No one in the Episcopal Church has come right out and said it within my hearing, but if you’re Episcopalian you just know by example that talking about your personal relationship with Jesus is kind of vulgar. Not that we don’t have personal relations with Jesus, but much like any topic discussed in your 10th grade health class, speaking about what Jesus Christ has done for you is not for polite conversation.
This is why, while visiting my mother in Tennessee this week when we passed a circus tent by the side of the road with a big sign in front that read “The Way of the Cross Old Fashion Tent Revival Camp Meeting” I made her stop the car and turn around. Thirty miles from the nearest Episcopal Church, I wanted to worship with this side of the Christian family; the cousins we rarely have the courage to invite to inter-faith services because they might talk about hell or worse, get filled with the Holy Ghost and start shouting. And what would we do then? The Book of Common Prayer doesn’t have a rubric for when someone is slain by the Holy Spirit.
The Holston River Boys kicked off the revival with Christian mountain music on banjo and guitar. Every song told a story about what heaven will be like or about how Jesus took a bullet for their sins. Next up was a church elder in a suit and tie who invited everyone with a prayer need to come on up to the stage/altar and ask the Holy Spirit to descend upon our gathering.
Like someone at a foreign restaurant who’s decided they’re all in, I jumped up and followed a small crowd forward. Everyone fell to their knees and touched the stage until there wasn’t any more room and we put our hands on the shoulders of the people kneeling in front of us. As if the slipping the last quarter the world has into a pay phone and saying everything we need God to hear before the time runs out, the prayers were cacophonous and desperate. Overwhelmed, and inexperienced with public holy, begging, the only prayer I could muster was tears.
When Jesus says the poor, the hungry and the mourning are blessed could it be because, like children and the lovesick, they know they can’t save themselves?
God, my way is independence and safety which, I’ve learned through vast experience, are filled with empty calories. Your way is needing and risk. Both come at a high price. That’s why anyone who loves you out loud and in public looks like a sucker.
Please, dear Jesus, in your good time, make me a sucker too.
Your sister in Christ,