Archive for September, 2010

Seeing the invisible

September 12, 2010

This is one of those weeks when we can puzzle over the relationship between the given readings.  The epistle (from II Cor 4) tells us that we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. And then we have a gospel (from Luke 10) which gives us the very visible, this-world story of a man mugged on the roadway and helped by a compassionate passerby.   What do these readings have to do with one another?

If we look closely at the story from Luke, we see that some sort of strange vision is at work.   The people whom we would suppose to be the agents of God – the priest and levite – leave the beaten man in the ditch.   It is the heretical stranger, the Samaritan, who can see with the eyes of the heart.  He sees the simple human need in front of him and responds to it.   He becomes an extension of God’s activity in the world.   His ability to see truly changes our vision as well.   He shifts our sight in at least two regards:

First, we must open our eyes and see our neighbors in need.  Sometimes they may be from groups which do not like us, or could be a personal enemy.   Regardless, need calls us to respond.    As Will Campbell likes to say, our ministry is not something we have to seek.  Such seeking is often, consciously or not, evasion.  Ministry is right under our nose.  It knocks on our front door, sits in the cubicle next to us – or in our boss’ office, works in the coffee shop.   The response called forth from us is not based on our preconceived religious notions, but arises from an openness to the need of the other, whatever it may be.   The Samaritan did not lecture the wounded man on Samaritan theology, but tended his wounds.

Second, our vision is cleared to see the activity of God in the world.   Drawing on Phillip Dick, we often find God in the trash, in what we throw away, in all the wrong people and all the wrong places.   Jesus spent his time with hookers and corrupt government agents.   As the inward man is renewed day by day, our vision shifts and we can see the abundant grace of God, running loose in the world, working for us a far more exceeding weight of glory.   It is love and mercy, discovered in the everyday world of the temporal, which simultaneously open the door to true knowledge of the eternal.   Go and do thou likewise.

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Arise and walk

September 5, 2010

Homily notes for the 14th Sunday after Trinity

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Sin is out of fashion these days, and for understandable reasons. The idea of sin has often been a cover for pressure exerted toward social conformity by religious institutions. In a more positive vein, many of us have come to realize that, at the profound depths of life, all is held within God and that separation from God is, finally, an illusion. Nonetheless, sin and forgiveness occupy a large place in our tradition, and cannot be simply ducked.

So what do we find in the readings for today? In the gospel, Jesus restores health and movement to the man sick of the palsy. He does so by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, using the man’s physical healing as a prophetic sign of the results of absolution.

In our day to day world, in our rough and tumble interaction with one another, there is much that paralyzes us – as well as ways in which we inflict paralysis upon others. Such laming, such freezing of life is sin. Jesus speaks – and enables us in turn to speak – the word of release. That which binds the sinner is loosed, and we are free to rise, to walk, to move forward in living, so that – as the reading from 1 John put it – our joy may be full.

The forgiveness of sins is not just an invisible, pious interchange between an individual and God. Rather, it should be a display of the Word of life at work among us, visible, tangible in the power of our living, and in the love and freedom animating our relationships. Human words bring renewal of heart. Can we both speak and listen for such words this week?