Wednesday, May 14, 2008
When I was a little girl, early in the summer, my Nanny and I would have this early morning ritual. I was up early with the sun, being very small, and would go out creeping through the garden looking for newly ripe strawberries. I was always hoping to gobble them up before anyone caught me. As soon as I would gather up my red, glistening loot, Nanny (my mother's mother) would lean out of her second floor apartment window and call my name in her lilting voice. "Bring them up here at once," she would say, "and I will pour on the cream and sugar." Although I always secretly wanted to keep my collected berries and gobbled them down unwashed - the thoughts of the additional heavy cream and sugar - would have me scrambling up her stairs. She got what she needed - some young person to gather the crops my Grandfather had planted - and I got what I wanted - more sugar and cream. It was our daily, early morning ritual and we acted it out faithfully.
Now, I would like to suggest that each of us could have kept what we had for ourselves. She could have used her authority as my grandmother, rightly punished me for taking the strawberries without permission, and kept them for her enjoyment alone. Or, I could have been the willful child that I was and stuff them all in my mouth at once, letting juice run down my face, savoring the spoils of victory. Instead we both agreed to a dramatic, symbolic competition which resulted in a joyous celebration for us both. Every morning she watched as I picked, waiting to call my name at just the right moment. And I, picked and gathered the dewy berries, anticipating the delight of cold cream and sweet, sweet sugar.
Much of life calls us into competition over commodities and prizes. Whether the best jobs, the best parking spot, the bragging rights or the White House -we are all inclined to compete and keep the spoils for ourselves and use our authority to take away what others have labored for. I would like to believe that the kingdom of God is more like my Nanny and me than the competitive world we live in. I would like to believe that God is hoping that we will find in one another a way to compromise for the betterment of all. I truly think that God's desire is for those who pick the fruit to be fed by those who oversee the labor.
The Church has become, in recent days, a political battleground for supremacy of theology, political correctness, and right actions. Although we claim, as Episcopalians, to be liturgical people, embedded in the living drama of the Eucharist, we fail regularly to find the a way to live in the dramatic tension which, in relationship and sharing with others, leads to a joyous celebration for all. If each of us holds on to a hope for single victory, either as an individual or a cause, we take away the sweet shared meal that God has prepared. I don't think we can come to the table alone and victorious. The meal was set forth in radical compromise and the loss of life. So too, should we be willing to share the spoils, the gathered fruits, the unearned grace, the sweet cream of others' labors, so that God's love might be made real and tangible. We can all enjoy the drama of competition, but God asks us to know that the competition is a game with no winners. We are victors only in our willingness to share, our ability to offer the gifts we have, the joy of relationships across the ages - these are where God's love and true victory is known.