21 September 2007

Rowan reminds us all of what matters

Amidst all the shouting and finger-pointing -- and snarky comments, of which yours truly is sometimes guilty -- it's easy to lose sight of what matters. In his sermon in New Orleans, +Rowan Williams gets it just right (video at Episcopal Life Online):

People speak about the recognition of dignity owed to one another. About the respect that we owe to one another. But I wonder whether or not we're not missing some thing? When I say to a friend, I owe you one, it's away of saying thank you. And perhaps the bottom line is that what we owe to one another most deeply of all, is gratitude. Not even respect. Not even the recognition of dignity so much as gratitude.

We are indebted to one another. I am indebted for your existence. Because I would not be myself without you. And a society, a community, a city that can get to that level of recognition, is one that lives from a deeper place than one that simply talks about contract or even respect. And it's this perspective which I believe, this perspective above all that the church brings to bare. Because the church is a community which lives from and in gratitude. And if the church does not live by thanksgiving, I don't know what the church lives by. And when the church fails as it so often does to live from thanksgiving, I wonder whether it lives at all.

Why is it that the most central and important action we do as Christians is called the thanksgiving? That's the well spring of who we are and what we are.

So as Christians we recognize our indebtedness to one another. My indebtedness to you for just being there. Never mind anything else. And the gospel reading opens up that further and deeper dimensions which says that what we owe to one another is exactly what we owe to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, who gives us life, Jesus Christ has given us a new creation, the humanity renewed, restored and reset that we are celebrating tonight.

Jesus Christ gives us hope. Who gives us the capacity to move away from our fears. Who gives us the strength and the joy to (inaudible).

We owe Christ big time as they say.

Among progressives, I can see that we often fail to maintain a sense of gratitude. We talk about respect, but it's sometimes a code for the furtherance of our own agenda. We talk about thanksgiving, but we rarely acknowledge the fact that who we are comes from God, and it is contingent on others -- even those with whom we disagree.

Among conservatives, I observe a sense that the church should be mired in some static place (pick the 17th century, or 1928, or 1955, or...). The church loses its sense of gratitude, and there is certainly no abiding thanksgiving for the presence of everyone -- including LGBT Christians.

What if we really experienced God's grace? What if we acted as if we really believed that it is right to give thanks, "always and everywhere"? What if we had a view of the church catholic imbued with the notion that the church is complete only when it is undivided?

I think progressives would be a little slower to jettison those with whom they disagree. I think conservatives might be a bit more flexible, moving more of our common life into the category of adiaphora.

My friends, Rowan is right. It's all about grace. It's all about Jesus. When we talk only about rights, or autonomy, or justice, or experience, we have missed the boat. When we talk only about tradition, or law, or unanimity, we have missed the boat.

Let us follow Rowan's advice. Let us give thanks.

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