Archive - May 23, 2018

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Ember Letter, Pentecost 2018: Who Would Jesus Love?

Another semester has come and gone, as has Pentecost, at least in the western church, and so it is time to sit down and reflect on my journey over the past few months. I write this as a spiritual discipline modeled after Ember Letters, but I write it for myself, and anyone who is walking along side me in my journey right now.

Saturday morning, I woke up from a dream where we were singing

If you believe and I believe
And we together pray,
The Holy Spirit must come down
And set God’s people free

What if we really dared to believe that? What do we believe and are willing to pray together about, for our churches, for our denominations, for our communities, and for our countries?

…so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Who will dare to believe with me? Who will get together and pray with me?

The previous week had been rough; a tornado in the neighboring towns, another school shooting. On Friday night, we gathered at church for our weekly dinner ministry. We spread the word about it for anyone who was still without power and need a meal or companionship. During dinner we talked about doing a breakfast in the morning. I suggested we start off with a royal wedding watch party. I had heard that Presiding Bishop Curry would be preaching and I was pretty sure that it would be a sermon not to miss.

Saturday morning, about half a dozen of us gathering in the church undercroft. We watched the wedding, and then had breakfast together.

imagine a world where love is the way…
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down, down by the riverside to study war no more.

Who will dare to believe with me that God could use us to bring about a world where love is the way? Two weeks earlier, I had the opportunity to preach at church. My text was John 15. It was also the text that I wrote my final paper for New Testament in. In the farewell discourse, Jesus tells us,

This is my command: Love each other.

Who will dare to believe with me?

I love intellectual discourse. Comparing and contrasting a post-colonial interpretation of John 15 with Calvin’s interpretation is enjoyable to me. Yet at the same time, I love talking about God’s message to us with my friends on the street of Middletown. I spoke with my spiritual director about the challenge of taking a scholarly paper and making the ideas accessible to these friends and she observed, “You do this, because you love them”.

It is the sort of comment one might let pass with nod. But for me, it struck home. It brought back my memories of that conference on Poetry and Workshop a few years ago where God and I had a serious discussion about my life, and why I never got around to going to seminary and becoming a preacher. God reminded me, not only of that long dormant calling, but also that my whole life, my poetry, my politics, my work, my family, was all about showing God’s love.

The morning after meeting with my spiritual director, I drove to work. I let a woman cross a line of traffic in front of me and looked at her. I thought, for a moment, of that old saying, “What would Jesus do?” Perhaps, we’ve been asking the wrong question. Perhaps the question we need to be asking is, “Who would Jesus love?” Of course the answer to that is pretty clear; everyone. Can we see each person the way Jesus sees them?

Who will dare to believe with me?

I participated in services each day of Holy Week at the Episcopal Church I attend most Sundays and led one of the Holy Week services. After Easter Sunday, I then went to Holy Week at the Orthodox Church I attend most Saturdays. It was liturgical whiplash; Holy Week, Easter, back to Holy Week, and then another Easter.

The Orthodox Holy Week services were very powerful and I talked about them at a liturgical planning meeting at the Episcopal Church. A friend asked, “We’re not going to lose you to the Orthodox Church, are we?”

I don’t know. I feel very strong ties to both churches. A few weeks later, my youngest daughter was received as a catechumen in the Orthodox Church. A retired Episcopal priest who now attends that church said to me, “You know, the same thing happened with me. My daughter became Orthodox before I did.”

Do I dare to believe, if I asked the Father to lead both the Episcopal Church and the Orthodox Church to ordain me? Could I be bi-vocational and bi-denominational? Could I help bring love and reconciliation to two different branches of the Jesus Movement?

Yet at the same time, between the Church History course I took this past semester and my interactions with various ecclesiastical employees, my doubts about the Anglican Communion continue to grow, despite how much I love the Episcopal liturgy and the Presiding Bishop.

This weekend, I will make a pilgrimage to St Tikhon’s Orthodox monastery and seminary. Two weeks later, I will head out to Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Between the past few months and these coming trips, the metaphor of Camino remains crucial and an old hymn comes to mind.

I know not where the road will lead
I follow day by day,
or where it ends: I only know
I walk the King's highway.

Pray for me on my journey as I continue to pray for those around me.