Tosa Rector

The some time random but (mostly) theological offerings of a chatty preacher learning to use his words in a different medium.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tosa Rector Moves On (in the Blogosphere that is)!


After a good run of consecutive posts (January 8 - April 20, 2011), the streak ended when the days of the Triduum began. I enjoyed the discipline of attempting to have something to say on a daily basis. So much so, that the more I began to experiment with this "blogging thing", the more frustrated I became with:

1.  My ineptitude of figuring out how to make some of the features of this particular publishing platform work, which led to, unfortunately, a blog that was visually unappealing and technologically challenged.

2.  All of the editorial strictures I placed upon myself. After all, if I was "Tosa Rector", wasn't I in some way "speaking" for/to the parish I serve? How was I to experiment with finding my voice if that voice was always governed by the very title of the blog?

So, for at least those two reasons, this is my last post here. I'm presently working with a new platform and this evening, I managed to get the title page and first entry posted. I hope the new site will provide the technical flexibility and user-friendliness I need. I'm also going to use the new platform to speak more as "me" and less as "the Rector". I'm not exactly sure how that will work, but I'm ready to give it a whirl.

Until we have all of the particulars figured out with the Trinity website, the "blogging with the Rector" button will still bring you here. But that's OK...I'm not going to take this down for a while (I need to cull through the past 3 years of entries to see if any are worth saving). In the meantime, you can find me at:

I hope to see you over there soon!
Easter blessings to you all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Every year during Holy Week, the clergy from all over the Diocese of Milwaukee make their way to (usually) the Cathedral Church of All Saints for the purpose of reaffirming the vows they made on the day of their respective ordinations. This is a tradition in the Church dating back centuries, and many dioceses throughout the Episcopal Church observe the custom. Taking time during Holy Week to reconnect with the call to ordained ministry is a wise investment of time during a week when it's easy to get caught up in "bulletin busy-ness", "sermon shaping" and "leaping through liturgies" -- as if the goal of the week is to simply make it to the Easter afternoon nap.

As I stood in the Cathedral yesterday reaffirming my commitment to the vows I made the first time over eight years ago, I couldn't help but remember the day of my ordination to the priesthood. I remember how fast it all seemed to go -- the liturgy, the reception, the well-wishes from family and friends. But the place where time seemed to pass in slow motion was during "the Examination" (BCP, p. 531ff). As the Bishop Suffragan of Southern Virginia looked me in the eye and asked me question after question (the vows), the weightiness of the moment solidified all around me. I felt alone and supported simultaneously. I knew this was the ministry to which I had been called and I was anxious to "get on with it". But the Examination provided the necessary corrective -- the ministry of the Church is lived out in a different timeframe than the rest of the world.

Everything the Examination asks of those ordained to the priesthood, diaconate and episcopate takes time...lots, and lots of time. There is no way to cultivate a life of prayer in 20 minutes each week. Reading and studying can't be done in the time it takes a microwave dinner to cook. Caring for God's people is more than an e-mail or a Facebook post. One cannot minister the sacraments of the New Covenant "virtually" -- it's all done with real people in real time.

From time to time, I still want to "get on with it". Impatience is a constant in my life -- to the extent I become impatient with my impatience. Yesterday reminded me (AGAIN!) that this ministry isn't on my timeline -- it is on God's. My job is to remember my role -- a servant of God's people in the service of the Good News. I may fail miserably at remembering this role tomorrow. But for now, for today, I am "reaffirmed".

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Tuesday

Here's the reprint of the post I wrote for the Diocese of Milwaukee's Lenten Bible Study Blog:

“The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

When the Apostle Paul penned these words nearly two millennia ago, the notion that Messiah, God’s Anointed, had actually been put to death by the machinations of an Empire was an affront to the “way things were supposed to be”. Messiah was supposed to liberate God’s people from oppression, not fall victim to it!

Paul’s argument in the face of this contradiction was to adamantly hold to the righteousness of God and to invite his friends to enter more fully into the mystery of the cross as saving event rather than mourning it as a travesty of justice or the tragedy of human cruelty. We are invited, during this Holy Week to do the same. To walk the way of the cross is to confront our own discomfort with a part of the Gospel story we’d probably prefer to ignore.

The collect appointed for today, asks, in part, that the Church will “glory in the cross of Christ”. How does that happen? How is God’s wisdom made known in the illogical (even foolish) shamefulness of the cross? How is the wisdom of the world turned inside out by this event which defies human logic? How exactly does the body of Jesus being nailed to the cross unleash the power of God to save the world?

So many questions come along with us on this Holy Week journey. Very few answers make sense. Most answers sound somewhat incomplete.

I wonder. If we could figure out all the answers, would we then begin to trust our own wisdom as a power on a level with God’s? Would we begin to act as if we had some control over the God of Sarah, Rebecca, Ruth, Hannah and Mary – the God who, over and over again, refuses to conform to human expectations of how a god should behave?

The God of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs still confounds us today – with irascibility we find unsettling. This God comes to us in the ways of weakness – a babe in a stable cave and a dying man on a cross. The Church proclaims, with particular emphasis during Holy Week, that this foolishly behaving God has, “brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.” (BCP, p. 368) But this power of God to salvation and wholeness isn’t merely a set of interesting teachings inscribed in a book. This saving power is gifted to the world in the weakness of human flesh – Jesus, Son of Mary, Son of God.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Homily Summary from Holy Monday
As a part of our Holy Week observance at Trinity, we have a brief service of Holy Eucharist on Holy Monday (today). The Gospel reading appointed for this liturgy is the Gospel of John's version of the woman who pours costly perfume on Jesus. In John's telling, the woman is Mary, sister of Lazarus (who Jesus raised from the dead). In all of the Gospels which record this extravagant act of giving, one or more people criticize the act as being "wasteful". Couldn't the expensive and precious ointment have been sold and the money given to the poor for their benefit?

Here in the Upper Midwest, such practical frugality is applauded.
Don't waste!
Be judicious!
Benefit the most with the least!

But the woman demonstrates to us
That sometimes,
Prudence must be laid aside
In an extravagant act of love.

As I reflected upon the woman's gift to Jesus, I kept thinking of how, in the Church, we've turned Holy Week into some sort of endurance contest. We're constantly inviting each other to take care of ourselves, not get too stressed, and to remember that "Holy Week will be over soon and then we can get some rest."

We seem to have forgotten that Holy Week is why the Church is "in business". The events we will commemorate this week are the formative events of the faith. Why are we always telling ourselves to "take it easy"?

Here's what I hope.
I hope that I can so fully
Enter into the Mystery of this Week
That by the time the liturgies of Easter Day
Are completed
I will be fully emptied.
Out of gas.
Used up.
I hope I am able
To fully let go and lavish
My worship upon Jesus.
Somehow, this seems appropriate.
After all, he lavished his life upon me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Announcing the Tour de DioMil

Some of you have heard about this already. But here are a few of the developing specifics. As a part of my sabbatical, I intend to spend the better part of two weeks biking the "perimeter" of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. The purpose of this ride is threefold:

1. My own personal benefit. After rediscovering biking last year, I have reconnected with my love of the outdoors and the sheer fun I have getting from place to place aboard two wheels and pedals. I'm not a racer. I'm not an extreme sports kind of guy either. In fact, most of my friends know me as more of a couch potato/book worm type. But I wanted to set a goal and then work toward acheiving something that is both reasonable and challenging for me personally. Between now and the end of August, I will be working to ride an average of 75-100 miles each week (either outside on my bike or inside on various bike substitutes). But as I post my weekly totals or several of the longer day trips I plan to take between now and then, I wanted you all to know the context for all of this pedal pushing.

2. To call attention to the ministries of (mostly) smaller Episcopal Churches that have their being on the outskirts of the Diocese of Milwaukee. This diocese is essentially the southern one-third of the state and most of the congregations are concentrated in the greater Milwaukee area. The parishes in small towns are often overshadowed by larger Roman Catholic and/or Lutheran congregations, even though these parishes do remarkable ministries within their communities, often without the benefit of "full time" clergy presence. My hope is that at each stop, I will be able to meet with parishioners of the congregation, hear their parish story and learn about their ministry in the particular context in which they are located. I also hope that this venture will serve as a way of calling attention to the fact that in the Episcopal Church, "the Diocese" isn't an office building, but people in parishes, serving Jesus in cities, villages and towns.

3. To raise at least $50,000 for three very worthy causes -- The Haiti Project of the Diocese of Milwaukee ($20K); The clean water initiatives of Episcopal Relief and Development (15K) and World Bicycle Relief (15K).

The days and route of the tour are as follows (and for you non-Wisconsin readers, I recommend checking some of these towns out on a map!):

August 30: St. Simon the Fisherman, Port Washington to St. Mark's, Beaver Dam
August 31: St. Mark's, Beaver Dam to Trinity, Baraboo
September 1: Trinity Baraboo to St. Barnabas, Richland Center
September 2: (Rest Day)
September 3: St. Barnabas, Richland Center to Holy Trinity, Prairie du Chein
September 4: Holy Trinity, Prairie du Chein to Trinity, Platteville
September 5: Trinity, Platteville to St. Andrew's, Monroe
September 6: (Rest Day)
September 7: St. Andrew's, Monroe to St. Paul's, Beloit
September 8: St. Paul's, Beloit to St. Matthew's, Kenosha
September 9: St. Matthew's, Kenosha to St. Simon the Fisherman, Port Washington (with midday stop at the Cathedral of All Saints' in Milwaukee)

A website is presently under construction and I'll let you all know when it's completed (hopefully in the next week or two). In the meantime, I hope those of you who live in the Diocese of Milwaukee will consider helping me promote this initiative and join me on the tour for a "leg" or three! I am excited about this project and I can't wait to see how it will unfold. Thanks for reading! Thanks for praying! Thanks (hopefully) for giving! :-)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Church Chores

This morning,
While no one was looking
A few people went about their work --
Preparing the worship space
For tomorrow's liturgy.

Arranging palm fronds in vases,
And for distribution on Sunday morning.
Removing the Lenten altar vestments,
And replacing them with the Holy Week Red.
Setting the elements and various containers
In their appropriate places.

This activity of "setting up"
Takes place week in and week out
Mostly unnoticed
Mostly anonymous
Mostly without wrinkle or hitch.
Which is how
Altar Guild members want it!

Their service is an act of devotion
To their Lord
And for their church.
No one else needs to know.
But I do.
For the gift of dedicated service
To the "House for God's People"
And the care of "Holy Things"
By these Holy People
I give hearty thanks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Holy Week ZZZZ's

Yesterday, I was reading the story in Matthew's Gospel about Jesus in the Garden of Gethesemene. He's got eleven of the Twelve with him -- Judas has already departed the scene. Jesus takes Peter and the two sons of Zebedee on ahead of the other eight and instructs them to "stay awake" while he prays. Three times Jesus prays that God's will be done in whatever awaits him. Three times he returns to Peter, James and John and finds them asleep. The final time, Matthew writes, "because their eyes were heavy."

The more I've thought of this scene and the more I've listened to clergy types make the annual statements concerning the amount of work attendant to our Holy Week schedules (looming ahead for next week). The more I've begun to wonder about how, if I'm not careful, I could very well spiritually "sleep walk" through the entire thing. Now my eyes will be wide open. I will be officiating and preaching and liturgizing all over the place. We will walk the way of the cross as a community of faith. It will all be more than worth the efforts expended by so many people.

But I am praying now that I won't miss the point of it all. Because it matters not whether we are producing the sounds of bone-weary snoring or hyperactive buzzing, the "zzzz's" will preclude us from watching with Jesus and seeing the victory of our God.