Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Wages of Fear

It has been a day of ironies for me.

This morning, I battled for parking so I could attend the ordination of twenty clergy, many of them younger than I, to the priesthood and diaconate at Grace Cathedral. As I joined the throngs, praying with so many close friends and colleagues, I thought of the Diocese of San Joaquin as they considered the next fateful step in a determined march out of the Episcopal Church. I prayed for the friends I have there, for those who oppose the schismatic resolutions, and for those who face broken churches and an uncertain future for their faith communities.

I gazed into the stained glass as we sang "I am the bread of life," the Christ window becoming an icon of our Savior speaking to me of promise and the generous upwelling of love breathing through Grace Cathedral. I wondered if this is what Bishop Schofield meant when he talked of "deepest, darkest San Francisco." Is one person's hell another's heaven?

I thought of the irony that he once prayed within these hallowed walls with the colors of diverse opinion and theological perspective bouncing off the high pillars, the laying on of hands as people gave themselves in love to God's people for leadership. . .and yes, vowing to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" as this church has received it. . .however mistaken and marred it is by process, argument, and the inscrutable vagaries of history and culture.

I wondered at the peace a dear friend wished me as she recognized my frustration at my own fatigue, despite a two-week vacation -- that fatigue that only parents of three-year-olds can really understand. For peace when, as I knelt with trepidation on "I AM" lovingly woven into the altar cushion. . .knelt to receive a small portion of the grace of God in the bread and wine. . .I knew others were gathering with just as much fervor and a claim on God as I have. . .and they were gathering to angrily detest some of those newly ordained who were bringing me the sacrament.

I wondered, as I tootled up to Mill Valley to finish preparing for the first Sunday of Advent at Church of Our Saviour, and walked into a room filled with Christmas items to be sold so that the proceeds might benefit someone in need. . .I wondered about what was more sinful: risking heresy for the disenfranchised, that they might receive the full sacramental blessing of the Church; or threatening to further divide the Body of Christ for the sake of protecting an historic understanding of faith.

As I gazed across the table at my lovely wife and the dinner she had so graciously prepared -- and wondered that I could marry her, the daughter of traditions and customs of a far-off land -- without fear in one century -- but would well have been barred from joining hands with her in another -- what room is there in this world, this church, this place, and the current conflict in Anglicanism, for a bit more than simple vitriol, hateful words, and spiteful actions?

I pray for God's grace in San Joaquin, but not that my will be done. But that whatever fear is there, whatever hatred, whatever righteous anger -- and the narrow tunnel and myopia that brings (I know it too well myself); that there be a measure of peace this Advent, even as we look ahead to a troubled year for our branch of Christ's Church.

I wrestle with a God who loves all of us on both sides of this chasm. I wonder at a grace that promises to see us through this, even the nastiness that is yet to come. Of what abuse we may yet have to endure with our gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered sisters and brothers -- abuse hurled in the name of Christ. And what abuse we may be tempted to hurl back as the blame circles another round, presentments and lawsuits are filed, and the blood boils yet another day.

And the grace our leadership will need to seek a way forward as we try to move ahead with less than imperfect steps in what Christ calls us to: justice, hope, and peace for a world groaning with her warfare, disease, hunger, and environmental degradation.

In sadness, I write that we are all deeply gorged with the wages of fear, arrogance, and sin.

But it is Advent, and hope is not gone. I light a candle and pray. May our hope burn in the darkness. Our hope for grace that we cannot yet see. Our hope for an end to the "fever in our blood," and a path to our true home, perhaps even a path together.

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