Sunday, August 26, 2012
13th Sunday after Pentecost--Proper 16B August 26, 2012 Someone once wrote, “[most of the time,] we prefer religion to God.” In the Old Testament reading for today, we see a defining moment in the Jewish religion: Solomon has constructed the temple in Jerusalem, and the ark of the covenant, which contains the 10 tablets upon which are written the 10 Commandments, is being brought into the new temple and placed in its position of high honor. In this part of the story, we are witnessing the transformation of Judaism and the people of Israel from being a tent people into being a temple people. Tent people are people who are wandering, people who are searching, people who, because of their very uncertain circumstances, are forced to rely upon the promises of God. They are homeless and rootless and longing for that place of belonging; they are uncertain of their future; and their relationship with God is tangible in a covenant that is represented by 2 tablets with 10 commandments written upon them that literally lead them through the wilderness. Not to mention the fact that tents are not comfortable places in which to dwell for long periods of time. Temple people are people who have finally arrived. They are established. They are no longer homeless, rootless, and longing and may be eager to shed that former identity. They are established; they have a beautiful building with all the fancy trappings to show for it, and they are much more secure. The heart of their relationship with God is still the covenant that is represented by 2 tablets with 10 commandments, but now they have a fancy place to keep it, which can, at times, overshadow the straight-forwardness of the covenant: that they will be God’s and God will be theirs. Over the course of time, Israel began to add more and more trappings to its temple, to its worship, to its common life. And there are times in their history, in our history, when it is true that they preferred religion over God. This is precisely what Jesus is critiquing in his life and ministry, and we see this at work in the gospel reading for today. Jesus is inviting all his followers to make their home in him and for them to let him make his home in them: abide in me and I will abide in you. But some are offended by his graphic images of belonging; eating and drinking the flesh of others were what pagans did. This was radical and unfit talk for faithful Jews at that time. And so some of his followers leave him. I imagine that they go back to the temple, and pick up where they left off there. In that moment, they choose religion over God. In a moment of sheer poignancy, Jesus asks the remaining 12, “are you also going to leave me?” and Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In that moment, the 12 are bound together by their willingness to follow Jesus. They are bound together in their return to being tent people, those who wander because they have already found their home and they choose to move with, to follow him. I imagine that the 12 may not have had much in common before that. Perhaps they found it difficult to find things to make small talk about, but in that one defining choice, the choice not to leave but to continue to follow Jesus when others have left, they are bound together in their common homing in ways that go beyond any superficial commonalities. We in this parish know what it is like to be both temple people and tent people. And we have strains of both in our DNA, in our history, and in our practice. I know many of you who gathered together the Sunday after August 29 in the shell of this building or in Jones Park have truly lived what it means to be tent people. And it’s ok to not ever want to go back to that feeling of loss and homelessness, as long as we can remember the gifts that type of relationship with God has to offer us which is a keen awareness that we are in God and God is in us, and that God is the only thing between us and the abyss of lostness and chaos. Always we must ask ourselves in our lives, in our faith, in our church, if we are choosing religion over God, because that is one of the temptations of being a temple people. The writer of this statement goes on to talk about what that looks like in the life of the church. She writes, “[Most of the time,] we prefer religion to God. We, like the disciples, are offended by Jesus’ offer of spirit and life. We feel good about serving in the soup kitchen, but we refuse to forgive our pew mate for his addiction. We feel righteous when we teach Sunday school, but we are annoyed by the coos of the baby in worship. We make religion about the rules because we can control the rules. We can amend books of order, we can use Scripture to oppress, we can punish the rule breakers—much easier than compassion and forgiveness.”i It is true that it is much easier to choose religion over God. And yet, we are mindful, this day, of Jesus’s question to us as we stand at a crossroads between choosing what is easier, what is more self-serving, and what is of God, what is of the demands of loving God and loving others; we are mindful of Jesus’s question to his 12: Are you also going to leave me? And we can speak with Peter’s voice: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” May God give us the courage this day and everyday, to choose God over religion, that we may make our home in God by loving, forgiving, and offering compassion to others. Such is the way of eternal life. Such is our home. i.Feasting on the Word. Ed. David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Year B. Vol 3. Westminster: 2009. Proper 16. John 6:56-69. Pastoral Perspective by Amy C. Howe. p. 384
Kit Glenn funeral homily August 25, 2012 We are here today to celebrate the life of Kit Glenn. And boy, what a life! What a character! I usually like to start a funeral homily off with a funny little story about the one who we are remembering….In Kit’s case, there was such an overabundance of funny stories, that I found it almost impossible to choose. I’m sure every person in here has at least one Kit story, and you will be given the opportunity to share those in the reception in the parish hall following the service if you so desire. There is one little story that I just have to share. You may or may not know that Kit shot off part of his index finger in a restaurant when he was younger. But what’s even more telling about Kit’s personality is that when his nieces and nephews were little, Kit used to tell them not to suck on their fingers or they would be left like him… One other little brief thing I can say about Kit….I’m often asked by people, “What do I call you? Not Father? Reverend? Mother??? Well, Kit never asked me that question. He just always called me “Mel.” He had that way, that easy familiarity about him, the ability to draw people together, and the unwillingness to take life or people too seriously. It was truly one of his many gifts. Funny and clever, insightful and kind, joyous and faithful and generous, Kit gave himself fully to everything he did, and he was faithful in both small and big things, which is the call of the Christian life. In the Episcopal Church, we are not a dogmatic church. Who we are and what we believe is incarnate in how and what we pray in our common prayers. The words of this liturgy today are a beautiful example of that: of who we are as a people and individuals, how we pray, and, most importantly, what we believe about death. In just a few moments, in the Eucharist prayer, we will pray, “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.” Kit lived faithfully, and he lived his faith in Jesus Christ and the resurrection everyday of his life; and when I talked with him for the last time last week, he told me that he was “ready for the next adventure!” (He also told me that he would try to send us a message, you know, let us know what it’s like…) Another part of our prayers today that I think is especially important in celebrating Kit’s life is when we will gather beside his ashes, and we will say “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” The way that Kit lived, his whole life was spent making his song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Kit Glenn’s whole life was an Alleluia; a giving of himself fully to the way of Jesus Christ which affirms, once and for all, through the resurrection, that God’s love is stronger than anything, even death. I think it is the Alleluia song that Kit lived that had such an impact on our lives , why we are all here today to celebrate him and give thanks for his presence in each of our lives. Even at the grave, Kit’s life continues to resonate with joy and gratitude, and he continues to sing: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. And so shall we.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
11th Sunday after Pentecost--Proper 14 August 12, 2012 [“Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right, that we, who cannot exist without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will”] “Grant to us, O Lord, we pray the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according o your will…” We prayed these words this morning in our collect for the day, and as is often the case in the prayers of the church, we see that it isn’t just enough to ask God for guidance in our thinking (knowing what is right), but we are also bravely asking God for the grace to act upon how God guides us into doing what is right. I had a troubling conversation with someone this week, and what was the most troubling to me, in retrospect was my own part in the conversation. Someone was sharing with me that there is a person in the church who is upset with the church because of gossip. The person relaying this to me, was the subject of the gossip, but was more concerned about the friend who is upset and has left. And the person talking to me said, “They’re upset because they think that there shouldn’t be any gossip in the church, but you and I both know that just isn’t realistic…” And I nodded sadly and I agreed, and we moved on to another topic. Later that day, I re-read the readings for this coming Sunday, and I read the Ephesians reading, and I was completely convicted: “Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.…Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” I was disappointed in myself, and I was disappointed in all of us. I believe in my deepest heart that every single one of us is deeply hungry for the kind of Christian community that the writer of Ephesians writes about—speaking the truth in love, building up one another, acting in kindness, tenderheartedness, and above all forgiving one another as we have been forgiven. And it is true that sometimes we fail in this miserably. But that should not keep us from trying, from believing that we can truly be imitators of God, and it should inspire us to try even harder for our words and our actions to be more in accord with what we know to be right in the eyes of God! Sometimes we live into this gloriously, as was also evidenced this week in a lovely letter that we received from The Rev. Tom Slawson. Tom writes in his letter, “At a time of deep vocational discernment and uncertainty, Melanie and the good people of St. Peter’s allowed me to reconnect to, and reaffirm, my vocational identity. I was graciously invited into that community as a priest and pastor…” And that made me proud of us, joyful that in those many different moments, we have been able to live more fully into who God calls us to be as the body of Christ-- those who embody the love of God in a very real way for each other and for a needy and hungry world—which is the heart of this passage from Ephesians today. Scholars believe that the letter to the Ephesians most likely was not written by Paul, and it probably was not written to a specific Christian community but was actually a circular letter, written to be distributed to many different congregations throughout Asia Minor. It is a poetic testament to what it means to be true Christian community, members of the body of Jesus Christ, who is the head. I feel certain that we are no different than any of the original hearers of this letter: some days we are more faithful to the call of being the body of Christ than others. Interestingly enough, our modern science now has the understanding to scientifically support some of the teachings in this letter. Medical sociologists now understand that both good and bad traits are contagious in communities. So the bad news with that is that when we are false, when we are angry and un-reconciled, when we are thieves, when we speak evil, when we are bitter, wrathful, slandering, and malicious, those characteristics are contagious to others in our community, in our family, in our church. But the good news is that when we are lovingly truthful, when we are reconciled, when we share with the needy, when we build each other up, when we are kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, when we are imitators of God, when we are loving, then that also is contagious to all those around us, in our homes, in our church, in our lives.i And that is something good, and worthy, and holy to hope and to strive for. There is a picture that a friend had posted on Facebook this week that says, “Before you speak Think!” And then it has the letters THINK going down the side. It reads “T—is it true? H—is it helpful? I—is it inspiring? N—is it necessary? K—is it kind? May God give us the wisdom to know what is right and the grace and the hope to act on it, as imitators of God through the example of Jesus Christ. i. Thanks to The Rev. Dr. Jackie Cameron for writing about this notion of good contagion and bad contagion this week in her CREDO blog: http://credovitality.wordpress.com/