Wonderings and Reflections:
Are we ever ready? Are we ever ready when the Spirit blows through the community and stirs us to new action? In my experience: not fully. We'd like to think we are, but the Spirit has a way of taking us further than we ever imagined or dreamed. Because the Spirit is headed in the direction of God's dream, and that is always beyond our imagining.
Today we heard from some magnificent speakers and poets to open our hearts, ears, and minds toward racial reconciliation. Real and lasting reconciliation is first going to require some healing and a whole lot of justice. We have quite a journey in front of us. And first, we must face the truth of the extent and nefarious indwellings of prejudice and racism within us and within our society and systems. But, beloved, let me tell you: the Holy Spirit was blowing throughout the Convention Center today and calling us to a new way and a new day. I give thanks for our speakers and their witness and testimony.
And then a bit later, a resolution called us to take up the holy listening and considering of taking a path forward for the revision of the Prayer Book. If you read my facebook page, you know where I stand. But that is simply my stance, it need not be yours. The Spirit calls me to listen and ponder, to hear all voices, and to stretch out my spiritual antennae so I can hear the Spirit and feel God's vibrations as we ponder and pray, discern and take action.
But the truth, beloved, is we are never truly ready for change. We are never truly ready to cross to the other side. We are never truly ready for the "new thing" God has in store for us. But as Presiding Bishop Curry reminds us, if we "keep our eyes on the prize," if we keep our hand to the Gospel plow, and keep our eyes on Jesus, we will cross safely to the other side. God has us well within God's reach. We are held, guided, and beloved. All shall be well.
Peace, my friends, and night blessings......
So here's a fun fact about General Convention: Today, my third day here, is actually the first official day. You need to come one day early to get oriented and learn what you need to learn and to organize the houses so you can get down to business. And then, if you are on a committee, you begin meeting two days before the official start of business.....so day 3 is day 1. Whatevs....
This past 24 hours for me has been a place of holding the tension between pain and joy. A place we are all familiar with; the place where Jesus often meets us. In many ways, it is a "sweet spot" for vulnerability.....
Last night the Convention held the Listening Session for the House of Bishops on Sexual Harassment in the Church. It was a prayerful liturgy with testimony read by the Bishops, but testimony written by various voices (most of them women) in the Church who have experienced harassment on some level. The Truth is that women are still treated differently in the Church (and not just in leadership) than men. The Truth is our society still treats women (and pays them) differently than men. The Truth is that much of our language, our authority, our image of authority is male-centered and male-dominated. Last night was about the Church beginning to face that reality and to have honest conversations about it, seeking to right this injustice. While the liturgy was painful in many ways, it was also a step toward cleansing. Leaving, I felt heavy and raw in many ways---deep within my heart---hearing my voice in some of those others-----and recognizing some elements of the harassment have still not been heard. Because the reality is that the denigration of women (which leads to one's ability to treat women in lesser ways) is woven into the very fabric of our society, our culture, and our language. We've got lots of untangling to do here, folks; there is much work to be done. But I am heartened that we recognize this reality, and we are beginning.
And then today in the hearings I participated in with my committee were filled with great discussions, and hearing the thoughts and inputs of folks all over the church---and all the voices championing the hope that the Church has life in her yet and we are finding new ways to be and live Church. I heard many witnesses of collaboration and new ideas and fresh starts and growing discipleship. It all made my heart sing (even though it was a very long day and now I need some sleep!)
I posted Bishop Curry's sermon on my Facebook page, but I will try to share it on the two FB pages of the Beloved Community as well. It brings inspiration (which means to be filled with the Spirit) and speaks to our truth that in these spaces of tension between pain and joy (where I found myself today)....Jesus meets us there. Without fail. I am in good hands. We are in good hands. Jesus holds us in the tension and urges us onward.
Beloved, I will take my rest now. I continue to hold you all in prayer. I ask that you do the same for me, for those among us who are recovering or struggling in any way, for our neighbors and friends, and for all those doing the work of God here at General Convention. Sending love from afar.........
So today it officially begins...the Convention that is. Yesterday was just a "pre-convention" day...
So here is what I saw today:
Stopped in the Exhibit Hall at many places, but also a fair trade place out of Israel----seeking to make us consumers of goods that actually support our fellow human beings and brothers and sisters in God's Kingdom
Mixing in with the House of Deputies: people in the United States, but also people outside our national boundaries, and realizing that God calls us to seek the wellness and wholeness of all of Creation--no matter our origin, our skin color, our gender or sexual identity....we are One in Christ.....
Taking part in Committee work that seeks to make the Church vital and flourishing so that God's Good News spreads throughout the world .....encompassing all that we do and all that we are......
Listening to our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: "A way of Christianity that looks like Jesus" and the President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings who calls us to remember that we were once strangers in Egypt so we are called to care for the strangers (aliens, refugees) in our midst, and to the President of the ECW who referred to Verna Dozier who wondered: Are you a follower of Jesus or do you just worship him? And, Verna asked, What difference does it make that you believe.....?
And then participating in the liturgy for the reality of sexual harassment and the #metoo movement in the Church and dreaming of the day when the Church responds in a healthy way to the wrongs and injustices that take place within it...
Oh, beloved, it was a long day, but a good day. A day focused on the redemption and the healing of the love of Jesus.....
This, this is what I live for...on this fourth of July...I pledge allegiance to the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ.....This I believe....This I trust...I set my hope on Christ.
From today until July 13th, I will be blogging about my experiences at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church being held in Austin, Texas. I am serving as a Deputy from the Diocese of Fond du Lac and I am also on the Committee for Diocesan and Congregational Vitality.
So today was early wake-up in order to travel, and then after arrival: beginning to see friends. Some from the Diocese, some from Seminary, some from various experiences and connections.....and that is what this is all about: love and connection.
And by "this" I mean General Convention, but I also mean this way of discipleship, this Jesus movement, this Church. This life is all about love and connection. So often we think of love as the "connector"; it is the glue that binds us together. And it is. But we forget that if we "love" another person, this means we will maintain that connection----even when it is challenging or uncomfortable or downright hard. Love means you do not simply abandon or walk away. It means that even if we are not "friends," as a fellow human being whom I love (for that is what God asks of us....to love) then, somehow, I must maintain a connection.
Right now, I find it pretty challenging with all the horrifying and damaging words people are speaking and all the destructive decisions that are happening in our country and in this world. Frankly, there are quite a few folks (and/or groups of folks) that I would rather just walk away and close the door. But God is asking something different of me, of us. And as difficult as I find this to be, out of my love for Jesus, my trust in God, I am going to wrestle with this challenging truth until I can find a way to connect to the one I think of as the "other," the one I consider my enemy. Because here's the thing: God's promises that this way of reconciliation---remaining connected to all people---will bring about not only my wellness and wholeness, but it will bring about the redemption of the entire Creation. And folks, call me crazy, but I trust this. Completely. I trust God's promise.
The trusting doesn't make it any easier. But the trusting does demand something of me, of us. Love and connection. Not only with those whose presence fills me with joy so I run to greet them, but also with those who cause a sigh to rise up in my throat and my welcome feels half-hearted. And, beloved, even with those who cause so much angst in me right now that I am going to have to pause and wrestle with the Holy Spirit before I can find a way to greet them. Even those.
And that is what I will experience these next 12 days. Remembering that if I "love" these brothers and sisters of mine (the lovely ones and fun ones as well as the annoying and exasperating ones) then I have to work to stay connected. But, oh, beloved, oh what fruit can come from love. Peace and blessings, y'all. Good night.
Jane Johnson is the pastor and priest of the Beloved Community of Intercession Episcopal and Redeemer Lutheran.