Thursday, April 3, 2008

Notes from this side of the Pond

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:
Incarnation begins here at the well, in a wise and willing maid. Yes, Wisdom’s child is brought forth from watery chaos and the terror of Mary’s “yes.” Wisdom’s child, present from the beginning of creation. Wisdom’s child, born that we might all have life abundant. That connection with wisdom is there in the gospels; Jesus is called Wisdom’s prophet and Wisdom’s child, but it’s not a strand much emphasized in Western theology.

Yet you and I, and followers of Jesus throughout the ages have found life abundant in another fountain of wisdom – the one that flows from the side of the crucified one – which becomes birth fluid for the late-born children of wisdom’s prophet. In baptism, we too become children of wisdom. Mary’s “yes” at the fountain begins a new building of Wisdom’s earthly human house, and when he’s grown, Wisdom in Jesus bids us turn in and feast, “come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” Will you turn in here and join Wisdom’s feast?

The Orthodox have remembered the ancient understanding of Jesus as wisdom incarnate, conceived by a fountain of wisdom – and you can play with whether that means physical proximity or divine source. That ancient understanding is echoed in John’s prologue, the word present in the beginning, through whom all things came into being – wisdom, God’s master builder, present from before creation and working to bring creation into being – the dabar, the logos, the effective word which God speaks, the word that goes forth from God’s mouth, and does not return empty, but accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it.

The sign that God gives, the word that God offers, is a child, God with us, and as Proverbs puts it, “the words of his mouth are deep waters, the fountain of wisdom is a gushing stream” (Proverbs 18:4).

When we draw water from that fountain, when we drink deep and eat our fill of wisdom’s feast, we share in Mary’s “yes,” we begin to participate in that word of God, accomplishing what God intends. “Let it be with us according to your will.” Let us become your willing servants, vessels ready to be filled with God incarnate, that we may do your will. Let your word be spoken in us, that it may go forth and do your will. May your kingdom come, O lord, and may it begin again here.

The angel turns up right here, today, too, to lure us into pregnancy of God. It’s equal opportunity, my brothers and sisters – God’s fountain bathes us equally, without regard for gender. The word of God is waiting to be born of each one of us – that effective word, that wisdom of God that will create a new heaven and a new earth. Will you say yes? Will you nurture that word, and bring it to light?.
Excerpt from Sermon for the Feast of the Annunciation at St. Mary of the Virgin, NYC.

Not everyone's cup of tea, I imagine, but thank God for ++Katharine who is not afraid to speak in her own, unique voice, drawing from diverse strands of (yes, really!) - orthodox Christianity to use words and images that incorporate both female and male images, physical creation, including birth, water, and all of its glorious messiness, not just to speak to the wimmin but to all God's children. At times it sounds odd, but it is challenging and, as far as I am concerned, a welcome change of pace. The Presiding Bishop has assumed an office in which she has faithfully sought to represent and care for all, the insiders and the outsiders and everyone else, but it is refreshing that she has not taken the office to mean that she must assume the Piskie equivalent of Eastern Newsbroadcaster-speak (i.e. some kind of safe, generic, innocuous-sounding speech to insiders). She speaks with a new voice, of a gender and a background that is fresh and alive, coming from a real person who is in a remarkable third career in life -- first as marine biologist, second as priest, and third as bishop -- speaking of faith as if she and we have discovered it anew.

(photo courtesy of
Mad Priest)

Then there's this on the clergy vote in Wales against women bishops. Doug Blanchard ("Counterlight") nailed it when he addressed it in the larger context of secularization in the West when he said :

This is why secularism is the fastest growing denomination in the once famously religious USA, and why Europe remains predominantly secular.

The whole public discussion of religion, especially Christianity, has been dominated by right-wingers for a quarter century. Because of this, Christianity is made to appear backwards, a bastion of superstition and bigotry.

People find it ugly and repulsive, not because it refuses to gratify their selfishness, but on the contrary, because it offends their moral sense.

The long domination of Conservative Evangelicalism in this country (which appears, mercifully, to be coming to an end), has achieved the exact opposite of what it set out to do. It has only accelerated the long term trend of secularization.

I think Wales will eventually have women bishops, sooner rather than later.

As Christianity shrinks in Europe (and sadly, here), it becomes more and more the domain of the shrill fanatics left after reasonable people of good will are chased out.

What will bring back Christianity in the West is uncoupling it from right wing politics, and from long discredited segregation that the rest of the general public left behind a generation ago. Christianity will come back when churches stop trying to defend the indefensible.

Counterlight, commenting at Fr. Jake Stops the World (emphasis added).

And finally this, which I could not resist, from an essay on Episcopal polity and John Jewell’s Apology for the Church of England :
I remember sitting in a pub in Canterbury with several of the Cathedral Canons, and after the second pint, one said “You Americans need to get with the program and use the same polity as the rest of the Communion.” My response was something like, “Perhaps you forget, that there was a revolution in the colonies and I believe your side lost. And, as you tried to strangle the Episcopal Church baby in the cradle by withholding episcopal support, our friends, and your adversaries the Scots came to our aid." I added, rather snidely I fear, "The Church of England and the whole Communion, will, with in our children’s lifetime, adopt the Episcopal Church’s polity. My friends, if you think lay and ordained Episcopalians will give up their rights to vote on matters of import like electing their rectors and bishops, voting in General Convention and give them over to a bunch of bishops let alone primates, you are simply deluding yourselves!” Slurp, wipe the Guinness foam off my upper lip, “so there!”
from Howard Anderson's A New Step in the Reformation of Anglicanism at the Daily Episcopalian (yes, i picked out the apologetically snarky bit -- which, of course, I liked immensely -- but there was much more to this essay, so please read it all).

1 comment:

johnieb said...

Ummmmh, ummmh: good!!