I'm not preaching this Sunday but since we do the lessons for the coming Sunday at our daily noonday Eucharist I was amazed to see that "True Religion Sunday" has rolled around again already. Where DID the year go? Seems like yesterday rather than twelve months ago I was working on Speaking of True Religion -- a sermon I remember for several reasons but primarily because it was preached on August 28, 2005 -- the Eve of Katrina. As the great storm bore down on the Gulf Coast I remember finishing the sermon and sending one last email before I shut down the computer for the night ... an email to +Charles Jenkins (Bishop of Louisiana) ... assuring him and his diocese of our prayers during this time of trial.
Bishop Jenkins and I met as part of the team that traveled to Nottingham to the ACC Meeting in June 2005 and while we stand on opposite sides of at least a few political and theological fences we also share a love of the Lord and of the Episcopal Church. I had no idea that my email would be the last one he would receive before they lost power and contact from the storm. And I had not the slightest idea that "time of trial" I prayed for would still be impacting lives a year later -- no idea of the devastation to the Gulf Coast and to the devastation to our national psyche as we watched in horror the events of the days and weeks that followed Katrina's devastation.
So ... a year later ... here's the snippet of that sermon that struck me today:
[I'm] feeling this morning a little like I won some kind of preaching rotation lottery because, once again, I’m in the pulpit on this late-summer-Sunday I've come to think of as "True Religion Sunday." "True religion" -- words from the Collect of the Day for today, "Proper 17:" Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. AMEN.
Whenever we talk about "true religion" I think it bears repeating that the word "religion" turns out to have the same root as the word "ligament" – that which "binds together" – and one of its dictionary definitions is "that which binds together people in their quest for the divine." Not "that which insists that our way is the only way." Not "that which gives people license to villanize, exclude and even kill in God’s name." Not "that which creates enough rules and restrictions that everybody you disagree with has to stay out."
Nope -- "That which binds together people in their quest for the divine." The Gospel according to Merriam-Webster.
It was what bound a bishop from Louisiana and a priest from Pasadena together across the miles and across a hurricane -- and maybe, just maybe, it is what could ... if we were truly open to its increase in us ... bridge some of the divides we face in this post-Katrina/post-Windsor/post-9/11 world.
The Gospel According to Merriam-Webster. Maybe we could use a little more of that kind of true religion being preached this week. Couldn't hurt.