Saturday, March 31, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The Episcopal Church announced this week that it is entering into an exciting new relationship with one of the biggest producers of pornographic films Vivid Entertainment. "It has become abundantly clear that Episcopalians are not having enough sex and it is hurting us. We had to take creative new steps to stop the loss of membership" said The Rev. Charles N. Fulton III, Director of Congregational Development.
Mainline denominations, including the Episcopal Church, have been losing members in the past few decades, and part of the decline is related to decreased birth rates. The new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church has said recently that because Episcopalians are so rich and educated we take very little time to have children. Bishop Jefferts Schori says "We hope this initiative will help us reach our goals for the 20/20 Campaign to double the membership in the Episcopal Church. We see this as a Win, Win. We will gain members and maybe everyone will relax a little."
Porn industry executives were both surprised and delighted by the new interest from The Episcopal Church and hoped it could be expanded to other denominations hurt by low birth rate."Episcopalians are not the only ones not having sex. Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, they’ve all been hurt by this trend. While Baptists and Catholics seems to be having more sex, they are surely not enjoying it. The guilt is killing them. We are looking for a way to get people to have more sex and enjoy it."
In the agreement Vivid has agreed to produce a series of films that would cater to church life styles. A spokesperson for Vivid said, "It will be the Mitford series meets Harlequin romance on DVD. Call it Mitford Porn. Everyone loves the quaint stories from Mitford, we just want to spice it up. We are sure they have plumbing problems in Mitford, if you know what I mean."
Within weeks every Episcopal church will receive a starter pack of 10 DVD and an order form for more. "We felt the Easter season was an especially appropriate time to begin this project. It is a time of celebration." Fulton went on to say that priests and lay leadership need to watch these movies and then decide what is best for their community. "This is not one size fits all. We are committed to helping each church find the best fit."
Anglican Underground salutes the Episcopal Church for this bold move. We will try to get reaction from other parts of the church and bring them to you soon.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Several bishops commented on the new feeling of empowerment. One, wishing to remain anonymous, stated that he was ready to "kick some ass for inclusion and equality." The Holy Spirit assured all those receiving the gifts that the cojones were theirs to keep and reminded the bishops not to lose them again.
An invitiation has been made to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as his cojones were delivered to Camp Allen. Apparently, the Spirit ran into difficulties in the Patriot Act attempting to air-mail the package to Lambeth. To aid the Archbishop's journey to receive his cojones, please click here.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
This morning our friend Rev. Amy, sent by email this article from the 1998 Lambeth Conference. It is from the July 28th edition of The Lambeth Daily and is entitled "What's Cooking?" It outlines in great detail the food preparation and menu for the 1998 Lambeth Conference meeting of Bishops. The 1998 Lambeth Conference is seen as a major move to the right in the life of the communion because of this Resolution. Anglican Underground thought this was an important lead to follow so we forwarded the article to the Chairperson of the newest organization to join the Food Fight. Gay Anglicans Against Gastronomic Strictness had this to say through their Chair, Louie Crew of New Jersey "We believe that this article is the smoking gun. It clearly shows that Africans were consulted about the menu, we were not consulted. Furthermore there was a complete lack of seafood. The head chef Jeff Stoddard was invloved with resolution 1.10"
Mr. Crew then directed us to the lead authority and biblical scholar for GAAGS, Dr. Diedre Good, New Testament Professor at General Theological Seminary in New York. "One of the first arguments in the Church was over what we should eat. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 15:11 that it is not what goes in that defiles but what comes out that defiles. In Matthew 6:25 Jesus asks 'is not life more that food?'" Scholars cannot be bothered with these petty arguments. I'm personally trying to finish my latest book"
When asked if there had been any conflict at General between GAS and GAAGS she said she had not heard of GAS and thought they were probably just a small group of zealots. "Sometimes these people, think who they are, to use a phrase from a former student. They will be gone soon enough."
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
It seems that new frontiers in the gay food conspiracy are coming to light with alarming frequency. This correspondent learned just today of a conflict that has been stewing at The General Theological Seminary in New York City for some days now. It seems that members of the Gastronomical Anglican Society recently accused the kitchen staff of serving tofu with hoopoe sauce. Said one, "When you find a large erectile crest in the garbage, you can be sure that a hoopoe sauce will show up on the menu."
Members of GAS, which seeks to reconcile what has do to with Jerusalem with what has to do with Athens will eat only legumes, respecting both Leviticus and Pythagoras. "We were reluctant to say anything right now," said their spokesperson, Prof. Mark Richardson, "because we can't figure out what is going on at the House of Bishops and were afraid of coming out for the wrong side. But Leviticus 13:19 makes it abundantly clear that consuming hoopoe is an abomination. Not to mention that it is an endangered species."
When asked to comment, Dean Ward Ewing said, "I'm fed up with all of this. I'm sure this is just a red herring in aid of some other agenda. I specifically requested boysenberry sauce, and I'm sure that's what it was."
But speaking for AFPHART, Dr. Peter Toon replied, "It makes me gag. What will they try to stuff down our throats next?"
Said Sean Wallace, a representative seminarian, "That wasn't chicken? It tasted like chicken."
One of the sacristans, who refused to give his name, quoted Richard Hooker, "Whether wee bee therefore moved vainly to eat that which seemeth hurtfull and is not: or have just cause of grief being pressed indeed with eating those things which are grievous, our Saviors lesson is, touching the one, be not troubled, nor overtroubled by the other" ("A Remedie Against Sorrow and Feare", Works, Vol. V, p. 371, ll. 17-20).
Others weren't sure what that meant.
Who knows how deep this conspiracy will go. Stay tuned.
We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God.We at Anglican Underground were surprised at the directness and clarity of this statement. It was so unlike anything we had heard from the House of Bishops we knew there must be something going on. We decided to contact the caterer at Camp Allen at inquire about the Bishops menu. After a long silence the chef referred all questions to the Presiding Bishops office.
About midnight last night we received a phone call from Bp. Duncan telling us that he had proof that the gay food conspiracy was true. The Rev. Ephram Radner is a Senior Fellow at the Anglican Communion Institute, and a Board member of the Institute of Religion and Democracy. He is also a member of the Covenant Design team and presented his thoughts at the House of Bishops. But there was another reason for his time at HoB. Radner took a hidden camera into the HoB and brought back proof that the memo (see post of March 20) Bp. Duncan had intercepted was true. These photos are undeniable he told us;
This photo clearly shows one of the lobster dinners served over the weekend at the HoB. Duncan pointed out that corn on the cob was also served and arranged on the plate in a very "gay way". It was a subtle reminder of what is going on, he said.
This photo shows a shrimp cocktail at lunch during the HoB. Radner pointed out how long and straight the glass was. He said it looked like something they would serve an apple martini in at a gay bar. Although from Colorado, Radner denied any first hand knowledge of gay bars.
Today there will be many news stories about the HoB statements and their meeting. Anglican PHART has called a press conference to coincide with the official press conference. Anglican Underground knows where the real story is and we will bring you the real story later in the day.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
We at Anglican Underground wanted to get to the bottom of this story so we contacted a group heading the fight against gay foods. The recently formed Food Purity, Holiness And Righteousness Taskforce or Food PHART has been compiling evidence that they say proves the Gay Food connection. Pastor Ted Haggard recently involved in a massive scandal in Colorado has joined the board of PHART. "I always knew it was my mothers fault somehow" said Haggard. "The Bible is clear that women were the first to sin, now I guess we realize how deep that sin goes." Haggard says that his recent treatment for gayness included a stringent nutritional plan and recipies based on Biblical principles.
Reverend Jones Barclay is the pastor of Hardwood Assembly in Hardwood, Indiana. He is the first President of PHART and he quotes scripture to back his gay food hypothesis. "It is clear from the Bible that God hates certain foods. Just read Leviticus Chapters 11 and 12 and you will see that some food is not allowed. Now we know why." He went on to say that God knew all along that some foods could make children gay. "Just look at the list. Any mother who eats these foods is just asking for their kids to be gay."
Educational websites are being put up as quickly as possible to help families make responsible nutritional decisions regarding their unborn children’s sexuality. God Hates Shrimp.Com and God Hates Figs.Com are just the first of a series of online resources for God fearing future mothers. Landover Baptist Church has also published a resource guide for keeping kids straight.
Pastor Barclay says he knows it is going to be hard for some people to understand. "Our southern brothers and sisters are going to have a hard time giving up pork BBQ. But Leviticus 11:7 says that if a mother eats it her child will be gay." When we asked him how to determine if a child would be female and a lesbian he said that it was up to God to decide if your child would be gay or lesbian and that "future research would be needed to determine which unclean food combination would create which undesirable outcome."
Since our blog is concerned with The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion we decided to contact the American Anglican Network for their comment. Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said this information would greatly effect the current problems in the Episcopal Church. "We recently intercepted a memo from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori that instructed all staff to only serve shrimp and lobster at official meetings in the Episcopal Church. It was then that we realized she was part of the conspiracy. She was an Oceanographer, of course she knows what she is doing. By encouraging nubile and fertile young women to eat foods that God disdains she is leading us down the path of apostasy. More gay children is exactly what she wants" Bishop Duncan went on to say that his group has joined others involved in this struggle. Anglican PHART will be printing a pamphlet due out this summer that will describe what the orthodox and traditional Anglican diet should contain to keep kids from being gay. "All we can say at this point is read your Bibles and stay away from WholeFoods."
Anglican Underground is committed to following this story. Stay informed at http://anglicanunderground.blogspot.com
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I have been reading the blog and I have a couple of suggestions. I am not sure who the blog is intended to reach but it seems to be posting a lot of theological or doctrinal opinions and sermons. Pretty dry stuff. If you truly intend to be irreverent maybe you could post some highly provocative or satirical proposition on a fairly benign church issue and then invite comment. For instance, take a poll , "How many people give up sex for Lent and why? "Or, "Why not tithe 50% of you gross pay annually?" Or, "I think Priests deserve a 62% pay hike just like the Alabama legislature." You get the idea.
It could be satirical like "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift. It could be as ridiculous as the attachment to this email. See what kind of serious comments or replies you receive. It might be fun. I know that many people consider religion a deadly serious business but as Mark Twain and those idiots who create South Park have proven, humor can be very effective in creating change. Perhaps I am not giving the lay reader enough credit but I don't think most people would be patient enough to read the serious, sermons and discussions. You understand that I have a very short attention span, I can't concen..................
All I can say is that my Dad is exactly right on with his critique of this blog. It has now been scientifically proven that laughter is a powerful force for building community and relationships. Although isn't studying laughter scientifically sort of missing the point.
To quote Nietzsche "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh."
Religion can become a very serious business, but if it is the search for truth it must be accompanied by laughter. Religion is very often deadly business and it does not have to be that way. This Blog is intended to be irreverent and sometimes illogical. I will still post commentary of a serious sort from time to time, but starting today we will laugh more. I have added a Twain quote on the Blog as a start. Thanks Dad, I love you.
My Dad receive a life saving liver transplant 2 and a half years ago. If you are not an organ donor do it NOW! No, really stop what you are doing and register. If you are in Alabama, the Alabama Organ Center has all the information you need. If you are not in Alabama call or visit your local organ donation ceter. J
Saturday, March 10, 2007
I thought it was a really wonderful description of what Eucharist and church can be.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Thank God for the women of the Anglican communion, who have clearly stated that they "do not accept that there is any one issue of difference or contention which can, or indeed would, every cause us to break the unity as represented by our common baptism. Neither would we ever consider severing the deep and abiding bonds of affection which characterize our relationships as Anglican women."
Well done, good and faithful servants.
To read the full article at Episcopal News, click here.
To read the statement of the women of the Anglican Communion, click here.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
But first Sophie, my dog, needed to go outside.
She didn't have a virus. She just wanted to go outside.
This is when I wondered why I didn't have a husband to walk her.
Being in no condition to get a husband, I went for door number two: a neighbor, who was happy to walk Sophie.
Fortunately, after a day, my physical body began to recover. I'm sure the five pounds I lost from my illness will reappear, and my strength is almost back to standard issue. Some viral infections do their damage and pass quickly. Others don't, and their exhaustion, weakness, and desecration of our incarnate selves lingers. But sick is sick, and when you feel rotten, you just feel rotten.
News articles recently announced that more and more Americans are living single, which, like any other state of living, has its strengths and weaknesses. How is the community of faith comforting the sick, however sick they may be, particularly the ones who are alone? What do we do for their dogs who need walks, their selves who need soothed by offering a ride to the doctor's office, or their lives who need comforted?
Humans are great complicators of life. We read about Christ's healing and shift into "let's conquer every disease" mode. The bad news: we probably won't ever find a cure for every disease ever known. The good news: healing the sick is quite easy at times, especially when that healing is a ride to the doctor, a trip to the pharmacist or grocery, a phone call to see if there are any needs, or even a temporary dog walker.
Opportunities to love and healing abound. Sometimes the easiest ways to respond with holy love are often the most obvious and most overlooked.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Monday, March 5, 2007
It is funny as I was thinking about this it seems that the older we get the more we believe that the younger generations fit into the second category, while our generation fell into the first. Just this past week I read an article that seems to back this up. Five psychologists examined the responses of over 16,000 college students nationwide to the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006. Scores on this narcissism inventory have risen steadily since 1982. In 2006, two-thirds had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982. The study’s authors say that "some of the rise in narcissistic attitudes was probably caused by the self-esteem programs that many elementary schools adopted 20 years ago. It noted that nursery schools began to have children sing songs that proclaimed, "I am special, I am special. Look at me." Those youngsters are now adolescents obsessed with websites such as MySpace and YouTube that "permit self-promotion far beyond that allowed by traditional media," the report stated.
I can hear many of you now mumbling to yourself, "I’ve been trying to tell somebody this for the past 20 years, I didn’t need a study to tell me this, just look around. When I was young..." The stories go on from there. The issue isn’t exactly who is more self centered, or which generation is more perfect. I bring it up to illustrate the point that whether people are told they are not good enough or whether they are told they are better and more deserving than they really are, the result is the same, either constant guilt over not being good enough or perpetual disappointment when others don’t live up to our expectations. Or maybe a little of both at times.
Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. He goes on to say that "When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’
Just as all hope is about to be lost Jesus says "Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
Wait a minute Jesus we thought we had you figured out we thought we saw the directions you were going with the whole narrow door thing. We were pretty sure that if we were just good enough and did everything just right that was the way of the narrow door. But then all of the sudden you come up with this last/first, first/ last thing, now how are we supposed to figure anything out? How indeed. In just this short story Jesus has said "forget all you know about getting into heaven, its not nearly as complicated as you make it out to be." In this gospel there is hope for everyone. There is hope for those who don’t think they are good enough and there is hope for those who think they can do no wrong. The problem is that each group focuses on the part of the story that supports their own way of seeing the world.
Those who already feel guilty about not being good enough focus on the first half of the story and say, see I told you so, we need to be trying harder to be perfect. So when they fail it just perpetuates their own self image. The people who think they are perfect point to the second half of the story and say, "see I told you so people come from all corners of the globe to get into heaven. I’m sure I’m in, but I’m not so sure about you" Neither side seems to understand that we are not in control of who God is and the grace that Jesus brings.
At the end of the first chapter of his book Kushner quotes a section from Elaine Pagles book Adam, Eve and the Serpent, she says "There is a human tendency to accept personal blame for suffering, people would rather feel guilty than helpless. If the reason for misfortune is moral rather than natural, we can persuade ourselves that we can control it. If guilt is the price to be paid for the illusion of control over nature, many have seemed willing to pay it"
I would add that the desire to control nature is also why so many people are disappointed by other people. Just as some people would rather feel guilty than helpless other people would also rather blame than feel helpless. It’s got to be someone’s fault and its certainly not mine.
The point I am trying to make is that Jesus brings a challenge to our way of understanding the world. It is not a test for getting into heaven, it is the mystery of grace in a world we don’t always understand. Think about it, every day we go to our jobs or live with our families and we are told to be in control. Figure this out, make this or that work the right way. It is a world filled with pressure and anxiety about things going wrong and we feel like we are in charge. So when we come to Church on Sunday we bring those control needs with us.
The question asked by the person to Jesus today "Will only a few be saved?" Was a question born of anxiety and the need to try and control as much as possible about life. Jesus says, in essence, live a good life, strive to enter the narrow door, but don’t think you’ve ever got it totally figured out. Don’t think that you are on the inside and others will be left out, you can never know. This answer is meant to free us from the crippling guilt that we are never good enough and have to be perfect, and to cure us of our pride in thinking we know what only God knows and are perfect. In the end when we know perfection is not possible and controlling God is not possible we are free to live without fear and in the grace of our saviour.
| You scored as Jürgen Moltmann. The problem of evil is central to your thought, and only a crucified God can show that God is not indifferent to human suffering. Christian discipleship means identifying with suffering but also anticipating the new creation of all things that God will bring about.|
Which theologian are you?
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Friday, March 2, 2007
Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:9-15; Romans 10:5-13; Luke 4:1-13
The summer after 7th grade, my family went to stay at Kanuga, an Episcopal retreat center near Ashville, NC, for a week. Our cabin was nestled with others at the foot of a steep hill, along a pathway of pine needles and pebbles and the twisted roots of trees whose green branches unfurled overhead. Late every afternoon, about an hour before the dinner bell sounded, it would rain. No, not rain – it would pour. My family sat tucked in on the screened porch, talking and telling stories, shivering slightly in the damp breeze, counting the long seconds it took for thunder to rumble across the mountaintops.
One afternoon, as it poured, we heard the sound of heavy footsteps crunching through wet pine needles and twisted roots. Moments later, a line of young people appeared, trudging along the path in front of our cabin, each carrying a large backpack with a sleeping bag tied above or below, each wearing what looked like a clear garbage bag over their heads and packs, with dripping holes for their faces and arms, each singing a song loud enough to rival the pounding of rain on the leaves above.
We watched the wild and unexpected procession round a corner that continued uphill and out of sight. We figured that they must have been from Camp Kanuga, just a mile down the road. And as the sound of their singing faded, I remember very clearly saying to my mom and dad, “They will be wet forever. That will never, ever be me.”
I didn’t think about that day again until one afternoon several years later. It rained – no, it poured, the afternoon I led my first campout as a Camp Kanuga counselor, trudging along the very same path, catching the eye of a little girl dry on the front porch of her cabin. We were indeed wet forever, or at least all summer.
It didn’t seem at first that I was going to be very good at wilderness living. I had never been on a campout before – the knots and the tarps and the trail-following (straight uphill with your backpack and three of your crying campers’ backpacks because there might have been a bee back there) and the fire-starting (in the rain) and the stew-cooking…it was all new to me. I was pretty miserable those first few campouts, out there in the wilderness, wet.
I wonder how miserable Noah was, forty days and nights of nothing but wet. We know how miserable the Israelites were, forty years of wandering through the desert wilderness. I wonder if Jesus was ever miserable, even once, forty days in the wilderness, led by the Spirit, tempted by the devil, eating nothing at all. Maybe Jesus couldn’t light a fire in the rain, either. Maybe he didn’t like stew.
Over and over again in our scriptures, the wilderness is a place of testing and temptation, of wild beasts and wrong turns, of too much water or not enough. The wilderness is unfamiliar, unfriendly, and uncomfortable. And forty days or forty years – no matter, the number forty was simply used to signify a long time, with wilderness stretching as far as the eye could see.
If you looked back, you might see as a tiny speck on the horizon the place where you stood when God called you into the wilderness. Neither the Israelites nor Jesus simply stumbled off a pathway of pine straw and pebbles – God called them there. Sent them there. In Luke’s gospel, the Spirit led Jesus there, he was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.
I wonder if Jesus looked back, back to the moment not so long before when he was still dripping with Jordan River water, when God had said, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. It had quite possibly been a moment of revelation, and certainly deep affirmation, for Jesus. In those waters, God confessed Jesus’ identity, who Jesus was. You are my Son, the Beloved. In the wilderness, the devil would try to dry Jesus out, try to drain him of who he was and fill him instead with the devil told him he could be if he would step off the path just a little…
Just think how much good you could do, Jesus, if you turned these stones to bread. Just think how many would hear you if you had authority over all the kingdoms of the world. Just think how many would notice if you pulled that stunt from the pinnacle from the temple – the whole world would see and know who you are...
That was just the thing, though, wasn’t it. The world wouldn’t have known who Jesus was at all. Instead they would have known a man who, like so many others before and after him, had believed those words whispered his ear. Real temptation beckons us, entices us, to do that about which much good can be said – no self-respecting devil entices us by suggesting we fall into ruin (another preacher suggested, “ruin is in the small print at the bottom of the temptation”).
Wiping out hunger, overturning oppressive governments, letting all the world see the power of God…Luke makes it sound as though Jesus had his answers at the ready, but I wonder if Jesus struggled. He hadn’t yet preached a sermon or called a disciple or healed anyone…it was all new to him. He didn’t exactly have an instruction manual. He knew the Jewish people had high expectations of a messiah, one whose political and religious power would sweep in and restore God’s rule. Stones to bread…He must have struggled. We are only tempted by what is within our power, by what we are capable of – temptation appeals to our strength, not our weakness. Jesus must have struggled mightily. But as the sweat began to drip down his brow, the Spirit stirred in him and he remembered and looked back to that moment dripping in the river and heard again God’s confession, You are my Son, the Beloved.
The words were then very near indeed to Jesus’ lips, as he responded with his own confession. Two of the verses he quotes in this passage are part of the great confession of the Jewish faith, shema yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai ehad. Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. And so Jesus faithfully resisted the temptation to be less or other than he was called to be. God was all that Jesus needed. We don’t get to hear in this reading what happens next, which is that filled with the same Holy Spirit, Jesus goes to Galilee and begins his ministry of telling the world that all they need is God, too.
The thing is, I don’t think Jesus so much left the wilderness as he just exchanged one wilderness for another. The cities of Galilee and beyond would, in the end, be no safer than the sands of the desert. They were then (as they are now) filled with people who had believed cleverly whispered words that power, authority, and wealth made you who you were. That gender, skin color, age, sexual orientation and able-bodiedness were measures of worth. That a little violence and deception and betrayal were justifiable means to an end. In that wildnerness there were wild beasts on the prowl in the form of religious and political leaders, skeptics, and even, sometimes, friends. Jesus would face temptation again, in the beautiful garden of Gethsemane that was for one anxious night a wilderness. Jesus would pass that test, too, even though nailed to a cross it would look for all the world like he had failed...
The wilderness tested the faith of Jesus, as it had tested the Israelites, as it continues to test our faith. In the wilderness, we are stripped down to the very essentials. And the essentials are these: God made us, God loves us, and God keeps us. That is enough for us as we go about the work we were called to back when we came dripping out of the baptismal waters and our identity was confessed: You are sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. That, sisters and brothers, is who we are. God is all that we need.
It’s a jungle out there, as the saying goes. We live all the time in the wilderness, full of temptations and tests, wild beasts and wrong turns, too much water or not enough. Both scripture and wilderness experience bear testimony to a power which opposes love, health, peace, and wholeness. Because we fear we won’t survive, we pack on as much gear as we possibly can – not just the backpack, the sleeping bag, and the clear garbage bag for when it rains, but the tent, and the grill, and the cooler, and the air mattress, and the LED headlamps and the titanium stove, and the GPS…after all, we're stepping a little off the path, we just might get a little lost…
In the season of Lent, we have the opportunity to be stripped down to the essentials. We don’t need all that gear. The messiah didn’t turn stones to bread, he wasn’t a magician, or a conquering hero, or a one-man show. You are my Son, the Beloved. God was well-pleased for the messiah to walk the paths around the Jordan River valley, teaching and preaching and healing and laughing and eating and loving the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength.
We are more able than we think we are to live out who we are called to be. I certainly learned that in the wilderness of the mountains of North Carolina. I may never win on Survivor, but I can light a fire in the rain. I may never win a Nobel Peace Prize, but I can comfort a homesick camper and carry her backpack for her.
So are we all more able than we think we are to live out who we are called to be in our baptism. It’s a jungle out there, but the Spirit leads us in the wilderness, ready to meet us in wild and strange and unexpected ways as we go, ready to be our strength, ready to help us to remember who we are. Out there in the wilderness, Jesus himself is the food and drink that nourishes us. And while we may not really be wet forever, out there in the wilderness, the word is always very near us, the confession that we are Christ’s own forever – we carry it here, where once water ran across our brow. That is all we need. Nothing else. Everything else is temptation. Amen.
Its been a long time since I was a Baptist, but I still have this conversation in my head. Recently, as the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion have continued their debate about the "proper role" of gays and lesbians in the Church and about same sex blessings, I have been thinking about what I would say to Jesus when I died. Here is how that conversation goes.
"Where am I?", I ask.
"You’re in heaven" says Jesus
"Really, that’s cool!"
"Well", Jesus says, "Before we can make sure this is a permanent situation we need to look at your life."
"Oh..." I say looking away.
I’m not sure how long this conversation could go on. Who knows? Years could seem like ten minutes in heaven. Maybe at some point along our talk Jesus will ask me about my attitudes toward gays and lesbians. I will be honest, because he knows the truth anyway.
"Jesus" I say "There was a time in my life where I hated them. When I was younger, I was taught, in Church, that they were bad and evil people. Sinners who could only be saved if they changed their ways. We always said, love the sinner but hate the sin. So I tried to stay away from them. Pray for them and love them from a distance. Growing up in the 80's we were told that AIDS was the gay cancer. Many of us thought it must be your way of punishing them for their lifestyle. You know, real Old Testament. Like plagues upon Pharaoh and stuff. But I had also been taught the Golden Rule. Somehow it was never really explained why it didn’t apply to people we didn’t like"
"After that I didn’t think about it for a long time. We were not in a Church, so we were not exposed to really any kind of teaching about gays and lesbians. Ten years later we found a community of people who called themselves Episcopalians at St. Francis in Pelham, Alabama. We were overcome with the difference. I never knew that there was a Church that didn’t judge people. For the first time in my life I felt like I had some idea of what grace was. As I read the Bible and studied your words, I really began to change my attitude about lots of stuff. Reading what you said about loving one another and not judging, and watching how you went to the outcasts and ate with the sinners gave me hope again. I thought, ‘you know, if Jesus loves them then I am lovable as well.’"
Jesus might ask at this point, "Well that’s great. It sounds like you finally understood who I was with your head, but how did I live in you. How did what you learn become your life?"
"Well this is the best I can say. You said to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. I haven’t always been clear about what you meant by that, because love can be so many things. I just tried to put myself in their shoes and think about how I would feel in their position. Then I tried to treat them how I would like to be treated. With mercy, and compassion, equality and fairness. You know like you said in Matthew 25. I tried to treat the people I came into contact with like they were you. I didn’t always do a great job, but I had hope that what happened on the Cross and in the Resurrection meant that we didn’t have to get everything right. That when you said death was destroyed, you meant it."
"So you see Jesus, this was the faith I tried to carry with me into all my relationships. By your grace, I had the opportunity to meet and befriend more gays and lesbians. Not just as individuals, but living together as couples. I still count them as my friends and would not, even now, betray them."
Jesus may ask "Did you ever think your reasoning might have been wrong?"
"Yes. But as I read and re-read your words it seems like the only reasonable way. I tried to treat them, and everyone, the way I saw you treating people. I realized that your harshest words were for the religious authorities that used their purity codes to keep people away from God. That kind of worried me, being a priest in a Church that was debating the issue of what we could allow gays and lesbians to do. It concerned me that we had our own ‘purity codes’, and that your harshest judgement would be on the institution."
Jesus could then ask, "Did you ever consider that you might be excluding people who disagreed with you? That if somehow they didn’t understand it the way you did, they would feel excluded? How did you think I would treat them?"
"I thought about it a lot. I probably did a really bad job on this one. I have been really judgmental. I wanted to love them but I usually took the attitude that, if they were reasonable people they would see things my way. I had a hard time putting myself in their shoes, because I had been in a place where I understood the Bible the way they were describing. I had been in a place where I understood purity in your church as what you wanted. I thought they were wrong and still do. I didn’t want to go back into those hard and pinful places I had come from. I hope you would treat them with mercy, because as they go, I go."
I imagine that after more time has passed we get to the heart of the matter. I hope Jesus’ final words go something like this.
"We’ ve been talking for a long time now, and I guess you're ready for judgement?"
"I will take your silence as a yes" "You have done a lot of things in your life. Sometimes you went the way I did, sometimes not. Sometimes you took up your cross and followed, other times you put it down and wandered for a while. You did show great love to some people, but to others you were harsh and judgmental. At times you were a real jerk and your pride got the best of you. But here is what you forgot most of the time. Who you are was not the point. Who I am is.
When I came to earth I tried to show everyone that God loved them, even the unlovable and the excluded. I tried to show that when he created them, it was out of love. He wanted them to treat one another with mercy and compassion, love and grace.
God realized that when he created humans they must be free to make their own decisions, even if that meant running away from him and hurting one another. After many years of trying, he sent me to show that love to the world, again. We both know how that worked out. I was crucified because I was unwilling to compromise that love and unwilling to return violence for violence. The kind of love I showed to the world was a threat to the way things were being done. It was a threat to the powers, to the system, and to every individual.
We had a pretty good idea it was going to end that way. God had tried over and over again, and death to the messengers was sort of par for the course. They say I took on the sin of the world. Its true. That sin is how you hate one another, how you refuse love and how, when you feel threatened, you destroy what you can’t control. The crucifixion would have been the end of the story but God had another plan.
When I was raised from the dead it was God's way of saying, "Now things have changed forever." You couldn’t really see it from your perspective. From where you sat things pretty much looked the way they always did. People killing one another, taking advantage and excluding one another, violence and senseless destruction. I can see why so many times people thought the end was near. What they didn’t understand was that the end had already happened and that you were all living in the new creation. You were all redeemed by grace but your eyes remained blind."
Finally Jesus says again "Are you ready for your judgment?"
"Yes" I say quietly
"Ok, here it comes... NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF LOVE!"
"You see, no one could have ever figured it all out. Some got close, but the closer they got the more crazy everyone else thought the were. No one is perfect. In fact, most are very far from perfect but I love you all anyway. I wanted you to live fully every day without fear, I wanted you to love recklessly and celebrate the time you had in that beautiful world. Maybe you didn’t realize it but the kingdom was always inside of you. You were supposed to let it out and start your eternal life before you got here." "I love you. Welcome."
As I walk through the gates, a hazy mist that has been covering everything starts to lift and I begin to see the great masses of people. At first I don’t recognize anyone, but then faces begin to look familiar. All my family that has gone before comes up to embrace me. Friends who have long been away are there again and the celebration begins. The faces are from every nation and every tribe, every possible manner of life and place. All the rag tag mess of humanity is there and redeemed, all of us having been judged not guilty by the grace of God.
Now I’m willing to admit that this seems a little sappy. Everyone wins, nothing that ever happened on earth REALLY mattered that much because we all get into heaven in the end. Ok, but I still think its true. I think what we do really does matter, I'm just not sure of how exactly. I don’t know how God’s mercy works for people like Hitler, but I hope somehow it does.
Is there a possibility that I could be wrong, absolutely. If that’s the case here’s what it might look like. I could get to heaven and have St. Peter Akinola meeting me at the gates. (He's the African Archbishop really worked up over gays and lesbians) He may have been put in charge because of what a good job he did on earth keeping the church pure and holy. In line with the traditional, literal reading of scripture. At that point I will throw myself again on the mercy and grace of God and hope for the best. If there is punishment to be had, I will accept it, because I did my best to follow the Way of Jesus Christ.