not only talked the talk but walked the walk. His involvements in these social justice movements demonstrated his commitment to the kingdom of mercy, justice and peace and his faith and hope that all of this work would bring forth the city of God not only in the afterlife but here on earth.

We all have William Sibley stories, I would like for you before I continue to remember your favorite Sibley story and carry it with you at least for the duration of this sermon. My favorite story is the one William used to tell the novices and to anyone who would listen how he brought me into the Order and how after I agreed he drove me home to my mother and asked her to let me join the Order. That’s not exactly what happened but he loved to tell it knowing that it would make me blush. You all I’m sure have had yours either about an event or a conversation about Theology and or politics.

In this morning reading of Romans we read: “What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us? God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won’t he freely give us everything else?"

I can hear William now responding to these words and the words of the final sentence of this morning’s second reading from Romans: “Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” With a fine "that’s nice", he would ask: "But what is your Christology? How do you understand Christ?" And he would inevitably give you a homily merging the thought of Bonhoeffer, Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan and others from the Jesus seminar in one short paragraph. These were not meant to be trick questions, or to “push your buttons” though the force of his asking could and did often irritate and push buttons but for him these questions were related to his understanding of the meaning of the incarnation. That wonderful Christian doctrine that speaks of how the divine enters into human life and the material world is therefore transformed through and in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Material world of matter is joined to the divine which is the source of all creation on earth. This had enormous consequences to William for assessing behavior, how we articulated ethical issues, it defined what justice is about and, more to the point, it determined and shaped how we are to organize our communities and societies to maximize and transform humanity. And most of all for William it turned the understanding of God upside down from being a harsh judgmental and punishing parent to a savior who invited us to share in Divine consciousness and, the medium for doing that was Christ. The emphasis then was not so much Christ the divine one, but Christ the human being who raised the bar of consciousness and human potential for all of us.

I want to say to you, Mary and Richard, to you, Robert, Mary Lawrence, Stuart, and Tyler (editor: William's family), that William loved each of you very much. He spoke about each of you with pride and expressed the joy that each of you brought to his life. His sensitivity to each of your spirits was and will continue to be his connection with and to you. To my brothers Robert and Randy, William loved and admired both of you. You were a refreshing presence in his life and he expressed to me many times his appreciation for the love and support the two of you provided for him these last years. May his spirit inspire you both to reach your highest potential.

To all of us in Holy Cross, William left a legacy of core values which challenges us to live into our monastic life with honesty, integrity and love. He would wish for us my brothers that we continue not to be threatened by diversity, and to value the individual vocations and ministries among us, to love justice and work to bring it about, that we be willing to change, even and especially when it is costly. That we value God’s will and the well-being of others more than our own comfort and survival. Individually and as a community. That our monastic vow will make us givers rather than takers, that we love more not less and that we listen and give ourselves to cooperation with our brothers. And finally, that we be a community of responsible adults who deal with compassion with all whose lives we touch.

William was my friend, brother, superior. He was a compassionate, loyal and honest man. He lived life as fully as he could and because of how he lived he had to struggle as he did. William was looking for the eternal religion. He was looking for the reality behind all rites and rituals, the truth behind all dogmas, the justice behind all laws. He knew that this religion could be found in the heart of every human being. It is the law written in our hearts. This religion is known only by the soul in its depth. I believe this is what William was looking for. It’s why he kept making references to existential moments, or the ways he asked about the meaning of it all. Every human being must find the map back to God. To find that path we must learn from many traditions. That was the basis of William interfaith journey.

That’s why he was such a strong advocate for social justice, that’s why he was politically active in the church and elsewhere. He used to say that politics was the art of the possible. He really meant that. And it’s articulated in the the various “Sibleyisms” Such as “God gave the sacraments to the Church but gave the Church to the world” and others like it. But he also asked the basic question that is raised in numerous quarters today both in the church and other quarters and that is: Does the church make any difference in the world or ways our lives are lived? His answer despite bouts of depression, and his ongoing struggle with his alcoholism was Yes. Yes he said, “Nothing can separate me and us from God’s love for me and us in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

RCL - Proper 25 A - 26 Oct 2008

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Mrs. Suzette Cayless, AHC
RCL – Proper 25 A – Sunday 21 September 2008

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
1Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

“Which is the great commandment in the law?” An interesting question asked of Jesus by a lawyer. In reply, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 4: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The words are part of the Shema, recited by observant Jewish men and boys in Jesus’ day, from their twelfth birthday onwards. It was the minimum of religious practice. Joachim Jeremias in his book “The Prayers of Jesus” notes that “women, children and slaves were free from this obligation (as well as from all others that had to be performed at specific times, because their time was not at their own disposal)”.

Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter. Only the dedication of the whole of life to God, in love for God, can be regarded as the highest observance. It is not a question of obligation, of duty, but an attitude that arises from love, of being drawn by God’s Love, and responding - and Jesus does not stop there. He adds a significant verse from Leviticus 19 verse 18, and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In Romans 13, verse 9 & 10, St. Paul has an interesting commentary on this verse. He says: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Love God - and love your neighbor. This is indeed the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It sounds simple - but so much gets in the way of actually doing this. Loving means putting the other, whether God or our neighbor, at the center of attention; it means wanting for others what we desire for our own lives; acting unselfishly rather than satisfying ourselves. Even the injunction to “love our neighbor as ourself” is not easy. So many of us do not love ourselves! We abuse our bodies with too much food, alcohol, cigarettes, and so on.

We make excuses as to why we cannot pray, worship, help out with unpleasant tasks. We forget that loving involves taking care of, disciplining, teaching - including ourselves. We like to be in control of things, and do not always put that within the context of loving God and neighbor. We forget that we do not control the world - even though we sometimes think we do! All of us have been reminded of the folly of that approach by the current financial situation that has affected not only the USA but the whole world. Many people certainly feel that they have lost their way and do not know how to get on track again.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are treasure troves of stories that are like parables and that have rich meaning in terms of our spiritual search. I want to read a passage from Alice’s experiences in the Garden of Live Flowers that deals with finding our way. Alice has been investigating the various flowers in the garden when they all hear the approach of the Red Queen.

“I think I’ll go and meet her,” said Alice, for though the flowers were interesting enough, she felt that it would be far grander to have a talk with a real Queen.
“You can’t possibly do that,” said the Rose: “I should advise you to walk the other way.”
This sounded nonsense to Alice, so she said nothing, but set off at once towards the Red Queen. To her surprise she lost sight of her in a moment, and found herself walking in at the front-door again.
A little provoked, she drew back, and, after looking everywhere for the Queen (whom she spied out at last, a long way off), she thought she would try the plan, this time, of walking in the opposite direction.
It succeeded beautifully. She had not been walking a minute before she found herself face to face with the Red Queen, and full in sight of the hill she had been so long aiming at.
“Where do you come from?” said the Red Queen. “And where are you going? Look up, speak nicely, and don’t twiddle your fingers all the time.”
Alice attended to all these directions, and explained, as well as she could, that she had lost her way.
“I don’t know what you mean by your way,” said the Queen: “all the ways about here belong to me - but why did you come out here at all?” She added in a kinder tone, “Curtsey while you’re thinking what to say. It saves time.” Alice wondered a little at this, but she was too much in awe of the Queen to disbelieve it. “I’ll try it when I go home,” she thought to herself, “the next time I’m a little late for dinner.”

Note the questions asked of Alice by the Red Queen: “Where do you come from?” “And where are you going?” These are appropriate questions for each of us to address and especially at such a time as the present. Alice, in her adventures found herself in a confusing place that she could not understand. Things kept changing. She encountered the strangest people and had weird conversations with them. It all seemed nonsense. Where do you come from? And where are you going?

I think we are all sometimes hard-pressed to give answers to such questions. We have doubts in the midst of all the uncertainties of the economic climate in which we live. It is easy to lose our focus and forget what we are about. Where do you come from? Our only answer must be, from Jesus Christ. The Gospel Covenant stretches back into history and encompasses all the faith history of our ancestors. Every bit of it - the quarrels and arguments, the battles and estrangements, the political disasters, as well as the times of blessing. Where are you going? To Christ - raised from the dead. Christ the foundation of the new covenant, the basis of our faith, the giver of grace who leads us into truth. We go to Christ by loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind - and loving our neighbor as ourself, focusing our attention on going to God. We can only be led by the grace of God and be open to it however costly that may be, trusting that the Lord indeed knows who are his and draws each of us to Himself.

Originally uploaded by AliceJapan

Now, a bit more of Alice:

“The Queen took a ribbon out of her pocket, marked in inches, and began measuring the ground, and sticking little pegs in here and there.
“At the end of two yards,” she said putting in a peg to mark the distance, “I shall give you your directions. At the end of three yards I shall repeat them - for fear of your forgetting them. At the end of four, I shall say goodbye, And at the end of five, I shall go!”
She had got all the pegs put in by this time, and Alice looked on with great interest as she returned to the tree, and then began slowly walking down the row.
At the two-yard peg she faced round, and said, “A pawn goes two squares in its first move, you know. So you’ll go very quickly through the Third Square - by railway, I should think - and you’ll find yourself in the Fourth Square in no time. Well, that square belongs to Tweedledum and Tweedledee - the fifth is mostly water - the Sixth belongs to Humpty Dumpty - But you make no remark?”
“I - I didn’t know I had to make one - just then,” Alice faltered out.
“You should have said,” the Queen went on in a tone of grave reproof, ‘It’s extremely kind of you to tell me all this - however, we’ll suppose it said - the Seventh Square is all forest - however, one of the Knights will show you the way - and in the Eighth Square we shall be Queens together, and it’s all feasting and fun!” Alice got up and curtseyed, and sat down again.
At the next peg the Queen turned again, and this time she said “Speak in French when you ca’n’t think of the English for a thing - turn out your toes as you walk - and remember who you are!” She did not wait for Alice to curtsey, this time, but walked on quickly to the next peg, where she turned for a moment to say “Goodbye,” and then hurried on to the last.
How it happened, Alice never knew, but exactly as she came to the last peg, she was gone. Whether she vanished into the air, or whether she ran quickly into the wood, there was no way of guessing, but she was gone, and Alice began to remember that she was a Pawn and that it would soon be time for her to move.

Remember who you are! - a child of God; redeemed in Christ. Like Alice, we have choices to make - and like Alice we have no idea of the adventures and strange places we shall go in our journey as we move on towards the vision of God’s kingdom - the Eighth Square where it’s all feasting and fun! Once Alice realized that she was a Pawn, and therefore part of a great game that was being played out and of which she was a vital part, her adventures began to make some sense. It was not all nonsense - rather she was involved in the strategies of the game - and she had a part to play which no one else could perform.

It is worth noting that a game of chess involves strategies, within the rules of the game. It is not something played in isolation - every piece is important - it is a communal effort. Alice also began to see the goal of the game - that she would eventually become a Queen - and then her restricted movements would change. She would see things from a new dimension and have so many more capabilities. So she became intent on traversing the rest of the squares - looking forward to becoming a Queen.

Where do you come from? And where are you going? Remember who you are. These questions and the injunction are apt for each of us. Reflect on them and recall that like Alice you and I are all engaged in something much greater than we are. We each have a part to play and our individual part is something that we must fulfill - no one can do it for us. Amidst all the changes of life, our belief in Jesus Christ is the one safe and sure thing to hold on to. Remember that the game is God’s game and the outcome is in His hands. We are simply called to respond to the injunction to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to love our neighbor as ourself.

Thanks be to God.