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7/12/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:33 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:34 PM by Terry Brady ]
“God chose us before the world began, to be holy and blameless…to be full of love.” Ephesians 1:3

When I first looked at the lessons for today I was horrified. I am not real enamored of David right now and John the Baptist’s head on a platter is pretty grim. After some much needed research, however, I realized that, in many ways, the Gospel, at least, is quite appropriate.
Looking to what preceded this passage, we learn that Jesus discovered that he is not recognized as a prophet in his own country. He then sent out the disciples, two by two, to preach. He gave them authority to cast out demons and to heal. Their mission, by all accounts, was very successful. It was so very effective that Herod was hearing about Jesus and was terrified that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Since Herod was in Tiberius and Jesus had never been to that city, Jesus’ reputation was spreading widely. It is then and only then, that we read a flashback of the circumstances of John’s death. That became a precursor of Jesus’ death and the death that his followers both then and now might experience.
What was this very dangerous teaching that could get John, Jesus and many of the disciples killed? The answer can be found in the letter to Ephesians in which it is said that all people are called to God, not just the chosen. This, according to Paul, was God’s plan from the beginning. All who bless God are called to be children of God by adoption…and, as God’s children, recipients of redemption and forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. Through Christ all walls of exclusivity were broken down and all who believed in him were welcome.
This did not sit well with human beings then or now. Human beings want to feel special, to be more important or more loved than others. This was certainly true of the Jews in Jesus’ time and true of all of us today. We curry prejudices that foster the thinking that some people are in and some are out. Often we develop litmus tests that are frequently based upon single issues and misconceptions. We paint all of one group with the same brush and attach common characteristics to its members without seeing them as individuals. If the Kingdom of God is for all people we are no longer special….and human beings did not like that one bit in the first century, and we do not like that now. If we look at the variety of religions, if we look at the number of Christian denominations, if we even look at our own communion and province, we find that there is a certainty about “our way” that makes it more ‘right’ than that of the other. Jesus preached love for all people, especially for those who were shunned or outcast. He listened, he healed, and he dined with and cared for each and every person.
Our General Convention is meeting in Anaheim right now. There are two issues that are receiving the most attention. First, BO33, a resolution passed at the last minute of the General Convention three years ago, is being revisited. BO33 was pressed upon newly elected Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, by the Archbishop of Canterbury and retiring Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, with the argument that refraining from consecrating openly partnered gay and lesbian persons to the Episcopate was the only way for our province to stay in the Anglican Communion. It was an ill conceived resolution and has cause much anxiety and regret for the past three years. The House of Bishops has had a number of opportunities to discuss this, but the House of Deputies is meeting for the first time since the 2006 Convention. As a result, the House has taken an unprecedented special order that allows for informal discussion of the entire House. That discussion started yesterday and continues today.
Other resolutions before the Prayer Book, Music and Liturgy Committee ask for marriage equality and rites for same-gender blessings. Though the hearing was very long, the majority of those speaking testified that the wall of sexual orientation be dropped in each and every rite of the church.
It is clear that our church is beginning to move beyond the exclusivity issue and to recognize that God loves all people, not just the few. We would be profoundly naïve if we believed that these resolutions, if passed, will be well received by the rest of the Anglican Communion and the various Christian communities. Things will get worse before they get better, but justice and Christ’s love demand that we embrace these issues. This process was true when the Episcopal Church addressed the exclusion of people of color and, again, when it dealt with the full inclusion of women.
We are called, as God’s beloved, to reach out to all people, including those with whom we disagree. We need to listen with love, not anger, and to embrace the sadness that Jesus experienced, when two-way communication breaks down. For our mission to be successful we are to, like the disciples, proclaim Christ’s word in deed as well as in word. We are to seek justice, to heal the broken, to serve the needy and to show compassion in our interactions with all people. When faced with injustice we are called to name the issue, to have the courage to speak up, doing so with as much love and compassion as we can muster. In doing so, we make ourselves vulnerable, another state that human beings find to be very uncomfortable. In the end, we leave judgment to God and God alone. This requires prayer, worship and community. We cannot do it alone. Just as the disciples went out two by two, so do we move forward together. It is our challenge at St. Margaret’s to pray for the deputies and bishops at the General Convention. By doing so they will know that they are not alone but are being supported by a multitude of Episcopalians.
Let us together commit to following Jesus, knowing that it will require vulnerability and suffering as we claim and show the love that we have been given. There is great danger and great risk. There will also be great reward and great joy.