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Sunday, August 07, 2022

Where your treasure is

Pope Joan

A Reflection on Pentecost IX - Proper 14
August 7, 2022

Good Sunday morning, good people of the universe. It's a lovely day this morning. The present temperature at 8 o'clock is 79 degrees. Air quality is low but good at 18, UV index is low at 1, and the wind is coming from the SSW at 8 mph.

Yes, I said it's 8 o'clock. That's about two or so hours later than I usually start writing. I slept in this morning because I can't go to church. I'm on COVID isolation precautions until I get tested again on Wednesday.

I have written a sermon that the deacon will deliver. He'll be doing the Service of the Word followed by Communion from Reserved Sacrament.

We both prefer that, in the absence of a priest, when the deacon is presiding at the main Sunday service, to use Morning Prayer with Communion from Reserved Sacrament. It's what we did in both our former dioceses.

There are not, as of yet, any directives or policies and procedures in this diocese. Deacons have not been used in that way here, so the bishop is taking some time with the newly formed Commission on Ministry to figure things out in terms of what will work best here.

However, since I was diagnosed on Friday with COVID, we decided that the prudent thing to do was to keep the bulletin as written and adjust it accordingly. I'm sure it will be fine. Our deacon is highly skilled, very experienced, and wonderfully competent. We are blessed to have him.

There are at least five sermons in that gospel, however. You know it. It's the one from Luke (12:32-40) where, in the first paragraph alone, Jesus tosses out preaching gems like beads on a Mardi Gras float: "Do not be afraid," he says, and "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

And then he warns everybody to be always ready because God may come "like a thief in the night." That - that right there -  all by itself, is an amazing sermon. 
So, I mean, what if God is that thief in the night?

What are we afraid God will take from us? What is it that you treasure so much it would leave you bereft not to have it?

Oh, I've already had that happen to me. The memory of it is so strong that I am prepared, every day and night, to surrender it. 
What is it, you ask? Oh, just the story I tell myself about myself and others. The 'public narrative' of one Elizabeth M. C. Kaeton. The one I want so much to believe that I put that story out there for you to believe so that, the more you believe it, the more I will, too.

We all do that, to one extent or another. But, if the goal is to be more authentic, more of who we were created by God to be, more of our true self, then we've got to face some harsh truths about the ways in which we have adapted and modified ourselves in order to "fit in" and "be popular," "be liked" or "be loved" or "be successful".

And that, my friends, is just damn hard work. It's exhausting sometimes. Which is why we guard it so jealously. We're just not ready to have God steal away the story we tell about ourselves so we can work to find the core of truth about who God has created us to be and get on with the work God has given us to do in this world.

That's not the sermon I wrote for the deacon to preach. The one the deacon will deliver is a lot safer. Of course.

This is the last day of the Gathering of the Purple Shirts across The Pond, also known as Lambeth. They have a closing Eucharist (or, already have had) and then tomorrow is their Travel Day. At least, that's what's on the schedule.

I have no doubt that some of the brothers from The Global South will boycott the Eucharist as a way of sending a strong message that the Anglican Communion is broken.

We are broken, they say, because it was bad enough that we allowed 'girl cooties' into the corridors and councils of power and authority in the church, but now we've allowed 'queer cooties' to infect the system, too.

They are not having it. They know what scripture says. We taught it to them. They know how power and authority work. We taught that to them, too.

And then, there's colonialism.

So, while using the Eucharist as a political weapon is certainly odious, we taught that to them, too. We have seen the enemy and it is us.

If I were going to preach about what's going on at Lambeth ("Don't be afraid, little flock"), I might just have to call on my new BFF, Jan Phillips. 
I've spent this summer hanging out with her in her book, "No Ordinary Time: A Book of Hours For a Prophetic Age." I've been using this as my Daily Office. Well, I do go back and forth between this and Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" for Summertime.

I'd probably read her poem, "If I Were Pope". Here, check it out and you'll see why.
If I were pope
I'd proclaim the end of my infallibility
and banish the word sin from the doctrines of faith.

I'd ask half the bishops and cardinals
to replace themselves with a thoughtful woman
and complete their ministries in a prison or homeless shelter.

If I were pope
I'd pay the mystics to write poetry all day
and have their words read at the Sunday Masses.

I'd pay the prophets to upload their message
in five minute videos
for youtube viewers around the world.

I'd hire a thousand displaced workers
to construct a new Sistine Chapel and cover it with mirrors
instead of male images.

If I were pope
I'd announce a contest
for 10 new sacraments that celebrate
peace-making, justice, and interfaith creations.

I'd send envoys to the villages
to talk about birth control
and distribute condoms wherever they are needed.

I'd establish a tuition-free college in every country
to train young students how to think
non-violently and act ethically.

If I were pope I'd convert closed churches
to housing for the needy
and meeting places for the marginal and walking wounded.

I'd buy farms in rural places
and dedicate each one to organic farming
and cooperative, sustainable, community-based agriculture.

I'd convert every old Motherhouse and seminary
into a training center for spiritual activists, cultural creators
and community collaborators.

I'd auction off my skullcap, my mozetta cape and my darling red shoes
to the highest bidder and send the money to Haiti
for the construction of schools and health care centers.

I'd sell my Fisherman's Ring on ebay
and donate the proceeds to the Gulf shrimpers.

I'd trade my red and gold embroidered fascia
(the stole with the fringes) for a villa in Tuscany
and give free spa retreats to women who've served the church
for five years or more.

If I were pope, I'd throw a party at the Vatican
and invite everyone who's left the church
because they didn't feel welcomed.
(The overflow crowd would be treated to weekends
at Italian vineyards.)

If I were pope, I'd announce my retirement,
and as my last act in office, at the final party,
I'd ordain to the priesthood any woman who was ready,
marry any gay couple who wanted my blessing,
and marry any priest, male or female.

Then I'd get in my jammies,
say a prayer of gratitude,
and crawl into bed for a much needed nap.

I can't imagine a more explicit definition of - not to mention an amazing sermon on - "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Did I mention that Jan Phillips is a former nun? Get her 'out-of-the-box' Book of Hours. You won't be disappointed.)

So, it's time for me to go and make myself another cup of mint tea. I've been using springs of mint from my window garden and it really does help the queasiness. The progress is that we've gone from straight-up nausea to waves of queasiness. That may not sound like progress to you, but I'm taking it.

Please, please, please, please, please, be careful out there. This new variant does not do as much damage as the original - especially for those who have gotten their vaccine and boosters - but it is highly contagious and no-joke nasty.

Ms. Conroy was up most of the night with a high fever which finally broke early this morning. We both have miserable headaches. And, this too shall pass.

You know the drill: Masks. Hand washing. Social distance.

And, as they say on the streets of Rome, "Ciao Bella!"\

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