Thursday, September 24, 2009
…I believe I experience God as life fully lived, as love wastefully given, as being completely realized. I cannot tell you or anyone else who or what God is. I can only describe my experience. I may be delusional. Lots of religious people are, but I don't think so.
I join the mystics in saying that I think I am part of what God is. God lives in me, loves through me and empowers me to escape that drive to survive that is in every living thing in order to give my life away. That is the Christ role and I think it is also the role that his disciples are called to model.
So I am drawn by God beyond my boundaries and I perceive that God becomes real when I enter into the task of living and loving and being. This means that it doesn't occur to me that I am alone with no one to whom to pray. This makes me rather a deeply infused, God-intoxicated human being who no longer has the words to describe the God in who I live and move and have my being, but it does not even occur to me to doubt the reality of that which I experience, but can never define…. Bishop John Shelby Spong
I have spent the past 5 days at clergy conferences. Two days with the Episcopalians and 3 days with the Lutherans. The Episcopal clergy conference had a speaker on philosophy and theology and the Lutheran conference spotlighted the Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, an amazing person who is centered into holding the ELCA together despite votes from the Church Wide Assembly that bode realignment or schism.
Five days of clergy conference is too long. It is hard to keep one’s sight on the parochial experience of the people in the pew when constantly called to hear the experience of those far away. It will be interesting to hear Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori when she comes in November to Central NY and how she works at providing a vision for the whole of the Church.
I have always been a churchwoman. The Church has always been the place where I lived and moved and had my being. It has given focus for my life and hope for the future in Christ. But where the rubber hits the road for me is the parish, the lived out experience of how Christ calls me to live my faith in Jesus with the others that I see every day.
The deliberations both at General Convention 2009 and the Church Wide Assembly of the ELCA produced legislation that has given affirmation to me and the ministry I have participated in for the past 40 years. I should be deliriously happy. But I must admit that I am just plain TIRED!
I have worked all my life for civil rights—for African-Americans, for Latinos, for women and for LGBT folks. But that is not where Christ is. I have labored to make sure that their voices could be heard both in society and in the Church and yet no one seems to get it. I feel like Jesus when he is trying to teach the disciples and they simply don’t get his meaning of his parables. The issue is not about inclusion—it is about turning our lives over. It isn’t about rights—it is about becoming lesser and Christ becoming greater. It isn’t about what makes us Lutheran, or Episcopalian, or Presbyterian or Methodist or Holiness. It is about, as Bishop Spong says, loving wastefully; it is about giving myself away.
As I approach that magic age of 65—a time when retirement is at hand, I realize that I no longer want to hold up the Church. I want to share that “God-intoxicated” life that I know. I can no longer describe that Holy One that lives in me. I have no rules or plan to pass it on to others. My words and actions fail me when I think that I am preaching so eloquently the love I know in my innermost parts.
What will the Church be for the future? I don’t know. I just pray that it will continue to be a place where we can gather to hear the stories about those who have loved God: Abraham who left his home to follow God, Joseph who had been cast out by his own brothers yet welcomed them when they came to Egypt, Moses who found God in a burning bush and who led his people out of slavery, Jeremiah who spoke the power of God even though he was young, John Baptist who knew that repentance was the way the heart could open itself to God and Jesus who laid down his life for us and all those who have come after him to teach us of God’s love. Will there be a Lutheran Church? Probably. Will there be an Episcopal Church? Probably. But does that mean anything in the long run? I doubt it. What will be important to us for the future is whether we can give ourselves away.