Sunday, October 18, 2015

Of Truth, Witnesses to History and Windows 10

I have a new computer with Windows 10.  I can't quite tell if the problems with Windows 10 are a part of the program or the fact that the new HP has a touch pad that I can't turn off.  But so far I have erased my prose much to my consternation and which undoes much of the quietude that celebrating the mass at the early service this morning offered.  I am also about to attend a clergy conference, the first in several years.  Add to that the funeral of a friend on Sat., the visit at my former parish in the Diocese of Washington last week and the incredible service at the National Cathedral with the dedication of the image of Jonathan Daniels in the narthex. 

Prayer shapes our believing, so we say in the Episcopal Church. How we pray helps me come to a greater understanding of how God acts in my life, and this can be for good or ill.  But the various exercises we do throughout the week also shape our believing.  There is part of me that is likely to relegate issues with the new computer to the realm of the holy--or at least the unintelligible.  I am thankful that I learned I can cuss at God like a Jew and I have no trouble of doing the same to Microsoft or Hewitt-Packard.  The blue air just fills my room and only the cats have to avoid it.

But learning to post on my blog with all these new tools do have something to
do with faith.  I do not put my trust in HP, I do put my trust in a loving God that has ushered me about the country the past couple of weeks allowing me to catch up with friends that I haven't seen in a while and who have shared their walk in Christ's light.  And so I come to a recalcitrant computer as a newbie and yet I touch on the love of those from my past.  I guess that is the nature of one's 70's.  The old is constantly touching the new or perhaps it is the new that is touching the old that makes one's life so interesting. 

A week ago Friday, J and I flew to Baltimore-Washington Airport and were met by J's seminary roommate and her husband, also a classmate.  This was a part of this summer's 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jonathan Daniels which I have talked about in various posts on The Selma Tales.  But catching up with friends, those who also attended our wedding in May, was delightful. We were lay, bishops, priests and deacons but that wasn't what mattered. We talked about the old days and the new days with the same kind of joy.  We still talked about hopes for the future often realizing that we would not see their
realization.  To me that is what friendship really is--those with whom one can remember the past and yet still image for a time we can barely see and most likely won't.  

On Sunday morning we met people from my old parish for breakfast.  I saw the parents I had known now being grandparents, the children I had taught now being parents themselves and women whose marriages I
had blessed, celebrating their lives with one another as widows.  Returning is bitter-sweet yet powerful.  For one woman I had buried her husband when she had a young son, but that day brought me her grandson (about the same age as her son was back then) and asked me to bless him.  What an awesome moment for me.

As I was walking up the way to my old church, no one really knew I was coming, I met a former warden.  We embraced.  She too had a grandchild in tow who read the Epistle.  The ancient parish was continuing to do what it has done for over 300 years...teaching the next generation how to know of Christ.  Thankfully, the parish has a new organ. The one we had when I was there was known to make some rude noises upon occasion--usually when we had important guest.  God always offers humility at a time when we want pride.

At coffee hour we caught up with those multitudes that we had known together, remembered those who had died in the bosom of the parish and those who had moved to other places nourished by the community of the time.  That too is what friendship means: carrying on the traditions and faith that is borne of
communal love and care.  By the time we broke up the 'coffee hour', we had little time to brave DC traffic to get to the Cathedral for the Evensong.  Much has happened in 20 years to the traffic patterns, and we were stuck in DC central without maps.  It seems that DC on various map programs on phones are blocked.  We had to resort to rolling down our windows and ASKING people! What an amazing thing!  Human contact in the process of making a pilgrimage??!  

We got there in time to find parking.  In the little place that used to be called the "Herb Cottage" we found our parish seminarian from Fort Worth.  It was
good to find Lisa studying but waiting for us.  She is doing her internship at the Cathedral.  What an awesome experience.  But she will always be spoiled by that experience.  Nothing in the Episcopal Church, much less the Diocese of Fort Worth will EVER be like the National Cathedral.  But that is true about every parish and every position in our Church.  

The National Cathedral is the most like the cathedrals of England and Europe.  It does not have a parish attached as do other diocesan cathedrals.  The architecture provides the awe of the medieval world that we in the Americas never experienced.  But there are always things that are uniquely American such as the moon rock in one of the stained glass windows or the faces in the statuary that remind us of our particular part of the Christian kingdom.  The service of Evensong is something that is not celebrated much in our part of the Anglican Communion anymore.  The UK does a better job most of the time.  But not last week. The Choir was incredible.  The service of
Evensong was done with such simple honor, in the warmth of the quire, but with the dignitaries which brought such solemnity to the marking the sainthood of an American seminarian who gave up is life to save another at the age of 26. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeferts Schori, blessed the statue. Bishop Mariann Budde presided. And Dr. Harvey Guthrie, a professor of Jon and Judy's and the dean of EDS when I was there, preached. And once again he found the Gospel in Hebrew scripture and rattled cages to remind us that God continues to speak through ancient words.

 Judy and I have been witnesses to history.  That is both a blessing and a curse.  But looking back 50 years at a time when Christianity has been both its greatest and yet at its worst, we still have stories to tell of a God who is with us and whose glory can still be experienced.  

Saturday I attended the funeral of a Baptist friend.  Arnold and Barbara were the first people I had gotten to know when I spent a bit of time at a Baptist church in Dallas last year when I did not feel comfortable in my own diocese.  Barbara sat next to me in choir and Arnold, who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, had been missionaries in the early 80's in Korea.  We had common stories to share.  And Arnold was able to still discuss points of Church History with me.  He also shared his little book of the experience of a military coup in South Korea that ultimately meant that he would return to Korea to testify in the revelations of military misconduct.  He was so revered by the Korean people that Korean dignitaries were sent to celebrate in the funeral service.  Most who knew Arnold here in TX knew a nice dottering old man.  The people of Korea knew a courageous man who had sheltered the college aged children of their town, who had interviewed lower members of the military in order to understand the truth of coup, and who had spoken the truth to the people of Korea.  Alzheimer's was not the memory of the people of Korea. So the liturgy celebrated not only the hope of the future of Arnold in heaven, it carried the truth to shape the faith of future generations.

Bearing witness to history is often seen by the young as those who are 'stuck in the past'.  But what I have seen over the past weeks is not that at all.  I have seen those who have lived one reality challenge those who would rather avoid truth than embrace it.  There is a temptation to continue to reconstruct truth than observe its real consequence.  And while it seems easier to ignore those places where the truth has been uncomfortable, or even 
frightening, there can never be health when we build on histories that are not rooted in it.  

I long for truth to triumph in the Church worldwide.  I long for the time when God, no matter how God is named, can be embraced despite differences.  I stand as a witness that it can happen.  I have known it in my own life.  I have shared it with others so they too can live in the freedom of the truth.  And this is the gospel I teach--that the Truth will set us free.