Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us
St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1789

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am - 1 pm

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Sermon

September 22nd Pentecost 15, 2019                      John Marsh


Jeremiah 8:18 - 9:1; Psalm :1-9; Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13



This homily, this talk - whatever this is - is in memory of my uncle, Herb Cowman, a gay man, who in the late 60’s died broken and alone in NYC. May his life, his hope for love, his death, continue to haunt me.


This is also in memory of my father, a man of distinct opinions, who, despite opinions or perhaps because of them, was the only member of the family to attend Herb’s funeral and in so doing displayed a courage, and if not a courage, a willingness to go where few go. May his complexity continue to inspire me.


~


My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land...


For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? O that my head was a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people! (Jeremiah 8:18-19a, 21-9:1)


Of the voices within sacred narrative, none is so unheard, as the voice within the Jeremiah passage today…


Of the images, the portrayals of god, there is none, amongst the many, so often read and so little acted upon as the god who blesses the poor, the orphan and the widow, the god stirred by the persecuted and those grieving…


If we were to hear such voices, respond to such images, who would we be, what would we do?


If we were to act upon that seen or heard, what then?


These are questions to be taken quite seriously, anything less, less than the struggle within the questions, is to be enmeshed by pieties distorting faith, obscuring vision, disabling action…


Truth to tell, we usually prefer - and so we hear - our god victorious, strong, virtuous, commanding, mighty¹; usually we prefer ourselves so considered…


And yet, is god, are we, so described?


I wonder, is it possible to hear otherwise, to hear voices other than our own; is it possible to open to a god who lays down (forgive the anthropomorphism) strength, sets aside power in the embrace of weakness, a god who exercises a preferential option for those on the downside of history?


Truth to tell, it’s hard, at times, very hard…


Personally, it has been difficult as I’m one privileged, privileged by gender and orientation, perhaps by wealth or position. I have been privileged by a belief, an unconscious commitment to a promise, a promise of betterment, the inevitability of social and personal progress…


This belief, this dream purports to be for everyone but truthfully one is distanced from efficacy by colour, gender, or economic circumstance…


I am educated, perhaps very educated, but any sense of privilege has been shaped, or was it undermined, by a haunting faith, a spectral hope, an insistent love…


Mine was a privileged worldview until my ancestry interfered…


Mine was a privileged worldview until I began to hear other voices revealing an untold story…


Truth to tell, I am from the underclass - a long line of servants, farm labourers, coal miners…


I am from downstairs, from a line of illiterates, working class folk breaking backs, losing limbs²...


Of late, belief in The Dream³ may have lured us with a promise of betterment and progress, yet the draw from below beckons still, if we have ears…


And hearing - I have been fascinated, I have fallen in love with ‘the downstairs’, the underclass…


I am lured by roots - the stories, the music, the complexities of the underclass, my origins forming more of my identity than I imagined…


And as I reflect, it strikes me that if there is to be the ascent, upward social mobility, there has to be something below…


The dream of the ascent, the lure of upward mobility is nothing if there is not something below...


And, it goes without saying that those below are varied, varied by circumstance and context – blacks, first nations, other persons of colour, the poor, of late, Muslims, whomever and whatever bodies provide the fodder necessary to stoke the engines of a promise…


Without those below, without those bodies to be other, those above must necessarily fall from the mountain of upward mobility; they must lose their sense of divinity, their sense of divine right, lose the belief (accepted as self evident) that the right, the position, the reward, the expectation is quite naturally - theirs; without those below, without the hierarchy built upon the foundation of below, they would lose the supremacy and triumph of their decontextualized innocence…


Have you ever noticed that among those on an upward track no one is to blame, no one need accept social responsibility, responsibility lies elsewhere, with someone, something else?


This ‘innocence’ nullifies the anger and fear within the other, silences voices, demonizes difference as terrible, potential terror, obscuring what is obvious if they had eyes to see...


Silenced by the weight of cultural innocence, by the avoidance of social responsibility, with their anger nullified, those below are disembodied in their otherness, unless those below claim their voices, claim their lives in lament, in prayer, in song, in story, in acting, in expressing life on their terms…


And, truth to tell, those below will remain threateningly other unless those unperturbed because of belief are disturbed, becoming sensate, unless they are given eyes to see, ears to hear and hearing, lament, and lamenting, praying, singing, acting, expressing life…


We may all be lost unless we risk the inherent vulnerability of life, risk the vulnerabilities of faith, hope, and love…


Truth to tell, there is no ultimate security, no inherent safety this side of death…


So, I treasure, I love those voices, those origin stories, those memories, reminding me of the skills, the vagaries, the joys, of the fears and relational incongruities of living in the mess…


So, I’ll pray…


I’ll pray for leaders, pray for their hearing, their sight…


I’ll pray for their hearts and their minds…


I’ll hope in a haunting, a disturbance, anything which will give us pause, cause a re-think, stimulate a memory, a glimmer of something human...


I’ll pray for myself, lest I come to think I’m above, beyond prayer…


I’ll pray to hear, to feel the otherness within me, to hear those ancestral voices from below calling me home, calling me to remember lest I forget…


I’ll pray to hear voices in the dark, calling, inviting a memory…


I’ll pray for guile, to be wily in my commitment to those voices from below, to those still living below, which I have come to realize has always included me, in fact most of us…


I’ll pray to love, committed to justice’s call, committed to otherness, committed to a shared humanity…



 ¹ Within this understanding, condescension often masquerades as compassion!

 ² Downstairs in reference to the series, ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’.

 ³ Capitals are used as a warning, that something is afoot, perhaps obscuring something vital. In this case, The Dream may obscure a nightmare at work.