Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Moving with Christ

Gosh, it’s hard being a woman in the Bible.

You’re Jezebel, and your blog gets hit by hate mail like “Love that part where the dogs lick up your blood.”

Or you’re Mary Magdalene, and you get great parts—but you’re always weeping, and the men doing the writing keep harping on those seven demons that used to make life one bad hair day after another. Even Luke, a pretty sensitive guy talking about Joanna and Susanna (with all their resources), has to make sure we know that Mary Magdalene “was a sinner”, as if all of the twelve could have passed their safe church background checks…

It’s not easy being a woman in the Bible, minefield of patriarchal values and virtues that it is. Which makes all the more impressive that range of windows across our south wall, women and children of the Bible, installed in the 1920’s, when the passage of women’s suffrage was still recent history.

Our own recent history suggests that the Church, despite our collect today, proclaims truth with something less than boldness. That a woman now serves as our Presiding Bishop still causes me to pinch myself, to make sure I haven’t dreamed that. That was 2006, mighty close to two thousand years after the script of redemption got written, but it has happened: a woman now stands among the primates of the Anglican Communion. Or, to put that just a little differently, for the first time in Christian history a woman serves as an archbishop.

So hold onto your sombreros. “Asi lo haremos—We will!” thundered a standing-room-only crowd in Havana’s Episcopal Cathedral of the Holy Trinity last weekend, when asked if they would accept as Cuba’s first bishops suffragan The Rev. Canon Nerva Cot Aguilera and Archdeacon Ulises Mario Aguero Prendes.

Now The Right Reverend Nerva Cot Aguilera, she is the first woman to be elected an Anglican bishop in Latin America. Present for the three-hour service last Sunday were bishops from Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Spain, and representatives from a number of Cuban faith traditions (including the Greek Orthodox), along with the head of the Religious Affairs Office for the Communist Party of Cuba, also a woman, Caridad Diego. This liturgy was a blend of Anglican dignity and Cuban spontaneity—I’ll bet the party afterwards would have made it worthwhile risking the ire of the State Department to attend. Yes, Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori was there, you bet.

We celebrate today the ministry of a woman (and the ministry of her husband) who have brought us at least vicariously—some of us actually—to cross borders of culture and class, not to mention borders of denomination, borders between indoors and outdoors, and between old ways and new.

Brooke and Andrew are moving to Tucson—back to Tucson, for Brooke. Since hearing that news, we have been sad, moody, even, to think of this. Not to think of Brooke and Andrew happy in Tucson, but to anticipate our future without them, for we have come to love them.

Perhaps you know Barbara Kingsolver’s book High Tide in Tucson. In it she tells the story of a hermit crab that was a stowaway in a bunch of seashells that the author brought home to Tucson from the California coast. She named the crab Buster, and built him a habitat.

She began to notice that Buster somehow seemed out of sorts, even moody. Kingsolver was puzzled, and consulted a marine biologist who came to observe Buster. Whatever these behaviors were that worried them occurred at certain times of day. The biologist chewed on this long enough to recognize a pattern that looked like a tide chart. Buster got agitated every day in exact rhythm with what would have been high tide in Tucson, if Tucson were coastal. Buster was being a hermit crab, a Californian hermit crab, even in Tucson, where tide charts aren’t—yet— posted on kitchen bulletin boards.

This story suggests that you can all too easily take the crab out of California, but taking California out of the crab is not for us mere mortals to do. What we get to do is to watch the discovery of another creature’s truth, allow that discovery to free us from our own worries by freeing us to read reality, and along the way find out more about ourselves.

Today we celebrate how the movement of two dear people and one dog from San Francisco to Williamstown to spend nearly two years of life together with us has caused us all to learn more about belonging.

How powerful an experience it is to belong. The claim of the ocean on a little hermit crab came along with him. Today we celebrate how the claim of God asserts itself within and among us. …It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. So says St. Paul today, a good day to hear it, to celebrate the inner claim of God that we call “vocation”. That is how and why Brooke and Andrew came to us, what they have fulfilled with us, helping us hear and respond more clearly to our own calling.

And that is to keep ensuring that children and teenagers feel their belonging at this table and at all our tables. To keep ensuring that the Church’s apostolate to students is realized on this campus, and their vitality in our fellowship. And to keep ensuring that this community’s heart and mind and will open to the achievement of justice with compassion here in this valley and across all borders.
Brooke and Andrew, we join you in celebrating that what draws you to Tucson is Christ within you, calling, as always, to faithfulness, and calling, as always, to particular places and people and service. We know that you rejoice with us that we have been particular together—and that what we have shared together will always belong to us.