Sunday, March 15, 2009

Godly laws, civil laws, and the Sunday Sermon

My beloved wife has settled into a pattern for now where she alternates her attendance weekly between the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches. The RC parish is her home community of many years, where she has strong roots, and deep and loving friendships. Aside from the people, however, she feels institutionally remote and on the outside, and since the November election has chosen not to receive Communion there. By contrast, the Episcopal Cathedral, where we know no one, is an explicitly welcoming community, and she fully partakes. I tag along for the music, and I've told you about it previously here, here, and here.

This weekend we were being Episcopalian, and (typically running behind) we were dashing down the freeway for the city. BP who was driving, made a little "huh" noise, and I looked over to see us passing a car with a YES ON PROP 8 sticker on the back, along with another that read "AMERICA UNDER GOD." The people in the car looked mean and humorless. "How ironic," I said to BP, "it's us lesbians who are racing to get to church!"

The Cathedral was as usual pretty crowded with a very wide demographic (and as usual fantastic music ;-). After the readings, the Dean began his sermon. I like his sermons; they are erudite, but still approachable, and as a teacher myself, I enjoy following the way he weaves patterns around his theme. Given this week's readings, he talked about laws: following "Godly laws," of course, but he also pointed out that that Jesus was a lawbreaker, which led to a consideration that civil laws can be unjust and demand to be peacefully resisted or overturned.

He talked for a bit about William Wilberforce and his battle to eliminate the slave trade in Britain, and of course invoked Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Tutu, Mandela, and Oscar Romero as examples of people who fight unjust laws to maintain the great commandments of loving God and thy neighbor (see how he does it with weaving those threads? He's good.)

You can see where this is going, and by this time BP and I were holding hands tightly and staring fixedly at the Dean. "We see another example in Proposition 8," he began, citing the court case, and saying that while he hopes the court overturns the amendment, he is not confident they will. "But, " he went on, "in this Cathedral, we welcome those couples who want to live faithful, committed lives " and now BP and I have tears coursing down our cheeks as he goes on to explicitly welcome People Like Us. In Mass. None of this Don't Ask Don't Tell baloney. As BP said simply, "Wow."

And then he said something very important. "You may not agree," he said, "and that's fine." He made it clear that people of good faith can and do disagree, as families do, but the important thing is to come together in the common things that unite us and truly Godly laws. As in, Love each other. (That wasn't all there was in the sermon by a long shot but it is the part that grabbed us hard.)

As BP and I approached the doorway after Mass, the Dean didn't even wait for us to open our mouths to thank him. Without hesitation, he simply gathered each of us into a great big hug. (He obviously saw us weeping through that part of his sermon). If any of our readers are from the Cathedral of San Diego, tell Scott thanks, from the blogger IT and her wife. (Don't be shy about saying "hi" in the comments, either!)


Ann said...

I think what made Jesus so mad is that the folks in the Temple grounds were technically obeying the letter of the law but totally ignoring the the meaning of the law.

IT said...

Yes, a point that the Dean also made.

Two Auntees said...

After your description of the sermon, I feel welcome and I wasn't even there. Beautiful!

IT said...

I should say for the horrified conservatives who periodically come here to "tut tut" at us that the Dean is not talking about going against current TEC rules and marrying GLBT folks in the Cathedral tomorrow! (That should be obvious, but perhaps needs saying.) He's not going to break the policy of the church.

But in the current climate, he is talking about welcoming people who are marginalized by unjust civil laws, recognizing and celebrating who they are, and working to change the laws that pick them out unfairly. And if things change both civilly AND in the Episcopal church, I'm sure he would be happy to change with them. :-)

But the most important thing is that hours later we are still amazed at the feeling of a church explicitly saying at Mass "you, yes you two, we know exactly who you are and WE WANT YOU." I think BP went up to Communion with a light step and lifted heart as a result of this sermon, as I sat in the pew mentally writing this blog post.

JCF said...

the Dean didn't even wait for us to open our mouths to thank him. Without hesitation, he simply gathered each of us into a great big hug.

Y'know, IT, we 'Piskies find God to be much the same. ;-)

FWIW, IT, I think you ARE "communing"---if only in a vicarious sort of way: you're happy that BP is happy (that's enough for me, too---for the moment! *g*)

IT said...

JCF, you KNOW that in a real partnership, one partner will do anything possible for the other to be happy.

I admit too having been ripped up one side and dropped down theother on all the prop 8 dreck, having ANYONE say something along the lines of "you are not just a legal or clinical subject and we value you" is such a bloody relief. It's such a pain to be The Representative of Gay Marriage 24/7.

Or maybe I'm just PMSing. ;-)

Cany said...

I have to tell you, IT, that you have better attendance than I do on Sundays as of late.

But I can also say I couldn't ask for a better soul to stand in my stead.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Waiving to IT and BP!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

BTW the "Pledge" has got it wrong, it's "Before God under the Terebint" Genesis 18...


James said...

What a great post. What a wonderful experience for you and BP. God is at work in your lives, IT and BP. I know these things. :)

IT, have you considered going up to communion with arms crossed and receive a blessing instead of bread and wine?

IT said...

James, how good to hear from you! We missed you!

yes of course I know about that. But I don't believe in God, therefore don't believe in blessings either.

As a baptised, confirmed (ex) Roman Catholic, I'm as "technically " eligible for Communion as BP. But to participate would imply belief. I don't believe, and I have sufficient respect for those who do, not to pretend.

James said...

That's okay, IT, God believes in you. :)

JCF said...

Holy Communion is beyond belief, IT (w/ emphasis on the "beyond").

How nice to see you here, James: you're in our prayers (or in IT's act of "missing", which is just as good ;-/)

[Heh: if you ever were received into TEC, IT, what would I do w/o the prospect of pulling-your-legs, at every POSSIBLE opportunity? ;-D {{{hugs}}}]

Gillian said...

The Dean is indeed a most excellent preacher. He gives pretty good hugs too. :-) And the Cathedral's welcome is most genuine--it's not just the Dean and a few outspoken folks--it's the whole congregation, in essence. As you can hopefully tell when you look around. Yes, there are a few who might not be thrilled, but they still choose to be there and be part of the family in a *constructive,* not destructive, way.

I'm so glad we've been able to be a place of welcome and solace for you and BP.

TheraP said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes!

Thanks, IT. Blessings upon you and your dear wife and your children.

IT said...

The Dean's sermon now online here.