Friday, November 01, 2013

Gotta Love Everybody!!!

"Love One Another"

"Love one another." 
"A House of Prayer for all people."

Sounds simple enough.

But when we try to put such an idea into practice, all hell breaks loose. Just take a look at the Episcopal Church, for instance, as a microcosm of the struggles we've been having in the wider culture in the past half century.

Lets say we decide through a democratic process to consecrate an openly gay man as a bishop in the Episcopal Church. After all, we were only doing openly what had been done secretly for centuries, and not just in this branch of the Catholic Church. Take a good look at this man; according to Jesus, you must love him even if he happens to be a happily married gay man.

The furor left in the wake of this decision has left our church in schism in some places...but by and large, we in the US have bonded together more strongly as we seek to remain faithful to our understanding of the Gospel. 

After all, we are a "House of Prayer for All People".
We seek to "Love one another".

It all happened before as we broke the barriers of gender and through democratic process again, we elected a woman to serve as a Bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts. Take a good look at her. Jesus said you must love her too.

That was years ago. To go you one better we even elected a woman to serve as our Presiding Bishop. Take a good look at her. You must love her too, if you claim to follow Jesus.

She was treated uncharitably by the Archbishop of Canterbury and many other bishops of the Anglican Communion shortly after her election. But we remained unmoved in our resolve to be a "House of Prayer for all People" where we would be obedience to the moral mandate to "Love one Another".

I am old enough to remember a time when race was a matter of great controversy. God help us, it still is. And we elected this man to be the Bishop of Massachusetts. He ordained me in 1972. John Melville Burgess is held in very high esteem these days, but I can remember a time when some of my "white" brothers made disparaging and uncharitable remarks about him.

The church and the culture around it is struggling to make our sacred spaces and our nations places where race, class, ethnicity, gender and orientation are no longer pigeon holes that divide us, but merely facets of a jewel through which we may see the Glory of God refracted through every human face.

In a moment of sublime insight, Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles ("Outsiders") said this of our discipleship; "There is no longer Jew or Greek (or any other race or ethnicity), there is no longer slave or free (or any other class or economic status), there is no longer male or female (or any other classification by orientation that separates one kind from another), for you are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord". Galatians 3:28.

November 1 is All Saints Day in the Church's Calendar. The Church Calendar is an attempt to sanctify time. The sanctification of Time is a hollow notion without the sanctification of all humanity.

As a teen I was brought on pilgrimage to the National Cathedral. As I looked up at the great west doors of that magnificent church, I saw these words; "A House of Prayer for all people." ~ Isaiah 56:7. That made such good sense to me.

Little did I know how contentious and controversial that simple proclamation would be to follow as a disciple of Jesus. The Gospel's mandate to "Love one another" trumps the simplistic Pharisaical human tendency to organize people into convent boxes of orientation, gender, class, ethnicity, and race. How can Christian folk say such things when we are all "one in Christ Jesus our Lord".

Look what happened to Jesus. So often he found himself in conflict with the rich and powerful, but that never stopped Jesus for speaking up for the poor, the outcast, the marginalized. The Gospel for All Saints Day has a bite to it. The Lucan version of the Beatitudes places these words in the Savior's mouth. 

They are well worth reading again.

"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
"Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
"Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets
"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you."
     ~Luke 6:20-31

In the meantime we live in this world but not of this world. 

Happy All Saints Day,
Peace to all,
Fr Paul

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