​Dear Friends in Christ,

The last few Sundays have not been easy on the listener in the pew or the preacher in the pulpit: a lot of Matthew's more dramatic parables of warning and judgment are making me take a sudden interest in the Psalms! The hard edge to these stories is at odds with our preferred portrait of Jesus – the gentle savior with a child in each hand and a lamb on His shoulders. But I'd suggest that we can't have one without the other if we are dealing with the authentic Christ, rather than a Messiah Lite tailor-made to our preferences. Let me try to explain by analogy.

I had a pretty open communication with my mother all the years of my upbringing. I found there were proposals she was willing to entertain from me, and that she even encouraged; getting her help purchasing a guitar, for example, or putting together reasonable outings with friends. But there were other matters that were simply not open for discussion, like whether I could walk home from third grade (there was one stretch of four miles along an expressway, but aside from that the route was pretty benign). It took me years to realize that these closed subjects all had to do with my ultimate welfare and safety. If my mother saw a likelihood that my proposal could put me or someone in danger, or encourage habits that would have a negative impact on my life, or create chaos in our household, well, she was flat not interested. In short, her black-and-whiteness about certain things was an expression of her love for me.

My mother was pretty tough all around ("Get with the program!" was a common family theme), but she had a deeply gentle side, and around some things was a totally soft touch. Only when I embarked on my own great adventure in parenting did I begin to understand how that firm foundation gave her gentleness its value. I knew she was not only kind, but utterly trustworthy and reliable, having my best interests in view even when I couldn't see them.

All of this is most clearly expressed in the power of the Cross. Desperate circumstances call for desperate measures, and the fact is we are, by nature, in desperate need of infinite mercy: God has won that definitively.He has not negotiated with our worst side – He has instead conquered it. He has spoken the huge and ultimate "No!" to our sin and our death. All His gentleness flows from this Rock.

That is the power that fills the churches in our diocese, if we will only claim it: please think of the lives of those around us, in our neighborhoods, who are not yet in our pews. What truth do they need, so they can claim the love they need? And how can we walk with them in that truth and love? There are as many ways to do this as there are parishes: it may start with the smallest reaching out – a Godly Play program at a local library, a monthly dinner for the neighborhood, a class teaching English. These are the first steps in obedience to Jesus who told His weary disciples, "You give them something to eat," (Matthew 14:16) from which they saw greater provision than they ever could have imagined. 

May we trust the same Lord for the same results, claiming without fear both His truth and His love for ourselves and for the world. I look forward to being with you for Diocesan Convention as we explore together some of the ways God is making Himself known in southwest Pennsylvania.

Faithfully your Bishop,