Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori opened her Sunday sermon to General Convention yesterday by quoting these words of Jesus to the daughter of Jairus on what most wise persons in the area took to be her deathbed. Two words: 'Talitha koum!" That is, "Little girl, get up!" Or, as the Bishop phrased it yesterday, "Get up girl! You're not dead yet!" The outgoing Presiding Bishop applied this call directly to the church, to the Episcopal Church: "Get up girl! You're not dead yet." She didn't have to belabor the application. Her listeners 'got it' right away. Surrounded for more than a decade with knowledgable experts announcing her demise, this assembly of God's people lives. Lives yet. And will live.
That moment in worship was preceded earlier as the Utah sun began its ascent into the skies above the Wasatch mountain range by a march and rally of 1500 calling for common ground to stem gun violence in the nation. Bishops, police officers, a survivor of a mass shooting who lost her youngest child in the melee all rose to testify to the fact that death, the death that thought it had the twelve year-old daughter of Jairus in its grasp in the Gospel, is an implacable enemy. In the particular guise of massive gun violence (1,000,000 Americans per year affected by such events), death is seeking its way among us.
Here too. the call was "Talitha koum!" Find the way to life. Seek the common ground where all who seek safety for loved ones and family, neighbors and self, can find a way forward together; a way that leads from death to life. Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry addressed the marchers at the concluson of the rally. His words and voice provided a clarion call to lean on faith, to lean on the God who calls us together, to lean on the truth that we are brothers ands sisters in the Lord in order to find that way to life.
The two voices that filled the Convention's morning on Sunday are different and complementary. They speak to the value of both continuity and change. More on that when I write again.
Wherever you are, whoever you are, if you are a part of small parish wondering what's next, or a family member facing the loss of a loved one, or a worker for peace who witnesses violence near and far, hear the voice of Jesus still fresh from the lips of believers and leaders today: "Talitha koum!" Get on your feet. You are alive.