Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I assume this collect dates as far back as the Elizabethans. Even if it is much later, it manifests a bold claim: that we worship unity. What cynical laugh might we allow Roman Catholics who hear us make that claim? What cynical laugh might we allow Methodists who hear us make that claim? What evidence do we have to obviate their cynicism?
Often people profess most loudly that which their conduct questions.
I wonder how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit arrive at decisions? If we hid a microphone, might we document that in the process they sometimes disagree before reaching a consensus?
Jesus' own prayers give us an inkling of how he and God work towards getting on the same page. Jesus often pleads with his Father to change circumstances.
Is Unity more important than Justice or Truth? Does any one of them need more our worship or our work?
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
What a splendid soliloquy for Wisdom/Understanding? She reminds us she was the first being God created, and suggests she was not only witness to, but required for, God’s other acts of creation.
I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
Wisdom is a term not in much use in Higher Education. Knowledge can be quantified; wisdom cannot. Academics are far more likely to praise someone as smart than to praise someone as wise. Many assume that to proclaim someone as “wise” is too subjective. Even illiterates may be wise, but not ‘learned’ or intellectually smart.
If word were to leak out that one may be wise and understanding without paying $20k+ per year for a degree, might that information lead people to devalue degrees?
What college or university offers a degree in Wisdom? What credentials would someone need to qualify for a faculty appointment in a Department of Wisdom?
- List your top five smartest Presidents of the United States.
- List your top five wisest Presidents of the United States.
Are the lists the same? If not, explain to yourself why they are not.
Try the same exercise with your top five bishops of the Episcopal Church.
Try various alterations to the initial salutation to see what they tell us about the choice the psalmist made. For example,
- O Lord our boss, how exalted is your name….
- O Lord our President, how exalted is your name….
- O Lord our Department Head, how exalted is your name….
- O Lord our CEO, how exalted is your name….
- O Lord our CFO, how exalted is your name….
- O Lord our teacher, how exalted is your name….
Consider Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Jimmy Carter, Governor Sarah Palin, Governor Bill Clinton….. What changes if any have they made to the status of the title “governor” as the psalmist uses it?
Shakespeare knew this psalm well. Clearly he reflected on it when he wrote the script:
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—
nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 303–312
Cf. the psalmist:
What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?
You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;
You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
Shhhhhh! Don’t read this aloud lest some fundamentalist accuse you of being a humanist! That’s but a short step from being “a secular humanist”! -- horror of horrors among the self-righteous.
I take heart that Saint exercises no false humility here, as he did when he described himself as “among sinners I am chief.” Here he boasts
- in his hope of sharing the glory of God
- in his sufferings
I was firmly educated to wait until compliments come, not to compliment myself. Even now when I am invited to describe acts of endurance on behalf of the Gospel, I feel uncomfortable doing so. Yet Saint reminds us that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope….” There are rewards for suffering, even for an old quean like me.
I was educated to identify courage as the exclusive domain of the athlete, of someone with physical prowess tested and found fearless. Such were all of my heroes in growing up.
As a professor I found it important to give students assignments for which I knew in advance they would write well, and occasionally to challenge them with assignments which I knew in advance would stump most students, to help them test their limits.
Ask students to write an essay in which they describe someone who exhibits moral courage, and most will flounder. Some will even raise their hands to ask, “What do you mean by ‘moral courage’ sir?"
Send them to Romans 5 for a lead into the assignment.
Send them to the library to whisper to the clerk at the reference desk, “Can you tell me which librarian here has the most courage?"
Send them to a neighborhood of the down trodden to sit all day on a park bench bringing into casual conversation, "Which person here has had the most courage to stand up to the system that makes our life hard?"
Character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Beware those who say, “The Bible says it, it’s so, I believe it; end of story.”
Jesus says we are not always ready to hear what God has to say. He told his disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
Does Scripture so much better inform us than it did the disciples that we should not allow God to say anything new to us that has not already been said in Scripture? Sola scriptura ?
Not so, says Jesus in Scripture itself. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
Jesus did not say, "When the New Testament canon has been adopted, both the Old and the New Testaments will be all that is needed to guide you into the truth."
For a preview of coming attractions, hang out with the same low life with whom Jesus hung out.
I have learned far more about God as a quean than I ever learned about God when people presumed I was straight.
New revelations are bound to come from yet other hithertofor excluded or marginalized persons. Listen to undocumented workers. Listen to the poor and the homeless. Listen to those in prison. Jesus is already with them long before we take it upon ourselves to listen. Listen with great expectations!