Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009. Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost. Proper 15

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Solomon is hardly a little child at the time of his enthronement. His father David had reigned for 40 years, and Solomon was born early in David’s reign, as the child of David and Bathsheba.

Yet to God Solomon says, “I am only a little child” and then asks not for riches or for long life, but for wisdom to serve his people well.

Solomon tells God the Israelites are “so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted”; but surely that is not so. Solomon speaks in hyperbole to emphasize his vulnerability and his need for God’s assistance.

The text asserts that God is impressed with Solomon because he gives top priority to wisdom. God answers gives Solomon wisdom and gives him also the wealth and long life for which he had not asked.

The point is clear: If a new leader gives top priority to wisdom, then God will give the leader the wealth and long life not asked for.

The point is almost too clear: Are we to be impressed as God is with Solomon’s priorities? Or is Solomon fudging, saying what he believes will impress God and impress the people? Does he believe his own press releases?

Witness Solomon’s faithlessness later in his reign, when he worships other gods and turns from his fierce allegiance to Jehovah.

Later Solomon is said to have 700 wives and 300 concubines. I remember a 7th-grader giggling when we read that passage aloud in class in 1962.

“Carter, why are you giggling?” I asked.

“I was just imagining what a large bed he must have had, sir,” Carter replied.

Bishop John S. Spong has said that committing adultery takes on a new dimension when one has 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Psalm 111

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; *
those who act accordingly have a good understanding;
his praise endures for ever.

Many anthropologists point out that in religion people worship what they fear. Early on people worshiped fire or water or …. Many early religions worshiped the sun.

The psalmist here suggests that we begin to ‘get it’ when we realize that God is bigger and more powerful than we are. We should be afraid of God’s displeasure. Put more positively, we are wise when we try to please God.

Jesus told his disciples that he had shared with them everything that he knows about God, yet his report differs radically from the one in 1st Kings. Jesus describes God not as someone before whom we should cower in uncritical obeisance, but as an accessible friend.

Jesus spent much of his time among outcasts and was known for being a “friend of sinners.” Sinners rarely consider ourselves included “in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.”

Current conflicts in the Anglican Communion mirror these contrary understandings regarding who can lay claim to being the people of God. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggests that in embracing lgbt persons -- considering their unions to be holy, even consenting for some of them to be bishops -- the Episcopal Church has set itself apart from the Communion. The archbishop suggests that perhaps the Communion should have two tiers for membership -- one privileged and able to make the rules, the other tolerated but not allowed to vote in the assembly of the upright.

So in the new "two tiered communion" which water fountains are we to drink from?" asked the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, an organization of lgbt Episcoplians.

To which I answered: "Don't bother with The Archbishop of Canterbury. He cares not a fig about Samaritan wells. He's more concerned with our sin than with our thirst.

"Ask the Other Rabbi."

Ephesians 5:15-20

For most of my life, I have lived a fairly simple and sober life, attending church, working diligently as a writer and a professor. I am frightfully middleclass, and even polish Mother’s silver service before dinner parties. The only two times I ever got drunk were in graduate school in 1958-59. I found the two occasions decidedly unpleasant and was never drawn to drunkenness again.

Likewise, I have eschewed mind-altering drugs, less because I think them wrong and more because I prefer to choose my risks carefully. I would much rather go to jail because of my love for my husband than for violating drug laws. Also, I want my mind to be as alert as possible at all times: that’s part of being vibrantly alive for me, and drugs work at cross purposes to being alert.

Perhaps more than the lives of many in my generation, my life closely resembles the life described in the epistle today -- one of the shortest of readings in the lectionary:

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet I am uncomfortable with Saint’s description when it becomes prescription. It seems to counterstate Jesus’ injunction that we be “in the world but not of the world.” Saint describes a huddle that is disengaged from the world, not vitally engaging it. When I have seen folks self-consciously in such a huddle, they have often appeared sanctimonious and self-righteous, not generous and joyful.

These short verses are killers of evangelism. If we are going to make them our starting point in drawing people to the faith, we might just as well add, “And guys, if you’re not cut yet, you’re going to have to do that too, to be on God’s safe side.”

Here’s to a four-fold “No thanks.”

John 6:51-58

We’re not supposed to say so, or even think so, but the Mass is both vaguely cannibalistic and mildly erotic. We eat Jesus. We drink his blood.

Mahatma Gandhi had real problems with that language because it suggests cannibalism. He had graver problems still with Christianity, which, for a time he considered joining. He told missionary E. Stanley Jones, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

In marriage, we are taught, the two become one flesh. Often at the Mass the celebrant says, “May you become one with the one whom you receive.”

Are you blood kin of Jesus? Does his blood flow in your veins? Are you flesh of his flesh?

Metaphorically? Literally? A bit of both?

If it’s “just a metaphor,” how strong is that just?

[W]hoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."

Small wonder that as Anglicans we refer to these as “holy mysteries.”

See also

No comments: