The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene
2950 Laurel St. At W. 14th Ave.
Vancouver, BC, V5Z 3T3
Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am -
Wednesday 7:00 pm
Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada
February 10th Epiphany 6, 2019 John Marsh
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. (v. 17)
So begins the narrative of Jesus’ ‘sermon on the plain’…
It is my hope that maybe we can level with each other…
I, for one, will do my best to speak plainly…
At the heart of the gospel passage is the depiction of a god, a god both biblical and foolish, a god refusing to abandon creation to corrupting powers, powers structural, psychic, personal, dare I say sinful…
But, let’s be clear, despite divine passion, we know – or we should – that those blessed are not those without struggle…
To be blessed is to live faith, hope and love, to live god’s reign as if god ruled while surrounded by so much evidence that the world is fractured, a place of death, suffering, disgrace, hunger, misery and mourning – beware the power of wilful blindness…
To be blessed is to live life within a creation of exquisite beauty, dangerous opportunity, random chance, harmful choices, destructive actions…
Biblically speaking, being prophetically aware, the word ‘level’ suggestively infers places of brokenness, despair and death…1
In the midst of a world manifesting ‘the broken level’, the fractiousness of ‘normal’, Jesus announces, embodies, teaches the madness of the kingdom, the hope, the faith, the love that god is astir amongst those poor, hungry, mourning, Jesus inviting response, luring choice, to live a radical hope in impossible possibilities, open to receiving blessing, sharing blessing, daring hope, sharing hope, open to works of healing mind, body or spirit, the work of being healers, discerning calls of god to live as a witness, to embody divine possibilities, to take the risk, to undertake the work of justice, compassion, hospitality, generosity, to bring renewal to this broken world, to commit to ‘tikkun olam’, repairing the world…
To so live, to so work, can elicit, invite, the way of the cross, drawing forth hatred, exclusion, the ‘joys’ of being reviled and defamed…
So, speaking plainly…
Are we really surprised by lukewarm response?
Are we surprised by a certain conditioning, a softening, making more rational, reasonable, the madness of god, the weakness of the kingdom?
How did Jeremiah put it?
The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse-
So, if I may continue to speak on the level…
Are we surprised that many Eurocentric parishes, many congregations of privilege, expressive of dominant power and cultural concerns, have a peculiar relationship to this gospel passage, a peculiar relationship with the inconvenient god astir therein?
This inconvenient god throwing off the dispassionate, metaphysical categories of Athens, preferring the hot mess of Jerusalem, the chaos, the inconvenience of those other, those poor, mourning, those hungry, those excluded, invisible…
While many are aware of certain ‘problems’ within this world, curiously, focusing, often, on single issues to the exclusion of others, perhaps to the exclusion of those excluded, few are deeply hungry to act, much less weeping, with those inconvenient as their inconvenience may ask, dare I say demand, something of our convenience…
Are we surprised that many say, ‘Whoa, hold on now!’?
Are we surprised by ‘Woe to those who are rich now, full now, those who laugh now, those praised now’?
Are we surprised by prophets, dare I say god, announcing, ‘woe to those…’?
Are we disturbed by a god emptied into the hot mess of the world?
If we are not surprised, what will we do about it?
How will we respond?
If god is astir within life, are we?
Unfortunately, questions too often left hanging…
1 See Jeremiah 9:22; 14:18; 30:4; Daniel 3:1; Joel 1:10, 20; 2: 22; 3:19; Habakkuk 3:17; Zechariah 12:11.
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