The mystery of the Christian liturgy well celebrated remains: God is faithful and waits.
So the liturgy in its whole range—from daily prayer, to initiation rites, to Eucharist, to burying the dead—waits patiently for our humanity to be opened to it. The liturgy waits patiently, like the Scriptures, like Jesus, like the whole life of God who, as Tolstoy once observed, “Sees the truth but waits.” (1)
Heaven is revealed upon the earth both in the cup of cold water which is given to the poor... and in Michelangelo’s David: in both the dance of a child and the melody of Mozart. (2)
Alertness is all. (3)
Belief is appropriately a moving target, which shifts and adjusts with time, circumstances, and the continuing new revelation of the Spirit of God. It’s also so varied and complex—even within a single parish—that any attempt at a summary would be immediately misleading. Belief isn’t a set of ideas or propositions. It’s rather an approach to life and a dynamic engagement with the mystery of God.
The Episcopal Church is not principally identified by its adoption of a creed or an approved statement of doctrine; we are primarily a community formed by the practice of worship. Praying shapes our believing, and, thus, there are no insiders and outsiders but, instead, we are people who gather prayerfully to seek, across all divisions, peace and unity with God and one another and the joy that comes from sharing love directly and personally. Our churchyard, our church building, our facilities, our programs, our ministries, and our worship are open to all, because openness without limitation is the keenest form of spiritual alertness.
Being alert in this way opens to us the reality of God’s heaven in our midst and in our world. Heaven is not merely a distant reward. This is a terrible caricature. Glimpses of heaven are, rather, present to us in the beauty of creation and in our sharing the image of God in our own creativity. They’re also made manifest in many acts of redemption: by our reaching out in care, by our offering forgiveness and reconciliation, and by our making our first delight service to others.
True belief unfolds slowly, across the spans of lifetimes. Our first trust, however, is in the unswerving faithfulness of God, which then makes us free to be always grateful and hopeful, unfettered by anger, bitterness, or judgment and able to live progressively into the realization that all life is the gift of grace. And in this we are able, without exception, to rejoice.
1) Donald Saliers: Worship as Theology
2) Gerardus van der Leeuw: Sacred and Profane Beauty
3) Michael Fishbane: Spiritual Attunement