Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Mess of Potage

We've all been to a potluck supper.

I presume we have.

At least, that's what we call it around here.

Everyone coming brings some part of a meal - a salad or a main course or a dessert. It's the luck of the pot what the meal turns out like.

I've learned many things about pot luck suppers.

- There is never enough lemon meringue pie.

- There is almost always too much jellied salad.

- One should never use the occasion of a potluck supper to try out a new recipe.

I learned that last one the hard way.

It was, so to speak, a wifetime ago. We were going to the Christmastide (ie, after December 25 and during the 12 days of Christmas) clergy party in one of the points of my parish. It was to be a family event. We'd eat, and then we'd go carolling. Which would mess people up, of course, because most of the secular world thinks Christmas ENDS on December 25th.

As the only clergy family that didn't actually live in that town, we needed a dish that would travel well. So my children's mother found a recipe for a humus like stew of chick peas, lentils and other stuff. According to the recipe book, there was a tradition that this stew was the "mess of potage" for which Esau sold his birthright.

As I said, we learned that night never to try out a new recipe when you're off to a potluck.

The other thing I learned that night was that Esau was even a bigger yutz than the Genesis account lets on.

The story is simple.

Jacob is cooking a stew. Esau returns from the field and says to his younger brother, "give me some of that stew." Jacob says, "sure - if you sell me your birthright." And Esau agrees.

Well, if that was the stew, Esau was a very stupid fellow. Bland was about the nicest thing you could say about it. Bland and with the consistency of wallpaper paste mixed with feathers.

Quite apart from the quality of the stew, the Genesis story points to Esau's foolishness and faithlessness in failing to give proper value to his birthright. He didn't take what he had seriously - he didn't value it - and so he lost it.

You remember the Joanie Mitchell song, I presume?

Don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
Pave paradise,
put up a parking lot.

We Anglicans have a birthright.

Our birthright is a Church where intelligence and intellect are valued, where questions are honoured, where diversity of opinion and of practice is respected.

Our birthright is a Church where the highest of high churchmen and the lowest of low churchmen can coexist. While the shape of the liturgy may be found in virtually every parish, the style and presentation can vary widely. While some of the clergy may appeal to the Early Church Fathers, others may appeal to the Caroline Divines, to Calvin, to Aquinas. All of them will try to claim the Judicious Divine, Dr. Hooker.

Our birthright is a Church that rejects the exclusive extremism of both Rome and Geneva while embracing the insights of both.

There are those who would have us sell our birthright for a mess of potage called certainty. They would have us set aside our experience as Canadian Anglicans and have us submit to the dictates of a self-appointed junta of foreign prelates - even though the rejection of foreign control was an essential part of the birth of Anglicanism.

Yes, Anglicanism is messy. We don't all look or talk or think the same.

It causes grief for our ecumenical partners. They don't understand our Via Media.

When the Roman Cardinal said we'd have to choose if we were catholic or protestant, he didn't understand that we HAVE chosen - and that we are both.

Messy, messy Anglicanism.

The very messiness of Anglicanism is it's strength as well as it's weakness - the comprehensive Anglicanism that seeks not "windows into men's souls." This questioning, searching, worshipping messiness is our birthright.

Let us not sell it for the bland stew of somebody else's absolutism.

2 comments:

hugh matheson said...

well,well, finally someone who remembers the word, "comprehensiveness" This concept seems to have been forgotten in the debate so far. In fact I don't think I have heard it since school. Perhaps a more Anglican debate would develop if we paid more attention to it now. Well done Malcom.

Doorman-Priest said...

"Our birthright is a Church where intelligence and intellect are valued, where questions are honoured, where diversity of opinion and of practice is respected."

Not in GAFCON it's not.