In my sermon on Sunday, I apologized to the congregation and to David, who was being baptized for the Collect of the Day. ('Collect' is Episcopal-speak for a prayer....also, the entryway to the church is the 'narthex' and the basement is the 'undercroft'--go figure Anglicans!)
Here it is: the collect for the Sunday closest to July 20...
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking; Have compassion on our weakness and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
OK, in one prayer (sorry, 'collect') we are calling ourselves "ignorant, weak, unworthy and blind". And we prayed that prayer on a day when David IV (and the other three were all there!) was being 'marked as Christ's own forever' and declared both a child of God and a member of Christ's Body.
It is times like that which cause me to think Christianity is schizophrenic! On a day we declare David and ourselves "marked as Christ's own" and, indeed, Christ's Body in this world we decide that we are, as Marcus Aurelius (not a Christian, a Stoic) said: 'a bag of bones and foul smell'.
Ignorant, weak, unworthy and blind are hardly attributes of "Christ's Body in this world". And certainly far, far, far short of the Bible's assertion that we are created 'in the image and likeness of God'.
So, which will it be? God's beloved or pond scum? The Body of Christ or miserable, nasty, sinful, awful creatures?
So I told the group I go to on Tuesday mornings about my apology and read them the collect to prove my point. They'd all heard it since 3 of them were priests and the 4th is an every-Sunday worshiper.
And to my utter dismay, none of them were offended at all by the collect. They even seemed to agree with it. I became so irrational that I really could do very little except sputter in exasperation and utter four-letter words....
I just assumed they, like me, thought of human beings (much less Christians) as beloved 'children of God'. Can I be that out of line? I'm not stupid. I can't miss the incredible evil of the world. But I simply assume that 'evil' is a perversion of who we really are.
I have known for some decades that my heresy of choice is Pelagionism. Pelagious was British but taught his theology in Rome in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. What he taught was rather simple (if condemned by 5 or 6 church councils and St. Augustine!). It went like this: human beings were born with the same free will and moral choices as Adam before the Fall. Humans could choose to do 'the right thing' without Divine intervention. The concept of 'original sin' was rejected by Pelagious.
I reject it too. I told David IV's parents that God loved David IV as much before he was baptized and God would love him after he was baptized. We are not 'born sinful' in my theology.
(By the way: since you're going to be a heretic anyway, CHOOSE your heresy carefully. I start my classes in Gnostic Christianity at UConn by saying, "How many of you are heretics?" Only a brave soul or two might giggle and raise their hands. Then I ask, "How many of you believe in the Immortality of the Soul?" Every time either all or almost all raise their hands. "So," I tell them, "read the Nicene Creed. We believe in the 'resurrection of the body', not 'the immortality of the soul'. You're all heretics!")
More and more these days, I find that I'm outside the 'orthodox' box. I've never much wanted to be 'inside' it, but I'm often struck by how 'out of line' I am.
I still think that's a terrible Collect!
Some of the Episcopal Church's collects are wonderful in their wisdom and guidance. My favorite is the Collect for Good Friday. Listen: Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross.....
Now that's something to hang your Pelagion hat on: we are God's 'family' and Jesus was willing to die for us. That's the humanity I'm a part of. Part of the Family. Worth dying for. Know what I mean?
Am I that out of line?
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