Saturday, November 11, 2006

Click here for the readings

Tomorrow I make my way over South Pass to Rock Springs. We will have music by jazz artistRonnie Kole. He has been in Rock Springs doing workshops and working with students at Western Wyoming Community College. Every year he leads us in worship. This year we have 4 baptisms so it should be quite a celebration.
The Gospel is one where Jesus is warning the religious establishment about making the building and the trappings of religion more important than people. The widow with her two coins gives her all to support a system that perhaps should be looking out for her welfare rather than sucking up her last savings. He criticizes those who walk about in fine long robes and tells them that soon the whole structure will come tumbling down. It is a lesson for all of us who get too caught up in preserving the "way it always was" as our utmost value rather than letting go of those things that get in the way of our call to serve Christ in all persons. Dylan Breuer in her Lectionary blog explores this idea more fully.
In the reading from 1 Kings - the prophet Elijah goes to the outsider in answer to God's call. She is also a widow. Widows symbolize the most marginalized of the community - without a husband they have very few resources. In this story the widow is cooking a final meal for herself and her son. Elijah asks to share it and her willingness to share is repaid again and again.
How does this all relate to jazz and baptisms? Maybe there is something about letting go of status and position to give of oneself for others? Children want love, nurture, food and shelter -- just like we do. They are given into our care. Jazz at its best asks the musician to give one's gifts over to the music and the interplay between players. The giver of all gifts - children and music -- asks only that we use them to build up the kindom of God, for making heaven on earth. We cannot hold them too tightly. We give our best, studying and learning and practicing. Then we let it all go to become what God has in mind. Roots and wings - as the old saying goes. Roots for grounding and wings for flying.
There is a song sung by Linda Ronstadt:

Love is a rose but you better not pick it
Only grows when it's on the vine
Handful of thorns and you'll know you've missed it
Lose your love when you say the word mine

This is the truth - all life is a gift of the Holy One --- this building, the music, the children, ourselves - but the message we hear over and over is that it is not ours to use for ourselves alone -- it is to be offered up for the life of the world. The widows would not be down to her last coin or last meal if those in power had not allowed either of them to become impoverished. As we make our promises to these children to support them in their life in Christ - let us remember that we are making these promises to all the children. Maybe it would be to buy mosquito nets for a family in Africa to prevent malaria or give to buy a well for clean water in a village in South America so that disease is not spread from bad drinking water. These are all possibilities within our reach - see the Gifts for Life catalogfrom Episcopal Relief and Development for one way to do this. As we offer our support to the children we see here before us - we remember that we can reach out to our families, our community and around the world.


Ann said...

I did not end up preaching much of this post - the sermon took on a life of its own - as they sometimes do for me. Mostly talked about risking and not holding too tightly to anything even our children. Offer all our gifts to the glory of God - give it our best shot and let go when things become idols.

Daniel Berry said...

Wonder what ever happened to Linda Ronstadt! Did you see where Elton John has come out against organized religion? It's interesting that *our lectionary reading from the Old Testament was from Ruth today. (I do know that there are some differences on occasion between the Episcopal readings and the readings for the other denominations. I liked your addition at the end about how our giving might be reflected in ways we don't usually think of. The main thing I tried to get across was that love must be costly and must be a true demonstration of sacrifice if it is truly to be love; but I'll bring in that other aspect of giving as we get toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, I believe. We have a project in our Presbyterian synod engaged in developing water filtration systems in Mexico as one example of what you're talking about. That kind of thing can be done as Christians, in the name of Christ.

Daniel Berry said...

I like your idea of not holding to things too tightly--including family. That's a real temptation for Christian families--perhaps especially in ths South. As my mother's health continues to fail significantly, this concept may soon be put to the ultimate test for me. Keep us in your prayers.