On Sunday, January 15, Bishop Steve Lane was the featured preacher at A Service of Light, a community service held at St. John’s, Bangor, to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In his sermon he had, in part, this to say.
[T]he dream of God is a different dream. It’s not about beating people down, it’s about building them up. It’s a dream of the love of God made flesh in Jesus. It’s a dream of hearts being changed and conquered by love. It’s a dream of light that was given, a light shining amidst the darkness of the world, that the darkness can’t put out. It’s a dream of ordinary men and women, people like you and me, inhabiting that dream and making it real in our lives and among the people we live.
The pain and the urgency of living in an in-between time are very
apparent to us these days. Whether our focus is personal or political, whether we’re waiting for a child to be born or an illness to pass or an injustice to be redressed, waiting is hard. We want to know what will happen. We want to know when the waiting will end. We want our dreams to be realized. And… we just don’t know.
As some wag once put it, the question for Advent is (to quote the rock band Chicago) “Does anybody really know what time it is?” Advent is the season of the in-between time, the season when we wait for the annual celebration of Jesus’ birth, Christ’s first coming among us, and when we wait for Christ to come again to set things right. Our world is an in-between world, a world in which the outlines of a better way of life are visible, but far from realized. We long for the world we think we can see, and we hope that God will make it real.
I’m frankly not very good at not knowing. It challenges all my illusions of power and control. There really isn’t anything I can do, but wait, and fret – which, as my wise wife, Gretchen, says – doesn’t help.
It does help me to remember that while I wait for a more perfect realization of God’s new world, I am not alone. Christ came down at Christmas and remains with us. Jesus’ was born among us and still invites us to follow. Jesus was crucified and raised and calls us to live as his body. The time in-between is also the time of Jesus’ presence through the Spirit.
Our cry, “How long, O Lord, how long” (Psalm 13:1) is met with this assurance:
“…I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Ps. 31:14-16)
Let the radiance of the child in the manger calm your heart. God is here, right here, right now. May this Christmas be for us a time not only of celebration, but of peace. May we rest in God’s love for us. May we trust in God’s presence among us. May we know that we are held – in this in-between time as in all times – in God’s loving hand.
Merry Christmas, my friends.
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine
Click the links for this message as a half-page bulletin insert or for a full-page letter.
“This may be the time to claim our vocation of embracing all God’s creation, all God’s children.” Bishop Stephen T. Lane on the morning after the 2016 election
He also posted this message and invitation to prayer to Maine Episcopalians on election night:
Dear friends in the Diocese of Maine,
In the midst of all the division and polarization in our state, our nation, and our world, in the midst of disrespect and name-calling, we are invited to be kind.
In the midst of all the violence, the wars and rumors of war, we are invited to be gentle, to make peace.
In the midst of calls to take sides, to choose for ourselves and against others, we are invited to be friends with all, to seek Christ in every person and to respect the dignity of every human being.
Going forward after this long season of politics, we need the calm, steady, kindly presence of people who are not flapped by what is happening around them, who believe that God is with them and that God can be trusted come what may.
Tonight we elect a President, not a savior. What we’re doing in the polling booth is a reflection of our values and our commitments.
The manner in which we conduct our lives is a sign of the trust we have in God and that all things are possible with God. In the midst of our many lamentations, may we have confidence in God’s presence among us.
Please pray with me this prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book:
Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.
The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray.
(from Night Prayers, the New Zealand Prayer Book)
Here’s what Bishop Steve Lane has had to say in the last few weeks: his Convention address to the people of the Diocese of Maine, an op-ed on the minimum wage referendum in the Portland Press Herald and one in the Lewiston Sun Journal on background checks.
Bishop Steve Lane visited the people of St. Barnabas’, Rumford, on Sunday, October 2. In his sermon he had this, in part, to say:
The problem with notions of heroic faith is that it suggests that the outcome is dependent on us, that it’s up to us to save the world. It suggests that God isn’t present and active here, that we need to bring God to this place in order for good things to happen. And that, of course, is contrary to everything we believe about God.
On Thursday, September 8, Bishop Stephen T. Lane was joined at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland by St. Luke’s Cathedral Dean Ben Shambaugh and the Rev. Larry Weeks, rector of Trinity Church and St. Peter’s, Portland, as well as ministers and rabbis from several Portland-area congregations to voice their support for Question 4, the ballot initiative that will raise the minimum wage in Maine to $12 by 2020. Also speaking were two women who would be directly affected by passage of the measure. Read the text and learn more about Question 4.
The text of Bishop Lane’s remarks may be read below the video window.
Good afternoon. My name is Stephen Lane, and I am the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. I am here to offer my support for Question 4, the referendum which will raise the minimum wage for workers across Maine. I am also pleased to share the endorsement of the Maine Council of Churches, which represents nine denominations and 550 congregations.
It is fitting to offer support this week as our nation celebrates Labor Day to honor the contributions millions of workers have made to our country’s strength and prosperity.
For more than 20 years, The Episcopal Church has promoted efforts to establish a living wage, supported workers in achieving self-sufficiency, and worked to maintain a safety net critical to the welfare of vulnerable families.
Like many Mainers, I am concerned about the decades of growing wage inequality and how it compromises the dignity of every human being. Working people have been losing ground since the 1970’s. More than 180,000 working people in Maine will benefit from the first raise in the minimum wage since 2009, 90 percent of them over the age of 20 and many over the age of 55. The primary beneficiaries of an enhanced wage will be women, many of them single parents, as well as the parents of 63,000 Maine children. Our call as Christians is to love and support our most vulnerable neighbors, and the current income inequity requires us to speak out on their behalf.
The minimum wage is an issue of faith. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves and that requires us to work for all of our fellow citizens. At our annual convention in October the Episcopal Church in Maine will consider a proposal to set a $12 per hour minimum wage for our churches’ lay employees for 2017 with the intention to move to a $15 per hour living wage by 2020. Churches from Dover-Foxcroft to Portland support this measure. We are taking our quest for economic justice to the pews and are hopeful Maine people will support our position.
I am proud to be among many Mainers supporting Question 4. As more small business coalitions and individuals support the increase to the minimum wage, I hope all businesses will realize this step will be beneficial to the whole economy in the long term. It is difficult to make a change such as this piecemeal. It makes much greater sense to do it together. This measured, incremental approach to achieving a moral economy will help our fellow citizens across the state. An economy where all work is justly valued benefits all Mainers.
Over the past two Sundays, Bishop Steve Lane visited Maine summer chapels celebrating their 100th anniversaries: All Saints by the Sea on Bailey Island, Harpswell, on July 31, and St. Martin in the Fields in Biddeford Pool on on August 7.
[We’ll add more photos as they become available.]
In his sermon at St. Martin’s he had this, in part, to say:
Although the chapels operate according to the traditions of The Episcopal Church, they do so without all canonical bureaucracy of an Episcopal congregation. They are places where the church and the world can meet in the beautiful Maine landscape, where persons of all sorts can mingle without pressure to join, and where the love of God isn’t nuanced by church politics. Summer chapels are places where people who deeply love God and the church can share their faith and tradition, and people who rarely come to church can hear and consider the love of God. It may well be that the openness and low key vibe of summer chapels offers some important learning for year round congregations.
While I was on vacation in July, it seemed for a while as if all hell had broken loose. There were the killings of unarmed black men by police in two cities, the sniper attack on the police in Dallas protecting a Black Lives Matter rally, and the murder of 80 persons run over by a terrorist truck driver during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France. All this while the nation prepared for the Republican and Democratic Nominating Conventions. The newscasts and the internet were alive with exaggerated statements about the unleashing of a race war among us and the end of life as we’ve known it. I eventually needed to stop paying attention to preserve my vacation.
It’s true, of course, that life as we’ve known it is ending. That’s always the case. Change alone is constant. And the pace of change is much more rapid today.
Our country is becoming increasingly diverse with more and more persons holding to traditions other than those from England and northern Europe. Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers. In a very short time, there will be no majority culture in America.
More and more of us find our standard of living declining. Real income has been declining in America for more than 40 years. It now takes two incomes to earn less in real dollars than what one earned in 1965. The American Dream of homeownership and a comfortable retirement is increasingly difficult to achieve.
And our racism is a real problem. Not bigotry – all people prefer their own clans and cultures – but racism: personal prejudice enforced by power that makes it difficult for people to drive while black, rent an apartment in a burka, or get a job while speaking Spanish. Our old white-Anglo prejudice, our sin of racism, is staring us in the face, and the picture isn’t pretty.
None of these things is new, of course. But a majority of us suddenly seem to have become aware of them. We seem to have reached a tipping point. It’s as if we awoke recently from a long sleep to realize that this is no longer the world of our grandparents.
For many of us, the changes are frightening. We don’t know what to do. It is all too easy in the face of these things to try to build dikes to hold back the tide and to fall prey to fear and panic: to believe that the solution to the ills we face is to close our borders, purify our communities, and buy guns. But none of these efforts have ever prevented change, and they won’t now. Change will come because the forces driving it are larger than we are, and because it is God’s will. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
God surely does not want a world that looks like the present one, filled with divisions, genocides, poverty, and terrorism. Rather, I believe God seeks a new world where people of every race and color are affirmed in their dignity as children of God and have the means for safe, secure and happy lives. As Christians, as members of the Body of God’s Son, we are called to join God in building that new world.
I think we are called now to nothing less than being who we say we are: members of the Body of Christ. We are called to trust that God is in charge, that God is working God’s purposes out can be trusted to be faithful to the world God has made. We are called to love God and neighbor and to act on that love every day.
As Christians our trust is in God, not the next President. No matter who is elected in November, neither will save the world. Both candidates are fallible humans who will have to deal with an stubborn political process and prickly world neighbors. Both will be found to make mistakes, to be less than perfect in relation to the economy and terrorism and climate change. They will be sinners in need of redemption, as we all are. We can not put our trust in them. We must vote as wisely as we know how, but we must not kid ourselves that the election will make everything right.
President Obama recently said that America is not as deeply divided as recent events would make it seem. I agree. Most of us do our jobs, raise our kids, care for our communities, and live peaceably with our neighbors. When we get a chance, we try to have fun. We don’t all like one another, but we get along. And we all want a better world for our children.
The thing Jesus said most often in scripture was: “Do not be afraid.” I believe that’s the Word we need to hear now. Do not be afraid. Trust in God. And do your part, however small, to love the world God has made. Be kind to one another and civil to those with whom you disagree. Share what you have and work to affirm the dignity of those who are different. Pray for the wounded and the dead. Hope for a better world. Only love has the power to overcome the world as it is, and we have that love in Christ Jesus.
My greetings and love to each and every one of you. May God bless you and keep you today and always. I encourage you to be in conversation with one another and with me about these things.
On Sunday, June 19, Bishop Stephen T. Lane confirmed (12!), received, and baptized at a regional service hosted by St. George’s in York Harbor.
In his sermon he had this, in part, to say:
“…there is no place God can not or will not go to meet us, to reach us, to save us. God, in Christ, crosses the Lake of Gennesaret in the middle of a storm, goes to any unclean land, confronts any evil, for us. God is with us in the midst of all that terrifies us, all that causes us despair, in the midst of the evil done to us, and the evil we do to others. God meets those lost to addiction, challenged by illness, twisted by hatred, and oppressed by wickedness. God lies down in bathroom stalls with the wounded and the dying in a nightclub in Orlando.”
As our country turns toward the election of a President this fall and attention focuses on the upcoming nominating conventions, I’d like to remind us of the rules guiding church participation in politics. These are set out in the IRS rules governing non-profit religious institutions and churches. www.irs.gov/uac/charities-churches-and-politics
Social Media and Elections
Our churches and in our roles as church leaders, we are not permitted, in church publications or from the pulpit, to advocate for or against a particular candidate for public office. With the advent of social media, the category of “church publication” is a bit vague but may well include blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. If a personal account commingles personal opinion about a candidate and also shares church information, the page might be construed as a church publication. This is new territory for us and has the potential to introduce confusion as to whether the individual clergy person or the church is advocating for or against a particular candidate.
Advocacy on Legislation and Ballot Initiatives
Our churches and in our roles as church leaders, we are permitted to educate and advocate regarding public issues and legislation as well as teach about how faith, beliefs, and church doctrine intersect with public issues and legislation. (Please see the House of Bishops’ statement issued March 2016)
Our churches may hold educational forums, and we as clergy may participate in issue-based political action groups. We may testify before the legislature and speak at public events. We may not spend a “substantial” percentage of the church budget on advocacy efforts. (While the IRS does not define what a “substantial” amount is, the American Bar Association defines it as more than 20 percent of an organization’s operating income.) While it is highly unlikely that a church would expend such an amount, to do so would open the church to questions about its primary purpose.
We may hold candidates forums or debates about public issues. Such events, when opposing views are expressed, are meant to educate the public and should be presented in an unbiased manner, regardless of any point of view we may hold.
Holding Up Civil Discourse as the Standard
Beyond our obligation to adhere to the IRS rules, we have committed ourselves to civil discourse as a way to honor our Baptismal covenant. The Diocese of Maine is a signatory to the Maine Council of Churches Covenant for Civil Discourse. Civil discourse encourages vigorous debate about ideas and policies. Contrariwise, attacks on the character, intelligence, appearance, background, etc., of any candidate or spokesperson are a violation of our belief that every person is a child of God for whom Christ died.
The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations has just released a very comprehensive and helpful toolkit and resource, Policy for Action 2016, to assist individual Episcopalians and churches engage in public life.
Also the Maine Episcopal Network for Justice has many resources on several of the ballot initiatives that Maine citizens will consider this year. Learn more on its webpage or Facebook page and consider asking MENJ Director John Hennessy to visit your church to learn more about its work.