MARRIAGE EXTENSION

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has voted to extend marriage to same-sex couples. It is certain that the House of Deputies will follow suit. Part of this decision involves a resolution that in the Prayer Book Marriage service the language will be refer to “couples” rather than male and female. The Constitution of the Episcopal Church defines a process for Prayer Book revision requiring that such revisions be voted on at two General Conventions before the change becomes effective. The action of the House of Bishops in circumventing this requirement now sets a precedent. The Book of Common Prayer may now be revised in any particular as a Majority in General Convention wills. It seems logical that any article of the Constitution may undergo hasty revision if a majority so wills. There’s no Court of Appeal to test such a process. Another set of Trial Rites has been approved, to be used at the discretion of the Ordinary. In cases where the Ordinary refuses to permit use of the Trial Rites, he or she must make provision for the couple to be married elsewhere or by some other means.

The visibility and remarkable empowerment of the Gay community, both within the church and in society presents the church with a pastoral and evangelical problem. There are many ordained LGBT people in the churches and our church; many serve on vestries, sing in choirs, teach Sunday School, help in outreach. That this is true is nothing new. I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a parish or pastored one where this has not been true. Even in the most traditional parishes this is true. By no means all wish to have relationships blessed, or marriages effected, nor do all, by any means believe this to be appropriate. That being said, many seek to be affirmed in relationships and to enjoy the same status and recognition as male-female marriages.

Let me be clear. The church has a clear pastoral duty to minister equally to all its parishioners and to reach out to all people. Nor can we expect parishioners to suddenly develop into perfect people. The late beloved Michael Ramsey said that if we start throwing out those who do not conform to purity, in the end those remaining will have to be ejected because they commit the deadly sin of Pride.

However there is another form of that sin. “For the sin of heresy is not the holding or teaching of false doctrine, but the belief that one’s own opinion, because it is one’s own opinion, is more likely to be right than the teaching of the Church – or of the best and wisest Christians in all ages and all places.” CB Moss, The Christian Faith. This is true individually and collectively.

I do not doubt that the secular state has the right to define marriage in anyway it thinks fit. The Church, and churches that claim apostolicity, are much more constrained. To “extend doctrine” beyond that which has been commonly held from the beginning, at the very least without some impressive trans-Anglican and ecumenical consensus, so that it may be said “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” must be viewed suspiciously. False teaching is often caring, contextually local and extremely popular. Arianism was in Egypt.

To oppose the extension of marriage to same-sex couples may be, in some, perhaps many cases, inspired from a visceral revulsion or inherited or assumed bigotry. Yet any moral position the Church affirms may be used by the pharisee in our midst as they shout, “I thank you Lord that I am not as others.”

The traditional doctrine of Marriage is deeply rooted in the Genesis accounts of Creation. To affirm this doesn’t require one to take the Genesis stories “literally”, unless one knows that “literally” means, in a book. But Genesis underlines God’s purpose in all creation and undergirds all other biblical teaching on Matrimony. The fact that men had multiple wives in Old Testament times does point to variations in marriage, ones cleared up by New Testament times, but not to variations in the gender of partners. Procreation is an inseparable part of the purpose of marriage. Of course couples who cannot have children, or believe, after prayer and counsel that they should not have children, are truly married. But exceptions don’t prove or disprove rules. One of the aspects of marriage sorely neglected is that it not only provides for the care and nurture of children, but that for Christians, it is a primary act of evangelism, as children are brought to baptism and raised in “the faith and fear of the Lord.” “Be fruitful and multiply.”

What may one say?  I do not doubt that the bishops acted out of sincere pastoral care. I do believe that acted beyond their competence, as successors of the Apostles and as upholders of the law of our church.

THE CHARLESTON TRAGEDY

I really can’t understand how some of my friends can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the grim reality of racism and who seek to advance the theory that symbols of racism are somehow neutral, because they fear that to admit this horror would somehow weaken their other political ideals. My great-great grandfather, Antoine Clavier de Cas Navire was black, of mixed race, a graduate of the Sorbonne, who was expelled from Martinique for championing the rights of slaves. My grandfather, a doctor, was colored. When he came to England from Guyana after the war, when I was seven, I met him and gasped, “Mummy my Grandpa is a black man.” He roared with laughter and loved me. I was taught from the earliest age that color, like beauty is skin deep, and that it’s who we are, not what we are that counts. It sounds simple but it is hard to break out of safer habits.
However I’m very much afraid that when the dust settles, we will swiftly forget the Charleston massacre, the media will move to another subject, and, until this sort of tragedy recurs, we will bury our heads in the sand because we dare not admit that there runs through contemporary society a deep vein of intolerance towards any caste that isn’t like our own. Jesus wept.

A PRE-CONVENTION REFLECTION

Next week bishops and clerical and lay deputies from all over the Episcopal Church will descend on Salt Lake City, Utah, for the triennial meeting of its primary legislative body. Each day during nearly two weeks of meetings, Convention will meet as one body to worship God and offer the Eucharist. Each day those assembled will state collectively that they believe the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Such a profession is at once descriptive and aspirational. It is descriptive because we believe at root, the Church of God is all those things. It is aspirational because the Church in this day and age is divided, sinful, and introverted. I don’t speak only here of the tiny portion of the Church of God we term The Episcopal Church, but of the Church we see and to which we now belong here on earth.

There’s a certain irony about TEC’s meeting in Salt Lake City. For that place is the mother and home of one of those American bodies that emerged in the 19th. Century as America expanded westward and lived into its destiny. Should not an exceptional nation have an exceptional religion, home grown and beholden to no one and nothing but itself? Exceptionalism continues to run deep in the American political, national and religious DNA. Even when expressed in tandem with a conviction that we should appreciate where we came from and embrace the wider world, still there remains an almost visceral awareness that we are not as others are. And so the Creeds, daily recited, sound an uncomfortable and even jarring note, a reminder of something deeper than nostalgia – something much deeper than the way many Americans seem to love the British Royals while swiftly agreeing that the American Way is other. Well that may be well and good as it refers to the form a nation state takes, but it is topsy turvy when applied to what we term ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Church. One would wish that General Convention would project onto a large screen in both its Houses the words, “We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

In what manner should General Convention aspire to live into the Credal doctrine?

1. One. Jesus prayed that the Church would be one. While the modern ecumenical movement, for over a century, has striven to recapture that unity, with few exceptions TEC has opted for the easy way out.  While we’ve entered into agreements of intercommunion with Lutherans, Moravians, Old Catholics and may do so with Methodists, we’ve retained our independence and in most communities few signs exist that our agreements have made much difference. Not even the present Pope speaks of unity in terms of uniformity, but unity means walking together, pushing aside stumbling blocks as we walk together, and the realization that the journey forward is together and not as friendly but distinct tribes. The puzzle remains. While we have made significant strides, we’ve also created a number of new and formidable stumbling blocks, yes, in the name of truth and justice, but also with considerable hubris and vocal disdain for those not so guided by our visions. Division ecumenically, within our Communion and internally continues to present to the watching world something other than a pattern for reconciliation, as applicable to the world as to the Church. The Anglican habit of tentative advocacy, admitting that one may be wrong, has been replaced by abrasive certainty, whatever the consequence in lost and disillusioned people

2. Holy.  The root of the word ‘Holy’ is separate, apart, different. As applied to God it means that even in God’s approaching us, he remains distinct, often in a manner which draws us to kneel in awe and to express our unworthiness, as Isaiah did when he was given a vision of Yahweh (Isaiah 6). When applied to the Church, the term Holy refers to its calling, its being set apart as a kingdom of priests unto God. The fact that only the baptized may offer the Eucharist is all about that distinct vocation and nothing at all to do with God’s love for all men and women. The baptized are called into a  priesthood. The function of a priest is to stand for the world to God and to offer God to the world. The central and distinct calling of the Church is expressed in worship.

We’ve become so seduced by therapeutic religion that we can’t embrace our vocation. Submerged in our neediness, a desperate yearning to be fixed and to fix,  we concentrate on what God does for us, and because we are insatiable we assume that the non Christian world is as needy as we are. We urge them to come join us in church. We just can’t understand why there’s little response and our congregations wither.

Holiness means that we embrace our calling and endeavor in thought, word and deed, to mirror the life, deeds and mighty acts of our great High Priest, Jesus. Unless General Convention envisions both the calling of the People of God, and the Christ-like life of the People of God, it won’t be able to see structure as sacramental and evangelism as the living out of Priesthood in God’s world. Jesus’s life is not so much a pattern of morality in its narrow sense as that of self-forgetting outpouring and life-giving.

3. Catholic.  Catholic means something much more profound than worldwide. Yes, TEC has some rather minuscule foreign dependents but that hardly adds up to Catholicity. We are part of the Anglican Communion, but even, at our best, when we acknowledge that in the New Testament the word communion means the deepest form of union, we remain far less than Catholic. Catholicity is much more than ‘valid Orders’, or ‘valid sacraments’, or structural connection. At root it refers to the life giving presence of the Holy Spirit made visible and tangible in ministry, sacraments, teaching and connection. We can’t begin to talk about Catholicity until we learn to gaze at all the components of what we term Church as Spirit-filled gifts of God to us. While we merely gaze at these gifts in terms of what the world terms utility, structure, forms and methods which belong to us, which we may tinker with, alter, amend, even discard at will, instead of approaching them with reverence and awe, we touch the Ark to our own peril and create a parody of the Church in its essential nature and being.

4. Apostolic.  The disciples were titled Apostles because they were charged, at the Ascension, by Jesus, with a few deceptively simple commandments. “Go into all the world.”  “Go baptize”. “Do this in remembrance of me.” “Love one another”. The disciples had no budget, no structure, no power. When that sinks in, we either pine for simple days, or dismiss their impoverishment as something which has no application in a complex modern world. “Apostolic’ means sent out, it means movement out, it means trusting in the Trinity, it means believing that as we so go, God adds to the Church those whom he calls. Yet we continue to see apostolicity as inviting in, staying put, a sort of Pelagian trust in our own smartness to  dream up schemes and plans to turn things around. We don’t seem to believe that the modern world, the city outside church buildings, is a safe place for us. We don’t believe that God is going to do the evangelism if we dare step out of our Upper Rooms. Marks of apostolicity, the Historic Faith, the Ministry, the Sacraments, and the call to loving service to mankind, are just neatly labelled museum pieces if we remain the Episcopal Church in the Upper Room. They easily become nicely framed proposed motions in a virtual Blue Book.

The great call General Convention should hear is a call to be the Church, to aspire to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic as a kingdom of priests for God and for the world. Nothing less honors our calling.

TRADITIONALISTS NOT SERVED

The Episcopal Cafe is a progressive online web page which has placed in its window, “Traditionalists not served here.” Today it takes a letter it received and turns it into an editorial, Note the word “editorial”. This isn’t an article by any old Tom, Sarah or Harry. It’s an editorial, presumably signed off by its editors. That surprises me because I know some of them. You may find the editorial here:

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/questions-to-ask-the-bishop-elect-of-dallas/

The author of this editorially approved piece requires that the Bishop-elect of Dallas, Dr. George Sumner, answer a number of questions relating to the matter of whether, if confirmed, he intends to or may ever seek to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church. The justification for this loaded question is that at present George Sumner is Principal of Wycliffe College, Toronto, and has on his staff the likes of Ephraim Radner and Christopher Seitz who write for the Anglican Communion Institute. Neither of these scholars has left the Episcopal Church or advocated schism. The ACI has not advocated that traditionalists commit schism. Their offense seems to be that they do not subscribe to a narrow constitutional doctrine which subordinates dioceses to General Convention and to the jurisdictional authority of the Presiding Bishop.

My own bishop, Daniel Martins, comes in for similar opprobrium by the writer because he was one of the bishops charged with treason because he joined an amicus brief challenging the same doctrine. He and his fellow bishops, reminiscent of the seven bishops imprisoned by James II because they refused to endorse his Declaration of Indulgences, apologized under coercion for signing the brief, but maintained their opposition to what has become the received doctrine of Episcopal Polity. (I stand somewhere in the middle on this one.)

Now I count Bishop Martins as a friend. We were priests together in Northern Indiana. I fancy that if he harbored schismatic plans for himself or this diocese, covertly tucked up his rochet sleeve, I would have heard them. He certainly hasn’t espoused ecclesiastical high treason in his Synod addresses, at clergy conferences or other meetings.

Consider the context in which this offensive demand has been made. We are approaching General Convention. The Episcopal Church is being called to reform its structure to meet the demands of a rapidly dwindling constituency, in which the average Sunday attendance of its parishes is a meagre sixty-one, some of its seminaries are in deep trouble, and while the coffers of the national church remain fairly stable, dioceses and parishes are, for the most part, either deeply compromised or drawing close to that situation. Episcopalians are calling for unity, for drastic restructuring and for a return to basics, to core issues and to evangelism. At this moment, as a new Presiding Bishop is to be elected, a person who will face the biggest crisis in our common life since the beginning of the 19th. Century (when disunity and the aftermath of the Revolution brought us close to extinction) one of the largest and healthiest dioceses of our church, that of Dallas, and it’s bishop-elect are to be subjected to a divisive and hostile attack mounted against them. Why?

I don’t think its paranoia to posit -or at least anymore paranoiac than these progressive conspiracy theorists devise – that the real target are those of us who commit the unpardonable sin of dissenting from most of the aims and objectives of the parliamentary majority in General Convention: the tyranny of the majority. In short, traditionalists are not served here. It’s enough to make us turn into schismatics. But we don’t. We regret that the Bishop of South Carolina and his diocese, caved under severe pressure and left. We regret the loss of every diocese, parish and individual Episcopalian. We deplore fragmentation as much as we deplore Episcopalian exceptionalism. We deplore that the Episcopal Church Worldwide Inc., regards itself to be a discreet denomination, accountable only to itself, inward looking and xenophobic. Indeed we accuse these progressives of illiberality, of collusion in driving those who do not agree with them out of the church, because they only believed that which, hitherto, the Episcopal Church has espoused. They are as purist as some extreme conservatives.

Now I happen to believe that one of the laudable intentions of Anglicanism is to comprehend people who disagree vehemently but who kneel at the same altars because they share the same baptism. I share friendship with many progressives, thanks be to God. I hope this blog doesn’t offend them too much but whatever I still love them. I happen to believe with Martyn Percy that contentious issues are to be chewed together slowly and that unity matters because our Lord prayed that we should be one. Unity is the sign of the unity we share with the Trinity. It is not just a cosy idea, or a strategic asset. “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.”

I hope George Sumner and the Diocese of Dallas will ignore those who question their fidelity to their baptismal covenants, their ordination oaths. Of course the bishops and standing committees of our church are free to ask bishops-elect any questions they desire, but I hope such questions will be framed without malice, without suspicion, without the bitterness of former days. I hope too that the Episcopal Cafe will remove that sign from their window. We will sit with you, pray with you, work with you, laugh with you, cry with you, but we refuse to let you own that which is our common property.

THINGS CAST DOWN ARE RAISED UP

Today a group of influential Episcopalians issued a “Memorial” to the upcoming General Convention calling for spiritual, theological and structural renewal: http://www.episcopalresurrection.org/memorial/

The memorial calls the Episcopal Church to:

Engage creatively, openly, and prayerfully in reading the signs of the times and discerning the particular ways God is speaking to the Episcopal Church now;

Pray, read the scriptures, and listen deeply for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in electing a new Presiding Bishop and other leaders, in entering into creative initiatives for the spread of the kingdom, and in restructuring the church for mission;

Fund evangelism initiatives extravagantly: training laborers to go into the harvest to revitalize existing congregations and plant new ones; forming networks and educational offerings to train and deploy church planters and revitalizers who will follow Jesus into all kinds of neighborhoods; and creating training opportunities for bilingual and bi-cultural ministry;

Release our hold on buildings, structures, comfortable habits, egos, and conflicts that do not serve the church well;

Remove obstacles embedded in current structures, however formerly useful or well-meaning, that hinder new and creative mission and evangelism initiatives;

Refocus our energies from building up a large, centralized, expensive, hierarchical church-wide structure, to networking and supporting mission at the local level, where we all may learn how to follow Jesus into all of our neighborhoods.

I think we are finally emerging from those heady days of iconoclasm – for the moment,- during which, in the name of renewal, not only our liturgical and spiritual inheritance was scorned as something irrelevant or even harmful to “man come of age”, but the heart of the Gospel and the mission of the church questioned. As I’ve written before, we had become a boutique church, designed for a politically and socially aware elite. In the process we forged a schism, equally designed for a politically and socially elite, a mirror image of a designer church for those who agree with us, or with whom we feel comfortable.

I am struck by the acuity of thoughts expressed by the present pope when he was rector of a seminary in Argentina, days when the church there was under attack by a right-wing, bloodthirsty dictatorship on the one hand, and those who had submerged the Gospel in a specific left-wing crusade.He wrote:

“The example of Our Lord saves us: He became incarnate in the people. Peoples have habits, cultural references which are not easily classified…..To adjust our ears to hear their desire for change requires humility, affection, the habit of inculturation, and above all, a rejection of the absurd pretension to become the “voice” of the people, imagining perhaps that they don’t have one…..The first question any pastor seeking to reform structures must ask is: What is my people asking of me? What is it calling me to do? And then we must dare to listen.” (Austin Overeigh, The Great Reformer, A&U Press, 2014)

What I am not advocating is a program proposed, lobbied for, won by majority vote, all in the name of those who are the church. The church will no more be renewed by a further group of empowered reformers than it was in the seventies. Of course renewal and revival begins with small groups of people inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is when such groups become divisive factions, using political power to enforce their will that the problem arises. Now is the time for genuine egalitarianism. An unrepresentative General Convention as insulated from popular opinion as Congress needs to divest itself of privilege, and claims that it speaks for the people: it needs to listen to the poor, blue collar workers, those who do not subscribe to their political and social ideals, to traditionalists and even to those who have left us for other churches or to ACNA.

Let me be clear. I am not advocating a conservative solution. I am not suggesting we abandon our mission to those who are left out of the national political process, or shunned by us. I am suggesting that unless we recover our spiritual, theological and ecclesial roots, we have nothing to offer that a political party or a social activism group can’t do better. There is only one skandalion, stumbling block, set before those whom God loves, and that is Jesus and him crucified and risen. We have alienated the many in the hope of attracting the few, and assembled enough stumbling blocks to build a multitude of mission churches among those who are battling with the complexities of modern life and see nothing we have to be relevant to their lives. If we claim to be a catholic church, for God sake let us rediscover our mission to all people.

I therefore endorse the work of Episcopal Resurrection, for what my endorsement is worth. I am merely a grey head, the vicar of two small missions, my retirement job. But I assure this group, many of whom I know, of my support and prayers.

A SILENT PREJUDICE

The real reason why Episcopalians have lost the interest of most Americans is quite simple. We don’t like them. We can adopt their cause as a mass, as a class, or a group of classes, but when it comes to them -you know, real people, a few of whom, or perhaps more than a few perch in our pews on Sunday, it’s quite a different matter.

I accuse our leadership of this sin, but dear conservative, I accuse you too. Well yes, the ‘masses’ probably espouse  most conservative policies and seem to enjoy being trickled down upon. It’s rather like a free lottery. There’s always a slim possibility one may strike it rich. That’s why they try Publisher’s Clearing House and buy plastic gnomes, or get a lottery ticket when buying gas.

The main blame lies with progressives. After all the main task of a progressive is to champion the under dog, as long as he or she is under. The thought that such people might actually come to church, or be represented in our synods makes the skin crawl. Just consider these people for a moment. Most have never been to college -community colleges don’t count – and many may not have graduated from High School. They read little that is worthwhile and eat at McDonalds. They wear dreadful clothes, their English aint good, they have never been to the symphony, have no interest in the arts and grow potatoes in the front yard next to the gnomes and flamingos. And yes, they wrap themselves in the flag, hate immigrants unless they are white and wealthy, and wear baseball caps to dinner.

Of course, there are exceptions. We feel good about the really hungry who come to our soup kitchens, about African Americans if they are shot by the police of bullied at school, about Latin American refugees struggling across the border, or gays beaten up outside a bar. But the good thing is that we usually don’t have to meet these people, eat with them, talk with them, actually love them enough to share our faith with them. After all, they are probably members of an evangelical sect or, just as bad, are bigoted Roman Catholics.

Those of the “under classes” who still come to church with us, perhaps form majorities in some congregations, or who actually turn out to be the back bone of most of our smaller congregations know just how condescending our leadership has become. Why do they turn off what General Convention will do? They are not represented, their views are not heeded and they know that if they actually read the doings in Utah they’d get mad, maybe mad enough to stop coming to church very often even though they love their local parish.

The truth is that most of this silent majority, the workers, don’t see how the Jesus we talk about has anything to say about keeping a job, losing a job, paying the rent, bringing up children, dealing with divorce, or marriage, or paying medical expenses, or even understand the complexities of modern living. The last thing they want to encounter is preachy snobs, wrapped up in their latest Cause, be it conservative or liberal. The church is irrelevant. To make matters worse, most of us think the workers are irrelevant. We don’t care. We pass resolutions, write checks, attend meetings, maybe help serve meals for the needy, but in all this we are a bit like a Russian Grand Duchess throwing rubles to the peasants. So dear fellow Episcopalians, fess up. We don’t like the workers,employed or not, Black or White, Asian or Hispanic. We do love our impersonal orthodoxies.

TOUGH LOVE

5 Easter (B) – 2015   SERMONS THAT WORK  episcopaldigitalnetwork.com

May 3, 2015
Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:24-30; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
The word on the street is that love is easy. We just do it. We talk about chemistry, and indeed, the scientists tell us that chemistry has something to do with physical attraction. However, we know that love goes further than physical attraction. We love our parents and our children. We love our friends. There’s a whole neglected tradition of love between friends that has nothing to do with physical attraction. If we think about it, physical attraction does not necessarily have anything to do with love.
Tomorrow is the feast of Monnica, the mother of Augustine of Hippo, the great scholar, writer, preacher. We know from Augustine’s autobiography what a pivotal role she played in his path to Christianity. Augustine must have driven his mother to distraction as he went off on tangents, had a liaison with a woman out of wedlock who bore him a son, and then, just as he set off for North Africa to begin his career as a bishop, she died. The love she had for her son was a suffering love. And therein lies our problem. Love for us is all bound up with bliss and happiness. The very idea that love includes suffering seems repugnant. Surely if suffering intrudes on love, something is wrong. Embracing suffering seems deviant: a form of masochism. Yes, love may bring us suffering, but that means, we think, that something tragic has occurred.
To our minds, loving and liking are allies. We don’t tend to like someone whose behavior offends us, or at least if that person persists in doing things that annoy us. In short, love, we think, has something to do with affinity.
Many parishes pride themselves on being very loving. When the parish is in search, it assures prospective rectors that everyone loves everyone. Just try being someone who has braved coming through those red doors, found a vacant pew, tried to negotiate the liturgy and then found his or her way to coffee hour. The visitor then sees love in action. Groups of people form impenetrable circles. Each group is made up of people long accepted in the circle, bound by an affinity made up of shared backgrounds, longevity, perhaps political beliefs and shared interests. Even if the visitor manages to gain entrance, the subjects discussed involve an element of shared experience foreign to the visitor. Love turns out to mean an easy acceptance of people we know well.
In today’s lessons we meet an uncomfortably different form of love. The lesson from Acts recounts a meeting between Philip, the Jewish convert, a deacon, with the non-Jewish Ethiopian court official. Immediately, the two men are divided by race, religion and social class. Yet Philip is instructed “by the Spirit” to approach the Ethiopian. The Eunuch is reading Isaiah, one of the passages the new Christians identified as prophecy about Jesus:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
Philip has the difficult task of explaining that the crucifixion, where Jesus was killed like an animal sacrifice, was the most sublime offering of love. How on earth was he going to do that?
To begin with, Philip has to remember that the love he has for God, is a love that acknowledges that God loves him so much that his own follies, mistakes, unkindnesses and cruelty don’t stop God piercing through into the depth of who Philip really is. Philip knows that, as the writer of the First Epistle John will write later, loving God and being loved by God demands that we love others. Philip also knows that the only hope he has to get through the barrier of differentness is to claim what happened to him when he was baptized. In baptism he was grafted into Jesus, the true vine. Jesus’ love alone enables Philip to love the Ethiopian enough to share what he has come to know, what has enabled him to become a disciple. And now that loving discipleship is going to bear fruit as he leads the Ethiopian to a pool and there to be baptized, adopted, grafted, welcomed into the Kingdom. The Queen of Ethiopia’s servant is to become the servant of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We were once given that priceless gift when those who loved us brought us to baptism. Did they also know that we were being invited into living suffering, costly love? Do we accept that we are being drawn toward the sacrifice of true love? In our natural selves, we run from relationships that turn into hurt for us. We may even physically recoil from such pain, the opposite of physical attraction. That is why we hold our hands out today for Bread and Wine, for Christ Himself. He alone can give us the strength to overcome that which separates us from that person who needs to be baptized, or needs to revisit his or her baptism, that person whose lifestyle, habits, opinions are so different from our own offends us, makes us want to walk away. Believe it or not, by being Christians we accept that our vocation in life is to bear fruit – the fruit of love – and to make disciples.
As we read in today’s epistle:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”

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