Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Combing through past and present

Yesterday I went to a clericus meeting for the Bucks County Deanery. I was an hour late. The glory of a busy life. When I got there, they were still on the first point of the agenda, which was a discussion about where things stood with the Bishop and the issues that the diocese is still dealing with as regards money, power and all that stuff. More of the same. Until somebody moves, decides, commits or some such, there will be only conversation. The bishop doesn't want to go anywhere. The Standing Committee wants him to go anywhere else but here. The diocese is polarized, or ambivalent, or worried. People don't know what is going to happen next. Tough place to live. Thing is, I am finding that place is pretty much every place right about now. From gas prices to the crisis in the Gulf to the "war on terror" to life here in Solebury. Nobody knows what is going to happen next and that really upsets the apple carts. We don't like it, and we don't like it when our leaders can't assure us that things will be OK.

Dealing with history: knowing the story is important. I hear that a lot. It is important to know the history of a place as you spend time in it. I am a student of history and I appreciate that fact. Still, if we aren't willing to tell the whole story, then we fall short of inviting people in. We use history to keep folk out, or to protect ourselves. I had an experience in seminary that I am being reminded of today: a couple of days ago I started to read a book about Abraham Lincoln's "team of rivals." In the book, Salmon P. Chase plays a significant role. As the nephew of Ohio's first Bishop, +Philander Chase (on whom I once wrote a paper), I am amazed to see a figure similar to the one I wrote a short biography on so many years ago. Here are men who are the epitome of their times and who share some pretty similar personality types: chief if which is that they see that their claim to authority should be affirmed simply because they deserve it. Salmon wanted to be president, and lost the party nomination to Lincoln. +Philander was bishop and could not see that others did not accept his authority as he saw it. One man did not get the job...The other lost his role as bishop of Ohio and president of Kenyon College. Tough call. Both rejected history, or chose to write it in a certain way that precluded others feeling welcomed into relationship. In the same way, we push that through as communities. Those "what has been through it" struggle with getting people ("what had NOT been through it") to understand just what it meant to be the community then while entering the community now. That is happening in the diocese, in the Anglican Communion...Even here at Trinity. It is not a bad thing...Just a human thing.

Finding a way through all that is important. Eastertide reminds me as a priest that for us to live in Christ, we have to be willing to die (really die) in order to really live. That means we go down to the dust over and over again in life. That means that the story never ends with either a "happily ever after" or a "and that was that." It is always "to be continued." Even when our chapter comes to an end. Talk about a lesson in humility. None of us is an island unto ourselves. All of us have a part to play, but none are so essential that the Church, or the parish, or anything else will die without us...Of course, we can always kill it, but I think there is a commandment or something against that?

Just last Sunday, we baptized a great little kid. In the baptismal covenant, we committed to teaching him and holding him to the responsibility of striving for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. I think that means that we are also called upon to open the story to others. It means being willing to change the script, too. We are trying to do that as a human race in places like the Sudan. We are falling short of that as we struggle to deal with the "immigration problem" within the United States. We persist in it when gas prices make people choose transportation over medicine. So, until we change how we are, as well as who we are, we will repeat, to our defeat, a past that too often is too easily treasured. We can't, and shouldn't forget all the good...But we need to keep challenging our own memories to be able to see things as they really are, as they were and as they might be in the days to come.

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