Jack Parker was one of the most important mentors of my life. He was a dear, dear man, full of wisdom and humor.
Jack would tell horrible jokes that he never got to the punchline with because he'd start laughing so hard he couldn't speak. Luckily he told them over and over so the listener could finish the punch line for him! Gentle as a librarian (which he was!) and wide as a Sage (that too).
Once, after I invited Integrity (the Episcopal GLBTQ group and their friends--though the Q has been added more recently) to use St. John's as it's home there were a half-dozen older white men who threw a fit and made my life miserable for several months. Jack, who had been ministering to the gay community for years, became Integrity's chaplain and my soft-spoken defender. I noticed that the 6 men would lie about what I said if I met with them in private so Jack would sit in whenever I met with any of them. He even had a tee-shirt made for me that read: "I'm the Rector, that's why!" to remind me I had control of the use of the buildings of St. John's. The furor dissipated after I called a open parish meeting (as Jack suggested) where the gay members of St. John's and their numerous supporters made the argument for me. That wasn't the only time Jack pulled my feet out of the fire!
I thought of him this morning since the gospel lesson was from John--chapter 14 I think that begins, "In my father's house are many dwelling places" and includes Jesus' words: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me."
That lesson is one suggested by the Prayer Book as the Gospel at a Burial Eucharist. Jack, when he retired from full time priesthood, he became a member of St. John's and would help me out with funerals from time to time. I noticed when he read that lesson from John, he would stop after "I am the way and the truth and the life." He never included the line about 'no one comes to the Father but by me.'
When I asked him why, he gave me a chuckle and said, "My God is too big to just have one door."
I've never forgotten that so every three years when this Gospel comes up, I use the opportunity to tell folks that our God is too small, to exclusive, too narrow.
I talked about Jack's God today--about a God so big and loving and expansive and inclusive that their are many 'doors' to God.
When scripture tells us we are created 'in the image and likeness of God' and 'just a little lower than the angels', it doesn't mean just 'some' of us--it means all of us.
Ironic isn't it that more wars and more violence may have been fought and perpetrated in all of human history over religion than anything other than territory. I think more people might have died over religion than over anything else, when you get right down to it.
In the Making a Difference Workshop I help lead, we contend that everything exists in each of three different domains: the domain of Being, the domain of Doing/Experiencing and the domain of Having/Concepts/Stories we tell.
Even if we have an 'experience' of God, we have to use words to describe it and God then becomes a story we tell or a concept we have. And our 'concept' of God...even our 'experience' of God...doesn't exhaust or tell the reality of God's Being.
Our God is often much too small.
We need a God as 'being' and 'possibility' and 'limitlessness': a God that cannot be put into one experience or conceptualized in any way. In fact, God is so vast that there a myriad of doors opening into the reality of the Holy.
We need a really BIG GOD these days. A REALLY BIG GOD.....
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