Monday, February 02, 2015

Beyond Being Right: Two Episcopal Church Services in One Day

We laughed when Father Daron Vroon said, "Proving that you're right and someone else is wrong always leads to peace and harmony."  He was preaching on I Corinthians 8, one of those where Paul embeds distinctions within clarifications within disputations. But Fr. Daron summed it up this way: "You're right; there's nothing wrong with eating meat leftover from sacrifices to imaginary gods; but don't do it."  That got a laugh, too.

Paul's letter turns on the word "knowledge," as in a "knowledge" of right and wrong.  But he tells us that anyone who claims such knowledge to lord it over others mustn't "know" anything:  for "knowledge puffs up; love builds up."  Fr. Daron Vroon's sermon took off from that phrase, applying it to something former Archbishop Rowan Williams recently said,  that most of today's public discourse is mired in controversy on technical issues that are beside the point of any policy.  For example, Fr. Daron pointed to emotional disputes over which set of standards to use in education.  Fr. Daron opined that we'd benefit from drawing back from our narrow focus on the right or wrong technical solution to problems, to see real people and relationships that are the real core of any social matter.  We don't have to get stuck just in the duality of right and wrong. 

As our liturgical calendar marks today for remembering the Presentation of baby Jesus at the temple, we had an evening "Candlemas" service, too, where rector Fr. Roger Allen preached on another duality, "body v. spirit."  He knows that the Church rejected dualistic heresies centuries ago, that we no longer deny that the Creator could and would participate in our lives, fully human.  But he warned that such dualistic thinking lives in us when we try to separate our spiritual lives from our daily work.

Our small, mostly over-50 choir reached a spiritual place beyond our own physical limitations in two anthems yesterday, too.  We sang settings of Latin texts Ubi Caritas and O Nata Lux by contemporary composers Gjeilo and Lauridsen.  Both works are like Renaissance motets, sung a cappella,  developing more from interweaving of independent lines than by chords.  But they are contemporary-sounding in the lushness and occasional dissonance of the harmony that results.  What makes them challenging is something beyond the notes on the page: both pieces change tempo and dynamics often, punctuated with breaths and fermatas.  We had to watch director Peter Waggoner all the time, not just at ends of phrases. 

Very intense, very lovely to be in the middle of it all:  When I was singing it, I knew that we were doing something "right" that transcended disputes, doctrine, and our individual limitations.

Find links to many more of my reflections on the Episcopal church, scripture, and on others' perspectives of the same topics at my page Those Crazy Episcopalians 

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