Friday, September 22, 2006

I am preaching for the next couple of weeks so spending some time thinking about the lessons for Sundayand what might be said about them. The Gospel speaks of servant leadership and welcoming a little child as God should be welcomed. In our culture we revere children - at least our own children and think - yes - God is all that perceived goodness and innocence and love. Then I read a commentary on the role of children in the time of Jesus at the UCC worship site. It says:
"John Pilch is helpful once again in shedding light on the customs and culture reflected in Jesus'’ actions and words. A child in our culture is much valued and is put first in our priorities (at least, we say so, regardless of the number of children in poverty). In the time of Jesus, a child was lowest on the priority list (no "women and children first" here). Even in medieval times, Mediterranean cultures put a low value on children; "Thomas Aquinas taught that in a raging fire a husband was obliged to save his father first, then his mother, next his wife, and last of all his young child" (The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle B). This is the reverse of our order today in Western culture, so it'’s easy for us to sentimentalize the action of Jesus in picking up a small child and exhorting his followers to welcome "one such child" in his name as a way to welcome him. Instead, we might hear it as a radical command, an upsetting one even."
Who could I use as an example from our cultural context to show something of what Jesus is saying? What came to me is: a group of powerful leaders of religion, industry and politics were meeting with Jesus and discussing who is the best leader and most powerful among them all, the most "in" of the group - Jesus looks to the illegal immigrant cleaning person who is emptying the trash - and says -----
The other lessons speak about the signs of those who follow God's ways and the signs of those who do not. The lesson from Wisdom challenges all who are self indulgent at the expense of others and the letter of James repeats these challenges and notes the signs of these ways in communities.
The Collect (opening prayer) calls us to "be not anxious" - it seems that giving up our need to gather too much to ourselves and to use people for our own ends leads us to more rather than less anxiety. Power and control seem like the way to less anxiety but it is a paradox that it as St. Francis says:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grand that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

As we pray: Jesus stretched out his arms of welcome on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come into his embrace.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Following a trip to Sewanee, TN and some work with the Trainers for EfM, I flew into Washington DC to spend some time with our granddaughter and her parents. Lots of fun hanging out with a 1+ year old and playing "Hi Dair" under the dining room chair.
A surprise highlight of my trip was visiting the Washington National Cathedral. I went there to see some friends who work there and as we were chatting one friend said - "How about presiding at the Eucharist this noon?" So we went off to the sacristy where the Vergers got us set up and told me all I needed to know. Then we took our places in the choir and doing Eucharist at the High Altar - what a rush! To think of all the history of that place and those who have celebrated in that space in the past and yet to come. YIKES!