I’M STILL READING THE HOST OF MATERIAL, and the responses to it, that have come out of The Episcopal Church in the United States’ General Convention. Though understood, received and responded to in as many different ways as there are human beings it’s certainly true, as the song has it, that “All over the world the Spirit is moving!” I’ve read and re-read the Presiding Bishop’s closing address to Convention, some of the closing paragraphs of which are hereunder:
Jesus is prodding Simon Peter into that kind of tension when he asks him if he loves him more than these. Do you love me? Do you really love me? Can I trust that you love me? Then go out there and feed my sheep!
What are the lesser loves, what does Jesus mean when he asks if Peter loves him more than these? Does he mean the other disciples? The fish they’ve just had for breakfast? The vocation of fishing? Or maybe the whole package? Whatever it is, it has to move into the background if Peter is going to feed and tend the flock. Around here I think it has something to do with how right we think we are. What or who are we more in love with, than Jesus?
The job is to feed the sheep. Nothing else matters a whole lot. And Jesus is clear that it’s not just the flock right in front of us. There are other hungry sheep that we don’t see every day, which is one reason for many shepherds. We may all be sheep, but we all also share in the work of shepherds.
It’s of immeasurable assurance to me that one of our Anglican Primates is the present grace-filled and rock-steady Archbishop of Canterbury, and that another is the prophetic and pioneering Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori. The two don’t always agree with each other, and I don’t always pretend to understand the nuanced giftedness in either, but the Spirit illuminates Word and Sacrament through each of them. And I believe that spells hope and more encouraging tomorrows for us all. God grant us grace to pray daily for the shepherds.