Bishop Wright: 0:00
We are as a society, as a nation, as a world, not just one bright idea away from a better world. You know, what would get us to a better world would be a national, a statewide, a global commitment to loving everybody with dignity, to striving for justice, right. So that’s not just an idea. The idea has a part of it, but the idea won’t take you the whole way. We’ve got lots of bright people all over the world working really hard, but there’s a lack of will to love.
Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau and this is a conversation inspired by For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and link to subscribe in the episode’s description hey, bishop.
Bishop Wright: 0:55
You called this week’s devotion builds Very brief. It’s based off of 1 Corinthians, chapter 8, 1 through 13, and it’s all about love. And you start your opening line of your devotion as you say the Bible is timeless because humans are consistent. Yep, Can you unpack that statement?
Bishop Wright: 1:20
Oh my God, it stands alone. But I mean, I’ll try.
Well, here’s what I’m curious about. I think you choose your words very intentionally, and this is a standalone statement. It’s kind of a duh, but you name it anyway. Yeah, how come?
Bishop Wright: 1:38
Well, I hear people, and even some people in the church, talk about, you know, we don’t need to read the Bible. I can have my faith without the Bible, et cetera, et cetera, and I think that’s completely wrongheaded. I mean, you know, why wouldn’t you want to take a resource? Why wouldn’t you want to use the collected experiences of, with all of its flaws, why wouldn’t you want to use the collected experience of people with the divine and bring the best of that into your life? Understand it deeply, understand that some of its history and some of its hyperbole and some of its poetry, some of its prose, I mean, why wouldn’t you want to use that for your life? I think you wouldn’t want to use that for your life because you know, it’s not that, you’re afraid of the scholarly complications of the whole thing. You don’t want that mirror, mm-hmm, you know you don’t want the mirror, and I think the mirror is critical now, perhaps now more than ever. And I say that because society’s gone off rails. It’s all about us, it’s all about pride, it’s all about ego, it’s all about me and mine and those who agree with me. Opinion is overcome facts. We don’t do a good job reflecting. We’re so busy that we’re constantly distracted, we don’t have time, we don’t make time to catch up with ourselves and we don’t have, you know, the wherewithal. I think it’s not an expectation, society now to develop the wherewithal to slow down, to consider yourself in relationship to these words, like knowledge puffs up but love builds up. Look, information and wisdom are two different things, mm-hmm. And so we’re in an ocean of information and praise. Be to God. We have this great tool, this technology, right, but it has its limitations and even has its pitfalls. So I like the Bible and I read that along with lots of other things, but the Bible is timeless and it will continue to be timeless because it knows us better than we want to know ourselves.
Yeah, yeah. Somehow I wonder if some folks think that we’ve evolved beyond the need for the wisdom of the Bible right. One of my favorite periods of time to study is the Middle Ages yeah, you know, pre -Renaissance and I think it’s maybe not the longest irony living. I think Jerusalem is the city of peace, but no, I think it’s weird that so many people call that time the Dark Ages, like people were not as evolved or as wise or smart as we are. And I gotta tell you, bishop, cause I kind of feel like sometimes I feel like we are living in dark ages.
Bishop Wright: 4:16
Yeah, yeah, no, I mean, I think every, every society always looks back and wonders if we are now not the new and improved. But one wonders when, when you dive deep into the, you know the richness of these stories and these sayings, you start to see the genius of the ancients and you see the sort of the depth, deep thought and the relationships you know that, that people have had with the divine and culture. Look, we also need to say too, there’s misogyny in this book. We need to say that there’s what we would call now homophobism in this book, and I think that’s why we don’t turn away from it. We go deeper into it and we begin to understand that these people were also limited, as we are limited. Their viewpoints were limited as our viewpoints are limited. And yet there is something I think there is treasure here. There is still treasure here, and so I think that the Bible actually turns in on itself and it gives us the ability to interrogate notions like misogyny and homophobism by its own words, and so I love that about it. But it’s look, it’s not for people who want just a thin veneer of spirituality, right, and this is what Paul is actually saying to the church in Corinth. It’s saying hey look, you guys are a bright, guys are a bright bunch, you guys are quite accomplished. You’ve got all the scholarly you know, accolades and achievements. But knowledge has its limits, right. And what we need to do to build ourselves up, to build one another up, to build our society up, we need love. Love is God’s most adaptive technology.
I love that because I’m thinking okay, what is technology? Technology is a tool to achieve something, and so my wonder is is love the tool or is it the outcome, or is it both?
Bishop Wright: 6:13
Yes, yes, love is the means and the ends. And look, haven’t we am I the only sinner on the call here? Haven’t we wrecked enough stuff with ego and information alone? And haven’t we learned as we age that one can be candid and kind, that one can be truthful and gentle? Now, these are harder things to hold together, it is true. I personally struggle to hold these things together as well as I would like, but nevertheless, that is the work. And when we temper even the hardest truths with love, we find out that if that’s what we’re really after, if we’re after destroying somebody, then don’t worry about anything I’m saying. But if the ultimate goal is solutions and increased strength and increased community wellbeing, then this is the way we go. And that’s what Paul is trying to tell at this very talented group in Corinth is that, look, knowledge is half the way. That’s only a bus that’ll take you half the distance. If you wanna build a whole distance, if you wanna sort of fill all the cracks and the gaps, then you’ve got to bring love. Now, why we don’t do that is that it slows everything down. Right, because I’ve gotta hear from you, I’ve gotta get a sense of your journey, I’ve gotta get a sense of your failings and of your pains and grieves. I’ve gotta get to know you and, rather than just run rough shot over you, here’s what the Bible knows that we need to hear again that we are as a society, as a nation, as a world, not just one bright idea away from a better world. We’re not. We’re not what we are. What would get us to a better world would be a national, a statewide, a global commitment to loving everybody with dignity, to striving for justice. So that’s not just an idea. The idea has a part of it, but idea won’t take you the whole way. We’ve got lots of bright people all over the world working really hard, but there’s a lack of will to love and we’re looking for excuses not to love this one or that one, or asylum seekers at our borders, or the gay ones, or the trans ones, or the black ones, or the ones who enjoy the benefit of white privilege. We’re looking for excuses not to love people and the Bible just says well, good luck with that. That won’t get you where you really want to go.
Yeah, I think sometimes we reduce love to just this idea. And gosh love to me, spoken later in a later chapter by Paul, is that love is blameless, love doesn’t find fault.
Bishop Wright: 9:13
Wow, that is huge. Love doesn’t find fault. And so what happens when we start picking apart people’s anything they do right, like we’re so critical and we’re so quick to blame and point out shortcomings and failings of where people miss the mark.
Bishop Wright: 9:31
We’re afraid, we’re afraid, we’re just afraid, we’re afraid, and I think we need to interrogate our own selves here. I mean, we always want to look out to society real fast, right, because it’s easy to do. I think we need to look at what we’re afraid of, because the larger fear looms in your life, the smaller love will loom. Those two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time, right To all my science-minded people. So what love does is it casts out fear, and so it may sound like church talk to some people, but the truth of the matter is is that when our commitment to love and love, as Jesus has embodied it, continues to grow, then we purge ourselves of fear and then we find ourselves in a situation where it is easier and better to be neighborly with people, all kinds of people, right, and I think that’s what Paul is saying. Yeah, anybody can sort of develop a, and you’ll have to do some editing here. You know anybody can develop. You know this perfect society for just a chosen few, right? But you know the work is can we work on the wellbeing of the entire world? And if we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to bother ourselves with notions like again, justice and dignity. And we’re going to have to, you know, bring our brains and our souls to work here. I think this is what Paul is saying. It’s both brain and soul work, and if you just try to do it on brain, it’ll only take you so far, and you can’t just do it on soul. This is not an invitation to kumbaya either. It has to be. Look, one of the reasons why I love the Episcopal Church is because it recognizes intellect as a faith organ. Right, we’re talking about reason, tradition and scripture. When those three come together, then we’ve got this wonderful trifecta. And so this is what I think Paul is saying. He’s just simply saying, out of love, not scolding, he’s simply saying you know, this idea of information is only going to take you so far. At some point you’re going to have to, you know you’re going to have to, as you like to say, melissa, you’re going to have to dirty your hands with what it means to be in relationship with real people.
Well, on that note, we’ll be right back after a short break. Welcome back to For People, Bishop. Love is a big concept, and I think we miss the mark Oftentimes more than we hit it. Where is fear? I don’t know. Maybe we need to give George Lucas that great theologian Morcudos because you mentioned fear before the break, that fear is often the thing that gets in the way of us loving. So maybe the opposite of love isn’t actually hate or indifference, but it’s actually fear. I think we’re all afraid, and we’re all afraid of different things, and so I guess I’m wondering what are the things that we can do to diminish the fear that we’re all dealing with?
Bishop Wright: 13:03
Jesus always named a demon before he cast it out. And so I mean, the invitation in 2024 is for you to get real, real, brave, real, real, brave and to name what you’re afraid of Abandonment, scarcity, loneliness, whatever it is. And I think once we name it, then we’re on our way to holding it maybe as a legitimate concern, or maybe as a family of origin issue or whatever it is. But now we’re on our way to then applying the medicine of love. So what does God have to say about our fears? And I think one of the things that bothers me a lot is that we let fear have the last word. It’s like fear is the plenary speaker of our life. We just let fear just do all the talking. And again, as we talked a little bit about the Bible here, so this is one of the reasons why Scripture is such an important resource to us. So what does the Bible have to say? What if people, for six, 8,000 years, had to say back to fear and just gorge ourselves on that? I think that’s what we’re talking about here, and so, other than that, if you don’t do this kind of work, then you’re going to be a slave to your fears. And what’s interesting about modern life is that we package our fears so wonderfully well, don’t we? We package our fears and we dress them up in Chanel or Brooks Brothers or whatever your thing is, but they are still nevertheless fear, and we know it in the quietness of our heart, in the quietness of the nighttime when we’re laying on our bed. We know we’re afraid, and so God doesn’t want you to live that way. There is a resource. Why wouldn’t you take the medicine when you know the medicine is good for you? And so this is what Paul is trying to say is that the medicine for our relationships, the medicine for our good work to do, our continued quest after a better world in society, has to do with love. Now, here’s what I hate about this kind of a conversation. It’s immediately people start to think I’m talking about some sort of syrupy sentimentalism, and I’m not, and this is why I wanted to conclude this meditation with. Love is God’s best and most adaptive technology. It holds mass buoyancy, elasticity, rigidity, I mean. Love makes you courageous. Love helps you to sort of move into a space where you can love yourself and love neighbor enough to have the difficult conversation. Love has an economic component. How do we share, how do we give, how do we spend dollars? I mean, it goes on and on and on and on. So, michael Curry, god bless our presiding bishop, who resented the name of Jesus in the church and also began to talk about and make his case for love. And so the question that we now have to go forward with having being the beneficiaries of Bishop Curry’s sort of recentering of all this is that what does love require of me right now? That’s the question for 2024. Not only what am I afraid of, but what does love require of me? And I think these are worthwhile meditations. What does it require of me at my address right now, in my marriage right now, in my relationship to my children? Right now? What does love require of me as I look at my bank balance? What does love require of me? I mean, I think this is what we don’t want. Perhaps we want it to stay as a sentimental idea, because we know that this notion of love actually touching ground in our real lives is going to change us, and we’re reluctant. We’re reluctant. I’ve said this before and it continues to be an animating thing for me. Jesus’ words if I’ve clothed the lilies with beauty and splendor, how much more do I love you? And if I watch over every sparrow, how much more do I love you. And then the connection to that piece is so don’t you worry, right? So we’re supposed to be overwhelmed by the love of God in real and practical ways, such that it says something back to the things that we’re afraid of, and that’s how we move newly into the new year. And so you know, I think Jesus is onto something here, and that’s what Paul wants for this community. Remember, these words that Paul is using are for our community that finds itself divided, that finds itself backbiting right, that finds itself trapped in cycles of hypocrisy and superiority and sad hierarchy. And to that he says yeah, knowledge is great, it just won’t get you all the way home.
I love it. I’m thinking of the calisthenics that you suggested in a number of other podcasts. It’s up and down, down and in and then out. Right, you know, I feel like God. We know that God loves us. This is nothing new, and yet we don’t tap it.
Bishop Wright: 18:02
Yeah, why wouldn’t you? I mean, and so it, and it’s so hard. And look, I mean, I’ve lived my own. I’ve lived my own journey. I’m living my own journey. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with people and them sharing you know intimate details of their own journey and you know I just don’t know a better technology. I mean, you know, to love myself enough to get to the therapist, to love myself enough to get to the doctor, to love myself enough to have the candid conversations that I need to have. You know there’s that. But also to love my neighbor as much as I know that God loves me. Therefore, I share, therefore I spend my time in certain ways. Therefore I strive after justice. Therefore, you know, I mean it is, it is a, it is a formula for life that makes everything green and growing.
I love that. I have a friend who says Jesus gives love its heartbeat. I love that so much. I love it.
Bishop Wright: 18:58
I love the poetry I mean, however we say it. However we say it, I don’t know where the wellspring of life is. If it’s not here, I don’t know where it is.
Well, we need to remember to access it. But it’s that fear thing, Bishop, when you said, tell the truth, I bet you, if we could be more open to telling the truth, either been in community, gosh the strength that could be nurtured or cultivated in a community with leaders who are, who are brave enough to tell the truth.
Bishop Wright: 19:31
Well, this is why the profits, this is why the profits are so important, because the profits are not sort of just, you know, old men, old gruff, old gruff, old men with long white beards, who are finger waggers, but they love. They love the Lord and they love the community so much that they take the risk of telling the truth. They do what we call spiritual pattern recognition. They realize how we get off the rails and they love us enough to tell us you know, when I was, when I was growing up, love would you know. I was told that love would tell you things that other people wouldn’t tell you. You know, other people might shine you on because of whatever reason, but love would say you know, hey, can I talk to you for a minute? I’m not a perfect person and you’re not a perfect person, but I just want to reflect this back to you. And so what? The last thing I would say about all of that is is that I think it’s the spirit in which you tell people things. And so when we get people in the room trying to tell the truth, I think we ought to. I think we need candor, but it needs to be held together with kindness candor and kindness, because otherwise, you know, I’m afraid we get into rooms and we just throw Molotov cocktails at people, right and and, and there’s no building up in that. Paul’s interested in the building up, and so can I do the work which involves prayer in it before I say anything to somebody else, which involves study of scripture, which involves maybe even conversation with others Before I start lobbing things into the middle of the room. Can I temper that? Not diminish it, but can I temper it? Can I season it with love? And if I do, st Paul says then we build up. And I think I hope that’s what we want. We want to build up and not just be puffed up in our own egos.
Amen to that, bishop. Thank you, and listeners, thank you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week.