Monday, November 19, 2007

Back Again

The trip to Chicago was a whirlwind. The party for my dear MIL was wonderful - 70 or so folks, vast quantities of food, a concert by professionals and family, many lovely stories. My back and hip are complaining after a day and a half standing and doing food prep and cooking, but it was worth it. The littlest grandkids sang "If I Were a Butterfly," complete with the hand motions - I accompanied them. They were precious.

This morning I did a short homily for Homiletics class - needs some serious reworking for the actual preaching at Saint Middle School, but it was a good start. Nothing like taking a little risk in the style of sermon-writing.

I just finished the event account (like a verbatim, for you seminary geeks out there) for our Field Ed Colloquy. It will be interesting to do this...I'm hoping being the first student to present will mean our conveners will be more willing to give me the benefit of the doubt.

It is cold and raw here. Time to get out the winter coat, I fear. Many of the students have already left for Thanksgiving at home, since several of the profs are out in San Diego at the SBL/AAR conference. No such luck for me - I've got classes until 2 pm tomorrow afternoon. I did a pretty intense food-shopping expedition this evening, in anticipation of the kids coming for Thanksgiving, but I'll need to go to the over-priced Hol(y) Fuds for some special stuff for StrongOpinions, who is a vegetarian. No, I'm not getting Tofurkey. There are some depths to which I will not sink.

Herewith, the rawther unusual homily from this morning:

“Shall We Gather At the River?”
Advent II, Year A, RCL. Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 , Romans 15:4-13Matthew 3:1-12.

What was truly shocking, the view that took their breath away, were the sheer numbers. It looked like hundreds, maybe thousands, of people clustered all along the rocky riverbank, waiting for their turn to go into that unsavory water. They looked hungry for it, these people, who had come not only from the city, from Jerusalem, but from the four corners of Judea. Their faces spoke of need, of a desire for cleanliness, of a wanting of washing in this water that seemed so unlikely to clean anyone.

And then there was the man himself. He had first been spotted wandering around the wilderness, crying out “Repent!” Word had gotten out about his message, one that resonated with people. What did this mean, “The kingdom of heaven is coming near?” Was he saying that the Messiah was coming? He certainly didn’t look like a herald of a king. He was wearing animal hides, strapped around him with a thong of leather. His skin was as leathery and brown as the thong, bespeaking a man who lived rough, in the outdoors. His hair and beard were matted into dreadlocks. He smelled bad. There were rumors that he just ate whatever he could grab, insects, wild honey, weeds, whatever was available to one living in the wild. Would they be rendered unclean by moving closer to him?

It was a risk, but perhaps worth it. His words were compelling. They had to find out what this was all about, this washing in the river. The people who were coming out of the river now were almost glowing. Hard to imagine anyone coming out of that silty water looking refreshed, but there it was. They looked clean. How could it be?

And yet this seemed contrary to the Law, whether you believed the rules of the Pharisees or the rules of the Sadducees. No, no stepping into the water for them.

Ah, but the temptation was there. The curiosity, what this might feel like, besides just being wet and muddy. And they were there, right at the edge, with the water lapping at their toes. It would only take a step…

But then he spotted them. This brown and wild-eyed man who played a prophet, or was a prophet. Who knew?

And he was ripping into these men, these Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them vipers, calling them pompous, evil fools, calling them barren and useless. What was this? A life spent in dedication to the law, and this is how they were treated, and by this madman?

But what was he saying now? Something about another who was to come, one even more powerful than he? Oh, there’s a thought, someone even more crazy than this one. This new one sounded like he might be violent. Winnowing forks…fire…

Advocating overthrow of the law? Of the government? Such talk was dangerous.
No, they wouldn’t stand there and be insulted by this madman. They would step back from the river’s edge, step back from whatever strange thing was happening here. This was too dangerous.

And you? Is it too dangerous for you? Are you willing to take my hand, and step into the murky water, and be washed clean, in preparation for the One who is to come?

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