Monday, August 4, 2008

All Means All

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a
deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so
that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them,
“They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have
nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to
me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five
loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the
loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the
crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over
of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. Matthew 14: 15-20

As a child, one of the television shows I enjoyed the most was “Sesame Street”. I liked the creatures, and I liked to mimic the characters. That, of course, was part of the intended learning from the show. I also used to enjoy how shows on this Public Broadcasting Service program were brought to you by a number and a letter in the alphabet. I would then spend the next half-hour noting how much “product placement” they’d do, again, part of the intended education.

So this Sunday’s readings, coming in juxtaposition with the close of the Lambeth Conference in England, had somewhat of a Sesame Street feel to them. Because this week, the Extraordinary Love of God was brought to you by the word: “All”.

“All” could be found everywhere! It was in the Isaiah 55 passage with the invite to “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” In other words, all thirsty people…come drink this living water.
The assigned Psalm 145: “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”
And then the real kick in the pants: “And all ate and were filled.” Not a few. Not just the disciples. All. Everyone. And it numbered five thousand (plus the women and children who…oddly in the NRSV of the Bible seem to get tacked on in the translation). Stopping, listening, paying attention to what God seems to be saying in today’s episode of My Big Fat Love:

“Everybody’s going to be fed.”

There are no exceptions. No hidden clauses. No denials to a spot at the table. Anyone with thirst, anyone with hunger will get fed. The pantry is open to all.

So what in the world does this have to do with the end of the Lambeth Conference in England? What strikes me is that there were some strides made amongst the bishops from various parts of the Communion to ratchet down their rhetoric and listen to each other. Certainly, the biggest accomplishment is a better understanding that to walk away from each other in a huff will not benefit anyone, especially as the Church continues its social justice work on issues such as poverty.
But there is still seemingly a hang-up about sex. And, sadly, it seems to only be about homosexual sex. And, even sadder, it seems to be only about the church in the United States and Canada and our willingness here to recognize that all of God’s children have a place in the church…and sometimes that place evolves into leadership. The Archbishop of Canterbury absolutely insisted that there continue to be a moratorium on the ordination of partnered LGBT people…as well as no blessings of same-sex marriages. He also doesn’t want to see any more African or South American bishops big-footing their way into the dioceses in the US. When asked about “the gay issues”, the ABC argued that while some see full inclusion of LGBT people as “simply a human rights issue” that’s an assumption he “can not accept.” He explained how the church must define itself and its rites. And he added that in saying these things he wasn’t arguing against the rights and dignity of lesbian and gay people. What if the Episcopal Church doesn’t comply with the moratoria? The ABC cautioned that this would cause further strain in the communion.

Also speaking in favor of the moratorium was the Archbishop of Hong Kong, who noted that the Church in South China in 1948 had to sacrifice the ordination of a woman to the priesthood. When that action caused too much strife in the communion, Florence Li Tim Oi gave up her license as a priest, but retained her Holy Orders as a deacon. What a pity such a thing happened! But, the Archbishop notes, it preserved the Communion. For the record, LGBT Anglicans in Hong Kong are not welcome in their own church, and must meet in private to worship together. It’s in Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson’s book. Go read it!

Perhaps some might view me as selfish, or un"generous", for not wanting to see our Church back track away from the direction we’re moving in toward full inclusion. And I’m not convinced that the Episcopal Church is going into retreat. Nothing in the final report from Lambeth is written in stone. But it does make me wonder, “What part of ‘all’ are the bishops not getting?”

To the ‘traditionalists’, I ask, “Do you really think your piece of bread, or slab of fish, is going to be diminished if I get some, too?” Oh, ye of little faith! Trust God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ithink that the Episcopal churches of Canada and the USA are going to strain the Anglican's and I think they will have to listen as also in Gene's book he says the church changes and we know that. So be it, and glory be to God.