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Welcome to the Anglican Kossacks edition of Brothers and Sisters. While I often write these diaries from an Anglican perspective, it is certainly not meant to be exclusive of those with different belief structures, or for that matter, those who profess no faith at all. I share this perspective with you tonight because it is in the sharing of our traditions and diversity that we become stronger in our understanding, in our community, and in our humanity.  

When I travel, I like to visit Episcopal churches for services. This morning, I visited The Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, NC. I will share with you below some pictures of this beautiful church and a reflection on today's readings.

First, a word about our diary series:

Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.
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For Christians following the lectionary, today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter. The Propers below are according to the Revised Common Lectionary except for the Collect, which is from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

The Collect

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire: through Jesus Christ , our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading

 Acts 10:44-48
The Holy Spirit falls upon Gentiles; even Gentiles can receive new life in Baptism.

Psalm

Ps. 98

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Second Reading

1 John 5:1-6
His commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world

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(This is the Alleluia for Low Sunday, as I could not find Easter VI).

The Gospel

John 15:9-17
Love one another as I have loved you.

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The Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh has a long, rich, history. It is a welcoming parish--welcoming to all, and is deeply involved in social justice ministries in downtown Raleigh, located just a block from the State Capitol. I knew I was welcome when I was greeted with this:

The High Altar, with its beautiful reredos: the Altar has remained on the east wall, the Priest facing east along with the congregation

The nave is adorned with exquisite stained glass work:

An able choir and musician lead the singing with the help of this lovely Casavant et Freres two-manual tracker:

The members are lovely, and the church was quite full today. Not only that, but the choir member who was greeting us in the narthex happens to be from South Portland, and another member to whom she introduced me has a niece who is a member of my parish, St. Luke's, in Portland. In fact, I know her niece and her husband--they can frequently be found of a Sunday ministering as ushers at our cathedral parish. It seems nearly everywhere I go in Episcopalian circles, there is less than six degrees of separation. In fact, I very nearly went to Christ Church today, because one of the clergy on staff had interned at my home parish in Boston when she was at seminary in Cambridge. I'll see if I can stop in and say hello to Jennifer during the week. It's a small world, and the Episcopal world, even smaller.

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A Brief Reflection

I suppose that if one were going to distill the core tenets of Christianity down to their purest essence, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" might well be what would be left. Christians, of course, have a long history of struggling with this commandment. In fact we're not very good about loving one another (or non-Christians) at all. Not with any great consistency.

It was interesting to sit in church here in North Carolina on the Sunday after the vote to amend the state constitution in a way which prohibits the recognition of any domestic living arrangement between consenting adults outside of heterosexual marriage--especially in light of today's readings.

In the passage from Acts, Peter's Jewish followers were shocked to see Gentiles "speaking in tongues and extolling God", apparently a sign that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, but Peter's reaction is, essentially, "who are we to judge? Let them be baptized!". Now I'm with St. Paul as far as speaking in tongues goes (I just try not to go there) but what Peter does is interesting. "So what if they're Gentiles? They can be moved by the Spirit just like we can". What would St. Peter say about LGBT Christians today? We can't be sure, but I'd like to think he'd say "let them be moved, let them be baptized".

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he has loved them as his Father has loved Him, and that they are to love one another, and that we, today, are to love one another. This seems pretty clear. In fact, it doesn't get any clearer than that.

It struck me, sitting in church this morning, that there is not a whole lot of loving going on these days. There's not a whole lot of inviting going on. Sitting in a congregation where undoubtedly some people cast a vote which I see as unloving--even un-Christian--and others cast theirs as I would have, it really is not for me to judge. God loves us all. Even when we're being unloving towards one another, disobeying Christ's commandment. This is very difficult for me, personally, a real struggle. I must love those who wish to do me harm, and I must remember that in not doing so, I fail to follow the most basic tenet of my faith. The commandment may be simple, but Jesus never said it was going to be easy.

Loving one another, accepting everyone into the fold who cares to journey with us, requires communication. Perhaps where we are, as a society, as a country, as a world, we must go back to basics. Sharing our experiences, our understandings, our concerns, our opinions in such a way that we begin from love (and from God's love) rather than strive to achieve it. Perhaps we are going about it all wrong--rather than arguing from a point of certainty about how right we are, maybe we should set that aside and go back to the basics. God loves us. Only from there can we come to love one another as God loves us.

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What are your joys, concerns, prayers, reflections? Please share them with the community if you are so moved. May we all find peace, comfort and strength this night, and every night and day.

Originally posted to Anglican Kossacks on Sun May 13, 2012 at 06:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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