Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017.09.24 I'M THE FAVORITE!

With the innocent arrogance of a small child chatting away to God under a table I imagined myself to be God’s favorite, then spent much of my life trying to undo my shameful fantasy.

According to everything I heard in church about Jesus Christ being, not only the single favorite but the most beloved favorite of God, my inflated spirituality was errant, impious—and worse misgendered. I was proud, sinful, and a girl!!

Over time of course I’ve forgiven myself, know God forgives me, and have fallen in love with this Christ. Still, the melody of my original “sin” lingers on.

However, today in tiny Christ Episcopal Church, Bethel, Vermont, I heard this Word in a sermon delivered by my cousin, the Rev’d David Gillespie who boomed:

                            WE ARE ALL GOD’S FAVORITES!!

This message was, for me, the punch line in the sermon on one of Jesus’s most difficult and contrary parables—the laborers in the vineyard. The owner of the vineyard, meant to be an image of God, paid ALL the laborers the exact same wage. Fine and fair, right? Here’s the hitch, as there usually is in Jesus’s parables: some laborers worked the whole darn day and some only labored for the last half hour of the day—ALL for the same wage. So much for the equal pay for equal work ethic I so love, given my feminism. God in this story, however, is unjust and appears to play favorites.

But  Lo! I recognized the God I’d met as a child, the God who’d let me know I mattered. Me, a girl!  I felt as if I were right back under that table as God’s favorite. But this time I wasn’t
God’s one and only favorite. I had to share that status with everyone, just as Jesus did. This was not my idea, but God’s.

                            WE ARE ALL GOD’S FAVORITES!!

David opened with distress at all the crises of human suffering affecting our nation, some caused by humans. “It shocks me that we humans adapt to dangerous environments, both natural and political. This has us accepting hateful standards for living. The slow creep of hate is enveloping us. We are lulled into complacency.”

Then, with great skill David unpacked all the usual protestations about the world’s ills and sufferings being God’s fault or idea or desire. He left all these platitudes empty of their force. God does not desire, cause, or prevent the world’s sufferings. God only responds to them with compassion. This was my experience as a child and continues to be my faith, as I am able.

Yet today this message meant more to me, because it was delivered by my first cousin David Gillespie—not just any old preacher, but my very own cousin, only once removed. The personal connection made the gospel message intimate—not more true but more intimate.

Thanks to the ministrations of a good friend with a home in Vermont, I connected  years ago with David  and his beautifully feminist wife Jo. David is dear because he is my dad’s first cousin, but just being a relative isn’t enough. David is a Gillespie. I too am a Gillespie. Not all of us are extroverts like David—myself and his wife Jo, for example. But we share the family charism—vainglory charged by big-heartedness. And we marry in kind. 

This photo is David and Jo with my extroverted spouse Dick Simeone and me behind, all of us in front of the Restrooms sign. No messages at all in that!

                                 WE ALL ARE GOD’S FAVORITES!!