Monday, March 6, 2017

Shout it Out!
Lent 1A 2017, Rob Gieselmann

1. In Michael Punke’s novel, The Revenant, Pawnee Indians attack and capture the protagonist, Hugh Glass, first with arrows, shooting him in the leg, and then with a rock weapon,
bashing his skull.

Glass blacks out. When he wakes-up, he finds he is shackled, hands and feet, and the Pawnee tribe is watching him from a stone’s throw away. He knows he is going to die. So Glass turns onto his side in a way they cannot see his subtle movements -

He pulls a cinnabar rock he has saved in his shirt pocket. With the rock, he paints his face red.  Next he rolls onto his stomach – it is a gesture the Pawnee take to be religious, like a prayer before death.

The chief sends two braves over to Glass –
And when they get within several feet of him –

Glass jumps up on his feetignoring the sharp pain from the arrow  

and faces the braves, and the entire tribe. The Pawnee are shocked – for there Glass stands, his face blood red as though his skin had been ripped away.

Nobody moves – they are in a silent face-off, the Pawnee and Glass –

when all of a sudden, Glass breaks the face-off. He screams the Lord’s Prayer at the top of his lungs:

Our Father, who art in heaven …

The tribe is mesmerized as though under a spell, and the Chief confused. 

Glass continues his recitation until the prayer’s end … For thy kingdom come, thy will be done … Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer saves Glass’ life, and the Pawnee – who now respect him - keep him for an year while he heals.

2. Lord’s Prayer and Temptations. I’ve been toying with a little theory: I’m wondering whether

the three temptations Jesus experienced in the wilderness - can be understood fully only in terms of the Lord’s Prayer.

To explain, I need to walk you the basics of the Lord’s Prayer -

a. First, the Lord’s Prayer includes only one essential request:

 Thy kingdom come – on earth as it is in heaven.

You can guess what God’s kingdom looks like – if you want to – but the succeeding three clauses are your clue:

A clue as to what Jesus would like earth to look like.

For what follows is three sub-requests – all relating back to what it means for God’s kingdom to come to earth:

*no hunger: give us this day our daily bread.
*Relational - harmony: forgiveness – which is not just relational, but religious, as well –

For doesn’t it mean? you have no right to approach God for forgiveness, or harmony with God unless you are willing to forgive others like you want God to forgive you?

So you see, this second component of Kingdom is religious.

*The third component of kingdom – deliver us from evil - is about power has to be, right? Evil is most if not always distributed when one person or group – exercises power without due authority over another person or people.

Again – one prayer, three components. One kingdom, three aspects:  

plentiful food, religious harmony, and relational goodness.

3. Jesus temptations – follow exactly those lines:

·      rocks into bread – food.
·      Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple demanding protection from angels: religion – what was Jesus’ relationship to God to be like?
·      Jesus on the mountain assuming the power of the world: politics.

4. Now – and this is important to understanding both:  the Lord’s Prayer is a cooperative prayer – a we prayer – the prayer of the church. Not an individualistic prayer.

This is why it begins with Our …  You can’t say “our” without acknowledging community. And, you can’t say Our Father without admitting that you do not own God yourself. More to the point –  certainly we Episcopalians and perhaps even Christians do not have the only license to God.

5. Well – so what?

Well – here is the upshot:

Jesus’ temptations are the church’s temptations. Maybe challenges is a better word. Not your individual temptations – although I suppose they might look like these sometimes. Rather – praying that God bring the kingdom to earth commits the church to action:

1. That we work towards justice – food for all, but also other aspects of justice, as well: shelter, and medical care, and so on.

2. That we not presume upon God’s grace – forgive us our trespasses – forgiveness is one of the hardest emotional/psychological responses to accomplish with love.

Hence – it seems to me that this is our call: that we not presume to engage God without first being willing to engage our world in the way of peace –

for you see, God’s free grace doesn’t come cheap -

3. And finally this: the church must resist evil – and you have seen the church do this over the years, opposing slavery, in the civil rights movement, Bonhoeffer returning to Germany, Jesus on the cross –
And believe me when I say –there is evil out there that requires resisting. Didn’t evil rear its ugly head this week at Jewish Community Centers and graveyards all around our country – with desecration of graves and repeated bomb threats, attended with racial epithets.

4. So here we are – the beginning of Lent –

what we call a penitential season –

and I’m wondering, rather than just engage private repentance – and private repentance is a necessary part of our devotion –

what might it look like if we were to engage the Lord’s Prayer – by helping others with basic needs, by a religious devotion that does not presume upon God, and by standing up against evil?

What if we stood up, and shouted the Lord’s Prayer for these five weeks of Lent?

At least this morning, let’s recite it a little louder.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Enemy
Rob Gieselmann Epiph 5A, Feb 2, 2017

I was sitting on the back deck of our house in California.We lived on the side of a hill, so the deck overlooked the neighborhood and the valley below. It was Friday, my day off, and I was pretending to read a novel – only I had shut my eyes, and was daydreaming. Suddenly, in my dreams – or was it real? – I heard this most exquisite, symphonic sound. Now normally, I don’t like crows. They caw and cackle, they swarm, and they dive-bomb songbirds’ nests,
to steal hatchlings.  They are murderers, which is, I suppose, why they call a flock of crows: a murder of crows.
Only this particular murder of crows - sounded exquisite. And it was not a dream. Flying from the hills above me, now passing around me from both sides of the house, were well over a hundred crows, maybe two hundred - fanning out into the valley below. Their cawing was, if you can believe it,the most perfect natural sound I think I’ve ever heard…
… despite their murderous mission. You see, they were chasing a lone hawk. Attacking the hawk, dive-bombing the hawk, determined to kill the hawk. Dodging the crows, the hawk took refuge in one of the neighbor’s pine trees. And now, from my perch high above, I watched the crows attack this hawk in the tree with murder in their eyes.
And I was not amused. To quote Thomas Aquinas:
one should not bear patiently wrongs done to someone else. I decided to rescue the hawk.

**Paul speaks of the mystery of God. This mystery eludes – us - as mere mortals. We think we know, when in fact we do not. We think we see, when in fact we are blind. Even our rulers, Paul writes, think only as mortals think, and not as God. See as mortals see, not as God. But the prophet – Isaiah – offers clues to the mystery of God. The mystery is revealed not – believe it or not - in religious devotion; it is revealed through charity. When you free the oppressed.
When you share your food with the hungry, and share your home with the homeless. The psalmist agrees: it is when you deal generously with others, and lend to those in need. For you see, it is in giving that you receive. That you purchase an understanding of God. In generosity of spirit and action, you become the light of the world. The salt of the earth.

*I don’t know whether President Trump’s executive order limiting the inflow of people from certain countries is a smart political move, or not. Personally, I am not comfortable with it. But I suspect some here might be. But what I do know is this: from a Christian standpoint, we uncover the mysteries only by being generous. Not by withholding. For fear – is the mark of those who cannot share with others. It is this fear that I want to address.  *A year ago this past fall, I spoke about the Syrian refugee crisis. That so many western nations had turned a cold shoulder to people in desperate need, ordinary people like you and me,fleeing war and murder, hoping for nothing more than survival. At the time, England had taken in only a handful of Syrian refugees. The United States about 1500.  But Germany and Sweden had welcomed over 300,000 of the Syrian homeless, and many Germans passed out water along refugee paths running through their backyards.  Not much has changed from these national pictures. And I said then, what I want to say now:
you and I are Christians. Regardless of one’s political viewpoint, we are noT people of fear. We are people of faith.*Do you remember the story of the Dutch girl, Corrie Ten Boom? Her father took the Bible literally when it calls the Jews, God’s chosen people. So he and his family hid those Jews escaping Nazi Germany – but they were arrested. The whole family. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were imprisoned together in concentration camps. In the camps, rather than cower in fear, they held clandestine Bible studies to encourage the other ladies in their barracks. Betsie even died in Corrie’s arms, but as she died, she reminded Corrie of the goodness of God. And later, Corrie Ten Boom had this to say about anxiety: Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength. So – when it comes to terrorism and the so-called Islamic State, I as a Christian have a hard time understanding why we are so afraid. Sometimes I think we fear all the wrong things. Did you realize that this last year, 2016, only 100 people died from terrorism in the United States.  And half of those died in the Orlando massacre – which may not have been terrorism at all. Yet over 15,000 Americans died violently by guns. A number that does not include suicides. 40,000 Americans died in car accidents. Worse – every single day in this country eleven teenagers die when texting while driving. So if we must insist on harboring fear, let’s at least direct our fear appropriately – But we are Christians, called out of fear, to fearlessly give away from ourselves.To share our bread and our homes. Like Corrie, and her sister Betsie.

**So there I was, determined to rescue the hawk. I hopped in my car and drove down to my neighbor’s house, to try to chase the crows away. Now, I’m a tad eccentric. And when I hear crows outside my house, I go outside to chase them away.  I clap loudly, shout, throw rocks and make threatening gestures. Like I said, these miscreants rob hatchlings from songbirds’ nests. Believe it or not, my jeering usually works.  Anyway, upon arriving at my neighbor’s house, I explained the situation to her, and she gladly joined my cause.  So there we were together, out back, clapping and yelling and throwing pinecones at the crows to try to chase them away. Only this time, the crows were unyielding. When throwing things didn’t work, we triedspraying them with water from the hose -  but that didn’t work, either. Eventually, my neighbor ran inside to find a pair of binoculars – so we could try to figure out why the crows were so angry at the hawk. Sure enough – When I peered through the binoculars, I could see – the hawk looked exactly like a hawk should look. Stoic and stately, impervious to the cawing of the crows. But there was more. He was clutching something in his talons that I hadn’t been able to see before. There were - tufts of black. Then, it struck me. I had chosen the wrong enemy. For you see,the hawk clutched in his talons a baby crow. He had raided the crows’ nest. And stolen one of their young. And this is my point: sometimes we pick the wrong enemy. Our enemy is not flesh and blood, but fear. In the wisdom of Pogo – for those of you who remember him – I have seen the enemy
and he is us. But you and I are people of faith. The love of God abides deep within us. We need not fear – any perceived enemy. Real or otherwise. I suppose I’m most uncomfortable with the restriction on refugees because it

seems to be a policy based on fear. But I also know thatyou and I – we’re called to generosity. Giving away from ourselves. And I for one do not intend to leave my light hidden under a bushel.