Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Almost heaven.

After an absolutely amazing service of ordination and consecration of our new bishop, Mark Beckwith, I thought that perhaps, just perhaps, I had died and done gone to heaven.

The NJ Performing Arts Center may not have been designed for liturgical functions, but you would never have known it from today's service. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect place to ordain and consecrate a bishop.

The house was packed. If the Episcopal Church is dying, you'd never have been able to tell from the amount of people and the incredible energy in that theater. I'm going to make a wild guess and say that there were well over 2,500 people there. Easy.

The 260 member choir was magnificent! The heavenly hosts and choirs of angels must have been so proud! Bishop Beckwith's daughter was one of the featured soloists and sang like a very angel for her father. The psalm and gospel alleluia's were set by our own James McGregor of Grace Church, Newark.

The readings (a passage from Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke's version of the Ascension 24:44-49a) - including excerpts from Dr. King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" read with passion and conviction by Mayor Corey Booker - were perfectly chosen.

Our Bishop Katharine preached a powerful sermon on the tensions of our faith as embodied in the office and ministry of a bishop of the church, on this the feast of St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople.

Bishop Katharine spoke of the tension of the commandment of Jesus to "stay in the city" and King's prophetic question of the church being "too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world."

She told Mark that, when he got his "new hat" she would have him name one of the tails "stay" (and pray) and the other "go" (and make disciples of all nations). She urged him to forge his episcopacy in the tension of those two commandments of Jesus.

Bishop Mark sent us out with this blessing: May God give you the grace to never sell yourself short; grace to risk something big for something good; grace to remember that the world is too dangerous now for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love. And the blessing of God Almighty - the God who creates us, the Son who sets us free, and the Spirit who promises to be with us - even to the end of the ages, be with us all evermore.

If the world doesn't hear that there is a new Spirit blowing in the church - and in this diocese - they must be comatose or just not paying attention. I understand the excitement of the early disciples who dropped everything to follow Jesus. That's precisely the kind of energy that was in church . . .um . . . that theater . . no, it was CHURCH . . . today.

I couldn't have been happier.

And then, the mail came, and with it the CD I had ordered almost two weeks ago.

"Too Close" by Bishop Perry Tillis, founder of the Savior Lord Jesus Pentecostal Holiness Church out of Samson, Alabama, was lying there amidst the bills and letters and advertisements. (Birdman Recording Group, Inc.)

The good bishop is singing to me even now - and to all "Whiskey-palians". GOD DON'T LIKE IT: "Now, they said you cut out whiskey. Said they not let you drink that wine. Now, you preachers, deacons and teachers, you getting all drunk up in that moonshine. You know, God don't like it. God knows, you know he don't like it. You know God don't like it. I know God don't like you up in that sin and shame."

Now he's singing, DO YOU KNOW THE MAN? "Do you know the man from Galilee? Do you know Mary's Baby? Do you know that man's a mighty good doctor? The man woke me up this morning . . . the man from Galilee. He walked on out on the water (Oh, oh, oh), and he calmed the raging sea (Lord, have mercy), I said, Do you know that man from Galilee?"

But, it's when he sings the title track TOO CLOSE that he blows the roof off the church: "I'm too close not to get my goal. I'm savin' my soul. I can't turn around. Oh, no, I can't turn around. I'm too close, I can see my old mother and friends. Let me run home till I make it in. Oh, I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey right now. I'm too close that I can grab God's hand. Don't want to miss my final chance to the Promised Land. I can't turn round."

No siree, as hard as it has been, as difficult as is the road ahead, I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey right now.

Some days - not every day - but every once a while, I swear, it's almost heaven.


Jon said...

FYI - my roommate, one of the Ministers of Ceremony for this festive day, informs me that the official count was just over 3,000 in attendance.

MadPriest said...

I don't care how nice the day was -
I still think the job should have been yours, darling.

Deborah Sproule said...

Hey Alice, we made it on time. He was wrong, we're not late at all. This is the true party we were called to from behind the looking glass. See them all smiling from the table of all colors, there's PB Katharine and Rev Elizabeth too. My mother is there and great grandma too. There's a few skeptic rats gnashing their teeth from under a log out beyond. They can't imagine why we laugh out to them "Come join the party, it'll all be fine"! Even the moon smiles down on us all.