my miscellany

Pentecost 6, 2017 — 16 Jul 17

Pentecost 6, 2017

RCL A Proper 10
Isaiah 55:10-13, Psalm 65:9-14, Romans 8:1-11, Saint Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23

Words from the Psalm: “May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; * let them shout for joy and sing.”[1]

This week, I have found the Lessons appointed for this Eucharist to be overwhelmingly large. I mean that they are a reminder; they are renewing; they are revealing; and they touch upon the largest subject there is to touch upon. That subject is so large that I find it hard to put my arms around it. But here goes.

The Lessons are reminders that God made heaven and earth. Every living plant, every living animal, every human being are illustrations for God. They themselves remind us that God created them, put life in them, and they reflect God’s glory. Their very existence sings a song of praise to God. The system, the economy, and the organization of all living things refer to their Maker. By living and by growing they tell the story of God clearly and directly through countless millennia.

And way down the line, after epochs and ages, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower. He draws a comparison between two huge things. In fact, he says that those two huge things are really the same thing. He says that the life in plants, in animals, and every living creature throughout the ages, is identical to his teaching—his teaching is that life handed down and extended from generation to generation through all the ages. “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit.”[2]

I have tried to capture in so brief a time this renewing and immense comparison, because it corrects the major temptation of our age and our time. As Christians in the post-modern world, we are tempted to think that our story, the word sown on good soil that bears much fruit, is at best charming and at worst quaint and antique. To compensate for this, we seek to be relevant to the same world that is pushing us out of its mainstream.

And my preachment is this. Our story is so close to the life created by God shown in generation after generation that it is foolish to try to be relevant. When Jesus took to the boat and taught the throng on the beach, he was not saying something new. He was plumbing the depths, the very essence, of the world God had made. He was and is telling us where true authenticity is to be found. He was telling us our origin. And he was offering himself to keep us connected to the life we have been given. We can easily listen, and we can easily bear much fruit.

[1] Psalm 65:14.

[2] Saint Matthew 13:23.

Pentecost 8, 2016 — 10 Jul 16

Pentecost 8, 2016

RCL C Proper 10 Complementary
Deuteronomy 30:9-14, Psalm 25:1-9, Colossians 1:1-14, Saint Luke 10:25-37

On a lazy summer’s day, we run headlong into two of the biggest ideas in Christianity and into one of the best-known parables in the Gospels. As I say often in one way or another: it’s never feast or famine; it’s always feast or feast.

The Lesson from Deuteronomy propels us directly into the Deuteronomic Theology worked out repeatedly in great detail in the historical books of the Old Testament. And here is that theology in a nutshell: obedience to God’s commandments leads inevitably to success while disobedience leads inevitably to disaster. We heard it in the Lesson: “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosper…when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments.”[1]

The commandments, of course, are the revealed Law in the Ten Commandments. But those commandments also are—and this is the second big idea of today—implanted by God in the hearts of his creatures. You heard it in the same Lesson: “the word…is…in your heart for you to observe.”[2] In other words, the commandments whose obedience brings success and whose disobedience brings disaster are known both on stone tablets and on the human heart. Those commandments are both revealed law and natural law. They are accessible to everyone.

Consequently, when we come to the lawyer in the Gospel, we come to someone who knows the revealed law through education and who knows the same law naturally through his humanity. The lawyer answers Jesus’ question well when he replies with the Summary of the Law. But the answer doesn’t answer the lawyer’s need for certainty and his need to hold back complete obedience. And so, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?”[3], knowing the answer but hoping that the meaning of “is” is something that will let him off the hook of complete obedience.

Fortunately, Jesus answers his question with the great parable of the Good Samaritan. You know it cold, I know. The man beaten and half dead, if dead, would ritually contaminate the priest and the Levite if they lent him assistance according to the Law revealed on stone in all its elaborations. So they pass by on the other side taking no chances. But the Samaritan, outside the Law and the Prophets, has the Law written on his heart, and he proves neighbor to the man beaten and robbed. Jesus’ answer removes the lawyer’s wiggle room. “Is,” in fact, means “is.” Your neighbor is your neighbor.

If the lawyer’s wiggle room has been removed, so has yours, and so has mine. We have to face the fact that God expects us to love our neighbor as God has loved us.

[1] Deuteronomy 30:9-10.

[2] Deuteronomy 30:14.

[3] Saint Luke 10:29.

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