Between the vestibule and the altarAs I listened to this passage today it seemed apt for those who follow the squabbles among Anglicans these days. We are, indeed, in grave danger of being a mockery and a byword among the nations. It is to weep.
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep.
Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
`Where is their God?'" (Joel 2)
What is more, no matter where one finds oneself in the great variety of positions on any number of issues, one is tempted to claim--with great drama and self-importance:
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 5)Left or right, high or low, broad or narrow, Anglo-retentive or wildly inculturated--we all think we are the preservers of what God intends, reviled and persecuted yet clinging to the truth.
This is the moment when I hear the strains of Handel's Messiah: "He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn." The lot of us.
Only I don't think God is laughing. God's heart breaks to behold us. And our hearts should break as well.
Our sorry spectacle is out there for all the world to see. That we put our fractious selves out there in public is, I think, a good thing. What is done in secret leads to all manner of festering evil. Evils exposed to light and air have a chance of being healed. Eventually.
It is easy to despair. It is understandable to wish oneself quit of "those troublemakers" (whomever we label as causing our troubles). It is very human to wish no reconciliation with those whom we perceive as having done us great harm.
Godde, thank heaven, is bigger than that, having loved us "while we were yet sinners." And Godde calls us to be bigger than that too. We hear a word of reconciliation in today's epistle: "We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." There is a necessary corollary to this: reconciliation to one another.
Fr. J. Brian McHugh rephrased "repent and believe the gospel" many years ago as "turn yourself around and believe good news for a change!" How sorely we need to have a good turning around: turning from alienation to reconciliation, turning from abuse to healing, turning from distortions to truth, turning from fear to faith, from hatred to love, from death to life.
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!There is the most shocking proclamation in the Collect for Ash Wednesday. God hates nothing that God has made. Why then do we persist in hating what God loves (including ourselves)?
May we turn and live.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.