Wednesday, November 19, 2008

From NPA Travel Services: Things to See and Do in Babylon!

I'm not the first person to describe life in The Episcopal Church as an "exile." Canon Kendall Harmon spelled this out in a lecture series in Colorado. Fr. David Baumann sees it too. My good friend Dick Bollinger keeps reminding me of it via email.

Here's the deal: in around 587 BC God allowed his chosen people to fall into the hands of the Babylonians. The cream of the Jerusalem crop were carried off to Babylon and sat in depressing exile for decades...

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. (Psalm 137:1)

Why did God let this happen?

They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of his hands. Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding... (Isaiah 5:12-13)

For too long, Episcopalians were "God's frozen chosen", "country club Christians", "Catholic-lite", "the thinking person's church," and all kinds of other rationalizations for pleasing ourselves and ignoring God.

And so we sit in exile, in a spiritually exhausted, conflicted, shrinking (dying, really) imitation of a church. It is a time of punishment, but also of purging for a better day to come...

"Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

Now, we can't declare an end to the exile or "fix" it. Only God can announce that, in His way and on His schedule. But as Fr. Baumann blogged, "...all the ills of the misguided Episcopal Church provide an opportunity for the faithful to dig in, strive for continuing fidelity, and hold onto the seeds for the time when the soil shall be ready to receive them and produce a rich harvest. Only God satisfies. Nothing else can..."

Since we're stuck here in Babylon, are there any Godly, satisfying things to see and do?

Here at NPA Travel Services, we will offer some suggestions for your time in exile. Be watching this blog for travel tips from the Prophet Ezekiel.


Anglicat said...

Tim, I was just thinking how our nation seems to be entering a period of Babylonian exile with Obama's upcoming presidency, and then I discovered your post here. There are so many similarities between the sad demise of TEC and our nation. Alas, we have been given the leadership we deserve. Lord have mercy.

I am looking forward to those travel tips for enduring the exile.

Anonymous said...

You know, unlike the Israealites, you are not being held captive against your will. Feel free to leave...

TLF+ said...

Anonymous - lay people can walk out of the pews any time. A priest must think beyond his own preferences - he has a stewarship entrusted by God. And splitting up a small but vital and viable congregation into smaller, weakened, confused entities doesn't seem like much of a mission strategy.

Also, what do you mean by "leave"? If you mean go to Rome or some other denomination (or out of church altogether), fair enough, although that's still me lookin' after me.

If you mean go to another Anglican entity, you are kidding yourself if you think they are out of the exile. Go to the Kendall Harmon link - we are all under judgment in North American Anglicansism. I respect (and, if it were just about me for me, would go with) the realigning Anglicans. But they are as much "in exile" as TEC folks (maybe moreso when it comes to those being sued).

And look at stuff from Common Cause itself - they are going to be grappling with "exilic" stuff for years . What is the role and authority of a bishop in the new Anglican province? Because of all the abuse in TEC, Common Cause has to totally revisit these kinds of questions.

At the end of II Kings, some of the Jews stage a mini-uprising and kill off the Jewish puppet-governor and his Babylonian handlers. But this does not end the exile - the resisters must flee to Egypt. Jerusalem is not rebuilt then or by them.

So, if the goal is to rebuild what is holy, all of our approaches are, as Kendall Harmon points out, "tentative." None of them end the exile - only God can declare and do that.