I have been baking, which is a challenge in the summer heat, so I have tried to get it over by mid-morning before the true heat sets in. While I was hastily throwing flower, sugar and berries around I was reminded of a dear, now sainted professor of mine. Lloyd Patterson was my senior year adviser and I was struggling with what it looked like for me to become ordained - a woman, a mom, a wife, a Cherokee. I was asking what models I might follow, and who I might look to for guidance and direction. Lloyd was quirky and brilliant, a man who married and had children later in life. He looked at me and smiled. He then went on to tell me that he and his friend Dick Norris had decided that the best model for priesthood was Julia Child - the French Chef. How Julia wasn't just feeding people but teaching them to feed themselves. She was in love with what she did, but she held her profession lightly. "If a piece of chicken fell to the floor", he said, now imitating her unique and quirky voice," well, you just pick it up, wash it off, have some wine and go on!" I was stunned at first but have truly taken that image into my being. How perfectly appropriate. And how so in contrast with the desire to have a covenant, a contract, a perfect recipe and a final conclusion to all the mess.
As a Cherokee woman, I have grown to be very wary of contracts, treaties and covenants. That's my own bias. But throughout our history, no paper ever held an individual, institution or government to what was promised. No one can be forced to do what they agree to, and the alone paper historically has forced no one truly to be faithful. Only God's love and spirit can inspire us to be faithful and constant, seeking reconciliation, relationship and joint mission. As a woman, the marriage contract or covenant, until very recent history, has been an agreement between two men over property. There was no protection for the women, ever. Yesterday I watched and read about the true relationships building within the gathering of bishops. I read about tears and apologies, about desire, compassion and hope. I remembered seeing the image of dear Bishop Tutu, during the truth and reconciliation hearings, weep and moan as he listened to what had gone on. It is our hearts, and our willingness to not be the experts, but the agents of change for Christ's kingdom that will make our schisms things of the past. It will be our willingness to hold ourselves lightly and take one another to heart that will be God's desired reconciliation of our world wide church.
Among Native communities, we often talk about doing something, not just for our children and grandchildren, but for the seventh generation yet unborn. My sense is that the work we do now will be felt down through the generations. I believe that we, the bishops of the Anglican Communion, are called to model a new kind of church leadership. No longer princely or authoritarian but compassionate,sharing, teaching, learning, listening, relational leadership. Leading with the heart. Listening and praying with the heart of Jesus. I pray today that we might all have God's grace to step back from edges and into each others arms. I pray that I might be strong enough to listen, and in truly hearing, might have a new heart for God and my brothers and sisters across the Communion.
Dear God of love,
you breathed life into the darkness, breathe your spirit upon us this day. May we be feverish with our zeal for you and our love for one another. May we run to the side of another, and may we also take time to listen to the whole story. May we laugh at ourselves and ask forgiveness when we blunder. May we today be models of your love as we live in relationship with one another through Christ our Lord, Amen.
look on your children this night as they fall into their rest. Let them be reminded of your steadfast and constant care. Renew their capacity for love and forgiveness. Restore their broken spirits. Help us all to rest this night in the loving heart of Christ who gave his life for us, Amen.