The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, was in Kansas City over the past few days for a revival.
I realize this sounds highly un-Episcopalian. As I commented to someone afterwards, I was not raised to worship outside, to sing Jesus songs while clapping, or to raise my hands unless at the altar. These things were unseemly and altogether too Baptist to be borne.
However, yesterday afternoon found me outside, in a public city square, cheering on a sermon as the head bishop of my church urged us all to get out there and reclaim the word “Christian.” Will wonders never cease.
I admit to being a cradle Episcopalian with some trepidation–like pandas raised in the wild, we’re increasingly rare, and that’s not a bad thing. The more the church becomes a refugee camp for those seeking solace from the terrors of the world, then the more it’s doing its job, perhaps. However, I am a convert to the idea that we actually need to speak openly about our faith in Jesus. I am a convert to evangelism as being A Thing.
But I have come to realize that we need to attach words to this hope that is in us. That we need to learn how to explain to others why we care so deeply about faith, because it is, in fact, something they need to hear. Why is it that my little church devotes so much of its time and energy to an enormous food pantry? Why did my youngest parishioners show up yesterday morning to eagerly hand silverware to our pantry guests so they could eat a hot meal? Why do we pray daily for the famine in South Sudan, and write our representatives at the UN, urging them to seek an end to that situation? Why do we care so much?
For most of my life, I thought it went without saying. That I did just what anyone would do, if they had time, or thought about it, or slowed down, or something. Lately, I have realized that this is not true. I live my life this way–my church acts this way– because I believe this is what Jesus wants of me. Jesus wants me to feed the hungry. And to fight for the poor. And to make sure the sick are cared for. That’s what Jesus asked of me, and because I love Jesus, I must do that. Because we follow Jesus, this is what we do.
This isn’t true of everyone. And by that, I don’t mean that Muslims don’t fight for the poor. (Boy howdy, do they ever. I’d like to introduce you to the women who staff KC for Refugees sometime if you’d like to dispute this.) Or that Jewish people don’t worry about the hungry, or that atheists or agnostics don’t worry about the poor. They all can and frequently do.
What I mean is that there are people who choose to live selfishly. To live as if their personal lives and wellbeing is the most important thing in the universe, and seek to structure the world around THAT belief, rather than any other. Let the poor starve; I have enough food. Let the sick get sicker, my staff and I will have care. And even worse, there are times when these people cloak their selfishness in the name of the Jesus I follow, as if that makes their selfishness more palatable, instead of a grave slander.
What the presiding bishop reminded me (aside from the fact that I really should use this blog for stuff other than sermons) is that we have an important story to tell, we Jesus people. The world needs to hear that Jesus isn’t a free pass for selfishness and hatred; Jesus wants us to live for others, and to love each other. And that’s just as easy and as hard as it’s always been.
There are times when you need someone to preach to you, so that you remember the truth, and this was one of those times. So thanks, Bishop Curry. Let’s go tell our story.
Best comment by the Presiding Bishop: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s selfishness. And the name for selfishness is sin.” Boom. Episopalians never talk about sin.