Sunday, 20 July 2008

Sufficient Grace. Power to change?

Joyce Kohl saysWhite signifies purity, joy and glory; red bravery, fire, blood, and charity.
Combining the purity of white and the the passion of red gives us pink - the color of gentle love and desire... Pink signifies gentleness, and new birth.
Thank you for sharing that, Joyce. Gentleness and new birth may be tomorrow’s good news. Today, Canterbury Cathedral was a sea of red and white, paradise for Arsenal supporters, a world of languages and cultures, fears and hopes reaching out, as one, for the one true bread.

Like the liturgy, the Sermon was absolutely on the money. It didn’t not to duck the hard stuff, but invited us to break bread over it and gve it to God. Tomorrow we turn to the serious business of seeking a new way forward from God. The gospel principle is that if anyone has a problem with another Christian you talk it through with them, not at them or about them. Now we have the opportunity to talk directly together, exactly as Jesus told his disciples to do. In a broken world, perhaps working this way is a sign of hope. Duleep de Chickera, bishop of Colombo was speaking out of the experience of violence and intimidation, and Sri Lanka’s need to find another way.

The gospel for the day was the parable of the wheat and the tares — challenging the damaging fantasy of the “pure” church.
There can and there must be no uprooting, simply because if we attempt this game of uprooting the unrighteous then, my dear sisters and brothers, none of us will remain. We are all a mix of the wheat and the weeds. The wisdom of these words suggest that we stay together because we draw from a common soil, a common tradition, a common heritage. We are what we are regardless of our differences, because of our common life together and our origins. Transformation comes in this interaction, and transformation must come from within.
He left us with three practical challenges:
  1. To be real about dsciplines of self scrutiny. I meet people who are tremendous experts on what is wrong with everybody else, and what is right about themselves. Away from here there’s been a lot of hostile terminology in the air — terms like “revisionist” and “fundamentalist” which people do not use of themselves voluntarily. Whenever you hear these terms you know the user is refusing to listen to the other person in their own terms, indulging in childish name calling. More significantly, there’s a great need to turn to where God is, whose authentic voice is characteristically heard in the silence than in the fire or the earthquake. We are all called to self-awareness.
  2. To live unity in diversity, as symbolised in this liturgy. The world is dying of anger, party and faction. We are called to live the life of Pentecost in all its glorious diversity, not simply play the world’s game of faction, blame and spite.
  3. To be prophetic. This means being real about things as they are, but refusing to give up hope God could remake them. It means being a voice for the voiceless, and not giving up. The key to prophecy is language that is God-inspired, not self serving.
So that’s the challenge. Time now to see if, as well as talk about this stuff, and be inspired by it, we can actually do it. God’s word says his grace is sufficient for us, and his power is made perfect in weakness.


Bob MacDonald said...

' ... refusing to give up hope...' Many are hoping for your deliberations. I hope that there will be a sign of faith in the acceptance and power of Jesus - faith that he accepts those who are different and that he knows what he has done in their new creation.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for your prayers, Bob. God raises the dead — this operation should be possible. But he also chooses to reveal himself through us, and we can rather get in the way!

Tim Chesterton said...

I find myself warming to this approach - especially the obvious statement that the gospel way is to talk to each other, not to talk at or about each other. Obvious, because it's so clearly spelled out in Matthew 18:15-20 - but not obvious, because we so very rarely have the guts to obey it.

And yet...

Exegetical accuracy requires me to point out that the parable of the weeds among the wheat isn't a parable about the church but the world. Jesus says it quite clearly: 'The field is the world'. The question the parable is addressing is not 'How do we deal with sin (or difference) in the church?' but rather 'Why doesn't God root out all evildoers from the world right now?'

Of course, centuries of Christendom thinking have gotten us into the habit of applying this parable to the church; I just don't think that's legitimate. Good sermon - just the wrong text (should have been on Matthew 18:15-20).

Erika Baker said...

"The gospel principle is that if anyone has a problem with another Christian you talk it through with them, not at them or about them."

I would find all this talking so much more convincing and moving if Bishop Gene Robinson wasn't visibly excluded from this deep and wonderful experience of shared silence, prayer and biblical exegesis.
As it is, it somehow doesn't quite ring true, and reading his blog leaves me with a deep sadness that is only compounded and intensified by reports like yours.

The ones who got it right were the 30 who went to the Integrity/CA Eucharist yesterday, who will include him whatever they may think of all that he represents.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Tim — fair cop; I see exactly what you mean and agree. the obsession with pure whatever affects both spheres, but I would have loved a sermon about Matthew 18 — and perhaps the parable about the Church is the dragnet? (Mt 13)

Erika, It is not in my gift to invite VGR or not. I would love to be in a place where this is sorted out, but the simple fact is it isn't. This gathering's proportions reflect the global balance these days — vast majority from the two thirds world. They are, by and large, in a very different place from many in the West.

In the meanwhile, whilst I regret pain caused personally to VGR, we need is to invest time listening and talking. To do that people have to be together. This would simply not have been possible with VGR there. The present US bishops are doing all they can to move this sad situation forward.

Erika Baker said...

Bishop Alan,
Thank you for your reply.
I quite agree that Realpolitik probably necessitates Gene's exclusion and I know that this is causing many of you personal pain.

It is precisely because of this tension that I admire those who also attended the Integrity/AC Eucharist.

Symbolism has always played a major part in Christianity, and the symbolism of the splendid Service in the Cathedral vs the simple outdoor Eucharist in front of a very plainly put together wooden cross spoke very clearly.

The line of Bishops firmly participating in the official Conference but also bravely walking over to be with those on the green was the most touching ray of Christian hope.

Anonymous said...

Alan, do you regret the pain VGR has caused the Anglican Communion by proceeding to consecration against the explcit wishes of the primates? The presence of his consecrators is simply hypocrtical and deeply un-catholic.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Erika, I find your honest use of the term realpolitik really refreshing. Yeah you're right. We have to try and enflesh the word in a crazy world, but one we're trying to nobble, too, r rather allow him to nobble through us. I met a Pakistani bishop the other day, talking about how Christians are 3% of the population, and if a positive statement comes out from here about LGBT people, aome folks will, no kidding, come and burn his churches down. So the cost of my Western values is the pain of his people. It's glorious being part of a global church community often — sometimes it's really painful, too. We just have to believe God will give some gentle wisdom and patience to all of us as we listen and pray.



Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Oh, Anonymous, Thanks for your question. The honest answer is, yes, in a way. It's another pain to acknowledge. I don't know the way to the pain-free zone, here. I had a fantastic conversation with one fo the conservative primates yesterday, and he was really honest and loving about what they were trying to do; but sometimes it gets picked up by lobby groups or even particular primates, and turned into a weapon. That's the joy of Lambeth, that we can communicate direct away from the politicos and manipulators, and try and piece together sme better understanding in God...

Erika Baker said...

It's so difficult, isn't it!
The Pakistani bishop is right, of course, and too often we forget what consequences our actions have on others in far flung reaches of the Anglican Communion.

As long as we don't forget that our inaction also has real consequences - for our lgbt brothers and sisters in those same countries, many of which imprison gay people in inhumane prisons or condemn them to death simply for existing. Between 2 and 8% (depending on which statistics you accept) of the population in constant danger.

It appears to be impossible to make Christians see that considering something to be sinful does not mean it has to be criminalised or that the sinners have to be dehumanised in the process. That alone would be an enormous step forward!

So how does one choose between different pains to take into account? There does not seem to be any way of avoiding moral responsibility, knowing that whichever way we choose we're doing wrong.

Maybe we can only choose the kind of wrong we can bear to live with?

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