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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Seven husbands

Cartoon from Agnus Day
The Gospel Lesson for today (Luke:20:27-38) makes me giggle.

No, it's not simply the outrageous story of the Sadducees asking their ridiculous question about the Resurrection. I mean, did you hear them?
"Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."
Pretty silly, right? I mean, can you just see Jesus rolling his eyes?

While that's a funny image, it's actually the memory of a sermon I once heard, several years ago, on this very text, that makes me giggle.

Believe it or not, it was at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. They were having a 'revival', complete with jubilant Gospel Music and a fiery preacher. And, fiery he was. It was, in fact, none other than Jeremiah Wright.

Yup. That Jeremiah Wright. From Chicago. The former pastor to President and Mrs. Barack Obama.

Oh, THAT Jeremiah Wright.

Well! Let me tell you what! I was NOT prepared for that sermon.

Jeremiah got up into the pulpit, and, after a few opening comments, started right in on the text.
"This is the first time the Sadducees have met up with Jesus. The first time they have been able to get up close and ask him a question. "

"Now tell me, church, we're on what? Chapter what? Chapter 20? Chapter 20. Alright now, it has taken twenty chapters of Luke's Gospel before the Sadduceess finally got 'round to talking to this Jesus."

"It's not like Jesus was just hangin' round, doin' nothin'.  I mean, wasn't it way back in Chapter 4 of Luke's gospel that he went to the Synagogue in Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and preached his very first sermon?  Wasn't it Chapter 4? And, didn't the people get enraged at what he said and kicked him out?  And, not one of the Sadducees asked him a question? What's up with that?"

"And, wasn't he always healing people? Miraculous healing? Like healing leapers (Chapter 5), and the centurion's son (Chapter 7), and healed the Gerasene demoniac (Chapter 8) and on and on and on and here we are in Chapter 20 (!!) - Chapter 20 (!!!) and the Sadducees finally come 'round to ask Jesus a question.  Hm-hm. Imagine that!"

"And, what do they ask him about, when they finally get 'round to asking a great preacher and a prophet? Some silly hypothetical question about 'well, if this woman's husband dies, and her brother marries her and he dies and . . ."

"If you look behind the question, you'll see the real question they were asking. They're like silly boys in the sixth grade, hemming and hawing and not getting to the point and making themselves look ridiculous."

"What these boys want to know about the Resurrection is - what concerns them most about eternal life is - this: When I die, who's gonna be first in line for booty call?"
Well, I'm here to tell you that the church fell OUT. I mean, people were laughing so hard, they couldn't hardly catch their breath. Remember - this was happening in an Episcopal church. Strike that - an Episcopal Cathedral. No, strike that: THE National Episcopal Cathedral.

Yes, it was a 'revival'. Yes, there were lots of African-Americans in the pews. But they were Episcopalians! God's 'frozen chosen' come in all different flavors. The shock value alone of hearing something like the words "booty call" in church was something they hadn't experienced in a many long year of church-going in the Episcopal Church. If ever.

Once the laughter subdued and Pastor Wright was able to get a word in edgewise, he got to his point:
"And, ain't that always the way with the church?  Ain't we more concerned about things that don't have any never-mind with God? Ain't we just so obsessed with sex? Especially in the church? Doesn't it just makes your heart sad? So, let's talk about life and death and resurrection, church."

"Let's talk about what Jesus meant when he said, "Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God being children of the resurrection."  Shall we?"
And, off he went, for another 60 minutes, preaching on the Resurrection.

It was the BEST sermon I've ever heard.

So, off I go then, to church. I hope you're going as well. We can't all hear sermons like Jeremiah Wright but we can all turn the thoughts of our hearts on Jesus and the Resurrection.

And, if the thoughts of our hearts can't stay on Jesus and the Resurrection, then maybe our minds can be entertained by the thought of 'booty call' in heaven.

Either way, God will be so glad to see you in church!


Mary-Cauliflower said...

Thanks! I've been home sick all week. When my friend delivered my half of the co-op vegetables last night, I said, "Oh, I'll probably be in church tomorrow." And then proceeded to hack away. She said, "No, you won't."

So your meditation and the WBUR broadcast from Marsh Chapel are church for me today, and hopefully I can break bread somewhere during the week.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh dear, MC. Sorry about your cold. I'm consoling myself about not publishing something more complete and profound wit the thought that perhaps, in your weakened state, that's all you could take.

Feel better, m'dear.

Muthah+ said...

Er, we had All Saints so it was lovely that you should bring up this passage. I am with Brother Wright! It is when we get off the subject of sex we CAN get to the resurrection!

JCF said...

Oh dear.

You've said something nice about Jeremiah Wright---as if you hadn't a big enough target on you already, Lisbeth? (Time to deport you to Kenya ;-/)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

The thing about being hit so many times, JCF, is that you lose your fear but sharpen your instincts.

walter said...

What a wonderful inspiration: President Obama stated that we are the two largest democracies in the world: India’s and America’s.

This is an opportunity for me to re-read my foreword to ‘The Blue Grotto Dimension: The Transformation of the American middle class (ref. .. In the foreword of this spiritual collection wishing well to the Intentional Sharing Editor, there are two key points to keep in mind as you read it. One is the stimulation to meditate on religious feeling, a meditation that can be supported by my faith. Approximately ten years ago I re-entered a church although in America because my individual psychotherapy has brought me to the awareness of my religious feeling. The second point is in the meditation on a text that has marked my beginning in reflecting on Christian mysticism, that is the ‘Jesus and the Disinherited’ of Howard Thurman. The inspiration for that book comes from an encounter of Thurman with Hinduism that brought him to write on the meaning of the religion of Jesus as a subjective religion rather than objective of proselytism-mechanical missionary impulse. This is to say that according to Thurman in Christianity Jesus of Nazareth is not the object but the subject; and according to this writer, the virtue of virginity, even though it is not the monopoly of monasticism, is not the vane object of Christianity but the incarnation subject that does not tear apart the veil of the mystery: Bina Caritas, Gemina Caritas, Perfecta Caritas is that experience where there is not duality between the Second Coming and the Second Virginity in distinction and from the discernment of the vows to poverty and to individuality’ denial that give a sense of order to the Mysterium Unum.. This being said, I reiterate that one of the most inspiring reflections on religious feeling comes from Albert Einstein. After listening to his words we will pick up again on Christianity where Jesus is the religious subject and the devout laity may be the conduit of such effort.. Yes, definitely also because of the Goodness, the Truth and the Beauty of which Einstein speaks and because of the spirituality of the sacramental intentional silence made authentic by the Rev. Dr. Paul Smith and the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton we have decided to title this collection The Intentional Sharing Spiritual Collection; it also stand as the transformation of the American middle-class’ tradition based upon individuality and auto-sufficiency and the over-extension of profit maximization which leads only to solitude and call for the conversion of such solitude in the aloneness of the international missionary mystic affirmation: seek ye first the solitary individual), keeping in mind the latest meditation and comments on Luke’ passage about Zaccheus on Dr. Elizabeth ‘Telling Secrets’; doing so in the perspective of my re-viewing my manuscript ‘The Blue Grotto Dimension: The Apostle of Apostles’ in the context of Dr. Elizabeth ‘Raising the Dead in ‘Telling Secrets’.

As previously stated elsewhere, our methodology of Holy Reading (Canterbury Press 2007) in contemplating the Scriptures may center on Howard Thurman’ writing in the context of Walter Vitale’ interpretation. Thus we propose to contemplate the Scriptures centering on the Resurrection, that is centering on the figure of Mary Magdalene, more specifically centering on the personal experience of Jesus’ resurrection. Every character of the Scriptures may be found anew through the experience of the resurrection by the Apostle of Apostles. In the name of the One who keeps us centered and focused and truthful, Jesus the Christ.

Buffalo Shepherd