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Doing the Hard Thing

Doing the Hard Thing

 

I like to write about the Gospel reading from the Revised Daily Lectionary. But once in a while something else grabs me, and who am I to ignore the Spirit, who is the real author of these reflections? Today’s Gospel reading for the Daily Eucharist is Luke 6:27-38, the part of the Sermon on the Plain that commands us to love our enemies. I have also been watching the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Just prior to Super Tuesday I saw three people, two practicing Episcopalians (Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer) and one from the United Church of Christ (Amy Klobuchar), act with humility, putting personal ambition and ego aside for the common good, to support a Roman Catholic political leader at a time of moral crisis in this nation. Soon after I saw a Jewish political leader (Mike Bloomberg) do the same thing. If we think that this election isn’t about the Kingdom, we have been asleep. And not only about where each of us stand on marriage custom (same sex, polygamy as in some African diocese, sex between unmarried adults) or how rigid we are about terminating a pregnancy (in our Episcopal Church we feel that it is always a sad decision, but leaves room for the Spirit in the decision). We are talking about loving one another as all children of the same God in all matters. About respect and honesty. About how our yes, yes, or no, no is our word before God. About how we accept that we may differ in our social background, but we are one Body before our God. And we don’t have to like everything about each other. But we must honor and respect our neighbors, all of them. Billionaires and street people. Professors and illiterates. All of them. And if we judge, and God is the only judge, we judge them on their behavior towards their neighbors.

 

And Jesus summed it all up as “Love each other as I have loved you. Jn 15:12” Simple?  Hardly. But what I saw demonstrated was building a coalition, a team, formed to stand up for decency. It was a glimmer of hope. That is what makes us as Christians different. I can’t speak for all other ways of seeking God, but from what I do know, that same underlying rule that binds us to our brothers and sisters also binds together the other people of the Book. There was politics in Jesus’ day. It was the mob who cried out their vote for the rebellion leader Barabbas. Don’t doubt that Pilate was judging and weighing the pros and cons of letting this annoying but fairly harmless Jesus off against the power balance between Rome and the Temple elite and their followers. Politics, not justice or mercy.

 

In some ways God made it harder on us by giving us a Spirit as his Presence. Rules are so much easier. You don’t have to love if you just have to follow the rules. Real mercy for each other, especially for those who have wronged us, is sometimes hard enough that our truth before God may not be, “I’ve been a good girl (or boy), and smiled and spoken nicely,” when in our hearts we are saying, “I hate that person.” What we need to say before God is the truth, “I have been hurt and wronged and I can’t forgive.” Without that first step, there is no place for God to comfort, to open our hearts, to lead us bit by bit to a place where we can really let go of the hurt and forgive. Is there anything more flat than a Vestry meeting where everything on the Rector approved agenda gets polite nods of approval. There should be a place for what is in our own hearts, from our souls, and certainly from our life experience. And without the pain of losing the vote, was it real? Being nice isn’t the point of being a good Christian. Being real is. A little tussle within a family is a good thing. But knowing when it is the time to work through our own needs with the needs of others and yielding with grace is part of loving our neighbor. And so is being a little hurt, but comforted by the warmth of the Spirit, and knowing we have worked for the good of the Body. And that is what I saw just before Super Tuesday. I didn’t see the “establishment” buying support and quid pro quos offered. What I did see was kindness. Mutual respect. Doing what was right without shame or guilt, but with generosity. 

 

But this is just the beginning of the election cycle. And it is going to get worse. And now we have the Plague. And we have had for some time social media’s ability to use huge data banks to reach each of us and in subtle ways to control us to an unprecedented extent. In one party, one of the two candidate’s supporters have used their enthusiasm to promulgate mean memes and whip up mob anger since before 2016, and it isn’t going to stop. And the other party’s leader has never been shy about tweeting anger and whipping up fear. I am not excluding all conservatives from this discussion. Sen. Mitt Romney showed clearly that there is at least one conservative who is guided by God over politics, and still holds measured and prayerful notions that many of us disagree with. We are going to be deluged with nastiness, not just reasonable political screaming and yelling over a beer in the pub with another person with whom we will share the Eucharist on Sunday. And speaking of the Holy Table, in our diocese we have already been told to withhold the Cup, as if passing out the Bread of Heaven is going to be any safer from the current virus. And this doesn’t even touch the ongoing horror of children in cages and the carpet bombing in Syria and Yemen. And God only knows what is happening in Palestine. The world is filled with Evil being heaped on the innocent.

 

What have we got? We have God our Father/Mother. We have Jesus our Beloved, our Healer, our Teacher. And we have his words to be righteous by loving each other. By emptying ourselves of evil. Not of our humanity, because we are human and get stupid early and often. But Evil. And that is going to take paying attention. And prayer, even if it means isolation from our community and from the Eucharist if this plague continues to grow. We are being tested. This is our Lent of Lents in this time and place. And only God’s grace is going to help. We are taught to ask for God’s help, and to wait in faith. And pray and fast some more. 

 

I saw grace and gratitude that amazing evening when Pete and Amy and Tom offered their hard work and expenditure and support to Joe for the good of all. In Christian charity. Because the Kingdom has many rooms, and now, in our civil society, we live here. So whomever you support, do it prayerfully. And if it drags you away from the Spirit, run as far and fast as you can to the place where God is. And love your enemies. Because in the fullness of time nothing counts except the love of God.

 

Dr. Dana Kramer-Rolls is at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Berkeley, California and earned her master’s degree and PhD from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California.

 

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mike geibel
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mike geibel

The Article reads like a partisan endorsement of one political candidate in the name of a Church--a violation of the Johnson Amendment which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. In response to Trump’s stated wish to weaken this prohibition, the EC and other religious leaders wrote to Congress:

“People of faith do not want partisan political fights infiltrating their houses of worship. Houses of worship are spaces for members of religious communities to come together, not be divided along political lines; faith ought to be a source of connection and community, not division and discord. Indeed, the vast majority of Americans do not want houses of worship to issue political endorsements. Particularly in today’s political climate, such endorsements would be highly divisive and would have a detrimental impact on civil discourse.”

"Love" had nothing to do with the endorsement of Biden by his rivals--it was economic reality and the specter of Bernie Sanders. I find no joy when the choice between Biden or Trump will be like trying to pick whether Thelma or Louise will be the one who drives the country over the cliff.

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