As some of you know this past weekend we had our Diocesan Convention. As it is the 100th Birthday of the Diocese of Western North Carolina our special guest was the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. Some of you who have been around for a while might have known him when we was bishop of our neighboring diocese North Carolina. For others he will be recognizable as the perso who preached at the wedding of Meghan and Harry.
He issued two clear challenges for us. The first was to go deeper and the second was to love. Each of those might sound very basic. But, as with so many things in our Christian faith, what sounds simple is often the hardest thing to do.
We heard about trees which impressed him in Ghana and how the guide who was with him talked about not only the root system sustaining the tree but the tree sustaining the environment. In these days of Global Warming we know that trees are a vital part of our fight against climate change. Alongside, of course, behavior change. As the tree sustains the world around it so we, rooted deeply in God, can offer sustenance to the world around us.
Then, on Sunday, we heard about love. Inclusive love. Most people at Redeemer pride themselves on inclusivity, but we have to be careful what we mean by that. Yes, we should certainly include those who have been traditional excluded from the full life of the Church. But there is something else. That something is continuing conversation with those with whom we totally disagree. Our inclusiveness cannot only stretch to the parts of life and people which we like to include or who are in our comfort zone, it has to go beyond to those we find utterly uncomfortable and we have to be willing to be witnesses to Christ in conversations from which we would rather run away.
I am not quoting Michael Curry above but it is the end point of what he talked about, that is that we must love one another, and that means everyone.
I don't have an immediate take away. I would invite you to go to the Diocesan Website or YouTube Page over the next few days as the videos become available and watch for yourself. Advent is around the corner and we will be taking the oppotunity to journey inwards towards God. But there is also an opportunity to grow outwards.
I have said to you many times from the pulpit that having conversation with those whom you usually regard as "other" , meaning the people who are not usually in your sphere of life because you would rather avoid them, are frightening. They are frightening because they can arouse big emotions and remind us of painful times in our lives. There is another piece as well, conversations with other run the risk of offering perspectives which we find actually cause us to question and change.
That is why we must love. We rely on God alone and, even if we find ourselves on stormy seas, even if we find things out about ourselves or our way of being which are challenging, it is OK, we are leaning on God. Love is not a ticket into all knowledge, it is not a way of holding on to all truth. Love is not mine or yours. Love is bigger than all of that. None of us know everything and learning to love means learning to value our own wisdom, but to accept it as partial, and learning to value the wisdom of others, even in the midst of disagreement.