Friday, March 31, 2017

IDK



Second Reading for Lent5A, Sunday, April 2, 2017. Romans 8:6-11

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law-- indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Our liturgy for “The Burial of the Dead” includes a verse from Romans 8* for the Committal, our words at graveside where we take final leave:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;
and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

He that raised up Jesus from the dead
will also give life to our mortal bodies,
by his Spirit that dwelleth in us.

Wherefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoiceth;
my flesh also shall rest in hope.

Thou shalt show me the path of life;
in thy presence is the fullness of joy,
and at thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore.  

When I was at theological seminary nearly forty years ago, being assigned to preach in homiletics class from Romans 8 was regarded as a privilege because it’s rich with Paul’s theology. And I found the Lutherans, taking after Martin Luther, fond of Paul, more so than I’d been as a cradle Episcopalian. But afterward, during my years as a parish priest, I seldom preached from Paul’s writings; and while our Episcopal custom and preference seems to be preaching on the assigned gospel readings, I now could somewhat regret not having paid Paul more attention and his due. But even now, retired and preaching about one Sunday in three, I still don’t pair with Paul, especially when the Revised Common Lectionary so often gives us beloved Sunday school Bible stories from the Old Testament; as, for example this coming Sunday we have Ezekiel and the Dry Bones. Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones … 


Nevertheless, Paul, from whom comes so much of our Christian theology. Including theology of dying and death: what comes next, after this life? We don’t know, do we, except by faith. And our personal theology and the theology of the church, and of different denominations, varies and has varied over the Christian centuries. Paul believed, at least early on, that the end of the world was imminently at hand with the Second Coming, when the dead would be raised, and Jesus would return to judge the quick and the raised dead, and the saved would abide on earth in the kingdom of God ruled by Jesus Christ. I dunno, I wasn’t raised in the day and age of Paul, who had no telescope or astronomy textbooks, and no concept of universe, much less multiverse with countless billions upon billions of specks of light. As for eschaton: when earth is vaporized or shredded five billion years from now, will transcendent consciousness remember DThos+ to raise for judgment - - .  


O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our
prayers on behalf of thy servant N., and grant him an
entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of
thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth
and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.

What does the above collect herald? It seems to herald an immediate at death passing from life to life, from earth to the land of light and joy. 

And this petition in the prayers of the same Burial Office:

Give courage and faith to those who are bereaved, that they
may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a
reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal
life with those they love. Amen.   

seeming to proclaim our theology, lex orandi lex credendi, not of something at the end of time, but of immediate reunion. This indeed seems to be where Christianity and our church have, at least for the time being, settled for the mystery of hereafter. What do I believe? Honestly, I’m just reading, celebrating, officiating, watching, listening. Thinking myself so sophisticated and postmodern, I don’t live under the same blue dome as Paul did, holding back the waters; but then I still have no better answer than his. 


DThos+ still somewhere in +Time+

BCP 484



Pics: various, 
Friday, 31 March 2017. Dawning 0607 from 7H. 
High tide 0709 on EBeachDrive. 
Pinched online concept of earth shattered and circling dwarf sun.
Breakfast on the outside back porch at Big Mama’s on the Bayou 0804.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

too much salt

From the Tyndall Bridge at EastBay, to west over Thomas Drive, from the high meridian straight down, south over StAndrewsBay and Shell Island beyond the Gulf of Mexico’s horizon, the sea is silver and streaked with speeding yellow boats, gray sky abuzz with jet fighters. And here’s the Bubba, peaceful on 7H porch until the morning array of pills strikes like a sniper’s bullet: sudden as the word "instantaneous", heavy head, achy neck across the shoulders as BP bottoms out and Bub drags to the sack. But no complaints, it’s morningly, a cheap cost of being. 



Morningly arrives and I read The Jerusalem Post. Haaretz if it comes, which seldom unless I call it up online. In JP today a series, beginning with http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Never-before-seen-document-penned-by-Nazi-leader-Himmler-uncovered-by-National-Library-485539 and an article on the anti-Semitism of Jewish self-hatred that extended to three essays by Michael Laitman. What, 72 years on and personally never forgetting as the last and final generation that can remember, the Holocaust still fills me with horror even as I see it stirring in our Time like dark clouds in an angry sky. Alive across Europe, the American people have elected it here, hatred responding to hatred responding to hatred without beginning in the east or ending in the west. Hate, hatred. Wake up to what we have done, are doing. We cannot help it; it is what we are: an experiment gone wrong. "Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being" -> something went wrong: use richer earth next time, more sugar, less salt, or brush teeth and rinse with Scope before breathing the breath of life into.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Jewish-self-hatred-is-the-leaven-we-must-clear-out-485515

http://www.michaellaitman.com/news/the-new-york-times-article-who-are-you-people-of-israel/

http://www.kabbalah.info/bb/why-do-people-hate-jews/#antisemitism 

Laitman, interesting but too philosophical to be real and valid, brings to mind Father Duffy on the Carol Burnett Show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJIh70IZua8
and the Abraham he imagines is as just that as Washington cutting down the cherry tree. He neglects Joshua and the ethnic cleansing of the Promised Land, and somewhere in there he rationalizes the Holocaust with a sentence. I found Laitman not realistic in the overall scheme of correcting human nature. We are what we are. 

I need to spend more time reading OT Proverbs.

DThos+



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Unbind him and let him go!


Somewhat religious, or at least taken with Bible study on my own, and with theological assertions, rejecting ancient superstitions to think for self beyond the clouds and firmament, I see me as no spiritual being. Which, said often, surprises me not. But I do like to worry stuff. Such as our collect for Lent5:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

Shifted variously among Sundays over the centuries, this collect appears in Gelasian, Gregorian, and Sarum, dating it to the late 7th century*. I love the old collects, as I love the good old hymns, though many are neither good nor old, and someone obviously loves the old prayers. But the fact is, in Anglicanism we say lex orandi lex credendi, which necessitates that when our hymnal is revised we check that each poem is not inconsistent with what we really believe; and to some extent at least, liturgical prayers also. 

This was done when Hymnal 1940 gave way to Hymnal 1982 (eg, “Once to every man and nation” deleted) and 1928 BCP to 1979 BCP (eg, noxious line in Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church revised). Collects were shifted, a few modified, some liturgists on the prayer book commission, longing for immortality, inserted their own collects (lamentably, this also happened on the hymnal commission, losing some popular and beloved old tunes to unsingable drivel); but largely the collects were brought forward from Cranmer and the ancients. 

With our notion of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, this traditionalism is not a bad thing, but each collect opens with a theological assertion, and theology from the Dark Ages needs examined lest it stand up in postmodernity as absurd. The Episcopal Church, in which my membership is cradle, lifelong, had been so traditional but now in the forefront of progressive Christian movement, needs to take notice of our collects that we love so dearly, because they conspicuously assert our theology at the opening of worship. From where I am and have been in life, from my observation post, while “you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners” may reflect an ideation of our God, I haven’t seen God actually controlling the generations of Adam since we were expelled from the Garden. Better this collect, and countless others, be enshrined among Historical Documents and newer “orandies” reflect today’s hopes and “credendies.” In other words, it's time to retire.

Better from Prayers for an Inclusive Church, authorized by General Convention, the new Lent5A collect that beautifully precedes Sunday’s gospel about Jesus raising Lazarus:

God of compassion, you call us out of the bindings of death on this, our resurrection day: make us ready to surrender the fear in which we hide, to step into your future alive and unashamed; through Jesus Christ, the life of the world. Amen.

DThos+ in +Time+

Picture: ship passing 7H in the dark at 8:04 pm last night. Certain of nothing and able to see only lights, no names, I think it may have been Federal Alster 655x78, arriving to load wood pellets to take to Ghent. 



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Muddy: Abstruse for the Obtuse


Reading various gospel stories convinces me that the Jesus of the canonical gospels came to kick our gospel garbage cans upside down; upside down, tump them out, and show what skybalon we believe, are, do, and impose on others. Jesus did this again last Sunday in our gospel reading for Lent4A. John 9:1-41 is, to me, the gospel writer's most clever work: obscure, abstruse, perplexing & incomprehensible, to the glory of God, all subtly capped, like a red cherry atop an ice cream sundae, by the use of mud to clear the eyes. 

(Lord, give us this mud).

We worked it over in Adult Sunday School, but only laid a background. Sitting outside on 7H porch this morning I’ll have another go, unscholarly, repetitive, rambling, disorganized, back and forth, but WTH, it's my blog and my +Time+ isn't it. Linda wanted to discuss the gospel after church while we were having Sunday dinner together, and both before and since then I’ve had more inquiries, seekers who, hearing and reading the story, found it as quirky, murky, elusive, muddy and unclear as I think John* the gospel writer meant it to be. John's own, it’s a long story, with layers, innuendoes, word play, shifting meaning, reversing between abstract and concrete, turning upside down, coming back on, making asses of Jesus’ esteemed detractors in the conversation that John* reports. Jesus lays the groundwork, the Blind Man makes fools of the authorities, ultimately Jesus seals it. For refresher, the story is reprinted again below, scroll down. So here goes, another stab at it without overly belaboring what we discussed in Sunday school. I'm sorry, but not very or especially, that I wrote too much. However, nobody has to read it.

The story is loaded, absolutely loaded. With a high christology, a cute term that means the writer believes Jesus is divine, John’s gospel has one primary agenda that is unique among the four canonical gospels: to show John’s audience that Jesus is (not simply the Son of God, but) God the Son, the Logos, the creating Word who brought order out of the churning chaos heaven and earth were in the beginning; and is also the long awaited prophet like Moses that the Lord promised. (Deuteronomy 18:15f, John 6:14, John 7:40) 

Whether John* had access to one or more of the synoptic gospels, some scholars say yes, some say no: neither certain nor a doubter, I listen to both sides of the discussion; but he does have other ancient sources, maybe a "signs gospel" and maybe a list of "I AM sayings." As to his intended audience, some of John* tells me he’s writing to pagan Greek gentile Christians; some of John* tells me he's writing to encourage Jewish Christians to stay with the developing Christian church instead of, yielding to threats of ostracism, abandoning Christ to return to the synagogue.

John* uses two noticeable themes. Jesus in John refers to himself as “I AM,” relating himself to the Jewish “I AM” God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus chapter 3). To his Jewish detractors, this is capital blasphemy. Our subject gospel lesson has an example, “I am the light of the world.”

Also in John*, Jesus uses “signs” (not quite the same as Jesus’ happenstance miracles in the synoptics) purposefully to show those present who he is. In some cases, John* points out these “signs” as such. 

John* is a clever, imaginative writer, and it shows especially well in this story with different kinds of unwillful and willful blindness, physical blindness versus spiritual blindness, wanting to see versus refusing to see; flashes of light (from the light of the world), seeing and not seeing, physical sighting versus spiritual comprehension, muddy versus clarity, obtuse certitude of the learned versus abstract discovery of the innocent. In the story, Jesus does a Pantokrator sign: he does not "merely" restore a man’s sight, he gives sight to a man born blind, thereby bringing something out of nothing, an act of creation. He has such a clever exchange with his detractors that they are left standing there not realizing, because “seeing” is entirely beyond their willingness, that they are exposed as total jackasses. Morally, spiritually blind, they are still in the dark. They have been subjected to the subtle, debilitating wit and sarcasm of I AM himself.

The story contrasts the poor innocent, ignorant blind man who both sees and “gets it,” versus Jesus' proud, self-certain detractors, who, certain that they see, “see” nothing because they are morally blind, spiritually obtuse, will never “get it.”  

Again, enlightened, the ‘blind man’ sees, realizes, and believes (believing is important to John*, see John 3:16 and John 14:6, et al). Seeing and believing, the “blind man” is saved, free of sin (starting the story, John* makes clear that in those days people believed that blindness was a mark of sin). The blind man is free of sin.

in the dark, the Pharisees see what they are certain of, but reject what is plainly before them, realize nothing, refuse to believe, insist they are right, that they are not blind, and therefore they are damned, still in sin.

Paraphrasing "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains" -> If you would see that you had it wrong, your eyes would be open to the truth; but insisting on being obtuse and remaining in the darkness, you can go to hell.

This may be the best and most complete story in the gospels, because it includes everything and John* wraps everything up.

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

Applying ancient and modern theology in our postmodern age: does this mean that we are damned if we do not believe? This is John*’s story for John's audience, and our 21st century is beyond his interest. Again, as suggested above, John* has an audience and an agenda. We needn't be so naive as to believe the Gospel according to John (or Matthew 28:19) mandates our knocking door to door and demanding of whoever opens, "Are you a believer, are you saved, or are you going to hell?"





John 9:1-41
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

* Tradition aside, like the other canonical gospels, and like several of the NT epistles, the authorship of The Gospel according to John is uncertain, just as the identity of "the disciple Jesus loved" is uncertain. More about that, perhaps, after the gospel for next Sunday, Lent5A.We are back to the basics: Just because you believe it, even believe it fervently with every fibre of your being, that don't make it so. and Seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will. Bearing in mind: the truth may prove to be very costly indeed. TW+

Also, all the above does not mean that we are stupid if we don't "get it" reading John's story. He intentionally makes it inticingly obscure to show Jesus putting a clever one over on the Pharisees. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

shazam

What am I doing this morning. Been up an hour from sleeping on a board hopefully to dissuade Captain Sciatica, now I know why he wears that lightning bolt on his costume, 


the conniving gardenia-sniffing alphabet sun on the beach. But lots of suggestions at church yesterday so I’ve switched from a dozen aspirin to an Aleve regimen. Yesterday I’d swallowed so many aspirin (melt on tongue and gulp down with coffee or hot water) that the brain felt anesthetized while I was in the pulpit; not woozy, just absent, all mouth no brain; and gulping more during Sunday School, even less present at ten-thirty than at eight o’clock. If anyone wondered “is that really Father Tom up there?” I noticed too, as I sat in the back of the church watching the imposter who resembled me but much older. That's probably how I'll look as an old man, but I certainly hope not.

But anyway, Captain Marvel, I could be wrong, but it seems like in my earliest memories earnest little Billy Batson was bringing down the lightning bolt so he could smash Germans or Japs. WW2 did strange things for us, such that I’ve never been able to overcome my hatreds formed between age six and age ten. Other national enemies have come and gone, and I have no negative feelings about China, Korea, Russia, Vietnam, Islam, just, sadly, those two ancient Ineradicables, one of which holds hostage my very heritage. 

I reckon all that will be closed in the sod.

Been a good person this morning as I sit here in my blue velvet chair that my mother gave me, heating pad warming the small of the back; and perceiving a good person as one who forces self to refrain from reading news and commenting politically. It’s almost irresistible, but Bubba does it. A primary lightbulb being kept on these days is not forgetting that most people disagree with me, and the unthinkable realization that I could be wrong. I’m not, but I could be. So, wishing to not offend people I love, my lips are sealed and my fingers in mittens. What then to contemplate -> -> that Sunday after church when we drove down to their dealership on West 6th Street to see the dreamy new 1948 Hudson, except for Kaiser-Frazer, the first truly post-war American car, and to have my imagination stoked as, on the way home, my parents talked about possibly buying one, and should it be a six or an eight, a Super or a Commodore. 


It didn’t happen. Neither a 1948 Hudson nor the 1948 Buick I lusted for. Our neighbors the Sheffields got a sleek new Hudson. My father ordered a new 1948 Dodge, totally a pre-war automobile, that, stories told here before, was for my mother’s 36th birthday, mama and I drove down to the BayLine depot, climbed up on the boxcar ramp and chose the dark green one over the bright blue one, served as family car for years, and, my mother finally getting that Buick in the mid 1950s while I was away at university, the Dodge was given to me ten years old as I started my senior year at UFlorida, then our car our time in Rhode Island and first six months of marriage.  

Actually, yesterday’s gospel, John 9:1-41, showed Gospel John’s imaginative word skills so magnificently that this morning I meant to blog continuing our Sunday School lesson. But never mind. In fact, no mind at all. Still not answering roll call.

Shazam anyway.

DThos+ plodding along in +Time+

John 9:1-41
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

David & Leonard (sermon 20170326)

The Lord is my shepherd. 
David: shepherd king! Why David? 
Why David?

Now, I've heard there was a secret chord 
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The old Sunday School story that begins today, with our mental pictures of David the Shepherd Boy, who slays Goliath, David the psalmist of whom the Israelites chant “Saul has slain his thousands but David his ten thousands,” David faithful friend of Jonathan, David at whom Saul threw a spear and nearly killed him - - stories of David the Shepherd King go on and on, and we rejoice in them. 

But David grows up, doesn’t he, grows up out of cute shepherd boy: and be sure thy sins will find thee out.

+++.  +++.  +++

In church history the 4th Sunday in Lent is Rose Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday, Laetare Sunday, Rejoice Sunday, Refreshment Sunday (in England “Mothering Sunday,” their Mother’s day). Centuries ago the pope appointed Rejoice Sunday (named after Laetare, the first word in the introit to the Latin Mass, from Isaiah 66:10, 
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
    all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her— 
that you may nurse and be satisfied
    from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
    from her glorious bosom,” 
and the pope declared Laetare Sunday to momentarily ease Lent’s onerous penitential burden of no music, no flowers, fish but no meat, substituting rose pink for the deep violet colors of reproof and reproach, no Gloria in Excelsis. And alleluia, hallelujah is neither sung, nor chanted, nor spoken, but forbidden. 

Some of the old “forbids” hold on, we never sing or say the alleluia in Lent, some rectors do not allow church weddings during Lent. But more and more over the years, the church so melds with society that “anything goes” and Lent is just another season of changing liturgical colors. I’ll admit, I was surprised when my Central Pennsylvania bishop scheduled my priest ordination for a night during Lent. But my Lenten ordination turned out beautifully. From the florist we ordered a thousand daffodils and Linda decorated our church altar with a thousand yellow daffodils, it was splendid, fragrant, magnificent; the church was jammed, not even standing room, two Roman Catholic bishops came, one later a cardinal, and I planned the liturgy, which to my rector’s consternation included not only renewal music for the first time in that conservative parish, but, especially for the first time, a woman parishioner as one of the lectors, breaking the ice in an old male patriarchal stronghold. March 1984, 33 years ago this month! I was 48 years old. I am not 48.

I don’t know about you, but looking at myself, I have changed greatly in those more-than-three decades. And not just the scary old fool whose face I shave in the bathroom mirror. Recently I read an article about a sixty-plus-year personality study that tracked individuals from age 14 to 77, maybe you read it? The study concluded that we change completely in that time, not only the cells of our bodies (which apparently completely change over a seven year cycle) - - but this longest of all studies of human beings, found that our personality, who and what we are, changes completely in those decades from our teens into our seventies. So I have changed, I’m now not even the person and personality I was that March 1984 evening my Pennsylvania bishop laid hands on me praying God, “make him a priest in your church.” And reading today’s Bible story, I have an inkling how David the Shepherd Boy felt after Samuel anointed him King, because ordination changes what and who you are. It was profound, as St. Paul and John Bunyan, “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”. 

Before we are ordained, Candidates for Holy Orders must be examined by a psychiatrist of the bishop’s trust and choosing, but instead of talking about myself, when the psychiatrist, a Roman Catholic, told me he had always wanted to be a priest, I got him talking about himself instead of me our whole session, and he gave me a good report (can you imagine giving Tom Weller a good report, the Chief of Sinners - - all it showed was that he didn’t know me). I thought I’d put one over on the Shrink, the Bishop and the Church, but the opposite turned out true. Beginning that ordination night, God put one over on me: as the bishop and elders lift their holy hands from your head and step back, you realize that you no longer belong to yourself, but now belong to God “whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”

And yet human creatures, we sin again and again.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” it certainly was so with David, whom God and Samuel called in from shepherding in the field to anoint David king. Reading wonderful old Sunday school Bible stories over the course of my lifetime, I see God loving David his poet, psalmist, musician and shepherd-come-king even more than Abraham. Moses the Egyptian Prince had a whine of annoying God in the extreme; but between God and Abraham, and between God and David, nothing but pure love, deepest mutual affection. Scholars have called Abraham“God’s old drinking buddy,” but from the time David is chosen and anointed, he comes closer than anyone else in the Hebrew Bible to Son of God, later whose throne only Jesus could fill.

But unlike Jesus who was tempted but did not sin, King David, David beloved Son, sinned wickedly and mortally, and on Rejoice Sunday, we remember: 

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

So, Leonard Cohen again this morning as I profane Lent with hallelujahs, and a naughty reminder of David and Bathsheba, [after Adam and Eve, the apple and נָחָשׁ “nawcawsh” the serpent], our lusty, romantic old sin story of David breaking all the rules tells who and what we are as children of darkness, not light, and it happened in Lent. Listen:

11 And it came to pass, in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried at Jerusalem. ~ ~ ~
2 And it came to pass one evening, that David walked out upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. 3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And was told, she is Bath-sheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite. 4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her; and she returned unto her house. 5 And Bathsheba conceived, and sent and told David, I am with child. “You have impregnated me.” (2 Samuel 11, 12).

you know the story:

David wrote a letter to Joab, and shamefully sent it by the hand of Uriah himself. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the battle, and draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die."

And it happened just that way. Over against the commandments of God, David compounding mortal sin upon mortal sin. 

Confronted with his crime and sin, David himself said, “The man who did this deserves to die,” and Nathan the chaplain said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.”

David’s story is offered to you, Christian, to own your personal sin as you look inwardly this penitential season of Lent: 

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy, or the broken hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

In the life and sin of David, the Bible tells a shocking, lusty, murderous old story for one reason and one reason alone: to show, in the face of David’s repentance, the amazing grace of God’s love: creation, sin, judgment, repentance, and then forgiveness, absolution, restoration, which is redemption, which is Easter itself, hallelujah.

Outside the Gospels of Jesus Christ, there is in all scripture, no greater story of God’s love than David the Shepherd King. For all David’s sin and God’s displeasure, the Lord loved David. Although, in accordance with the prophecies of Nathan, justice followed David all the days of his life, the Lord loved David, never left him, never abandoned him.

The David story invites you to claim it as your story. On this spring day of Lenten rejoicing as we Rejoice for Jerusalem and recall God’s choosing David as his anointed, we celebrate that even David’s most monstrous crimes, most deadly sins, were not beyond the saving grace of God’s love. For all his sin and its consequences, David repents, and God forgives: Easter comes for David, David has his Easter. And Easter will come for you. We have in the Bible all these pages upon pages upon pages of the life and times, blessings and sins of David the Shepherd King, “the Lord is my shepherd,” so that you even you, can see that God is gracious and merciful, quick to forgive the sins of those who are penitent. So, David.

David:

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Sermon in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida 
by the Reverend Tom Weller on Lent4A, Sunday, March 26, 2017, Rejoice Sunday.

Lectionary texts for Lent4A

Old Testament

1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. 

The Response

Psalm 23

Dominus regit me
The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Epistle

Ephesians 5:8-14

Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, 
“Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” 

The Gospel

John 9:1-41

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”