Thursday, August 23, 2007

Are You Crying?

My morning Bible readings this week have included the end of I Samuel and the beginning of II Samuel. These include violent Old Testament passages that some use as an excuse to ignore or devalue the Bible.

But much good spiritual insight comes from staying with the difficult parts of our Holy Scripture. Clergy are obligated to do so - we swear at ordination that we "believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation."

So, what can we learn and apply from the bloody death of King Saul, the execution of a guy who claimed to have killed him, the gory murder of his heir, and the death and mutilation of the heir's assassins?

The whole mess moved me to prayer - to lift up a sad moan to God for The Episcopal Church.
  • Saul had been trying to kill David. But when news of Saul's death came, David lifted up a song of mourning for the one who had persecuted him. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has inflicted all kinds of indignity and cruelty on those of us who accept the authority of the Bible. Like David, "a man after God's own heart," we need to mourn for TEC as it wastes away.
  • David kept referring to Saul as "the LORD's anointed." However much Saul might have failed, he had received God's authority to be king (that's why David dealt harshly with those who claimed to have killed Saul and his heir). TEC's leaders were, at one time, anointed by God to preach the Word and minister the Sacraments. However much they have squandered that awesome gift, we need to mourn for them as their denomination crumbles.

What does prayerful mourning sound like? It can be groaning without words, a prayer supplied by the Holy Spirit.

Or, it can follow the example of Jesus, who mourned for those who rejected him:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. (Matthew 23:36-38)

TEC has refused the gifts and talents of many wonderful Christians. Many of the clergy who leave TEC are those with gifts for evangelism and building up the church. Many of the departing lay people have given time, talent and treasure in sacrificial measure over the years. All would have brought more of God's living Word and the Holy Spirit to TEC, and TEC was not willing. And TEC is increasingly "desolate" - empty of blessings, of people, of meaning, of influence and impact in the world.

And this is not a situation for gloating or "Told ya so." It is time to mourn - to empty our hearts of grief, and look to God to fill them with hope and love for his good work to come.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

How much easier it would be to be able to shout from the mountain tops for all the world to hear - "Revisionists, look at how you have abused your God-given power" and provide a list of "I told you so's". Alas, pride, including of this sort commeth before a fall. Thank you for your words that encourage all to pray that the Holy Spirit keep us from letting our sadness, anger and frustration manifest itself into such behavior.

The Friendly Lady in the Black Office Chair

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

I feel sorry for the people in their pews. Saul got his army (including David's good friend, Prince Jonathan) wiped out by the Philistines, who also came in and took over all kinds of Israelite cities.

Followers suffer mightily under bad leaders.

MWN said...

I ran into an old friend from my former parish the other day. She now attends another Episcopal Church - trying to hang on. When we finished hugging, she asked where I was...where I was attending, and she gave me an update on herself. Then she invited me to her new Episcopal Church. Sadly, I had to say to her: "Oh, no...I'm sorry, but I'll never be able to go back into the Episcopal Church". Tears flowed from both of us as we continued to embrace and remember what was...

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

mwn - bless you. Whether you were aware in that moment or not, you were doing what Christ wanted:

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I have no regrets about leaving the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church. I only regret that couldn't protect the people of my parish from the devouring wolf that calls himself their bishop. But the discerning are not fooled in the end. Many of the people from my former TEC parish keep in touch with me. We have lunch together and we discuss what is happening and I do what I can to support them. In many ways I serve them better now that I am not their priest.