Bishop Porter Taylor’s Meditation for the 17th Week of Pentecost
Saturday, I had the privilege to confirm, receive, or reaffirm 70 people at Falls Church. I admit I was a little nervous about being around so many people because of Covid 19 protocols. In addition, I never had this many candidates at one time in Western North Carolina. However, I remembered that early in my episcopacy in Western North Carolina I was preparing to be with a congregation deep into discord and mistrust. When I asked my Canon to the Ordinary how in the world I was going to help these people, he said, “Just show up. God does all the heavy lifting.”
In like manner, I showed up Saturday with my mask and my purple shirt and crozier. The sanctuary was a sea of people all in masks. We sang; we prayed; we heard the scriptures being read and I placed my hands on the heads of 70 people who came to increase their capacity to do God’s work in the world as Episcopalians. I rediscovered that when you say the same sentence over and over, something happens. Strengthen, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit; empower her for your service; and sustain him all the days of their life. I realized, it wasn’t just the candidates that were being empowered or sustained. The Holy Spirit showed up for everyone.
This is one of the ways God works because the essential components are not the people’s resumes or talents. It’s never about us. It’s always about God. It’s always been about God. Our job is to show up and say “Yes,” and God does everything else. At some point in the service, I forgot my concern about getting the words and the actions correct, and I forgot about my concerns over people being infected, and I became aware of the real activity in the room—which was the Holy Spirit showing up, binding us together, and empowering us for God’s work. For a time there was no Covid; there was no political acrimony in Washington; there was no increase in the various prejudices and divisions that infect our country; there was the peace that passes all understanding. There was the sense of a communion with the Spirit.
As I was driving home, I realized instead of being tired, I was animated and felt a peace that I had not felt for some time. The issues of the world and our nation still existed, but I wasn’t carrying a heavy burden. I remembered God was in control, and all that was required of me was to do my part, be honest about my limitations as well as my hopes for a broken world and to ask God to use me as God willed. There was a sense of a freedom I had not felt in many months because God was doing all the heavy lifting.
God is God, and we are simply called to be instruments of God’s will. As one of the saints said, “It’s up to God to think of me, and up to me to think of God.” For the time being, I plan on using the final prayer of the service as my daily prayer: “Grant almighty God that the words we have heard this day with our outward ears may through your grace be so grafted inwardly in our hearts that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living.”