When I was with my spiritual director on Thursday, I confessed to her that I had been having something stirring inside me for the past several days. And, trusting that I can say just about anything to this woman, I told her that I thought I might be able to preach.
She, thankfully, did not pick up a 2x4 to smack me about the head. At least not literally. However, she did look at me as if I was the biggest idiot in the village to cross her threshold that day. Had she not told me already that she thought I would make an excellent preacher? Had she not mentioned that my writing, my intelligence, my insights, and my ability to be articulate were not all gifts that I have that are in line with the ability to preach? Had she not made it abundantly clear that my one and only problem at the moment was an issue of geography? And, in a show of great impatience, she said what was really on her mind:
"What are you waiting for?"
And I had an answer for that one.
"Sunday. I'm going this Sunday to Thomasville to attend a service at St. Thomas."
She dislodged the figurative boot that was firmly planted in my behind. This answer was welcomed news after 14 months of meeting with me.
I am clear that this is a visit. And that I hold no great expectations of what will come from this visit which is, weirdly, a return to a somewhat old stomping ground. When I first entered spiritual direction with Rev. Nancy Mills, we met in the Guild Room at St. Thomas. I had pondered, on occasion, whether I would one day come up to Thomasville to attend church and just see something different than St. John's. Now, that pondering is becoming a reality. And this Sunday seems as good a time as any for a visit. I am not serving in any capacity at St. John's; I am not going to upload the sermon; and the services are designated as "Youth Sunday" meaning that our lessons, sermon, and the music will be led by the youth. I have nothing against the teenagers, but these "Youth Sundays" are not my favorite, so I'm happy to have an incentive to head north in the morning.
It will be interesting to hear what gets said at St. Thomas, another Episcopal Church that has had to weather the storm of ugly nasty splits blamed on the likes of me. The lectionary for Eastertide continues to present the theme of "Expand your horizons; this New Thing is for a whole new crop of people!" We will get to hear the marvelous story of Peter's dream in which he sees the supposedly unclean animals on a sheet. The man has this vision and is told to kill and eat these animals that he, as a good Jew, won't let touch his lips. But then he hears a voice, ""What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'" This is the set up for what happens next to Peter. As he's absorbing the meaning of this vision, three men show up to take him to a home in Caesarea. There, he finds a Gentile man and his family who said that an angel had told him to send for Peter in Joppa. At that moment, the Spirit swept over this family, and Peter, standing as a witness, had a V-8 experience when he realized what had been said was coming true: John the Baptizer had baptized with water, but the one who came after (aka Jesus) was baptizing with fire (aka the Holy Spirit). And Peter came to the inevitable conclusion: who am I to get in the way of a new thing happening with the Gentiles?
Indeed, this could be said of any one of us today: who are we to tell God's Holy Spirit what to do? Who are any of us to say that this person or that person is not eligible to receive the grace of God which flows forth freely to one and all? This has been the dividing line between those who have remained Episcopalian in this part of the country and those who have gone off to form their heterosexuals-only churches. The idea that God isn't on a mission to win the hearts and minds of all people, regardless of their labels, is just ludicrous. As Jesus says in the Gospel reading from John, "I give you a new commandment, that you love oneanother. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." There isn't a caveat on that statement. And if we, growing more mature in the stature of Christ, can't strive to achieve that goal of loving each other instead of slamming the door in each others face, then can we really sing that line about how "they will know we are Christians by our love?"
We say that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life." If we believe that, we might allow our hearts of stone to be broken into a billion pieces, so that we might have a heart of flesh in the same way Christ did, and recognize that to achieve the goal of walking in Christ's footsteps, we have to be willing to stretch further in love, and, maybe even attempt new things our selves by seeing who we have neglected or believed to be unfit, unorthodox, or just not one of "us".
Or maybe we visit a church in Thomasville.