Sunday, July 22, 2018

Why read the old stories every week?

“We are determined to have a king over us!”
Now for something a little different. A few weeks ago I undertook a task I'd never done before: I preached a Sunday sermon at our little urban Episcopal church. One has to take up new challenges, right? We are between regular priests at present; there is only so much we can exploit our wonderful volunteer clergy. So several of us, including also Erudite Partner, are throwing our two cents in about the weekly Bible texts. Here's my offering from June 10 on bits of 1 Samuel 8: 4-20; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; and Mark 3:20-35.
If you ever want to goose the urgency of your prayers for God’s help, I’ve got a suggestion for you: be fool enough to volunteer to preach. Performance anxiety can do wonders to remind a person of her dependence on God’s help. ...

...One of the aspects of Episcopal practice that brings me here week after week is our routine exposure to the ancient texts of old stories of people trying to comprehend how God/Godself is alive within history. I’m not saying, as our fundamentalist cousins do, that the Bible is The Last Word. Rather, I think we are challenged by these readings to extract meaning for our lives today from the lives of people wrestling, as we are, with how God is right there with them.

So let’s think about today’s readings. I’m going to start with the Gospel. In this passage from Mark (the story is also told by Luke and Matthew), Jesus tells the religious leaders who come to accuse him of being an evil magician that they are full of it. He asks them: how can he, Jesus, be doing the work of the Devil by using the Devil’s tools? That would not work. He points out “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

If you had been in the United States in the 1850’s and 1860’s, this text would have had a striking resonance; it would have seemed invigorating or frightening depending on your politics. Jesus’ admonition that a divided house or kingdom must fall might have haunted your nightmares much as Donald Trump’s elevation to the presidency does to many of us today. When Abraham Lincoln was merely a Senate candidate in Illinois several years before he was elected President, he seized on Jesus’ parable to describe the country’s existential conflict, quoting: “A house divided against itself cannot stand” and continuing “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” ...
I go on to discuss the sad and terrible longing that the ancient Israelites felt for a king over them.

No kings! God knows kings are not a good idea.

1 comment:

Rain Trueax said...

People want them though. I read at FB a meme suggesting that Joe Biden run with Obama as his veep. Now there are amendments that suggest that'd be illegal as the veep has to qualify to be president but the writer suggested that only means to be elected by voters. There are those who would want Obama as a forever president just as some wanted Roosevelt which is why we got the rule only two terms added to the earlier addition. I guess it's human nature to want to hand over authority to someone that person trusts--- never seems to end well even when it happens in a relationship...

Related Posts with Thumbnails