We here in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin are about to get exactly what we have asked for, i.e., all those parishes and buildings and properties and trust funds and of course the people that go with them. Well, maybe not all the people, maybe just some of the people. The funny thing is I think we have not fully understood what that means. But the reading of John's gospel today has put me on to at least some of what we must be about.
When Jesus came to Jerusalem he came because he knew his time was at hand. Funny, the Greeks that came helped establish that. The Greeks present in the city of Jerusalem said to Phillip, "Sir, we should like to see Jesus". In these words comes the baseline for those here in San Joaquin as we press forward. What does that mean? Well, from where I sit in my pew it means at least two things. We must take back those who have left and welcome them with open arms. Must we be oblivious to those facts that have preceded this return? No, I think not BUT, we must not hold this event(s) against them. We must not "punish" those that return. They like us must be about the same thing and so we simply ask them if they would like to see Jesus also? If the answer is yes, welcome aboard!
Alas! there is another group that also asks, "Sir, we should like to see Jesus.", that group is the marginalized folks that John David Schofield refused to allow in to our diocese. There are many, those women who consistently wanted to see Jesus but were told they could only see him from afar. There are the handicapped who would like to see Jesus but they could not get into our churches or up to our communion rails because of the physical barriers that were not removed. There are our LGBT brothers and sisters that were told by our "beloved" bishop they didn't exist or worse, they could be fixed, as if they were a leaking water faucet. There are the "liberals" who were driven from this diocese for fear they would "contaminate the water". All these people have returned because they should like to see Jesus.
Our baseline, our big tent idea, should extend to cover all those who want to see Jesus. Not some, not a bunch, not most but ALL those who want to see Jesus. How do we go about doing this I am only beginning to glimpse that which we might do for I am but a single layperson that sits in the pew most Sundays. But, let's read on just a wee bit further:
Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If a man serves me he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me my father will honor him. Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" John 12:23-28
(I use the New Jerusalem bible.)
This is a tall order, and one not meant to be taken quite as literally as perhaps was the original intent but there is much truth for those of us here in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. I have also higlited a part that I focus on at this time. That trouble notwithstanding, for those who are here and for those who will return and for those who are yet to come keep in mind that when you "climb into our pulpit" the words carved into our hearts are "Sir, we should like to see Jesus."