13 March 2014

From time to time, as I prepare for worship, by reading the lessons for an upcoming Sunday, I think about the sermon I might give if my path to priesthood had not run into the bigot who blocked it.

This morning one of the most inspiring priests I know was discussing a small but interesting idea from another parish in the diocese. Nothing particularly stunning, merely the use of special wine (champagne) to mark the joy and celebration of Easter Vigil and Easter Morning. I was about to suggest a vintage that I think might be a bit more child friendly than Brut when another member of the worship and liturgy committee suggested just doing it. That is not publishing her intent in the Lenten bulletins. "OH no! came the response, they (presumably the parishioners) hate surprises."

My sermon, the one I shall never preach was about the surprises we see God give the Hebrews, and the Apostles. Over and over again, God is surprising. And over and over again, humans say, "no!" or at best, "but we have always" the four most deadly words in the Episcopal church.

Consider: Moses was surprised when he saw the burning bush, and probably more surprised when he heard the voice come from it! Moses clearly was not Episcopalian, he did not tell God he always stayed there and raised flocks.

Hebrews working on the Pharaoh's projects, did not expect Moses. They certainly did not expect the passover of God! Nor did they expect a pillar or fire, a path through the waters, or a rush of water coming to destroy Pharaoh's army. Their actions suggest the did not expect the law of God, food or water, and they probably never expected to finally cross the Jordan river.

Bishop N. T. Wright whose work on parables stands head and shoulder above most of the scholarship on them says that the resolution of the stories always is surprising, always called the hearers to a new way of seeing and acting.

The listeners considering the plight of the victim in the story we call the "parable of the Good Samaritan" were not expecting any goodness from a Samaritan. The division between Judeans, and Galileans on the one hand and the Samaritans on the other was deep, angry, and long standing. The idea that the clergy, honored men who were acting consistently with their understanding of the holiness code, would come out less holy, less decent than a Samaritan was not not merely a surprise, it was shocking.

Jesus was not the only one who surprised people. The leprous viceroy told to wash in the Jordan was certainly surprised. He was angry, and the idea of any liturgical innovation would produce anger, actually makes sense.

Lent of course carries the most surprising truth of all - God loves us. With what we know of ourselves, that is shocking. God is, as a curate at Emmanuel used to say, "crazy in love with us." I cannot think of a single thing I did to deserve that. I doubt you can say a thing you ever did to merit that divine love.

In La Grange, where I pray, some folks are not surprising. They seek not to cure poverty or homelessness, but rather to render it silent and invisible. It is their "right" to live in a community that suppresses others to keep their distorted view in sight. What may surprise you is that these people purport to be Christians. What I found depressing and surprising is that their clergy do not speak to them about the standards Jesus enunciated.

Ah well, as Jesus said, "they have their reward." It is Lent, the second week. How are you surprised by God this Lent? Are you open to the surprises? Or, do you respond the way those who heard the Samaritan story might have, by saying 'no!' to the poor, possibly homeless person. Refusing to be surprised by opportunities to radical hospitality is not Christianity, it is not surprising, it is sad.

No comments:

St Laika's

Click to view my Personality Profile page