Living the gospel is listening—and responding

Everything that Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says, the primate writes, “is filtered through the command to love God and one’s neighbour as Jesus did.” Photo:
Published April 1, 2024

Recently I spoke with a group of new clergy at a post-ordination gathering. They are all in the early years of ministry and bring enthusiasm and energy to their desire to serve the gospel. I was envious as I recollected my own enthusiasm in ministry 39 years ago. However, I also recalled times when I was too sure that I knew the “right” way to do things and held too firmly to one perspective, missing the grace of needed nuances or of different ways of being or doing.

One of the gifts of age and experience can be a habit of continually sifting out those ways we think or act that are essential and core from those that are good but not essential. We may need to tweak or even give up some of them—temporarily or permanently—to remain faithful to the gospel. Living the gospel is dynamic. It means deep listening—to the needs of the community and to God’s call through Jesus Christ—and responding in lifegiving ways. Experience, age and reflection open us to the deeper wisdom that can help us in these things.

I have always admired Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church for his ability to articulate his passion for the gospel and continually adhere to its core—God’s love. Everything he says is filtered through the command to love God and one’s neighbour as Jesus did. Of course, the challenge is to discern what that love looks like here and now. What does it look like for our neighbour in the pew? Down the street? In our family? Or across the oceans? Distilling the wisdom to answer these questions requires prayer, study and discussion with an eye to that core of love.

Sometimes the commitments I made in my early ministry were not flexible enough to enable that love of the other in the present moment. Throughout my ministry God has been pruning what may have been good but was unessential. I trust I am learning to hold lightly to that which might block the love of God from being seen, known or experienced by my neighbour. This learning process is the constant journey of repentance and humility that we all live as we grow into our baptism.

Occasionally I have met someone who naturally exemplifies this way of living. They exude a peace, grace and love that invite without judgement. They are flexible and wise in the way they express love, whether it is in passionate advocacy; in grace and forgiveness; in sacrifice; in commitment; in personal humility; or in self-examination. They invite me to seek to live more fully into God’s love.

Whether it comes as a gift of experience and age or is a natural way of being, I pray that we all seek to hold firmly to the core of our faith while recognizing our need to be pruned of all that is not essential to the light and love of Jesus being known through us.


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