Quincy Reorganizing Synod, Morning Prayer
In a few minutes, weâre going to pray: Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; etc.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in January 1929 and died on this date in 1968. He would have been 80 this year â and like Moses, he led his people a long way out of slavery. Like Moses, he didnât live to see the promised land â he only got to see it from the mountain top across the river. When you climb up a high building around here, what do you see across the water? The reality is that that journey from slavery to freedom isnât finished for any of us. Itâs a life-long process, not something thatâs achieved in one event or time or through the leadership of one mere human being.
At the same time, the season weâre in reminds us that freedom has been achieved for us all, through the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But that possibility of freedom has to be repeatedly engaged and claimed â that is why we call it âpracticingâ our faith. We never arrive all the way in the promised land to stay. We arenât yet completely free.
This diocese is in a similar state, and I imagine it feels, or has felt, a great deal like wandering in the wilderness. What will happen to us? Will we have enough of that sacred food to eat? Who will care for us? Life was a lot more predictable âbefore,â and Iâm sure that some are pining for the watermelons and leeks of
The struggle youâre going through in this diocese has some parallels, because at its root, the struggle is about the freedom to choose how and where you will worship. At some level, Jim Crow persisted in this country because one class of people wanted to control the lives of another class of people. Immigrants are still discriminated against because Americans who have been here longer sometimes fear those who come here later, speaking other languages and practicing different customs. We do it in the church, too â weâre not quite certain even about Episcopalians who raise their hands in worship, or sing hymns and songs weâre not familiar with, or stand when we kneel.
The greater parallel between liberation from racism and the journey in this diocese, however, has to do with forgiveness and the search for reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Abp Desmond Tutu began in
Forgiveness begins when you no longer let the pain and anger control your actions. You will still have to make hard decisions, but they should not be loaded with vengeance. You still have to stand up for what you believe is right, but the aim shouldnât be destruction of the other. Our current difficulty appears to have something to do with difference of theological position. There is abundant room in this Church for a wide variety of theological positions. The boundary we have agreed on is that we wonât throw others out because they disagree with us. God never intended us all to think the same way. If we did, weâd never have started to do any theology. Why are there four gospels in the Bible? Because they donât agree on everything, and no one of them is fully adequate.
As that most appropriate collect puts it, we pray that this church will resist oppression in the name of Godâs love [and you can read that two different ways: that we will resist anything that attempts to oppress others by demanding a particular view of God; or that, for the sake of Godâs love of us, we will resist oppression wherever we find it], and that this church will secure the blessed freedom of the gospel for all Godâs children â black and white, young and old, recent immigrant or descendant of immigrants, conservative or progressive, Republican or Democratâ¦ We are all your children, Lord, and weâre all seeking your promised land. Keep us non-violent in our wrestling, in the ways that Jesus taught us. Let us be your servants, not your warlords.