Monday, November 1, 2010

November 14, 2010. Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

How thoroughly Episcopalian! We not only hear Scriptures, but also “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.”

Do we have to critique Scripture as part of the inwardly digestion? I believe so.

While God “caused all Holy Scriptures to be written,” God did not write them, and it is hard to believe that God said everything attributed to God, hard to believe that God considers holy every thing written in Scripture.

For example, does God treat as holy Psalm 137’s petition for vengeance?

O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock.

For a second example, did God inspire this passage from 2 Kings 2: 23-25?

[Elisha] went from there to Bethel and, as he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Get along with you, baldy, get along" He turned round and looked at them and he cursed them in the name of the Lord; and two she-bears came out of a wood and mauled forty-two of them. From there he went on to Mount Carmel.

As an old baldy myself, I have little difficulty considering this passage inspired, but I seriously doubt that it was inspired by God!

We must put fresh Duracell’s in our thinking caps when we read scripture. We must use our traditions and our reason to help us understand it.

The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah when the apostle Philip joined him in his chariot. He told Philip that he did not understand parts of it. Philip responded that the eunuch needed an interpreter; and then Philip interpreted the text for him. (See Acts 8: 26-40)

Clearly Philip was an Episcopalian, not a Southern Baptist. It is dangerous to believe that Scripture trumps intellect.

We don’t have the option of whether to use our minds: the first and greatest commandment is to love God with them.

Isaiah 65:17-25

Several times through my forty-four years as a professor, I asked students to assume they were God for a few minutes and plan a new design for the human body. You might pause for a moment, and jot down your own new designs.

Some of my students’ suggestions were interesting and in time, predictable – adding an eye in the back of the head; making the body self-cleaning without the heat of a self-cleaning oven; adding the organ of the opposite sex as well as the organ one now has….

Without my prompting, almost all suggestions were merely variations on the bodies we now have. No one proposed starting all over from scratch. Nor did students manifest wide-spread enthusiasm for their classmates’ re-designs, in part because aesthetically the new designs conflicted with what we already know and adjust to. Even current limitations have staying power; they are complications we’re used to.

I did not ask the students to read Isaiah 65 before the exercise, but sometimes invited them to compare Isaiah’s new designs with theirs after they had made their choices. Of course, Isaiah does not limit his imaginings to the body alone, but designs, in the voice of God, new heavens and a new earth.

How would you improve on Isaiah’s designs? How would you improve on God’s original design?

If Philip were sitting beside you as a passenger on a city bus, what interpretation might he give to Isaiah’s designs, and to your designs?

Canticle 9

A friend on wrote on his Facebook page recently:

It wouldn't surprise me if we as a civilization are on the edge of a new Dark Age where Science & Philosophy are hidden away in Monasteries so they won't be forgotten.

We have caused global warming, and we are facing other ecological messes as a result of our abuse of the planet. The earth is fast running out of the fossil fuels on which current way of life depends. Many current military conflicts are driven by competition for the dwindling supplies. Few with great political power are waging peace, and those who try, have a low success rate.

In this context, can we say Canticle 9 with conviction, or only as a fantasy out of touch with our reality:

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.

Does God promise to save us from the results of our prodigality?

Surely we can “Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things,” but we will be most cynical if we sing praises to placate the Lord, as if to distract God from what we might have done and still might do to remedy our own messes.

For example, all people on the planet could rescue the planet and themselves by committing to reduce the population by birth control to one-fourth its current size within just three generations. We would then have resources aplenty! Why has no one even mentioned such a proposal?

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.

This is not from the Republican platform. This is not from millionaires trying to cut Social Security. This is not from the Communist Party.

A first-century tent-maker wrote this principle and sent it to a congregation of Christians that included shirkers and free-loaders.

How applicable is this to your own household? to your parish? to your diocese?

How does Saint’s principle square with Jesus’?

Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free healthcare. You’re thinking of Jesus.”

— John Fugelsang

Luke 21:5-19

Jesus’ vision of the apocalypse is grimmer even than the ecological disaster which I have considered. Jesus’ view of the end times is replete with violent destruction, “wars and insurrections,” with “great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues, [with] dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”

Only those who endure to the end will be saved, will “gain their souls.”

See also

1 comment:

Stephen J. Henry said...

Thanks so much for this page. I found it most interesting and intriguing; engaging and exciting. There is something about the theology which you espoused which resonates with me as a young Black Baptist Minister living in Jamaica.

All the best as you share the Gospel in real and liberating ways.