Warriormare posted this morning about her visit to an unfamiliar congregation, but I had already been thinking about posting some from my morning.
This morning, our congregation had its annual visit from our bishop. Combine that with the first Sunday after Labour Day and the first day of Sunday School after the summer break and it really had a grand feeling, especially when you include a baptism.
When the bishop moved to the chancel steps to begin his sermon, I was listening with special interest, bearing in mind warriormare’s comments earlier this week and our conversation wondering whether the bishop would tackle any of the readings or “chicken out” with a generic baptismal theme for his sermon. It turns out that warriormare correctly guessed that he would weave some of both together.
This was the first time that our bishop has given a sermon in our congregation since his election last spring. And I was very impressed with his sermon.
I inherited (both from my mother and from some life experiences) some — not quite suspicion — some skepticism about bishops. And so the tongue-in-cheek reference to a bishop as Ol’ Pointy Hat comes too easily to me. But our bishop has impressed me by how down-to-earth he is. I have no idea what he’s like as an administrator (though I’d guess he has some skills, given his bio), but in the ways that are truly most important (I have an opinion), he is blessed.
When talking about this morning’s reading from Romans 13:8-14, he focused on the summing up of the commandments as “Love your neighbour as yourself.” And he told us he had a problem with that. He ended up making two points to me. One, it was good to see a bishop admit that he has trouble with a part of scripture.
The other point was the one he intended to make: “I don’t want you to love me the way you love yourself.” And his words rang true as he talked about all the ways we don’t love ourself: the way we are harsh and judgemental about ourselves, ways we fail to forgive ourselves. That God is actually calling us to love ourselves better than we do and also to love others.
When it came to the gospel reading, he focused on Matthew 18:20, what it says and what it doesn’t say.
When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
His point (which the world absolutely needs to hear) was that it doesn’t say “when two or three agree on an issue, I am there among them” or “when two or three are all the same, I am there among them.” Community is where God is. And (to perhaps go beyond what he said) anything else should take a back seat to being in community in God’s name.
I’m sure he made an excellent point about the Exodus reading, but I’m afraid I missed it.
But I just wanted to sit back and think a bit about those two things: the ways in which we don’t love ourselves enough and the community that should be at the heart of who we are as churches and Christians. There is certainly a lot there to ponder.