Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Jesus Wakes Up

Proper 18B, 2018

Every week, when we hear the passages of scripture proclaimed, we are participating in the Church’s understanding that the Word of God is the foundation out of which we are rooted and grounded. Over the course of three years, with regular Sunday attendance, we will hear the majority of scripture spoken out loud in an expression of the oral tradition that would have been the means by which the earliest Christians would have received these passages.

On Saturday morning, as my children snuggled close looking through books, I considered the importance of oral story telling. Not just to pre-readers, but to readers who are looking for assistance in understanding expressions of humanity that they are experiencing for the first time.

Try reading the "Little House" books to an eager listener and then realizing that you’re going to need to explain the scene in which little Laura begs her Papa to give her a Native American child. Or “A Wrinkle in Time” as you are confronted by an earnest child who wants to know why Meg keeps calling herself “stupid” and why the school principal is so unkind.

Who knew bedtime could be so fraught?

No less fraught is the time we spend encountering the biblical story.

Noah’s ark. David and Goliath. Genocide, rape, and exploitation committed by our ancestors in the faith.  

These are troubling stories, heart wrenching stories, powerful stories. These are stories without easy answers that confront us with hard questions about who we are and about the faith we have inherited. And, so we engage with the text from a position of curiosity and confrontation.

What does THIS tell us about the grace of God? What does THIS tell us about who we are, where we have fallen short, and who we are called to be?

Who we are called to be…because when we engage whole heartedly with the scripture we are learning as much about ourselves as we are about the text. We are learning about our priorities, our prejudices, our biases. We are learning about our own capacity for forgiveness and our capacity for love. We are learning about how our own truth, our own reason and experience, impact our understanding of the Word of God.

And, these are valuable—truly priceless—lessons.

And, this is my point of departure for encountering the Gospel we have heard today.

On a Sunday I have, half-jokingly, referred to as “Jesus being a jerk” Sunday.

A Sunday upon which we see the unflattering side of the full humanity of Jesus.

When, confronted by a desperate parent, he refuses to help her and the child for whom she is advocating. Refuses on the basis of her race and creed. Refuses because SHE is not the one he came for.

This is not a flattering portrait of the man we call our Lord and Savior.

So, why is it here? Why did this story become part of the cannon of scripture? What about this story demanded to be told to generation upon generation—told, at the hearth and in the home, in the pages and in the churches.
[pause]

This story stands at a critical pivot point in Jesus’ earthly mission. This story depicts the moment in which the limited mission becomes a mission for the world entire. The moment in which the limited scope of salvation is recast most gloriously as a mission for all people.

The woman confronting Jesus, is not an Israelite and her ancestors were not part of the lineage of Abraham and Sarah. She is an outsider who sees the power and privilege at work in the world and demands a portion of it for herself and those she loves. She makes herself inconvenient—she stands in Jesus’ way, demanding that he see her and respond to her, not as an outsider but, as an insider. An insider who came to demand equity not under the law—but beyond the law. Beyond the law that would have cast her away, beyond the law that would continue to deny her full humanity.

She confronts Jesus and demands that he be consistent with his own teachings—for, as we heard proclaimed last week, “the Pharisees and the scribes asked [Jesus], “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

“Teaching human precepts as doctrines”. The human precept that only the Israelites mattered. The human precept that there is not enough of God’s love to go around. The human precept that salvation is only available to some. The human precept that there are people unworthy of the grace of God.

Consider the world in which we live, consider the racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, classism—all of which hold up a precept that some matter more than others, that some lives are worth less than others, that good news is reserved for a small percentage who hold most of the power.

These are human precepts they are NOT doctrine, they are NOT the law of Love, they are NOT the teaching of the Church. And, in this moment we have the opportunity to see Jesus casts aside his human biases and embrace the true expansiveness of his mission. No longer can anyone claim that the good news of God is only available to some and not all!

Jesus been woke! Jesus been woke! 

And, no longer can anyone say that God plays favorites. No longer can anyone say that only some are deserving. 

No longer.  

And, this, this changes everything. Which is why a Syrophoenician woman stands at the center of the good news we hear today. The good news that defines the church as a place in which we will hear inconvenient truths, painful realities, and powerful testimonies that will continuously change the shape of our ministries and expand the boundaries of who we “thought” part of the Body of Christ.

Children of God, people of St. Clement’s, “you do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Every neighbor. Everyone. Every child of God. The mission has been expanded and the scripture is explicit--all means all.

Amen.


BCP page 855,

The Ministry

Q.         Who are the ministers of the Church?
A.         The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops,
priests, and deacons.
             
Q.         What is the ministry of the laity?
A.         The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his
Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be;
and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on
Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take
their place in the life, worship, and governance of the

Church.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Spiritual Practice of Seeking Refuge

Readings for 14B 2018 (remember, we're using track 2 through year C)

+++

The passage from 1st Kings we heard today has the plot line of the epic poem. And while, my own attempt at verse is not, by any means, epic. It does attempt to give you the entirety of the narrative arc beyond the broom tree and Mt. Horeb. Here goes…

Recently returned triumphant
From the sacrificial plains
In which his Lord and God
Had prevailed
Against the prophets of Baal.

Elijah met
Real God,
And a real fire,

Who in consuming the offering.
Brought down the false
And, inspired the wicked to revenge.

So, the victorious prophet
Fled.
From the vengeance of those,
Once mighty, now mocked.

Until he came to rest
Beneath a tree
Where despair met anguish
And where,
God, once called upon,
Provided cake.

But no direction,
Beyond the past
Which lay ahead
At Mount Horeb.

Mount Horeb where his ancestors had gathered to hear the covenant proclaimed. Mount Horeb where Moses, with a shining face, came back from his encounter with God. Mount Horeb, the place of burning bushes and the promise of land.

Elijah, who is given new life by bread and water beneath the broom tree goes back. Back to the spiritual home of his people, the point of origin of his people’s future.

And in this his pilgrimage of faith, the meaning of Elijah’s story is enriched through his connection to the overarching arc of God’s salvation. The offering consumed by fire, the wilderness journey of 40 days, the Exodus of his people—all woven into the story of God and his ancestors. He looks backwards in order to see forwards.

He returns to what was so that the future might be.

As poet Pablo Nerudo writes in his reflection in the World’s End,

“And that's why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy.
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.”

Going back, to find ourselves in the future.

To remember who we are and to whom we belong.

Lest we forget, and find ourselves despairing in the midst of our own wilderness.

When Elijah returned to Mt. Horeb he was going to the birthplace of God’s covenant with God’s people. Mt. Horeb is the site upon which Moses encountered the burning bush. A place where Elijah could be reconnected with the God who had sent him forth, and the God who had called him home.

The God in whom, as the psalmist writes, he could take his refuge.

And, so as we consider the readings appointed for today, we are invited to consider alongside Elijah, alongside the author of Ephesians, and alongside Christ himself, the spiritual practice of seeking refuge. 

where we come from,

who our people are

and where we go when we ourselves seek refuge.

When fear of the world overwhelms us, when the headlines afflict us, when we grow anxious and worried about work or school, when societal injustices consume us. Where do we go?

Where do you go?

Silence….

Throughout my life, I have had the need for refuge. For one reason or another, needing to go somewhere to remember who I am and to whom I belong.

When I was little, I would go climb the jacaranda tree in our front yard, sitting between the branches surrounded by the purple blooms.

In college, there was a swing above the campus pond and the bright walls of the campus chapel.

When our children were born, refuge was the smell of their milky heads.

Here in this space, it is the breaking of the bread and the upturned hands.

Yesterday, it was a cup of coffee and the high-pitched buzz of the dog day cicadas.

All of which have served to remind me who I am and to whom I belong.

Where do you go?

Silence…

Having considered this, I invite you to turn to the person next to you and ask them where they go. Where they go for refuge in this world of ours.

Conversation…

Thank you all for taking the time to make these connections this morning. To consider the fear that drove Elijah to despair and to explore where we ourselves go when we long for refuge. 

Let us consider the truth that is offered today...

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in the Lord.”  

You who are afraid.

You who are ashamed.

You who are troubled.

Taste and see, in the shelter of this moment, taste and see, that there is goodness, that there is love, that there is kindness, and that we are not left comfortless.

We are not left comfortless.

And, today we are offered this bread, this cup, this peace, and this space, as a means by which we can remember that the Lord has called us beloved and in that belovedness we are called to love likewise.

Amen.







Jesus Wakes Up

Proper 18B, 2018 Lectionary text can be found at  http://lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Pentecost/BProp18_RCL.html +++ Every week, ...