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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver,  B.C.

Diocese of New Westminster

Anglican Church of Canada

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Worship Times

 

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am

 

Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm

 

 

Sermon

October 14th Pentecost 21,  2018                                                                          John Marsh

 

Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

 

 

 

 

 

If I were a communist, this may be heard as a manifesto, although one admittedly brief…

 

Yet as one but left of centre, honesty requires the following disclaimer, perhaps an affirmation:

 

I am one who can pass as Christian. Truthfully, I am becoming, perhaps have become, a Christian without continuity yet without rupture, possibly without (sans) Christianity, which is to say I have memory, deep respect for whatever is astir within traditions, for the quest within questions and yet, while having leapt, more honestly stumbled ahead, perhaps too far ahead, I have not, despite critique, despite finding much of belief incroyable, sought to destroy, deny, disregard, faith, hope and love…

 

The following is expressive of deep aspirations, of my resolve to hang on, to wake and carry on, to do a piece of work in front of me, putting one’s hand to the plough, to repeat it forward, saying Amen, so be it…

 

~

 

Within the Job lection, within Psalm 22, the complaint, the hurt, the anguish stirring within, suggests, expresses impossible situations:

 

Oh, that I knew where I might find [God], that I might come even to his dwelling!...

"If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and

I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

(Job 23:3, 8-9)

 

 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning.

(Psalm 22:1)                                                                                                         

 

Yet, within words expressed, within depth of feelings, the cutting edge of experience articulated, perhaps, just perhaps, maybe, impossible possibility looms, haunts, calls, lures but without guarantee, certainty…

Within the gospel, a shocking, dare I say, impossible invitation is offered:

 

"…sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.".

(Mark 10:21b)

 

It may be true that ‘for God all things are possible.’ (Mark 10:27b), yet, there is no certainty of our avoiding experiences of impossibility...

 

So, facing possible impossibilities (or is it impossible possibilities?) who, what, is this god for whom all things are possible?

 

I follow – or try to – a god beyond all names, a mystery, an unknown, an enigma wrapped in an impossibility (a Churchillian trace?), the possibility of an impossibility, the impossibly possible, maybe….¹

 

Which is to say, I am troubled, deeply concerned with overly declarative statements about god, about a God too strong, too big for his britches (yes, this God is always male), too magisterial, too high in a bloodless, neo-

 

Platonic, metaphysical sky…²

 

Which is to say, I am often appalled by things done in the name of GOD (pronounced GAWD in certain locale’s), things violent and destructive which, despite the invocation of God’s name, does not make anything holy but wholly horrific, a God, that while the PR is alluring, the pitch pamphlet well designed, promising much, delivers far less than promised, less than imagined, leading us to Herculean efforts to get out of the corners we have painted ourselves into…³

 

Yet, while I have problems with ‘ALMIGHTY GOD’, a God so convincingly, so necessarily, eviscerated by atheism – Feuerbach says Amen - I cannot dismiss, reject, be done with, something astir within the name of god, perhaps god after God, a god wholly emptied into the world, a god stirring within religion without religion (Nietzsche stirs) …

 

Which is to say I am haunted by hope, hoping against hope, in what may be astir within the name of god, in the possibility of an impossibility, in the impossibility of god, which is not to say, I dismiss, despair of, judge, those who no longer believe in god, no longer use the name of god as they are my sisters and brothers, my neighbour's, my fellow citizens… (although, perhaps impossibility stirs in the exclamation, ‘God dammit!’)

 

Admittedly, you need not go where I go, as I tread a path hesitantly, without seeing, hearing calls but barely heard, with destinations unknown, if there are destinations…

 

Hearing a god - playing with story – not interested in sharing god’s name (Did you hear that Moses?) but a god interested with the world, with ‘widows and orphans’, ‘little ones’, with strangers, aliens, with those who are last, with the risky business of hospitality, with calls of justice troubling the languid pools of convention, a god known in haunting calls, in hopeful invitations, ‘Go tell my people, I hear their cries, I see their suffering’, ‘Go tell pharaoh, Let my people go’...

 

Hearing a god not interested in our solemn assemblies, taking no pleasure in our rituals, rites, sacrifices, our fasts – Amos says, ‘Amen, Amen, Yes!’ - hearing one glimpsed in prophetic passions expressed in cries throughout time, cries perhaps best expressed in the summary phrase, ‘Are you, ‘fing’ kidding me, this how you organize life?’

 

Hearing a god stirring within the lure of an impossible hope, an unshakeable call, that those ‘who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’ (Mark 10:31)

 

Hearing a god stirring within the impossibility of justice, our hearing insufficient to truly implement its haunting call, yet, hopefully, treading a path aspiring, responding, to make life better for all, to correct imbalances, errors in judgement, mistakes, failures, luring law to bend toward justice's aspirational, inspirational call…

 

Hearing a god stirring within risking hospitality’s call in opening, creating room at the table, be it dinner tables, eucharistic tables, board room tables, opening space for those for whom there was no space, risking destabilizing community to save community, refusing to close ranks, to close the circle…

 

And, as impossible it may seem – personally, it has always seemed impossible – I say yes, admittedly in fear and trembling, to god, caught as I am between those deadly certain of GOD ALIMIGHTY and those self congratulatory minions drinking and backslapping at wakes commemorating the death of God…

 

I say yes to god not knowing what the hell I’m talking about or what will be asked of me…

 

I say yes to loving god yet not knowing what I love when I love god… (St Augustine stirs)

 

I say yes to justice unsure of its call, unsure of my response, unsure of outcomes…

 

I say yes to hospitality aware of risk yet wary of unexpected change…

 

I say yes to life despite being burnt, despite burning others…

 

I say yes to impossibilities, to the more than possible, to ruptures, admitting that if you do only the possible life quickly becomes tedious…

 

And, impossible as it may be, I say yes to what is to come without knowing what is coming, putting out a chair for Elijah, opening the door in case he comes, always looking, hoping, praying – fearfully perhaps – for one who is to come, to come again …

 

I say yes, hoping, impossibly, that my yes is a response to a prior yes…

 

I say yes, praying that tomorrow I will say yes again…

 

Amen, Amen…

 

Yes, Yes…

 

PS

While I sense impossibility stirring within, "…sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.", I must ask - remember I’m just asking - may I please keep my books?

 

And finally, if it is not too late...

 

I pray you will say Yes…

 

Time will tell…                                                                                                                                           

 

And while we wait, listen, listen to St Augustine…

 

‘Love and do what you will…’

 

Impossible you say…

 

Exactly…

 

Go there where you cannot go, to the impossible, it is indeed the only way of going or coming. Jacques Derrida

 

It is only when you give yourself to, surrender to, and set out for the wholly other, for the impossible, only when you go where you cannot go, that you are really on the move. Anything less is staying stuck in place, with the same. Going where you cannot go, going somewhere impossible, constitutes true movement, genuine coming and going, since going where it is possible to go is only a pseudo-motion, the “paralysis” of a “non-event”. When you go to the possible nothing much happens. The only event…is to go to the impossible. If the possible spells paralysis, the impossible is an impassioning impetus. If the possible means the paralysis of the programmable, the impossible is the passion of decision.                                                                                                                                                               John Caputo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

¹ The possibility of an impossibility, the impossibly possible? While simple explanatory definitions leave much to be desired, perhaps the following points in a direction. A theologian once said, ‘Of God I do not believe we can say a thing, but, on the other hand, as a theologian, I have to make a buck’. Within this dilemma impossibility stirs. Strictly speaking, the impossible is not simply the opposite of the possible but the more-than-possible, the transgression, the chance, the break, the rupture, the passage to the limits. See pages 1 and 51 of The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion, (Indiana University Press, 1997)

 

² Hebraic depictions, descriptions of god are more entwined with the world, with yearnings for justice, well being, paradoxically more expressive of one unnameable.

 

³ I am willing to admit that you may still be attracted to ’MARVELous’ depictions of ‘ONE MOST HOLY’. Truth to tell – yes, I am an irrepressible imp - if you are wondering about comic book analogies, you are quite correct as such are expressions of our fascination with superhero's, expressions of our promethean projections, our Olympian dreams, expressions of our deep-seated desires to win, to succeed, to control.

 

Playing with Hebrew and German, echoing Nietzsche, the divine name יהוה in Hebrew (Yahweh – I am), is transliterated ‘Jahweh’ in German. The German ‘Ja’ – yes, suggests, perhaps, if we are playful enough, that the divine name is, ‘I am, yes…’, ‘Jah-weh’. Is it possible that the divine name – perhaps – hints, suggests, an affirmative irruption from the depths, a de profundis sung by the psalmist – if the psalmist sings in Latin? Is it possible – perhaps – within the unnameable, unspeakable, unknowable depths of the divine name, a passion for the impossible stirs?  See John Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion, (Indiana University Press, 1997) p.26.

 

The empty chair, the open-door awaiting Elijah, is part of the ritual of Passover.