"Is humanity a bag o' glass?"
Reflection by Josh Shipman, MDiv 2015, Diocese of Colorado following yesterday's visit on the seminary campus by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:
There was an old Saturday Night Live skit—from the days of Dan Aykroyd—that involved a character named Irwin Mainway. Mr. Mainway operated Mainway Toys, a manufacturer of questionable toys for children, including Johnny Switchblade—a doll that had real knives, and Bag O’ Glass—a bag of shards of broken glass. When pressed about the safety of his Bag O’ Glass, Mr Mainway states, “We put a label on every bag that says ‘Kid: Be careful. Broken glass.’”
If only ministry came with such a warning: Danger! Sharp Edges! Prickly Situations Ahead!
At Seminary of the Southwest, today, we were warned about some of the jagged edges of ministry. In our lesson in Chapel today, expounded upon by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, we read, “So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles” (Rev 14:19-20). The idea of two hundred miles of blood flowing from a wine press full of the faithful is not really an appealing image. It sounds rather painful, in fact. But Bishop Katharine urged us to think about the possibilities. No good wine can come without a harvest and without crushing. We are broken open to become a better vintage. We are crushed, so that we may be made into a new creation.
More uncertainty and prickly situations followed in Bishop Katharine’s evening lecture. Bishop Katharine focused on embodied ministry. We are individual bodies, but we are also the Body of Christ. We are responsible for the love and care of those within our Body, the Church, but we are also responsible for those outside the Church. Additionally, we are responsible for the wellbeing of the celestial body on which we live: the earth, our fragile island home. This is a tall order. This seems like a big bag ‘o glass.
But Bishop Katharine assures us that we as ministers (both lay and ordained) in the Episcopal Church can handle this task. Mainly, she says, we need to listen: to each other and to those outside our tradition. We need to find commonalities amongst our various traditions (and non-traditions, as it were), but we also need to celebrate our differences. Humanity has a treasure trove of religious ideas. We need to celebrate our rich religious heritages. And within the great story of humanity, we need to strengthen our own individual stories.
The question becomes, then, is humanity a bag o’ glass, something that is broken and dangerous? Or is it a mosaic, something that is creative and beautiful?
Are we broken, discarded pieces of glass?
Or are we art?