These have been momentous days for us all, these past three weeks. Days of an increased awareness of the dangers of climate change (an the pope’s invitation to a reorientation), of the need for equal housing, of the persistence of racism (and the possibility of hope), of the availability of insurance (and a needed reflection on the right of health care), of the equality of marriage (and the tension with established cultural norms). Momentous days. Difficult days. Days of absorption, or as my friend CeCe Balboni always describes, days when you need space to metabolize what you have experienced.
In The Episcopal Church, we have wrestled with these very openly. And, if I could dare to say, we have a chance to orient ourselves not to seek uniformity with some rule or policy, but to see a coherence, an awareness of how the Holy Spirit is at works in our world.
I believe we are in an age of a pronounced expansion of awareness. In the Christian contemplative tradition, there is a major thread or image of “Christ consciousness.” We are called to participate in this Christ consciousness, as William P. Dubose (Sewanee, YSR) described, God in Christ is one half of the Incarnation; Christ in us is the full and other half. These are radical words that point to an even more radical spiritual reality. We are called to participate with God in the world.
The tension comes when we too easily forget that God calls us into community, into a social order–an economy–that seeks to be mindful of and support the least of these among us: widows, orphans, the poor, the alien in our midst. This was the constant refrain of the Hebrew prophets, who stood in the midst of the culture and reminded everyone of the risks of self-focus and always seeking self-interest. It was not an easy message to hear then, and it isn’t any easier to hear now. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the constant refrain of God’s justice–the image of the Kingdom of God.
At Grace Church, we have been holding a special forum to reflect on the actions of General Convention and the space we find ourselves in. The conversations have been very rich, very real. Some shared with me in the week that followed that they were “uncomfortable” with all that is going on. I admit that I am not completely comfortable myself. How can anyone be completely comfortable? And, I think: why is “comfort” a standard of faith? Of Christian practice? My discomfort comes when I am made aware of my own limited view, my own lack of participation in God’s dream.–my own complacency.
I shared with my folks at Grace that we all recognize we are in a space that asks a great deal of us. This space of reflection asks us to articulate our faith, to use “I” statements rather than make generalizations and characterizations, to become more proficient in our faith (we church leaders have failed at this by the way). And, we are called to practice an explicit trust in the Spirit.
Attached is a link to an article on Pope Francis in the NYT. It is challenging–and humbling–as he recognizes the way that a colonial, church-sponsored, socially-accepted, economic system exploited a population of God’s children. Amazing…and courageous, I think. Read the article HERE.
These are exciting days, I think, days of reorientation, of renewal, of challenging revival. I remember times in my life when I felt such disorientation. I felt as though I were falling. It’s a fearful thing, when one’s life is reoriented. Being invited into an awareness of Christ consciousness is one thing, the whiplash that seems to come with it is another! I would offer this image: trust the fall, trust the reorientation and the hope that comes when we are caught by God and no longer depend on our own grasping to hold us into the places we have chosen to stand. I pray we have the courage to live into them, and to recognize more and more the rich promise of community–and the persistence of God’s grace.