Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Category: Life (Page 1 of 6)

If you love me

A while ago, I heard a powerful lecture on the Prophet Jeremiah by Professor Ellen Davis. In it, she said something that is also found in her book Biblical Prophecy: Perspective for Christian Theology, Discipleship, and Ministry. She writes: “The prophet speaks for God in language that is literally visceral: ‘My guts, my guts; I writhe!’ (Jer. 4:19); ‘My guts yearn for [Ephraim/Israel]” (31:20). Although the visceral character of Jeremiah’s words is (regrettably) obscured by most translations, this feature of his poetry is an important indicator of his distinctive place within the prophetic canon. For Jeremiah is a witness to horror who never looks away, and thus he may teach us something of what it is to speak and act on God’s behalf in the most grievous situations” (Davis, 144).

These words, particularly the portion in bold, rushed back to mind yesterday when I saw the photograph that has caused so much controversy, of the Syrian refugees who drowned while attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece and enter Europe. The picture that is ingrained in my mind, along with images of my little boys, is the picture of three year old Alan Kurdi who drowned with his older brother and mother, and washed up on the beach, leaving his grieving father with no desire to go on to Europe, but to instead return home, alone.

People have argued that these photos should not have been published. In certain respects, in magazines that are known for making their way without ethics, and only for financial gain, I can see why this would be controversial. But taken on its own merits, publication of these photos only brings home the reality of what is facing so many people fleeing from violence, war, and instability in their home countries. Politicians and analysts are right to say that the only long term solution is to encourage stability and peace in the homelands from which these folks are fleeing. But that is just that–a long term solution. In the mean time, we can’t look away from the tragedy of little Alan’s death, nor from the broader tragedy of which it is a particular example. Something must be done now to aid and welcome those who flee in fear of their lives. And so, the following poem came to me, and I thought I’d share it with you.

If you love me
do not look away
use your gifted eyes
to welcome the world
through tears
In beauty. In pain.

If you love me
do not hide your face
from need. from pain.
from me.
use your face to know
and be known

If you love me
do not close your lips
but use your mouth and
loose your tongue
to encourage
to shape love loudly

If you love me
do not remain with folded hands
but apply your hands to work
that heals
that lifts
the one who has fallen,
Pull the listing boat ashore

If you love me
do not walk away
but plant your feet and
against injustice
and walk
to where you’re needed

If you love me
you will meet me
when you do these things
and loving your neighbor
you love me

Do not look away
If you love me

-JBH, 2015

Learn more from Episcopal Migration Ministries & Jesuit Refugee Service

Episcopal Migration Ministries also conducted a webinar on the Syrian refugee crisis 8 months ago:

“Something has spoken to me in the night, burning the tapers of the waning year; something has spoken in the night, and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying:

“To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth–

“–Whereon the pillars of this earth are founded, toward which the conscience of the world is tending–a wind is rising, and the rivers flow.”

–Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

Obituary of the Very Reverend Dr. Guy Lytle

Guy & Maria greeting me outside the Franklin Pearson House in Cowan following my wedding

Guy was a mentor and a great friend and he will be sorely missed.  I would not be where I am today, nor would my ministry be as it is without his care and influence.  I will always remember the hours we spent talking about church history and obscure topics that few others found interesting.  Some of my best times at Sewanee were spent in his classes, or as I worked as his work study student–a job which often consisted of finding reference materials for the latest lecture or essay he was working on.  He once invited me to lead one of his World Christianity classes when he had to be out of town, and he was always encouraging and ready with a joke and smile.  All of these things are simply poor reflections of his care for all of his students, and of his big heart, which made him a pastor and priest to so many who were themselves training to become priests and learning to pastor God’s people.

The Very Rev. Dr. Guy F. Lytle III

The Very Reverend Doctor Guy Fitch Lytle III, Professor of Church History and Anglican Studies, Bishop Juhan Professor of Divinity, and Dean Emeritus of The School of Theology of the University of the South, died on July 15, 2011 in Winchester, TN, of complications of diabetes.

He was born on October 14, 1944, to Nelle Stuart Lytle and Guy Fitch Lytle, Jr., in Birmingham, AL. An avid tennis player, Dr. Lytle won the Alabama Youth Tennis Championship title and went on to compete in the National Youth Tennis Championship. Dr. Lytle graduated from Princeton University in 1966. He was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University in England, and earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University.
After teaching positions at the Catholic University of America, University of Texas: Austin, and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Dr. Lytle joined the University of the South as Dean of the School of Theology. For eleven years he served the University of the South with creativity and distinction, during which time the School doubled in size, built a new chapel – The Chapel of the Apostles, found financial stability, and gained national prominence. During Dr. Lytle’s tenure, he was a significant supporter of theology and the liturgical arts, and vastly increased participation of Sewanee students in world mission outreach and cross-cultural experiences. With his wife Maria, he developed programs in Hispanic ministries and attracted significant numbers of Latino students to the School. Above all, Dr. Lytle was an Episcopal priest of unwavering commitment to his Lord, Jesus Christ.

He is survived by his wife, Maria Rasco Lytle, of Sewanee, TN; his brother, Stuart Lytle, Newburyport, MA; his daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Lytle Knowles and Joe Knowles, of Lynchburg, VA; his daughter, Ashley Lytle, of Atlanta, GA; and his grandchildren, Madeline, Sophia, and Jacob Knowles, of Lynchburg, VA.

The family will greet visitors on Monday, July 18, from 12:00-1:30 PM at the University of the South’s Chapel of the Apostles, Sewanee, TN. The funeral service will follow at 2:00 PM, with the Right Rev. Don Wimberly officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Dr. Lytle’s memory to the School of Theology Dean’s Discretionary Fund for student financial needs.


Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind;
and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we
return. For so did you ordain when you created me, saying,
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down
to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia,
alleluia, alleluia.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting. (BCP, 499)


I have two items to share in thanksgiving for our country today.  The first is a prayer (actually a thanksgiving), the second a poem that I’m sure many will recognize.

First, the thanksgiving:

Almighty God, giver of all good things: We thank you for the natural majesty and beauty of this land.  They restore us, though we often destroy them.

Heal us.

We thank you for the great resources of this nation. They make us rich, though we often exploit them.

Forgive us.

We thank you for the men and women who have made this country strong. They are models for us, though we often fall short of them.

Inspire us.

We thank you for the torch of liberty which has been lit in this land. It has drawn people from every nation, though we have often hidden from its light.

Enlighten us.

We thank you for the faith we have inherited in all its rich variety. It sustains our life, though we have been faithless again and again.

Renew us.

Help us, O Lord, to finish the good work here begun.  Strengthen our efforts to blot out ignorance and prejudice, and to abolish poverty and crime. And hasten the day when all our people, with many voices in one united chorus, will glorify your holy Name.  Amen.

And now the poem:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1883

As I celebrate the birth of our nation, and out many accomplishments, I pray we’re able to honor the spirit of this thanksgiving and these verses.

Lenten Reflection

It’s hard to believe we’re so far along in the advance of the Lent, already preparing for the third Sunday of the season. Time is flying by in some ways, and in others, it seems to be creeping along. That seems to be the way life goes. In some areas we just never seem to have enough time, while in others we wait and wait for events or seasons to pass. Anna and I have been in one of those strange seasons of not-enough-time and waiting-for-what-seems-like-eternity. The expectation we feel with the upcoming birth of our first child is hard to put into words (though many of you have experienced it yourselves). For so many reasons we’re ready for Eli’s birth–Anna especially at this point, being past the 8-month mark of the pregnancy–but at the same time, we find ourselves discovering more and more that needs to be taken care of. In many ways this waiting and this preparation is as involved a Lenten discipline as I’ve every experienced. And there’s a sense in which it serves as a reminder of exactly how little we control in our lives. We give ourselves over to the illusion of control, and lull ourselves into a sense of security with our plans, our schedules, our routines. But none of them are really set. Illness shows us that, tragedy shows us that, and the birth of a child can show us that, as they come when the time is right for them, not for our plans. So this Lenten season is one of preparation in a new way for me as I prepare to welcome my son, and prepare in all the ways necessary to do that well, and to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible at St. Joseph’s, even though there can be no script and no anticipation other than the twin realities that Lent is moving on toward Holy Week and Easter approaches on April 24 and that sometime during that same period Eli Joseph Howard will, by God’s grace, make Anna’s and my life stand still.

This is a good lesson for Lent. In the midst of all the penitence, the self-examination, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative ways that our scarce control is revealed–but it’s helpful to remember that Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for spring, the time of rebirth. And like the rebirth of spring, when we give ourselves over to God and his grace, we can discover that being out of control can be a means of blessing by revealing to us where we should focus our efforts: in prayer rather than planning, in thanksgiving rather than frustration and in blessing rather than cursing.

As we go about our lenten disciplines of prayer, introspection and self-control, we should be drawn to the words of scripture, especially as found in the Daily Office, as well as to the words of Christians who have come before. Reflecting on such wisdom is one thing that we can control, and, strangely enough, this is a sort of control that can prepare us for those things that we cannot control.

Below is the full text of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet IV, a portion of which was included on the cover of our Ash Wednesday and Lent I bulletins. I encourage you to consider his words this week, and to reflect upon the love of Christ, whose red blood dyes our souls white.

Holy Sonnet IV
By John Donne

O, my black soul, now thou art summoned
By sickness, Death’s herald and champion;
Thou’rt like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turn to whence he’s fled;
Or like a thief, which till death’s doom be read,
Wisheth himself deliver’d from prison,
But damn’d and haled to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;
But who shall give thee that grace to begin?
O, make thyself with holy mourning black,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;
Or wash thee in Christ’s blood, which hath this might,
That being red, it dyes red souls to white.

The Anglican Rugby Scrum

This photo is from the ordination of my friend Jason this past Saturday.  I’m told that in the Roman Catholic Church, when a priest is ordained only the Bishop lays hands on them.  I’m thankful for the way we do it in the Episcopal/Anglican Church.  An older priest friend of mine calls this the “Anglican Rugby Scrum.”  I like it:

The Rugby Scrum at Jason Ingalls' ordination to the Priesthood on January 8, 2011

The Rugby Scrum at Jason Ingalls' ordination to the Priesthood on January 8, 2011

P.S. my talented photographer wife took this picture.  Check out her work on her photography site.

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