A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By James Edward Mackay
I heard a pretty good sermon tonight at the Roman Catholic cathedral here in Fargo. (I was the substitute organist.)
The rector spoke about the context of the lessons and the psalm, specifically the context of the political and social situations in which the writers were living.
He narrowed the whole thing down to one four-letter word that summarizes and gives voice to all those things that would sap our energy, make us second guess ourselves, give up on God, give in to faltering hope, not even trust when Jesus is in the same boat: fear.
I guess I'd preach on that -- fear -- and how Sunday and the election of the Bishop of Nevada to be the 26th Presiding Bishop was a day that was not ruled by fear. I'd preach that the decisive vote in the House of Deputies on A161 was a day that was not ruled by fear.
And I'd preach that the final day was a day in which fear rose up and won the day.
Homophobia: Fear of the GLBT 'manner of life'.
Mysogny: Fear that the 26th Presiding Bishop would not be accepted because she's a woman and, therefore, we need her to have all that amunition in order to keep her in the conversation.
Sexism: Fear that the 25th Presiding Bishop's full-court press wasn't enough, so send in the 26th Presiding Bishop, a woman, and gosh-golly some people will do what she says just because she's a woman, gotta give her that amunition.
Classism: Fear that the developing countries where much of the anti-GLBT rhetoric has emerged -- with Americna help -- won't listen to us or accept our new female presiding bishop because we're the wealthiest nation and we really want them to be able to accept our monies for projects and they won't unless we keep them in the conversation.
Agism: Fear that the 26th Presiding Bishop -- who is only 51, has only been a bishop for five years, and so forth -- might not be taken seriously unless we give her all that amunition so that she can get a foothold in the conversation and have a chance to be invited to Lambeth.
Racism: Fear that because the 26th Presiding Bishop is an educated white woman, who attended an prestigious university, she needs all the support we can give her so that those who would not accept her ordination, or that she's stated categorically that she's for GLBT full-inclusion, or that she is young, or that __________, and that because of all of these fears that those African men and those Asian men and those South American men won't give her a good listen or take her seriously unless we show that we're willing to make a sacrifice.
Fear. Fear-mongering, even. I think that was what happened to get B033 through. After all, getting the resolution even considered in both houses requiried extra-ordinary means (e.g., suspension of rules of order, unprecedented joint session for a new, last day resolution, the House of Bishops meeting in executive session, no roll call vote, the presiding bishop-elect speaking during the debate in the House of Deputies). I believe that fear was at the root of this.
All the '-isms' are rooted in fear.
The mechanisms of the rules of order, particularly with no last minute resolutions like this, are there to allow the space necessary for an enormous group of very tired people to listen to the Holy Spirit.
Certainly all of you were listening to the Holy Spirit in the agonizing days of debate on the Windsor Report, human sexuality, the MDGs, the consent to the election of the bishops, the election of the 26th Presiding Bishop, and the matter of A161.
I think it was fear that overtook the 25th Presiding Bishop, presiding over the joint houses at the 75th coming-together of The General Convention -- after all this is a bi-cammeral church body -- I think it was fear that overtook him. Fear that the church might implode on his watch. (Who would want that on the scorecard?) Fear that the Presiding Bishop-elect wouldn't get to go to Lambeth. (After all, Lambeth is only once every ten and the new term of a presiding bishop is nine years, making it only every other PB that gets to go ... and the current Presiding Bishop won't even serve a full nine years.) Fear that maybe we hadn't listened enough, that maybe we moved to fast, that __________ . (Second guessing is a sure way to up one's pulse, stifle all those happy brain chemicals, and end up with a good dose of fear.) Fear, fear, fear.
Too, I don't know what Eucharistic Prayer will be used at your place, but you could quote from Eucharistic Prayer C and Eucharistic Prayer D. Too, the post-communion collects are good stuff.
Finally, you might be able to rally people's spirits by talking about the Creed ... WE BELIEVE ... particularly about 'on the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.' So to speak we are in the post-B033 passage era. It _passed_. But we are now in the time of the Great Passover, the Resurrection, the Empty Tomb, the Road to Emmaus, the seashore and the 'would you like something to eat' moment, and the Road to Damascus.
The Resurrection ultimately trumps everything else. [I need a big blackboard to write that on a thousand times.] My hope -- and you'll note for the record that my _hope_ is as at an all-time low at the moment -- is that the 26th Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will be able to pick herself and others up from this mess and be the Magdalen running from the Empty Tomb back to all of those who have locked themselves in that Upper Room of Bishops and tell them that the LORD IS RISEN.
Susan Russell, Elizabeth Kaeton, Ann Fontaine, Marge Christie, and all the others I've read on the HoB/D's list (but never met in person) have been and are Magdalens, too, and I just don't see how anxious, fearful people will be able to stay locked behind those doors with all the racket that's going to be going on. Surely they'll at least peep their heads out the door -- remembering to remove mitres and birettas to maximize space-saving, of course.
I need to re-read FOR THE TIME BEING, A CHRISTMAS ORATORIO by W. H. Auden. It seems to me that some of the stuff that was going on last Wednesday morning, with suspend this, suspend that, gotta have something, gotta have something, is very much like Herod's soliloquy.
For the Time Being ends with this (also found as two hymns in The Hymnal 1982):
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
James Edward Mackay
Fargo North Dakota
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