Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost: New Styles of Architecture


Haggai 1:15b-2:9
1:15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month.

2:1 In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying:

2:2 Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say,

2:3 Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?

2:4 Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the LORD; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts,

2:5 according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.

2:6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land;

2:7 and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts.

2:8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts.

2:9 The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.

Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21
145:1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

145:2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.

145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

145:4 One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

145:5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

145:17 The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.

145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

145:19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.

145:20 The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

145:21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Psalm 98
98:1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.

98:2 The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

98:3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

98:4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

98:5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.

98:6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.

98:7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.

98:8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy

98:9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
2:1 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters,

2:2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.

2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.

2:4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.

2:5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

2:13 But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

2:14 For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2:15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope,

2:17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

Luke 20:27-38
20:27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him

20:28 and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.

20:29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;

20:30 then the second

20:31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless.

20:32 Finally the woman also died.

20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."

20:34 Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;

20:35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor

are given in marriage. 20:36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

20:37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

20:38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

It's not that I disagree with Bill Maher, but does he understand or remember that it was "The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."?

"Martin Luther King spoke on that Mall in the capital and he didn't say, 'Remember folks, those southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.' No, he said I have a dream, they have a nightmare...Liberals, like the ones on that field, must stand up and be counted and not pretend that we're as mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit as they are. And if that's too polarizing for you, and you still wanna reach across the aisle...try church"
Mr. Maher has obviously never been to church, either.

But "trying church" is precisely the remedy I would recommend. The problem with Mr. Maher's approach is that it assumes "we" are superior to "them," or at least we aren't as "mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit as they are," when the fact is, "we" are. "We" absolutely are. Which is not to say Jon Stewart is closer to the truth because he tried to equate the political left and the political right the way he did. Mr. Stewart makes the same error: "they" are the crazy ones, "we" are the civil ones.

And our civility has landed us in rank insanity:

Some Republican lawmakers — still reveling in Tuesday’s statewide election sweep — are proposing an unprecedented solution to the state’s estimated $25 billion budget shortfall: dropping out of the federal Medicaid program.
Harris County (essentially Houston) recorded the largest number of straight party ballots for the GOP in its history. And this is the result. Now, were "we" civil, or were "we" crazy? Because "we" stayed home in droves. Was that "mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit" insane? Because no matter what you call it, the results are the same.

Jesus had a saying about this. When the Pharisees complained that his disciples ate unclean food, Jesus said it isn't what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out. God told Jeremiah that the human heart is devious, beyond all fathoming, and God has to test that heart to find out what is really in it. Did we find out on Tuesday? Did we find out we're all the same under the skin, that the results are the same whether it's us or them that's the crazy ones?

Because standing where I'm standing, I have a hard time seeing the difference in results based on the superiority of one of the parties.

Hard not to think of the events of this past week and not think of those words of Haggai, even as such a comparison seems to diminish the words of the prophet. Then again, someone almost always needs a reason to rejoice, and despite its reputation as being full of blood and thunder, the Hebrew Scriptures are often very good at supplying that reason (far better than at supplying excuses for blood and thunder).

For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts.

The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts.
So what do you lack?

I'm sorry, that's too abrupt a transition; let me try again.

Hard not to think of the events of this past week, and not think of the words of the Psalmist:
98:1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.

98:2 The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

98:3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

98:4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

98:5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.

98:6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.

98:7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.

98:8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy

98:9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
No? Still not getting it? Alright, I'll try again.

Hard not to think....well, it is hard not to think of the events of the past week. Hard not to think of them and despair, if only because the GOP in Texas is emboldened to balance the state budget once again on the backs of the poor. Hard not to think of that, and think of the words of Jesus: "Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive." Well, I might have chosen more pointed words, but those are the words chosen by the lectionary, and far be it from my unhallowed hands to disturb the day's Scriptures.

Instead, I'll use them; just as I'll use this quote from Bill Maher, or the planned policy of the Texas GOP, or the words of Haggai. I'll use them to make a point, a particular and pointed and very difficult point: you need a change of heart. You do. You really do. It would do you all the good in the world.

The Saducceess are looking for superiority, in that story from Luke. They want to win the argument about the resurrection, and Jesus won't let them. He redefines the terms, because their terms are too narrow. He forces them to consider a change of heart. They want to challenge his mind. To them, this question of the resurrection is an intellectual puzzle, one that doesn't fit the law of Moses. But their hearts don't fit with the God of Moses. The God of Moses for whom the Psalmist said:

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.

98:8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy

98:9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
There it is again. That tone of judgment. That murmur of the apocalypse, which we think means the "end of time." It means "revealing," actually. And what may be revealed is that we are all mad, and dangerous, and insane. That we are all equal, even as we insist on our superiority based on...well, based on distinctions more frivolous and difficult to identify than skin color or mother tongue. Haggai says "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts," but we insist on acting like it is ours; ours alone, and certainly not theirs. They aren't entitled to it. It is left to us, and we alone know how to use it wisely.

Could there be a greater madness than this? Could there be a clearer need for a change of heart?

And yet we still see it as an arms race, as a multi-lateral negotiation: you disarm, and then perhaps, I will disarm. But I will never disarm before you, because...well, we all know what "because" is. So when the sea roars and all the floods clap their hands, we will not fear, because we know we've kept the silver and gold of the Lord in safe hands, in safekeeping, we have preserved it against the day of judgment, to show how righteous we are, how very very unrighteous "they" are. Oh, yes, we are wise. Momma didn't raise no fools.

Is that how it will be? Do we imagine a day when our righteousness prevails and theirs fails, because ours is good and theirs is bad, and evil must always be fought, and evil is always "out there" and never in here among us, never looking out through our eyes and telling us everything we do is right, and everything "they" do is wrong? Is there no evil in that? How can there be? Well, maybe just a little, but their evil is greater! They have the sheriffs and the firehoses and the German shepherds and the majority in the Texas Legislature and in the Congress and EVIL MUST BE FOUGHT!

Do we ever feel our hand around our own throat when we say that? No? Then we aren't doing it right; because we should. Yes, evil must be fought. But where is evil, except in the human heart? And how do you remove it, except with a change of heart?

Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?
Is it not in your sight as dead? And yet is it dead, if in God's sight all are living, and God is the God of the living, and not the dead? If the distinction we make are not the distinctions God makes, are we wise to insist on our distinctions? If all of the silver and gold is God's, are we smart to insist on ownership of any of it? If we insist they change first, before we have to, are we pursuing change, or obstructing it?

Without a change of heart, is any real change possible? With a change of heart, is any other change necessary?

One last work about what Mr. Maher said. It's true, Dr. King never said 'Remember folks, those southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.' But neither did he ever say his fiercest opponents were "mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit". Indeed, he saved his fiercest words for those who would be his friends, but who only wanted him to stop leading the movement he was leading. But he knew if he was going to overcome his most ferocious enemies, the sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, and all the hateful people they represented, he was going to have to do it by changing their hearts.

It was probably something he learned in church.

Amen.

4 Comments:

Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

The Revised Common Lectionary is a wonderful thing. Church goers all over the world speak or sing the same Psalms and hear the same lessons. I heard the words this morning and now read them again, but the added attention is not too much.

Without a change of heart, is any real change possible? With a change of heart, is any other change necessary?

Of course, you're right. But if we see someone hungry, or thirsty, or homeless, aren't we responsible to act? In our increasingly secular society, are we not to still be about easing pain and comforting the afflicted?

I may not be reading you right, Robert, but I with respect to the political process, you seem to say it's all right not to get involved, because what we do won't make a difference anyway.

I agree that the two main parties look an awful lot like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but, as I see it, there are differences enough to make it worthwhile to stay involved, so long as we stay straight in our heads that we are not God's chosen people because we are Democrats (or Republicans), and our political opponents are not the spawn of Satan.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

I may not be reading you right, Robert, but I with respect to the political process, you seem to say it's all right not to get involved, because what we do won't make a difference anyway.

Rather, don't confuse it with salvation.

I agree that the two main parties look an awful lot like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but, as I see it, there are differences enough to make it worthwhile to stay involved, so long as we stay straight in our heads that we are not God's chosen people because we are Democrats (or Republicans), and our political opponents are not the spawn of Satan.

Pretty much.

And how would we care for the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, without a change of heart? The world, especially today, teaches us to leave them to their own devices, in one way or another.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

I long ago gave up looking for a savior amongst the politicians or looking for salvation from a political party.

And a change of heart comes by the grace of God.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

I long ago gave up looking for a savior amongst the politicians or looking for salvation from a political party.

I'm always surprised by the people who haven't.

10:49 PM  

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