A few months ago, our younger son had his first ever Grand Mal seizure. Scared the heck out of the wife and me. Later that day, we had a ghastly fight. As exhaustion set in, we both realized we were not angry - we were heartbroken for our son.
Can't speak for my wife, but I know that as a man it is normal to drape rage over grief. It borders on cool to punch a hole in the wall; it is tres wimpy to dissolve in tears.
And as I read the Bible tonight, I realized that my feelings toward the church are deeper than the rage - I am grieving over what I loved and lost.
The church I loved is like Darlin' Clementine, "lost and gone forever." 20 years ago, people who didn't agree with me theologically were fine with recommending me for ordination. They could overlook disagreement because they saw my love for Anglican Christianity. Standing Committees and Commissions on Ministry full of folks divided over "issues" could charitably put me forward to become a Deacon and then a Priest in a church we all seemed able to share and love. Seminary Profs who thought I was nuts on various "issues" nevertheless graded me within the bounds of academic fairness, and Examining Chaplains who didn't like everything I wrote still passed me on all seven areas of the General Ordination Examinations. None of this would happen today, less than a generation later. This thing that used to be my church is considering "disciplinary changes" to rid itself of people like me... in fact, it is rid of many already by various means. The thing that used to be my church is run by corrupt, depraved ideologues...
But I digress. I said I was reading the Bible when this grief thing hit me. I was in Matthew 14:13-21. John the Baptist was killed off by King Herod and the other flotsam and jetsam of the royal court, the kind of people who probably seemed like the center of the universe in their time but are today lucky to make it onto a Trivial Pursuit card. It is an ugly, brain bending, heartrending injustice (Bob Duncan, call your - and I do mean YOUR- office). And what does Jesus do?
Well, not what I hope. He doesn't unleash a blistering page of King James-worthy "woes" against the corrupt King and his assorted drunk and bimbo courtiers. Nor does Jesus eulogize John and put some kind of uplifting "closure" (barf) on the incident. Rather...
As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.
It doesn't say he was crying, but we know that he was capable of that. It doesn't say that he was agonizing in prayer, but we know that he was capable of that, too. I suspect he was doing some of both - his divinity grieved by the injustice to righteous John, his humanity grieved by the manipulative murder of his cousin.
I really want Jesus to be enraged at this point. (Maybe he was - I'm wagering that Matt Kennedy of Stand Firm will have an incisive quote from Calvin, showing that Jesus went off alone to do push ups and martial arts Kata). Indeed, I want Jesus to pump up, retaliate and thus make it all feel better.
But Jesus does not retaliate - nor does he turn to jelly. Jesus realizes that a crowd has followed him... and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
And when his disciples are overwhelmed by all the need, Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted...
He reaches into his divine heart and pulls out boundless, powerful compassion. He reaches into a sparse lunchbox and, looking to heaven, pulls out a miracle.
No matter how much I grieve the loss of my church, the same Jesus who filled his disciples' hands with miracles to share puts miracles in my hands to minister on his behalf. A lost love called The Episcopal Church cannot change that - although I will shed a tear or two that it doesn't want the power, the compassion or the miracles anymore, and that it will inflict a measure of hurt on me, my family and others.
Now, Jesus, hand me some bread and tell me what to do this day...