Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wild Goose Festival 2015: some light reading on jesus, anti-racist work, humilty, and salvation.

I’ve written several versions of this post trying to get to the bottom of what, exactly, I was doing for my time at WildGoose Festival last week.   First I wrote a very tidy “what I learned on my continuing education time” post for my parish newsletter. Then I wrote an uber-confessional piece for this space, and finally managed to put them together.  I’ve been noticing a lot as I’ve blogged more here how my Respectable Lady Rector voice differs from my Free Range Mama Priest voice. So what follows is the result of trying to bring them closer together (and is also with a few edits basically what I sent to the parish).

Trying to share a weekend of gathering with people in the North Carolina heat, a tent revival with real tents (for people who don’t go to tent revivals) it’s easy to share links of what I saw. Information is one thing. But the experience isn’t about data.  The incredible part of it was the amazing sense of how God was working in the lives of the people I met and listened to.   Every person I heard had a deep sense of Scripture. I did the math and I’ve preached at least 400 sermons. I know some things about the Bible. But the way that Mark Charles,  a Navajo activist and educator, talked about how white settlers in the Americas lacked a “land covenant” with God to guide our relationship, or the way Bree Newsome talked about how Jesus worked for peace, not order, or how Tony Campolo talked about the love of Jesus moved in his heart to advocate for GLBT persons in the evangelical movement—literally, OMG.

I worked pretty hard to get my spirituality to fit into the Episcopal Church box. I came to this church, which I love, through sacrament and mystery and astonishment at being fed in the Eucharist, and that was enough fuel wading through the muck of HE-god language and hierarchy and institution. I have often had occasion to remember a conversation with my bishop, Tom Shaw,, when I was first studying to be a priest. I went on this long rant about how much I hated the patriarchy and insularity and pointless attachment to history and tradition of General Seminary. Very patiently, buddhalike, he listened to all of it and finally said, “Well, how is that different from the church you’re eventually going to serve?” 

13 years later, I think I’m glad to say that the rest of the church where I have found myself is totally not as uncomfortable as I was at General seminary (with apologies to all those happy GTS-ers out there).  However, the side effect of all of that squeezing and prodding and poking into more traditional forms was that it came to pass that my faith was most comfortable in a very abstract articulation. I could love the big ideas of the incarnation of God in Jesus and the sweeping movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  But that’s my theology. My passion for Jesus is more in sacrament and symbol. It's a lot less clear than "Ok, Lord, I’ll climb that pole.”  I’d be afraid to climb a flag pole just for the sake of the height, much less risking arrest and the legitimate possibility of being shot. But Bree Newsome pointed out that Jesus was mostly just in the Temple when he was knocking things over. He was out in the world doing his ministry where God called him to be.

So that’s my real invitation from Wild Goose Festival.  Where am I muting the invitation of the Holy Spirit because of fear? Where am I unfree from a disordered attachment to comfort? In church, in my family, in my prayer?  How often am I willing to do the hard work for genuine, holy, peace?  To learn from marginalized voices, not because it’s my “duty,” but because Jesus is there. It’s very comfortable to say that “education” is the key to success and social mobility, and that’s often true. But where we need to lean harder on education is for people like me who don’t get arrested for failing to use a turn signal, to learn what we don’t know.  As a person of privilege in this country I can be like a fish in water and not have to understand what water is.  But that is not the way of Jesus.

A white anti-racist response has to come from humility. This country was founded on the theft of land and came to economic dominance through slavery.  It is coming toward democracy, and is founded on some amazing ideals of freedom and equality that are coming toward being for all people. But those ideals aren’t a reality for all of its people.   The inspiring part, though, is that if the truth really will set us free—and I think we have to believe it does—is that we are all on our way to the vineyard. Some will be on time, some will be late, and some will be really, really late. (I know someone made this reference at WGF and I don’t remember who it was). But as Episcopal priest Paul Fromberg said in his talk on “An apocalyptic of peace:” I don’t believe in progress. I believe in salvation.”

As a Christian I, too, believe in salvation.


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