St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

Sermon

July 5th Pentecost 5, 2020                     John Marsh


Genesis 24:34 - 38, 42-49, 58-67; Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Romans 7:15-25a;

Matthew 11:16-19, 25


Paul said it, I’m just quoting:


I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.                                                                             Romans 7:15, 19


So now a question: Why is it that one named as a saint seems not to know himself?  


Is it not rightly assumed that one so named would be so knowledgeable, responsive to calls of holiness?


After all, does not the old maxim say, ‘Know thyself’…¹


Perhaps not…


Perhaps saintliness, dare I say, humanity, is intertwined within the unknowability of life, that we do not really know ourselves?


Is it not possible that change is intertwined within unknowability, that which haunts, surprises us, perhaps the looming lures of transformation, the surprise of conversions unexpected, unanticipated?


Perhaps, as André Gide wrote in Autumn Leaves (1950), know thyself is ‘a maxim as pernicious as it is ugly.


Whoever studies himself arrests his own development. A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly.’²


Perhaps the question is not whether one can ‘know thyself’ but whether one can love thyself and then so loving, love the other, the other within, without…


Or perhaps, as Carter Heyward says, ‘we can truly know only that which we are not afraid to love, and we can truly love only that which we are not afraid to see.’


Perhaps we may hear and respond to the voice of the beloved:

"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!  

Song of Songs 2:10


As we risk response, giving way to love, life’s lure, perhaps we will see that…    


There is fluidity to her movement – flow to her dance


She moves as she wills


Expresses herself where she wills and so…


Life’s children


Who are they?


They are varied, many, diverse


As different as John was to Jesus


All beloved


This is the poetic of life’s inherent vibrancy – creation fully alive, divinity perhaps breaking through!


This is the dynamic promise within life - our lives transformed and transforming


The dynamic Eros of divinity within all life



It is this dynamic pulse of promise which invites us to understand Paul


Law – all law not simply Jewish law, even divine law - can only inform


It provides only information not transformation


Law defines – brings knowledge – yet cannot ensure compliance ³


This is not to dismiss law as useless but to recognize that where law defines


Life dances, leaps


By which I mean to say that law can never define life


Life must animate law


As we have often said of the ‘spirit’ of the law as opposed to its ‘letter’


But we know – do we not – of the imposition of the letter of law


The force and power of legal definition in our collective story


At one time by law


Women were not fully human


First Nations were not fully human


 Jews, Blacks, others of colour were not fully human


It was illegal to love certain persons


Such a heavy yoke, all by force of law!


Which is where sin comes in –


In the stiffening, the rigidity, the defining


So easily becoming the silencing, the binding, the confining, the judgment


John was demonic, Jesus a drunk and glutton ⁴


This has profound political and social repercussions: pogroms, enslavement of all kinds, segregation, poverty, hunger, and illness


And, not surprisingly, our personal lives are not immune


As we unleash the force of judgement on ourselves, others, binding, confining


This cycle of silence, isolation, pain, and suffering becomes hard to break


The weight of political, social, economic, and when required, religious strictures collude with archetypal fears and anxieties


 We are mired down and entrapped


As Paul says,


‘That which I should not do - I do and that which I should do - I do not’


But this seemingly hopeless trap carries within spirit’s explosive dance


How?


It lies precisely within the silencing, the isolation, the segregation…


End the silence, refuse the isolation, crack open the segregation


Paul breaks the silence


He admits, writes, speaks, accepts, and acknowledges


This is a bifurcation point of grace – the unexpected fork in the road


In taking the road less traveled cracks open in coming to voice, in breaking the silence


In coming to the table, in engaging, risking sight and hearing


And then - perhaps


 We played the flute for you and you danced, sang, moved⁵


So, understand


‘Come to me all you that labour and carry heavy burdens...Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. My yoke is easy and my burden light’ ⁶




¹ The Ancient Greek aphorism "know thyself", is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. By Socrates’ time it was accepted wisdom.

 ² Autumn Leaves is a collection of autobiographical essays by André Gide one of the great twentieth century French intellectuals

 ³ As with speed limits, setting the law, posting the speed, does not mean compliance.

 ⁴ See Matthew11:28-19

 ⁵ See Matthew 11:17

 See Matthew 11:28-30