Sunday, March 17, 2013
God is about to do something new! What about us?
God is About to Do a New Thing
What About Us?
It has been a year now since I came to share with you this journey toward heaven. And what a year it has been! I dare say, we’ve grown accustomed to one another’s faces as the words of the tune from My Fair Lady puts it.
It was St. Patrick’s Day then. It is St. Patrick’s Day now. And that Irishman from Boston came by for a visit, and we’ve marched together along the pathways of Berk’s County in order to Glorify Christ and for the Salvation of our Souls.
We’ve driven out some of the snakes that posed a threat to our congregation’s well being, and we’ve sought to walk in the Light of Christ together.
So now we must prepare ourselves for God to do “a new thing” in our midst as the First Lesson puts it. “Forget the former things”. Ha, that’s not so easily done! Whether the things of Cal Adams, Johanna Graham or Paul Bresnahan, all of that will soon enough be a thing of the past. And we will need to forget them, honest to God, forget them; in order for God to really do a new thing with you and your new priest coming together to continue your journey toward heaven.
Oh yes, I know and understand how much you and I would like to continue on doing what we’ve been doing, but I suspect God has other ideas. After all, I need to get back to my city by the sea some day to watch the tides come and go with my trusty Lab-mix Alcibiades. Yes that’s his name. My son has read Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian Wars...and the dog ended up with one of the more obscure names from that chronicle. I call him “Al” for short, unless he’s in trouble.
All that aside, retirement beckons. I’ll grant you that a spontaneous outbreak of devotion led by none other than Chuck Crummy called out for the my election to the Episcopacy in Rome; and more than once I heard the acclamation; “Paul for Pope!” as recently as last week’s pancake breakfast.
I would have gladly served. How I would have relished the opportunity to get my hands on Roman Catholicism and leave my mark there, for the sake of those yet considered outcasts in the company of Jesus by that lot. Alas the Princes of the Church were led in other directions and a good man; a man of humility from Argentina was elected; a Jesuit no less, and he has called himself “Francis” to set the tone for his own papacy. We can hope for the hope of the poor now. And that is no mean thing. If this pope looks out for the poor of the planet, his papacy could be of historic significance.
It will take some time for us to hope for much else. Women will have to wait, for instance. Isn’t it interesting that the very next Sunday after the election of Francis, we come to a Gospel that places Mary at the feet of Jesus? This is a position reserved for the Disciples of a Teacher. Those who sit at the feet of the Teacher have a special place in the heart of The Teacher. Here she anoints his feet with the rarest of perfumes. Pure nard is refined from a rare and expensive root of a spikenard pant found only at 3000-5000 meters of altitude in the Himalayas of Nepal.
Imagine the cost of that stuff at the time Mary used it to anoint Jesus’ feet. No wonder Judas challenged Mary’s right to do what she was doing. Perfumes of nard, having the scent of lavender in many cases, were used only for highly important rituals at the Temple in Jerusalem and for similar rituals to honor the gods in Rome. Here Mary uses a whole pound this perfume to recognize Jesus as being none other than the Christ of God not with words, but with every extravagant wiping of her hair on the feet of Jesus. The disciples were horrified!
Conversely Jesus recognizes her as his disciple. “Leave her alone!” Jesus insists. “You will always have the poor with you”. Do we not still have the poor with us? Can we not do something about poverty still? Can we not do more than cut budgets to make their lives more miserable? Why can’t we at least be sure that every citizen of this nation has a decent job, so they can provide for their families? Even the Bishops of Rome have spoken up about that as have our own Bishops. The voices of these bishops have been largely ignored.
The Gospel goes to the heart of the matter when it notes that Judas really didn’t care about the poor. The idea of betrayal was already sneaking into his heart of hearts. But for Jesus this woman’s love meant a great deal. She along with the other women would be there for his suffering, his death, and the preparation his body for burial. And where were the disciples then? Long since terrified, running away from the prospect that they too could end up like Jesus if they hung around waiting to see what happened. Jesus stood by Mary because he knew that Mary would stand by Jesus.
Much like the Episcopal church has stood up for women and their place at the altar of God. Now even our Presiding Bishop is not only a woman but a scientist and a pilot. A real renaissance woman! We’ve come a long way, baby from the day that Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with her hair.
Even if the current Bishop of Rome does not recognize her or other women as disciples worthy of ordination, Jesus exalts her to a place of honor in his heart and in the heart of God by allowing her to say what Peter had already said; “You are the Christ of God!” Only she says it with those anointing.
“God is about to do a new thing”; a great many new things. Watch what God does here at St. Gabriel’s. But more to the point what will we be doing to bring God’s new things to pass? At every level of our lives, what will we be doing? Just yesterday, I showed the Bishop what we’ve been doing here with our Membership Drive. My excitement was palpable and he could see it. I asked him; “Is there anything else I can do for the church while there is life still left in me?”
Can I do anything for the poor? How I wish I could snap my fingers and put all my fellow country men and women to work. When I sat in the luxury and comfort of a commuter rail train last week on the way to the Flower Show I saw for myself row after row of blighted housing in Philadelphia. I thought of the young people there dying on crime and drugs. I thought of the young people in rural West Virginia dying on crime and drugs. They are dying of boredom with no work to do.
Can we not do something for the poor? Is the best we can come up with is budget cuts that hurt the young and the elderly? Can we not do something about gun violence? For the life of me, I cannot understand why there isn’t an outcry of outrage.
Alas, the seaside beckons. The tides come and go. And the dog likes the treats I spoil him with. It is St. Patrick’s Day. It is a day for corned beef and cabbage and lots of boiled vegetables. It is a day for music and dancing. A slice of Irish soda bread and a wee bit of the Guinness to wash it all down will leave you smiling from ear to ear and with a twinkle in the eye.
Watch out! God is about to do something new! So as my namesake puts it in today’s second lesson, so too I say it; “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”