Tuesday, December 28, 2021

On God's Weakness: Christmas letter to the Order of Jesus Christ Reconciler


Feast of the Holy Innocents

Greetings in the name of God Emmanuel, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ,

As we celebrate the season of Christmas this year, we are in still in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic.  Though the vaccines brought about some form of a return to normalcy, for a variety of reasons the virus has continued to spread and mutate: wealth and poverty differentials between nation states, vaccine hesitancy among poor and marginalized groups, the refusal to get vaccinated by anti-vaxers, and the nature of viruses to rapidly mutate. The latest major mutation of the virus leads to a more virulent strain of COVID-19, though the rate of hospitalization and rate of mortality is still unclear compared to other strains. This isn’t all we are dealing with as we celebrate Christmas.  There is the political turmoil in the U.S. and many nations. The world order of the Pax-Americana is strained if not waning. Then there are, most likely, things in our personal lives, which may leave us feeling less than celebratory.

I, Abba of the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler, feel quite overwhelmed. As I write this I don’t know what wisdom or insight I might have to share with us this Christmastide.  As I continue to recover from my fall off a ladder over a year ago now, and grieving the death of my mother, and dealing with all the logistics and economy of a person’s passing, I don’t feel up to being Abba of an order. I’m stumbling along without any great sight into what is to come, or where we might be going as an order.

Even so, as we remember that in the person Jesus of Nazareth, God comes to us as Emmanuel, God with us, isn’t this what we celebrate, God meeting us in our weakness? Christmas isn’t about human achievement, or human celebration, or human insight. Rather, God comes as one of us inn our very weakness and vulnerability, as a fetus and then an infant! The deliverance that Mary proclaims in her Magnificat, comes not from God coming with force like God did when delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt, but God becomes human flesh, starting out in the deep vulnerable dependence at the beginning of a human life.

This work of God is known to women, the poor, shepherds, and foreign astrologers from outside of the Roman Empire.  God doesn’t become human by being born to an imperial, royal, or patrician family.  The incarnation is largely unnoticed, insignificant in the realm of empires, rulers, and the wealthy.  Thus, God’s deliverance and liberation aren’t readily noticed, nor easily recognized.  It is hidden in God being with us in our most human vulnerable spaces.  God comes among those who have the least reason to celebrate.

The season of Christmas begins with three feasts following up on Christmas day. These feasts invite us into the messy and mystical dimensions of this season.  On the 26th the second day of Christmas we remember the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr. On the Third day of Christmas we celebrate the Feast of Saint John Apostle and Theologian, who points us toward the loving dance of the Holy Trinity. On the 4th day of Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, remembering those infants slaughtered by King Herod. These three feasts invite us to see Christmas as something other than a “happy” celebration. God come in human flesh stirs up a reaction: those who seek to control the world are confronted with something beyond them, and death and oppression are used in an attempt to regain control. This reality is reflected in today’s feast as well as our current headlines. The celebration of Christmas embraces a great deal.

To the mind overtaken by thoughts and impulses of control and power over others and the cosmos the incarnation is hidden from view.  Even those who suffer at the hands of the wealthy and powerful, God’s coming in human flesh being joined to creation can be hard to see its relevance or how it can free from oppression (This is especially so when the oppressor claims the name of Christ and Christian).

This is not to say that there is no way to see and find the work of God in Jesus Christ in our world and circumstances. But it can be very difficult. Following after that work of God in Jesus Christ, while it liberates, also often leads us into difficult situations in which we are facing death.

In the first four days of Christmas we are confronted with human responses to the mystery of God with us. God comes to us in God’s Glory, which isn’t the glory of human power and wealth. These responses are often violent and following Christ doesn’t necessarily preserve us from suffering under that violence.

In the mystery proclaimed by St John the apostle, we need to confront our own violent and sinful reactions to God come to us in this way, where God gives up control and power over others and circumstances. There is something liberating in letting go of the idea that we can control anything. But it also, leaves things feeling unstable and uncertain. I know that in myself there’s something that rebels against that instability. There is something dissatisfying in the focus on what today will bring, rather than some grand scheme that I can live into and execute. Yet, rarely does a long range plan become fully implemented. While we want to believe that we or some human we admire or elect might have such ability to see all possibilities and plan accordingly and keep things stable, history tells a different tale of human ability. Even when we believe ourselves to have the knowledge to plan and implement security, things soon fall apart.

In the midst of suffering and oppression and genocidal violence, the question of where is God arises. In moments like that of the slaughter of the infants and toddlers in Bethlehem, God with us feels like abandonment. God with us flees as a refuge dependent on human parents to keep them safe.

So then where is the hope, If God is with us and for us, but in being so has also relinquished a type of control and power over the world? Are we left to the power of death and desire to have power over others? The answer to this question isn’t found in the coming of God to us as the infant Jesus of Nazareth.  The answer comes in whom Jesus is, Jesus’ whole life and his death, resurrection and ascension.

But God’s ultimate answer to death and violence begins here.   And so with the shepherds, the magi, and Mary we can contemplate and celebrate even as things aren’t yet fully unveiled. At Christmas we are contemplating a portion of the mystery of our faith and God’s revelation to us in Jesus of Nazareth. God with us comes to us vulnerable and relinquishing control and power over others. In this we learn something of God’s love, power, and glory. The longer we  live with this revelation the more unsettling and disconcerting it becomes.

In the love an grace of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel,

Basil Irenaeus


Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Sown: The Good News of God’s Patience

 by Abba Basil Irenaeus

The following reflection is in dialogue with these scriptures from the First Sunday in Lent, Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary.

Psalm 25:1-10
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O LORD!
25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
Genesis 9:8-17
9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9:9 "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
9:10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
9:12 God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
9:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
9:14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
9:15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
9:16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."
9:17 God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."
1 Peter 3:18-22
3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit
3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison
3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Some of us began Lent by planting seeds. Most of us are yet to see the growth of the seeds. Patience is needed. A patience I didn’t have as a child. My family kept a garden when I was growing up. One year during planting season I wanted to tend my own plants; I was given a small plot and we planted several seeds in the small plot. I was told I had to wait for the seeds to sprout. At one point before one of the seeds sprouted above the ground, my curiosity got the better of me and I dug up the seed. The seed had begun to sprout but in disturbing it I had interrupted its cycle. It needed that time in the ground, undisturbed. My dad kindly told me that now I knew what a seed newly sprouted looks like but that I needed to have patience if I was to care for the remainder of the seeds and see them grow into mature plants and bear fruit. 

1 Peter 3:20 Saint  Peter the apostles describes God saying “...when God waited patiently...” referring to the story of Noah and his family and the ark, God destroying all living things in a flood; we might not read the story of the flood as a story of God’s patience. Though as we read in Genesis 25:1-10, God isn’t okay with the great flood and its destruction. Rather God  in making this Covenant with Noah and his family and all living creatures is repenting of the flood and promises such a cataclysmic flood will not happen again.

Peter adds another dimension to this story: Jesus goes to the dead and not only preaches to all the dead but specifically seeks out and proclaims repentance to those who were evil and corrupt and died in the great flood. Peter  is interpreting the story of the Great Flood in line with the Hebrew Scriptures in which God is described as long suffering as full of loving kindness who does not desire the death and destruction of the wicked.

This isn’t all there is in the story of Noah, but let's take Peter at his word and sit with God’s patience with us human beings. God’s patience is so great that God doesn’t accept the rejection of God’s embrace of that” evil and corrupt generation” of Noah’s time, but in Jesus Christ seeks them out in Sheol, the land of the dead.

As we wait for our seeds to sprout may we contemplate God’s unbounded patience and loving kindness towards us individually and collectively as human beings.  God doesn't desire our destruction or harm, and yet even today, even among those who would name the name of Christ we are as likely to be motivated by our own selfish ambition, pushing away the proclamation of the Good News, the invitation to just and loving relationship between God, ourselves, and all creation. Even so God is patient and waits not desiring our destruction even of those of us who are truly wicked. 

This isn't to say that Gods’ patient loving endurance shields us from the consequences of our actions. Yet as Peter’s words tell us, not even death itself keeps God from seeking out humanity and offering a means to turn back. 

This is just the beginning, there is much that remains unanswered.  I would add this should raise a myriad of questions, o f “but’s” and “What if’s” and ``what about’s”.

Like the seeds in the soil there are things hidden, processes unseen. This hiddenness should not douse our questions. Rather, it should pique our curiosity, and let us pose the questions while allowing them to remain unanswered. This space of a question unanswered, of something beyond our current comprehension is also the space of contemplation.  Here admitting we don’t see everything, we can contemplate God’s loving patience with us personally and collectively as human beings. This place of the unanswered questions can itself be the place of receiving the Good News that awakens us to needed repentance.

Reviving the blog and other changes

 The Community of the Holy Trinity is in another period of transition.

For the past 6 years our ministry has primarily been sponsoring a house church that met in peoples homes in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago.  The members of the house Church in December chose to no longer meet.

We are also now not only the first and only House of the Order of Jesus Christ Reconciler, but now only the first house, as we are glad to announce the foundation of the Community of All Saints in Detroit, Michigan.  Our members in Detroit have long been working towards the creation of a community of the order there in Detroit, and in the last year that has finally come to pass.

In the past year Holy Trinity and All Saints have been experimenting (as many worshiping communities have) with on line worship.  Currently we are worshiping together via Zoom and Facebook live on the Second and Fourth Sundays of the month, and occasionally coming together for Evening Prayer.  

For the Seasons of Lent and Easter we are offering a series of weekly Lenten reflections on the Scriptures for each Sunday, entitled Sown, and offering a weekly Wednesday Evening Prayer service.

If you don't already follow us on Facebook, visit our Facebook page and like and follow us, as well as the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler, and the Community of All Saints, and join in our online offerings.

Our weekly Sown reflections will be posted here on this blog as well as on the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler Facebook page.

Also, watch here and on our Facebook page to learn of other developments that are in store for the Community of the Holy Trinity in the coming year.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Current Fundraising Campaign: Will you partner with us?

The Community of the Holy Trinity is the founding House of the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler (OJCR).  As a house of the order we are committed to hospitality and reconciliation.
At this point in time, the main ministry of hospitality and reconciliation is the worship community we sponsor, called the Oratory of Jesus Christ, Reconciler. This worshiping community is a house church that rotates gathering for worship in members’ homes in the Roger’s Park neighborhood of Chicago. The purpose, of the oratories of OJCR, is to provide a space of worship and connection with the body of Christ without needing to define oneself as a particular member of a particular denomination or Christian group and without needing to, accept a particular theology or even know what one believes. Through Eucharistic worship, discipleship events, and fellowship we seek to offer an hospitable space for people to explore their faith in Christ and grow in love and knowledge of God in the life of the Spirit. Our current members have come through various denominations but do not feel that any one of them is entirely fitting of their full experience of faith in Christ. Some do also participate in other congregations, but feel most at home where historic orthodox Christianity is affirmed but no one way of practicing or believing is held exclusively.
The community itself is currently made up of 4 members, Rev. Jubi Dutcher, Zac Lowing, Kate Kamphausen and the Rev. Larry Kamphausen. Jubi and Larry co-pastor the oratory with Jubi currently serving as the lead pastor. Jubi is a member of the collective, the Women’s Health center in the uptown neighborhood of Chicago and is a comic book artist. Zac is a sexton at Grace Episcopal Church and is a photographer (of the unseen beauty of Chicago alleys) computer artist and videographer of Chicago’s buskers, and has experienced homelessness. Kate is a member of St John’s Episcopal Church in Old Irving Park in Chicago, and is a fashion and costume designer in Chicago. She is married to Larry, who is an iconographer and artist co-founder of the co-operative art gallery, Agitator.  He is  also a temporary worker and is Abba of the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler.
While we have sought and been able to support one another, community life and our ministries through our collective funds each of us is in a situation of fixed incomes.. In the past couple of years our incomes have remained the same or have declined, while the community’s expenses of rent, food, and utilities have increased. So, we are asking you to come along side us and partner with us in our work through one time or regular financial contribution.
At this time we are also, expanding our work of hospitality and reconciliation through pilot programs of fostering worker co-operatives (like Agitator gallery) and property cooperatives (still in the early idea stages of development) for the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler.
In choosing to support us financially we hope you will want to also participate in our life  and get to know us. For our supporters we will keep you up to date through a quarterly newsletter, keeping you appraised of how our pilot programs of fostering worker co-operatives, beginning a property cooperative and the ministry of the Oratory of Jesus Christ, Reconciler are going.
Whether or not you are able to financially support us at this time if you are in Chicago we invite you to receive our hospitality: We also invite you join us for our community meals to get to know us better on Monday evenings at 7:30 and for brunch on Saturday mornings at 10 am (this meal is followed by our weekly community meetings). We also invite you if you live near us in Albany park to come to our morning prayer Monday through Friday at 8:45 am, or night prayer at 9:30 pm. we simply ask that if you plan to join us for meals  that you let us know ahead of time so we can be sure to prepare enough food.
To donate and become a support please visit our gofundme page

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Word from Abba Basil Irenaeus

To partner with us use the donate button in the side bar or visit our fundraising page.  Thank you for supporting the Community of the Holy Trinity and the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Brief Update on the Community

In a week from this Saturday, three of our members will be professing permanent vows as the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler is founded.  At that time Holy Trinity will be the first House of the Order (thought we have been functioning in that way for the past year).
In order to live fully into being a House of the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler we will be looking for a property that will serve as our residence with worship space for our daily prayer and as the main worship space for the Oratory of Jesus Christ, Reconciler.

We are also looking for people who are interested in intentional Christian community and would be willing to commit to the community in this time of transition and commit to become resident members upon our moving into our new property.  Our current space doesn't allow us to receive new members as resident at this time.

At this time we are looking at our finances and consulting a fundraiser as we prepare for this next stage in our life as a community.

We do have immediate needs so if you wish to support our work at this time use the donate button in the side bar, or send a check to The Community of the Holy Trinity, 3748 W. Eastwood # 2, Chicago IL, 60625.  We are a religious non-profit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A long year, but new things are on the horizon

Last year at this time we were uncertain if we had a space for the Community of the Holy Trinity.    And it had been just a few months since the Church of Jesus Christ Reconciler came completely under our oversight and became the Oratory of Jesus Christ, Reconciler.   It has been two years since our Rule was re-written to reflect that we were to be the first House of the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler.  In the past year we have been in a bit of maintaining.  The ministry of the Oratory has continued though our ability to offer hospitality has been curtailed in our current space.  We've hosted a few events but that is about all.  We have no space for guests.

Come september and the fall we will step into our new role as a House of the Order of Jesus Christ Reconciler as the Order will be inaugurated and profession of vows will take place on September 6th.
We also hope to begin raising money for and beginning the search for a property in Chicago.

Things have moved very slow around these changes over the past few years, but things are coming together.

Once the Order is founded we will be officially a House of the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trust, Faith, and Synchronicity : or Winter is Upon Us.

The past year or so things with the community have been a little out of sync.  We have been going through a number of transitions: members leaving, new members coming in, working on developing a Student in Residence program, needing to move and becoming the first and founding House of an ecumencial religious order.  The transition from a single independent intentional community to first house of the Order of Jesus Christ, Reconciler has been in process since 2011, as forming a religious order just takes time.  Other things came unexpectedly, and were simply following opportunities that presented themselves, like the request to help a degree program at a local university to develop a student in residence program with intentional communities in chicago.

All of that would be enough stress on a community, if things were working out.  What has happened is that things just have been out of sync.  Nothing's been lining up.  A house was offered to the community but we'd have had to move in at the worst possible time, and back out of agreements we'd made.  Just then as we searched for other properties just as we thought we'd found what we needed things have prevented our getting those properties.  And of course what space we get affects our ability to take on any potential student's in residence.  Nothing is lining up nothing is working out or fitting together easily.

This lack of synchronicity and failure for things to work out has been an occasion to wonder what was God's call, was it time to move on? This might have been a temptation.  I don't know.  We are continuing on. Though, due to very recent turn of events, now the smallest we've been since our first few months as a community.

This has me thinking about time, timing, and that the realm of the Gospel and of God that Jesus announced  is it's own time (Barth I find argues for this quite well in the Church Dogmatics).  The community is seeking to live into and as our Rule says be a parable of this other time.  When there is synchronicity of various times and timing, I am confident of God being at work.  It's easy to see and trust when the times line up.  Not so easy to trust when everything is out of sync.  Difficult when God's time the time of the Gospel and the realm of God is out of sync with my won time.

Things are out of sync, it would be easy to conclude, even reasonable to do so, that this means that the community is doing something wrong, or even that we should give it up, move on to other things.

Yet..., even while nothing is lining up, and things are dwindling, people are affirming the ministry and witness of the community.  This feels contradictory, and admittedly it is confusing.  It's difficult to discern what to do, or what is the correct path.    Here is perhaps the place for the virtue of steadfastness and perseverance.  When things line up and all is clear, to push forward to maintain the course isn't a difficulty, doesn't really require steadfastness or perseverance.

Things are happening, but it looks like the community is definitely entering into a period of deep winter, of cutting back and pruning, and of no growth.  It looks bleak.  I'm reminded of the scene in the Secret Garden, when they first enter the garden and the girl asks, is it dead, and the boy replies no it is quick and he cuts a branch to reveal green and sap in the branch.  There is life here but it has been slowing down, and many external signs of life are fading away.  It looks like a long and potentially harsh winter ahead, but I trust God has prepared us for this winter.

I've written a more personal reflection on this same theme and priestlygoth.org