You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘love’ category.

 

A guest post from Los Angeles poet Timothy Steele, on a Christmas theme:

tim120

Tim Steele

When in 2008 the BBC asked choirmasters in the United Kingdom and United States to name their favorite Christmas carol, Harold Darke’s setting of Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” topped their list. The poem first appeared in 1872 in a holiday issue of Scribner’s Monthly, which had asked Rossetti for a contribution appropriate to the season. Though she never collected the poem in a book, her brother William included it in the edition of her Poetical Works that he published in 1904, ten years after her death. The poetry-loving Gustav Holst recognized the poem’s choral possibilities and in 1906 did a setting of it that some prefer to Darke’s, which dates from 1911.

rosetti1

She was troubled. (Photo: Lewis Carroll)

For all its lovely directness, “In the Bleak Midwinter” reflects Rossetti’s troubled religious faith. An Anglo-Catholic influenced by Calvinism and Adventism, she found God the Father terrifying and remote but identified with the humanity and suffering of Jesus. In describing the nativity, she mentions the attendant celestial spirits but stresses the earthier elements of the scene—the tangible milk and love that Mary gives her child and the comforting companionship of the animals in the stable. This attraction to natural manifestations of divinity may remind us of Emily Dickinson, who was Rossetti’s nearly exact contemporary and of whose work Rossetti was an early champion. (Both poets were born in the bleak, midwintery December of 1830—Rossetti on the 5th, Dickinson on the 10th—though Dickinson died in 1886, eight years before Rossetti.)

Below is the text of Rossetti’s carol, plus a performance of it in Darke’s setting.

“A Christmas Carol”

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow has fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter,
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Throng’d the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

– Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

2015_nov_1_curry_114

Episcopal Church installs its first African American presiding bishop

bishop_12191446409030
In an impassioned speech, Michael Bruce Curry, the 27th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and Primate, speaks before a packed house at Washington National Cathedral on Nov. 1. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

By Michelle Boorstein November 1 at 10:22 PM

The public face and style of the Episcopal Church shifted Sunday with the installation of Michael Bruce Curry, the denomination’s first African American spiritual leader.

Curry, 62, a high-energy, evangelical pastor, is expected to bring a positive, Pope Francis-like vibe to a church community marked in recent years by shrinking numbers and legal disputes related to gay rights.

“Don’t worry! Be happy! God loves you!” Curry boomed at the close of his sermon to the 2,500 people gathered in the soaring Washington National Cathedral. Preaching from the elevated Canterbury Pulpit, Curry immediately changed the face of Episcopalianism, historically one of the faiths of the nation’s white elite.

Curry, known for focusing on evangelism and programs for the poor, follows Katharine Jefferts Schori, a somber Nevada oceanographer who was presiding bishop for nine years.

Jefferts Schori oversaw a tumultuous period as Americans turned away from the denomination and conservatives streamed out, in some cases triggering litigation over church properties that bled into many millions of dollars. The church has faced the same tensions that other faiths have had for decades over issues such as gay rights and the female clergy, but it ordained Gene Robinson, an openly gay bishop, in 2003. Since then, the church has lost 20 percent of its membership.

Curry focused his installation sermon on racial reconciliation, a cause at the center of what he calls “the Jesus movement” — a new emphasis on evangelism. Preaching in an animated style more familiar to a Baptist church, he told the story of a young black couple who visited an all-white Episcopal church in the 1940s. The woman, an Episcopalian, approached to take Communion. The man, who was studying to be a Baptist pastor, sat in the back, watching to see what would happen when it became clear in this segregated era that there was just one cup from which everyone would drink.

When the white priest offered the cup to the young black woman, the scene was so dramatic that the man shifted his affiliation and was ordained as an Episcopalian.

“The Holy Spirit has done evangelism and racial reconciliation in the Episcopal Church before, because that man and woman were the parents of the 27th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church,” Curry said, speaking of himself.

The church broke into roars and applause.

“Yes, the way of God’s love turns our world upside down. But that’s really right-side up,” Curry preached. “And in that way, the nightmare of this world will be transfigured into the very dream of God for humanity and all creation. My brothers and sisters, God has not given up on God’s world. And God is not finished with the Episcopal Church yet.”

[More on Bishop Curry’s life story]

Racial reconciliation has become a higher priority for many predominantly white U.S. churches. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, along with the Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, in recent years have elevated it in sermons, programs on gun control and symbolic actions such as removing the Confederate flag from stained glass in the cathedral. The question for Curry and other faith leaders is how to avoid the political polarization Americans both love and hate and with which many young people associate organized Christianity.

While Curry focused on overcoming economic, racial, educational and political divisions, he is known as a progressive who was one of the first bishops to allow same-sex marriages to be performed, in North Carolina. He was involved in grass-roots demonstrations in Raleigh called Moral Monday, challenging local and state governments to address the poor and marginalized.

“Is it an understatement to say we live in a deeply complex and difficult time for our world,” Curry said. “Life is not easy. It is an understatement to say that these are not, and will not be, easy times for people of faith.

“Churches, religious communities and institutions are being profoundly challenged,” he said. “But the realistic social critique of Charles Dickens rings true for us even now: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ . . . Don’t worry! Be happy!”
The installation drew a large crowd for the cathedral, including 150 bishops who streamed in together in white-and-red clerical garb. There were at least 75 “watch parties” of Episcopalians across the country, church spokeswoman Neva Rae Fox said.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S.-based part of the global Anglican Communion, one of the largest Christian communities in the world. Its membership, about 1.8 million, was never large, but until recently was home to a disproportionate number of the United States’ business and political elite. Culturally it was considered a proper part of U.S. society, with a refined and orderly worship style. Although that is a somewhat outdated image, Curry’s installation drove home the change as clergy processed to powerful Native American drumming music and an intense rendition of the black spiritual “Wade in the Water.”

“I wish everyone who thinks Episcopalians are the Frozen Chosen could experience this service,” tweeted one attendee.

The Episcopal Church’s first black leader — and its ‘tortuous’ path toward integration

33seminary14A1444789391

The Rev. Michael Curry, the incoming presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, visits Alexandria’s Virginia Theological Seminary for Tuesday’s consecration of the newly built Immanuel Chapel. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey October 15

Bishop Michael Curry vividly remembers growing up in segregated Buffalo in the 1950s and ’60s, where on one bright morning in 1963, he crossed Main Street from East Buffalo to West Buffalo to attend an integrated school.

As an Episcopal priest and civil rights activist, his late father, Kenneth Curry, helped lead the boycott of the city’s segregated public schools. And yet, like the larger culture at the time, worship in the Episcopal Church he so loved was largely segregated. As leader of a black congregation in Buffalo, he never would have been called to the pulpit of a white Episcopal church.

Five decades later, Kenneth Curry probably would never have imagined that his son would be chosen to lead the entire denomination.

On Nov. 1, Michael Curry — who was elected this summer just one week after the shootings at a historic African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C. — will be installed as the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church at Washington National Cathedral. He will replace Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who was elected the church’s first female presiding bishop in 2006.

In many ways, Curry’s tenure will be a continuation of what his father taught him: In God’s eyes, all human beings are equal and deserve to be treated as such.

John Agbaje, right, takes a selfie with the Rev. Michael Curry after the Virginia Theological Seminary consecrated its newly built Immanuel Chapel on Tuesday in Alexandria. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
“I grew up seeing that Jesus of Nazareth has something to do with our lives and has something to do with how we structure and order our society,” said Curry, 62.

Curry, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina since 2000, was elected with an overwhelming majority, the third black candidate for presiding bishop in the church’s history.

“Most black Episcopalians interpret this as catching up, as something they should’ve done before,” said Byron Rushing, vice president of the House of Deputies and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Blacks make up 6.3 percent of the church’s membership, compared with 86.6 percent for non-Hispanic white members, according to church data.

But as presiding bishop, Curry will face membership challenges that extend far beyond race. Like other mainline denominations, the Episcopal Church — the historic home to U.S. presidents and the nation’s elite — has struggled to fill its pews. It has lost more than 20 percent of its members since it consecrated its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003, and new statistics suggest that membership continues to fall, dropping 2.7 percent from 2013 to about 1.8 million U.S. members in 2014.
Progressive on social issues

On Tuesday, Curry and other church leaders gathered at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria to consecrate a chapel to replace the one that burned down in 2010. Curry was like a rock star to many of the seminarians, making faces for selfies.

Ian Markham, dean of the seminary, noted that the founders and faculty from the institution once owned slaves and that its new chapel has a plaque noting its past segregation in worship. “We have to recognize the sins of our past and repent of them,” he said.

Curry has a clear passion for evangelism, something he calls “the Jesus movement,” though not a formal movement within the church. He is also progressive on social issues and was one of the first bishops to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in North Carolina churches.

As bishop in North Carolina, Curry was involved in the grass-roots Moral Monday demonstrations in Raleigh, challenging local and state governments to address the poor and marginalized.

“The work of evangelism and social justice must go together, because it’s part of the whole gospel,” he said.

Observers note Curry’s desire to keep his installation service simple and his focus on people on the margins — almost like a Protestant Pope Francis who could help change the face of the church. His friends point to his boisterous preaching style as he moves around the pulpit and gestures with his arms, more Baptist than Episcopal in some ways.

The father of two adult daughters with his wife, Sharon, Curry is known for his infectious laughter and self-deprecating humor. He is an avid reader, a Buffalo Bills fan and a self-described “certified NFL grief counselor,” and a lover of music who took up the violin about seven years ago.

Curry said he was deeply shaped by his Baptist grandmother, the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves. While he was in middle school, she stepped in after Curry’s mother went into a coma brought on by a cerebral hemorrhage.

“My grandmother couldn’t imagine Barack Obama in the White House, and I know she couldn’t imagine her grandson as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church,” he said.
As a family, they would pray every night, and Curry jokingly said he would secretly hope that his father would pray so it would be a shorter one. “If it was the Baptist prayer, it would go on forever,” he said.

His mother, who grew up Baptist, switched to the Episcopal Church after she read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. His father, who was a licensed Baptist pastor and came from a line of Baptist preachers, followed her.

Curry remembers the denominational bantering between his father and grandmother.

“They would tease each other. She would say, ‘How do you know if someone in your church has the Holy Spirit?’ He’d say, ‘You all got too much Holy Spirit in your church.’ ”

Ending the battles

Curry’s down-to-earth style and gift for bringing people together should prove valuable as he leads a church riven by divisions in recent years over issues from gay rights to how to read Scripture. However, many of its more theologically conservative churches have left the denomination after having been involved in multimillion-dollar lawsuits over the right to church properties.

Part of Curry’s challenge will be to put those battles over social issues fully in the past, said Ryan Danker, a church historian at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.

“If he can bring some peace and healing, maybe end the lawsuits, have discussion and dialogue with various parties, I think he’ll be very successful,” Danker said.

Jefferts Schori, the outgoing presiding bishop, said Tuesday that the Episcopal Church is no longer “the establishment church” in the United States, which she considers to be a good thing.

“We’re more focused on the people of the margins,” she said. “We’re willing to go be with, rather than do for, and I think that’s healthier spiritually.”

The Rev. Sandye Wilson, rector of St. Andrew and Holy Communion Episcopal Church in South Orange, N.J., and a friend of Curry’s, said he is uniquely able to address the range of Episcopal Church members.

“He is comfortable with kings and princes but doesn’t lose the common touch,” Wilson said. “He is as comfortable with people who are very wealthy and comfortable with people in prison.”
The Episcopal Church is affiliated with the larger worldwide Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest Christian denomination, which is discussing whether it can remain unified amid divisions over sexuality and other issues. A large percentage of Anglicanism is thriving in the developing world, where more-conservative leaders have been unhappy with the Episcopal Church.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who attended Tuesday’s chapel consecration in Alexandria but declined interviews, has called Anglican leaders to a special meeting in January.

The Episcopal Church voted this summer to let gay couples marry in the church’s religious ceremonies, which Welby said “will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith resolutions.”

January’s gathering of leaders includes a review of the worldwide Anglican Communion’s future.

Some believe that Curry’s election as presiding bishop could help lead the way into that future, in which the membership of the global church will probably keep growing more diverse.

“It could change the face of the Episcopal Church, which is — at least in the eyes of many — a largely white, upper-class denomination of people in power,” said the Rev. Adam Shoemaker of Church of the Holy Comforter in Burlington, N.C. “It will be significant now that we have a nonwhite presiding bishop to represent us to the rest of the church.”

The 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Primate The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry at his Washington National Cathedral Installation, Sunday, November 1, 2015.

20151101_PB_2492015_nov_1_curry_13520151101_PB_3842015_nov_1_curry_1522015_nov_1_curry_462015_nov_1_curry_6120151101_PB_683

All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2015
A Sermon Preached by the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
The Installation of the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Primate
The Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, Washington, D.C.

In the Name of our loving, liberating and life giving God:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

It really is a joy and blessing to be able to be here and for the church to gather and to ask for God’s blessing.

Allow me a point of personal privilege. I am looking forward to working with my sister the Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies. We’ve been working with each other a bit over the summer.  And I look forward to working together with her in the years to come.

I want to offer thanks on your behalf for Dick Schori, the spouse of the Presiding Bishop.

In a time when there is often debate and genuine consternation as to whether courageous, effective leadership is even possible anymore, let the record show that The Episcopal Church has had a leader in Katharine Jefferts Schori.

It is an understatement to say we live in a deeply complex and difficult time for our world. Life is not easy.

It is an understatement to say that these are not, and will not be, easy times for people of faith. Churches, religious communities and institutions are being profoundly challenged. You don’t need me to tell you that.

But the realistic social critique of Charles Dickens rings true for us even now. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

But that’s alright. We follow Jesus. Remember what he said at the Last Supper, just hours before he would be arrested and executed? “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 KJV)

As that great biblical scholar has said, borrowing from what might be Bobby McFerrin’s paraphrase of Jesus’ words: Don’t worry. Be happy!

Don’t Worry.  Be Happy.

Let me offer a text from the 17th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. 

When [the angry crowd could not find the Apostle Paul and Silas], they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)

What you have there is a First century description of the Jesus movement.  Don’t worry. Be happy!

Many centuries later, Julia Ward Howe, writing in the midst of America’s Civil War, spoke of this same movement, even amidst all the ambiguities and tragedies of history. This is what she wrote:

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
with a glory in his bosom
that transfigures you and me,
as he died to make folk holy
let us live to set all free,
while God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah,
God’s truth is marching on.

That’s the Jesus movement. What was true in the First Century and true in the 19th Century is equally and more profound in this new 21st Century.

So don’t worry.  Be happy.

God has not given up on the world,

and God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.

 I

The truly liberating truth is that Jesus didn’t come into this world to found a religion, though religious faith is important.  Nor did he establish a religious institution or organization, though institutions and organizations can serve his cause. You will not find an organizational table in the New Testament.

Jesus came to continue a movement. Actually, Jesus picked up and took the movement of John the Baptist to a new level. John was part of the movement born out of prophets like Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah. And prophetic movement was rooted in Moses, who went up to the mountaintop. Jesus crystalized and catalyzed the movement that was serving God’s mission in this world.  God has a passionate dream for this world. 

Jesus came to show us the way.  Out of the darkness into the dream.

That’s what is going on in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles — the movement! The Apostle Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, have been preaching, teaching and witnessing to the way of Jesus in the city of Thessalonica. While their message finds some resonance with many, it is troublesome to others. A riot breaks out because of the tensions. Our text describes those who are troubled by the teaching about The Way, as the Jesus movement was first called.

Listen to this description of the first followers of Jesus:

These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.  (Acts 17:6b-7)

Notice that the activity of Paul and Silas was seen not as an isolated incident in Thessalonica, but as part of a greater movement of revolution. “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also.” Paul and Silas by themselves might not have been of much consequence. But as part of a movement, they posed a problem.

This movement was perceived as somehow reordering the way things were, “turning the world upside down.”

The reason the movement was turning the world upside down was because members of the movement gave their loyalty to someone named Jesus and committed themselves to living and witnessing to his way above all else. “They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” That’s what we did at the beginning of this service when, in the Baptismal Covenant, we reaffirmed our commitment to be disciples, living by and witnessing to the way of Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

The Way of Jesus will always turn our worlds and the world upside down, which is really turning it right side up!

That’s what Isaiah was trying to tell us in Isaiah 11. He saw the dream. When God’s way is our way:

The prophet Isaiah saw this. When Gods dream happens, when the world is upside down…..

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them….
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
(Isaiah 11:6-9)

St. John saw in his vision of the world end in the Book of Revelation. Exiled and imprisoned for his witness to the way of Jesus, John was caught up “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation1:10). He lifted up his head, and he saw the dream.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.   And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.(Revelation 21:1-4)

No more war.
No more suffering.
No more injustice.
No more bigotry.
No more violence.
No more hatred.
Every man and woman under their own vine or fig tree.
The rule of love. The way of God. The kingdom. The reign.
The great Shalom, Salaam of God.
The dream.

God’s on a mission to work through “our struggle and confusion,” as the Prayer Book says, to realize God’s dream. [i]

My brothers and sisters,
God has not given up on the world,
and God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.
We are the Jesus movement.
So don’t worry, be happy!

II

Now I know we all thought we were coming here today, via the live-stream of the internet or here in the cathedral, for the Installation of our Presiding Bishop. I thought that too until I was on the plane earlier this week, flying from North Carolina to the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

And I kid you not, a thought popped into my head: “You know this is not about you.” It sort of jolted me inside.  A lot was going on.  I was on the way to fill out employment and insurance papers. The movers were coming to Diocesan House in Raleigh. I was going to spend one last day with Bishop Katharine.

The real Michael Curry was frankly scared to death and wondering, “Did you all make a mistake?” I was stuck on a plane, strapped into my seat belt because of turbulence on the flight, and I couldn’t get off. At that moment, and I’m not trying to get mystical or anything, but at that moment something said to me, “Michael Curry, this is not about you.”

I must admit that was a moment of some sweet liberation. Because it’s not about me. It’s about God, and it’s about Jesus. It’s about that sweet, sweet Spirit who will show us the way “into all the truth,” as Jesus promised (John 16:13), who has shown us the way to be who we really were created to be.

The way of Jesus will always turn our lives and the world upside down, but we know that that’s really right side up. Therein is the deepest and fondest hope for all creation and the human family.

Just listen to what Jesus said. What the world calls wretched, Jesus calls blessed, turning the world upside down.

Blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit.
Blessed are the merciful, the compassionate.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, that God’s righteous justice might prevail in all the world.
(Matthew 5:3-9, paraphrased)

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12)

At home and in the church, do unto others as you would have them do to you. That will turn things upside down. In the boardrooms of the corporate world, in the classrooms of the academic world, in the factories, on the streets, in the halls of legislatures and councils of government, in the courts of the land, in the councils of the nations, wherever human beings are, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That’s a game changer! “Things which were cast down are being raised up. And things which had grown old are being made new.” That will turn things upside down, which is really right side up! That’s what Jesus said and what the Jesus movement is about!

Love is the key

But the key to this turning, which is at the center of the way of Jesus, is love. Later, in the Sermon on the Mount, where our Gospel reading came from, Jesus said this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45a)

The liberating love of God is the key to the way of Jesus. Both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels tell about the lawyer or scribe who came up to Jesus one day. Great teacher, he asked, in all of the massive legal edifice of Moses, what is the greatest law? What is the cardinal principle on which it all stands? What is the goal? What is the point of it all? In other words, what is God really getting at?

Jesus answered, bringing together a teaching of Moses from the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 and a text from Leviticus 19:18. Jesus said to him,

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”(Matthew  22:37-40)

This is really a stunning declaration. On these two — love of God and love of your neighbor— hang, hinge, depend ALL the law and the prophets.

Everything Moses taught.
Everything the prophets thundered forth about justice.
Everything in the Bible.
True religion.
It’s about love of God and the neighbor.
If it’s not about love, then it’s not about God.

This way of love is the way of Jesus. This is the heart of the Jesus movement. And it will turn the world, and the Church, I might add, upside down, which is really right side up.

Let me show you what I mean. In Luke’s gospel, chapter 10, Jesus and a lawyer come to an agreement that love of God and love of neighbor is the standard of all morality. But then the lawyer says (and I paraphrase):

Ok, I’ll grant the point about love for God and neighbor as Moses taught. But we need to carefully define what we mean by neighbor.  Just how expansive or inclusive is this definition? This could have far-reaching impact. So, who exactly is my neighbor?

That’s when Jesus makes up a story, a parable. This guy was walking on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. That road was known to be a pretty dangerous road to travel at night. But this guy needed to go where he was going. As it happened, he got mugged and robbed. He was beaten pretty badly and was lying on the side of the road.  A priest was coming down the same road, saw him lying there, but for whatever reason, walked on by. Another religious leader from the community came by a little later, and probably for fear of his own safety, walked on by, too, leaving the guy on the side of the road. 

Then this Samaritan guy came by. Samaritans were not well-regarded. There was some real animosity toward them that had a long history. But ironically it was that Samaritan who actually stopped, cared for the guy, bound up his wounds, put him on his own donkey and took him into town. Then he paid for his health care and made sure the guy was taken care of until he was well.

Jesus then asks the lawyer, “Now, who was a neighbor to the man?”  Jesus didn’t fall for his question. By asking that question, Jesus reveals to that lawyer – and on down the centuries to us — what the love of God really looks like.

But imagine the same parable with slightly different characters. A Christian was walking the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and she fell among thieves. Another Christian came by, but passed on by. Another did the same. And still another follower of Jesus passed on by. A brother or sister who is Muslim came by and stopped and saw her in need and helped her.  Imagine. Who is the neighbor?

It could be a young black or Hispanic youth who is hurt, and a police officer who helps. Or the police officer hurting and the youth who helps. Imagine.

Do you see where Jesus is going?  He’s talking about turning this world upside down.

God has not given up on the world,
and God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.
We are the Jesus movement.
So don’t worry, be happy.

III

Last summer, the 78th General Convention of our Church did a remarkable thing: the General Convention invited us as a church to take this Jesus Movement. We made a commitment to live into being the Jesus movement by committing to evangelism and the work of reconciliation — beginning with racial reconciliation. Across the divides that set us apart.  I believe the Holy Spirit showed up. I was telling someone about this, and they said, “Do you realize this Church has taken on two of the most difficult and important works it could ever embrace?”

Let’s get real. Imagine “Jeopardy” or another television game show. The question asked of the contestants is this: “Name two words that begin with ‘E’ but that are never used at the same time.” And the answer? What is ‘Episcopalian’ and ‘evangelism’ ?

I’m talking about a way of evangelism that is genuine and authentic to us as Episcopalians, not a way that imitates or judges anyone else.  A way of evangelism that is really about sharing good news. A way of evangelism that is deeply grounded in the love of God that we’ve learned from Jesus. A way of evangelism that is as much about listening and learning from the story of who God is in another person’s life as it is about sharing our own story. A way of evangelism that is really about helping others find their way to a relationship with God without our trying to control the outcome. A way of evangelism that’s authentic to us. We can do that.

And this idea of reconciliation, beginning with racial reconciliation — really? 

Racial reconciliation is just the beginning for the hard and holy work of real reconciliation that realizes justice but really across all the borders and boundaries that divide the human family of God.

This is difficult work. But we can do it. It’s about listening and sharing.

It’s about God.

In this work of reconciliation we can join hands with others.

It is as the Jesus movement, following Jesus’ way, that we join hands with brothers and sisters of different Christian communities, with brothers and sisters of other faith and religious traditions and with brothers and sisters who may be atheist or agnostic or just on a journey, but who long for a better world where children do not starve and where is, as the old spiritual says, “plenty good room for all of God’s children.” We can join together to do this work. 

In evangelism and reconciliation has got to be some of the most difficult work possible. But don’t worry.  We can do it. The Holy Spirit has done this work before in The Episcopal Church. And it can be done again for a new day.

It was sometime in the 1940s, when the armed forces had not be desegregated.  Just after the Second World War. In the United States, Jim Crow was alive and well. Segregation and separation of the races was still the law in much of the land and the actual practice in other areas, even if it wasn’t technically the law there.

The armed forces had not yet been desegregated. The Tuskegee Airmen were still a unit. Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas had not yet been issued. Long before Rosa Parks had not yet stood up for Jesus by sitting down on that bus in Montgomery. Long before Jackie Robinson was playing baseball, before Martin Luther King, Jr. was still in seminary.

An African American couple went to an Episcopal church one Sunday morning. They were the only people of color there. The woman had become an Episcopalian after reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, finding the logic of his faith profoundly compelling. Her fiancé was then studying to become ordained as a Baptist preacher.

But there they were on America’s segregated Sabbath, the only couple of color at an Episcopal Church service of Holy Communion according to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

When the time came for communion the woman, who was confirmed, went up to receive. The man, who had never been in an Episcopal Church, and who had only vaguely heard of Episcopalians, stayed in his seat. As he watched how communion was done, he realized that everyone was drinking real wine — out of the same cup.

The man looked around the room, then he looked at his fiancée, then he sat back in the pew as if to say, “This ought to be interesting.”

The priest came by uttering these words as each person received the consecrated bread: The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

Would the priest really give his fiancée communion from the common cup? Would the next person at the rail drink from that cup, after she did? Would others on down the line drink after her from the same cup?

The priest came by speaking these words to each person as they drank from the cup: The Blood our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.

The people before her drank from the cup. The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ….  Another person drank.  Preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.   The person right before her drank.  Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee….  Then she drank.  And be thankful.  She drank. Now was the moment her fiancé was waiting for.  Would the next person after her drink from that cup? He watched. The next person drank.  The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee….  And on down the line it went, people drinking from the common cup after his fiancée, like this was the most normal thing in the world.

The man would later say that it was that reconciling experience of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist that brought him into The Episcopal Church and that he had an evangelism. He said, “Any Church in which blacks and whites drink out of the same cup knows something about the Gospel that I want to be a part of.”

That couple later married and gave birth to two children, both of whom are here today, and one of whom is the 27th Presiding Bishop.

We are Gods’ children, all of us.  We are God’s baptized children.   We are here to change the world with the power of love.

God really does love us.  

The Spirit has done evangelism and reconciliation work through us before. And the Spirit of God can do it again, in new ways, now beyond the doors of our church buildings, out in the world, in the sanctuary of the streets, in our 21st-century Galilee where the Risen Christ has already gone ahead of us.

Yes, the way of God’s love turns our world upside down. But that’s really right side up. And in that way, the nightmare of this world will be transfigured into the very dream of God for humanity and all creation.

My brothers and sisters,
God has not given up on God’s world.

And God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet.
God has work for us to do.

Jesus has work for us to do and it’s the Jesus Movement.
So don’t worry. Be happy!

He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.

Thanks to Donovan Marks and Danielle Thomas, photographers

2015_nov_1_curry_20 20151101_PB_329   20151101_PB_744

BY TRENT GILLISS  EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Alain de Botton’s short piece of writing on the dark truth about love speaks with care about the human condition — reminding me of Robert Sapolsky’s ideas about embracing paradox and continuing to move forward nevertheless. And, in the hands of Hannah Jacobs and Lara Lee, this sensitively done animation considers this idea with care and a deft lightness elevates each phrase:

“You will never find the right person.
Such a creature does not exist.
You are irredeemably alone.
You will not be understood.
The moments of love were an illusion.
There is something wrong with you
And with everyone else.
The idea of love distracts us from an existential loneliness.
Now let’s pretend we do not know any of this.”

“The less it is possible that something can be,
the more it must be.”

I’ve been sitting on this unbelievably gripping, humorous, and intellectually stimulating lecture by Robert Sapolsky for months now. I’m not sure why. My work life whisked me away, but, in watching this video again, it’s too good not to share.

Sapolsky is one of the world’s leading neuroscientists who explores “the biology of neurons” and how stress factors in to our social lives. He’s an incredible storyteller who makes sense of the human species by studying primates, particularly baboons. Using many examples from the wild, he debunks a series of commonly held assumptions that most people believe define human beings as being distinct, as being unique to our species: theory of mind, the Golden Rule, empathy, tit-for-tat, etc.

Despite all the universal behaviors we humans hold in common with other animals, Sapolsky says that humans have one trait that best defines and distinguishes us from other species: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in our head, and yet continue on in the face of it.

Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky Speaks at StanfordDuring a staff meeting several months ago, I recommended that one of our associate producers do some research on Dr. Sapolsky as a potential interview with Krista. The feedback: Dr. Sapolsky was a good storyteller with great depth of experience, but there was concern that his atheism might be too strident and might not work for our program.

To me, it’s these types of voices that we want to include in our repertoire of shows. He’s a non-believer who embraces the paradox himself. He’s not just against religion or worshiping a deity. He lives an intellectual life that listens to these religious and philosophical voices and internalizes them. He takes them seriously and doesn’t dismiss them.

So, when I’m evaluating future guests, I’m looking for clues, for indicators that strike me as openness to ideas without personally accepting them as doctrine. So, even though Dr. Sapolsky declares himself strident in the lecture above, he makes a Niebuhrian statement like the one that heads the top of this page. And, shortly thereafter, posts a slide with a quotation from Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard:

“Christian faith requires that faith persists in the face of the impossible, and that humans have the capacity to simultaneously believe in two contradictory things.”

Sister Helen Prejean

And then he immediately cites the mercy-filled work of Sr. Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun, and quotes her:

“The less forgivable the act, the more it must be forgiven. The less loveble the person is, the more you must find the means to love them.”

What’s even more delightful is Sapolsky’s own ability and intellectual curiosity to live comfortably and reconcile his own positions and beliefs. He marvels:


“As a strident atheist, this strikes me as the most irrational, magnificent thing we are capable of as a species. … And this one does not come easily. On a certain level, the harder this is, this contradiction, to take the impossibility of something and to be the very proof that it must be possible and must become a moral imperative, the harder it is to do that, the more important it is.”

In the bottom photo, Sister Helen Prejean participates in a demonstration against the death penalty in Paris, France on July 2, 2007. (photo by Mehdi Fedouach/AFP/Getty Images).

monthly archives

archives

Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

  • 346,268

say hello

If you drop by my site, I'd love to know what brought you here and a bit about where you are from and how you feel about your visit. Take a minute and say hello!

FAIR USE NOTICE

This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.
May 2020
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Pages

Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory