Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Fourth Legislative Day

When we gather like this to make Eucharist, we offer all that we are and have for this work.  That little exchange that starts, “lift up your hearts,” is about entering another reality – some old translators put it, “hearts aloft!”  Get moving!  Go cross the frontier between heaven and earth – boldly go where Jesus has gone before – and invite others to go with you to help build the world that God intended at creation.   
So – mortals, prophets – stand up!  God is sending you to a rebellious house, full of impudent and stubborn folks.  As the prophet Pogo said, “is us.!" Your job is to go and say, “Listen up – here’s the deal, God’s got a better world in mind, and you are needed to help make it happen.”  And once you’ve started the conversation about good news, keep moving, keep showing and telling the world what God’s dream looks like.
We heard these words near the conclusion of the Presiding Bishop's homily this morning at the principal General Convention celebration of the Eucharist. It was not bad liturgy, as hotel ballroom celebrations go. The music was consistently wonderful. I was surprised and grateful that it was straight Prayer Book, with nothing doctored. Eucharistic Prayer C was used, which is certainly not my favorite, but at least the text used was right out of the book, without the tweaking of that prayer that is so ubiquitous these days.

That sermon, though. 

I can track with the PB's zeal for a mission-driven church. I share her evident interest in paying attention to society as it heads down the road of secularization. She has a gift of being able to put a compelling rhetorical flourish on her thoughts. But I am saddened by her underlying missional vision. It is way too tame, way too earthbound. 

The parables of the summertime "green season" are rife with reminders that we do not "make it happen." We don't even "help" God make it happen. "God has no hands but ours" is pure theological claptrap. We are not responsible for bringing in God's kingdom; God is responsible for bringing in God's kingdom. Our job--the job of Christ-followers--is to announce the kingdom, to model the kingdom in our common life, and to ride the wave of what God is doing. 

But God does not in any way depend on us, much less need our "help." There is no number of resolutions we can pass, no amount of money we can budget, no number of programs we can initiate or organize, that will hasten the progress of the Kingdom of God one second. The good news is that neither is there anything we can do, or fail to do, that will retard that progress one second. 

Our job is probably also to get past ourselves and our own self-importance ... especially at places like General Convention.

In other news ... 

The first hour of the House of Bishop's legislative session this afternoon was devoted, as has been our custom, to private conversation. I can reveal what went on there today, because the House voted to make it public. I personally moved a mind-of-the-house resolution that affirms Bishops Ohl, Talton, Price, and Buchanan as the legitimate bishops of the Episcopal Church dioceses of Fort Worth, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Quincy, respectively. This motion carried on a unanimous roll call vote. And it is in no way inconsistent with the amicus curiae brief that seven of us recently signed. My sense is that this has significantly lowered the thermostat in relations between the bishops. What effect it might have on the Title IV complaints remains to be seen. But I am hopeful.

Our legislative calendar was short. There's a small disconnect in synchronicity between the work of the committees and the work of legislation. It does seem that we could get through convention much more expeditiously if we eliminated the committees on Social & Urban Affairs and National & International Concerns, which constantly ask convention to make statements about things we don't actually have any influence over, and "call on" dioceses and parishes to do a bunch of things that the vast majority of them will never even hear about, let alone do. What will it take for us to get unstuck from the 1960s? Probably the death of a bunch of baby-boomers. I'm not volunteering.


Tom said...

Completely agree about eliminating the political committees. Hang in there +Dan - you are a needed voice.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Bishops Ohl, Talton, Price, and Buchanan will see this as an olive branch being offered. What ever happened to collegiality and the "good old boys club" rules that you don't hold each other accountable? Major violation of not playing well with others in the sandbox.

Jon said...

I mostly agree with what you're saying about how little control we have over bringing about the Kingdom of God, but I'd still prefer to stick with the monastics and insist that what we do matters tremendously all while not earning us salvation or creating (or preventing) the Kingdom in any straightforward way.