Sunday, November 1, 2015
"If it's not about love, it's not about God!"
What a tremendous moment in the history of the Episcopal Church! The first woman ever to lead this ol' denomination, that has oft been seen as the church of the ruling class, passing the staff of leadership to its first-ever African-American leader. The service of installing our 27th Presiding Bishop, Michael B. Curry, was a phenomenal testament to the diversity of the Episcopal Church. Music in Spanish and English; the Gospel declared in Lakota; "Wade in the Water" played in the same service with hymns on the tune of "Jerusalem." It was the type of service that one hopes will be the spirit of the Holy Spirit infusing us with the joy that comes from the liberating love of God expressed for all in Jesus Christ.
For all? Yes, I mean FOR ALL. In his sermon, Presiding Bishop Curry expressed what I have come to believe in about Jesus. He didn't come to start a religion, or to have a church. He really came to start a Movement...the Jesus Movement, which is a carrying forward of the Movement begun at the beginning and handed on from Moses to various prophets down through the ages. And that Movement was not about being "right"; it was about aligning yourself rightly with God and loving God and loving neighbor, no matter who that neighbor is. And it wasn't about getting puffed up with how good we're doing, but always looking around for the goodness that is being done and helping to foster its growth, whether it is being done with an official stamp of "in the name of Christ" or not. To put it simply, PB Curry stated it this way: "If it's not about love, it's not about God." Drop the mic, and walk away. Christianity, The Way, is about love. Period.
Our Education for Ministry group had the assignment to watch the service as our primary mission of the day. We gathered in what was advertised as an open house, but are only taker was our priest, who sat in and participated in the group until he needed to leave for his child's birthday party. We talked about the many things that struck us about the service (recognizable liturgy, moments of confusion with the languages, the many inter-religious participants). We talked about the Jesus Movement and how can we express that and hence do the impossible: get an Episcopalian comfortable with evangelizing. And as we spoke, there seemed to be an understanding emerging that evangelizing isn't just about telling people about Jesus; it's about doing the things that build up people and restore the person in need to a place of love. Sometimes, the simplest way to bring that about is through being present with a person and letting them tell their story. Even the person who is angry and accusing us, as Episcopalians, of not being "true Christians," the only thing to do is to remember that (a) we are true Christians and to assert otherwise is just silly and (b) to recognize that those who call us names and demean us are acting out of a place of fear and not faith. And with fearful people, you can let them rant and rail and continue to say to them, "Peace be with you." Really. Peace--please--be with you!
The detractors of the Episcopal Church, those who broke away, have been penning blogs denouncing our Presiding Bishop and trashing what was a beautiful and joyful celebration at the Washington National Cathedral. I read the entry that was published on David Virtue's site, and it was typically filled with jabs and potshots at the service and accusing us of throwing out Jesus, etc. etc. Eight years ago, I would have read such an entry and been irate. But eight years is plenty of time to journey with Christ and to learn that what is not understood will be attacked and dismissed by those who cannot see and will not listen. So, there's no point in getting angry. Instead, I read, shake my head, and pray to God to deliver that person and me from our struggles, so that we may enjoy life. Again, peace, really, be with all of us.
I am excited about the future of the Episcopal Church which has certainly been battered and bruised along the way toward bringing more people into the liberating love of God. I am marching with this band of crazy people who really do want to see God's dream become the reality for our world. It's a parade worth the walk.