From the Rector
Proper 10: Be Right or In Relationship
This weekend we’ll hear story of the beheading of John the Baptizer. It’s a strange, sad story, one seemingly better fit for Game of Thrones than the Gospel of our Lord. But when you consider that Mark chose to include it – Mark, who skips the first 30 years of Jesus’ life to start the gospel at Jesus’ baptism, who barely has time for adjectives, who seems in a rush to get to the Passion – then we must pause long enough to consider what it has to do with our life with God.
When I prayed over the passage this week, what popped out to me was the way Herod acquiesces to John’s beheading, even though he knows it’s a mistake. He is far from a sympathetic character, but it’s not hard to glean from the story that Herod consents to the execution against his better judgment. Mark even goes so far as to say Herod sort of liked John, or at least believed him to be genuinely holy. Yet here he is, consenting to John’s brutal death because he would rather save face in front of his family and court than admit he made a rash and foolish promise.
I can’t help but recognize something familiar in Herod’s actions. I wonder…have you ever gone ahead with something that you knew would probably have negative consequences, that you regretted almost immediately, simply because you didn’t want to admit you were wrong? So often we are more committed to our pride, to our sense of being right, than we are to the total good. Thankfully, unlike Herod, our selfishness doesn’t usually lead to the death of others, yet our obedience of the way of Christ, and our enactment of his mercy and love, can be painfully hindered when we fall into the trap that snared Herod.
In anticipation of my fortieth birthday on Sunday, someone recently asked me for the best piece of advice I’ve ever received. That’s easy: you can be right, or you can be in relationship. I received this advice before my wedding from a wise friend who knew that this is the secret of a healthy marriage. You can be right, or you can in relationship. We are all so sure of our own rightness – in belief, in action, in attitude – and our world has successfully conditioned most of us to be zero-sum soldiers, to think that by our being right, the other person must therefore be wrong (and by extension, a form of “enemy”). We are right, and therefore we must go to the mat fighting for our belief. It likely comes as no surprise that marriages between people who live this way, in this simmering stew of aggravation and competition, don’t usually last very long.
It’s not only married people who need this piece of wisdom. Sometimes the mature thing, the loving thing, the Christian thing, is to set aside our “rightness” in order to hold onto relationship with someone else. We don’t have to treat every conversation and every debate as a competition we must win. Just like marriages, friendships don’t last very long if there are always winners and losers. Oh, how much goodness and mercy would be made manifest if we remembered that our zealousness to be right is too often a barrier to relationship.
Today, I am proud to say that General Convention of The Episcopal Church embraced this wisdom in order to pass Resolution B012. B012 is a compromise by which Transfiguration, and parishes like us around the wider church, will finally be able to host the marriages of all our members. We will no longer be bound by the need of some to be exclusively “right.” Room has finally been made for those of true faith and good conscience to disagree and move forward together. Bishop Sumner and I will still need to work out the details of how this compromise resolution will be enacted, but the bottom line is that, beginning this December, same-sex couples will finally be treated like all other couples at Transfiguration, and be married right here by our clergy.
I can’t wait to see you all this weekend to rejoice with you! May the grace and peace and love of Christ be with you all this day and always.