Saturday, November 07, 2009

Procrastination Pays Off (Again!)

So I've been having a hard time all week wrapping my heart, soul and brain around the texts appointed for Sunday night's Evensong. They're great texts ... Paul making his case for the gospel in Acts and Jesus teaching about getting over yourselves and inviting the least, the last and the lost to the banquet table in Luke. Good stuff. I just didn't have my "window" -- my "hook" -- my "therefore du jour."

So I did what I usually do when stuck in homiletic limbo: Anything Else. Folded laundry. Grocery shopped. Archived photos. Pruned roses. Went to Big Lots for new candles for the candelabra on the hearth. (One can't possibly write a sermon without proper candles on the hearth, now can one?) Cooked. Dinner. From scratch. Fiddled around on Facebook. And websurfed. (See also: "Pay Dirt" in a feature in from a Greensboro NC newspaper, posted below.)

So now I AM going to hunker down and write ... because now I have the window -- the hook -- the "therefore du jour" for the message I heard in both Acts & Luke: There are always going to be those who will accuse you of not getting it "right" because you don't "get it" like they do. And there are always going to be those who are too busy, too pre-occupied or to insistent on their-own-way-or-the-highway to come to the banquet. Our job isn't to be right -- it's to be faithful. Our job isn't to worry about who won't come -- it's to offer radical welcome to those who DO come. Cut. Print. Preach!

Going to church like going home
by Addison Ore [source link]

The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

For 55 years, Episcopal churches have posted this familiar blue-and-white sign on roads across the nation.

It's a sign that has always made me smile. I was raised an Episcopalian, and no matter where I am, it feels like home when I see that message.

My parents were very active in our small parish in Harrisonburg, Va. My mother was chairwoman of the Altar Guild for several years, and my father served on the vestry. The longtime rector of our church was my dad's best friend.

Growing up, the church felt like an extension of our family, and I never really minded having to go. In fact, the only thing I didn't like was that our church wasn't air-conditioned, and I have a few unpleasant memories of kneeling turning into keeling over on a couple of sultry Sundays.

I especially enjoyed the holidays, such as Easter and Christmas, when the services would include a lot of pomp and circumstance. As comedian Robin Williams once remarked about the Episcopal Church: "All of the pageantry and none of the guilt."

The Episcopal Church has always had a good sense of humor about itself, and I think that's just one reason I've always felt comfortable there. The classic Episcopalian joke is "For every four Episcopalians, you're sure to find a fifth."

I minored in religion in college and briefly considered attending seminary. Time for confession: That aspiration probably had more to do with the huge crush I had on my church's intern the summer before my senior year than any true calling I had to the ministry.

Her name was Carlyle Gill, and she was among the first "crop" of female priests in the Episcopal Church.

Like a lot of young people, I drifted away from the church in my 20s. I think some of it had to do with coming to terms with the fact that I was gay.

I never felt tortured by my sexuality, but I certainly didn't think there was a place for me in church.

But I did closely follow my church's struggle with its gay and lesbian members, mostly through Integrity, a nonprofit founded in 1974 as the leading grass-roots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT individuals in the Episcopal Church.

Tensions between more liberal and conservative factions reached a tempest in 2003 when the Right Rev. Gene Robinson became the first openly gay, noncelibate priest to be elected a bishop in more than four centuries of church history.

I was proud of my church.

Years turned into decades, and like Hugh Grant, I still seemed to wind up in church only for weddings and funerals.

In 2002, I found myself back at my childhood church too often ---- for the memorial services of first my father and, seven months later, my mother.

It was comforting to eulogize my parents in the space where we had spent so much time together. Just the familiar sight of the double red doors and the musty smell of the sanctuary soothed me.

Finally, two years ago, I decided to go back to church and found myself at All Saints, a church surprisingly similar to the one in which I grew up. It's a small parish in Sedgefield with red doors, and yes, the sanctuary even smells a bit musty.

I returned to the Episcopal Church on Easter because I still love the pomp and circumstance. And if my return was not exactly a religious experience, it was certainly a homecoming. I was greeted like a long-lost friend on the front walk by a jolly, distinguished gentleman who said, "Hello, young lady." He had me at "hello."

It was all so familiar. The creaky sound of kneeling benches going up and down made me smile. And I knew I had landed in the right place when it came time for the passing of the Peace.

For the uninitiated, this event occurs before Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church, and to me, it represents the essential nature of shared worship. You greet your neighbor with an extended hand or embrace and say something along the lines of, "The peace of the Lord be always with you."

I've been to a lot of Episcopal churches through the years, and often the passing of the Peace is very polite but restrained, like passing through a receiving line.

At All Saints, it's a bit like herding cats at Grand Central Station at rush hour. People spill out of the pews and into the aisles, and it usually goes on and on until the rector gives us a bewildered look of "Enough already!"

I like my Peace messy. I was home.

This summer, the General Convention, the governing body of the Episcopal Church that meets every three years, moved toward developing an official rite for blessing same-sex unions.

Tensions remain high, but as the Rev. Susan Russell, outgoing leader of Integrity, said, "I think the overwhelming message coming out of this convention, not only for LGBT people, but for all who are looking for a community that embraces peace, justice, tolerance, compassion and the good news of God in Jesus Christ is that the Episcopal Church welcomes you."

The Episcopal Church welcomes me.



Mitchell said...

TEC welcomes you if your white and well to do.


Where is THAT coming from?

uffda51 said...

Mitchell, you have the credibility and manners of Joe Wilson. Your spelling could use some work as well.

Mitchell said...

I apologize

MarkBrunson said...

As well you should!

Mitchell, I'm white - so sorry, I wish I could fix that - and I bring home about $240/week. I'm grateful for that much. Is that well-to-do, Mitchell? I have a place to live because it was left to me. I have no car, because I don't make enough to be eligible for a car loan.

We have at least 5 black families in my church, that I can think of. It's a mostly-white congregation, if, by white, you also include various Mediterranean and Asian backgrounds. Now, 5 families is not a lot, but you've got AME, "historically black" Baptist churches, and a large non-denominational church (Insert-name-here Tabernacle) which only welcomes blacks, so . . . pretty stiff competition.

There is a subtle racism, too, in being oh-so-concerned because there aren't enough of "them" to make us feel good about ourselves. It's still making them different, other than people like us.