In the summer of 2006 immediately following the General Convention, Raymond Dague took the first sermon of the presiding bishop-elect, Katherine Jefferts Schori, and penned an analysis. Reading Mrs. Schori's sermon with Raymond Dague's commentary, now almost two years later, is very interesting. Especially in light of the events of the last few days and the various articles which have appeared online concerning the PB, her sermon and Dague's commentary is worth re-reading.Text of Schori's Sermon
Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori preached the homily at the Closing Eucharist June 21 at General Convention in Columbus, Ohio. The text of Jefferts Schori's homily follows:
Homily preached at the General Convention's Closing Eucharist
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The Right Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
With commentary by Raymond Dague in italics in red
This last Sunday morning I woke very early, while it was still dark. I wanted to go for a run, but I had to wait until there was enough light to see. When the dawn finally began, I ventured out. It was warm, and still, and very quiet, and the clouds were just beginning to show tinges of pink. I ran by the back of the Hyatt just as two workers were coming out one of the service doors. They were startled, I'm afraid, but I nodded at them, and they responded. I went west over the freeway, and encountered a man I'd seen here in the Convention Center. Neither of us stopped, but we did say a quiet good morning. Then I found a lovely green park, and started around it. There was a man with a reflective vest, standing in the street by some orange cones, as though he were waiting for a run or a parade to begin. I said good morning, and he responded in kind. Around the corner I came to a bleary-eyed fellow with several bags who looked like he'd just risen from sleeping rough. I said good morning to him too, but I must admit I went past him in the street instead of on the sidewalk. Then I met a rabbit hopping across the sidewalk, and though we didn't use words, one of us eyed the other with more than a bit of wariness. Around another corner, a woman was delivering Sunday papers from her car. She was wary too, and didn't get out of her car with the next paper until I was a long way past her. Back over the freeway, and a block later, two guys seemingly on their early way to work. We nodded at each other.
As I returned to my hotel, I reflected on all those meetings. There was some degree of wariness in most of them. There were small glimpses of a reconciled world in our willingness to greet each other. But the unrealized possibility of a real relationship -- whether in response of wariness, or caution, or fear -- meant that we still had a very long way to go.
Can we dream of a world where all creatures, human and not, can meet each other in a stance that is not tinged with fear?Commentary: What was all of this about, except to tell us that she goes for a jog in the morning? Does the previous paragraph above create an equality of humans and animals? Somehow she seems to commune with the rabbit every bit as much as she does the humans she meets on her run. Very weird! Also, she reads “wariness, or caution, or fear” into her encounters with these “creatures” (people as well as the rabbit) in a very odd way. Your commentator is a long distance runner, and I have never sensed such a “wariness, or caution, or fear” in the “creatures” I have encountered on my many runs. Most people have seen runners before, and I bet that even the rabbits have too. I for one have never had any meaningful communication with rabbits on my runs.
When Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world, he is saying that his rule is not based on the ability to generate fear in his subjects. A willingness to go to the cross implies a vulnerability so radical, so fundamental, that fear has no impact or import. The love he invites us to imitate removes any possibility of reactive or violent response. King Jesus' followers don't fight back when the world threatens. Jesus calls us friends, not agents of fear.What an odd notion! When he says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he does not mean this. What does “his rule is not based on the ability to generate fear” have to do with what Jesus says about whether his kingdom is in this world or the next? Notice how she constantly juxtaposes love and fear. She also contrasts Jesus love with “any possibility of reactive or violent response.” This develops the “fear” theme of the feelings she had on her morning jog. This is very odd. Is this a not-so-subtle jab at some supposed violent homophobic views of the conservatives? Other than that possible interpretation, why is fear repeated as the opposite of love? Is this woman reacting against many fears in her own life?
If you and I are going to grow in all things into Christ, if we're going to grow up into the full stature of Christ, if we are going to become the blessed ones God called us to be while we were still in our mothers' wombs, our growing will need to be rooted in a soil of internal peace. Sounds like she is pro-life here. Will she take us out of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, or is this just sentimental talk about being “blessed ones God called us to be while we were still in our mothers' wombs”?
We'll have to claim the confidence of souls planted in the overwhelming love of God, a love so abundant, so profligate, given with such unwillingness to count the cost, that we, too, are caught up into a similar abandonment. God’s “overwhelming,” “abundant,” and “profligate” love. These thoughts are fine so long as it is used with God’s requirements for us. I assume that some talk about “sin” might soon pop up in this sermon.
That full measure of love, pressed down and overflowing, drives out our idolatrous self-interest. Because that is what fear really is -- it is a reaction, an often unconscious response to something we think is so essential that it takes the place of God. "Oh, that's mine and you can't take it, because I can't live without it" -- whether it's my bank account or theological framework or my sense of being in control. If you threaten my self-definition, I respond with fear. Unless, like Jesus, we can set aside those lesser goods, unless we can make "peace through the blood of the cross." Here again comes up the “fear” as a contrast to what Jesus is about.
That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Here she speaks of the cross and Jesus’ blood. Maybe we will see a good exegesis of the Gospel message. Let’s keep reading.
Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children. Mother Jesus!? Why is this thrown in here? Does she develop any theme for which this appellation might make sense? Let’s read on.
If we're going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we're going to have to give up fear. Nope! Just more talk about fear. Somebody really ought to have a talk with her about her fears. Either that, or she thinks someone else has an awful lot of fears, or both. Also, this Colossians passage has nothing to do with what she is talking about. Did she pay attention to the reading of the day? And what does “mother Jesus” have to do with any of this? Quite apart from some possible desire to provoke, it just does not fit into the flow of any thoughts she is seeking to develop.
What do the godly messengers say when they turn up in the Bible? "Fear not." "Don't be afraid." "God is with you." "You are God's beloved, and God is well-pleased with you." Yeah, the Angel of the Lord often says “fear not,” but then he goes on to a substantive message. The “godly messengers” told those who they encountered not to fear, because like Isaiah in Chapter 6, he knew that his sin in the presence of a Holy God gives him great reason to fear were it not for the mercy of God by His unilateral act to take away the sin of those in God’s holy presence. Other than "You are God's beloved, and God is well-pleased with you" where is the substantive message? Any demands or requests of us from God? Not in this sermon, other than the fear theme, which again comes up again and again. Not only is there an odd theme of “fear” which does not fit with any biblical text, she ignores the real reason why people are told by an angel not to fear: because God has acted through Jesus Christ to take away our sin and hence reconciled us to a Holy God who sinners would otherwise rightly fear.
When we know ourselves beloved of God, we can begin to respond in less fearful ways. More fear. This lady has got issues! It is not because we are “beloved of God” that we need not fear him; it is because God takes away our sin.
When we know ourselves beloved, we can begin to recognize the beloved in a homeless man, or rhetorical opponent, (“rhetorical opponent?” – I assume she means we conservatives)
or a child with AIDS. When we know ourselves beloved, we can even begin to see and reach beyond the defense of others. What is the “defense of others” all about? I thought that to defend others, like the widow, orphan and downtrodden was a good thing. Does she imply that it is not?
Our invitation, both in the last work of this Convention, and as we go out into the world, is to lay down our fear and love the world. Fear again contrasted with love. Is this the sum and substance of the Christian message for her?
Lay down our sword and shield, and seek out the image of God's beloved in the people we find it hardest to love. What is “our sword and shield”? She does not seem to be using the Biblical references of Ephesians 6:13-17. What does this mean?
Lay down our narrow self-interest, and heal the hurting and fill the hungry and set the prisoners free. Lay down our need for power and control, and bow to the image of God's beloved in the weakest, the poorest, and the most excluded. She has not developed these themes, and her constant mention of fear makes me wonder how this fits in here. What does it mean to “bow to the image of God’s beloved” in others?
We children can continue to squabble over the inheritance. Is this what she thinks GC2006 was doing, since she wrote and delivered this sermon at the Convention Eucharist? If so, what does she give us to stop our “continu[ing] to squabble over the inheritance”? Nothing, other than her invocations against “fear.”
Or we can claim our name and heritage as God's beloveds and share that name, beloved, with the whole world.This sermon makes no serious attempt to exegete the scriptures. The one scriptural reference is to Colossians, but her mention of it has no connection to what is actually in the text of Colossians 1:11-20 which was the reading for this liturgy. No wonder she so quickly drifted into the goofy “Mother Jesus” phrase when she was so focused on fear and so disconnected with the scriptures. What is the Gospel message here? I see nothing about sin, atonement, resurrection, a striving for holiness, or anything else which is characteristic of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This sermon has engendered much attention for the “mother Jesus” phrase which she used. It was, upon scrutiny, an random inflammatory comment having little to do with the central message she gave. But what is her central message? The homily, the first which she gave as the newly elected PB, sets forth what she considers significant for the church. The subject of Fear verses Love with the suggestion to eschew the former and embrace the later? If this is the sum and substance of the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the “mother Jesus” comment is the least of her difficulties with orthodox Anglican Christianity.
Jesus said, “perfect love casts out fear,” but this can only be understood in the context of the essential Gospel message which says, “repent, and believe in the Gospel.” If fear and love are the two polar opposite points in the theology of Katharine Jefferts Schori, there is strong reason to believe that the blessing of same-sex unions is the least of this bishop’s difficulties as she takes on the leadership of the American church. She expressed after the General Convention her support for the millennium development goals (in effect, the elimination of global poverty by churches giving 0.7% of their gross receipts to international charitable causes) as the essence of what the Gospel is about for her. She should re-read the New Testament, and listen to the words of Jesus in response to the indignation of Judas that the expensive ointment was being wasted on Jesus when it could have been sold to give to the poor. “The poor will always be with you,” Jesus said. So much for the elimination of global poverty being what the Gospel is really about. Is this really the central message of the Gospel, Bishop Katherine? If so, heaven help the lost sheep of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Schori,... you have missed the boat, and are charting a course for this church which takes it into the very troubled waters of unfocused confusion at best, and a wholesale departure from the Gospel at worst. I fear the worst, ma’am.