This past Wednesday I attended our annual diocesan clergy conference, albeit in a very different way. For 6 hours, 90 Episcopal clergy from our churches in northern Ohio filled 4 Zoom screens to gather for time together with each other, our Diocesan Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr. and our special guest, our Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry. It is always good to be with colleagues, and while we were not able to go away for our normal practice of a 3-day retreat together, this gathering filled the void many of us are feeling as we stay necessarily apart leaving many of us feeling disconnected.
What was of equal gift to me was the first 2 hours spent listening to our Presiding Bishop. Shared with the world when he preached at Harry and Meghan’s Royal Wedding, Bishop Curry’s spirit is infectious, his compassion genuine and his faith both deep and wide. He spent the majority of time with us offering what he called the “out-takes” from a piece he wrote last month for the wider church titled, “What Would Love Do.” In his written piece and in his comments to us he offered a vision of what Jesus is inviting the disciples to consider at the end of John 21. It is the resurrection story where Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius and has an exchange with them that results in Peter saying – “I am going fishing.” In other words, Curry mused, while he’s not a fisherman, he hears that as – “Well, I’m out- I am done here and I am going back to what I knew before all of this started.”
Bishop Curry shared he gets that especially in today’s context; how many us haven’t thought wistfully from time to time over the past 61 days (who’s counting?) if only it was January 2020 again? What some of us wouldn’t do to “go back to what we knew before.” Though it was also helpful to hear Bishop Curry provide the side note that things weren’t actually “all that good in January 2020 in many respects…”
But the story then with the disciples (and now with us) doesn’t stop there- Jesus asks Peter 3 times, “Do you love me” and with each affirmative answer Jesus spells out the consequences and responsibility of that love. Sacrificial love, selfless love, love that puts others first- that is the call of discipleship then and now. Feeding, caring, advocating, listening, growing, companioning, suffering with and for the justice and mercy of others- that is what love looks like when we say yes to follow Christ.
Trinity has a story to tell about this kind of love and it is my deep joy and honor to be ask from time to time to share a part of our story. Last week I was humbled to be asked to talk a little bit about What does love look like and feel like from our place in the world ? Horizons Stewardship is a wonderful resource and has been vitally important to Trinity and other communities of faith during this time with resources and support, so when they asked for an interview, it was the least we could do to say yes.
Finally, the most important take away for me from our time with Bishop Curry was this: There is simply no “going back.” What we are called to do today and every day going forward is to resist the very human response to try to cling to the notion that things are going to either go back or even find a “new normal” (if by that we mean a way of being that we can predict and control). Rather, perhaps our most faithful, creative and life-giving response is to embrace the arc of our spiritual narrative and texts that time and time again remind us we are moving towards a NEW CREATION.
Our call, our mission, our challenge and honor is to find ways everyday together to answer the question we must hold as our guiding light, “What would love do?”
Come home this Sunday as we gather from all over the world to remember who and whose we are and take another pass at answer that question.
May you never forget that you are loved,