Wednesday, March 25, 2015

opaque, translucent, transparent


A haven, the Episcopal Church is to me an interesting phenomenon among religious groups, characterized by the quip “you don’t have to check your brain at the door.” It’s a community where thinking is encouraged, not forbidden, even the Nicene Fathers are up for the turkey shoot. They are in fact my favorite target, but as the affirmation is “We believe” not “We know,” and restored from Credo to Πιστεύομεν I can hold them up and join in speaking for the church.

This is not a church where one can be muted, silenced, as I’ve seen done to prominent and brilliant RC theologians who didn’t toe the line, some of whose books I have and have read.

Good walk this morning, not our longest, but 57 minutes including two brief sitdowns. With the new construction, the courthouse will soon be out of sight from 4th Street Bridge. But then, if memory hasn’t failed, when I was a boy the county jail was there, so it isn’t as though we’ve always had a pristine view of the courthouse. What I remember is, from our house the other end of Massalina Bayou near Hamilton Avenue, hearing the sirens go off at the county jail and the bloodhounds start barking and howling when there was a jail escape, and my mother running out into the yard to shoo us inside, then shutting and locking all doors and windows. That was before air conditioning, too. Seems to me the escapees were usually short on planning, and apprehended under the bridge.

Pause on the bench on Tarpon Dock Bridge, view of the Bay.

Heresy, the minority view, fighting over which many good men murdered each other in early days of the church -- WTH it wasn’t just the early days, Queen Mary burned at the stake English bishops including our hero Tom Cranmer who had helped her father Henry the Eighth I Am I Am and her half-brother Edward the Impotent escape from Rome -- indeed, the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have split with judgment and bitter hatred in my own generation over sexuality issues deemed heretical by some -- is pretty much an archaic notion in American mainline Xnty these days. Although this morning I read a piece in Christianity Today by an outsider-looking-in slamming our Presiding Bishop

“In her opening address to the Episcopal Church's recent General Convention, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the church's presiding bishop, made a special point of denouncing what she labeled "the great Western heresy"—the teaching, in her words, "that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God." This "individualist focus," she declared, "is a form of idolatry."”

So, okay, the Hebrew notion of salvation was not personal, an individual keeping the Law and being as sure for heaven as if you were already there a la modern evangelicalism that says accept Christ and when you die do not pass Go, go to heaven, go straight to heaven; but that in the end God would save his people Israel, and as in the soteriological cycle that’s manifested throughout the Book of Judges, perhaps before the end.

I did like this piece, lifted as I recall from RevRay’s FB page. It seems to contrast with our Constitution and Canons I.17.7 that says “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church” notwithstanding that the Celebrant has invited the people saying, “The gifts of God for the people of God.” Truthfully, we are not really as welcoming as we like to pretend where an unbaptized hungry person is not a person of God. Neither are we as welcoming to Sunday visitors and guests as we like to pretend, when guests are not greeted at the Peace nor engaged ad incorported at coffee hour.  

Anyway, I don’t remember who was credited with writing it, but this is spot on.

"Eucharist is presence encountering presence--mutuality, vulnerability. There is nothing to prove, to protect, or to sell. It feels so empty, naked, and harmless, that all you can do is be present. The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there's room inside of us for another presence. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for "another." Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger. And most often sinners are hungrier than "saints."

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Browsing about heresy this morning looking for the name of Bishop James Pike, who was censured by the church a couple generations ago for his heretical views and writings (Pike would be mainstream Epsicolopian today), I came across an article by Beth Moore in her article, “When A Big God Escapes Us.” She’s recalling the church of her childhood. “All who filled the pews had secrets. Though my family’s could have qualified for daytime television, I know now that no one there was what he or she seemed.”

I certainly am not what I seem, not what you see, not what you think or hope I am. GOK and Kyrie eleison. But at least in TEC I can be translucent.

On the way home from our walk in the Cove and around Massalina Bayou, I stopped at the house for a cup of coffee on my beloved front porch, visited MLP for a few minutes, then donned my new gardening gloves and took joy in snatching potato vine out of the azaleas. About gone, but they were lovelier this year than ever in my memory.

Finally, what set me off on a blogpost venture into heresy and creeds about three o'clock this morning was the thought for the day in Anu Garg's; but after my morning walk I neglected to return to it as my base. A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. -Flannery O'Connor, writer (25 Mar 1925-1964). Creeds, theology, doctrine and dogma notwithstanding, it calls to mind my own vernacular slogan, "Just because you believe it, that don't make it so."


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