For Faith

Because

“… I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other. And God grant that something will happen to open channels of communication, that something will happen because men of goodwill will rise to the level of leadership.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
King Chapel at Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa
Oct. 15, 1962.


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Transcript:


Porque

“…Estoy convencido de que los hombres se odian entre sí, porque se temen unos a otros. Se temen porque no se conocen, y no se conocen porque no se comunican entre ellos, y no se comunican entre sí porque están separados el uno del otro. Y Dios concederá que algo suceda para abrir los canales de comunicación, que algo sucederá por que los hombres de buena voluntad subirán al nivel de liderazgo.”

El Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
King Chapel en la Universidad de Cornell, Mount Vernon, Iowa
15 de octubre de 1962.


Tags: For Faith

Only

“The hateful and abusive can only occupy seats of power for a season. They know in their gut that the clock is ticking. That is the message of Easter. The great millstone of time turns slow but it grinds fine. That is God’s way. Easter isn’t a one time historical event, it’s an event that reveals the mind, heart and power of God-a God ever ready to make all things new. Only Real Power can turn night into day, weeping into laughing, despair into hope, the fearful into the fearless, and death into life. That’s real power! Only God can turn garbage into gold!”

Psalm 113:5


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Transcript:

Michael Bryan was 18 years old, a recent high school graduate, who was headed off into technical school within weeks. And these were millennials, the most educated generation in American history and they looked down at him and looked around at one another and saw that the idea of America which has built into it, social mobility had broken down.

This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Rob: Hello, everyone, Bishop Rob Wright here, and this is For People. We’ve got a great treat today. We’ve got the Reverend Dr. Starsky Wilson, CEO and President of the Children’s Defense Fund. Reverend Dr., good morning.

Dr. Wilson: Good morning. It is great to be with you, Bishop. Thank you for having me and glad to be with the people.

Rob: Yeah, this is wonderful, a great treat. And as we’ll say in just a bit, you know, I owe so much to the Children’s Defense Fund. So, it’s great to meet its next CEO and President over this medium.

A little bit about Dr. Starsky Wilson, he is educated at Xavier University in Louisiana, Eden Theological Seminary, and Duke University. He is a Pastor, and some would call him a civil rights activist. And he is married to Dr. Latoya Smith. And they are the proud parents of four children.

And so, one of the things we’d like to get going on here, For People, how do you come to the work of caring for America and even the world’s children? How did you get here? How did God get you here?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah, God’s got away, indeed. My journey has really been always in service. I tell people who knew me in college, the only for-profit job I ever had was working at an overnight gas station for a period to put my way through school at Xavier. But other than that, come from a home with a mom that was our Youth Director, our Vacation Bible School director, and the Baptist Training Union Leader at my Church. And so, at Beth Eden Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas and Oakcliff parts of Dallas, Texas, we really kind of raised up in service in the church and formed for this work and set forth from it.

I point to particularly my mom’s service as a Youth Director, because for me, I see a lot of my work now as an enlargement of one of my earliest jobs, which was as a youth pastor, at the Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. So, in many ways, I tell people, yes, I’ve been by vocational much of my career. But the reality is, I think I’m just a youth pastor, again. I just got a really large congregation of about 74-million young people that I now have care to attend to.

Rob: Well, say a little bit about that. The Children’s Defense Fund is an organization and meant the world to me. When I graduated from Howard University, another HBCU, like Xavier, I took up an internship there to become a part of the Freedom School, the rebirth of the Freedom Schools, and the Ella Baker Child Policy Institute, which really put young college kids in contact with serving their community, particularly serving youth at what we would call marginalized communities. And that thing has just exploded over the years. And so, why don’t we slow up a minute and tell folks what Children’s Defense Fund actually does and why does it exist?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah, founded by Marian Wright Edelman in 1973, which is, just to date me and kind of talk about the work, which is three-years before I was born. The Children’s Defense Fund was built to become the only multi-issue child advocate, national child advocacy organization that works really at the intersection of racial justice and child well-being and is informed by direct service and community organizing to do public policy advocacy. I tell people all the time, this is the brilliance of Mrs. Edelman. She didn’t choose one lane. She understand that strong public policy work was grounded in direct service and community. That is what our freedom schools are. But that’s also organizing in leadership training which is a critical piece for sustaining movements. We are excited to be doing this work in 100-cities, 30-states across the U.S. from 10-different offices. And we’re pleased that, between the movement building, community organizing, the public policy work, and the CDF freedom schools that we’ve been able to touch lives for two generations. And next year will be our 50th anniversary. So, we’re really looking at the next generation of impact for the Children’s Defense Fund, training, sending fourth, nurturing leaders, there I say like yourself, who will transform the world. So, we’re really excited about that for America’s children. And I’m immensely honored, frankly, to be serving in this moment following Mrs. Edelman’s legacy.

Rob: Yeah, and for those who don’t know, Marian Wright Edelman, I mean, you really got to get to know who she has been. You know, one could argue that she is one of the last few lieutenants of Dr. King, still on the battlefield, that initial cohort, that have really helped to bend things in this country towards what we might call the beloved community. And I can say that the Children’s Defense Fund and certainly the Freedom School movement, changed me, helped me to understand how to bring out all this sort of what we call highfalutin God talk down into the cracks and crevices. It was my first glimpse of what community mobilization actually looks like, how to go into communities that are not your own, or even if they are your own, and begin to generate goodwill, and begin to identify gifts and strengths that already exist in the community, to begin to address the gaps in the community, particularly in service to the vulnerable, our young folks. And so, you know, one of the things I’ve been very proud about in my 10-years here in the Diocese of Atlanta is that we gave Georgia its first two Freedom Schools, one in Atlanta, a place called People’s Town and one in Macon, Georgia. I believe so much in that program. And it’s been exciting to watch those things flourish.

Some would say we are out of COVID, some would say we are not quite out of COVID, I think we are not quite out of COVID. But we know that a lot of groups have really had a difficult time in COVID, specifically our elderly and our children. What is your sense of how America’s children are doing right now?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah, COVID-19, the pandemic has been absolutely devastating. And I think we’ll have a decade’s long, if not generational impact, on America’s children. First and foremost, we saw the impact of the dislocation, displacement of children from the social networks in schools. Early on, we wrestled with the idea of whether they would be physically impacted by COVID-19, came quickly to the understanding that they would, but more so than anything else, we understand them to be socially impacted and educationally so. We recognize that taking young people out of routine had a critical effect and impact, especially for that first year. But also, we recognize the need to catch up with the contact time and classroom that has been lost. And really just this school year, our schools beginning to unpack the impacts thereof and the need for out of school time supports, like freedom schools, for additional summertime support.

But finally, I mean, we also have to identify this issue of the work that CBF has done for years from a policy standpoint has impacted child welfare. And there have been upwards of 120,000-children who have lost primary caregivers to COVID-19. And this will have an impact on the child welfare system, the Foster and Adoptive Care system in our kinship networks across the county as we seek to provide for these young people and help them to understand what this moment has meant in a next normal level, not including many cases their mothers, fathers, grandmothers, or grandfathers. So, here we have the work of community being called together again, to see how we care for those children’s specifically, but also again, a generation of children who will be marked by the social, emotional impact of at least two full years of mourning and loss.

Rob: It’s really amazing to think about and that we’re just starting, I mean at the very beginning of getting some sense of the impact of all of this. And we won’t know the full impact for some time because part of the work that you do is about policy. What policies are we working on right now that are beginning to get drafted and sort of generate some buzz about? What is going before Congress? What are we lobbying for?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah, there are a few things. And what has been interesting in this moment, the emergency, the crisis has called us to test to engage, to innovate, and to advance policies that we have known frankly that work in other settings but we have not built the will to do so. Things like the American Rescue Plan, where for the first time we fully expanded and made refundable and advance child tax credit, so that millions of Americans children have access to a monthly support for their families, when the bills came, when the grocery bill came due. We had a child tax credit that allowed people to claim it during tax season. But in this time, we were able to expand it to make it larger per child in a family and able to get it on a monthly basis.

I’ve got three boys in my house, the youngest is 12. The other two are teenage boys, I know how they eat. If you have those in your house, you can’t wait until April. You can’t wait until tax time to feed them. So, that a remarkable piece. We were able to get that, and it started last July. Distributors when through December on an emergency basis. But what’s interesting there is that other English speaking industrialized nations have a child allowance that is akin to what we had for those eight months here in America on a regular basis as a part of common public policy. And so, this is something where we’re working to expand it, we’re working to extend it, really pleased to have champions in the Senate, like Senator Warnock, Senator Brown, Senator Booker, and Senator Bennett, who are working on this to try to advance this cause. So, this is one.

But we’re also learning about the need to expand early childhood education. The President was very intentional about supports on both sides of the K-12 system, to say we need to reach down and expand support for early childhood education, down to ages four and three in our communities across the country. But we also need to reach up and recognize that through an associate degree or some type of credentialing beyond 12th grade, through community college systems, we also need to be expanding access to education, not just for the workforce and the workplace to get its appropriate development. But also, to make sure that we are caring for whole humanity throughout the development of human minds and brains. I tell people all the time, the human brain is forming, talking about young people, they are still forming through age 24. So, we ought to be educating up and through that point. So, we’ve also gotten to the point in the CDF where we have endorsed bills and continue to advance an agenda around comprehensive access to bachelor’s degrees.

So, this is a time where we’ve been able to take things that we have been working on for some time, get implementation, get a sense of evidence with things like the child tax credit, but also continue to push the envelope. Because we have known that these kinds of supports are necessary to make sure that children are well in our community.

[Commercial]

Rob: You know, it’s something that I go back to often is the genesis if you will of CDF, which came out of, in part, you know, Marian Wright Edelman being in contact with a young kid, you know, in the midst of the riots. And she had an exchange with that kid and the kid just had no hope for tomorrow. And I think that just sent– Well, I know it sent just lightning down her spine. And CDF was like I said, at least in part, born of that exchange, that our country should and can do better for her children. So, it used to be a healthy start, a moral start, what am I forgetting?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah, a healthy start, a moral start, a safe start. Making sure that young people get off to the beginnings that they need to be whole in life and in community. So, as much as we continue to talk about those things, they have also informed public conversation. So, when you hear people talking about, of course, head start, you’re hearing the popularization of ideas that were not just catch phrases, right? But you’re talking about the ability to sustain an effort to mobilize people around strong concepts of care over two now generations. And so, that mission for us, continues to be about making sure that every child has a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start, and a moral start in life. But also, in the passage to adulthood, with the help of caring families and communities. Because we recognize that, you know, children don’t grow up in programs. They don’t even grow up in classrooms. They grew up in homes, with families, and communities. So more and more we’re being thoughtful about those in the public health world talk about social determinants of health, right? So, what’s the environment around children? How might we support and advance them? And you can’t help a child out of poverty unless you help to get resources to the parents. For the children to be sustainable, unless you’re investing deeply in the schools. And those schools are not going to be well resourced, unless you got a tax, and a revenue analysis. So, Mrs. Edelman really champion that being thoughtful about that whole child approach. But the whole child and a whole family and a whole community, is the way we can sustain, the only way frankly, we can sustain the wellbeing and thriving of our children.

Rob: You know, what you’re talking about really, for me at least, is the center piece of what real patriotism means in this country. And real patriotism has got to mean, and it should be a bipartisan issue, has got to mean that we raise the floor height for our children. I was talking to Ambassador Young about all of this, and he was saying, you know, this should not be fodder for partisan debate. Because, you know, we really are talking about the future of this democracy. And if we don’t give all these kids a shot, you know, at a good life, a better life, a moral life, a fair life, etc., a healthy life. Then I’m not sure exactly how much, you know, Republic we’re going to have left for anybody. And so, you know, this is the work of now but it also the work of the future.

I also think about CDF in the context, you and I being both Preachers at our core, I think about Jesus pausing his busy enterprise, his busy ministry enterprise, and situating the child on his lap, pausing his work for the child, and helping the disciples understand that this is the work. That this is the work. We are not too busy to stop and care for the child. And so, you know, your work is emblematic of that.

You come to CDF from your work in Ferguson, Missouri. And of course, for those that don’t remember, that work really got ignited with the killing of Michael Brown. You began to link up with folks and began to do some work there. Say a little bit about that work that got started for you in Ferguson? And what is the status of that work now?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah. I appreciate this opportunity. In my ways these stories connect on the personal narrative piece. So, when Michael Brown was killed, August 9, 2014, I was serving as both the Pastor of St. John’s Church, the beloved community, UCC congregation in St. Louis, and as the CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, a church related health conversion focused on advancing child wellbeing through advocacy in the St. Louis metropolitan community. And I like to remind people that Michael Brown was 18 years old, a recent high school graduate, who was headed off into technical school within weeks, and that those who gathered around him, who arrested our attention, made us pay attention to yet another black body lying in the middle of the street, were young people themselves. Who saw themselves, who saw the idea of what they had been sold about America lying on the ground, this idea that if you defer gratification, you get an education, and you work hard, you can do better than your parents. And these were millennials, the most educated generation in American history. But also growing up in the context of and the responses to the Great Recession, 911, fissures, fractures, and disruptions, and they looked down at him and looked around at one another and saw that the idea of America which has built into it, social mobility had broken down. That they had been sold, in many cases, a bill of goods. And what one of them said that day was that we are going to the Ferguson Police Department, and we’re going to stand outside until somebody gives us some answers. And they stayed in the streets for over a year.

So, I began that narrative with those young people because this is indeed a youth movement that inspired and created enough space for many of us to find our way in, including clergy and faith leaders from across the country. And it became the first sustained early mobilization of what has come to be called the Black Lives Matter Movement. And so, I think that those are critical pieces for us to remember. And for me, it was a call to the streets.

Unfortunately, Bishop, when I saw Michael Brown’s body lying in the middle of his own life force, I was directly connected to images from a Courtroom where I saw my brother who was killed by community violence, lying in the same way. And so, I felt the need to bring whatever I had to bear to it and called by those young people. And so, you know, frankly, our church began to mobilize and served open up space to the Black Lives Matter Freedom Riots of Ferguson, the Foundation began to try to engage in philanthropic organizing to create spaces for folks across the country to invest in the movement that young people were leading. And ultimately, I was called by the Governor to Co-Chair the Ferguson Commission, to try to bring people together, to learn, to explore pathways forward, including public policies that could get us to a more just, a fair, a more equitable region, to develop a community plan for racial equity in this moment that addressed child well-being in the Courts and access for people to thrive economically. And to do that public work over the course of the year with thousands of citizens committing their time to it, to develop a vision for the future for our community.

And so, I’ve been really pleased to work with partners on that in St. Louis. And to be able to say that, I think I can sustainably say, that the work of organizing the community and the community’s response to it, has created the political will and a policy environment in the region to advance an equitable future that became because of the community organizing of partners around that table. It became the prevailing policy agenda to govern the election of every mayor since in the city, county executives in the county, especially prosecutors, including one who refused to bring charges against the officer who has now been deposed after 25-years in office. And so, I think it created a rallying cry.

But for me, what it also created was an opportunity to have these young people tell their stories. And so, I was given the opportunity to bring a group of young people to a Sojourner Summit in Washington, D.C. in 2015. So, they could tell leaders from across the country what was really going on and what was really motivating them. And it was at that Summit, that I met Mrs. Edelman. And got marching orders, as you’ve been around her enough.

Rob: She is very clear.

Dr. Wilson: She was very, very clear. And in that moment, frankly, not only did she meet those young people, she invited me to speak to some of the policy interns at CBS headquarters. And then she, after that meeting, began to map for me what my marching orders were. And assess how many freedom schools we had in St. Louis. We had had so many at one time, if we could rebuild that as a programmatic response, and guess what, I began to go back into St. Louis, sponsor build out a network of freedom schools. We built up five in our community. Oh yeah, you can connect with this scholar over at Washington University where the Henry Hampton archives are. “He is one of ours,” she said about Dr. Shawn Joe, because he had been active in the Black Student Leadership Network. So, I hooked up with Shawn and we started to figure out ways to help young people in our community, particularly black boys as a community response.

So, Ferguson has everything to do with my connection, story, and sending me forth in many ways into the work at the Children’s Defense Fund, including that very direct connection of listening to young people, creating space for them to be heard, and then responding. That’s how I got here. That was the story from Ferguson to CDF. And some of that is through Mrs. Edelman’s direct work.

Rob: You know, when we look at the Old Testament prophets, and even when we look at Jesus, what we see are men and women who refuse to look away from the facts on the ground. And too often, the Church wants to look away from the bodies on the ground, from the injustices on the ground, etc. But the prophet is not really that religious finger wagger, right? The prophet is someone who has an immense sensitivity for human suffering and just reuses to be bought off from talking about it.

Walter Brueggemann and I had a conversation about that one time and it reframed for me, this the sense of what prophetic ministry is. It’s not about being, you know, 24/7 angry, it’s not about any of those things. It’s just refusing to reduce God to some sort of private piety and it’s refusing to reduce neighbor from anything but my siblings. And, you know, I understand that some people, when they look at the work of places like Ferguson, or Black Lives Matter, they are shaken and concerned. And they wonder if this isn’t sort of, you know, rioting sort of gone mad. What do you say to those folks that don’t see, at a glance, see these as positive movements within our democracy? What do you say to folks who think these things are disruptions of another wise sort of orderly society?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah, I mean, one of the things I say is first and foremost, that it is the role, it is the responsibility of each generation to make democracy its own. And that requires than a questioning, an interrogation of that which has come before. What I say about eruptions, uprisings, in some cases, even not, I think appropriately note rebellions, like what people have seen in Baltimore and other places, is that these are first and foremost human emotion in response to tragedy. The first gatherings, the extended engagement in Ferguson was about mourning, it continues to be about mourning a loss. And then being thoughtful enough using, frankly, leaning into Walter Brueggemann, being thoughtful enough to create an alternative witness. And I invite people to look closely at these movements to see what is actually happening, right?

So, I love Walter Brueggemann. He made the move from Missouri, where he went to Eden Theological Seminary and taught there, of course, where I went to school and came down to Georgia to be closer you, maybe that was part of the attraction, I don’t know. But part of what he talks about in this prophetic word, work of prophetic imagination, in that critique of us noting that this old model of Prophet versus King, I think he says in one of the revised versions of prophetic imagination, is outmoded and increasingly difficult to pull off. That then the work is to creating an alternative witness. And what I have found in engagement with leaders in these movements is that they are creating a space of what king called the radical revolution of values to be lived out. And in many ways, whether it’s the creation and BLM of black joy celebrations, that look similar to ritual in the worship of the church, and it is about celebration. But it brings a different ethic, whether it is about the communal solidarity that is built. Here we have people who are critiquing the way the world is working out in their lives, the oppressions that they experience by creating a space, either for a moment in the midst of a protest, or for an extended place as they develop coops and homes where artists and activists live and work together. They’re creating an alternative witness to the systems of oppression. And those experiments, those creations of alternative space of innovation is how democracy comes to be. It is how the next social experiments come to be. It is what Paul is doing, in the early Jesus movement, in organizing people into communities because he believes that the empire will fall in his lifetime. And people need a way of living and organizing themselves. So, this is disruption in the way of the Acts of the Apostles. These movements are disruptions that evolve and advance society by giving us space to live out new ethics and values with one another. Frankly, in the way that we invite people every week when we preach.

Rob: Well, there it is. And you know, a text that has been very important, biblical text that has been really important for me recently, the Bible has a way of sneaking up on you, you know. The Holy Spirit, you know, as my mother used to say, something came to mind, something put me in the mind of is the way that the old folks say. I’ve been thinking a lot about Philippians, where Paul goes through this list of our foibles, our shame is in our glory, and our God is in our belly, and all of these sort of things. And then, he does this amazing thing, he reminds the community in Philippi, who they really are, where their primary citizenship lies. He says, “Your citizenship is in Heaven. You are a colony of heaven.” So, when I think about the mobilization of particularly young people to address social ills, justices, etc., historic injustices and begin to right those wrongs, give voices, shut up or shut out, I think in the best case scenario, we are trying to exert our heavenly citizenship. And that our American citizenship is really downstream for us, who happen to be baptized and followers of Jesus, it happens to be downstream of our heavenly citizenship.

So therefore, my American citizenship, something I take very seriously and that I am proud of, is then shaped by my baptismal identity. And not the other way. These are not competing issues. My American citizenship is not first and foremost, it is secondary to my heavenly citizenship. And it informs everything. It informs how I vote, how I share, the resources that I have, how I spend my time. But we have this America that is an unfolding, you know, sort of experiment.

So, you used a couple of words that I love. And one is the interrogation. We’ve got to interrogate, you know, what has become our status quo. And ask ourselves, “How are we doing?” And then, we have to run experiments across those gaps. And then lastly, I’ll just say, you know, it’s made all the difference in my own personal life and to be to be given marching orders by these Jim Lawson, Marian Wright Edelman, CT Vivian, Andy Young, and the list is too long, Otis Moss. To be given the baton, if you will, to now run your race, and make America live out her promise, and make sure that she takes care of all of children– This is one of the things that I love about CDF. CDF is not only about black and brown children. CDF is about America’s children. And, you know, I serve in Georgia, and so I’ve got rural white poverty all around. And so, you know, I always remind people, this is not just an urban conversation we’re having. We’re having a conversation about all the little cracks and crevices around this nation, where people are disaffected, where there’s gaps and services and education.

I guess we should wrap up. But you know, you’re a father of four. You and I are both fathers of three boys. And I can say, amen to how they assault the pantry in my house. I know about that personally. You and I both husbands, both graduates of HBCUs, both ordained ministers, both the products of public housing, as well as praying mothers. And I wonder, as you look at your family, look at our American family, with all you know and have seen, what is your prayer as you take on this heavy life of this work?

Dr. Wilson: Yeah. I speak a prayer all the time in a way of a poem. And I won’t say the whole poem. But I would invite listeners to find the words of Langston Huges, Let American Be America Again. Let it be the dream it used to be, let it be the pioneer on the plane seeking a home where he himself is free. I lean into that and opening stanza because of a refrain that comes up that I hear as an interruption and an interrogation of that prayer about America and its hopes. The refrain is, “America never was America to me.” And I hear a chorus of children, these 4-million children in American, now the majority of whom are black and brown, one in seven of whom live in poverty. 41% spike in poverty because we stopped that monthly allocation of the Child Tax Credit, right? 41% spike in child poverty in January. And so, I hear that poem as a prayer. The idea of America is not yet the reality of America to these children. And they are interrupting our religious practices, are indications of God about our hope for the future, and saying that this America never was America to them.

So, my prayer is that it will be, that ideas about economic mobility, and doing better than your parents can be. That I hope for healthy, hope filled futures can be. That neighborhoods where children can thrive and sing and dance as healthy hope field children do, can be. And that will only be with activated individuals and inspired institutions all over the country working to center children and youth and our public policy conversations. But also in our congregations, synagogues, and mosques. Also in our neighborhoods, centers, and communities. And so, that is my prayer, frankly, that we can prioritize children and then mobilize for them the will to invest in another generation long campaign. That is the way that I see the history of CDF. That first 25-years was largely animated, mobilized, by the inspiration of the Poor People’s Campaign. Mrs. Edelman’s work as the public policy director there. In the second generation was mobilized as you came around that table and innovation around CDF freedom schools, and what we call the black community Crusade for Children in the mid 90s, that serve kids like me, who was in high school at the time. And now, our challenge is to raise democracy through a new generation, investing in child wellbeing, and racial injustice, and citizenship education all at the same time, so that these children whom we have been protecting and providing for can fully participate, to live out the hope of that reframe, to make America, America for them.

This is my prayer and my hope, and frankly, my motivation for our time together for what I hope will be a significant impactful, or at least respectful to Mrs. Edelman’s legacy, tenure with the Children’s Defense Fund to raise democracy through this rising generation by investing deeply and changing the circumstances around their lives. This is my prayer.

Rob: Yeah, no, it’s clear to me that Mrs. Edelman’s work and legacy is in exactly the right hands. I just want to thank you for meeting us here and having this conversation. I wish you all of God’s blessings. Brothers and sisters, it’s been a delight. We’ve had the Reverend Dr. Starsky Wilson, CEO and President of the Children’s Defense.


Solamente

“Los odiosos y abusivos solamente pueden ocupar puestos de poder durante una temporada. Ellos saben en su interior que el reloj está marcando, su tiempo se acaba. Ese es el mensaje de la Pascua. La gran piedra de molino del tiempo se mueve lenta, pero muele bien. Ese es el poder de Dios. La Pascua no es un acontecimiento histórico de una sola vez, es un acontecimiento que nos revela la mente, el corazón y el poder de Dios, un Dios siempre dispuesto a renovar todas las cosas. Solo el Poder Real de Dios puede convertir la noche en día, el llanto en risa, la desesperación en esperanza, lo temeroso en valentía, y la muerte en vida. ¡Eso es el poder real! ¡Solo Dios puede convertir la basura en oro! ”

Salmo 113:5


Tags: For Faith

Jehovah Jireh (God is My Provider)

Jehovah Jireh

“You are Jireh, You are enough
And I will be content in every circumstance
You are Jireh, You are enough
Forever enough/Always enough/More than enough

I don’t wanna forget how I feel right now
On the mountaintop
I can see so clear what it’s all about
So stay by my side when the sun goes down
Don’t wanna forget how I feel right now

I’m already loved
I’m already chosen
I know who I am
I know what You’ve spoken
I’m already loved
More than I could imagine
And that is enough, oh-oh

If He dresses the lilies with beauty and splendor
How much more will He clothe you?
If He watched over every sparrow
How much more does He love you?

It’s more than you ask, think or imagine
According to His power working in us
It’s more than enough”

Jireh, Songwriters: Christopher Joel Brown / Steven Furtick / Chandler Moore / Naomi Raine

Jehovah Jireh is first seen in the Bible in Genesis 22:14 | Watch “Jireh” by Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music on YouTube.


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.


Jehová Jireh

“Tú eres Jireh, Tú eres suficiente
Y yo estaré contento en cada circunstancia
Tú eres Jireh, Tú eres suficiente
Para siempre suficiente / Siempre suficiente / Más que suficiente

No quiero olvidar cómo me siento en este momento
En la cima de la montaña
puedo ver tan claro de qué se trata
Así que quédate a mi lado cuando se ponga el sol
No quiero olvidar cómo me siento en este momento.

Ya soy amado
Ya estoy elegido
Sé quién soy
Sé lo que has hablado
Ya soy amado
Más de lo que podría imaginar
Y eso es suficiente, oh-oh

Si El viste los lirios con belleza y esplendor
¿Cuánto más te cubrirá?
Si Él velaba por cada gorrión
¿Cuánto más te amara a ti?

Es más, de lo que pides, piensas o imaginas
Según Su poder obrando en nosotros
Es más que suficiente”

Jireh, Compositores: Christopher Joel Brown / Steven Furtick / Chandler Moore / Naomi Raine
Jehová Jireh es visto por primera vez en la Biblia en Génesis 22:14


Tags: For Faith

God’s Way

“Just when it appears that we’ve done our worst- or the worst in us has won… Easter! You can’t kill God! The message of Easter is a defiant message. Easter, accurately rendered is more like, you can’t kill God, na na, na, na na na! Why do we kill the things that try to teach us love? Why do we kill the things we should love? That’s a part of the human condition. That part of us needs Easter- a power for us, working in us, coming from beyond us. God took our worst and made God’s best out of it. That’s Resurrection! And if you can’t kill God as we sing and say, then that means, God is going to get God’s way. As one southern poet put it, “Love is revolting against everything that is not love.” That’s God’s way!”

An excerpt from Bishop Wright’s Easter Sermon -> Watch on YouTube.


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rao. This is conversation inspired by Bishop Wright’s For Faith Weekly Devotion sent out every Friday. In this episode we’re celebrating our centennial episode. This will be our 100th episode. And we are celebrating over 2-parts, this part and next part. Today, we are going to be listing to a number of more popular and really provocative guests. Bishop Wright and I are going to unpack them a little bit for you. And then next week, our friend, Reverend Winston Arthur from the Diocese of Atlanta, myself, and producer Easton Davis are going to be listening to some of Bishop Wright’s more fiery quotes. So, we are really hopeful that you will take a listen and be inspired to share this with your friends, people who need to hear it.

Bishop, before we start and listen to our first soundbite, I’m wondering if you can share just a little bit about how you think we’ve gotten here with For People?

Rob: Happy anniversary we have to say, first and foremost. Happy anniversary, 100 episodes, no small thing. How we got here? What we believe is that when COVID hit and people sort of stopped reaching out and were encouraged to stay home, away from congregations and lots of public spaces. There was fear everywhere. We said, “Now is the perfect time to find a way to reach out.” We had always talked about doing a podcast, but it never made its way to the top of our list. We always had lots of other things to get done. But Easton Davis and I really just said, “Now is the time. Now is the time to reach out and find a way.” We had listened to podcasts personally, neither of us really knew what it meant to establish a podcast and get it done. This podcast represents iterative learning. We decided to try and we believe giving your best and that’s what God wants from us. He wants us to give our very best. And to be kind of ourselves as we iterate and learn how to do things. We got the word out and people seem to list it. And so, we are here.

And we began to invite people to join us, talk about the intersection of leadership and faith. And nobody told us no. They kept saying yes. New York Times best-selling authors, presiding Bishops, Governors of the State of Georgia, the Head of the Supreme Court in Georgia, State Senators, they kept saying yes. Professors, practitioners, clergy people, laypeople. So, we built up a little bit of momentum. And we hope that it’s become a space for people, as a drive, walking the dog, whatever they are doing, they can just overhear a conversation that has heart to encourage people to live faithfully and make a difference in the world.

Melissa: Well, I mean it has reached a lot of people. And I’m wondering if our producer Easton Davis might have some stats for us to celebrate.

Easton: You all normally just hear my voice when it says, Welcome to 4 People with Bishop Rob Wright. That’s great, that’s perfect.

I’ll start with this, the first episode we dropped, I remember about noon that day Bishop Wright, we jumped on a quick call. He’s like, “How are we looking,” on day one? I’m like, “I don’t know. We’ve got 350-downloads. That sounds okay I feel like for our first go at this.” So here we are two years later and we have over 120,000-downloads. We average 11,000-listens an episode. We’ve been in 102-countries and over 4,000-cities. In the last five episodes, which is a really good indicator of what your listenership is, we’ve had close to 7,000-downloads in 15-countries and 600-cities. We are really reaching.

And that’s also in the comments that we get. I’ve been at lunch with Bishop Wright just in Marietta, you know, chopping some stuff up, and a couple came up to us and said, “You are Bishop Wright?” He said, “Yes, I am.” “I listen to your podcast every week.” That’s the first thing that she said. It has been a path for people I feel like especially during these harder times. It’s been, certainly even for me, a spiritual practice that I know every Friday morning I’m going to be in my gym and I’m going to put on 4 People. I’m going to have some time to reflect.

Rob: We have been surprised, pleasantly surprised, right? So, the Holy Spirit can use a good try. On several occasions, out of the blue, people have said, “You know, I listen. I’m a regular listener.” Whether it’s in South Georgia, where I have been, or in other places, or even in other states that I’ve been, people are like, “I’m listening. I like this episode. I like when you said this. I used that in a sermon that I wrote.”

Easton: You got a letter from Texas, handwritten letter.

Rob: I got a handwritten letter from Texas, this lady was saying, “Hey, I don’t know anything about Episcopal, I don’t know anything about Diocese, I don’t know much about Bishop, but I can tell you that you’ve encouraged me through some difficult days.” That’s been amazing to hear that kind of feedback. And to hear people say that they feel like the conversation that you and I are having, Melissa, is earnest, authentic, and sincere. There is laugher. We don’t shy away from hard stuff.

Part of what we are celebrating in this 100th is we are thanking God for what has been and then also sort of thinking about what do we do for the next 100-episodes? Who do we need to be talking to? Who would be great conversation partners that would be difference making for listeners?

Melissa: I love that. Well, I know that the six-guests that we are going to be highlighting today have been difference makers for me. I’m really excited to get started. Easton, can you play us our first clip by Barbara Brown Taylor?

[soundbite]

Melissa: Holy cow, it gave me goosebumps. Bishop, what do you think about that? That people come to Church to feel good and aren’t given permission to be real?

Rob: Yeah, I mean, Barbara has done such a good job with this subject. She’s talking about something that she calls Full Solar Theology, which is, you know, a happy, clappy, everything is okay with me, I’m all good. I’m walking towards the light and all is well. What we know, if we live a little while, that is not real life. So, what Barbara has done and this comment is all about, as she reads her Bible, she sees that God does some of his best work in the dark. We can take our darkness and our dark times and dark places to God and we can trust that God will work in those places. God is present in those places. We don’t have to be afraid of those places, ashamed when we walk into houses of worship, that we are not sort of happy, clappy, and that there is joy on the tip of our tongue. What she is doing is so important. She is recovering half of Christian theology, which is, yay, do I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me, right? She’s reclaiming that. And it has to be said again because I think that naively sometimes we are lifting up only one side of life with God. And that’s like lifting up only one side of life with a spouse or one side of anything. It’s just not complete. The complete part is that we have a friend in darkness and we can trust that God is at work in darkness. Our dark times are not aberrant. They are part of life.

Melissa: Yeah, they are real.

Rob: That’s real. And if that is real life and we have a real God who works on that, why be ashamed? And account for it, create space for people.

Melissa: I love that, creating space.

Yeah, they’re real. They’re real part of life. Yeah. Well, our next guest is Diana Butler Bass. She had really, really great two-part series when you had her on. I just love listening to both. But my favorite clip is the one we are about to listen too.

[soundbite]

You know, Bishop, one of the things that I often will say, and it’s almost aliment, I think so often in Church we’re so concerned with what people know about God and we’re not as concerned with how people feel about God. I don’t think it’s exclusive, one or the other. I think it’s both and. And I really love what she had to say about maybe the vehicle through that head and heart connection is through story.

Rob: Right. Yeah, I mean, it’s amazing that we had these two amazing authors. And through the miracle of technology, we’ve been able to bring them in the podcast and into conversation with one another. And the throughline, of course, is our real life story is what she is simply pointing us back too. Jesus told stories. There was a man who had two sons. He told stories of goats, sheep, fig trees, wooden bear, and told stories. This connected people in their real life. I think that is what we have to do. You know, one of the things we have done in western, modern civilization is that we have overintellectualize stuff. We’ve overintellectualized God and we are embarrassed about the visceral parts of what faith is.

Faith is pulling down the God story into my story. Pulling down the God story into how I bring up my children, how I use my money, how I connect with my neighbor, and how I use my time. So, yeah to tell the story. And the stories of when I thought there was no way I wanted to give up, I was in despair. Somehow a left turn happened or my experience of prayer in my real life, have I found it affected? When have I doubted? That makes real life. I like to say that grandmas are the best evangelists in the Church and the world.

Because what does grandma do? I love you baby and she tells you some stories and she gives you something yummy to eat, right? And as she is doing all that, she’s telling you a story, downloading to you ethics, morals, and direction. It comes from this trusted source and we use that story to attach our stories too. So, I love the way that Diana does that and that’s at the center of what Barbara is talking about.

Melissa: How can we reclaim that? I feel like, yes, you are. Because she said, the most expert storytellers make the best preachers. And yet, what you just said about grandma, we all need to lean into storytelling and the way we are integrating our faith into the way we are living and downloading that to our generations beyond us. So, what do you think about that Bishop? How can we lean into that more?

Um, how can we reclaim that how I mean I Yeah just I feel like yes, you are because what she said the most expert storytellers make the best preachers and yet what you just said about Grandma we all need to lean into storytelling and that we were.

Rob: Well, when I think about that in this thing called the Church, I think about one of the first things that has to happen is we have to commit to courage, right? Because my story is not clean and tidy. I can tell you manicured stories with happy endings, but that’s not my real life.

So, there have been stories of pain and despair. Like I’ve said, there’s been stories of joy. There are stories about things that I’m still carrying around that are unfinished. There are stories that I have that I don’t know what the answer is going to be. And so, we’ve got to find an appropriate way and courageous way to begin to tell our stories. I think that congregations are a great place to sort of begin to increase people’s capacity to do that. What if we found a way to do that? When I was a Senior Minister of a Congregation one time, we had a video project where we told stories about our lives in this congregation. And it was amazing to see how these people had come over this threshold for 30, 40, 50-years. They had buried husband, buried wives, baptized children, and been married, so on so forth. These stories were about what this place meant to them in their real lives, right? It was just transformative. We wanted toll roll out strategic plans and do all of that and develop fancy spreadsheets. And all of that’s important. But what really moved the needle on that community willing to embrace the changes that were up ahead was to go back first and tell the stories about what the place had meant to them. Somehow when we valued those stories, the people felt valued and more open to moving forward. And a deeper sense of community was built because people shared their stories. When one person was courageous to share their story, then others shared their story. Then it became a thing. Then it became what we did.

Melissa: It might be apropos for our next guest, Sheffield Hale, who we had on to talk about the monuments, national monuments. And it’s interesting, a story is always shared through the lens of the storyteller. And stories aren’t always necessarily true. They are truthy. But they are always, always told through the lens of bias. And so, I learned a lot from our next guest, Sheffield Hill. Easton, do you want to play that clip?

[soundbite]

Melissa: Wild. I have to say, Bishop, how does that hit you today?

Rob: Oh my God, so what we have to remember, the people that don’t know Sheffield Hale, he is an executive director of the Atlanta History Center. So, literally an organization who for decades have been charged with telling the story of Atlanta, of Georgia, and of the South. So, you know, Sheffield Hale is a member of our congregations. I met him and he’s an all together cool dude. I invited him to the podcast. I knew he would bring this kind of nuance and insight to the conversation about storytelling. And at the time that we recorded the podcast with him, all the rage in the news and so on, was about moving memorials and monuments to the Confederacy, to men to note who happened to be slave holders, etc. So, Sheffield Hale, with all of his brilliance ended up helping people all around the country to begin to figure out, what do we do? In Richmond, what do we do with Monument row? What do we do with all of these statues? It was incredibly divisive and still is. I think what he does is he puts his finger right on the button, right? So, we are remembering what we want to remember. And in that case, we don’t want to remember that we were actually were secessionist and we lost.

Melissa: But wait, wait, wait, who is we?

Rob: Right, exactly.

Melissa: Right. Because he points out that 50% of the South was not for the War.

Rob: That’s right. So, some portion of men and women who lived in the South adopted a narrative called The Lost Cause, and claimed something called Southern Heritage and didn’t want to or don’t want to attach in polite society that with the horror and the brutality of American Slavery. And here is a storyteller, Sheffield Hale, who wants to remind us that we have a complicated American story. And it is more than a soundbite. That’s what I love about him. He gives this nuance. He helps us understand that while 40% of Southerners were enslaved people, another 10% who were against the secession for other reasons, and I would argue that there is another percentage of poor white folks, who were dirt farmers, scratching out a living, who weren’t slave holders at all. There was a lot of nuances in those conversations as well. So, who are we talking about? Again, it goes to the power of story.

Here you and I find ourselves in a moment in America right now, where in fact in Georgia today, the Governor banned certain books. There is a movement across the country right now to ban certain parts of our American history. We want to keep, as Sheffield is talking about, keep the mythology and bury some of the nuance which is actually true and makes it a much more nuance conversation. Same with Barbara. We want to, you know, chuck the dark and only keep the light. And in Diana, you know, we want to just take a little bit when the fullness of it all is really where life is.

Melissa: Yup, I love it. Just one more time, nostalgia, kind of like heritage is history with all the bad parts left out.

Rob: Yeah, all the bad parts removed. That’s right.

Melissa: And it’s not true. It’s not true.

Rob: Yeah. Wasn’t it Stephen Colbert who gave us that word truthy? So, there’s a truth. If we don’t have the capacity to square our shoulders and face the truth, then we will settle for truthy, right? I think that’s what is happening in America. Women are saying no more with the truthy. I think people that were formerly marginalized are saying, “No more with truthy. Here was are. Big and bold.” I think that’s what is happening.

What feels so scary about it all is that we have erected this glass house of truthy. There are people walking around with hammers. And they have decided to not take mythology. And I can sympathize on both sides because for the people, for whom the glass house has served, they feel like the whole thing is crashing. But the lie and partial truth has served them well, whereas it has diminished others.

Melissa: Well, let’s talk about something that can bring us all together. Our next guest, Gregory Ellison, had something to say about really well-crafted questions.

[soundbite]

They walk on the surface of the soul.

Rob: Yeah. That is our dear friend, Dr. Gregory Ellison, from Canler School of Theology. You know someone who spends his life trying to increase the fearlessness in people to have dialogue. What I love about that is, in my own head, I had an amazing paradigm shift. You know, we grew up thinking that we ought to have the answers to questions. We got gold stars on our hands when we were kids. We raised our hands with enthusiasm. At least, I was that kid. I also had my hand up, you know. I got older, I’m really good at playing Jeopardy, you know. It’s about knowing lots of stuff and having fast retrieval of those facts. And then you get into real life. And you realize in the intersections of real life, we don’t have all the answers. Especially someone that tries to exert leadership. We realize, really fast, when we face things like COVID, unknowns, economic unknowns, uncertainties, you realize that the only way forward is to become a better question marker. The MIT Sloan School calls that catalytic questions. Questions that take you right down, as Greg would say, to the bedrock of the soul. And he was quoting Howard Thurman who developed 8-questions for leadership. One of those questions, what do I really want? It’s sort of a piercing question. We have to get past our own veneers, right. And get down to what I really want, really?

It’s funny that we didn’t really build a podcast in this way. But this is the contour of the conversation that we’re talking about story, the story leads to question, and questions, real good questions, not interrogations but real good, gentle, and catalytic questions can actually lead to transformation. And Jesus does this time and time and time again. Either in response to questions or as he makes questions, you know. He asks the man, one of my favorite passages, John the 5th chapter. Asked the man laying by pools of water for 38-years, what do you want? Would you be healed? I mean, these are questions that if we really let them penetrate, they can change direction. They can change marriages. They can change jobs. They can change approaches to life. They can change despair into joy.

Melissa: Yeah. You know what they also do is they crack open wonder. Is if we are more inquisitive, more wondering, then we are less judgmental. We are less about the other person. So, approaching life through the lens of question versus answer, I think, might give us the capacity for compassion. More than not, you know. I don’t know. What do you think?

Rob: Well, I mean, I think about questions and how probing questions can be, really important questions, because I know that’s going to take a season for me to really square up to those questions in my own life, having had that experience, I hope that I’m a little bit more patient with other people as I understand that they are trying to square up to important questions in their own lives, do you see what I mean?

And I think what I would also say about questions, I think Greg is right, he had a little module that he used to hold up in Emery. It wasn’t sort of a proper Church service but would invite people in, they would sit down, and there’d be little rules on the table about how we’re going to conduct ourselves in terms of speaking, questions, and a meal. A lot of time was over when you did these modules, it was amazing to me that very busy people lingered. And they almost wouldn’t go home because the questions had got something going, an energy, an authenticity that people were really enjoying. There was no homily. There was no sermon. There was no biblical teaching. It was just some really well-crafted questions that got people close to each other and I think close to the truth.

Melissa: Love it. Well, let’s listen to our next clip by Natasha Reid Rice.

[soundbite]

Melissa: So, Bishop, I don’t know about you, but when I listened to Natasha’s story, there were so many things that came to my mind and truths that I had that I was able to put my own self in certain circumstances that I have lived. And it was just because of the power of story that Natasha was sharing that I was able to even, you know, come to my own conclusions about my own life that actually had nothing to do with Natasha. I’m wondering after your conversation with you her, along with the rest of our clips that we’ve listened to today, I’m wondering if that hit you any new way?

Rob: Well, as a general matter, I have to tell you this podcast, over these 99-episodes, and now our 100th, have been a blessing to me personally. Because they have allowed me to chat with people. They have allowed me to draw near to some people’s stories to see what is really going on in their life, to use some of their wisdom, learn some of their wisdom, how it was earned. To learn from them and I can’t tell you the ways in which these conversations have helped to shape me. I think that’s what we do in real Christian fellowship and real fellowship with on another. We are shaping each other. I’m sharing my bit of truth with you, you are sharing your bit of truth with me. Natasha Reid Rice is a Harvard trained lawyer. She was a classmate with the soon to be Supreme Court Justice Jackson. She’s a brilliant woman, lawyer, and a brilliant woman of faith. We found out that we shared together through her candor and fearlessness, was that both of us are biracial. Both of us, so African America so to speak, have white mothers. And the trauma of that and what it was like growing up being both and the benefit, the superpowers to all of that, the perceived liabilities to all of that. So, I have really appreciated her courage. While not being an Episcopalian minister, she nevertheless serves at one of our congregations in Midtown Atlanta. And has brought her perspective to a group of people who are very different from her and it has been really amazing to watch how they are benefiting from hearing another side of the story. So, yeah, I think that this is the way forward. One of the reasons I’m really proud about this podcast is that to the extent that we continue to keep people’s stories front and center. Some information, yes. But keep the stories moving. I think it will continue to be a benefit to people.

Melissa: Yeah. I agree. Because everybody has a story. And yet, Bishop, it strikes me how many people will listen to other people’s stories and have the gull not to believe them. What the hell, man? I’m just saying. Anyway, we don’t have to talk about that. I feel like there are two sides to every story, right? It’s not just this and that there is always one person’s side and the truth. But some person is bringing their lived experience into a space and being brave and sharing. I just hope and pray that we can get better at receiving that and seeing that it is another human’s experience.

Rob: Yeah. I hope so too. I thin that, you know, cynicisms that we bear, we have to interrogate what that is about ourselves?

Slightly off of that, I can tell you one of the first times that I was invited into the House of Bishops, I was a brand new Bishop. You know, someone preached a sermon and we were supposed to divide up in groups of 3 or 4 and work through some questions. I thought to myself, I have sort of been here, done that, got the coffee mug. I think when you get into those groups, immediately, everyone goes into their brain, what can I offer that sounds sort of relevant but is safe? At least, that is how I was thinking. This one Bishop, told a story of the broken nature of his relationship with his daughter. And I’m just sitting there with my mouth open. She’s a young adult, her choice in boyfriend has really caused a major break in the relationship. They used to go out for sushi regularly. You could just tell there was such love and affection there that had been ruptured by not only their relationship but other factors. And at the end of telling the story, he said, so I’m asking you to pray for me and my daughter and our reconciliation. I never forgot that. Immediately because of his vulnerability and his courage, I had to immediately think about offering more of myself in that group. And I would have never had that thought because I’ve been in those kinds of groups, icebreaker conversations thousands of times. You know, you want to get out of that unscathed. You want to get out of that without making any contribution. But this man changed the temperature of our fellowship with his authenticity and I still see him. And I ask him about his daughter.

And so, the essence of Christian fellowship is not just being in a building together with people for an hour and a half. Or you know, me giving the soup bowl and you giving the soup in a soup line, right, as we feed people who need a meal. But it’s something much, much more. It’s sharing the texture of your life. And you know I hope that’s what the podcast is doing. You know, some information and the texture of this thing called the Christian Journey. I think that is what we are supposed to be doing with one another because that changes things.

Melissa: Yeah. Well, let’s listen to our last clip, Will Willamon.

[soundbite]

Melissa: Wow, so Bishop, there was clearly two different parts of Will Willamon’s episode, kind of schmooshed together, I think. Because both of them had really, really fantastic parts.

I have to say, let’s take the second part first. That was fire for me. I listened to it, I was like dang, that was fire. Our response to undocumented people, our response to illegal immigration, is baptism. That was like mic drop moment for me.

Rob: Yeah, if that was a basketball event, that would have been a 360 reverse high flying acrobatic slam dunk. Few people, in my opinion, show you how crazy it is to live for Jesus as clearly as Will Willamon does. I mean, I think that’s what he is saying, most people think that I’m going to be a Christian, that means I’m going to have the full support and affirmation of society, and I will be a nicer person, somehow the nation will be incrementally better because heaven is just like a regular democracy on Earth, right? And here is Willamon just running a sledgehammer through that plate glass window saying, “If you want to be Christian, and you’ve got some concerns about people without papers, and immigrants, well, there is enough love in the gospel of Jesus Christ to make them family. And we have a normative response to that, that is called baptism.” I love it.

Melissa: I love it too. I thought, you know, what an inconvenient truth?

Rob: Oh my God. Oh my God. You know, it’s Simon and Cyrene’s response to helping Jesus carry his cross, right? It’s the woman, who brings spices to the tomb, and said, well, they killed him. But I’m going to give him dignity in death. So, I guess what we might say, if there is a line through, we can say, if the God story somehow touches your story in a powerful fashion, then you should send out to make a different in somebody else’s story. That’s what he is saying. He is saying the whole baptism story we tell, the little kids, the Cherubic little kids, that has power to change national policy. And on the way to national policy, you and I get to take a stake in that, a role in that. Oh my God. That is why they used to kill Christians. And that is why they assassinate people like Martin Luther King. Because when the love of Christ looms so large in your life, it begins to affect society and you really realize that the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t make you adjusted, it makes you maladjusted. Then usually the societal response is to marginalize you, fire you, and ultimately kill you. Because that response, making undocumented people family, is frowned upon by the status quo. Now, you are at the intersection of, “I love Jesus so much. That I’m going to point out to the country that I love where she is a stray from the gospel.” Now, you have a recipe for disaster.

Melissa: Well, Bishop, it sounds like you’re talking about politics.

Rob: Well, I am, because the gospel is political. But the gospel is not partisan. So, politics means about people. So, when Jesus is talking about people, he is talking about politics. He just doesn’t have a party in mind.

Melissa: I hope you picked upon that sarcasm there. I’m not really good about it.

Rob: I do of course. Of course. But for anybody who is still struggling at that intersection, where they somehow want to divide the universe or country into neat baskets, we’ve talked about this before, our first and foremost citizenship is in heaven. That is what is drives us to live out our Earthly citizenship. It’s not my Earthly citizenship that drives my heavenly citizenship.

Saint Paul was very clear about that. Willamon is talking about, in Christ, there is no East and West. No North and South. He’s talking about no slave, no free, no male, no female. He’s talking about this radical notion of me belonging to you and you belonging to me and God making us siblings.

Melissa: Amen. Well, gosh, Bishop, this has been an incredible conversation. I’m kind of sorry that it’s over. But we know that we’re back every week. We have more and more of these conversations. And yet, I’m curious, what would you have us do, have our listeners do because of the way they are leading their lives because of this podcast?

Rob: Yeah. Well, I hope that in some ways it’s a great support to people who are endeavoring to try to live at the intersection of faith and leadership, whether we’re talking about family, or work, or congregational leadership, or business leadership, whatever it is. We hope that this is a great support to you, a seasoning on your Christian life already, on your faith life already. And so, what we hope is that if this is working for you, share it. If this is good news for you, share it. Why wouldn’t you share good news? And I understand that you know sometimes we’re a little coy about sharing. But I’m asking you to share it. We don’t charge for this. You know, there’s no sort of sales pitch here. But we just believe that people who have been positively impacted by something, sharing something makes all the difference in the world. And so, we’ll continue to do hard work and good work on this end. And we’re asking you to join us, be a partner with us in this work, by commending this good work. And if you are the praying type, we ask that you pray for us. Pray for myself, Melissa, and Easton, as we try to do the work of God for the people of God.

Melissa: Amen. Well, Bishop, thank you as always. And listeners, we thank you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe. Leave a review. Share this with others. We look forward to being with you next week.

Rob: Happy 100!


Así es Dios

“Justo cuando parece ser que hemos hecho lo peor – o lo peor en nosotros ha ganado… ¡Pascua! ¡No puedes matar a Dios! El mensaje de Pascua es un mensaje desafiante. Pascua, cuando se interpreta con precisión es definido con la frase, no se puede matar a Dios, ¡no no no! ¿Por qué matamos a las cosas que nos enseñan a amar? ¿Por qué matamos las cosas que deberíamos amar? Eso es parte de nuestra condición humana. Esa parte de nosotros necesita la Pascua, nos empodera, trabaja en nosotros, ve más allá de nosotros mismos. Dios tomó lo peor de nosotros y con eso hizo lo mejor en sus manos. ¡Eso es Resurrección! Y si no puedes matar a Dios, como profesamos y decimos, entonces esto significa que Dios va a conseguir su plan de salvación. Como dijo un poeta sureño: «El amor se está rebelando contra todo lo que no es amor». ¡Así es Dios! ”

Tomado del Sermón de Pascua del Obispo Wright


Tags: For Faith

More Easter

“You THINK you have this death thing right. You think that life is a small pebble in the dark river of death. You are wrong. Death is a small pebble in the raging river of life. You are going from earthly life to a better life, and death doesn’t consume very much of that journey. Celebrate the victory, don’t be afraid of death, and pour a little out for death….say goodbye–because it isn’t YOUR worry anymore. Jesus took care of it!”

Author unknown


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

For People Transcript

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright, I’m your host Melissa Rau. This is a conversation inspired by Bishop Wright’s, For Faith Weekly Devotion, sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description. Happy Easter, Bishop.

Rob: Happy Easter, he has risen.

Melissa: He has risen indeed.

Rob: Amen.

Melissa: It’s good to be with ya.

Rob: You too.

Melissa: You didn’t write this week’s devotion. Instead, you highlighted a passage of an unknown author and it’s really about life and death. I love the first few sentences. It says, you think you have this deathing right. You think that life is a small pebble in the dark river of death. You are wrong. Death is a small pebble in the raging river of life.

So, It’s really about the juxtaposition between life and death and how it’s viewed. And so, I’m curious when you stumbled on this, was it named More Easter or did you bestow that title upon it?

Rob: No, I named it More Easter. I have been writing brief devotions for more than 20-years and someone sent me that, that I had written in 2012 or that I quoted in 2012. And I said, I’ve got to refresh this and give this to folks now. So, what I love about it is that it says exactly what we say. Life has overcome, swallowed up death in Jesus Christ. This is what Easter screams today, on Sunday. But for the next series of weeks, we are in a season of Easter, not a day of Easter. So, that season, that day, that 2,000-year ago day gave birth to a paradigm shift in a season that you and I get to enjoy, you and I get to proclaim, and you and I get to live out. So, that’s the good news. And it flips the notion that life is small and death is big. It’s the opposite. As we said last week, with Diana Butler Bass, I mean, Jesus’s crucifixion was a blip on the screen of life and life abundant. But yet, we get so hyper focused on that. So, that’s why I wanted to bring that quote back.

Melissa: Yeah. And it talks about being afraid to die. Not being afraid to die if we know what we know about life over death, that we shouldn’t be afraid to die. I am not afraid to die, I’m just afraid of how I’m going to die.

Rob: I think that is true for most folks.

Melissa: Exactly right. Anyway, you know, Bishop, given the difference between Easter of 2020 versus last year, though it was a little less restrictive, it was still bound by things. But this Easter felt a little like more of what we were used to before the pandemic.

And I know that the Diocese of Atlanta decided to get some sound clips of folks’ reaction to the joy of this Easter. So, I’m wondering if we can listen to the first sound byte.

I love this, I love this so much. She said some really cool things. She said, you know, it felt like an awakening from a deep silence and that this Easter, with the bells ringing and the gratitude for Jesus’s resurrection has marked a new season in our Parish and a renewal in faith to love like Jesus loved us. And so, I’m wondering if you have any thoughts or comments about this season of renewal of this year versus maybe previous years?

Rob: Yeah. You know me, I always got thoughts and comments. So, you never have to worry about that. So, I mean I think it is beautiful. And what’s interesting is that from over the last two years, if you will, you’ve been in a bit of a liturgy, that is the word we use in Church to talk about how we build the service out, how we build the moments of the service out, the ups and downs of it. We were fearful. We were really afraid at the very beginning. We were less afraid a year later. We had some responses but only partial, we were still uncertain, still trepidations, still reluctant, we were bound, right? And then on this year it broke open, the mask restrictions have calmed down, the vaccinations have come up, boosters have come up. We’re feeling more comfortable with one another. We know more about COVID-19 and were able to sing and sing beside one another.

And in some ways, it mirrors the lesson for this last Sunday’s Easter, which was the silence was broken by two dazzling strangers, we’ll call them angels. When the ladies came to dress Jesus’ dead body, they were looking for the living among the dead and the angels broke the silence by saying, he’s not here. The cemetery can’t confine him. So, in some ways, this Sunday’s Easter, this Easter Sunday, with less limitations, more comfort, more freedom, it felt like the genuine article. It felt like we were experiencing that moment. We got the surprise and the long-awaited hallelujah, you know, with our full throat. I guess that’s what I would really say, this felt more full throated than the last two years. We were able to really get back to saying, hey, there is some good news. I’m all in. We need it. We need it and it’s been so difficult. We’ve lost lives and livelihoods.

We are a pretty fortunate nation. We had the money, we had the medicine, and there a lot of other places that don’t have it. So, even as we say hallelujah with our full throat here, we have to be mindful of other neighbors. And maybe responsive neighbors who don’t have these benefits. But yeah, Sunday morning felt great. With the singing, flowers, bells, and all of that, and the hugs, handshakes, it felt like the real thing.

Melissa: Yeah. I have a worry though. I have a worry that it’s a mountaintop experience. And you know what people say about you know, going up the mountain and then coming down off it, that it’s just business as usual. And I do wonder if there is a way that we might capitalize, or how do we leverage that joy going forward?

Rob: Well, you know, the thing about joy is, where was there, I think a product? I think it was a hair care product that if you were turning gray, you put a little dab in your hand and combed it through your hair. It would make the gray go away and say a little dab will do you. I don’t know what the hell that product was. Yeah, my hair is turning white for sure. It is behind reversal.

But a little dab will do ya. Authentic Easter joy is like nitroglycerin. It’s an amazing force and power. So, when we have the genuine article, I mean not the performance of sort of optimism, radical optimism one Sunday a year. But actually realizing that all creation knows the real and truest song of God. And that is life, bias for love and life. So, when we get really sort of persuaded again, it is an invitation. These enigmatic moments that we’ve had in our lives, that are distant memories for some of us, which are ultimately positive where we felt loved and accepted, they don’t go away. You may have to brush the dust off of them sometimes. But they don’t go away. So, I say that is what we have to stay with and remember to keep that on the desktop of our heart, of our memories. And just realize that death doesn’t win and hatred can’t win and abuse can’t win. It has a finite season. That’s life. It doesn’t prove the absence of God. It just proves that this is a particular way that God wants to be God. And how God wants to be God is to overcome death with life. And you know, God will submit God’s elf to our inferior powers and our arrogance for a season. And then comes Easter and then comes resurrection.

We just have to make sure that we keep the main thing, the main thing. That is always the struggle for us, isn’t it? We get so distracted with the minor things and we can even major in minors, which is tragic. But to major in the majors is life wins, love wins. Full stop. And even when it doesn’t seem like that, it is still true.

What I said on Easter Sunday at the Cathedral at Saint Philip here in Atlanta, was that you know evil, hatred, and abuse, even brutal tyrants like the one we have in Russia who is trying to keep his foot on the neck of Ukraine, all tyrants come for a season and have a season. But ultimately, they know in their gut that the clock is ticking. That is the message of Easter. So, hatred, abuse, evil doesn’t disprove God, right? Neither does winter disprove spring, right? So, we just have to remember that. And I hope keep heart in that way. Because that’s what it is really about. It’s being a good steward of Easter. Easter comes. The joy animates us. Gives us buoyancy. But then, ultimately, we are the inheritors of this gift, as well as the executors of this gift, right? We have inherited it, it’s a gift, we didn’t do anything to deserve, can’t deserve it, right? But at the same time, the invitation is, if you know something that is good, why don’t you share it? And God is good. Just God is good in Easter and here we see it better than anything that you and I could have designed is God’s Easter.

[break]

Melissa: Welcome back to 4 People. Let’s listen to our next sound clip.

Melissa: All right. I love this one Bishope because I love how he goes, unbelievable.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: That with the beauty of the flowers, the music, and that this year it was something unbelievable. And that word, in and of itself, is kind of striking to me. What are your thoughts on that?

Rob: Yeah. It’s funny enough that the words mirror the words of the disciples when the women, shoutout to the women, last at the cross, first to the tune, first evangelist in the Church, shoutout to the women. The ones that kept the faith, keep the vigil, shoutout to the women. Their good news that they calm, this surprising thing, this blessed interruption, the guys wonder out loud, scripture says, if this is an idle tale. And idle meaning, is this worthless? And so, here we are where he is saying the same thing. It’s unbelievable.

And of course, it’s unbelievable to our rational, our mind, can God do this? Can God through a birthday party at funeral? I mean, how do we do this? And so, we remember that scripture says, God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. So, I’d like to say that we don’t talk nearly enough about the defiance of Easter. So, it’s unbelievable in that God would be that gently defiant. You know, we try to give God a hint, we try to murder God, we try to bury God in a tomb, we betrayed God. All these sorts of things, we flogged God. We put him on a tree and lynched him in front of his mother, right? It is unbelievable that God would just sort of gently get up out of the grave and say, good try. But I’m right here. I’m going nowhere.

It’s almost like Jesus is saying, you know, na, na, na, nan, you took your best shot. It’s almost like the devil gets a real sucker punch right in the chin. It’s like, you thought you had me? You thought you won? Great, here I am. And not only that, just to show you who I really am, I am going to go back to the room where I had my last supper and I’m going to slip through the locked door. I’m going to recollect and reconcile all the fragments of our brokenness together. I’m going to forgive those who betrayed me. I’m going to comfort those who were cowardly in the face of the trial. I am not only going to do all of that but now I’m going to say, hey, see my hands? See all of this? I’m back. Now, will you help me go forward now? I love it. It’s unbelievable. Yes, of course it’s unbelievable. And that’s what makes it so wonderful that God could do this with us.

Melissa: I love this so much. I’m reminded of the devotion that you have. I’m a Gen Xer or some might call me an exenial, right? Both of my parents are living and are very much baby boomers. I also live in an area with a high demographic of retirees. And I’ve noticed that the different of the way that some people view life and death matters. Some people want to live out the rest of their life with a sense of meaning, impact, and purpose. While others are fearful and clingy so tightly to life that they are forgetting to live it.

So, I have a question for you Bishop. What would your Easter be to both of those groups?

Rob: That is really a wonderful question. I would also add a third piece there. I would say that there are some people that are hunkered down and afraid. And then, there is another group of people that give themselves over to hedonism, of lots of different kinds. They say, let us eat, drink, and be merry, tomorrow we die. So, there is that piece.

One of the great sort of wonderfully counter-intuitive bits about resurrection, when you take the sting of death away, when that good news penetrates your heart, then you don’t have to do sort of these desperate acts of one sort or the other. You realize that death is a season in life. But ultimately it gives way to life. Ultimately, we are raindrops returning to the ocean. That is all that happens. I get the fear of pain, loneliness in those hours. I get it. I have stood at many bedsides. I have held many hands. I understand and don’t want to fear shame anybody. But what I want to say also is that I’ve stood at other bedsides and seen the genuine article of faith in people’s eyes and on their lips when they breathe their last. If you have ever seen the difference, seen the latter, I tell you, you want to be that. You want in your last moment rest in something that is real. We are not getting any more money, any more years, we are not getting any cuter. All that stuff is perishing. All of that stuff is going away. It is nice when you have it for a little while but ultimately it is temporal. And to see people really rest in their faith, not as deluded bedtime stories. You know, people that live under delusion or living out some sort of fantasy, but people who have an abiding and real rich faith. They realize that they are going to go to sleep on this side and wake up in glory. I have been fortunate. I have been at those bedsides. It freed me and helped me dislodge the fear in me to see the genuine article.

I want to be that for someone else. I want to die wonderfully. Pope John Paul who died, he declined in front of our very eyes. And in some way he gave us a great gift. We saw him in his strength, in his eloquence, and in his power. And we saw him weak and feeble. Ultimately, he went to sleep and died. He didn’t shield us from that.

Desmond did the same thing. This wonderful, beautiful man of faith and joy declined and battled cancer. He did it in front of us with all of the shaky and sad moments, and then died. He was a Prince among us. He wanted to be buried in a plain wooden pine box with no adornments. There are examples, over and over and over again, of people who are betting everything on Jesus and his resurrection. And who know that we have this life and that is the good news. We have this life and we are not to live in fear. We are to enjoy every moment, every moment is a gift. We don’t always do this well. I don’t always do that well. But nevertheless, that is our truth. And then this part of life will die. I love how we say it in our funeral liturgy. Life is not ended, life has changed. I love that beautiful Episcopalian poetry, life is not ended, life has changed. And if we can get that down into the molecules of us, I think life will look better. We don’t have to be so desperate and so sad chasing after something we can never catch. We can age gracefully.

I’m a baby boomer. I’m the last year of the baby boomers. Shoutout to the baby boomers, right? And we are coming of age here. Now, they are building 55-year old plus communities now. Good Lord, I never thought I’d live to see that. And so we are reminded all around us that the time is short. I have more out of the back window than I have in front of me now. That is a lot of us. So, you can be tragically trapped in fear of that or you can say that this is a season. How shall I live?

Melissa: We have one more clip and I love to listen to it.

Melissa: So, Bishop, before we played this clip, you were kind of talking about living life in a way that, I kept thinking of singing Hallelujah as a swan song. And she talked about what it meant for her this Easter to say when the Priest says, Hallelujah, the Lord has risen. And with that acclamation and response, it gave me goosebumps just listening to her recounting that. And I’m curious what you think about people who can live their Hallelujah from day to day.

Rob: Well, remember, funny enough we are talking about Easter. But you know, it’s funny enough we are talking about life and death, which is appropriate I suppose. And when you ask about Hallelujah’s in the face of all of this, you are quoting our funeral service. One of the most defiant things that the Priest gets to say with the ashes, the Earthly remains or the body in front of him or her, is even at the grave, we make our song, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Not just once. But defiantly. You say it one time, that’s cool. But if you keep saying it, you are making a point here. And the point we are trying to make is that even at the grave, as we go down to the dust, because that’s where we started as dust. There is something bigger than us. I think this is the other thing too, we have put ourself at the center of the wheel perhaps too much. We are all a little bit narcissistic, right? Maybe that is how we are designed. But the real work is to work yourself out of the center. And when I realize that I’m out of the center, I’m one among the Saints in light, right? And I will be one among the great cloud of witnesses. I will be one, I pray to God amongst the heavenly host, right? Then I am one of lots. I am one raindrop returning home to a big ocean.

So, it’s not just about me and my small little whatevers, it’s about me joining the mind, the heart, the plan of the universe, God, right? So, that is really enticing for me to thing about. I have lived my season like a beautiful flower. I hope that I have bloomed. I have given life to other things. And then, I go the way of all flowers. I go the way of all trees. I go that way.

But on that side of things, I am contributing also. I pray to God, to a larger life, God’s imagination. The Bible says that God’s mercy endures forever and ever, right? And so, in other words, we live now, we are alive to God in a new and interesting way. None of us know about that. So, we take that through the eyes of faith. But I want some more of that. I want to know more about that. I want to be reconciled to some people and be a part of that community. I am a party of this community here. We call that the Church Militant, the Church still at work. The Church still living out it’s calling. The Church still opposing evil and injustice. The Church still trying to close the gap between heaven and Earth. That’s the Church militant. But at some point, we will be reconciled and be called up to the Church triumphant. And that is the Church that already knows that the battle is already won. That love wins all. And so, I want to be on that part. I like the notion that we say, especially in the black Church about living with the ancestors and being enfolded and enveloped in their love and embrace, etc. That wonderful image that we use in terms of that great morning with the great family reunion on the other side. That’s not scary to me. But you are right, it’s the pain that we might endure on the way.

I think that if we tease this out, I think a lot of people will be less afraid of dying and more afraid of how they die. That’s a whole other conversation about pain and suffering and those sorts of things, right? Let us not burying the headline here. The headline is that Jesus rose. Raise Jesus from the dead and that you and I are called to live an Easter life even though we encounter Good Fridays abundantly.

So, how do we do that? We stay close to Jesus and his message. And that is, I’m a companion for you in the chaos. I’m a mentor for you in the mysteries of life. You can count on me in your terrible hours and your terrible late nights. You can count on me because I’m a God who doesn’t sort of send a memo, don’t send a fax, you know, I don’t send a text or a tweet. I’m right there with you. I know about it personally. We talk about Jesus as my friend, I can only use friends that know where I’m going and where I’ve been. Everybody else is an acquaintance. But my friends, yeah. Jesus can be my friend because he knows something about what it feels like to be left behind, left out, lost, disoriented, betrayed, you name it. That is how he can be a friend for us even in this Easter season.

Melissa: Well Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Bishop as always, we’re grateful. And listeners, we’re grateful for you for listening to 4 People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.


Más Pascuas de Resurrección

“Piensas que tienes este asunto de la muerte bien definido. Crees que la vida es una pequeña piedra en el río oscuro de la muerte. Estás equivocado. La muerte es una pequeña piedra en el río furioso de la vida. Vas de la vida terrenal a una vida mejor, y la muerte no consume mucho tiempo en este viaje. Celebra la victoria, no tengas miedo de la muerte y saca de tus preocupaciones a la muerte… di adiós, porque ya no es TU preocupación. ¡Jesús se encargó de ello!”

Autor desconocido


Tags: For Faith

A Prayer for Good Friday

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

For People Podcast

Diana: So, what if they table is the real intent of the whole action of holy week and that Good Friday is the moment in which Rome decides that it’s going to destroy the table? And so, Rome introduces the cross to stop the feast from ever going any further than that upper Rome.

Rob: You have a great quote out there, why does the choice always seem to be between intelligence on ice or ignorance on fire when it comes to Church choices, right? And it seems like Jesus finds the middle there. He is on fire when he needs to be. He’s informed by his tradition. And yet, he is not bound by it. He’s moving out and beyond. So, I think that’s the way we have to try and model that. How we actually get these congregations, institutions, groupings of people, just sort of embrace that whole cloth, I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts about that? If you do, that book will be a New York Times bestseller.

Diana: I’m certainly not alone in trying to wrestle that question to the ground, you know. I have written some about it. Just this last month I have been working with a good friend of mine by the name of Tripp Fuller, who’s a Baptist and he teaches at the University of Edinburgh. And he’s a science and religion guy. He is really, really smart. And he’s 40. He’s a good bit younger than I am.

We have been talking about some of these issues and he has recently been reading Andy Root. I believe he is at Luther Seminary. And Andy has been writing about the future of the Church in this moment, how we imagine the life of clergy going ahead, what spiritual practices look like, what congregations look like, what will be the shape of religion in the coming decades. And it goes right to this question that Tripp and I sort of picked up from Andy, Andy points out that in the middle ages and a bit later, early modern period, perhaps in as late as even the early 19th century, people got inspired in Christian circles. Regular Christian’s got inspired by reading mystical literature, devotional literature. The books beyond me, there is an entire bookcase I have that is nothing but sort of spiritual classics, mystical classics, and I have read them all. I’ve taught classes on a lot of them.

Mystical literature was the way that people apprehended God. But then Root makes this really interesting claim, and he says, “But we’ve switched that up in the last hundred years. And instead of mystical literature being the primary source of inspiration, memoir has become the primary source of inspiration.” So, the example that I just gave of Barack Obama is one that is in the political realm. But that’s about more than politics. It’s about all those things you just talked about. It’s about meaning, about personhood, about the deepest sense of who oneself is, what is fair, and what is just? All of these timeless questions.

Rob: Right, right.

Diana: All of this together and the work that I’ve been doing over the last two decades, which is very memoir driven, Phyllis Tickle said that when she worked at Publishers Weekly about 15-years before she died and when she first found my work, she literally thought I had invented a new genre of work which linked the academic and the sort of predictive trend orientation that all my work has with memoir. This has been something I’ve been pursuing for two decades now as a writer. But this idea of memoir being the driver of bringing us closer to God as individuals is very strong in my work. But what if the Church reimagined itself as storytelling community. So, instead of it being a community that teaches people about the historical Jesus, instead of it being just a community that recites the creeds, it has those things, we have all that in our history, we have all those resources. What if now the primary calling is to enable people to understand the stories of Jesus, the stories of their own lives, and to be able to frame and tell those stories to one another within the community.

But also, then to be able to tell those stories whenever they’re called to in any other situation. And so, the idea of storytelling, being central, to somehow the Church’s life going forward, I do not quite think that the Church has grasped it quite as strongly as it should as a central practice. But it’s hinted at so beautifully. If you think of some of the best voices in the Episcopal Church, they’re incredible storytellers. Barbara Brown Taylor, I mean, what else has she been doing but shaping story and memoir in particular, as sort of the central point of Christian identity. You think of someone like Anne Lamont who is Presbyterian, but nevertheless, very much the same impulse. Naida Bolts Weber, Lutheran, same thing. Rachel Held Evans, sadly we have lost her, but she became an Episcopalian. And I know from my personal friendship with her, a big part of that was not just because we said the creeds and had the eucharist, it wasn’t just because you could explore any question about Jesus as an intellectual endeavor. Somehow every week the community that she entered into embodied a story that she wanted to be a part of. As a writer, she could enter into that story, and she was helping to shape it so that people could understand the story more fully.

If you start looking across the Episcopal Church, one of the things that you see in particular, and I think our best Preachers do this, I think that the presiding Bishop is doing this. It’s mostly women and people of color who have really been leading the charge about the power of memoir and the power of our stories to be the place of cohesion, the place where we can really enter into Anglican identity to share and speak our deepest poetry into the world. And to me that’s what Anglicanism always has been. Anglicanism, in my sense, is not really a systematic theology. What Anglicanism is a poetry of a way of life.

Rob: That’s wonderful. And look that prayer book. Whether you call it the new book or just the book, I think that is what people see in the words of the prayer book. They see beautiful words that are trying to point at a wondrous God who continues to intervene personally and corporately.

We’re sort of recording this, you know, and Easter is not too far. We are recording just before Palm Sunday, so Easter is out not too far away. Is there any idea, thought, words, story you are holding on to given the pandemic and life over the last two years? Is there something about this Easter for you as we sort of get towards it?

Diana: This Lent, I have been thinking about the story of the Table on Thursday. The narrative of Easter has shifted for me very strongly in recent years. That is, I keep wondering why it is that we treat the table as it’s nothing more than a prelude to what happens on Friday. I’ve been writing a number of pieces and preaching on the centrality of Maundy Thursday to the whole story. And what I really believe at this point is that Maundy Thursday is a hinge of history. The gathering around that table is the last supper of the old world in which the Roman Empire has power. And it becomes the first feast of the Kingdom of God.

There was this old line talking about Anglican poetry, CS Lewis used it I believe in the 50s to talk about the cross as the wood between the words. Which is lovely. There is the Anglican poetic notion in full force. But that might be true, but what if instead the emphasis was less on the wood between the worlds and more on the hinge of history? If you really pay attention to the table and what’s happening on that Thursday, I think there is a revolution that is occurring. There was a Baptist theologian woman who died a few years ago, in her 80s, by the name of Beatrice Berto who wrote a book called The Holy Thursday Revolution. It was published by Orbis Press. That book might be one of the single most influential books in my thinking that I have read in the last decade. And she really makes this incredibly strong case for this thing that she calls the Holy Thursday Revolution.

What if the table is the real intent of the whole action of Holy Week? And that Good Friday is the moment in which Rome decides that it’s going to destroy the table? The table is the threat. And so, Rome introduces the cross in the execution to stop the feast from ever going any further than that upper room. So, then the cross becomes Rome’s know to the vision of the Kingdom of God. You go through Holy Saturday, the question is, “Oh, my gosh, what’s going to happen here? Has Rome had the last word?” And then, you get the story of the garden.

Rob: And then you get the answer.

Diana: Right. And what I love, I wish the lectionary text didn’t divide the John account up into two Sunday’s. Because first we get the story of Mary Magdalene in the garden and Jesus turns around and says, “Mary.” And she sees Jesus and says, “Oh, Raboni.” And there are people saying that it is basically her confession. Oh my gosh, look at that, you’ve risen. And she goes and runs off and tries to tell the disciples.

Well, the next week we usually read what happens immediately following that. But it’s all one story in the text. So, what happens in that story, she runs off, she tells the disciples, they don’t believe her, and they are holed up and scared of what’s going to happen, are the authorities going to come and get them, Roman’s going to put them on crosses next. And what happens, they are in the upper room. They are not at the hill where the cross was. They are hiding out in the upper room. The first resurrection account that isn’t to an individual, but rather to the whole group of disciples, is Jesus returns to the very table where he last sat with them on Thursday. Which just goes to show to me, that is Jesus sort of underscoring the point of this action. It’s not a tritium. It’s a quadrilateral.

Rob: Right.

Diana: And it’s like, oh my gosh, all the emphasis falls on Friday. I think this misses the point of the two stories at the wings, the table and then Jesus returned to the table. The table is the point.

Rob: I think you’re on to something here. I mean, with all due respect to CS Lewis, I think it’s not the wood– What is it, the wood in the worlds? It’s the table that holds the two worlds together.

Diana: Yeah. So, that is what I love about the hinge of history. It’s really the turning. So, it’s not like the cross that is the wood between the worlds. And in fact, you know, that sets the cross up as something that is between the worlds that you can never get back too. It’s a permanent liminal space. And I think that if you understand a hinge of history, you understand that it’s less of something that’s between two things and more of a door on hinges. It’s a real opening. The table isn’t just some far off hope or some sort of thing that happened on a hill 2,000-years ago. But it’s an actual continual open door toward community, toward the Kingdom, towards feasting, a table where everyone is seated, and all are fed. And to me, that is the story that the world right now is literally starving for. So, that’s the way that I’ve been telling the story this year. I don’t think I have had such a sparkling Lent in terms of its spiritual insights for my own life as I’ve been tracing through and preaching in each successive week’s passages. And I’m literally to the point where I just can’t wait for Maundy Thursday.

Rob: Wow, that is absolutely wonderful. As they say, that will preach. That will preach and that will teach. And it just goes to show you how it can really get so captured in the violence of Good Friday that we miss the hospitality and the grace that happens on both sides of that thing. And in some ways, it decenters that and offers something larger to us. I think that is the whole point of resurrection, right? That we are being offered something larger that we can’t even imagine.

Diana: I’m just so glad to hear you say that because that’s always my fear when we shrink the weekend to the Friday, Saturday, Sunday action. It really does wind up sort of lifting up the violence and the suffering aspect of it, which is obviously there and really important for us to talk about. But it reifies it in such a way that it has turned it into the point. What you just said was just gorgeous, as a way of telling my story in your language. And I love how you did that. The story of hospitality that is on either end of the violence is the real story.

Rob: It’s the real story, we don’t want to go too far with this, but in some ways this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday becomes a real Rorschach test for us, doesn’t it? What we see and what we don’t see. And that we see the brutality, the horror, all of that is essential. And again, not to diminish it, that we don’t see the graciousness on either side, even Jesus from the cross giving away, you know, see your son here and see your mother here and see you have each other even as I go. Or today, to the thief, you’ll be with me in paradise. I mean, all of the graciousness gets consumed really by the nails, the crown of thorns, etc. And we just sort of miss it all.

Diana: I hate to give you something else to do Bishop. But maybe the Church needs a new service. I mean, it seems like we continually miss the idea of what happened on Easter night when Jesus returned to the table. So, maybe we need a need liturgy for Easter night with a return to the table liturgy.

Rob: There you go. There you go. Look, if that has to go on my to do list, that’s a good to do.

Diana: The Clergy are going to kill me, give them one more liturgy to do that weekend.

Rob: I think in our conversation, we have actually, truth in advertising, you’ve talked about freeing Jesus and I think we’ve maybe freed Jesus today a little bit. At least in how we understand Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Diana Butler Bass thank you so much. This has been a great treat, a delight.

Diana: Well, thank you for having me on. You are doing wonderful work. And the conversations you are hosting, the hospitality you are offering is a way really of taking these stories into the world that makes a difference.

Rob: Thank you so much. God bless.


Dios de Poder Inmutable y luz Eterna

Mira con favor a toda tu Iglesia, ese maravilloso y sagrado misterio; por la operación eficaz de tu providencia lleva a cabo en tranquilidad el plan de salvación; haz que todo el mundo vea y sepa que las cosas que han sido derribadas son levantadas, las cosas que han envejecido son renovadas, y que todas las cosas están siendo llevadas a su perfección, mediante aquél por quien fueron hechas, tu Hijo Jesucristo nuestro Señor; que vive y reina contigo, en la unidad del Espíritu Santo, un solo Dios, por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Libro de Oración Común, p. 200 Edición Español


Tags: For Faith

Preposterous

Jesus entered the big city, on a donkey, folks waving branches as he passed. This spectacle, they thought, would immediately begin a new world order. Weirdly, Palm Sunday makes me remember when Pope Francis visited President Obama. They greeted one another on a tarmac in front of their respective vehicles. The Presidential limousine, big, armored, powerful, is literally called “The Beast.” Beside it was the papal vehicle… a Fiat! Tiny, slow, laughable. I’ll never forget those clashing images. Worldly power meeting what seems preposterous. I imagine the powerful of Jerusalem laughed when Jesus rolled in that day with his donkey. I wonder if they’re still laughing now sitting with the King of Kings at that big picnic table in eternity.

Luke 19:28-40


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

For People Podcast

Rob: Hi, everyone. This is Bishop Rob Wright and this is For People.

Today, we’ve got just a wonderful treat, we’re on with Diana Butler Bass. Welcome, Diana.

Diana: It is just so exciting for me to be with you.

Rob: Well, I’m delighted to have you here. I was recently with you in New York. And for those of you who don’t know, she is an award-winning author, speaker, inspiring preacher. She’s been called spontaneous and always surprising by Marcus Borg. She’s a wife. She’s a mother. She’s a pet owner. She bops around and talks to all kinds of folks behind the limits of denomination. And I just thought she’d be a fantastic conversation partner for us today. And she’s got a new book out called Freeing Jesus. Now, Diana, tell us why Jesus needs to be free?

Diana: Well, Freeing Jesus, I think that you’ll like this. It actually beings with an episode that happened to me in the Washington National Cathedral in 2013. I was working on a completely different project. I was having trouble with it. I live in the suburbs of DC. Sometimes when I’m kind of spiritually all jammed up, I would love going into the Cathedral and praying in there. It’s just such a great space. This one day I went to the Cathedral, I was praying in the chapel of the Holy Spirit, which has this gorgeous turn of the century mosaic/painting above the altar of Jesus. It is by N.C. Wyeth.

I was there and I was struggling. “God, why can’t I get this project done? Where are you God? I can’t hear my own voice.” And all of a sudden, I heard a voice that said, “Get me out of here.” It was so clear. I looked around and there was no one in the chapel, except for me. So, I went, “Okay. I’ll just keeping praying.” So, I went back to my struggling pray and a second time I heard the voice say, “Get me out of here.” At that point, I looked up at the painting and I said, “Jesus? Is that you?” And the voice responded a third time, “Get me out of here.” And at that point, I was so freaked out, I literally had no idea why Jesus was asking me to get him out of the Washington national Cathedral.

There was a Priest right then who was coming down the aisle. And I was just like, “I don’t want to deal with this with anyone who is ordained. Maybe they will hear the voice too. Who knows what is going to happen?” I literally bolted out of the Cathedral. I only told my husband about that episode for a couple of years. But when I got home and shared it with him, he laughed. And he said, “Gosh, it’s not everybody who Jesus asks to spring him from the slammer.”

Rob: Right. You’re right. What an important calling you got.

Diana: Yeah. I really have taken that episode and unrolled it. I wondered for years, what in the world was that all about? Was that some deep anxiety of my own about the Church or what have you? But I really think that it was certainly predictive of what was going to happen. A lot of people are leaving Church and having to meet Jesus in other places. So, in effect, the Church is needing to free Jesus back out of our buildings onto the streets. I think that’s definitely something that has happened.

I learned through writing this book, that there are certain things that had really bottled up my own relationship with Jesus, I needed to be freed from in order to meet with Jesus again. It winds up being a book that works on sort of two levels. One a cultural level, about the state of Christianity in particular and how people are still interested in Jesus but how so many people are angry at the Church. And then it also winds up being an invitation for people to explore the terrain of their own Jesus stories.

Rob: Yeah. You know that story sort of connects to the most recent survey that people are talking about all over the Church. Of people polled, who live beyond the Church doors, more than 80% of people still think Jesus is way cool. He’s enigmatic. He’s inspirational. He’s a moral and ethical teacher. He’s someone to know. When those same people are asked, how many of you go to Church? The number was below 40%. There is a gap there.

Just like Jesus wondering around in Galilee in his own time, he lived beyond sort of the narrow confines of the Synagogue. Real people received him, thought he was someone to have dinner with, thought he was someone to listen to, and the Church/Synagogue at that time, really struggled to fully embrace those ideas. I think you are on to something.

I have thought for many years now that we have sort of moderated the relationship. We might need to figure out another place to stand. This has a little bit more humility and more curiosity than we have a lot of times.

When I write, when I get an idea like that, not sort of a full-blown revelation, when I have the beginnings of something and I sit down and write, it begins to work it out. It begins to get clearer about what I was thinking about or what was sort of coming at me. What did you learn as you wrote? What was new? What was discovery for you?

Diana: This was one of the books that I’ve written where every single chapter had a discovery for me. I can’t say that is always the case. I have a PhD in Religious Studies. I have written about Church history, which is my field of expertise. I’ve written about congregational development, which is something that I’ve spent an enormous amount of time studying academically and personally. There are books that I have written that my job is to surprise my readers with some new information or hope or what have you.

But there are a couple of books that I have written, a book called Grounded. Really my last three books, Grounded, Grateful, Freeing Jesus, all three record my surprise in encountering something that was either deep within my own experience and I’m uncovering it for the readers as I’m uncovering it for myself. It really becomes a shared journey of surprise.

In Freeing Jesus, the more professional part fits in with what you were just saying about the Church statistics. I mean, I love Churches. I work with Churches all the time. I’m an Episcopalian. I have been since 1980, which means my very first experience in the Episcopal Church people kept talking about the new prayer book. And I kept wondering when it was going to show it. What? We are getting a new prayer book?

Rob: There is a commentary right there, right?

Diana: I was like one of the very first people that was brought into the Church under the new prayer book. I just thought it was the prayer book. I am a Church girl. I wrote a book that started with the line, “I am a Churchgoer.” I’m not one of those people who is like, “Yeah, leave Church. It stinks.” I am sad about those statistics. And I would love to see them turn around. But I’m also kind of a realist. I understand the ebb and flow of religion and different cultural settings. We are in a real ebb period right now. We can sit around hoping that people will come back to Church. And we can try things to get them to come back to Church, which I always encourage people to do. But the reality of the moment is that people aren’t.

If the stories of Jesus are to thrive in this culture, we have to move on.

Rob: That is what made me want to invite you to the Podcast. You were sort of embodying a way forward I think for the Church. When we were in New York together you were giving a lecture, a General Theological Seminary, The Paddock Lectures. You were telling your own story.

I was just talking to Cynthia Kittridge, who is the Dean of the Seminary of the Southwest. I went down to Austin, Texas a little while ago and did a little module. There were just these little real world snippets from my own life. Appropriate sharing but nevertheless sharing out of my own life how I had rediscovered new reliance on God, how I rediscovered wonder in God. And she was commenting on that. I was saying to her, “As far as I can tell, that’s the only way forward. And that is for you and I to give up a little bit of ourselves, about our real life with God, and to share the messiness of that with people so it can connect with the messiness of their stories. And maybe they can do some discovery.”

You did all of that in the lecture. You talked about your family. You talked about some examples of real girl power in your family, some of the women in your family. You talked about some other difficult intersections that your family stood at and had to make choices. Some we celebrate. Some we wish they would have chosen differently.

How did you get there?

Diana: It is interesting because the New York lectures, if anyone is interested in them, were the Paddock Lectures. Those are available online. I talked about the history of the Episcopal Church through this set of characters that no one knew existed, just regular people on the Eastern shore of Maryland in the 1680s and 1690s.

As you know, since you were there, I told the story about slavery, racism, quakers, and the Anglicans in that really important piece of real estate, what would eventually become the United States. It was about how one family started out so idealistically and then ended up owning slaves. And people loved the story. But as you already sort of gave away the store, at the end of the first lecture, I revealed that I was telling the story of my own family. And that’s how I found this little story about people that nobody had ever heard of. These are people that are not famous. They are just regular farmers.

The power of hidden stories was something that I really wanted to share there. And I also wanted to share why it’s so important for a denomination to recover those kinds of stories. Our stories that we tell about ourselves, shouldn’t just be about institutional development and, you know, don’t take this personally of course, it shouldn’t just be about people who hold high sorts of offices, like bishops, or when we built certain buildings, or when we passed certain kinds of resolutions. Because the texture of any community is really about the people who inhabit it. And how those folks shape it over generations.

The hidden stories are really the heart of who we are. And I think that is part of the problem that we are having right now communicating is that contemporary people aren’t very interested in institutional histories. They don’t want to sit down and study the development of all the different kinds of laws that Congress passes over the last decade and what that says about the American future. They are interested in is stories about how people struggle who are in government, what gets people to government. I think that Barack Obama becoming President on the back of writing of a memoir of his struggle to find his own father. What takes Barack Obama into the political arena was that the whole memoir he wrote, Dreams of My Father. He discovered something new about who he was. And in discovering who he was, he discovered what his story could mean for America. That whole vision of being a man who was biracial, a man who came from a family with a story of slavery, and a man with all of these different trends of world history in his blood, that he knew it was somehow kind of a microcosm of the American moment in which he was elected to Senate and then becomes President. That kind of story is compelling.

What I’ve been trying to do in telling history, in the way that I did at General, about slavery and race is not simply tell a story about why race is terrible. Racism is terrible. We all know that racism is terrible, you know, except for people who are supporting it and they just have to be convinced differently. But most of us, “I don’t want to be racist. Racism is a bad thing. I want to love everybody because God loves everybody.” I think people have really good intentions.

And so, some of the ways that we introduce these issues, like white supremacy, et cetera, sound more condemning. But when we enter through our own stories. You know, my story became a story that I was both proud of and there were parts of it that were shameful to me. And that gave me something to wrestle with that was personal and real. And I saw the sudden why these stories matter, to share them as honestly as possible. So, Memoir opens doors for us that normally wouldn’t be opened. Doors that sometimes we close by virtue of our own intellect. We open via the path of our hearts. And so, that’s why Memoir is so significant.

Rob: I was listening to you against the backdrop of our national conversation which is, we are trying to blunt any storytelling about our shared American journey. We are trying to stop it, trying to plug the holes, we don’t want to hear about it. We don’t want to hear about the journey we’ve been on to make this a more perfect union. We are shutting off a whole opportunity to understand the complexity of what it means to make a nation state. What we have gotten wrong and what we have gotten right.

I’m having that conversation in my head. You come to the room and telling your story and all the checkered nature of it. I was thinking to myself, maybe less of these big abstract ideas and certainly none of these acronyms that we’re sort of batting around now in the public conversation. But more about the stories. More about the stories. Maybe that is one way to free Jesus is to have a little more confidence in the stories. I’m aware when Jesus talks to the woman at the well, he knows her difficult story when it comes to marriage and relationships. He doesn’t count that against her. That is not counted against her either as a conversation partner and certainly doesn’t inhibit her as she goes forward to say, “Hey, I met a guy. You guys got to come meet this guy.” In many ways this guy sat with my whole story and still saw me through the lens of dignity.

We have to figure out how to do that more in the Church rather than be these sort of co-opted by the red or the blue and various talking points. Our message of good news and the messiness of human existence. We can’t persuade God to stop coming at us. God is just going to keep coming at us. That is the good news of Easter. No matter the mess, it is really the greatness of the gospel. When we round off the edges of that, I think we do ourselves a real dis-service. And I think it’s going to take personal courage.

Diana: Yeah. It’s really funny that we would be talking about both New York and freeing Jesus in the same conversation. Because they are demonstrations of something that I have become incredibly passionate about. You know, you hate to say this about yourself, but I think that my distinctive voice as a Christian thinker, as a person who stands in theological shoes, and as a personal who is looked too in the public arena as a voice for Christianity is that this whole idea of what I call memoir theology.

I write about it in Freeing Jesus. That is in the very end of Freeing Jesus. I tell the story, and then at the end, I did in New York as well, I sort of reveal what I’ve been about the whole time. What I argue toward in Freeing Jesus, it is my memoir, but it’s not my memoir told with sort of theological embellishments. What I’m really doing is I’m writing a story of Jesus, which is theology, it’s a real Christology about Jesus as a friend, teacher, Savoir, Lord, way, and presence. So, the emphasis is on Jesus. But I use my story as an entry point into this Christology that I’m shaping.

One of the reasons it is so significant is that Protestant Churches in particular, which Anglicanism is in the big family even though we consider ourselves both Catholic and Protestant, I understand that piece. But Protestantism and Liberal Protestantism, which is a deep theological tradition that has impacted the Episcopal Church, has gotten caught up over the last 100-years in this divide about Jesus. And it’s not really red and blue. But it is a really important theological divide. And I know that you are aware of it. It is the divide of Jesus as a figure in history or Jesus as the Christ, the figure that emerges theologically in the creeds and the liturgical life of the Church after third century.

And 100-years ago, a German Theologian, named martin Culler, talked about the Jesus of history versus the Christ of Faith. And for the last 100-years, basically Protestants and people shaped by Protestant theology, have been having this big argument about these two Jesus’. On one hand, over the last 20 or 30-years, we’ve had the Jesus Seminar. That is the extension of the Jesus of History School. Lots of my personal friends have been part of the Jesus Seminar. I have spoken at the Jesus Seminar. It’s a really interesting group of people with great work.

And then on the other hand, there is the idea of the Christ of Faith. That’s the Christ that is shaped by doctrine and dogma. One of the things that is fascinating right now in the Episcopal Church is that there is sort of a younger generation of clergy that are deeply committed to the Christ of Faith and actually hate the idea of the Jesus of History. Sort of the new argument is getting loaded over in towards the creedal space to the point where I have actually seen people on social media argue that no one should be even admitted for confirmation as a layperson until they formally confess that they believe in the literal teaching of the creed. So, like Jesus is born literally of a literal historical virgin.

Rob: Right.

Diana: So, you see the energy shifting there in this dualistic argument. My work suggests is that’s the problem. We have been shaped by a dualistic argument about Jesus. Both of these things are obviously windows to offer into who Jesus was and is. And do we have different language to talk about Jesus? That is where I begin to shape this book as the Jesus of Experience. The Jesus of Experience is of course the only Jesus we really know. Because the Jesus of History lived 2,000-years ago. All we can ever know that Jesus threw is evidence and history books and really smart work by biblical scholars. And really the Christ of the Creeds we can know. I say it in the book, there is a way that the Christ of the Creeds actually remains abstracted for us. When I stand in Church every Sunday and say, “God of God, light of lights, true God from true God,” all that stuff. It’s like, “What?” I mean I know what it means. I have taught it. I know exactly where it comes from. I know the philosophical backgrounds of it. I can give you a dazzling lecture on the origins of the creeds. But at the same time, it’s like, “Really, this is what we are talking about on Sunday morning?” It just feels distant.

Rob: I hope not. Let me just say, you know, that gest my cockles up because as a person who has education, like you and has been grounded and benefited from all of that, I get real nervous about us writing out a whole group of people who don’t have formal education and they don’t need all of that to come to Jesus. I get really worried that we end up setting up another Pharisee and Sadducees kind of situation, leaving so many people behind.

It was always interesting to me, as I read the scriptures, that Jesus was always heralded by the folks as someone who was not in either camp and, therefore accessible. And accessible not only in gentleness and radical teaching, wisdom teaching, but in compassion.

So, maybe this whole freeing Jesus is something that we should be talking about. I mean, we didn’t plan all this when we started talking today. But I think that is exactly it. How can we stop painting all of Jesus’ canvas and allow Jesus to be seen for who he is? I think a lot about that. I think about how we have to figure that going forward. We don’t really want to talk about it. But not everybody who left Egypt made it to the Promise Land. A remnant made it there. And when I think about where we are right now, and this will be controversial to some people, I think we’re moving into sort of a remnant situation with the Church. Not every Church is going to make it.

If we are honest, a lot of Churches are sort of bound up by generational practices and people don’t want to let go of those. I understand them. They are holy and good rituals and practices and they were the stuff that made us Chrisitan and the stuff that kept us Christian. It fed us and nurtured us. But these kids are different. While I realize something is passing away, I’m always trying to pay attention for what is being born. What plant is coming up through the cracked concrete and that excites me. When I talk to young people, I’m a father of 5. I’ve got young kids, some in college, some not quite in college, and some beyond college. What is fascinating to me is that human beings are going to always want to talk about, what is a good life? What is generosity? What is forgiveness? What is love? How do I know? Who cares? All of these sorts of things.

The conversation goes on and I think we’ve just got to stop being so flat footed and so bound up. We need to be able to have some conversations. I mean, I think this is what Jesus literally does in Galilee. He’s just up on the balls of his feet. He’s having conversations with people. He’s walking. He’s talking it. And I think people respond. And when I see people in the Church and beyond the Church doing that, I still see that they are meeting in need.


Absurdo

Jesús entró en la gran ciudad, en un burro, y la gente agitaba ramos mientras pasaba. Este espectáculo, ellos pensaban, comenzaría inmediatamente un nuevo orden mundial. Extrañamente, el Domingo de Ramos me hace recordar cuando el Papa Francisco visitó al Presidente Obama. Se saludaron unos a otros en el asfalto frente a sus respectivos vehículos. La limusina presidencial, grande, blindada, poderosa, se llama literalmente la «bestia». Al lado se estacionaba el vehículo papal… ¡Un Fiat! Pequeño, lento, gracioso. Nunca olvidaré esas imágenes antagónicas. El poder mundano se encuentra con lo que parece absurdo. Imagino que los poderosos de Jerusalén se rieron cuando Jesús entró en aquel día en su burro. Me pregunto si se siguen riendo ahora sentados con el Rey de Reyes en esa gran mesa de pícnic en la eternidad.

Lucas 19:28-40


Tags: For Faith

Conviction

The wildernesses of life aren’t simply intellectual phases or emotional seasons in life. The danger and disorientation of our wildernesses are visceral. There’s real pain. The threat of despair is real; the humiliation and the tears are real. In these seasons we’re forced to compare, contrast, purge and adopt our convictions so we can adapt, survive, and even thrive. We hear this idea in St. Paul’s letter to his friends in Philippi. He tells them that before his blindness and vulnerability his confidence was in his pedigree and accomplishments. But, in the crucible of his wilderness time, his confidence in those things burned away leaving him with something more enduring than earthly confidence. He’s convicted now that those things are “rubbish” compared with the, “…surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus.” Now he’s convinced that all the “right” he could accomplish will never compare to the “right” God wants to do through him and us. Paul knows that there’s still more to learn about Jesus, but he’s convicted. He wants to “…know the power of Jesus’ Resurrection for himself, even though that means suffering and even death.” What about us? Wildernesses mustn’t simply be endured; that would be to squander profound learning and growing opportunities. What is too often labeled intellectually interesting about Christian spirituality often becomes insipid in our hands, whereas wilderness won convictions are compelling and propelling! The godly convictions that grow best in the wilderness are obedience to God, simplicity, compassion, neighborliness and liberty to name a few. In the wilderness of our country decades ago, Dr. King told us of his wilderness born conviction, he said, “I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.” The secret work of Lent and our own personal wilderness is that the Holy Spirit is building an “Altar in the Wilderness” in us and out of us for the world. Convicted of that Spirit work in him Paul said, “I strain forward…I press on….”

Philippians 3:4b-14


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

For People Podcast

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rao, and this is a conversation inspired Bishop Wright’s For Faith Weekly Devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description.

During Lent, Bishop Wright is doing a video series called Growing in the Wilderness. You can check that out at EpiscopalAtlanta.org.

Hey, Bishop, you called this week’s Lent and Devotion, Appreciation.

You name the two real dynamic of family drama. You highlight the joy of the father being reunited with the son who returned, which is juxtaposed by the enmity and bitterness that turns inside the brother who never went astray.

Rob: Yes.

Melissa: So, I’m wondering if you can share your overall thoughts about the truths hidden within this gem of a story.

Rob: All right. So, let’s back up a minute. So, what we’re talking about today really is the story of the prodigal son, which is an oldie but a goody, one of Jesus’ best. Some people know it as the story of the– the parable of the loving father, right? And you know, even secular society has some son of what the prodigal son story is all about. It’s a kid who goes out and squanders the money and ends up in a brothel and famine comes and blows the doors off of his life and he ends up being a hired hand and even eating with pigs, which was a terrible thing for a young Jewish boy.

And so, what I wanted to do in this story was just take a deeper drive. Because what people do is they get caught up, you know, in picking sides in the story. That is the trap of the story. There’s the younger son who is foolish, but there is the older son who is trapped in his cynicism, right? So, one, you know, he gets his epiphany because of lack of want of trouble. And then the oldest son never quite gets his epiphany because his eyes are blinded by privilege and bitterness.

So, you know, it’s just a great story to think with Jesus. You know, Jesus throws the story out. And he wants us– I mean, the point of Jesus’ story is that he wants us to know the mind and the heart of God. What is the mind and the heart of God? That you and I find our way home. That you and I find our way back. And if we ever take one step in that direction, God comes running down a dusty road towards us despite our misdeeds, misdoings, our bad decisions, our stupidity. You know, there’s this loving God running towards, not running away, not castigating, shaming us. And so, that’s the big deal. And so, I would just want to give people another lens to look at this story. The story through the lens of appreciation. So, what does it mean to appreciate in this story? And I make the case about that.

Melissa: Well, it’s lent, and so to me, it’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of the prodigal son. Or, you know, to return to the father. Or even be in the shoes of the father to forgive someone who has wronged us.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And yet, I’m maybe infatuated a little bit by the other son, you know, the brother. I’m sure many of us can easily identify with him, in his own unique way, who is also living in a sort of wilderness.

Rob: Yeah, sure. Sure, he is, yeah, right.

Melissa: And so, do you have any advice for those who identify with the other son?

Rob: No, I have no advice. I just tell you that the story is just absolutely delicious and so, you know, I have– You know, I think if we’re honest and we’ve lived just a little while, you know, we’ve been the younger brother. Like we’ve been foolish, right? We’ve ignored wise counsel. We thought we knew better than everybody else and then we ended up trapped in a prison, a wilderness of our own bad decisions, and need some help. So, that’s the one brother.

And then, some of us, and I have been as well, I have been the faithful, rule keeping, keeping it between the lanes older brother. Who gets up early and goes to bed late. I have been that dude who also wonders why in the hell other people can’t get their stuff together and if they were a little bit more like me, “Aw, wouldn’t the world be better.” And so, I know I’m not the only one who has had those thoughts, in the family, in the marriage, at the office. The older brother speaks in terms of them and those.

And even in this story, the older brother says to his father, about his younger brother, “Your son.” Which is an interesting move, isn’t it? Because he is disassociating himself with his brother. And it’s really interesting that the father doesn’t let him get away with that. And so, when the older brother, in his bitterness realizes that a party is going to be thrown for the younger brother and that he gets jewelry and a new pair of shoes, you know, and a barbecue in his honor, right, lavish party. This just throws the older son, you know, just sort of out into the stratosphere. And he says, you know, “Your son,” “Your son lived in desolate living.” “Your son,” you know, mixed it up with prostitutes. “Your son,” did all of that.

Of course, the father says to him, “Your brother was lost and now is found.” And so, you know, number one, part of the genius of the father in the story is that he’s trying to help the older brother appreciate the bond of being a sibling, right? The irreducible bond of being sibling. And so, that is true for us in our own lives with our own siblings. But it is also true in terms of the human family and that we’re all actually siblings and any distancing that we want to do for any good reason that we can come up with are really at odds in the mind of God.

And so, while we have a real good reason to say this or that or you know they’ve hurt me, they’ve disappointed me, and all of that is legitimate. The older brother’s pain is bitterness, understandable, and legitimate, but it gets stuff there. You know, the younger foolish brother at least finds his way back from the pig trough. And he gets an epiphany, he’s open to– He’s made to be open. And the limit of the parable is that we don’t know what happens after the banquet. We don’t know what happens to the older son’s heart after the father helps the older brother understand that, “Hey, man, this guy’s made terrible choices.”

Melissa: I don’t know, Bishop. I kind of feel like I don’t. This is a maybe a little bit meta. So, maybe the banquets heaven.

Rob: It could be.

Melissa: And maybe the bitter son, who can’t let go of his bitterness, is choosing hell over heaven.

Rob: I like how you’re working on it. I like how you are working on it. And isn’t that what we say about heaven, right? I mean, I’ve preached enough funerals to be able to say, we do say that. We do say that there is this wonderful banquet that is prepared for us, right? We will be reunited with those we love, and we will be in near and dear presence of God, in the welcoming arms of God. And what if that kind of graciousness and openness and welcome we can’t give our hearts to? What if we end up getting stuck in, you know, not a fiery pit in some sort of meta universe but maybe the fiery pit of our own sort of pride and judgmental nature.

Melissa: Right.

Rob: I think a lot about heaven and hell. And you know one of the things that I think I know now is that hell then can’t be any worse than hell now of our own isolation, our own brokenness, enmity. I’ve seen family strife close up. You know, the corrosion of families and marriages. I’ve seen contempt. I’ve seen how resentment can get as wide as river. I mean, hell can’t be any worse than that.

Melissa: Welcome back to For People. Bishop, I have banned phrase in my household. Like my children are not allowed to utter the words, “That’s not fair.” Because I feel like I’ve tried to teach that fair is often subjective, and it’s rooted in comparing. Which might very well be the catalyst for coveting.

And so, I’m wondering if you have any insights about ways people might recognize when they are falling into the trap of playing the comparison game.

Rob: We can work out whatever you feel like you want to do. Well, you know, it’s interesting. I think that’s part of the trap that consumes the older brother, right? That’s also where you see the elegance and the beauty of the father in the story. The father is able to try to meet each one where he is, right? He says to the older brother, “Hey, I see you. You’ve been here with me along and everything I have is yours, really.” And at the same time, he sees the lostness of the younger brother and runs down the road to say, “Hey, I see you.” But he doesn’t even use words. It’s just these wonderful welcoming gestures.

So, he does, I think, models for us something that is very difficult, which is not to try to succumb to this cookie cutter, boilerplate thing that we do with people, right? And try to find a way to meet people where they are and realize that my struggles may be easy for you, right? And your struggles may be easy for me. But I shouldn’t castigate you. You know, we shouldn’t castigate one another back and forth. So, he does that. So, at the same time, what the father does in this notion of the two sons is that he makes us know that there is something more at stake then to be right. And I think that is sometimes where the problem gets to for us. We put the ultimate bar on if we are right, right? And there are many marriages that have ended. And there is a lot of enmity in families when the bar, the gold standard is rightness.

What Jesus comes to tell us and model for us is there is another bar for us that is above being right. It’s not that we have any problem being right, it’s just not the top of the mountain. Why do we know that? Well, we know that because the Bible tells us when we were ye tin our sins, Jesus came to us. So, if it would have been about rightness, there is no such thing as Grace, right? There is no such thing as unconditional love. When Jesus has a conversation with the thief on the cross is that about rightness? Or no, he’s inviting a thief and a criminal who is justly being punished, according to scripture, into paradise with him.

So, all along Jesus keeps telling us these stories which sort of break the hard ground of our sort of default way to understand ourselves and the world. And it’s off-putting. Sometimes if we’re honest, we don’t like Jesus for some of these stories. You know, there’s a story that sort of in the spirit of this about some workers went out to work and they had been working long and hard. And then some workers came right at the end of the day and picked up the shovels and put on their hard hats before the whistle blew. And Jesus says they get the same pay as the guys and the girls who were there early and did the work. And we don’t like that. And perhaps we don’t like that especially as Americans, right? But what we have to ask ourselves is that, you know, is God an American? No, God is not an American. So, we are trying to figure out as Christians, right, above our national sort of loyalties and ethics, what is the mind and the heart of God? And this story releases that so much. If it was just about right and wrong, it’s a slam dunk. The story has no power. The older brother was right. The younger brother was wrong. And therefore, the father doesn’t have to run to him and give him any welcoming gesture. He can just bring him back, if he’s merciful, as a farmhand and he can live with the farmhand’s way down at the end of the property. And that’s the end of the story because that’s right and logical.

But there’s this other thing about love which is there’s something more at stake than being right.

Melissa: So, Bishop, you will often remind us of the importance of prayer. And you have a recommendation in this Devotion for praying for those who have heard us for 40-days, which you suggest may give us a new appreciation for those we love.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And maybe even those we struggle to love.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: I’m wondering if you have a personal story you might share about maybe how practicing this transformed your own relationship or maybe a story of someone else you might know?

Rob: Well, I mean, that’s the thing about living with scripture, right? These stories come to your remembrance. You see yourself as you even have struggle and strife with people. You see yourself through the lens of these stories. So, there are times when I have been upset and I have been the older brother. And there have been times that I was pleading for mercy, and I have been the younger brother in my life, perhaps too numerous to list on the podcast.

I can tell you one of my favorite stories about the power of this story. Because I think that is probably one of the other great gifts here. We have these stories, and they live with us. Like water on a stone, they work on us. We live with them over many decades. We shift around in the story. We are one character one year and the other character another year and so on. I have been everything in this story but the fatted calf, you know, that ultimately becomes the barbecue.

But we’ve got to also minister the power of these stories. Because when sometimes we find in a relationship people are struggling it’s the gift of these stories that can sort of give them a great gift of grace and perspective. And maybe even healing. My favorite story about this is that I remember a very long time ago, I had dear friends– My wife and I had dear friends. They’re just sort of a mega power couple. They were on their way, gotten engaged, and all the fancy people were notified that we were going to have this big, wonderful wedding. Every side of it was delicious except there was an infidelity that came to light, even when they were engaged by the person’s confession, something stupid, something out of line with his sort of regular way to be in the world. But nevertheless, it came to light. And then the relationship spiraled out of control. The gentleman ended up on my couch. We tried to comfort, care, and listen to the confession and all of that. And you know, not to a lot of avail, I mean, he thought he lost the very best thing in the whole world, and it was by his own doing, his own foolishness. So, he was trapped in a terrible prison of his own making, that he had lost his wonderful woman.

Because we were friends, the woman called me, maybe days, weeks later, to chat with me. She’s a high-powered lawyer. And I was trying to tell her some stuff and give her some comforting pastoral advice, maybe platitudes, I don’t know. And she was batting them away like Serena Williams bats away tennis balls. She was handing my lunch to me. She could out logic me and out argue me. It was pitiful. In the middle of all of that exchange, I realize that I was losing real fast. And I prayed, even as we were on the phone, and I said, “Lord, I’m having my behind handed to me here. I’m trying to do something good here. You got to help me.” And the only thing that came to mind, for all my learning and training and all of my fancy education, the only thing that came to mind was this story of the prodigal son. Now what was interesting was the woman was not raised in Church. She had never really had this story on her playlist, if you will. So, I told her the story. It was amazing to hear someone hear the story, you know, fresh. All I can say is that at the end of that phone call, I felt like I had just lost the big game. It was a valiant effort. But lost the big game. And here I was, this poor little pastor, trying to give this 2000-year old story to a thoroughly modern woman who is as bright as the sun. I just lost the big game. So, we said goodbye and didn’t hear much about it.

Fast forward, we danced at their wedding. You know, their son is now best friends with my son. They are in college together.

The point being, somehow in the power of the story, both of them found a way back. And when logic wouldn’t do it, dry reasoning wouldn’t do it, and certainly being right wouldn’t do it, somehow in this dramatic story that Jesus tells about somebody who got it all wrong, and somebody whose heart was big enough to accept you even when you are wrong, made a difference in their real life. And so, I tell that story when I get around to talking about this story of Jesus because in the real world these stories still matter. These stories are still generative. They are still healing. They are still aspirational for us sometimes. Sometimes they produce conflict in our souls. But the Holy Spirit is still at work in these stories. And that’s why we have to know them. And be ready to not only live with them ourselves, but offer them to others.

Melissa: Bishop, thanks for that great reminder. And thank you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.


Convicción

Los desiertos de la vida no son simplemente fases intelectuales o estaciones emocionales de nuestra vida. El peligro y la desorientación de nuestros desiertos son desconcertantes. Hay un dolor real. La amenaza de la desesperación es real; la humillación y las lágrimas son reales. En estas estaciones nos vemos obligados a comparar, contrastar, purgar y adoptar nuestras convicciones para que podamos adaptarnos, sobrevivir, incluso a prosperar. Escuchamos esta idea en la carta de San Pablo a sus amigos en Filipo. Les dice que antes de su ceguera y vulnerabilidad, su confianza estaba en su entendimiento de identidad y sus logros. Pero, en el crisol de su propio desierto, su confianza en esas cosas se quemó, dejándolo con algo más duradero que la confianza en lo terreno. Ahora está convencido de que esas cosas son “basura” en comparación con el “… superando el valor de conocer a Cristo Jesús”. Ahora está convencido de que todo lo “correcto” que podría lograr nunca se comparará con lo “correcto” que Dios quiere hacer a través de sí y de nosotros. Pablo sabe que todavía hay más que aprender acerca de Jesús, pero está convencido, quiere “… conocer el poder de la resurrección de Jesús para sí mismo, aunque eso signifique sufrimiento e incluso la muerte”. ¿Y para nosotros? Los desiertos no deben ser simplemente soportados, eso sería desperdiciar el aprendizaje profundo y las oportunidades de crecimiento. Lo que con demasiada frecuencia se etiqueta como intelectualmente interesante sobre la espiritualidad cristiana, a menudo se vuelve insípido en nuestras manos, ¡mientras que las convicciones ganadas en el desierto son convincentes y nos impulsan! Las convicciones piadosas que crecen mejor en el desierto son: la obediencia a Dios, la simplicidad, la compasión, el acompañamiento y la libertad, por nombrar algunas. En el desierto de nuestro país hace décadas, el Dr. King nos habló de su convicción nacida en el desierto, él dijo: “He decidido quedarme con el amor, el odio es una carga demasiado grande para soportar”. La obra secreta de la Cuaresma y de nuestro propio desierto personal es que el Espíritu Santo está construyendo un “Altar en el Desierto” en nosotros y fuera de nosotros para el mundo. Convencido de esa obra del Espíritu en él, dijo: “Me esfuerzo hacia adelante… Sigo adelante…”

Filipenses 3:4b-14


Tags: For Faith

APPRECIATION

The story of the Prodigal son is one of Jesus’ best. It’s probably better entitled, the story of the Loving Father. The father’s love, despite the resentment of one son and the foolishness of the other, holds the family together. Sometimes family division and bitterness can feel like we’re in the wilderness. This story tempts us to choose one son over the other and to validate one son’s pain over the other’s, that’s the trap! How can we use family wilderness times to grow in appreciation for one another? Jesus says we are to pray for those who have hurt us. If you’re in a wilderness with someone in your family, pray for them for forty days. Pray that God would enlighten both of you.

That both of you could claim your contributions to the brokenness of the relationship. The answer to these kinds of prayers will come in the form of a softer heart and a feeling of discovery of the other person and of yourself. There is more to be gained in these kinds of wildernesses than self-righteousness.
Excerpt from Bishop Wright’s Growing in the Wilderness Series | Lent 2022


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rao, and this is a conversation inspired Bishop Wright’s For Faith Weekly Devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description.

During Lent, Bishop Wright is doing a video series called Growing in the Wilderness. You can check that out at EpiscopalAtlanta.org.

Hey, Bishop, you called this week’s Lent and Devotion, Appreciation.

You name the two real dynamic of family drama. You highlight the joy of the father being reunited with the son who returned, which is juxtaposed by the enmity and bitterness that turns inside the brother who never went astray.

Rob: Yes.

Melissa: So, I’m wondering if you can share your overall thoughts about the truths hidden within this gem of a story.

Rob: All right. So, let’s back up a minute. So, what we’re talking about today really is the story of the prodigal son, which is an oldie but a goody, one of Jesus’ best. Some people know it as the story of the– the parable of the loving father, right? And you know, even secular society has some son of what the prodigal son story is all about. It’s a kid who goes out and squanders the money and ends up in a brothel and famine comes and blows the doors off of his life and he ends up being a hired hand and even eating with pigs, which was a terrible thing for a young Jewish boy.

And so, what I wanted to do in this story was just take a deeper dive. Because what people do is they get caught up, you know, in picking sides in the story. That is the trap of the story. There’s the younger son who is foolish, but there is the older son who is trapped in his cynicism, right? So, one, you know, he gets his epiphany because of lack of want of trouble. And then the oldest son never quite gets his epiphany because his eyes are blinded by privilege and bitterness.

So, you know, it’s just a great story to think with Jesus. You know, Jesus throws the story out. And he wants us– I mean, the point of Jesus’ story is that he wants us to know the mind and the heart of God. What is the mind and the heart of God? That you and I find our way home. That you and I find our way back. And if we ever take one step in that direction, God comes running down a dusty road towards us despite our misdeeds, misdoings, our bad decisions, our stupidity. You know, there’s this loving God running towards, not running away, not castigating, shaming us. And so, that’s the big deal. And so, I would just want to give people another lens to look at this story. The story through the lens of appreciation. So, what does it mean to appreciate in this story? And I make the case about that.

Melissa: Well, it’s lent, and so to me, it’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of the prodigal son. Or, you know, to return to the father. Or even be in the shoes of the father to forgive someone who has wronged us.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And yet, I’m maybe infatuated a little bit by the other son, you know, the brother. I’m sure many of us can easily identify with him, in his own unique way, who is also living in a sort of wilderness.

Rob: Yeah, sure. Sure, he is, yeah, right.

Melissa: And so, do you have any advice for those who identify with the other son?

Rob: No, I have no advice. I just tell you that the story is just absolutely delicious and so, you know, I have– You know, I think if we’re honest and we’ve lived just a little while, you know, we’ve been the younger brother. Like we’ve been foolish, right? We’ve ignored wise counsel. We thought we knew better than everybody else and then we ended up trapped in a prison, a wilderness of our own bad decisions, and need some help. So, that’s the one brother.

And then, some of us, and I have been as well, I have been the faithful, rule-keeping, keeping it between the lanes older brother. Who gets up early and goes to bed late. I have been that dude who also wonders why in the hell other people can’t get their stuff together and if they were a little bit more like me, “Aw, wouldn’t the world be better.” And so, I know I’m not the only one who has had those thoughts, in the family, in the marriage, at the office. The older brother speaks in terms of them and those.

And even in this story, the older brother says to his father, about his younger brother, “Your son.” Which is an interesting move, isn’t it? Because he is disassociating himself with his brother. And it’s really interesting that the father doesn’t let him get away with that. And so, when the older brother, in his bitterness realizes that a party is going to be thrown for the younger brother and that he gets jewelry and a new pair of shoes, you know, and a barbecue in his honor, right, lavish party. This just throws the older son, you know, just sort of out into the stratosphere. And he says, you know, “Your son,” “Your son lived in desolate living.” “Your son,” you know, mixed it up with prostitutes. “Your son,” did all of that.

Of course, the father says to him, “Your brother was lost and now is found.” And so, you know, number one, part of the genius of the father in the story is that he’s trying to help the older brother appreciate the bond of being a sibling, right? The irreducible bond of being sibling. And so, that is true for us in our own lives with our own siblings. But it is also true in terms of the human family and that we’re all actually siblings and any distancing that we want to do for any good reason that we can come up with are really at odds in the mind of God.

And so, while we have a real good reason to say this or that or you know they’ve hurt me, they’ve disappointed me, and all of that is legitimate. The older brother’s pain is bitterness, understandable, and legitimate, but it gets stuff there. You know, the younger foolish brother at least finds his way back from the pig trough. And he gets an epiphany, he’s open to– He’s made to be open. And the limit of the parable is that we don’t know what happens after the banquet. We don’t know what happens to the older son’s heart after the father helps the older brother understand that, “Hey, man, this guy’s made terrible choices.”

Melissa: I don’t know, Bishop. I kind of feel like I don’t. This is a maybe a little bit meta. So, maybe the banquets heaven.

Rob: It could be.

Melissa: And maybe the bitter son, who can’t let go of his bitterness, is choosing hell over heaven.

Rob: I like how you’re working on it. I like how you are working on it. And isn’t that what we say about heaven, right? I mean, I’ve preached enough funerals to be able to say, we do say that. We do say that there is this wonderful banquet that is prepared for us, right? We will be reunited with those we love, and we will be in near and dear presence of God, in the welcoming arms of God. And what if that kind of graciousness and openness and welcome we can’t give our hearts to? What if we end up getting stuck in, you know, not a fiery pit in some sort of meta universe but maybe the fiery pit of our own sort of pride and judgmental nature.

Melissa: Right.

Rob: I think a lot about heaven and hell. And you know one of the things that I think I know now is that hell then can’t be any worse than hell now of our own isolation, our own brokenness, enmity. I’ve seen family strife close up. You know, the corrosion of families and marriages. I’ve seen contempt. I’ve seen how resentment can get as wide as river. I mean, hell can’t be any worse than that.

Melissa: Welcome back to For People. Bishop, I have banned phrase in my household. Like my children are not allowed to utter the words, “That’s not fair.” Because I feel like I’ve tried to teach that fair is often subjective, and it’s rooted in comparing. Which might very well be the catalyst for coveting.

And so, I’m wondering if you have any insights about ways people might recognize when they are falling into the trap of playing the comparison game.

Rob: We can work out whatever you feel like you want to do. Well, you know, it’s interesting. I think that’s part of the trap that consumes the older brother, right? That’s also where you see the elegance and the beauty of the father in the story. The father is able to try to meet each one where he is, right? He says to the older brother, “Hey, I see you. You’ve been here with me along and everything I have is yours, really.” And at the same time, he sees the lostness of the younger brother and runs down the road to say, “Hey, I see you.” But he doesn’t even use words. It’s just these wonderful welcoming gestures.

So, he does, I think, models for us something that is very difficult, which is not to try to succumb to this cookie cutter, boilerplate thing that we do with people, right? And try to find a way to meet people where they are and realize that my struggles may be easy for you, right? And your struggles may be easy for me. But I shouldn’t castigate you. You know, we shouldn’t castigate one another back and forth. So, he does that. So, at the same time, what the father does in this notion of the two sons is that he makes us know that there is something more at stake then to be right. And I think that is sometimes where the problem gets to for us. We put the ultimate bar on if we are right, right? And there are many marriages that have ended. And there is a lot of enmity in families when the bar, the gold standard is rightness.

What Jesus comes to tell us and model for us is there is another bar for us that is above being right. It’s not that we have any problem being right, it’s just not the top of the mountain. Why do we know that? Well, we know that because the Bible tells us when we were ye tin our sins, Jesus came to us. So, if it would have been about rightness, there is no such thing as Grace, right? There is no such thing as unconditional love. When Jesus has a conversation with the thief on the cross is that about rightness? Or no, he’s inviting a thief and a criminal who is justly being punished, according to scripture, into paradise with him.

So, all along Jesus keeps telling us these stories which sort of break the hard ground of our sort of default way to understand ourselves and the world. And it’s off-putting. Sometimes if we’re honest, we don’t like Jesus for some of these stories. You know, there’s a story that sort of in the spirit of this about some workers went out to work and they had been working long and hard. And then some workers came right at the end of the day and picked up the shovels and put on their hard hats before the whistle blew. And Jesus says they get the same pay as the guys and the girls who were there early and did the work. And we don’t like that. And perhaps we don’t like that especially as Americans, right? But what we have to ask ourselves is that, you know, is God an American? No, God is not an American. So, we are trying to figure out as Christians, right, above our national sort of loyalties and ethics, what is the mind and the heart of God? And this story releases that so much. If it was just about right and wrong, it’s a slam dunk. The story has no power. The older brother was right. The younger brother was wrong. And therefore, the father doesn’t have to run to him and give him any welcoming gesture. He can just bring him back, if he’s merciful, as a farmhand and he can live with the farmhand’s way down at the end of the property. And that’s the end of the story because that’s right and logical.

But there’s this other thing about love which is there’s something more at stake than being right.

Melissa: So, Bishop, you will often remind us of the importance of prayer. And you have a recommendation in this Devotion for praying for those who have heard us for 40-days, which you suggest may give us a new appreciation for those we love.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And maybe even those we struggle to love.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: I’m wondering if you have a personal story you might share about maybe how practicing this transformed your own relationship or maybe a story of someone else you might know?

Rob: Well, I mean, that’s the thing about living with scripture, right? These stories come to your remembrance. You see yourself as you even have struggle and strife with people. You see yourself through the lens of these stories. So, there are times when I have been upset and I have been the older brother. And there have been times that I was pleading for mercy, and I have been the younger brother in my life, perhaps too numerous to list on the podcast.

I can tell you one of my favorite stories about the power of this story. Because I think that is probably one of the other great gifts here. We have these stories, and they live with us. Like water on a stone, they work on us. We live with them over many decades. We shift around in the story. We are one character one year and the other character another year and so on. I have been everything in this story but the fatted calf, you know, that ultimately becomes the barbecue.

But we’ve got to also minister the power of these stories. Because when sometimes we find in a relationship people are struggling it’s the gift of these stories that can sort of give them a great gift of grace and perspective. And maybe even healing. My favorite story about this is that I remember a very long time ago, I had dear friends– My wife and I had dear friends. They’re just sort of a mega power couple. They were on their way, gotten engaged, and all the fancy people were notified that we were going to have this big, wonderful wedding. Every side of it was delicious except there was an infidelity that came to light, even when they were engaged by the person’s confession, something stupid, something out of line with his sort of regular way to be in the world. But nevertheless, it came to light. And then the relationship spiraled out of control. The gentleman ended up on my couch. We tried to comfort, care, and listen to the confession and all of that. And you know, not to a lot of avail, I mean, he thought he lost the very best thing in the whole world, and it was by his own doing, his own foolishness. So, he was trapped in a terrible prison of his own making, that he had lost his wonderful woman.

Because we were friends, the woman called me, maybe days, weeks later, to chat with me. She’s a high-powered lawyer. And I was trying to tell her some stuff and give her some comforting pastoral advice, maybe platitudes, I don’t know. And she was batting them away like Serena Williams bats away tennis balls. She was handing my lunch to me. She could out logic me and out argue me. It was pitiful. In the middle of all of that exchange, I realize that I was losing real fast. And I prayed, even as we were on the phone, and I said, “Lord, I’m having my behind handed to me here. I’m trying to do something good here. You got to help me.” And the only thing that came to mind, for all my learning and training and all of my fancy education, the only thing that came to mind was this story of the prodigal son. Now what was interesting was the woman was not raised in Church. She had never really had this story on her playlist, if you will. So, I told her the story. It was amazing to hear someone hear the story, you know, fresh. All I can say is that at the end of that phone call, I felt like I had just lost the big game. It was a valiant effort. But lost the big game. And here I was, this poor little pastor, trying to give this 2000-year old story to a thoroughly modern woman who is as bright as the sun. I just lost the big game. So, we said goodbye and didn’t hear much about it.

Fast forward, we danced at their wedding. You know, their son is now best friends with my son. They are in college together.

The point being, somehow in the power of the story, both of them found a way back. And when logic wouldn’t do it, dry reasoning wouldn’t do it, and certainly being right wouldn’t do it, somehow in this dramatic story that Jesus tells about somebody who got it all wrong, and somebody whose heart was big enough to accept you even when you are wrong, made a difference in their real life. And so, I tell that story when I get around to talking about this story of Jesus because in the real world these stories still matter. These stories are still generative. They are still healing. They are still aspirational for us sometimes. Sometimes they produce conflict in our souls. But the Holy Spirit is still at work in these stories. And that’s why we have to know them. And be ready to not only live with them ourselves, but offer them to others.

Melissa: Bishop, thanks for that great reminder. And thank you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.


Apreciación

La historia del hijo pródigo es una de las mejores parábolas de Jesús. Probablemente, sería, mejor titulada, la historia del Padre Amoroso. El amor de padre, a pesar del resentimiento de un hijo y de la necedad del otro, mantiene unida a la familia. A veces la división familiar y la amargura pueden sentirse como si estuviéramos en el desierto. Esta historia nos tienta a elegir a un hijo sobre el otro y a validar el dolor de un hijo sobre el dolor del otro, ¡esa es la trampa! ¿Cómo podemos usar los tiempos de desierto de la familia para crecer en la apreciación de los unos por otros? Jesús dice que debemos orar por aquellos que nos han herido. Si estás pasando por un desierto con alguien en tu familia, ora por ellos por cuarenta días. Oren para que Dios les ilumine a ambos. Para que ambos puedan descubrir cuáles fueron sus contribuciones al quebrantamiento de la relación. La respuesta a este tipo de oraciones vendrá en forma de un corazón más suave y un sentimiento de descubrimiento de la otra persona y de sí mismo. Hay mucho más que obtener en este tipo de desiertos que la propia justicia.

Tomado de la Serie Especial : Creciendo en el Desierto, por el Obispo Wright para la Cuaresma 2022


Tags: For Faith

INTIMACY

Before Moses becomes a deliverer of his people, he’s a felon in the wilderness.  What changes him from a rogue to a reformer is a new intimacy with God.  Out of a blazing bush, he hears God whisper his name and the name of his ancestors.  The story climaxes with God offering God’s name to Moses, “I AM.”  The exchange of names is the beginning of knowing and being known.  It’s the beginning of intimacy.  The exchange of names launches friendships, trusting partnerships, even marriages, and in Moses’ case, a history-changing revolution.  Does it transform you to know that God knows and is calling your name?  Does it change anything that God knows and has spoken with all of your forebears?  It’s not a coincidence that men and women who have made this world look more like heaven and less like hell speak of an intimacy with a loving God as their starting place.  In the quietness of the wilderness in life, we can grow in our desire for intimacy and of acceptance with God. 

Excerpt from Bishop Wright’s Growing in the Wilderness Series | Lent 2022


For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.


Intimidad

Antes de que Moisés se convirtiera en el libertador de su pueblo, era un delincuente en el desierto. Lo que lo cambia de ser un fugitivo a ser un reformador de una nueva intimidad con Dios. Desde un arbusto en llamas, él oye a Dios susurrar su nombre y el nombre de sus antepasados. La historia se enmarca con Dios declarando su nombre a Moisés, “YO SOY”. El intercambio de nombres es el comienzo de una relación, del conocimiento y de ser conocido. Es el comienzo de la intimidad. Con el intercambio de nombres comienzan amistades, relaciones de confianza, e incluso matrimonios, y en el caso de Moisés, una revolución libertadora que cambia la historia de la humanidad. ¿Te transforma el saber que Dios te conoce y está llamándote por tu nombre? ¿Te impacta descubrir que Dios conoce y ha hablado con todos tus antepasados? No es una coincidencia que los hombres y mujeres que han hecho que este mundo parezca más cielo y menos infierno hablen de su intimidad con un Dios amoroso como el lugar de inicio de su misión. En la quietud del desierto en nuestra vida podemos crecer en el deseo de una mayor intimidad con Dios.

Tomado de la Serie Especial : Creciendo en el Desierto, por el Obispo Wright para la Cuaresma 2022


Tags: For Faith

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