my miscellany

Pentecost 12, 2017 — 27 Aug 17

Pentecost 12, 2017

RCL A Proper 16
Isaiah 51:1-6, Psalm 138, Romans 12:1-8, Saint Matthew 16:13-20

Saint Matthew’s account of the Confession of Saint Peter sets forth a triangle, a divine and saving triangle, in which each of us lives every moment of our lives.

The triangle is this. There is Jesus, who asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”[1] Secondly, there is Peter, who stands for all the disciples both in Cæsarea Philippi and in every Christian community throughout time and throughout the world. The confession Peter makes for all of these is that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”[2] To this confession Jesus replies and reveals the third person in the triangle. He exclaims, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”[3] And so, the triangle is this. There is Jesus. There is Peter. And finally there is God the Father who reveals some things about Jesus to Peter.

I said that Peter represents us, you and me, in this triangle, for you and I are in the same triangle every day of our lives. We see Jesus in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, and in the people whom he has redeemed and in the people whom he sends to us as we work out our salvation. And, as we work out our salvation, we learn more and experience more of Jesus in the revelation sent to us about him by God.

In every situation in which we find ourselves, particularly those situations that seem hopeless or seem to be beyond saving, we have all that we know about Jesus, and we have what may be revealed to us in the eleventh hour. And my experience, over and over again, is that when I imagine that God will act to redeem a hopeless situation, God does act in some way. Often God reveals something that was previously unknown. And this new revelation changes everything. New revelation changes things for the better.

It is an act of great faith, I believe, simply to wait and not to act thoughtlessly or reactively. I have called this in homily after homily letting God be God. When we believe that God will act, God usually does act and redeems the time and the situation from our worst fears.

Those difficult situations in our lives are our Cæsarea Philippi. They afford us the opportunity to make our own confession, just as Peter did. We can say that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” or we can recognize a new revelation about God. For in the world that Jesus made, hope is just around the corner. Hope is there to be embraced. God’s presence guarantees it. Only we can compromise or constrain the hope God intends us to have.

[1] Saint Matthew 16:13.

[2] Saint Matthew 16:16.

[3] Saint Matthew 16:17.


Pentecost 7, 2017 — 23 Jul 17

Pentecost 7, 2017

RCL A Proper 11
Isaiah 44:6-8, Psalm 86:11-17, Romans 8:12-25, Saint Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43

“The field is the world,”[1] Jesus says in his interpretation of the parable that is today’s Gospel. Could he have possibly foreseen the world in which we live in the twenty-first century?

We have perceived the world in such a way that we see it sharply divided, like the field in the parable, between the wheat and the weeds. We have legal and illegal people, we have Democrats and Republicans, we have haves and have-nots, we have rich and poor, we have capitalists and communists, we have the insured and the uninsured, and we have Christians and Jews on one hand, and Islamists on the other. On Thursday in Kingston, I saw a familiar profile, complete with hair, between the words Stop Bigotry. So, we can add bigots and non-bigots to the polarized and polarizing list. And, what is more, we know, each one of us knows, which is which. We know, we are proud to know, the difference between the wheat and the weeds. How do we react to this reality of our field, our world?

The slaves in the parable know this difference, too. And they go to the householder and offer to uproot the weeds, because they know which is which. But the householder says, “No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together.”[2]

The designations of wheat and weeds we have given to the field in which we live and the remedies each of us has for the field in which we live, all have been put on hold by this parable. They have been put on hold by God’s preference for patience and tolerance.

The wheat can grow, and the weeds can grow, because uprooting one could damage the other. Our role in the world is to grow as best we know how, recognizing that there is a householder who, at the last, will preserve the wheat.

In the past, I have named this patience and this tolerance to be letting God be God. And letting God be God is hard, I know. I would rather step in and make sure things were put right. But stepping in that way would compromise God, and that would be to my way of thinking but maybe not to your way of thinking. And beyond that, stepping in may not be to God’s way of thinking.

And so, the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds is a cautionary tale reminding us that though we have been made in God’s image, we simply have no business in remaking the world in our image. What if we mistake wheat for a weed?

[1] Saint Matthew 13:38.

[2] Saint Matthew 13:29-30a.


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.

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