I did not go to Church today. I was not slated to assist in Englewood, and I half a mind to go St. Boniface, but in the end I settled for a long nap.
I hang around three parishes. St. Boniface has the best sermons. St. David’s has the warmest Rector. All Angels has the friendliest congregation. Each congregation is fine in its own way, but they are still Church, and sometimes I don’t want to do Church.
Earlier in the week I was talking with Daegan, a young man from Canaan, New York who used to attend St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield with his sister Carrie and their parents Eric and Maggie
I’ve not set eyes on any of the family in nearly eight years. But have remembered them with fondness. Now Daegan is planning to get married to his beloved Talia, and they have asked my to officiate. It will be an outdoor wedding, next year in Massachusetts.
As you might guess, I was tickled pink to be remembered and asked.
Daegan started along that road which is often taken by those who have lapsed from Church. “Talia and I don’t attend Church” he said “but we think that the spiritual life is important”.
I cut him off gently and quickly. I used to argue with people who claimed to be spiritual but who do not attend Church, but now I understand them much more. I needed no defensive reaction from Daegan.
We talked a bit about this. I told him of my “Wonder Bread” sermon in which I had a loaf of that stuff in the pulpit.(“Wonder Bread” is crap, but it suited my purpose for the sermon).
I said that the wrapper was extremely useful - a convenient way to carry sliced bread.
But we would be foolish to spend hours admiring the wrapper whilst never eating the bread. ‘Twould be equally silly to treasure the wrapper after all the bread had been eaten.
The Church is a wrapper, and no more. It can be an extremely useful institution for “sharing the bread of life”, but it is not the bread itself.
Yet we spend so many hours admiring, defending and beautifying the Church (wrapper) whilst people are hungry for spiritual bread.
A whole mythical commercial empire has grown up to defend and protect the Church.
The Papacy in all its glory is part of that myth, designed to create and protect power.Do we really fool ourselves into believing that Peter was the first Pope? Do we truly believe that Benedict XVI bears any spiritual resemblance to that bumbling stumbling fisherman called Peter?
Evangelical and fundamentalist Pastors build their own defensive towers from which “struggling for biblical preaching” is a slogan which really means “covering my ass and getting rich”.
And we are being urged to adopt quasi-papal structures in the Anglican Communion, through which the Archbishop of Canterbury would serve like a genteel and oh so polite English “Pope”. Why? To save and protect the damn institution? To adorn and embellish the wrapper whilst the bread goes stale?
I think that’s why I am irked with my Bishop for dis-inviting Bishop Gene Robinson here. The good Bishop has fallen into the trap of defending the institution, rather than allowing Bishop Gene to break the bread of life with those who would hear him.
I believe that G-d does not care one whit about the survival of the Diocese of South West Florida, or the Anglican Communion.
I know that G-d does care that the poor hear the Gospel.
I know that G-d cares for justice for the oppressed (and you can bet your last pledge offering that gay Christians are oppressed in Africa and South East Asia).
I believe that G-d wills all persons to be saved, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus or none of the above.
I do not believe that Jesus ever intended to found a Church (and I’ll argue with you about that passage about “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”).
I do not see a place anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus explicitly or implicitly calls people to become Christians.
But the Church has decided that our chief purpose is to make Christians. To hell with feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, and giving water to the thirsty. We want to make more Christians “in our image” - Christians who will become as venial and proud as we.
I am grateful for the sister and brother clerics at St. David’s. St. Boniface and All Angels who “get this” as much as if not more than I did when I was a parish Rector. Now retired, I am glad that I am not in their shoes.
And I felt the joy of my retirement this morning. I was in a “Wonder Bread” mood. So I did not want to be in a place where Bishop Smith’s fallible judgments become law. And, because I am retired I did not have to be in Church.
I went Christmas shopping, wrote Christmas Cards and ate dinner with a friend. It was a good Sunday.
Talia and Daegen’s wedding will be similarly good.