In light of all the Anglican Covenant carrying-on in Jamaica this week, I am amused... and in awe... of the readings assigned for the Daily Office. Because today's gospel reading from Luke is the "Love your enemies" message:
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.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.* Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.--Luke 6: 27-36.
It seems important to me that the passage starts with, "But I say to you that listen." Because I sometimes wonder if that isn't part of the problem. It seems to me that so much strife in the world... and particularly within the Anglican Communion... comes from a place of NOT listening. I'm sure there are those on the opposite side of gay people who will say we don't listen to their concerns. But that's simply not true. It is not that we haven't listened. We have. We know that there are cultural differences between those of us in the United States and other parts of the world around the issue of homosexuality and the role of women. What we have said, and maintained all along, is that we here in this country have to be who we are. Those in this country who are opposed to gays and women in the ministry are a minority within the Episcopal Church. Vocal, yes... but still a minority. Should we listen to them? Yes. Should we worship with them? Yes. But should they be allowed to set barriers to full participation of those who are different from themselves? No. And that's where, I think, we've had a break down.
To this day, I have not understood those bishops and dioceses within our own Episcopal Church who are still frothing at the mouth over +Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Is he your bishop? If the answer is no, then what are you afraid of? There are also those bishops who openly advertise that they did not vote for Gene's consecration, nor that of our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. I wonder, why is it so important to announce this? Again, +Gene is in New Hampshire, and he should not be of much consequence to the workings of a diocese elsewhere. But why would you want to draw a bright line for everyone that you didn't consent to the election of your own leader? Can they not see the Christ in her... or would they prefer to stew in seeing the devil in her?
Another thing that occurs to me is that when I read this passage, I can easily conjure up the image of my "enemy". And I have to think that my enemy, when reading this passage, conjures up an image of me. And therein lies the brilliance of God. If both sides are taking in this message, for real, then presumably both sides will have to act on the message that we must love each other... even if we don't really like each other. Thus, when I read that some archbishops and bishops within our Anglican Communion refuse to go to God's table to receive the eucharist with those who they believe are "apostate" or whatever... I believe they are committing a mortal sin. Yes, deadly sin: the failure to love one another as God taught us to love each other.
God, I wonder if we'll ever get this right.