The Rector’s Study: Things done, left undone

Things done and things left undone

In fifth grade, each person in my class had to do a report on a state. I chose Tennessee. Much of my father’s family comes from the Smoky Mountains region southeast of Knoxville. My ancestors who fought in the Civil War fought for the Confederacy. And, when it came time for the class to make our presentations, I was dressed in a grey wool jacket and a belt with a buckle that read CSA in block letters. I was quick to point out that Tennessee was the last state to secede and the first to rejoin the Union, but there I was dressed like the ghost of racial oppressions past, in the middle of my elementary school, and no one blinked. Sunday morning, as we knelt and recited the confession, my mind flashed on that memory, as I said the words “things done, and left undone.”

Gen. Robert E. Lee window in the National Cathedral.

Fascism and white supremacy are cancers that eat at the soul, not only of individuals, but of our society. They have metastasized out of the centuries of subjugation and genocide visited on those not of Western European ethnicity. That subjugation built many parts of our country and society and American churches were either complicit with, or actively participated in it. The church continues to suffer from that sin of our history, and we must not shy away from the truths of our many failings. It will not make them go away, but rather fester until we are infected with the same hate as we saw last weekend (August 12-13, 2017).

Last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, should remind us of things done and things left undone. The hate and pain that were so evident on our screens Friday and Saturday call us to account. We have pledged in our Baptism to strive for justice and peace, to respect the dignity of every human being. The gathering of white supremacists and Fascists that descended on Charlottesville is an indication of how much work there is still to do in our own communities, and in our own hearts. We must start by acknowledging our own privilege: economic, cultural, religious, etc., and how we have benefited from the subjugation and genocide that are hallmarks of American history. Only when we have confronted that, can we take those advantages and turn them to reconciliation—to the restoration of dignity of those people at whose expense our advantage was wrought.

And when I say reconciliation, what I mean is supporting those whom society mistreated for the last 400 years. I mean people of color, religious minorities, and those trapped in the cycle of inter-generational poverty. There have been calls in the aftermath of this past weekend for us to “consider both sides,” as if white supremacy and Fascism should be giving equal intellectual footing with human dignity. Beyond the absurdity of that thought, the Gospel requires us, not to consider all the sides, but to choose the side of the oppressed and those who have no power—the side where we stand with Jesus.

What we saw at Charlottesville may seem like an insurmountable problem. It is not. It begins with us. We must confess the things done and left undone by us and on our behalf. Only then can we go about the work of reconciliation in our communities and country.

Jefferson Davis Highway No. 99 marker formerly in Blaine, Washington, at the Peace Arch

Confession of sins

During a Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) service using modern language, this is the confession. It is on page 352 of the Book of Common Prayer:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

During a Daily Morning Prayer service using historic language, this is the confession. It is on page 41 of the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts,
we have offended against thy holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
spare thou those who confess their faults,
restore thou those who are penitent,
according to thy promises declared unto mankind
in Christ Jesus our Lord;
and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

Church of the Redeemer

Community life at Redeemer centers on worship in the Episcopal tradition. Art and music vitally deepen this worship. Our faith expresses itself with service to people, locally to internationally.

Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. We are a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. The entrance looks like a gravel driveway. The campus is larger on the inside than it is on the outside.

The Episcopal Church welcomes you.