NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON: Passion Sunday: March 17, 2013

St. Andrew’s Old Roman Catholic Church
Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)

FIRST LESSON
1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 13

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

GOSPEL OF THE DAY:
Luke 13:31-43

Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.”

And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. “

And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, “Thou son of David, have mercy on me. “

And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” And he said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight. “ And Jesus said unto him, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.”

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

Scripture doesn’t belong just to a faith community—it lives in the world. An image that we struggle to make sense of theologically is often an image writers and artists struggle with to bring to life in a new way. The image from the epistle reading, “we see through a glass, darkly” has been taken up by writers throughout the centuries and in their words bring to us a different understanding. Three examples, excepts from longer poems by Robin Ouzman and General George Patton and an entire poem by Traci Brimwell help illustrate this point:

Excerpt from Through a Glass Darkly
by Robin Ouzman

Part. 1. Haikai.
Arrow pivots arc
& the archer is transfixed between space & flight:
Moving from towards Finite from infinite arrow Appears & disappears:
Angst of the arrow, As string tautens, bow stretches
& the arrow flies.
At the speed of light Arrow pierces crow’s black heart
Through a glass darkly.

From “Through a Glass, Darkly”
by General George S. Patton, Jr.

I have sinned and I have suffered,
Played the hero and the knave;
Fought for belly, shame, or country,
And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles
For the visions are not clear,
Yet, I see the twisted faces
And I feel the rending spear.

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet, I’ve called His name in blessing
When after times I died.

“Through a Glass Darkly”
By Traci Brimhall

You counted days by their cold silences.
…………
At night, wolves and men with bleeding hands
colonized your dreams. The last time I visited,
…………
you said you trapped a dead woman in your room
who told you to starve yourself to make room for God, 
…………
so I let them give your body enough electricity
to calm it. Don’t be afraid. The future is not disguised 
…………
as sleep. It is a tango. It is a waterfall between
two countries, the river that tried to drown you. 
…………
It is a city where men speak a language
you can fake if you must. It’s the hands of children
…………
thieving your empty pockets. It’s bicycles
with bells ringing through the streets at midnight. 
…………
Come up from the basement. It’s not over.
Before the sun rises, moonlight on the trees. 
…………
Before they tear the asylum down, joy.

++++++++++++++++

Scripture tells us many things about the nature of divinity and what it is like to be human; preachers and theologians work with the words of scripture to find ways of making the messages fresh in every generation. Artists take the same words and help give new meaning to them. The worlds theologians and artists are parallel; words and images link them together but their responses to what scripture tells them is unique.

For those seeking to live a faithful life, having the experiences of distinct responses to scripture is a blessing. The words of scripture aren’t bound into a tradition but free in the world; rather the different approaches to our shared heritage helps to ensure we can make sense of scripture.

If the bible, if any scripture, is held up as an authority only within the faith tradition its meaning can easily be frozen in time. Those within the faith tradition become rigid both in thought and practice. It is only when those who look at scripture with fresh eyes share their insights that scripture truly becomes a living witness. God’s will for those within creation is seen with new eyes and being a faithful seeker of understanding of the divine will becomes easier.
We hear the words of scripture differently when we know they aren’t just ours. The message of love is for everyone, not just a narrowly defined community of
believers. And it is not just us that says God is universal, that the words the founders of our faith put down are universal—it it those outside of our faith that find meaning in scripture and who share their insights that makes our faith something for all.

Because those outside our faith take our scripture seriously we are encouraged to do so as well. Sometimes we feel too close to scripture, too certain in understanding of what God is saying to us, to make real sense of what is being shared with us. We become afraid of thinking about what we read; somewhat hesitant in interpreting the words we hear. But when someone outside our faith, a stranger to our community, finds meaning and truth in our scripture that we haven’t, we realize how exciting our scripture is, how full of meaning each passage is. It is not a relic from the early days but a new and inspiring message God offers to us in the here and now.

We are walking the Lenten journey, observing our brother Jesus as he walks towards his passion, death and resurrection. This isn’t a historic journey but an ever present one. Every day Jesus walks among us on this journey, sharing in our celebrations and fear and suffering and death and hopes. Time is uncertain during periods of life and death, of Lent and Advent. All things become possible in our lives because we can be open to what surprising became possible in Bethlehem and at Golgotha.

Our liturgical journey through the year is a creative response to the words of scripture; poems we heard just a few moments ago are another creative response. In our reading of scripture on our own or in community, let us try to learn from those who see in our scripture an eternally new source of inspiration.

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