IT IS A GRAND SEASON AT THE CHURCH O THE PINES. As the song says, June is bustin’ out all over. The ferns are nearing chest high. The lilacs and honeysuckle are in blossom. The air smells even sweeter than usual.
Our congregation is all here, the pews are full. We have a good congregation—well-intentioned and well-behaved—mostly. Of course, the are always a few who stretch the rules and bend the bounds of acceptable behavior. The foxes continue to drink out of the holy water. And the two kits race across the grounds and through the aisles with nary a thought for others’ sensibilities. The woodchucks have burrowed under the sacristy, and their young ones are now being instructed in the same objectionable behavior. The red squirrels leap through the rafters and now have company in the top of the Church, as the Great Crested Flycatcher has returned from parts unknown, and loves to holler “R-r-r-r-eeeeeep” at the top of his lungs from the steeple, startling all who were just about to doze happily through the sermon. Great Crested Flycatcher—member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family. Is that a cool name and a cool family to belong to, or what?
As I say, it is in all a good congregation, and we are willing to take each other’s idiosyncrasies and oddities in stride. We are not too much on rules. Our Teacher said that the main rule—perhaps the only important one—was to love your neighbor as yourself. And to be generous—very generous—about who you define as your neighbor. Many busybodies have spent an enormous amount of time, energy, ink, and broadcasting technology attempting to interpret and clarify for the rest of us what that simple statement really means. I thank them for their trouble—sort of—but I find that the original words and their meaning are largely self-explanatory and in little need of improvement. Our humble congregation seems to agree.
Still, there is a sizable contingent out in the Big World who find the teaching hard to understand; or who have difficulty in separating ‘neighbors’ from non-neighbors; and who apply a wide array of uncharitable, even cruel actions or attitudes to those who, for one reason or another, (and there are always MANY dandy reasons) are deemed to clearly NOT fall into the ‘neighbor’ category. One wonders if, in all their ‘study of scripture,’ they have ever come across the Teacher’s parable of the Good Samaritan? (It’s fairly prominent.) Anyway, it all somehow gets… complicated. And it requires a wide array of TV preachers, religious ‘wings’ of approved political parties, National Church Governing Bodies, even a President who is on the ‘right’ side of things (despite his iconic status as a human catastrophe) to keep it all sorted out and on the ‘right track’ and make sure that we ‘hurt the right people.’
Sometimes one wonders if some of these folks could just sit by a fern bed under the deacon pines, with a wood thrush, a wren and a cardinal singing from the choir loft and a curious chipmunk at their feet, with a pair of kit foxes gamboling nearby, if that might be helpful. I am sure they would be welcomed. Of course, they would have to behave themselves. And be kind. And follow the One Rule. And certainly expand their notion of who a neighbor might be.