The wedding at Cana is an important and beautiful Gospel story, but it is not what we are going to talk about tonight. Instead I want to think about the reading from 1 Corinthians and the gifts the Spirit has bestowed upon us – each one of us.
How many of you have heard about the Primates meeting at Lambeth that just ended last week?
But I want to take a minute to talk about that meeting and who was there and a little bit about the Anglican church as I understand it.
The church is divided into ecclesiastical provinces of which Canada is one, within the Anglican world communion. The communion is headed by Justin Welby – the Archbishop of Canterbury. Fred Hitz is our Primate, the leader of the Anglican Church of Canada. Michael Curry is another name that you may have heard and he is the Primate in the USA, though they call him the Presiding Bishop.
There are 38 ecclesiastical provinces within the Anglican communion. So one of the important things to know about this is that unlike the Catholic church, these folks can make recommendations but they don’t actually have any power – they sort of chair the meeting each of the area that they are the dead of and they might offer guidance. Many of the primates come from parts of the world where the rights of the LGBTQ community is not the front runner of the things that they must consider on a daily basis and it is true that some of them come from countries in which this community is put in jail or killed simply for being.
For some the ordination of women is still a thing. For some tribal and religiously motivated violence is a daily concern, for some poverty and security and the protection of children are at the top of the list. And I say this not to negate the importance of the inclusion of all of God’s people but to remind us that ours is one of the things that are of concern to the leaders of our church.
Since Katherine Jefferts Shori, who was the primate in the US from 2006 to 2015, there are no women in the room. I am saying all of this not just to give you a little lesson on the Primates but because I think that the diversity of the places that are represented and who was in in the room are not to be underestimated.
Maybe you haven’t heard, but one of the out comes of this meeting and certainly the one that we are hearing the most about on social media refers to the Episcopal Church in the USA, which essentially states that because of the change to the marriage canon in their church – which says, as I read it – that the church shall conform to the laws of the state that it is in – so that if the marriage of gay and lesbian people is legal in the state then it is also legal to marry them in the episcopal church. And they voted at their big general meeting in favour of changing the definition of who should be married from a man and a woman to simply two people.
And the Primates have come out with the following statement in response to change to their marriage canon – Recent developments in the Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.
In that last bit – they are talking about us – the Anglican Church of Canada. We are looking at our marriage canon in July.
And it looks as though the Primates have essentially put the Episcopal church on probation, they have said It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years TEC no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.
This while they try to reconcile their relationships and talk and figure out what next and lets’ be honest there are a number of ways that could play out.
So, ok why on earth am I telling you all of this when I should be preaching. In part because I think that this is where we should be having this conversation. Here in our community of faith. Because it impacts people that we love and it impacts our community specifically.
And because I have been wondering how we individually and as a community, relate to our reading tonight from 1 Corinthians.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
So as I read it, that means that there is a manifestation of the Spirit that resides here and in each of you.
The word that Paul uses is ‘charismata’ which is translated in English to charismatic, which we often hear most closely connected to the charismatic movement of the church. But the word ‘charis’ is connected to grace. The gifts that we have, that we bring individually flow out of God’s grace. Who you are – what you bring to this place to each other and what manifests here, comes out of the Grace of God.
So that us gathering together, discerning the gospel together, listening for its’ very real implications in and to our lives, caring for one another and the ways in which we care for one another. – Think about that for a minute, think about the community that we are working to build.
In response to my email last week in which I asked you to tell me what you would want Andrew and I to tell people about this community, Tracy wrote:
That healing takes place for so many of us who don’t feel that we fit in then any other religious circumstance, who wants so desperately to be part of a community that has space for us in all of our brokenness our nonconformity our intellectual struggles. For those of us who are just fatigued with the barriers that come for so many of us in our past religious experiences and that we need a place to belong to feel excepted to have our unique gifts are recognized and encouraged and that in this place our oddities are part of what makes Saint Brigids so beautiful.
You do that for each other – that is a gift that flows from the grace of God. Trying to be church in a way that is rooted in our Anglican tradition but allows for our voices to be heard, that doesn’t assume anything about the people that show up, except that you want to be here for whatever reason – your showing up and knitting, listening, bringing food, welcoming the stranger, handing out hot chocolate, committing to pray for one another, struggling with difficult conversations – those are gifts.
And I believe that we, in forming this community, in being in being clear about welcoming the LGBTQ community and as Robin called us on a few weeks ago, who we might have a hard time welcoming and being called on it– that is a gift to the church. You are a gift to the church. You are important and made in the image of God and essential to the building up of this community. Make no mistake.
I was walking my dog on Saturday and listening to the Moth podcast – one of my favourite things to do. And the first story was by a woman talking the experience of adoptive parents and birth parents – she talked about how both claim their children – that we as parents claim our babies no matter how they come into our lives and no matter the age that they come; that made me think about God. Each of us, each of you, are claimed by God, we are Gods very own and truly and completely loved and each of us by virtue of that claim have gifts to share with one another. The many ways that you choose to share the love of God that you have received is a gift that you share with the world.
I know that not all of you even consider yourselves Anglican – and that is not what matters to me But I thought that given how public this is, that this is the denomination of which I am a part and our congregation is associated with – we needed to talk about this. The church is flawed. It is imperfect and constructed by humans for humans and it is run by humans – so it cannot be perfect. The leaders of the Anglican church need our prayer. We need to pray for this diverse church that is located globally, with all of the complexity that that brings. We need to continue to pray for each other, for our growth and that people who are searching would find us.
We need to remember the charistmata that we hold by virtue of being God’s own and that what we bring by virtue of our being – comes from the grace of God which we receive, each of us whether we or anyone else believes that we deserve it or not.