A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By The Rev. C Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton
Perhaps 30,000 years ago the first Americans journeyed across a land-bridge from Siberia to Alaska and set foot on the virgin soil of this great continent. We are all immigrants or their children in the land between the shining seas; we all share the common bond of strangers who have become brothers and sisters.
And across the deep oceans of water and time we have continued the immigrant's journey from all over this fragile Earth: from North and East, from West and South, willing and unwilling, with little and with much, drawn by a vision of possibility enshrined in the enduring human conviction that we all equally have value; tested in our willingness to participate in the continuing human struggle to make this never-ending dream a present reality.
For us who here find our hearth and home and our community that vision was re-forged in Revolution, solidified by Civil War, tested in other wars beyond our shores, wounded by assassinations, enriched by explorations, nurtured by First Nations, expanded by Civil Rights, defined by simple words that speak across time to the deepest hopes and dreams of every human being in every culture and every nation: that we shall all be free some day.
But this vision is not limited to the transient events of one nation's brief history. It is also founded, for us as Christians, on the scriptural vision of compassion, mercy, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation that are the imprints of the kingdom of God and signs of God's persevering love. It is founded on the sacred stories the define, inform and shape our common identity: on the agonizing exclusion from God's garden, on the exuberant experience of freed slaves, on the enduring celebrations of returned exiles, on the challenging proclamations of devoted prophets, on the transformational encounters with our savior Jesus, and on the radical inclusivity of the risen Christ's New Community.
These two harmonious visions have, down the centuries, brought forth a renewed vision of humanity and of God. This renewed vision has brought us to this important crossroads faced with a decision.
We are representatives of a greater humanity - past, present, and yet to come. Our calling now is to decide whether to stand up for the sacred identity that is being reborn on this continent, even as we recognize the challenges being issued to our cultural and religious vision by those throughout our Communion and even within our own culture who dispute its validity and deny that our journey's final destination is sacred
As we reflect at this moment of decision our tradition invites us to remember the many martyrs down the ages -secular and sacred - of this emerging vision of humanity that is so firmly rooted in scripture. Diverse in background and nationality they have found a higher union forged in their blood.
And our reason tells us we are part of that union, part of that community, part of the Body of Christ. But we are and remain so only in as far as we continue to honor the vision that comes from our faith and our cultural identity through our willingness to shoulder that yoke of suffering that is the common lot of every faithful Christian. We are journeying on this holy road. We do so surrounded and supported by a great cloud of witnesses, urging us to continue along The Way.
United by this renewed vision, reflecting on our common humanity and our common faith, the shared remembrance and common sacrifice of our sacred journey sanctifies the bond of relationship between us all: between the male and the female; between the black and the white and the yellow and the brown and the red; between the liberal and the conservative; between the gay and straight, lesbian and transgender; between the foreigner and the stranger and the citizen; between the living and the dead; between every one of us.
And at this most pivotal time, the remembrances of the sufferings and sacrifices, the celebrations and the joys, challenge those of us who remain to remember always who we are and hold fast to it. And, as the passing years roll on from this moment, to imagine again who we can be, and to work for it - to rededicate ourselves to the ultimate vision of God's freedom seen in Jesus. So that when in joy we are all reunited on the distant field of peace that lies somewhere beyond this present time we may be able to proclaim this as truth: that in everything we did Jesus' compassion was always our guide, and holy justice ever our watchword, because reconciliation was our sacred purpose, in this land of majestic purple mountains and amber waves of grain.
C Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton, 2005
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