California Bishop Marc Andrus: Midnight Mass Sermon

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas

Posted December 26, 2007 at 9:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Greg Griffith wrote:

I’m 11 minutes in and so far it’s completely incoherent. Angels as “God’s ideas,” something about an English Shakespeare company composed of four Americans, the “goat man.”

I’m bailing, Kendall, and if it’s not too much trouble, I’d like the last 11 minutes of my life back. shut eye

December 26, 11:52 am | [comment link]
2. Jill Woodliff wrote:

How does one respond to a rambling flight of ideas, some of which are fancy?

December 26, 12:48 pm | [comment link]
3. MKEnorthshore wrote:

For the most part, I simply listened to the sound of his voice—almost hypnotically seductive with a pseudo-ethereal quality—and found the experience of the time spent very relaxing, warming and TOTALLY IRRELEVANT! At 13:23ff, Mary was “trying to find a way to move to a new understanding, an understanding that would be embodied in her son whom she would raise to be savior for her people…. I don’t think that the evangelist meant at the time in any way that she [Mary] would finish her work.” So it was Mary who would train “Emmanuel” but not complete it (leaving it for us to complete)? What a sad experience to hear a bishop of the church preach gnosticism. What a sad experience to hear nothing in his Christmas sermon that referred to the redemptive purpose and method of Emmanuel’s being sent into the world by his and our Abba.

December 26, 2:14 pm | [comment link]
4. Sarah1 wrote:

You know, probably if we were in a normal church, folks would worry that there may be something wrong with Bishop Andrus, to cause him to act the way he does.  But since this is the Episcopal church, it’s “the new normal.”

December 26, 2:20 pm | [comment link]
5. Nikolaus wrote:

Thanks guys.  I’ll spare myself the trouble of listening to the blather and move on.  Merry Christmas!

December 26, 2:50 pm | [comment link]
6. Connie Sandlin wrote:

Ditto to #5.

December 26, 3:14 pm | [comment link]
7. R. Scott Purdy wrote:

There is so very much so very wrong with this sermon that I am overwhelmed.  Not a minute of the sermon passes without at least some major heresy being voiced.  I would advise against wasting time on this one.

December 26, 3:30 pm | [comment link]
8. the snarkster wrote:

Boy, this brings a whole new meaning to the word “gobblegygook”.

the snarkster

December 26, 3:42 pm | [comment link]
9. Ad Orientem wrote:

Thanks for the advance warnings posted above.  I don’t usually judge a movie based solely on reviews without seeing it… but in this case there appears to be a certain unanimity.  Clearly nothing to see here.  Moving along…

December 26, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
10. Jeffersonian wrote:

This sounds like some surreal gibberish pulled together after about a dozen bong hits.  Think: Pot-smoking scene in “Animal House.”

December 26, 3:48 pm | [comment link]
11. Carol R wrote:

What a waste of oxygen to utter all of those words and yet say nothing.  I guess that’s what comes out when one has no message of substance.

December 26, 6:17 pm | [comment link]
12. rob k wrote:

Lighten up, folks.  Practically all Christmas and Easter sermons are attempts to “reach” everyone attending.  This one was no different.  Most of it was boring and stale, with efforts to sound significant with quotes randomly picked from Christian and non-Christian sources.  I’m also sure that most sermons are forgotten by most of you most of the time after a short time.  Most sermons should really be teaching homilies, not attempts to cover the substance, as seen by the preacher, of the whole Christian faith.  Make a smaller point.  At Midnight Mass at my parish the homily made the narrow point that those who worry about the taking of christ out of Christmas and the comercialization of Christmas may be overlooking the the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord.  Not the best sermon I’ve heard there, a little incoherent perhaps, but not an attempt to be grandiose, per Andrus.  Remember, the sermon, or homily, should not be, and is not, by any means at all, the main part of the Christmas, or any service.  It is in the mass itself, where Scripture is read, and where the presence of Christ is brought directly to us as in no other way, that the proclamation of the Incarnation is brought to us and enters our hearts.  Also the beautiful Christmas music, which often itself preaches a sermon.  I think some commenters here inherit the Protestant view that the sermon is the highlight of any church service.

December 26, 7:29 pm | [comment link]
13. Greg Griffith wrote:

rob k,

All points duly noted, but can you please summarize for me, in a sentence or two, Andrus’ point?

December 26, 7:36 pm | [comment link]
14. rob k wrote:

No. 3 - Certainly Mary, and Joseph, did a lot to prepare Christ for his mission.  He learned from them, and obeyed them.  Also, her work in Him did not complete His total growth in the complete realization of his mission.  She knew, from Simeon, that a sword would pierce her soul.  I wonder if during Jesus’ childhood and youth she ever voiced that concern to him.  At any rate, I don’t think this particular point in the bishop’s sermon was gnostic.

December 26, 7:38 pm | [comment link]
15. rob k wrote:

No. 13 - Greg - Maybe I didn’t express myself well enough.  The answer to your question I think was implicit in my post.  It is “No, I can’t.”  Can you?

December 26, 7:41 pm | [comment link]
16. paulo uk wrote:

What I love is to listen to his beautiful American accent, it is so awesome, but the sermon is totally empty. Is he a devote of Our Lydie?

December 26, 7:52 pm | [comment link]
17. teddy mak wrote:

What in the world is wrong with this man? I mean really. This is disturbingly inchoate. I suggest there is some actual physical or cerebral issue that needs looking into by a competent neurologist. This stuff sounds very like what happened to a friend of mine who took a lot of meletonin, St. John’s Wort and some prescription sleep aid. Some of these “natural” OTC medications have quite serious side effects. I am not at all suggesting that +Mark is a doper, but he has a major disconnect somewhere.

December 26, 8:22 pm | [comment link]
18. Carol R wrote:

I don’t expect the homily to be the main part of the service, but if a homily is to be given, it should be comprehensible, at least.

December 26, 8:28 pm | [comment link]
19. Jeffersonian wrote:

I only listened up to about the 10:00 mark…who won the fight between goatman and the soldier angels?  Did the Yank playing Ophelia shriek the whole time?

December 26, 8:57 pm | [comment link]
20. veritas2007 wrote:

That’s weird…  By the end of his first sentence/blessing, I was thinking he sounded just like KJS.

December 26, 8:57 pm | [comment link]
21. Piedmont wrote:

Marc says that “symbol” and “cymbal” sound the same but have totally different meanings.  Yes, they’re homonyms.  So what is the point?

December 26, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
22. Anonymous Layperson wrote:

Reading it makes me want to drink.  What’s with his horrific use of the English language- sounds like Lit Seminar on speed.  I don’t know that it is all that heretical but it is simply mindless drivel, creating a politically left wing Mary and positively Marxian angels.  I don’t know how he gets off with those absurd takes on Mary’s pondering and the angels announcement…

As the sociologist Peter Berger said about all of us, “the people closest, most significant in our lives take up residence within our psyches”.  He called it the parliament of the soul.  So that your parents, your grandparents, your teachers, your first loves, your first hates, the people who treated you poorly, the people who lifted you up and supported you, all those people have their correlates within and they continue to speak, long past the changes that have taken the external people away from us and have aged them.  So we have this within us as Mary had all of those characters, those figures, those energies, those ideas, moving, clashing within her.  And I think this may be in fact the point of telling the story this way, so that that pondering that she’s about, that taking all of that in and trying to come out on the other side with something that would direct her life, that would make sense to her, she began that process but she in no way ended that process, it is for you and for me to continue.  To try to think about this, as I was pondering this text, I remembered being in London a few years ago with our oldest daughter Pilar…

Well, we’re in a parallel process with Mary, not the scream but the taking inside of these disparate forces and ideas and making something of them.  The evangelist is painting this picture and collapsing it like a supernova into the heart of this young woman.  And what does she take in?  And what does she do with that?  Well, I said that there were these soldier angels, and we might ask if they are soldiers what are they combating?  What are they fighting?  And in brief, we can say that these ideas of God, for that is what angels are, these ideas of God are putting to the lie the idea that peace will come through more power and the exercise of might.  They are countering that idea, that old idea that has been tried over and over again, the idea that war will bring peace is being challenged by these soldier angels of God.  And these shepherds, these shepherds, you’ve probably wondered why shepherds?  Well, shepherds were not in the area of the photogenic, that’s a photoshop idea that’s been brought to you cleaned up, quite a lot…

The goat man very much on the margin of our little town society is very much the way shepherds would have been viewed in the ancient near east.  The idea is that they were somewhat unclean, ritually unclean, inhabiting a margin, distrusted, like almost all nomadic people are distrusted by settled people, people who have security and have homes.  They might steal from you at any given moment.  They just weren’t entirely the right sort of people.  So the idea that is being embodied here of having these soldier angels who are giving lie to the idea that might will bring peace or might makes right announcing the salvation of the world to these shepherds, this next idea is that it is not a particular status in society that brings goodness to the world, it’s not having a kind of ritual purity or anything that in our culture might be the stand-in for that which was in Jesus’ culture, this is being challenged by the angels announcing this good news to dirty and unclean, ritually unclean shepherds.  So Mary in her parliament of the soul, in the core of her being, is taking in these dangerous ideas, these difficult ideas, and she is not pondering them.  There was a prelate of the church, a person of great gravitas in a generation past, and that was how he decided difficult things.  If you brought a question to him and said, well, is it this or is it that, he would say I will ponder that and get back to you.  Meaning, with a certain detachment and with a magisterial gravitas he would weigh these things, cause that what pondering means, to weigh them, they’re in the scales.  And it’s a fairly dispassionate kind of process.  And this is not all what the Greek is indicating about Mary’s process.  What she was doing if- do we have a set of cymbals among the, could we have that please, just one crash there?  That’s the word- cymbal, and that’s what was going on, we have it in two ways in English, cym and sym and both mean the same thing, but with a nuance.  What was going, the verb, inside of Mary’s heart was exactly the clash of armies.  That’s what symbolize means.  So she wasn’t pondering this idea dispassionately, she was taking this challenging sense that might does not make right, that might and power imposed militarily will not bring peace.  And she was taking the idea that status in society, that ritual cleanliness will not bring one closer to God, and those ideas were, if you will, at war within her.  And she was deliberately, thoughtfully, passionately, putting those ideas together in her heart and trying to find a way to move to a new understanding, an understanding that would be embodied in her son, whom she would raise to be Saviour for her people.  This idea, this idea of symbolizing, is what Mary was about.  And as I said I don’t think the evangelist meant at the time in any way that she would finish this work.  This work has gone on since her time and up to our lives today.  I think of two people, I think of Ghandi…

Now some you live on a scale of a Ghandi or a King, that is the circles of your lives are very large.  Or some of you will live on that scale, not seen yet, but the time will come when you will move many many lives, many many hearts.  Some of you.  But most of us who are here tonight will have the same kind of questions that Mary had, that Ghandi had, Rustin and King, and we will process them through the core of our being, through our hearts, in much smaller circles.  The circles of our families, the circles of our work, our love, our relationships.  And how we will do that is very very much up to you.  Will you allow that clashing symbolization to go on in your heart?  Will I allow it in my heart?  Will I give in to the temptation in the intimate relationships of my life to try to exercise might or control over another person to get what I want?  Will I try to refer to some imagined status that elevates me at least in my mind above another person to try to gain just a little purchase over them as I try to make my way in this world.  Or will I come out where Mary came out and believe that this one that she was bringing into the world actually was opening the door to another way of being, a way of peace…

December 27, 12:02 am | [comment link]
23. Anonymous Layperson wrote:

I forgot to summarize the “point” of the homily.  The angels announcement to the shepherds was not that the Messiah was born, nothing about the Incarnation at all- it was the novel, shocking, dangerous idea that might doesn’t make right, that war can’t bring peace, a left wing political message.  And what Mary pondered was this message, how to come to grips with this stunning, never-before-dreamt-of anti-war message.  Point- we should be non-violent like Jesus, Ghandi and King.  Woo hoo, that’s the Christmas story.  At least I think that’s what he said…

December 27, 12:19 am | [comment link]
24. Florida Anglican [Support Israel] wrote:

Reminds me of the sermon I heard at my parents small church (my home church in which I was confirmed at age 14) in my (very rural) hometown Christmas Eve 2005 (Dio of FL).  I remember their being a small chalice and something about it having been in some paratrooper`s possession while being dropped behind enemy lines during the Normandy invasion.  This priest`s sermon made no sense either.  At the same service, just before the Eucharist, he proclaimed that everyone was welcome at the altar for communion.  After the service, I asked him, `You did mean all baptized persons were welcome for communion, right?` to which he replied, `That`s between them and their god.`  That priest is no longer there, but I have never returned to my home church since then and don`t plan on it as long as it remains in the Dio of FL.  For the last 2 years hubby & I have stayed home and attended Christmas Eve services in our very orthodox parish and then driven 1.25 hours to my parents` home in the wee hours.  Sad but necessary.  And my parents don`t understand why even though we have explained in a gentle but thorough manner.  I think mom attributes it to me being `needed` in the choir at my church (in which I do sing but am certainly not indispensable).  Ah, well.  This sermon of Andrus` just confirms for me that the cancer is widespread.

December 27, 1:15 am | [comment link]
25. Hakkatan wrote:

If #22 is a quote of Andrus’ sermon—good grief!  It is hard enough to follow in written form; I cannot imagine what it was like to listen to it and try to make sense of it.  I can’t tell what the point of each paragraph is, what is digression, and what is illustration.

And this is a bishop, who should have enough ability to make sense when he says something.  Is there anyone who heard him in Alabama who could tell us if he made any sense in his sermons there?

December 27, 1:56 am | [comment link]
26. nwlayman wrote:

Nature abhors a vacuum, the Episcopal Church consectrates one.

December 27, 3:12 am | [comment link]
27. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “I suggest there is some actual physical or cerebral issue that needs looking into by a competent neurologist.”

I am sorry to have to disagree.  In a church where fairly normal people were the leaders, maybe yes, it would be a bad sign.

But this is the Episcopal church.  Like I said above . . .

You know, probably if we were in a normal church, folks would worry that there may be something wrong with Bishop Andrus, to cause him to act the way he does.  But since this is the Episcopal church, it’s “the new normal.”

December 27, 10:40 am | [comment link]
28. hanks wrote:

  Nature abhors a vacuum, the Episcopal Church consectrates one. 

Thanks.  That’s bumper sticker material.

Seems to me that Andrus must have studied at the feet on Frank Griswold.  Pluriform truth is absolutely oozing from the pores of this quite amazing challenge to the English language.

December 27, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
29. bluenarrative wrote:

I got suckered into listening to this. As others have duly noted in their comments, Christmas sermons (at least in Episcopal churches) are USUALLY notoriously bad and/or excessively bland. I expected something along those lines when it began—bad theology and/or completely worthless banalities, having little to do with the full force of the Incarnation.

But I think #2 hit the nail on the head—a “flight of ideas.” For those who do not know, “flight of ideas” is a technical term employed by psychiatrists. It is understood to be entirely a matter of STYLE—the substance of the ideas being referenced is irrelevant. This particular style of communicating (“flight of ideas”) is a component part the differential diagnosis that psychiatrists employ to identify people suffering from various serious psychiatric disorders usually accompanied by psychotic states, to one degree or another, and for varying periods of time. Most commonly, “flight of ideas” is seen in people who suffer from bipolar disorder, when they are in the manic phase of their disease.

If THIS is his USUAL style of “preaching,” then I’d love to run, say, half a dozen or so of his sermons past a few secular psychiatrists, and see what THEY make of it.

Some of my FAVORITE people, by the way, have mood disorders of one sort or another. So I don’t really intend this comment to sound quite as perjorative as it might appear to be to some. But, I have had a fair amount of personal experience with people who are afflicted with relatively low-key cases of bipolar disorder. And to my (medically-untained) ears, I do have to say that this guy sounds more than just a little nutty at times. He reminds me of more than a few people that I know who carry an official diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Unfortunately for the Bishop, there are several really good medications available today which would substantially improve his overall style; but there is no pharmaceutical remedy for the shallow and inane content of his sermons.

December 27, 3:24 pm | [comment link]
30. Kirstin wrote:

I have a question for the elves, and I believe it’s a fair one.

Why is a thread discussing John-David Schofield’s recent actions in Atwater so heavily monitored, while comments such as those in this thread directed to Marc Andrus, allowed to stand?

Thank you.

December 27, 4:17 pm | [comment link]
31. Sarah1 wrote:

Well, Kirstin, I can’t speak for the elves [may they rest in peace] but I would think that it’s because on this particular thread there aren’t hosts of denizens from revisionist blogs trying desperately to get alternate stories some publicity on a well-trafficked blog like T19.

Of course . . . now that you are here . . . maybe you could try getting this thread off-topic too and gain a little extra publicity.  I’m sure that would be well-received.

And of course, the elves might have a question for you which is “why didn’t you enter this comment over on the Schofield thread rather than this Andrus thread which has served to bring the thread off-topic?”

But then . . . I expect we all know the answer to that.  This thread has generated some current comments—and the Schofield thread is . . . somewhat dead, other than the revisionist commenters.
; > )

December 27, 6:17 pm | [comment link]
32. The_Elves wrote:

Surprisingly, the elf agrees with Sarah… this ONE time.

December 27, 6:21 pm | [comment link]
33. bluenarrative wrote:

Slightly off-topic, perhaps, but I must say it anyway: this is NOT the worst sermon that I have ever heard preached in an Episcopal church. It does not even make my personal list of the 100 worst sermons that I have ever heard in an Episcopal church. Sadly, this one is, more or less, pretty much par for the course, as far as proclaiming the Good News goes in most contemporary churches that are still a part of TEC.

Yes, I think that Bishop Marc Andrus may well have gotten a few pointers on preaching from Frank Griswold… But, if we are going to be honest, then I think that we have to admit that this particular sermon could have been a lot worse than it is.

When I was being prepared for Confirmation, years ago, I was taught that Protestants believed that hearing the authentic Gospel being proclaimed was, in a sense, one way in which we might actually ENCOUNTER the Lord… This sermon goes far towards explaining how and why so many members of TEC are more than a bit confused, as regards the identity of the Lord that they follow.

Edited by elf.

December 27, 7:10 pm | [comment link]
34. Kirstin wrote:

Sarah, you misread me.  I noticed what I perceive as an inconsistency, and I questioned it.  I posted it here, because I noticed it here.  I’m not trying to provoke you or the elves; it’s simply a question.

The tone of your answer told me all I needed.

December 27, 7:48 pm | [comment link]
35. Sarah1 wrote:

Kirstin . . . you misread me, so I guess that makes us even.  I’m pretty confident that the factual content of my answer was pretty solid in regards to answering the question as well, although you’re welcome to take whatever you like from your perception of “tone.” 

Elves . . . I withdraw every thing that may have been potentially misread as slightly negative regarding your sterling worth that I may have possibly said or otherwise accidentally implied over the past years.  Anything you may have perceived as somewhat questioning your worth was a Terribly False Misinterpretation of my words, which were actually merely what I would call “Laments” rather than “Pejoratives.” 

I am sure that you know that I have always seen all of you as succulently worthy creatures, deserving of note and value.

Golly gee, Miss Sarah. With praise like that, we’re speechless. Praise from you is a welcome gift.

December 27, 9:39 pm | [comment link]
36. Choir Stall wrote:

Rob K seems to forget that our Article of Religion on the Church defines the context for a Eucharist. “The Church” is that assembly of the faithful where, among other things, “the pure Word of God is preached”. The Eucharist does not occur outside of such an assembly which holds the Word as its priority. Wafers from heretics and novice theologians were not imagined by those who gave us the Articles. This exegetical rambling by Bishop Andrus is an embarrassment and shows the vacuous nature of too many Episcopal sermons. Perhaps more time should be spent in a yearly spiritual retreat and less time in the coffee houses and the Shakespean theater.

December 27, 9:49 pm | [comment link]
37. Tom Roberts wrote:

#35 makes them sound toothsome as well….

December 27, 10:59 pm | [comment link]
38. rob k wrote:

NO. 36 - Nonsense - You can have a eucharist without a sermon.  And such eucharists happen all the time.  Surely the pure Word of God is not always preached, in my church nor in yours.  Besides, who judges when it is or when it is not preached - You?, or some other authority you can direct me and others to.  On the other hand, the Real Presence of Christ is always present in the mass as in NO other way, even with a sloppy liturgy, or even when celebrated by a priest with “suspect beliefs” or with questionable morality, thank God.  Do you believe that wafers from heretics, whom you of course can always identify, are not true not the true Body and Blood?  Novice theologians indeed!.

December 28, 2:22 am | [comment link]
39. Choir Stall wrote:

But Rob K,
Surely the Lord himself taught/gave a sermon during the first Eucharist. A Sermon need not round the globe to be a sermon. But the Word absent in a Eucharist equates to a superstitious act without grounding. While I am unable to pick a heretic out in a crowd, I can surely hear one when they encounter me in a sermon. When the Lord isn’t adored in one’s sermon, then what should be? Bishop Andrus’ sermon had nothing that adored the Christ and in fact it talked more of his own experiences and lack thereof. It sounded more like an encounter group or a confirmation class struggling with a question. SO LITTLE CLARITY from a father of the Church is inexcusable.  If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck it is ...

December 28, 2:16 pm | [comment link]
40. rob k wrote:

No. 40 - Choir Stall - Thx. for responding.  First, please go back and read my posts on this thread.  I was certainly not defending Bp. Andrus’ sermon.  It was vapid, disconnected, self-referential and certainly open to criticism for careless thinking that could be “unorthodox”.  But many sermons are that way, probably especially at Christmas and Easter, as an over-intellectuallized effort to reach the “seekers” who are present.  What I was addressing, though, was the idea you expressed that seemed to me to be holding that lack of a sermon, or a sermon that was not solidly orthodox as you understand it, somehow invalidates the whole eucharist.  First, the Word is never absent from the Eucharist.  The Old and New Testament readings, the Psalm, and the Gospel are always proclaimed, the Gospel itself even highlighted with extra ceremony.  Certainly you don’t believe that Low Mass, or an early morning Said Communion are somehow invalid or “superstitious ” acts.  The Word is most directly present in the species of the Eucharist, and is dependent right form and authorized ministers.  Thank God His Presence is not at all dependent on the quality or performance of a sermon, the correctness of belief or morality of the priest, or my, or your, faith.  Your theology of the euchrist and ecclesiology does not at all seem Catholic (RC,Orthodos,or Anglican), or even Lutheran.  Hope I haven’t misread you.  I do appreciate your corresponding with me on this subject.  And a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.  Thx.

December 28, 6:22 pm | [comment link]
41. rob k wrote:

Choir Stall - By the way - You mentioned the lack of clarity of the sermon, and I would agree with you almost completely.  And, a talk like this before a Confirmation class struggling with the meaning of the Faith would be reprehensible(unless it put the class to sleep first).  In my mind a good sermon for Midnight Mass (Grace Cathedral was packed to the rafters) would have concentrated on a small devotional aspect of the Christmas Story, and let the beauty of the Mass speak for itself.  that is where the great sermon is.

December 28, 6:30 pm | [comment link]
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