En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.
I’m not a big TV fan, but I do enjoy the Brit-coms. One of my favorites is called “Keeping Up Appearances” a BBC show from the 90’s about a middle-aged, middle class English woman named Hyacinth Bucket (spelled: b-u-c-k-e-t).
Hyacinth got into all kinds of predicaments in her efforts to convince others (and even herself) that she was a wealthy, refined, aristocrat – things she valued more than being authentic. Hyacinth was so pre-occupied with living the life she wished for that she missed out on living the life she had.
In our gospel story today, the scribes, who were respected, powerful religious leaders in those days, were condemned by Jesus for their preoccupation with appearances. ‘Look at them’ Jesus says, ‘They wear expensive clothes and sit at the head table at all the right parties. They demand your respect and thrive on the power you give them. They do what’s expected of them in return, praying long prayers, but only for the sake of keeping up appearances. “They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus says.
Then Jesus goes to the temple treasury where the people are putting in their offerings for the support of the temple. He watches as “many rich people put in large sums.” Then he watches a poor widow put her measly few coins in the collection plate.
Seeing an important lesson about the kingdom of God presenting itself, Jesus calls his disciples near and teaches them. But this isn’t a discussion about money. It’s a discussion about learning to see the new thing God is doing in the world – a world where the poor widow is honored and the rich religious leaders are condemned. By this teaching, Jesus is helping the disciples let go their preconceived notions about social and church structures so that they can see and participate in the new world God is creating right in front of them.
This is very much in keeping with our Bishop, Porter Taylor’s opening address at our diocesan convention this weekend, and so I share some his words with you today:
“We journey inward [in prayer], we journey outward [in mission and ministry, but]… we journey together… [and] there is something sacred about working together… When we cannot talk about our “issues,” we can always work together. We can always feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless and be agents for God’s reign.
Conversation and commitment are what matter. We cannot wait for a new Church to emerge because this day is the only day we have to be agents of transformation. Let’s be creative; let’s be inventive; but let’s get on with walking in the way and widening the walls and waking up the world. Let’s be about our core essentials: Christian Formation, Justice/Outreach, Evangelism, Communication, and Stewardship and liturgy. Let us find the best ways to move forward in these areas together.
…This togetherness enables us to hang on to one another even when we don’t agree. In Advent I will authorize under my specific guidelines the use of the liturgy of Same Sex Blessings passed by General Convention. These are liturgies for provisional use between General Conventions (emphasis mine). The Episcopal Church has not sanctioned same sex marriage. As a Church we are going to try out this liturgy for three years and in 2015 come together to listen to our experiences and decide what to do. We have had blessings in WNC for some time. All that this will do is to make the liturgy uniform. Remember “All May, Some Should, None Must.” While some will feel as if my guidelines are too restrictive; others will feel as if they are too radical. That diversity is who we are… I am confident that we are so committed to our Lord and his Church, that his strong love will pull us through our differences together.
I am pleased to say that our diocese is already creative and innovative and funner. People were not waiting for this address to do new things for our Lord and His Church…I want to say a word about the work that Beth Turner, Valori Shearer (sic), Beth Lilly, Karla Woggan, Rob Lundquist, Thomas Murphy, John Simpson, Augusta Anderson, Pattie Curtis, Osondu McPeters and others I forgot to mention are doing with Young Adults. It is creative and also traditional. They are gathering people into the faith through the blessed sacraments and scripture and prayer.
I am also committed to us being more creative in proclaiming the Good News... As a Church, we must be about what Jesus was about: unity and diversity. We need to bring in more people of color—especially Latinos—more young adults.
To put it simply, we need to be more flexible in how we do Church. This means I need you to be the ones to initiate creative experiments. We must get over our fear that if we do something new, my parish or our diocese will suffer. Let’s let the Spirit work… because it’s not our Church; it’s Christ’s Church and he is the bishop of our souls.
So, intentional, clearer, more focused yet innovative, creative, funner. This is my charge for 2013.”
In his sermon at our Eucharist Saturday night, +Porter reminded us of the uncontainability of the Christ we follow, our Savior who broke open the tomb and, leaving death behind, inaugurated a New Age, bringing new life to the world – resurrection life. +Porter said: “Let us rejoice that we cannot predict what Jesus will do anymore. He is free. Our calling is recognize him wherever he is. Our calling is to learn to see him in unexpected places. And most of all our calling is to believe in his power to make all things new…”
The life, mission, and ministry we live as a parish, a diocese, a denomination, a part of a world-wide communion of followers of Christ, are gifts from the Almighty Giver, who, as we will hear in our Offertory Hymn (# 665) bestows bounteous gifts on us every day. Everyday our world is new and different because of the gifts of God bestowed daily.
We can refuse the gifts of God if we choose, holding out for the life we wish for or prefer to the one we have. Or we can open our eyes to see the life God is giving us to live and be transformed by it. Then we can open our hearts and carry this abundant life, this resurrection life to all who lack it or just don’t see see it.
Today is the only day we have to be “agents of transformation.” So, let’s answer our Bishop’s charge to be creative and inventive, and let’s walk in the way, widen the walls, and wake up the world…together. Amen.
Note: For the full content of Bishop Taylor's address and sermon, click here.