November's Letter from the Bishop

Dear brothers and sisters,

It doesn’t speak well of me (or maybe it does?) that I especially enjoy murder mysteries – the more puzzling and gruesome, the better.  Oh yes, I do a good deal of conventional reading as well:  theology (my vocation) and history (my avocation) in particular; but left to my own devices, I’m happy to curl up with a brain-teasing, criminally fueled mystery.  So it’s been a special joy to discover a number of home grown mystery writers in the Diocese of Northern Indiana.  They’ve enhanced and deepened my appreciation of the genre!

Jeanne Dams, a member of St. Paul’s, Mishawaka, has written a series of mysteries featuring Dorothy Martin, an American married to a retired British chief constable; the most recent in the series:  Murder at the Castle.  Ruth Foster from St. Andrew’s, Valparaiso, writes mysteries set in late 14th Century England and starring a delightful – and insightful – noblewoman named Lady Apollonia (Ruth’s “pen name” is Ellen Foster); the first installment is entitled Effigy of the Cloven Hoof.  Thom Satterlee, a member of Gethsemane, Marion, recently published The Stages; his detective is an American living in Copenhagen, and the mystery centers on the writings of Soren Kierkargaard.  Not precisely in the mystery genre, but appropriate for inclusion in this list, is Fr. John Houghton, a priest of our diocese who teaches at The Hill School near Philadelphia, who has written a “supernatural thriller” titled Rough Magicke, set in a fictitious Diocese of Michigan City.  While the purpose of this letter is not to sell books, I’m delighted to add that all four authors can be found at online sites such as Amazon.

Why mysteries?  Many of you, I suspect, are also drawn to this genre of literature – and rightly so!  Mysteries are more than a “guilty pleasure”.  They parallel in surprising ways God’s unveiling of his purposes and his nature.  The New Testament regularly uses the word “mystery” to refer to God’s self-revelation.  “Think of us in this way,” St. Paul tells his friends in Corinth, “as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Corinthians 4:1).   To the Christians in Ephesus he adds:  “With all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ” (Ephesians 1:8b-9).  Slowly, over time, God has been revealing himself:  to our spiritual ancestors, the Jews, during nearly two millennia of Old Testament history; to the confused and often dense band of disciples who followed Jesus around Galilee and ultimately to Jerusalem; to those who witnessed the death and the resurrection of Jesus; “and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me,” St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 15:8).  The faith was not revealed suddenly, in one lump sum, but piecemeal, bit by bit, as God’s plan became more and more clear.

It is no surprise that the celebrant says:  “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith” (BCP, p. 362).  Nor is it a surprise that the Easter Vigil reminds us:  “Through the Paschal mystery, dear friends, we are buried with Christ by Baptism into his death, and raised with him to newness of life” (BCP, p. 292).  As followers of Jesus, we are immersed in mystery.  God has revealed his heart to us in Jesus.  He has revealed himself in scripture; in the sacraments; in the ongoing life of the church; indeed, in the eyes of the poorest of the poor.  Our life is one of unveiling mystery.  “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another”  (2 Corinthians 3:18).

And so mysteries offer us a glimpse into God’s methodology.  Truth is discerned – though often slowly, piece by piece.  A pattern emerges and suddenly, surprisingly, we grasp what was formerly hidden from us.  Bits of evidence that had seemed random and unrelated come together as a coherent whole.  “Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us” (BCP, p. 372).  The scales fall off and, like St. Paul, we see (Acts 9:18).  In an odd (and probably imprecise) sort of way, we are detectives – with this difference:  the object of our search is not the bad buy, but the Good Guy par excellence; and the object of our search is not seeking to evade us, but rather yearns for us to discover him, know him, love him, and follow him.                                                                 

Yours in Christ,