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Sunday, August 26, 2012

" your hearts, by faith with thanksgiving"

When you're a Christian, there are some hard things you have to swallow.

Like, Jesus saying, "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:53-59)

It's not just hyperbole in which Jesus is engaging. He means it.  Some of his disciples say to him, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?"

Right. Who indeed? Well, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox (the real ones, not the ones with a small 'o' and quotation marks around them). And, of course, some Anglicans. Those who walk on the theologically "higher" side of the Via Media.

For those who walk on the other side, there's the brilliance of the Elizabethan Settlement. After holding up the consecrated elements of bread and wine, Episcopal (Anglican) clergy say, "The gifts of God for the people of God," and are permitted to add, "Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving."

"....feed on him in your hearts by faith....". 

It's a way to keep everyone at the Table - Catholics and Protestants - those who believe in their heads as well as those who believe in their "hearts, by faith" that this is the actual body of Christ, who is "the gift of God for the people of God".

I've been thinking about this as I've listened to and read the plethora of news reports and articles and opinions about the issue of "legitimate rape" and abortion.

The 71st General Convention of The Episcopal Church passed Resolution 1994-A054 which states, in part:
We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community.
While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.
That part was actually taken from Resolution C047 at the 61st General Convention. In 1994, we added this:

We believe that legislation concerning abortions will not address the root of the problem. We therefore express our deep conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected, and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored as the position of this Church; and be it further
Resolved, That this 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.
 See also: " your hearts, by faith...."

We hold true to our Baptismal Vows to "respect the dignity of every human being" - including the dignity of the woman who is pregnant, affording her the right to have her "individual conscience" respected, the right to make an "informed decision" and not limiting "the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision".

And yet, we acknowledge that all abortions have a "tragic dimension" and that "legislation concerning abortion will not address the root of the problem".

Not everyone on either side of the issue of abortion is pleased with this statement. Those who are opposed to abortion under ANY circumstance lament that their church is not more blatantly "pro-life". Those who see that abortion can be a "blessing" to some women, lament that their church is not more aggressively "pro-choice".

From where I stand, it is a painfully honest statement.

The Episcopal Church wants means of legal abortion to continue while working to encourage conditions which would make abortions a less frequent occurrence.

Though the fact that The Episcopal Church is regularly identified as being pro-choice is accurate, it would be a misstatement to suggest that TEC is "in favor of abortions" or "promoting abortion." Rather, in regard to this issue, we seek to promote the sacredness of human life.

The Via Media - the classical "Middle Road" of Anglicanism - is not for sissies. 

It's interesting to me that this morning's passage from the sixth chapter of John's Gospel is actually the end of a sermon which Jesus delivers while traveling both sides of the lake near Capernum. It begins with the feeding of the multitudes from five loaves and two small fish which the disciples found a young boy to have. It ends with Jesus talking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood as the food of eternal life with God.

Some of the disciples found this teaching "too hard" and they walked away. Jesus says to The Twelve, "You do not want to leave too, do you?”.

Peter responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"  


Funny thing is that I'm betting solid money that those who believe the junk science about "legitimate rape" not only don't believe but are repulsed by the hard teachings of Jesus concerning eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  I'm betting they are numbered among the disciples who chose to walk away.

And yet, they believe what they want to believe about the biology of a woman's reproductive system in order to satisfy their theology about what they believe sanctifies life. 

Jesus said, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe."

From where I stand, there is only one way to go - one path to walk - in order to follow the hard teachings of Jesus.

That path, for me, is named "The Via Media".

In your hearts. By Faith. With Thanksgiving. 


Terri said...

I was thinking about these very resolutions earlier today - and that we should bring them up. Thank you for doing that. And, for this reflection - very well said.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I've got so much in my head these days I'm afraid it will explode. So, I blog

Matthew said...

It may be the via media, but I am beginning to wonder if Katherine Hancock ragsdale is right.

Fortunately convention delegates are free to vote against via media resolutions even if its our history.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - It does sound shocking at first and that's not exactly the language I prefer but the fact is that some abortions are performed to save the life of the woman. Others are performed to save the woman from a life of poverty, lack of education, and dependency. Those women would say that they were blessed to have the right to make their own decision.