Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No turning back

When I made my Cursillo weekend in 1989, I learned a whole bunch of songs that weren't in the 1940 Hymnal I grew up with ... OR in the Hymnal 1979 we were still getting used to.

One of them was "I have decided to follow Jesus."

And while it hasn't replaced "Ye watchers and ye holy ones" or "Immortal, invisible, God only wise" on my Hymnody Hit List, there's something about the simplicity of its message that sticks with me still -- long after the echoes of De Colores have faded and the palanca has been packed away.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back. No turning back.
Deciding to follow Jesus -- I've decided -- is a little bit like Coming Out.

While you can never really go "back into the closet" once you've come out, you find you have to keep coming out ... over and over again ... in transaction after transaction ... relationship after relationship ... conversation after conversation. You have to make choices about how open -- how honest -- how truthful you can afford to be.

It's an ongoing process -- this coming out thing.

When you decide to follow Jesus, there may be "no turning back" -- but there are plenty of excuses for not moving forward: I need more time. More study. Another small group. Another Bible Study, Rector's Forum or online discussion group. And then of course there's soccer practice, grocery shopping, bills to pay, tax stuff to get organized for April 15th, dogs to get to the vet, kids to get to school ... the "stuff" of ordinary life that gets in the way.

And if we as individuals have a long list of things that get in the way, then the church as institution has a longer list-of-lists. We need more time. More study. More round table discussions. Another Theology Committee, Special Convention or online blog site. And then of course there's the stewardship campaign, rummage sales, parochial reports to get organized by May 1st, Vacation Bible School to organize and the Christmas Pageant to rehearse ... the "stuff" of ordinary church life that gets in the way.

It's an ongoing process -- this following Jesus thing.

And then. Every once-in-awhile. It happens.

To us as People. And to us as Church.

We reach a point where the promise of following where Jesus leads us outweighs all the reasons to stay put. And the voice of Jesus saying "follow me" drowns out all the voices telling us to "go back." And we take that one step. And then another. And then one day we find ouselves somewhere we never imagined we'd be -- serving the Good News of God in Christ Jesus in ways we would never have asked for or imagined -- no matter how many times we read Ephesians 3:20 at the end of Morning Prayer.

And that's where we are right now. This day. This hour. This moment in time in the history of the Episcopal Church.

We've decided to follow Jesus. And there is no turning back.

We've been "coming out" as a church for a couple of decades -- from promises of "full and equal claim" to "homosexual persons" in 1976 to the inclusion of sexual orientation in the non-discrimination canons in 1994 to the acknowledgement of same-sex relationships in 2000 to the election of +Gene Robinson in New Hampshire in 2003 to the call for the development of liturgical resources for blessing same-sex union and marriages and the election of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles in 2009

And today -- March 17, 2010 -- the rest of the Episcopal Church said "Amen" to what the Holy Spirit did in Riverside CA last December by consenting to that election.

No turning back. Alleluia. Alleluia.

And while we celebrate this milestone -- while we look forward to May 15th and the ordinations of Diane and Mary as Bishops in the Church of God -- while we give thanks for all that has "brought us thus far on the way" -- let's make sure we don't confuse not turning back with continuing to move forward.
The year of the Lord's favor will not be realized until there are no strangers at the gate, no outcasts on the margins, no single member of the human family left wondering if the Good News of God's inclusive love includes them. And that includes those outside the Episcopal Church who see her election as a sign that maybe -- just maybe -- if there's room for her in the House of Bishops there might be room for them in the pew.
We have the chance right now -- this day -- this hour -- this moment in time to transform our inclusion activism into intentional evangelism. To tell the good news of a church that welcomes all -- celebrates all -- includes all -- in the work of turning the human race into the human family ... proclaiming release to the captive ... liberation to the oppressed ... good news to the poor.
Because we've decided to follow Jesus. And we're not JUST not turning back.
We're moving forward -- into God's future.

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