Scattered thoughts today.
News of the Synod yesterday, that despite overwhelming support from the bishops, strong support of the clergy, much support of the laity, the ban on women bishops in the Church of England remains.
I'm sitting in a reading group discussing what it means to suffer for the sake of Christ.
I am thinking of the girl who loves God so much she thinks it could burst her lungs, the girl who tugs on the minister's hem and looks up into her face, the girl with the gap-toothed grin.
Can women be bishops, too?
The minister who has to smile old, who has to kneel down and make the sign of the cross onto the forehead of a daughter of Christ, a child of Eden, upon a girl of whom it was told by the prophet Joel would prophecy and dream dreams.
Not yet. She inscribes. Slow, firm. Not yet. Someday.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A congregation of some twenty-five plus people shall make home in our corner of the world. I am spending my time baking, cooking, ordering out the things that need doing, the prayers that need praying. I am thinking, today, about wondering. I am holding back wounded tears, because the Church needs the voices in the fields, needs the presence of the Presence, needs daughters and sons alike whispering, shouting, dancing, singing, that God is a God of wonders.
And a God of waiting.
He comes in the acceptable time. This is His way. Old as the foundations of the earth, this is His way.
On Sunday evenings, the swords are sheathed.
Around a table we gather, the wine is poured, the salad---this evening watercress, prosciutto, manchego, balsamic soaked apricots, pumpkin seeds---slid before each with a practiced sort of care. There is lamb in the oven---paschal lamb? the images circle back around---and there are plums to roast for dessert.
The swords are sheathed. We are not talking of the things that matter in the way they usually are cast in our daily circles: in the places where wit and skill are the breadth of theological reasoning.
We are speaking of the important things as if they are beautiful to us still.
Someone says something about the atonement---what happened, really, on the cross?
The names of theories are placed with some sort of order on the table. Someone starts to unravel one, then another, and the wine almost tips over in the rush that follows, in the taking of the strands and unweaving to see where the foundations of the world have been hid.
But eventually it comes back; the swords are sheathed; because Scripture isn't so perfectly clear on the atonement, neither are we.
We marvel at it, we wonder at it. We leave it there, on the table, woven.
Ours is not to unravel.
For several years, I spent a good deal of my time trying to decide what I believed to happen in the Eucharist.
I Wikipediad every possible explanation, followed up on possibilities that struck me as potential---there was a space of time in which 12th century concepts of transignification seemed the most relatable---but eventually I had to concede that my searching for an explanation was ultimately the search for definition.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
There is something decidedly amiss in trying to wrestle that passage into categorical language: literal, metaphorical.
Is Christ present in the Eucharist?
We can only ask this question now, in Western culture influenced by the recovery of Aristotle, the recovery of categorical questions.
Regardless of whether someone believes in Christ's presence in the Eucharist as such, there must be the simple concession that He is present in some way.
Wherever two or three are gathered ...
Eventually, I had to put aside the need to define. I had to submit to mystery. What happened in the Eucharist? What does happen in the Eucharist? I'm not so sure. What I am certain of, though, is this: in the same Gospel, Jesus takes bread and wine and says This is my body and This is my blood. If bread and wine have been identified by the same One who said it was by His body and blood we had life within in us, then in the bread and the wine He has chosen to make Himself known.
How? To what extent? In what way?
I am not so sure.
He is. Whatever that means. It is that it is.
But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
From the epistle of St. Jude. From an epistle that is riddled with strange allusions to an apocryphal book not considered canonical in the Western church. The author directly quotes The Book of Enoch, a text taken as Scripture now only by the Ethiopic Orthodox Church.
Do these passages pause us?
When we sit in coffee shops and drink lattes and fill journals with circuitous prayers to a God we have, at times, formed too much in our own image, do we stumble into these places and pause to wonder at them?
Or do we read for completion? Do we make it through the troubling bits and presume that if there is a quotation that it comes from some obscure passage in the Old Testament we'll have to endure the next go 'round of reading the Bible in a year?
Perhaps the prayer should be this:
Let the magnitude of Your otherness be the foundation of our enchantment.
Teach us, O Lord, the vastness of You.
Teach us to wonder.
Teach us to abide.
I want to say something to that gap-toothed girl who loves God so much she thinks it could burst her lungs. I want to tell her that the old ways are becoming her ways, that she may serve in ways she perhaps has yet to dream.
I want to tell her that titles and authority bestowed by earthly princes are nothing when compared to the calling of an Almighty God.
I want to tell her that she, when given song, is to sing.
I want to tell her that in her hands and by her prayers, Body and Blood are made known.
I want to tell her that her Church, the one that is beyond all the variations, the one that is comprised of the world in and through the ages, the one that is made of saints and sinners, is ultimately longing for the victory of God to break forth in the world. And that, in whatever way, it may be made known by her hands, guided by His Spirit.
I want her to have the title.
I want it to be a call fulfilled.
Even if it is in a system I do not submit to, even if it is in a construct with which I detract: there is more at stake here than ecclesial authority, there is more at stake than what we seem so concerned about in the particulars.
What was at stake is the heart of the Gospel. What is at stake are the words of Joel.
Who is at stake is this little girl with a song to sing, who does not want to have to go to the fields to sing it, but to sing it from within the old stone walls that still shake like angel praises when the notes brush heaven.
In the acceptable time.
The God who calls us to wait.
A few days ago, I wrote about leaving church.
I did not write about leaving the Church, but I had a comment and a few emails that wondered if I had left the Church altogether.
In short: no. I love the Church far, far too much. Moreover, what I left for a time was simply the building, but not the meeting together for prayer or Scripture or edification.
I simply needed to walk outside.
Because on days when the Synod says that our daughters do not prophecy, are not called, do not hear the Holy Ghost, I need to walk outside and remember that He is bigger than the buildings, no matter how old or how beloved.
I need to reweave my image of God, see that He is more than the fragments I pull Him into.
I need to see that in the wilderness, Jacob made an altar and spoke of the gate of heaven, that in the wilderness is where the gap-toothed girl may sing.
A song so old and so long and so loud, it rolls through the fields set ablaze by Holy Ghost, it purgates all our certainty, consumes all our doubts, brings us to that place of wonder, all the way to the church door, to the waters of our baptism, and even unto the altar of God.
Sing, daughter; sing, sister. The song goes ever on. He is not so finished with us yet.
Not yet. She inscribes. Slow, firm. Not yet. Someday.