Monday, November 17, 2014
Recovering Baptist, a misnomer
There are certain times and places when we begin to see things in new ways. A slant, a twist, a difference in our perspective that gives us an awakening and we may wonder how we never saw it that way before. We have a word for it: Epiphany.
Yesterday I had one of those. It was in the middle of a sermon from our rector at St. Thomas’ Episcopal. I had heard most of it before that morning, but in her different way of preaching it at our evening Bluegrass Mass I heard something in a new way.
As she walked through her thoughts on the parable of the Talents, where three different slaves were given three huge sums and told to do something with it, I let my mind apply her words to me. Two slaves doubled their master’s money. One buried it in the dirt. She went on to say that she wished Jesus had someone attempt and fail, and give the kingdom vision of doing one’s best and coming up with bupkiss. She said that we were given that vision. The one’s that try and fail are crucified, and we know that story. Our example of that is Jesus himself. In Jesus, it is literal. In my life, metaphorical. I remember feeling crucified. I remember failing. Those feelings led to my life today.
While I was still a Baptist pastor, I did not leave well. I wish I had done things differently, and I wish that the powers that were had done things differently. Looking back, it was not my Baptist faith that I was leaving behind, but rather the last vestiges of the fundamentalism I had been steeped in from my earliest years. I had already let go much of it, as had most of those I worked with, but some underlying assumptions (and presumptions) when people use the same words and mean entirely different things had caused some severe responses. I left feeling crucified. I left bitter.
I have a few stock jokes, which I often repeat depending on the audience, apologies to my poor wife. One of those I use in trying to explain my transition to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church is that I am a Recovering Baptist, ha ha ha, like I am in Fundamentalists Anonymous. I use it as a joke, but it struck me yesterday, that I have been identifying with my crucifixion. While the scars remain, we are not a people of the Crucifixion. We are a people of the Resurrection. I need to stop seeing myself in recovery. I need to see myself in my vibrant and real self, resurrected to new life, new ministry, new beginnings. I need to let go the burial clothes which are no longer appropriate. I need to put on the new, and stop dragging around that which has come before. I caught all this in a glimpse, mid-sermon. I heard Good News in that message. I am no longer a recovering Baptist.
So if you ask me, I pray I say, I am a “Resurrected Episcopalian.” Emphasis on Resurrected, not on Episcopalian. While I wholeheartedly embrace what I have come from and where I am going, I have had such a huge sense of my calling and have received such affirmation about it that I could not be more excited and forward thinking. My epiphany mid-sermon was seeing how I see myself, and letting go of what has come before. St. Paul talked about that sin that clings so closely. For me, continuing to hold on would be a sin.
Lord Jesus, the Resurrected, help me to let go of what has gone before, and help me see myself and hear your call to that new life, that new land, where I can abide in the resurrection which has come in you. Thank you. Amen.