Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday morning

Sunset 20150727

Everybody who’s going to stop watching or reading the news until this pathetic, humiliated woman Joyce Mitchell is no longer the headlines say “aye.”

In Pennsylvania thirty-something years ago, one of our diocesan priests was chaplain at Camp Hill prison. His name escapes me, but he was retiring and I talked with him about the ministry. He said long years of dealing with selfish people whose only interest was manipulation had exhausted him to a burned out cynic. He did not recommend the ministry to anyone. 

This morning my mind stirs that memory, and Mitchell the Pathetic, and Sunday’s gospel, into a nasty gravy that I don’t want on my grits. In John’s gospel (pasted below) Jesus is offering signs (semeia) of who he is -- the one sent from heaven by God -- and he realizes that the people are not interested in the sign or in what the sign signifies, which is eternal life; all they are interested in is free bread. They have followed him home to Capernaum hoping for another free meal. John has Jesus seem frustrated, cynical and sarcastic; and stepping into John’s story, it’s a wonder to me that Jesus didn’t throw up his hands and quit. He had gotten down to our reptilian center of total selfishness.

Nobody is what others see and remember, deep inside each of us is someone ugly and reptilian known only to self and God, but I lovingly remember my grandfather Gentry as a kind and generous man. He was a Baptist, he and my grandmother raised their five children as Southern Baptists, and after a daughter in law died in 1939, they took in and raised two grandchildren, first cousins whom I dearly loved and loved going to Sunday School and church with them. Daddy Walt drove us in the 1939 Chrysler sedan, then in the 1942 Chrysler sedan, then in the 1946 Chrysler club coupe, then in his 1947 Plymouth club coupe, then in the blue 1949 and black 1950 Chrysler sedans (my grandmother wrecked the blue '49 Windsor, which had been her Mother's Day present that year, another story), and as he parked in his traditional parking spot right on the corner headed out, he handed each of us a nickel for Sunday School offering. 

My growing up years, Daddy Walt signified to me that a Baptist was a generous, kind and loving Christian. And I remember him saying that in the Baptist church “every man interprets the Bible for himself.” I further remember being disappointed and disillusioned many years later, in Harrisburg going to a huge assembly where Jerry Falwell was forming a chapter of the “Moral Majority” and watching Dr. Falwell on television over the years, hearing a message that Christians had to believe that every word of the Bible was inerrantly, literally true, and that one must accept Christ as Personal Savior so that one could be “as sure for heaven as if you were already there.” The Baptist message had changed incredibly from what I had heard and seen in my grandfather all my growing up years, to a selfish gospel in which what mattered was “being saved,” a feat one accomplished for oneself by walking down an aisle and accepting Christ. The same as tracing Jesus to Capernaum for another free meal.

In defense of the Baptist side of me that I still love when I think of Daddy Walt, I don’t totally see that anymore. The outreach ministries of places like St. Andrews Baptist Church seem to be everything that, in my understanding, Jesus taught and preached. The adage “every man interprets the Bible for himself” seems to have given way to a dogma of literalism and inerrancy that I find stifling, oppressive, narrow and intolerable, but the heart of what I see seems good. Maybe more like Luke than John. I don’t know. I do know that I do my own thinking. Me and Daddy Walt.


John 6:24-35 Disciples’ Literal New Testament (DLNT)

24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they got into the small boats, and went to Capernaum seeking Jesus.
25 And having found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when have You come here?” 

26 Jesus responded to them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you— you are seeking Me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves-of-bread and were filled-to-satisfaction. 27 Do not be working for the food which is perishing, but for the food which is remaining to eternal life— which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father certified this One”.

28 So they said to Him, “What may we be doing in order that we may be working the works of God?” 

29 Jesus responded and said to them, “This is the work of God: that you be believing in the One Whom that One sent-forth”.

30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do as a sign, in order that we may see it and believe You? What thing do you work? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it has been written [in Ps 78:24]: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’”. 

32 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread from heaven, but My Father is giving you the true Bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the One coming down from heaven and giving life to the world”.

34 So they said to Him, “Master, give us this bread always”. 

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one coming to Me will never hunger, and the one believing in Me will never ever thirst.

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