Proper 5, June 5, 2016
Last Sunday I shared a little bit about my time with the under 55 Episcopal clergy at the Gathering conference. And for those of you who were here, you may remember that I explained that one of our tasks at the beginning of the week was to create a six-word story that explained our ministry. At the start of the conference, my six-word story was “I can’t say no to God.” It’s true...I can’t say no to God. Long before discernment committees were gathered, or there were even thoughts of seminary, God tugged on my heart in such a way that I couldn’t say no. And as I celebrate 8 years of ordained ministry this month, I still can’t say no to God. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
At the end of the week, we were asked to create a new six-word story. Now this...this was much harder for me. I had gotten comfortable with my “I can’t say no to God” story. I thought I could stump the leadership team by changing my story to “I only say yes to God”...but they told me to keep working on it. Our six-word stories were to be reflective of the conversations and discernment that we had done together as a group, but were unique to each of us. And so after getting really stressed out, procrastinating for a while, checking facebook, watching a couple of episodes of “Unbreakable” on Netflix, and doing everything I could to avoid creating a new six-word story, I sat at the desk in my room, and spent some time reflecting on my life prior to the church...and how much things have changed over the years. I thought about the choices I had made as a young woman, ways that I continue to struggle with the priesthood, times when I had dug my heels in and refused to bend. I thought about things I’d done and left undone, people I needed to apologize to, and people I needed to forgive. And I found myself thinking about Paul’s story on the road to Damascus...how he had started out as a persecutor of early Christians, how he probably had a hand in their torture and death, and on the road to Damascus, the Risen Christ appears to him, strikes him blind, and changes his life forever. And while Paul is problematic for me on so many levels, I can’t help but admire his ability to have such a significant change of heart. On the road to Damascus, Paul was given new life. Like the widows’ sons in 1st Kings and Luke, he was raised from the dead...and everything changed. So I scribbled in my little notebook this six-word story: Standing on the precipice of transformation.
And I really do believe that I’m not standing there alone...each one of us is there, this church, this community, this diocese, the larger church, the nation, and the world...we’re standing on the edge preparing ourselves to be transformed. And I believe that we find ourselves in this place at multiple times in our lives--before leaving home, before getting married, starting a career, having a baby, caring for aging and dying parents and spouses, as we ourselves step into that space between this world and the next. Standing on the precipice of transformation is not a one time event---it’s a lifetime event.
So before I begin to get to philosophical, let’s bring it back to our lessons for the day...where is transformation happening?
In 1st Kings and Luke, transformation happens not only in the raising of the dead sons, but it’s also a statement of liberation. With the development of liberation theology in the 1960s in Latin America, the church began to embrace the idea that God cares for the poor...and these widows in our stories would have been numbered among the poor; and especially so without their sons. At that time, society dictated that a woman had to have a man--be him a husband, a son, a father or uncle--to care and provide for her; she had no status without a man. Had Elijah and Jesus not resurrected these sons, their mothers would have been destitute, without status or recourse. These stories are not just about new or resurrected life, but they are also stories of transformation...God cares about God’s people enough to create miracles, and in these signs and wonders, the community was transformed.
However, what moved me the most of the readings for today is the Psalm because I think it reminds us of our responsibilities for living transformed lives:
In the Vestry meeting this morning, your vestry will be reflecting on their own six-word stories. But I believe that together, standing on this precipice of transformation, we can do the work that God has called us to do--changing lives, being healed, and welcoming the stranger. Amen.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.