I have spent the last two hours watching the live webcast of the Investiture of the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church: The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori. Needless to say, this ocassion has brought me much joy.
I want to give you an excerpt of the sermon she delivered during that service:
That vision of homegoing and homecoming that underlies our deepest spiritual yearnings is also the job assignment each one of us gets in baptism - go home, and while you're at it, help to build a home for everyone else on earth. For none of us can truly find our rest in God until all of our brothers and sisters have also been welcomed home like the prodigal.
There's a wonderful Hebrew word for that vision and work - shalom. It doesn't just mean the sort of peace that comes when we're no longer at war. It's that rich and multihued vision of a world where no one goes hungry because everyone is invited to a seat at the groaning board, it's a vision of a world where no one is sick or in prison because all sorts of disease have been healed, it's a vision of a world where every human being has the capacity to use every good gift that God has given, it is a vision of a world where no one enjoys abundance at the expense of another, it's a vision of a world where all enjoy Sabbath rest in the conscious presence of God. Shalom means that all human beings live together as siblings, at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of creation. It is that vision of the lion lying down with the lamb and the small child playing over the den of the adder, where the specter of death no longer holds sway. It is that vision to which Jesus points when he says, "today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." To say "shalom" is to know our own place and to invite and affirm the place of all of the rest of creation, once more at home in God.
You and I have been invited into that ministry of global peace-making that makes a place andaffirms a welcome for all of God's creatures. But more than welcome, that ministry invites all to feast until they are filled with God's abundance. God has spoken that dream in ourhearts - through the prophets, through the patriarchs and the mystics, in human flesh in Jesus, and in each one of us at baptism. All are welcome, all are fed, all are satisfied, all are healed of the wounds and lessenings that are part of the not-yet-ness of creation.
That homecoming of shalom is both destination and journey. We cannot embark on the journey without some vision of where we are going, even though we may not reach it this side of the grave. We are really charged with seeing everyplace and all places as home, and living in away that makes that true for every other creature on the planet. None of us can be fully at home, at rest, enjoying shalom, unless all the world is as well. Shalom is the fruit of living that dream.
She speaks of a vision of radical welcome, radical inclusion. May it be so!
Shalom to you all.
UPDATE: There's a CNN article up about the event that you can find right here.
UPDATE 2: Here's another article from Episcopal News Service that describes the service more thoroughly. I was struck by a quotation that was printed in the service booklet that everyone had. It is by Hélder Pessoa Câmara, the retired Roman Catholic archbishop of Olinda and Recife in Brazil:
The bishop belongs to all. Let no one be scandalized if I frequent those who are considered unworthy or sinful. Who is not a sinner? Let no one be alarmed if I am seen with compromised and dangerous people, on the left or the right. Let no one bind me to a group. My door, my heart, must be open to everyone, absolutely everyone.
It is very heartening that Bp Katharine chose that quotation. She is sending the strong message that she will not be pigeon-holed or co-opted. Good on her.