Matthew 22: 34-46
Resolution 9 2020 Diocesan Convention
Jesus was asked which commandment in the law was the greatest? He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And then he said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Ponder that for a moment…
On Friday and yesterday Mary Fairbrook, Lisa Ozaeta, & I attended Diocesan Convention. This was a convention unlike any other in my memory – or anyone else’s for that matter. It was entirely online through Zoom and a variety of other app platforms. I had two screens set up in my office at home and we had to flip back and forth to keep up with the speakers and the documents and resolutions and voting process we were dealing with. For all its glitches, things turned out OK. What I did realize last night was that my brain was full and on overload. I was grateful that I could turn my computer off-off! I’m sure Mary & Lisa felt the same and I give thanks for their presence.
Beyond the business part of the gathering at the beginning and the concluding Eucharist where two people were ordained to the Diaconate, the focus was on addressing the issue of racism. There have been groups over the years that have come together to address issues like these, and the most recent one is called Circles of Color. It was formed in response to the murders of George Floyd & Brionna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter protests of this past summer.
The group presented six resolutions that came before the Diocese, all having something to do with confronting systemic racism. A friend told me that the committee hoped that if we could pass two of the resolutions, they would consider things a success and a good first step. I think they were a also concerned that our discussions might be contentious. There was little of that, and in fact, even though the resolutions that the Resolutions Committee suggested we reject, were approved almost unanimously. In a sense, it was a sweeping mandate for our Diocese to address racial understanding, reconciliation, and partnership.
The final resolution called for us to sign an Anti-Racism Covenant. But, beyond that we were asked to study it, pray with it, and live into it. As I was looking through the Covenant, I said to myself, “This is just a piece of paper and unless we are willing to follow our part of the covenant, it is useless and it won’t change anything.” I thought about how I might bring this back today and read it to you all and how we might seriously look at it.
About that time, my good friend & colleague Jo Beecher spoke to the Convention saying, “I ask that you don’t pass this resolution.” Now Jo has been in ethnic ministries for most of her life and was the vicar of La Iglesia de la Resurrección in Mt. Vernon.
For her to say that was pretty shocking to a lot of us who know her. Then she said, “if you are not going to do the things that this covenant asks of us, then you shouldn’t vote for it.” It passed by a huge margin. And that means to me, that we have agreed to a covenant, or a promise, that is nearly as valid as the one we make at our baptisms.
This is not an easy thing to do and there isn’t a person who doesn’t know this. Someone said that what we had done was like putting our big toe in Puget Sound and thinking we’d jumped into the Pacific Ocean. We have a long way to go. But it is a start if we are willing to begin where we are and work toward something good and right.
The Resolution is a challenging thing and it deserves our prayers and commitment both personally and in the life in the Church. The Resolution is too long to read this morning, but I will send it out to everyone. It includes a first piece called Lament that recognizes all those places where we as individuals and especially as the Church have participated in actions that have denied people the dignity they deserve as human beings. It recognizes that we have not followed Jesus by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Then we covenant – we promise with the words in our Gospel this morning, that as people of faith, we are called to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Following that are 18 items that we voted for, and promised to do: They are broad and deep, and call us to do things many of us don’t really want to do. I fear that what we voted for just paid lip-service to a need within us to do the right thing without having to do the work necessary to become the right thing.
Are we really willing to acknowledge and renounce our racist legacies? Are we really willing to invest in local businesses that are owned and operated by people of color? Are we really willing to listen to and validate the painful stories that we need to hear in order to know we need to change? Are we really willing to stand up and speak out against everyday micro and macro acts of oppression or aggression? The list goes on…
I believe all of us here want to do these things. But I also believe all of us here have little idea of what it will take to do them. I believe that St. Clare’s is one of the most openly welcoming churches I have ever been in and I am not in any way attempting to call us out or shame us. But Mary, Lisa, and I voted for this resolution on behalf of all of us, and for us not to come back to you and say we are going to do these things would be a sham.
So I am going to invite us all to stick a big toe into the Snoqualmie River with me. If you would like to come together to study this document and find ways that we as a congregation can listen, learn, and implement these promises, please let me know.
I’ve thought of taking one or two each Sunday and preaching or teaching on them. And it can’t always be me doing the teaching. I don’t have the stories that need to be told. I don’t have the resources to affect the change. I don’t have wisdom to know my own complicity.
But together we do! And we have the ability and the invitation to challenge bigotry when we hear it or see it. And we have the ability, and actually the responsibility to pray for an end to such divisiveness. And we have the resources to sing new songs and worship in new ways that enrich us and bring us closer to a just society and a Church that truly does welcome the stranger and love its neighbor as we love ourselves.
I invite you into this process with us. I hope that will be the case. That today is my prayer. Together we can make a difference and live into God’s promises. And like Moses who did not seen his way into that Promised land, he did get to see it and he did get to know what was coming and his people were allowed in and that is my prayer. That at some point, some day we will all be allowed in.