Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Odd Balls Are Cool

As a bit of a carry-over from All Saints' Day, I was talking with someone on the steps of St. John's the other night about one of my favorites of the recently departed, Fr. Lee Graham.  We were both remembering separate instances in which Father Lee reflected upon the sad reality of being an Episcopalian.

We aren't going to be popular.  We aren't going to out pace everyone else's denomination in church membership.  We are, for a lack of a better way of putting it, odd balls.  And that's OK.

In fact, it's more than OK.  It is what makes us followers of Christ.  Christ never said that following a path which demands letting go of selfish desires in favor of loving those around you, including people you'd really rather not be with ever, was going to be easy.  Love may be patient and kind, but it isn't easy and requires some sacrifice of our selves.  Now, honestly, who would want to sign up for that?  Answer: the odd balls.

Certainly, Episcopalians, such as the late Fr. Lee Graham, fall into that category.   Fr. Lee and his wife, Betty, always seemed to be on the look out for the other odd balls and misfits, and were always including them and opening the doors to the church wider.  It would sometimes result in people leaving, which Fr. Lee didn't seem to fret over.  

"I don't remember a time when someone wasn't leaving the Episcopal Church for one reason or another!" he laughed during an interview in February, 2012.

And then he and I shared our common belief: that what makes the Episcopal Church strong is the ability to disagree with each other and still continue to come to the Lord's table and be shoulder to shoulder at the rail.  It's when people take their marbles... or attempt to take church property... and storm off that we cease to be Episcopalian or any kind of Anglican for that matter.  That's certainly something many parishes in this area have had to deal with in the past decade.  And the hurt from those splits was enormous.  Still, those who stayed have grown stronger, and have attracted new odd balls or old odd balls that had rolled away to come back in.  

But the secret to the success of Christ in the world today is for those who have come back in to then go back out.  We aren't supposed to be about staying put inside the safety of our churches; we are to go out and love and serve "The Lord" in our homes and our work places.  Does this mean proselytizing on street corners or at the water cooler?  No.  That isn't the Episcopal way.  Ours is more like what Canon Frank Logue of the Diocese of Georgia once depicted in a video: we're ninjas.  We go about living out our faith in the actions of how we treat others we encounter.  We listen to people and care about what's happening in their lives.  And we don't use them as a means to an end that benefits or gratifies some desire of our own.  Living this way requires one to be a bit of an odd ball because there is no reward for it beyond the satisfaction of knowing that Love is a powerful force in the world, and its ready for all of us to tap into it.

Being an Episcopalian doesn't make you a "favorite" or earn you a bunch of "Likes" on Facebook.  To be an Episcopalian means to spread the favor of Love to others, with no expectations or attachments for your self.  

1 comment:

Phoebe McFarlin said...

It is with pleasure to read a cradle Episcopalian recognising being an 'odd ball'. So many of Episcopalians are people who chose as adults to become one of the 'odd balls'. Only wish that more of us walked in the footprints of leaders like Lee G.