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June 2015

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Several hours after being elected as the Episcopal Church’s 27th – and first African-American – presiding bishop-elect, Michael Curry fielded a range of media questions with characteristic humility and humor June 27 and said he intends to build on the good work of his predecessor “because that’s the way the Spirit works.” Current Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori introduced Curry at a crowded press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Salt Lake City, saying the House of Bishops handed him “a major mandate” with the historic landslide victory.

It’s pretty hot for camel hair right now. You may not have had locusts for breakfast, but I can tell you where to buy protein bars made from cricket flour.[1] And I saw honey for sale in the exhibit area. This may be an Episcopal convention, but we are all supposed to be John Baptists and Jane Baptists. Our task is to build that straight road, knock down the privileged heights, fill in the sloughs of despair, and make the road flat enough for all God’s people – and that includes Baptists, Episcopalians, Jews, Hindus, and “nones.” We’ve been baptized into Jesus’ baptism as well as John’s, and called to the kingdom work all the prophets proclaim: to be light in the darkness, strength and comfort for God’s people, gathering the lambs and leading ewes to shelter, and showing the healing power of forgiveness. That is the road to the peaceable kingdom.

Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si, released a few days ago, certainly has stirred a great deal of comment, much of it negative. Consider, for example, the New York Times' columnist Ross Douthat's response. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The "letter" is huge, with 246 paragraphs divided among six chapters. The Pope fights on two interrelated fronts, ecological degradation and economic injustice. He proceeds from a very detailed description of the situation of humanity on our planet that is unrelentingly grim, to a bright hopeful promise that real change can happen. It will be very widely read, and due to the weight of the Roman Church's one billion Christians, and their leader's popularity, Laudato si will make an impact politically as well as upon the major environmental and economic debates of our time.

I like to speak briefly about the Kingdom of god or and the Kingdom of Heaven, as it is referred to in the Gospels. What is this Kingdom? Where is it? Who belongs to it? Well, first of all, we modern people do not have kings, unless you are British, of course, and even there, we do not think of monarchs as being in charge of our lives. The Kingdom of God. How do we translate that? Well, modern people say the ‘Rule of God’, ‘the reign of God’, where god is, where God’s will is done. Jesus tries to get this across in many different ways. The Kingdom of God is like a man who sows a seed on the ground, that sprouts, and then he takes a sickle to it. Or like a mustard seed, a tiny little thing, and when you sow it into the earth, it grows into a great big bush.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) is one of my favorite poets because of the sheer beauty of his language, including words he invented. Some of his poems celebrate and give thanks for the beauty of the world — and they open my eyes to it, even when I do not understand his every word! Hopkins was an Oxford-educated Jesuit priest, so of course he expresses gratitude in the language of his tradition. But when you read the body of his work, it's clear that his spirituality has a universal reach, rooted in respect for the sacredness of all life in all its diversity.

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