Diversity with a Center

In today’s world, information is all too often conveyed in quick sound bites or 140 character tweets. News cycles move quickly and the line between fake news and real is blurred, differing depending on your go-to source. The very concept of truth in our post-modern world has become so completely deconstructed as to reject any absolute truth itself, which is itself an absolute truth claim. Ken Wilbur names this our cultural dilemma aperspectival madness.  And because we human beings cannot live in the chaos we’ve created, we’re increasingly polarizing into very narrow bands of the like-minded. Those who dogmatically question everything and have no center on the one hand, and those who are those entrenched within very rigid, dogmatic lines of right/wrong constructs for whom shades of grey cannot exist—even if the foundation is built on lies, it is better than no truth.  Most of us are somewhere in between, struggling to make sense of the world around us and our place within it.

As Christians, we claim our center is Jesus, the Christ, who not only reveals God to us but also shows us how to hold spirit and matter together in beautiful, life-giving tension.  Faith requires us to embrace paradox:  that the way to greatness is by being least of all, that the essence of the One God is dynamic relationship, that life comes through death.  And Jesus also affirms the ultimate transcendence of humility, love, patience and an abiding, faithful trust in the God of love.  As Anglicans, we are known for being via media, translated the middle way, holding together both/and what others sought to separate when Reformers and Roman Catholics were reacting against one another. And the center is our common worship: what binds us, one with another, is not what we believe but our common relationship to God.  Now more than ever, we are in need for middle ground with a solid center.

These are challenging times, to be sure. Perhaps it is easier if a church is safely ensconced on one end of the spectrum or another. But for all who follow Jesus and embrace via media—who honor the reality that faithful people can hold differing views—the way is always one of discerning.  How do we hold fast to the Gospel and also challenge our assumptions that may be rooted in culture or blindness and not be gospel at all?  How do we honor the diversity reflected so clearly in this world God created and calls good?  How do we listen with deep respect and care to those whose views differ from our own and how do we hold and affirm all that we can and do agree on as central to our faith and our common life on this fragile earth, our island home?

Here at St. Simon’s, we seek to do just that.  We seek to be faithful to the heart of God, as revealed in Jesus, with a profound humility of knowing we cannot ever know for sure and desiring to be open to the Spirit’s correction as we do. I’m reminded of one of my favorite prayers, written by Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

And so I invite you to share in saying this prayer from Thomas Merton each day, not only for ourselves but for this beautiful world God so loves.

This Sunday is our annual meeting. It is a time to reflect on where we have been and where we are headed. It is a time to honor one another and the movement of the Spirit in and through us.   I hope you’ll join us from 9-11am.  We need all our voices to be who and what God calls us to be.  Tomorrow, we will be sending out the Annual Report electronically, so you can review it in advance of the meeting.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth