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A series of essays in the Episcopal Church


Notes from Episcopalia

Notes from Episcopalia

 

 

By The Rev. Lucia Lloyd

 

Second Sunday in Lent March 4, 2007.  Luke 13:31-35

 

            I was sitting on the dusty ground.  It was hot.  I was disoriented.  Suddenly a woman’s face was looking at me, and saying, “Are you okay?”  “I’m not really sure how I got here,” I said.  “I know this sounds crazy, but I was just thinking how much I’d really like to talk to Jesus himself about some things, and all of a sudden I found myself here, and I’m not quite sure where I am.”  “Oh, don’t worry, honey,” she said, “you’ve come to the right place.  It’s easy to get a little disoriented around here, especially with the sun beating down on you on a long trip.  But we’re pretty close to Jerusalem, and if you want to see Jesus you can come with me, because I’m on my way to see him too.  He’s having dinner in that house up on the hill over there.”

 

            Before I could answer, she gave me a hand up, and we started walking.  “So,” she said, “What did you want to see Jesus about?  You got a demon or something?”  “Um, no, I’m fine,” I said.  My name is Lucia.  I’m an Episcopalian.”  “Huh,” she said.  “I’ve never met anybody from Episcopalia.  It must be a long way from here.  But I guess that explains why you wear those funny clothes.  Well, don’t you worry about that.  Jesus accepts all kinds of strangers, so I guess he’ll talk to you even if you are an Episcopalian.”

 

            “Me, I’m a Samaritan.  Since you’re not from around here, you might not know this, but the Jews don’t want to have anything to do with the Samaritans, because we don’t follow all their scriptures the way they do.  They say they can’t go anywhere near us because they say that would violate their orthodox understanding of scripture and tradition.  Or something like that.  But even though Jesus is a Jew, he went ahead and talked to a Samaritan woman when she went to the well, and even asked her for a drink of water.  They had this great conversation about living water.  When Jesus’ disciples heard about it they were shocked that Jesus would talk to a woman, and a Samaritan!  But this woman came back to my town and told us all about her conversation with Jesus.  Some people didn’t think she should be allowed to preach: first of all, she was a woman, and then there was the fact that she’d had five husbands, and the man she was living with wasn’t her husband.  They kept going on about how she violated traditional family values, and how sexual activity should take place only within the bonds of traditional marriage, and all that.  But this woman kept right on preaching about Jesus.  And there were lots of people in my city that believed in Jesus because of this woman’s preaching!  And then because of her preaching, people went to see Jesus themselves.  And Jesus came and stayed with us Samaritans for two days, and there were a lot more people who believed that Jesus is the Savior of the world.”

 

            “Wow!”  I said,  “I’ve read that in the Gospel of John, chapter four.”  “Well, I’m glad to hear somebody wrote it all down.”  She said.  “It sure is good to know that since it is all recorded, people in the future won’t have to have any more of these arguments about whether women are allowed to preach about Jesus!  Well, here we are.  This is the house that Jesus is eating in.  You can see there’s quite a crowd here.  Jesus attracts all sorts of people.  Jesus loves the outcasts, and the outcasts love him.  He even eats with the tax collectors and the prosititutes.  Lepers come up to him and he puts his hands right on them even though they’re ritually unclean, and the religious authorities have a fit because that’s just beyond the pale.  But there are a few Pharisees and Saducees who want to talk to him even so.  And every once in a while a Roman centurion comes by to talk to him.  And there are a lot of the poor and the sick, and women.  People who’ve been treated pretty bad, but Jesus is nice to them.  The disciples tried to shoo away all the little kids people brought, until they were old enough to be quiet and follow all the rules,  but Jesus picked those little kids up and gave them blessings anyway.  Okay, let’s squeeze through the crowd here.  Okay.  “Jesus, hey Jesus!  There’s a lady here who wants to talk to you.  She says she’s an Episcopalian.”

 

            A blind man turns toward me and asks, “What’s an Episcopalian?”  “Well, you probably won’t understand,” I say.  “But we follow this book which has all the rituals that the priests perform and lots of prayers in it…..”  “Oh,” he says, “we know all about rituals and priests and lots of prayers.  Go ahead.  Ask Jesus your question.”

 

            I see Jesus’ eyes, and I’m not sure what to say.  “Well, Jesus, it’s about these gay and lesbian couples.  They are coming to the Episcopal Church because they’ve heard ‘The Episcopal Church welcomes you.’ And in a lot of places we do, mostly.  Like St. Thomas’, where I come from, we’ve got people with a whole variety of views on homosexuality, but the straight people and the gay people manage to do a pretty good job of loving each other most of the time.  And the gay and lesbian members are really great people, and they do all sorts of good work to help the sick and the poor.”  My Samaritan friend interrupts, “Ooh, that reminds me of that parable you told, Jesus, about the good Samaritan who helps that poor injured man when the priest and the Levite just walk by on the other side of the street…”  The blind man stops her: “Let the lady finish her question.”  Jesus nods, and I go on, “So they’re these really great people and some of them have been in faithful, committed relationships for years, and all they want from the Episcopal Church is a blessing.  Of course, there are plenty of people in the gay community who think they’re nuts for having anything to do with organized religion after all the ways we’ve insulted them, and discriminated against them, and excluded them, and that’s not even counting the violence against them, and in places like Nigeria the church supports laws that gay people cannot even assemble for meetings or else they get arrested and thrown in prison, and if you’re in a gay relationship you get arrested and thrown in prison, and I don’t even want to think about what life is like in a Nigerian prison.”  An old man calls out, “Jesus is going to get arrested himself if he’s not careful.” 

I go on.  “But these gay and lesbian people keep coming to church despite it all, because they have faith, and they want to worship God, and they want to know God better, and they want to serve God.  And I see God at work in their lives.  But the problem is the statement from the Primates.” 

 

A teenage boy starts making monkey noises. 

 

I keep talking.  “They say we can’t authorize any same-sex blessings.” 

 

The teenager asks, “So why are you listening to them?” 

 

“Well, they’re the most powerful religious authorities….”

 

“Oh, you mean like the high priest?  Like Caiaphas?” says the old man. 

 

“Well, I guess sort of….” I say. 

 

“Ah, and you are afraid that if you don’t do what they say they might have you stoned to death?” he asks.

 

“Um, no.”  I say. 

 

“Well, what will happen if you don’t do what they say?” 

 

“They might not want to stay in communion with us and probably our leaders won’t get invited to Lambeth.” 

 

An old woman in rags tugs on my sleeve, and asks, “What kind of place is Lambeth?” 

 

“Well,” I say, “actually, it’s um, uh…it’s a palace.”  They all just look at me.  “I mean, it’s the palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he’s head of the Anglican Communion.  And the Anglican Communion is all the places around the world that worship the way we do because we all used to be part of the British Empire.”  A drunk soldier shouts out,  “Empire!  Empire!  Empire!”  

 

            Jesus is still listening, and I go on.  “So some people in the Episcopal Church say we need to be prophetic.  They say we need to be like the prophets of Israel because prophets have always told the religious authorities of their day not to keep harming the oppressed, and the prophets have always said that the people of God need to work for justice.”  An old man nods, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream….” 

 

“But other people say that we need to do whatever is necessary to keep a good relationship with these religious authorities.  And the religious authorities say we have broken our bonds of affection with them, but we think they want to break bonds of affection with us.  If we say we will allow blessings for gay couples, the religious authorities will reject us.  So Jesus, my question is…..”

 

At that moment I am pushed aside by a bunch of Pharisees. They tell Jesus, “Get away from here, because Herod wants to kill you.”  Jesus says to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.  Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you.  And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

 

My Samaritan friend leans over and whispers in my ear, “What was your question?”  I sigh, and tell her, my question was, “What would Jesus do?”

 

 


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.

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