Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011. Fourth Sunday in Lent

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

My parents died in 1982, Mother in January, Dad in July.   After each funeral I stayed with their friend and contemporary Mrs. W. B. Moore, who had tutored me in Latin in the 9th and 10th grades.  Mama Moore was a member of Parker Memorial Baptist Church where my parents had been members, the place where I was baptized at age 8, the place which licensed me as a Southern Baptist preacher in March 1954 as I prepared to enter Baylor University that fall.

After my father's funeral, Mama Moore and I had a quiet meal and then sat in her large den (she called it a 'hutch').   "Louie," she said, "I don't believe in the after life. I don't have any need to upset my friends at Parker Memorial by telling them, but I just don't.  I believe that the only life we have when we die is in the influence we have on those whom we have loved.  Louie, don't ever stop loving your parents.  Something very vital in you would die."

"Evermore give us this bread that Jesus may live in us, and we in him."

Without naming it, Mama Moore was  describing how Jesus chooses to be resurrected in 2011.  That's why we Episcopalians call it Eucharist,  from Greek εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), which means "thanksgiving".  The Baptists stress that the Lord's Supper is a Remembrance, in which we re-Member Jesus.  We make Jesus a member of us again.  We elect to remain a part of him.

1 Samuel 16:1-13  

I have served on numerous search committees.  I was co-chair of the committee that nominated candidates for our most recent episcopal election in the Diocese of Newark, and I was secretary of the nominating committee for the episcopal election before that.  I recently served on General Convention's joint standing nominating  committee. I also served two terms on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark, which with the bishop, had a deciding vote on  whether or not a postulant could become a candidate and be ordained.   Also during 44 years as a professor I served on numerous hiring committees.

I undertake such assignments expecting the Holy Spirit to be available to help us discern the best fits, but I don't want to blame all our choices on God.  Jesus himself chose one bad egg out of a dozen.

Samuel offers an important model of how to go about discernment, but a troublesome one.  Don't always choose  from the first pickings.  Ask to see those not on view, those tending sheep. "The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

Psalm 23

While teaching English at Er Wai, Beijing's Second Foreign Language Institute, 1983-84, I was asked to give  several lectures at large on the subject of rhetoric, the discipline that looks closely at the strategies a writer or speaker uses to connect to the audience.   For one of my lectures in this officially atheist setting, I chose to look at how the psalmist connects with those who speak the psalm, those who use it.

Note closely the grammatical point of view.  At the beginning the psalm is in the first person singular, "The  Lord is my shepherd.   I will not be without anything I need. He...."

Note well how sheep relate to shepherds.  The psalmist is prescribing that those who say or read the psalm will  take the same relatively docile and totally dependent relationship with God.

In verses 2 and 3 the speaker of psalm talks about God in the third person, "He make me lie down,  he leads me, he revives me, he guides me.

But in verse 4, subtly and dramatically the speaker shifts from third person to second person when taking about  God.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me....

The psalm never returns just to talk about God:  it talks to God.

If you are not a believer, you might jump on this rhetoric as an example of how religion and opium collaborate  to dull critical thinking:  without negotiating whether or not the faith claims are valid, the worshiper has been 'suckered' into them.

But if you a believer, you may have already dealt with you doubts.  You may also have concluded that faith, by  definition, is something spiritual, the substance of things hoped for, not the evidence of things seen.

The imagery works powerfully on the speaker as well.  Even when we are surrounded by those who wish us  harm, God always brings us a feast.

Imagine what that reality means to lgbt Christians in Uganda.  Imagine what that means when those who seek to harm you are kept at the edges where they observe you enjoying the  feast, not worried about them at all.

Ephesians 5:8-14

As a gay person I lived too many years in darkness, in hiding, ashamed of who I am, fearful that I might act on  who I am, scared that all my efforts to become heterosexual were not working, convinced, even with an abundance  of evidence to the contrary, that all courage and goodness was the exclusive province of straight people, that  God could not possibly love me or anyone like me....

Indeed, once I was in darkness, but now in the Lord I live as a child of light and try to do what is pleasing to the Lord.  I did not find a way to become a heterosexual, but I did find ways to try to be the best  homosexual person I can be, with God's help.

Much of that was made possible in my marriage to Ernest Clay, truly a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of  an inward transforming grace.

"Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."

John 9:1-41

John makes it sound like there were a powerful lot of Anglicans present when Jesus performed his miracles on  sinners.   When they couldn't fault the obvious evidence that the blind could now see, that Jesus had made them whole, they faulted Jesus on a technicality:  he had healed them on the sabbath, breaking the law.

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner."

He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do  know, that though I was blind, now I see."

They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your  eyes?"

He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?"

Then they reviled him...

Get over it, ++Henry Orombi.  Get over it, ++Nicholas Dikeriehi Okoh.  Get over it, ++Onesphore Rwaje...  Get over it, all 8 primates who boycotted Presiding Bishop and Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori.  ""'Show up' to heal the world."

See also

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