Loving My Neighbor

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She knocks on my door and I groan, not wanting to let her in because word on the street is that she’s crazy, and truth be told she is a little strange. I don’t want to spend the time to talk to her, she didn’t even tell me she was driving over here and I figured that if she drove all the way over here that I should humor her. Never mind that Jesus says to love my neighbor as myself, and although she isn’t technically my neighbor, as in, she doesn’t live in my neighborhood, I know that Jesus didn’t mean just my geographical neighbors.

Here’s where being Episcopalian gets real, and can be hard.Just this past Sunday, and the one before that, and the one before that, and, well, you get the picture, I knelt and confessed that I had not loved my neighbors as myself. This coming Sunday I’m going to do the same thing. I intend to love my neighbors as myself, but I don’t. I don’t want to be bothered with the young lady at the door because I feel like I have better things to do than spend some time with a lonely woman created in God’s image. Except that that’s what God wanted me to do at that moment, and I don’t want to.

While I’m answering the door I remember my prayer saying that I am truly sorry and that I humbly repent. If that means anything, it needs to mean something now. I open the door and let the young woman in. I still don’t want to but I remember my promise to repent, and that means that if I’m truly repentant that I’m going to at least give this loving my neighbor thing a good shot.

This isn’t a story with a happily ever after ending, because although I now am aware of my failures in loving my neighbors, I still don’t always do it as much as I try. I still fail at loving my neighbor as myself even though I’m trying to be more mindful to do so. I still dread her knock on my door, but not as much as I used to. I’m willing to give her a little of my time these days, but I’m always relieved when I have something else that I just have to do. Which means I’m trying but I’m not doing that great.

True repentance means trying to do differently the next time. This Episcopal thing can be hard because I say hard things and then have to put action behind my words. But I think that in trying to put action behind my words, it gets me a little closer to what Jesus wants me to do, and brings a little more of the Kingdom of God to earth.

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This is my blood, shed for you

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I’ve had people ask me why the Eucharist had such an effect on me; why when I took of the bread and the wine in the Episcopal Church I knew it was the body and blood of Christ because I experienced it. There is a common theme in vampire literature that says the blood is the life, and really it is. “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation” says the person holding the chalice, as I sip. The bread and the wine, the body and the blood, are spiritual food. It’s what keeps me alive. Jesus’ blood flowed out of him when he was whipped and then executed. He died so that I could live.

I’ve done a lot of research lately on vampire literature and blood symbolism for my PhD proposal. When I thought of doing a PhD, I never thought it would be on a subject like this, but really, it makes sense. When I was thirteen and began cutting myself, I somehow knew that blood was powerful and I wanted to bleed. I felt that I could atone for my sins by letting the blood flow, I craved the relief I felt emotionally from causing myself physical pain. I knew deep down that there was something special about blood.

I approach the altar with humility and reverence, kneeling in awe of God and still remembering the time I first met the priest and cursed him out (which is significant because it made me wait longer than I should have to come check out the Episcopal Church and also because it made me feel unworthy to take of communion and yet the priest served it to me anyway), thankful that I can partake of something so incredibly amazing and life changing. I know for some it is an empty ritual, but to me it is full of sacred meaning and I’m thankful that God allows a person like me at the altar to drink of the blood of Christ. It’s an amazing thing.

I no longer need to cut myself to cause my blood to seep out of my body because Jesus’ blood has taken care of my sins when I was baptized. “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation:” for me and for you. I don’t have to bleed myself because Jesus bled. There’s a hymn that meant a lot to me that really helped when I was trying to stop cutting and it goes like this:

“There is a fountain, filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains”. It’s still one of my all time favorite hymns.

Consuming Jesus brought me back to God.