At the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist, in the Mission District of San Francisco, we share communion standing in a circle, the homeless, the transvestites, the breastfeeding mothers, the white guys in bow ties, a family gathered around a table, celebrating the unbreakable love that holds us together. My Baptist roots pray that Jesus returns, right here, right now, sees us like this, shoulder to shoulder, taking care of each other, sees that we will be alright, that we are going to make it.
Suddenly he is here. The hands of the lay minister praying over the sick, those are Jesus’ hands. Their healing power is real, not in some abstract intellectual metaphorical way, but actually real. Humans cannot thrive without touch. In Rene Spitz’ famous 1945 study of babies raised in institutional environments, more than a third died, and most were physically, mentally, and socially retarded. Who wants to touch a sick person? Jesus.
The voice of the priest inviting us to join the Vigil for Peace, that is Jesus’ voice. The list of peacemakers who have died by violence is long, Martin Luther King, Yitzhak Rabin, Thomas Becket, both Kennedys, all three Ghandis. Who would risk assassination to embrace the herculean task of lifting humanity above our basic fight or flight responses? It’s crazy. Who would lay down his life for his friends, and exhort his friends to do the same? Jesus.
The relief beds rolled up against the wall belong to Jesus. No government, no economy, no logistical savant in the history of the world has ever been able to solve homelessness, but Jesus did. All he had to do was open the door. The homeless around Saint John’s have a safe, dry, quiet place to rest, just like Jesus did during the years of his travelling ministry. Jesus invites them in from the cold hard streets, rolls out the mats on the church floor, and restores their strength. The homeless are not statistics here, they are beloved children, and he watches over them while they sleep.
The food given away every Saturday belongs to Jesus, too. He feeds his sheep, as promised. No one is quite sure how he pulls it off. The disciples he chooses to carry out this work are not the people you might expect, but that is how he always operates. The unemployment rate in the Kingdom of God is zero. We all have a job to do.
The Mission District is gay and proud, rainbow flags everywhere. As a straight white male from the rural south, this is outside my comfort zone.
I know how some of the Primates of the Anglican Communion must be feeling about the Episcopal Church today. Yet I know, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, that Jesus would never deny his children the bread from his table. Jesus wants his children, all of us, to share the fullness of life embodied in his sacraments. I know because he is here, right now, doing just that.
Where are you?