Sunday, October 25, 2009

November 8. 2009. Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost. Proper 27

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Where did you first meet your beloved? Was the meeting accidental, or did someone set it up? Was there a match-maker in the wings?

Have you ever served as a match-maker for someone else?

Do you review these details long into your relationship, and long into the matches that you have nudged into being?

In what level of detail do you remember the episodes?

This passage from Ruth chronicles a love-match . Ruth, a Moabite and a widow, has left her people to live with the Jews, the people of her mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi instructs here carefully on how to catch a husband.

Boaz, Naomi’s kinsman (and thus also a kinsman of Ruth’s late husband) is rich. Ruth first gets his eye by her steadfastness as a gleaner. Farmers were required to leave dropping from their harvest so that the poor could glean them. Boaz notices her, and invites her to return to his field with the other women so that she might have safety.

Naomi instructs Ruth on how to win his more intimate favors. She is to bathe and make herself smell good. She is to dress in her best clothes. She is to wait until food and drink have primed the pump, until Boaz is lying down to rest. Then she is to uncover his feet, lie down, and wait for his instructions.

Boaz is to be the boss, Ruth his attractive, willing servant. -- Passive Aggression™ brought to you by those who invented it.

It worked. Ruth hooked her man and became Boaz’ wife. The Lord made her conceive Obed, a son, grandfather to King David and ancestor of Jesus.

I met Ernest Clay when he stepped off the elevator on the 6th floor of the Lucky Street YMCA in Atlanta late one night on Labor Day weekend in 1973. It was love at first sight. He invited me to Room 637 but following Naomi’s instructions, told me to wait for 15 minutes while he freshened himself and the room. I was sure that he must be a vice-squad cop, but took the risk anyway. I have never left his room. We courted for 5 months and then married on February 2, 1974.

Who would have thought a threshing floor to be a holy place, or the elevator area on the sixth floor of a YMCA?

Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.

Psalm 127

Psalm 127 is lovely and romantic in sentiment, but do we believe it? Perhaps it is easier to test our belief in it by reading it in more contemporary language:

Quean Lutibelle’s Candid Psalm 127

It is silly to install burglar bars on your windows
or loud alarms in your automobiles

Unless God builds your house or automobile
no guards or devices can protect them.

It is silly to be early to rise and late to rest,
silly too to fill your life with work,
for God gives to his beloved sleep.

You will be happy if you have lots of children
because they will enlarge your army
and keep you safe.

Do you still believe the claims in the psalm?

Hebrews 9:24-28

Was Hebrews written for heterosexual only? Should one word in the last line of this lesson should be changed?: “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those heterosexuals who are eagerly waiting for him”?

I am amazed at the audacity of those who arrogate just for themselves God’s promises to absolutely everybody.

Mark 12:38-44

I called a friend recently to tell him that I have missed him at church. I frequently alternate between the 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock services, and assumed that he may have been doing the same with choices opposite to my own. “No,” he said, “I have not been to church for a long time.”

“I do not mean to scold,” I assured him, “only to tell you that I miss you.” He lives a distance away, and I assumed that he might be going to the fine parish in the town where he lives. “No,” he said, “it’s nice but snake belly low. When I come to church, I will come to Grace. Part of it is my schedule. I am working as well as attending classes. But part of it is also my finances. I am embarrassed to have so little to give.”

Thinking of today’s Gospel, I assured him that Jesus is unimpressed with money given to prove one’s faithfulness, that Jesus affirms those who give only the mites they have to give.

I remember the first time that I spent time really looking at the crypt and at various other isolated but grand nooks and crannies of the National Cathedral in Washington. I was in residence for a week at the College of Preachers nextdoor, and visited the Cathedral during breaks all week.

My friend the Rev. Grant Gallup attended the same consultation and sometimes walked with me during the breaks. “I feel guilty liking this beauty so much,” I told him, “because Jesus treated with contempt those who gave grandly out of their abundance to build and furbish the holy places the better to show off their own splendor and generosity.”

“Honey, don’t mar your enjoyment. All of this belongs to God now, and God has generously given you eyes to see and a heart to rejoice in its beauty.”

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