Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014.09.14 Holy Cross Consecration

Today, in the Christian church, it is Holy Cross Day, a day we remember the holiness of the cross of Christ. (I think it is good to have another day, so that we do not pile all our dolorous grief into one day, Good Friday.)  But a holy execution? Weird, huh? Yes, it is, but it is historic. Jesus Christ is our hero and he dedicated his life, and lost it, condemned for treason to crucifixion. Why holy?

Because:  (1) Jesus taught that God was Love unbounded and died in that faith. (2) Divine grace, he preached, meant forgiveness, erasure, different from pardon, of all sins—a clean slate for those who sincerely desired it. And (3) He had converts who believed his words, loved and followed him, and thought he was “king”—too rivalrous for the Emperor of the day to ignore. He didn't recant from his message and suffered torture for it. There is is holiness in such brave love. It deserves reverence—not to laud suffering, but to honor courage, conviction, and trust in God.

I try to remember that there is no one who has never suffered. There, of course, are degrees, but what you have suffered and do suffer is yours and to be honored equally in the economy of grace.

Comparisons about suffering are about as odious as any other comparisons, though they sometimes help us feel a little bit less narcissistic in our own plights—which is not a bad thing. When I look at the Crucifix with Jesus hanging there, I shudder, and I thank God for thinking ahead. Suffering is not the last word.

Today I am praying for and with my sister who is in pain. I pray courage and good medicine her way. She is feisty and will walk........if not on her legs, then on her butt in a motorized chair.

Yesterday, I, and thousands of other faithful Episcopalians, clergy and lay, attended the consecration of Alan M. Gates, as the 16th bishop of Massachusetts. When the Church gathered does a big new thing, we all come, and we all cheer, and we all sing our lungs out, and hope our hearts out. It is a new day.

We will mourn our former bishop, who is in the process of his dying, and we will cheer our new bishop who will provide new and different leadership. It’s hard to do both at once, yet tears belong in equal force to goodbye and hello. When I saw the former bishop hand over the crozier of guidance to his successor and then walk off the platform and leave, I cried. Later I cried again as I watched all the old, mostly male, bishops slowly come down from the platform to process out. I thought: “I am watching the old boys’ patriarchal church proudly march out—and I am an old girl."  They have served with grit and faith. So have I. It is a new day. I don’t know what the new church will look like, but I know the Spirit will stick around to set fire to it.
Photo: Former Bishop M. Thomas Shaw (left) says goodbye and newly consecrated bishop Alan M. Gates (right) says hello. The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth (seated) bishop of Ohio and preacher of the day looks on. This day we applauded everything!

The consecration Eucharist was joy on steroids—diverse and amazing soul-music, a panoply of festive red vestiture, and prayers of gratitude and blessing, and a hockey rink dressed up to be  Church-for-a-day!  It was a red-letter day. Red is the color of the Holy Spirit. She is all aflame, spreading her fiery grace on us all—no one consumed. All fired up, as they say.

Bishop Gates, in his own printed message, recalled a French proverb, attributed to Jean Massieu: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” He elaborated some of his own memories, looked forward to making new ones, and closed with these words:“If gratitude is the memory of the heart, then my heart is overflowing with thankfulness. I thank you. I thank God for you.”

Whereas, if the heart be moved,
Although the verse be somewhat scant,
God doth supply the want;
As when the heart says, sighing to be approved,
‘O could I love!’ and stops, God writeth, “Loved.”
        George Herbert (1593-1633) Anglican priest/poet A True Hymn