We’ve talked quite a lot in class about schisms in the church, things that divided us. We’ve talked about priests who handed over sacred texts, even denied their Christianity before Constantine became the emperor of Rome, and how those priests wanted to come back once it was safe. We’ve talked about how local formation and ordination surely cannot mean that you are only a priest or a deacon within the geographic bounds of one diocese. About the nature of God and the nature of Christ. We’ve used words like epiclesis and been given beautiful stories and ideas.
We’ve been preparing for the enormous task of what it is to lead people out, but also of what it is to lead them in, to turn them together, to will a community to join hands and stand united.
Is a marriage always a marriage? Can it be undone if suddenly the union is deemed illegal? Can souls no longer be co-mingled just because some men in a large room several states away say it is so? I think not. Like being ordained to holy orders, like consecrated bread and wine, like coming out of a river in your white robe, sacraments do not lose their potency.
Take heart, dear ones.
Many of us renewed our baptismal vows on Sunday, the Feast of All Saints. We said that we would respect the dignity of every person, that we would seek and serve Christ in all persons. And I reminded my girls of that today, as they walked into their schools, in a county that turned red on a CNN map as I hung my head in shame. I reminded them to be kind and to be brave, I reminded them that I would protect them, and that they have a duty to speak out when they hear injustice around them; that they have a duty to give mercy.
I think they understand.
I’ve traveled the grief spectrum. I went to bed in disbelief, woke in panic that turned to tears. Raged mightily and stilled my twitchy fingers (for the most part) at the few people I still follow who have posted nasty things today. I am turning the corner toward peace, because I understand that I cannot act if I cannot see because my eyes are filled with tears. I understand that when I am panicked and angry that I am not making good choices. I understand how important words are, how important actions are, in the days ahead.
The right of women to vote was not won overnight, it took more than two decades, countless imprisonments and beatings, the loss of families, homes and children, sometimes the loss of life for women to be given the right to vote. In America, African American citizens would wait another 40 years to be given the same right. Do not believe that I mean that women waited over those decades, that no one stood up, that no one marched for the black vote.
There is work for us to do. Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters need our support, our Muslim neighbors need us to stand with them, Black Lives DO matter, and people fleeing war and persecution still must find America to be a safe haven, a refuge.
I am scared too. I am not sure where to begin. But begin I must.
I will start at noon today. I will go to something that makes me uncomfortable and I will sit in solidarity with my community, knowing that not everyone sees the world the way that I do. I will sit at the table that isn’t a table, watch as bread and wine take on mystical qualities, feed myself and shore up my strength.
A prophet can’t see the future, is a non-magical, muggle being. But what a prophet can see is the way a flicker of light shines through the keyhole of our closed doors and through the broken masonry of our walls. A prophet calls us to see the world in a different way, to see all that is possible when it appears that there is nothing left, a prophet will tell us that we can pick up the pieces.
There are no easy answers, there are no false platitudes over here. I understand that when something new is coming it is painful.
I understand that the same God who banished the Israelites, who rained fire on Sodom and Gommorah, who sent a flood to destroy the world – that same God dropped manna from the heavens, the same spirit took the being of a wall of fire, holding back the opposing army as the people ran through the night in terror toward a sea that parted. That same spirit sent a dove with a branch in its mouth. God never leaves us.
There is a plan here, and I don’t know what it is, I can’t see it for you yet. But a battle we’ve read all about is coming, it is a Harry Potter battle, the kind where a mother’s love can protect you, a Lord of the Rings battle, where we will be besieged and still saved. It is a battle that will REQUIRE sacrificial love, the kind that drives out death, the kind that casts aside fear, the kind that rose again after three days in a tomb having vanquished Hell.
The earth is groaning, the rubble is shifting, the pace has been picked up. The call to reconcile and to work justice is louder than the horns that brought down the Wall of Jericho. A dispersed nation will be made one again, but nothing worth doing is easy or painless or without cost. There will be a cost, because the most powerful kind of love, the sacrificial kind, is, at it’s core self giving. The most powerful kind offered absolution to a thief and rended the temple veil – all the same time.
God never leaves us, even as the heavens open and the world fills with water, even as fire rains down and presses us on from behind.
The sea will part.
We will walk across the sand, littered with sea creatures, and will set up camp on the other side. A camp without walls, a camp that lives in abundance, in the absolute knowing that there is ENOUGH.
The epiclesis isn’t only the calling of the Holy Spirit upon bread and wine. It is also calling the spirit down upon us, which seems like a scary thing to do, with us not ever knowing just how that spirit will show up. But we are brave and can do hard things, we can call for help as Lucy called for Aslan on a boat traveling the sea in Narnia – and we will hear him whisper back – Courage, Dear Heart.
Be of good faith.
Have courage, dear ones, chins up, eyes ahead, hands out.
Please don’t be afraid.