Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010. Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

true religion? Indeed, for we are quite in danger of false religion.

  • False religion does not walk the talk.
  • False religion does not live the life it sings about.
  • False religion squelches doubts rather than live in balance with them.
  • False religion worships the signs of holiness, not the substance.
  • False religion is vaccination against the real thing.
  • False religion prefers to keep Jesus locked on the altar, so he can’t get out in the streets.
  • False religion prefers to wallow in guilt rather than take the responsibility to live forgiven.
  • False religion prefers to rule on earth rather than trust that God rules in heaven.

Increase in use true religion. Yes!

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Jeremiah quotes God complaining about the false religion of Israel’s ancestors:

What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?

God rehearses the good that he did to the Israelites and the evil they did in return.

All this is prelude. Israel’s abuse continues, as will its children’s and their descendents’ abuse:

Therefore once more I accuse you, says the LORD,
and I accuse your children's children.

God’s accusation applies to Israel’s Christian descendants as well, through and beyond our own generation.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
says the LORD,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.

Cisterns are water-proof receptacles and have been found in the remains even of pre-historic dwellings. Often cisterns are placed to catch rainwater, and sometimes they are stored underground. Some are quite small; others serve whole communities.

Those who practice false religion use religion as if it is a private cistern for themselves, a substitute for God the living fountain of water. Such use of religion is cracked and cannot hold no water. Often you can spot those with false religion by their un-love and by their ill-will. They are spiritually dehydrated. Their cistern is cracked.

Psalm 81:1, 10-16

God speaks in Psalm 81 as in the Jeremiah reading, saying in both that Israel has turned away. The people have forgotten God’s marvelous acts. In the psalm, God stresses that he wants to do good things for Israel again. The sub-text is: ‘Come back to me so that I can be good to you again.’

Israel would I feed with the finest wheat *
and satisfy him with honey from the rock.

“Honey in the rock” resonates with the cisterns God reported in Jeremiah. The Israelites intended to store spiritual nurture but forged out a cracked cistern for it -- false religion.

Manna cannot be freeze-dried. Hoarded to use more than one day at a time, manna rots.

In Psalm 81, God has been storing something more successfully, sweet honey in the rock. The bees in Israel often build their hives in the rocks. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, God promised a land flowing with milk and honey.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Several years ago I established a website called Angels Unawares. To date, only nine have told how a stranger, or near stranger, has changed their life. The response is far below that to most of my other cyber offerings.

Have angels disappeared from our lives, or has our awareness of them diminished?

Have you entertained a stranger only afterwards to realize that the person was an angel? Angels are God’s messengers. What message(s) did the stranger bring to you? Please share your narrative for this site.

Saint urges that we practice hospitality that is truly radical by standards of the 21st Century.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.

I am embarrassed when the Book of Common Prayer has us pray more tamely for the poor, keeping them at a distance, as if they are not one of us:

For the Poor and the Neglected
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP 826

Would we be more faithful to pray with the poor? We might want to treat them differently if we understood them to be blood kin, unite to us in Jesus' blood. Eucharist!

Saint lived the standard that he preached, staying poor, making tents to earn enough to pay only for his necessities. “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.”

Are poor people welcome in your parish? If so, as clients? or as sister/brother Christians? Do you pray for them? with them? as one of them?

Are poor people welcome as guests in your home?

Is your God rich or poor?

This is August. Those who organize the lectionary know that most Episcopalians are on vacation, so they can include in the summer lections the passages that might be harder for the whole congregation to read, learn, and inwardly digest.

Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus is quite clear about Christian guest lists:

"When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

When Ernest and I lived in Hong Kong (1984-87) we gave a fancy dinner party for the dozen Filipino amahs (Cantonese for ‘maids’) that worked in our faculty residence building at Chinese University. We posted a sign on the kitchen door, “Keep out! No guests allowed!” and we insisted that they sit at our long dining table while we waited on them. We used our finest linen, dishware and Sterling. I printed menus and individualized place cards. Ernest, a gourmet cook, prepared a feast. We had great fun!

We did not say anything about this occasion to their employees, my colleagues; but apparently every amah volunteered a complete and ecstatic report, each showing her menu and place card. We soon discovered that we were stigmatized afresh even with colleagues who had no issue with our being a gay interracial couple. We had dared to host “the low life,” “mere servants”! -- as if there is anything mere about being a servant.

Our guests thoroughly enjoyed the day and could not believe it when we steadfastly refused to let them help with the clean-up.

That was a quarter of a century ago, and yet Ernest and I continue to be blessed by it.

There is a strange thing about blessings: I cannot find a way to bless others that does not return to me many times over.

I love Jesus’ sense of humor in his explanation of banquet etiquette: “"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, `Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.’”

Who prints the menus and arranges the place cards at Heaven’s banquets? Do they remain in the same order, or do placements vary? The principle we know already: “The last will be first and the first will be last.”

Chen Yuk Che,

Widow of Leung Bing Ming

and Mother

of the Late Leung Sai Ham,


the Honor of Your Contribution

at Her Investiture

as a Bag Lady,

on the Lawn

of St. John's Cathedral

Garden Road, Central

just after the Christmas Mass.

Sportswear acceptable.

R.S.V.P. optional.

-- Li Min Hua (a.k.a. Louie Crew)

Has appeared:

  • Witness 71.12 (1988): 23. Used penname Li Min Hua
  • Northland Quarterly 2.3 (1990): 75. Used penname Li Min Hua
  • Fall Down/Get Up. from June 1999. Used penname Li Min Hua
  • Queers! For Christ's Sake! From May 12, 2004
  • Zafusy From April 2005 .
  • Angelic Dynamo from February 21, 2009. One of 3 finalists.

See also

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