Thursday, February 4, 2016

2 Corinthians and a Model T Ford named Jim

A Model T Ford named Jim

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 (NRSV)
12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

When my parents were in high school in Pensacola, this would have been between 1925 to 1928 -- pardon the digression but around here I have newspaper clippings listing my father playing football for Pensacola High School on the same team with a boy named Tom Xxxx who until my father moved to Pensacola had been my mother’s boyfriend; and another newspaper clipping from the next year showing my father playing football against Pensacola for Bay High -- they had — I think my father owned it with Wilbur Gentry, my mother’s brother — an old used Model T Ford jalopy. 

They said they paid $15 for it. It was a touring car body with no top, and for a taillight — it had no taillight, on the rear end of the car they hung an old lantern provided by a relative who worked for the railroad, that swung and banged back and forth as they rattled along. 

And they’d named the car “Jim.” I do not recall ever being told why “Jim,” but that was the car’s name. 

At some point before I sign off on wherever this blogpost is going, maybe I’ll remember why reading next Sunday’s lesson from 2 Corinthians made me think of Jim; but if not, we have a bit of family history that I grew up hearing, and their adventures with Jim always charmed me. 

At any event, yes our second reading for Sunday is from a 2016 presidential hopeful’s favorite Bible book, good old Two Corinthians. And a snide aside, one who visits an XnRt university and arms self with a Bible verse to spout while there can be labeled populist not conservative. 

Taken out of context as our lectionary framers never cease loving to do, the 2nd Corinthians reading is puzzling. But I see why they did it. In 2 Cor, Paul wanders about worse than any blogpost I’ve ever posted, and one must read the entire letter to see where he’s coming from and where he’s going. In this particular part, he’s telling them to live in the spirit of God as given to us in Jesus Christ over living by the letter of the law of Moses. He’s lauding the New Covenant in Jesus over the Old Covenant with Moses. And he mentions Moses’ shining face. The reading selection could have been clearer if it had started at least as far back as verse 7 or even at the beginning of Chapter 3. Instead, our second reading prompts the listener (my observation is that people doze off whenever Paul is read, and the lectionary framers knew that and figured it didn’t matter because nobody would be listening anyway) to respond, “Say WHAT?” But there’s never time to respond and think after the second reading anyway, because instead of the recommended “moment of silence” the liturgy always jumps into the sequence hymn before the reader even gets back to his/her seat; and besides, no one preaches on the epistle reading anyway, so what diff? 

Back to the main path. The lectionary framers made all three readings a theme park climaxing with Jesus being transfigured with Moses and Elijah on the mountain peak. So, first read Exodus about Moses with his shining face as he brings the law; then Psalm 99 chimes in; then Paul’s 2Corinthians allusion to Moses with his shining face and law left in the dust by Jesus and the new covenant; then Luke’s version of the transfiguration in which Moses and Elijah are eclipsed by Jesus shining brighter than the sun. The scripture on Sunday will be like a jigsaw puzzle in which the 2Corinthians reading is a piece of the puzzle that makes no sense on its own, until we see that it in fact does fit beautifully as part of the picture.

The sequence hymn to seal it all together is the 15th century Latin

O wondrous type! O vision fair
of glory that the Church may share,
which Christ upon the mountain shows,
where brighter than the sun he glows!

The law and prophets there have place,
the chosen witnesses of grace;
the Father's voice from our the cloud
proclaims his only Son aloud.

With shining face and bright array,
Christ deigns to manifest today
what glory shall be theirs above
who joy in God with perfect love.

And faithful hearts are raised on high
by this great vision's mystery;
for which in joyful strains we raise
the voice of prayer, the hymns of praise.

O Father, with the eternal Son,
and Holy Spirit, ever One,
vouchsafe to bring us by thy grace
to see thy glory face to face.

One of our most beautiful hymns. It’s all too wonderful for any human to preach. And I do remember how a Model T Ford named Jim fit into all this. Jim had a cutout that was popular among teens in those days, an exhaust cutout. The driver could stomp a button on the floor, or pull a lever, that cut out the exhaust from the muffler so that the engine’s deafening roar could be heard all over East Hill and up and down Cervantes and Palafox out Garden and to the Navy Yard. It was cool, man, the cat’s meow, but why the lectionary framers cutout so much of the scripture beats the aitch out of me.


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