Archive for August 2018

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Epiphany, Norfolk 8/12/18

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Epiphany, Norf. 8/12/18

In case you haven’t figured it out –
Julia Ashby and I
really enjoy working together.

We’re both mature enough –
with enough experience under our belts –
that we’re not threatened by each other.

We’re both classically educated –
and comfortable in our own skin.

We also both have
somewhat twisted sense of humors.

We laugh a lot
when we’re working.

Well –
as we were planning our preaching schedule –
Julia checked the reading for the coming weeks.

I was in the Parish Hall –
and I heard her let out a “Ye Ha.”

I went to the office to see what was so exciting –
and she was waving today’s lesson sheet.

You have to preach on this one.

I’ve got to hear what you say about:
“and do not make room for the devil.”

Now that becomes sort of a dare.

I couldn’t turn THAT down.

And then yesterday –
she taunted me
by sending me by email –
a “Baptist Word Study” on Satan –
from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
in Fort Worth, Texas.

God knows where she found that –
but more on that in a minute.

But first –
a word about our reading for this morning –
from the Epistle to the Ephesians.

This whole reading
presents a little litany
of unattractive behavior –
and how we should avoid these pitfalls
that get us into trouble.

They all make wonderful sense.

I should read them every morning when I get up –
and every night when I go to bed.

It’s a wonderful passage.

In fact
when they revised the lectionary
the first 5 verses of this morning’s reading –
were added to the lectionary.

Julia’s reference to the devil
wasn’t included as part of the reading –
until about 10 years ago.

But it is there now –
and I kind of like it.

I have to admit
that I don’t spend a lot of time
thinking about the devil.

That’s not to say
that I don’t take the devil seriously.

I’ve bumped into him too many times –
to dismiss him.

I used to blame lots of stuff
on the devil.

“The Devil made me do it.”

And sometimes I kind of felt that way –
especially when I wasn’t very happy
with my own behavior.

I could NOT have done THAT on my own.

I had to have help – the Devil.

Well, from where does all of this come?

Theologically –
our creation is made up of opposites.

So – if we’re going to have a personification of “good” –
we also need a personification of “not good” –
and that seems to have been laid
at the feet (or hooves) of Satan –
the devil.

Well,
most of us know a romanticized Satan
from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” –
or The Book of Job – from the Bible –
or the play “JB” that is a staging
of the Biblical Book of Job.

Satan is not a very nice guy.

He’s a fallen angel –
that got kicked out of heaven –
which should properly be translated as “the Garden” –
and now wanders the earth –
causing all sorts of mischief.

Well – what is it
that the Baptists say about him?

If I’m reading the article correctly –
Satan is not the archenemy of God –
but the heavenly “prosecuting attorney” –
“The Executioner” –
God’s executioner.

Good grief.

That doesn’t fit my theology very well.

If I had to come up
with my own theology of Satan –
I would fall back on “the tempter.”

I run into “The Tempter” from time to time –
and he can really get me into trouble.

“I know you don’t need a new car –
but just look again at that Jaguar.
“Smell the leather.
“Touch the wood.
“Listen to that engine.
“Picture yourself sitting behind the wheel –
driving up to a Clergy Conference –
with your nose held so high.”

Oh – I know The Tempter.

There is a wonderful little reading
in the service of Compline –
which we sometimes use around here –
like after a Lenten Program.

It actually is a short passage
from the First Epistle of Peter.

Compline is one of the old monastic services –
read by monks before going to bed, –
and this little passage
is a perfect “Going to Bed Reading.”

“Be sober, be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Resist him, firm in your faith.”

I’ve always liked that.

It’s not necessarily material
for sweet dreams –
but it speaks to our vulnerability –
even in our sleep.

And I like that idea of “the prowling evil.”

Ephesians links the devil to anger.

And it never says not to be angry.

In fact, it says the opposite.

It says:
“Be angry but do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not make room for the devil.”

Now that’s an interesting idea.

Go ahead and be angry if you have to.

But don’t go to bed angry –
or you can make room for the devil.

Again – the idea of Satan prowling around at night –
and finding us in our sleep with anger.

Unresolved anger
becomes the portal for Satan to enter.

And then –
later in our passage –
we get another great little passage.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you are marked with a seal
for the day of redemption.”

At Baptism
we mark the person with a sign of the cross
on the forehead –
and claim that person
as “Christ’s own for ever.”

“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism
and marked as Christ’s own
for ever. Amen.”

We have snatched the person
from the hands of Satan.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you are marked with a seal
for the day of redemption.”

Well – Julia –
that’s the best I can do.

It’s been years and years
since I’ve talked about Satan.

As a footnote –
when I went home from dinner last night
to write this homily –
I had no electricity –
from the storm –
and thus,
no computer.

The silly thought ran through my head –
“the devil prowls tonight.”

I decided to take the dogs
and go to the NUOM office
to write my homily –
where I knew I had power.

But the dogs were spooked.

Max kept hearing things –
and whimpering –
and trying to get in my lap.

And then I started hearing things –
and I got spooked.

I printed out my homily –
put the dogs in the car –
and headed home –
to a night of prayer and penance.

There would be no grieving of the Holy Spirit –
last night.

Amen.

Posted August 14, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

John 6:1-21 7/29/18 Epiphany, Norfolk

When they “redid” our Lectionary some years ago, they tried to establish themes for each Sunday, and then select readings around those themes. Cramner had done this, to a great degree, in his Lectionary of 1559. But in that Lectionary, all of the readings repeated every year. And that carried through until our present 1979 Prayer Book. With the 1979 Prayer Book, they changed to a 3 year cycle, where readings repeated every 3 years. Well, after a few decades of using the 1979 Lectionary, it became pretty clear that the weekly themes needed to be “refocused”, and today’s readings are a good example of that effort.

We seem to have two general themes this morning. One is the theme of feeding, and one is the theme of God providing for God’s chosen people. In our Old Testament Reading from, 2nd Kings, Elisha the Prophet is given an offering of food that he directs be given to the people who are starving. And we get an Old Testament version of the “Feeding of the 5,000”, which is now usually called “The Feeding of the Multitude.”

This is not just a coincidence. All of the Gospel Writers were trying to link Jesus to the prophets, and picking up this well known Old Testament story from 2nd Kings, would have done just that. And, since Elisha had replicated so many of Moses’ acts, it even links to Moses and the Exodus, when God fed the Israelites Manna. There is this constant theme of “feeding” throughout the whole Bible.

And we need to remember that the Holy Land is a really harsh land. It doesn’t produce food easily, and until recently with modern irrigation and Kibbutz farming, the land could not sustain very many people. Hunger, and sometimes famine, were the norm in that land. Hunger and famine are major elements in the history of the Jewish people. And in Jesus’ time, it was even worse because the Roman Army was eating almost all the food that the land could produce. The people really were starving, and all of the Gospel writers try to show Jesus as having compassion for the starving masses.

Well, the theme carried through to our Psalm: “…you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature.”

Our 2nd Reading from Ephesians, focuses a little more on “spiritual feeding”: “I pray that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.”

And then, of course, our Gospel passage from John, “The Feeding of the Multitudes.” Now, this is John’s version, and John was writing late – about 120 ad – and probably up around what is now Turkey. The writer of John is taking his material from the earlier Gospels, and reapplying it in his own Gospel, again, trying to write theology – not history. And he ties it to the story of Jesus walking on water – coming across the water to tend to his disciples, who are caught in a storm. John tells it much more simply than the other Gospel writers. We don’t have Peter trying to join him on the water, and although they are terrified, we don’t get them thinking he’s a ghost. But the writer puts it here to show Jesus caring for his friends, getting them from the storm to the shore and safety.

Well, “the feeding theme” carries right on down to us today. Through history, the Christian Church has seen part of its ministry to be a “feeding ministry.” Medieval monasteries grew food and distributed it, and promised travelers a meal. Modern churches have food pantries, or give out food vouchers. There are soup kitchens and feeding programs provided by churches in every city. Many churches feed after their services. There are many traditions around “feeding.”

And in a strange way, it comes down to us in the Eucharist, as well. And that picks up the theme from Ephesians – that we also need to be fed spiritually. That little bit of bread, and that little bit of wine that we get at communion, isn’t going to keep a person alive if he is physically starving, but it can offer tremendous spiritual sustenance. And sometimes we’re well fed physically, but starving spiritually.

I’ve been very blessed in my life in that I’ve never gone to bed hungry because there was no food. But, there have been times when I’ve gone to bed spiritually hungry, and that is a painful experience. And somehow, I’ve found that little piece of bread, and that little dip of wine can satisfy that hunger. It’s a mystery. I can’t explain how it works. But on a couple of occasions in my life, I’ve thought, “If I can just get to communion, it will be all right” – and it has been. Somehow, communion can clear my head, help me focus, help me make sense out of what’s happening, help me get in touch with God. Spiritual hunger has to be fed, just like physical hunger. And the church tries to meet that need.

When Jesus looked up and saw the crowd coming to him, my guess is that he saw a crowd that was spiritually hungry, as well as physically hungry. And with his few loaves and fishes, he was able to feed the spiritually hunger, and, we are told, mysteriously, the physical hunger. That was Eucharist.

There’s not much I miss from the old Prayer Book, but I do miss what were called “The Words of Invitation”: “Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden and I will refresh you.” It is Matthew 11:28, and can still be found in Rite I on page 332. I think of those words, often. Sometimes we are in travail, and sometimes we are heavy laden, and for me in those moments, I’m one of the 5,000 and I need to be fed. And it is Eucharist that feeds me.

I’m always having people tell me that they can worship God just fine somewhere else. I want to say, “That’s good. But the day will come, when you get older and spiritually tired, that you will hunger for the church. You will crave spiritual food. And you will find it at church.”

That’s our mission. That’s our ministry.

Amen.

Posted August 1, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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