Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Change Your Mind

"Emerging Beauty"
-At the Desert Retreat House-

After years of deadlock and discrimination, yesterday the Church of England voted to allow women to serve as bishops in the church. For the past several years, women have been welcomed as priests in the Anglican church, but a conservative and traditionalist element of church leadership had been standing firm and blocking the ordination of women as bishops - unwilling to break with a tradition of exclusion and discrimination.  They claimed that the ancient doctrine of the church forbids women from serving as bishops - for 2000 years it's been "men-only." 

Yesterday it all changed. 

I listened to a BBC radio report from London yesterday in which leaders of the Anglican church were asked how it was that the deadlock finally ended. The simple response to this question nearly "bowled me over," as one of the traditionalists who had previously stood in opposition said, "many of us surprisingly changed our minds." 

Image that, for years these guys have been lobbying against admitting women to the rank of bishops.  For years they have been vociferous and even strident in their bold opposition,  and then they "surprisingly change their minds" in the cause of inclusion. 

When I heard that interview yesterday I immediately called to mind the very first sermon Jesus ever gave as he began his public ministry. The first words out of his mouth were: "Repent and believe the good news!"  

Today we hear the word "repent," and we translate it as: "Be sorry for your offenses against God." But that's not at all what the word "repent" meant in its original language. "Repent" is far better translated as: 

Change your mind!

Even "change your mind" isn't strong enough to get at the essence of Jesus' call to "repent,"  Changing your mind involves more than changing your opinion - a change of mind is a total change of heart. The call to repent is a call to turn around completely - mind, heart, spirit.  Repent:  

Believe the good news!

The good news is that there are to be no outsiders standing on the margins looking in. Every human being has equal dignity and is worthy of equal respect, and anyone who really believes this good news will embrace the world with the wide-open arms of radical hospitality and live a life of boundless compassion. 

I think that's what happened in London yesterday when those folks "surprisingly changed their minds,"  and opened closed doors to those who were outside looking in. They repented and believed the good news.

As I think about it, the invitation to "repent and believe the good news" isn't only directed to those who follow in the path of Christ. This invitation lies at the core of any spiritual journey.

The Buddha taught that there is no place for attachments on any spiritual journey. Attachments bring suffering. There is no place for clinging to unbending ideas or rigidly adhering to doctrine, dogma or tradition on the spiritual path.   

The path of enlightenment always flows in the direction of compassion and inclusion.

And on this path, if we find that we are moving in the direction of closing doors and putting up barriers, we know we're going the wrong way, and that's when it's time to turn around: "Repent and believe the good news!" 

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