Category Archives: Preaching

Sermon from Sunday

Since I’m sticking things up on YouTube at the moment, I decided to stick up my sermon from this past Sunday. As it was Mother’s Day, the parish decided to celebrate by letting Mother M off the hook for her sermon; I got the job instead… Because all of their services are livestreamed and archived, I could clip out the sermon and post it. So—here’s me preaching!

(And let me note for the record, there was only one surplice in the closet. As you can tell from the sleeve length, it was intended for someone a foot shorter than me…)

 

Guest Post: Mother M for Epiphany 3

You may know by now that there was a weather event on the East Coast this past weekend. A spot of snow…

My lovely wife, Mother M, was supposed to be supplying at a country church about an hour away from our house on Sunday. What with the storm coming, the lay leadership of the parish decided to call off services on Friday. By that time she had a sermon already to go, but no one to preach it to. So, taking heart from the girls (both of whom have YouTube channels), she decided that she might as well get into the game too.

Hence, the parish’s loss is your gain—here’s Mother M’s sermon for Epiphany 3. Enjoy!

Preaching Polls

Ok—I need your help.

I’ve got some questions that I’d like some completely honest (and completely anonymous) answers to. I’m wondering about the process of preaching—particularly in terms of sermon composition—both from the clergy and the lay perspective. As a result, I’m going to put up a couple of informal, unscientific polls in order to get a sense of where things are for the clergy and the laity in the audience.

Like I said, this is completely anonymous. please don’t try to second-guess the questions, just lay it out there. I’d love some follow-up comments as well if you’ve got them or want to clarify an answer or add a more precise one. Again—be as public or as anonymous as you want to be.

If you’re wondering what this is for, it’s more coming out of my own curiosity as much as anything else. Folks who’ve been around for a while know my background–for those who haven’t hitting a few biography points may be helpful. I have a Ph.D. in New Testament but my main interest in the field is how the New Testament gets applied congregationally, particularly in preaching and the liturgy. Homiletics (the upscale term for preaching) was my outside area (secondary specialty) in my Ph.D.  I served a Lutheran congregation for a year as a pastoral intern and preached at least twice a month, often more, and did supply work before my move to the Episcopal Church. So I know what it’s like to write a sermon in the midst of a busy clergy schedule. I’ve also been a clergy spouse for 6+ years; I’ve seen my wife juggle sermon-writing with all of her other duties. I’ve taught 6 semesters of preaching n seminary in addition to my academic work so I know what’s taught and what pitfalls preaching teachers are trying to help their students avoid. I’ve also sat in congregations for 30+ years as a regular pew-warmer and listened to (and analyzed and judged) sermons from that perspective. All in all, I think I have a pretty well-rounded experience around the process. So—I know what I did when I preached; I know what my wife does when she preaches. What do you do? Or what do you want to hear?

(I’d also appreciate links to this post so I can get a wider set of responses!)

Please be honest—this is for posterity… :-)

For the Clergy…

[polldaddy poll=5817684]

[polldaddy poll=5817700]

[polldaddy poll=5817709]

 

For the Laity…

[polldaddy poll=5817722]

Sermon on Colossians 1: A Word to the Fashionable Modalists

M gave me permission to post this up; it’s what she preached this past Sunday. I wondered if it might rustle some feathers in the congregation but apparently she got quite a lot of feedback—all of it overwhelmingly positive. So, without further ado:


When my elder daughter, G., was about three or four she came home one day from pre-school and in her usual manner told me all about her day. She began to tell this vivid story of her new friend Vava. I thought his name was a little unusual, but then she told me that he was Hindu and I realized that this was a name from India that I had never heard before. Day after day I heard all about Vava and one day she informed me that Vava was coming over to visit before he moved. Sure, I told her. I’ll get his phone number tomorrow when I drop you off at school. “No, Mom” she said. “You can’t do that.” Puzzled I asked her why? She said in all seriousness, “Mom, Vava isn’t real—you can’t see him.”

As it turned out, Vava was one of G.’s imaginary friends. For several years we heard quite a lot about Vava and his female companion Doodoo, who they were visiting and what they were up to. Our younger daughter, H., made friends with them as well, and kept them company once G. went off to kindergarten.

What we eventually figured out, though, is that Vava was only partly an imaginary friend. Indeed, it might be more accurate to say that Vava was actually an invisible friend. Bit by bit, my husband and I began to realize that Vava was modeled quite closely after one of G.’s real-life friends, and Indian boy named R.. Many of the characteristics and hobbies that we thought G. had made up Vava were entirely real about R.. When we actually met the real boy R. at a birthday party, I felt like I already knew him because I’d lived so long with Vava. The real boy taught us about the imaginary friend, and, in turn, the invisible friend taught us about the real boy.

Paul’s language in Colossians this morning reminded me of Vava, and I couldn’t help thinking about him and about R. this week. Paul says in particular that Jesus is the very image of the invisible God. And that interplay between Vava and R. came to mind hearing Paul discuss the interplay between who Jesus is and who God is, and about what we learn about God by looking at Jesus.

This passage from Colossians is one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry in the New Testament. Indeed, this passage is often referred to as one of the earliest Christian hymns. Now, we don’t know if anyone actually sang it or if it was used in early church gatherings outside of where we find it in this letter, but its language is rich and evocative and beautiful. Sometimes with language this beautiful, I give in to the temptation to just let it wash over me and to enjoy the experience of hearing it without trying to fully understand it. And yet—this is worth the trouble to understand.

It’s not uncommon these days in the Episcopal Church to hear people using the phrase “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” when they are talking about the Trinity or even to hear some clergy start services or sermons with an invocation “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.” I don’t do that and I won’t do that because I think it’s confusing and, without quite a lot of clarification, it gives people a set of wrong ideas about God.

In one sense, the basic formula is absolutely right: The Trinity does act together as the world’s creator, redeemer, and sustainer. But—that’s rarely how the formula comes across. Instead, too many of the people I know use it as a kind of shorthand or substitute. They have become very sensitive to the use of too much male language and so they don’t want to use too much. As a result, they get the sense that instead of saying “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” that it’s perfectly ok to say “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.” And it’s not.

The problem isn’t so much the formula, rather it’s how they use it and how we hear it. It’s really easy to hear this phrase and to think “oh—I see: Creator = Father, Redeemer = Jesus, and Sustainer = the Holy Spirit.” And that’s not right. And one of the reasons that’s not right is what the poetry from Colossians tells us this morning. Jesus is the very image of the invisible God. In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Or, as John’s Gospel records Jesus saying, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.

The real problem with the formula is the way that it limits our understanding of who God is and how God acts. One of Paul’s key points today is how Jesus is the great linch-pin of Creation: “All things have been created in him and for him.” Paul is reminding us—hey, Jesus is “Creator” too! But then he goes right on to say, “in him all things hold together.” Paul is reminding us—hey, Jesus is “Sustainer” too! And let me tell you today that all of this is Good News. Why? Because what Paul is telling us here is that Jesus is the very image of the invisible God—we learn about the invisible God from the God who took flesh. We learn about the God whom we cannot see who blows around us at this moment from the one whom, as 1 John starts out: we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our own hands, concerning the Word of Life. Paul reminds us in this beautiful New Testament hymn that Jesus himself is simultaneously the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer. And indeed, he shows us what is revealed elsewhere: God the Father is the Creator, yes, but as the God who freed Israel from Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm is a redeemer and as he fed the Children of Israel with quail and manna in the desert was Sustainer as well. The Holy Spirit who sustains us is the same Spirit who laid the foundation stones of Creation and who redeems us in water and Spirit when we are washed in the holy waters of baptism.

So here’s Paul’s point—and it ends up having a really practical purpose: Jesus is the very image of the invisible God. If we want to learn about God, the first and best way to do it is to look at Jesus. It is to consider Christ. And now we’ll use just two points to make this practical.

First, when we look at Jesus, when we look at what he said and what he did, we see love, the reconciling love of God who calls us back to the riches of the glory of the mystery of God. The love of God revealed in Christ is so deep that God is willing to go to the cross for us. The love of God revealed in Christ is so powerful that not even the cross can end it, for God’s love breaks the bonds of death.

Second—our second point takes us back to invisible friends. Sometimes those whom we cannot see teach us about those whom we can. And, vice-versa, sometimes those whom we can see teach us about those whom we cannot. We cannot see God the Father or God the Spirit with our eyes of flesh. And, even though the apostles could, we can no longer see Jesus with our eyes either. So how do we learn about those whom we cannot see? Well—we look at the parts that we can see. In our liturgy we proclaim that each of us is baptized into the Body of Christ. We become part of his body. When we gather together at the altar for Eucharist, we feed on the Body of Christ. The Body becomes a literal, physical part of us. Now, in these latter days, we cannot see Jesus. Unless, of course, we stop and look around the room…

One of the great monastic teachers, John Cassian, wrote over fifteen centuries ago about how his monks were supposed to learn about virtue. They were to look to the elder monks and find those whose lives were worthy of being imitated. But no one person has all of the virtues. Instead, Cassian counsels that we look for the good, we look for the virtues, in each person around us. In one we will find wisdom, in another humility, in another righteous action, in yet another compassion. These virtues, Cassian tells us, are nothing less than Christ distributed amongst his people. It is only when we come together in unity and in faith that we bring together the whole Christ of whom we are members.

How do we know the invisible God? Well—by looking at who we are when we are at our best together. This church can be a true model of who God is. We can ourselves be an image of the invisible God when we, as a whole, show forth the love that Christ commands of us. Furthermore—Christ is the linch-pin. He is what holds us all together.

The world that we live in is so broken and fragmented, but this Colossians passage gives us hope. We are told, “and in him all things hold together.” If we look through the eyes of faith, though, we see that it is Christ’s love that is holding everything together. It ought to encourage us rather than depress us, inspire us instead of making us do nothing—so I leave you with one task this coming week. See if you can figure out how Christ’s arms embrace the world today in your own life and in the life of the church—and how we, in our actions, can continue to extend his arms in love.

Early Medieval Homiletics Reading List

Brandon was wondering…a bit ago now…about some guidance on reading for medieval homiletics.

Here are some of my thoughts on the matter. Now—I do come at this from an unusual direction. That is, a lot of the medievalists out there can be lumped into one of four camps: the English/Language-types, the History-types, the Art-types, or the Religion-types. Most of the recent work on Old English homiletics has come from the English-types. Thus, they come with a certain perspective with a certain knowledge base and certain expectations.

I don’t come from there.

As a Religion-type I approach the field and the subject matter from a rather different set of presuppositions and perspectives. No doubt, that will flavor my list both in terms of what I include and what I don’t.

The other thing I want to add is a note on the early medieval period itself. When viewed from the History-Of-Ideas perspective, the early medieval period looks rather bare and most surveys tend to skip from the patristics to the scholastics with nary a hitch. Needless to say this annoys me… If this is the case generally, it seems especially to be the case in terms of homiletics as you will find many references to that fact that no original thought was going on and that everyone was just copying the Fathers. It’s not that simple. The Early Medieval period is best understood as a period of synthesis and consolidation where thinkers individually and the Church corporately was sifting through the remains of both the Classical and Late Antique world in an attempt to salvage what they could and to systematize this host of fragments into meaningful and useful systems of thought. Ignoring this aspect of the period is analogous to dismissing mosaics as not being proper glasswork because it’s just a bunch of broken bits pushed together—and not even in the original order!

Enough ranting—here are my thoughts by category…

Overviews of the History of Preaching

Yngve Brilioth, A Brief History of Preaching, translated by Karl E. Mattson, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965). An old mainstay of the history of homiletics

Paul S. Wilson, A Concise History of Preaching, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1992). A more recent voice concerning homiletical history

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). The new standard in terms of breadth, a work stamped with an idiosyncratic approach shaped by Reformed ideals.

These three are all histories of preaching written from the perspective of 20th century homiletics. There’s no point in reading these through—just find them in the library and spend some time skimming their medieval sections and jotting down some notes. Here you’ll see what modern homileticians think of the medieval tradition (when they think of it at all…). Notably, all of these are Protestant, the last especially so.

One which I haven’t seem but which seems to be the broadly liberal protestant answer to Old’s conservative protestant is O.C. Edwards, A History of Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon, 2004).

The only recent item I’ve seen out of Roman Catholic circles is a book which I think bears a very misleading title: C. Colt Anderson, Christian Eloquence: Contemporary Doctrinal Preaching (Mundelein, Ill.: Hillenbrand, 2005). This is written as a textbook for preaching classes and is a “Reform of the Reform” attempt to teach modern preachers how to preach in a medieval style. I’ve been contemplating writing a review of it for publication but haven’t found the right time or venue. In short, I think it sets forth a fascinating project and even a decent structure in the opening few chapters but fails to deliver. It doesn’t adequately carry through its own project, and it doesn’t address what I regard as the fundamental question in adapting medieval homiletical theory for the modern pulpit which is the connection between tradition, revelation, authenticity, and the ethics of using some else’s material.  In short, it could have been awesome…

Patristics

Secondary Sources

Johannes Quasten, Patrology, 4 vols. (Notre Dame: Christian Classics, reprint n.d.) This is the massive overview to patristic thought which should be your starting place for any question, issue, or query concerning the Church Fathers. Read it through once, then refer to it as needed. The bibliographic data is becoming dated but will reliably point you to the stand-by studies and critical editions.

Its single greatest failing for our purposes is that it ends with Leo the Great; no Gregory, no Bede.

Primary Sources

Augustine ET: Tractates on John, NPNF1.7; Sermon of the Mount, Selected Homilies on the Gospels, NPNF1.6. As far as sermons go, Augustine’s Tractates provided the major word on the Gospel of John. The work on the Sermon on the Mount was also influential. As for others, many of the Augustinian sermons floating around the early medieval world were not really by him (Caesarius of Arles’s work frequently traveled under Augustine’s name.

Maximus of Turin [Sermons, edited by Almut Mutzenbecher, CCSL 23 (Turhout: Brepols, 1999); ET: Sermons of St. Maximus of Turin, translated by Boniface Ramsey, Ancient Christian Writers 50 (Newman, 1989)

Leo the Great [Sermons, 4 vols. edited by René Dolle, Sources chrétiennes 22, 49, 74, 200, (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1949-1973); ET: Sermons, translated by Jane Freeland and Agnes Conway, Fathers of the Church 93 (Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1995)] Selected sermons of Leo can also be found in the NPNF2.12. One of the greatest popes & preachers, Leo stands as a representative of the finest traditions of Late Antiquity.

Gregory the Great [Homiliae in evangelia, edited by Raymon Etiax, CCSL 141, (Turhout: Brepols, 1999); ET: Forty Gospel Homilies, translated by David Hurst, CS 123, (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1990)] Reformer and visionary, Gregory stands on the cusp between Late Antiquity and the Early Medieval as an influential liminal figure. Be warned, the English translation’s numbering of the homilies is idiosyncratic and should be cross-checked with the CCSL edition.

The Venerable Bede [Bede Venerabilis opera. Pars III: Opera homilectica; Pars IV: Opera rhythmica, edited by David Hurst and J. Fraipont, CCSL 122, (Turhout: Brepolis, 1955); ET: Homilies on the Gospels, 2 vols., translated by Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst, CS 110-111, (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1989-1990)] The star of Northumbrian biblical scholarship, Bede represents the finest work of a scholar in dialogue with both Latin orthodoxy and the opening German mission fields.

This stuff here is the heartland of the early medieval homiliary traditions.

Early Homiletics

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine. Translated by D.W. Robertson, Jr. The Library of Liberal Arts. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1958. This is a classic—no doubt about it. But Augustine’s impact on early homiletical theory is entirely incomplete without also reading:

Augustine, On the Catechizing of the Uninstructed, NPNF1.3. This is where Martin of Braga, Pirmin, and Aelfric all get their fundamental template for missionary preaching. It deserves much more attention than it gets.

Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, NPNF2.12. Not explicitly a preaching manual, but Gregory does talk quite a bit about preaching and about shaping the preaching to the audience.

Miller, Prosser, Benson, Readings in Medieval Rhetoric, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973) This is a great collection of primary sources and summaries of primary sources. It includes the complete text of Bede’s De Schematibus et Tropis in English along with a number of other helpful texts.

There were no more preaching manuals until the rise of the scholastics. Alan of Lille comes next in sequence but it’s crucially important to notice the gap.

Why were there no preaching manuals between the patristic to the scholastic period? It’s not just because people were copying… Rather, it was because the medievals were still in touch enough with classical rhetoric to understand that preaching/rhetoric was composed of three things: talent, training, and imitation. And that last is key. If you want to know the great preaching manuals of the early medieval world, you must go back to the sermons of Gregory and Augustine and study their method. Then look at the sermons of Bede, Aelfric, and Haymo to see how they deploy this method. It’s in the comparison between these sets of authors that you’ll truly understand how early medieval homiletics was shaped.

Liturgy

Perhaps the single greatest difference between my approach and that of most of the English-types is that I understand the sermon to be a discursive element within the liturgy. Preaching in the early medieval period cannot be separated from the liturgy. Even if there is nothing ostensibly liturgical about it, the liturgy still remains the primary frame of reference.

I’ll not deluge you here, but recommend only three works: one an ancient commentary, one a modern, and one an invaluable reference. Start with:

John Harper, The Forms and Orders of the Western Liturgy From the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991). This provides the essential overview. Once you’ve got these pieces in place, you’re ready to tackle:

Isidore of Seville, De Ecclesiasticis Officiis, translated by Thomas Knoebel, Ancient Christian Writers (Newman Press, 2008). After this have on hand for reference:

Cyrille Vogel, Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources, translated by William Storey and Niels Rasmussen (Portland: Pastoral Press, 1986)

The Homiliary Tradition

Dust off your French.

H. Barré, Les homéliares carolingiens de l’école d’Auxerre, Studi e Testi 225 (Rome: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana 1962)

Reginald Grégoire, Homéliaires liturgiques médiévaux: analyse des manuscrits, (Bibl degli studi medievali 12; Spoleto, 1980) This one is crucial for understanding the contents of the great homiliaries and how they relate to one another (or don’t). If you want to know what was in the homiliaries, this is the place to go.

Anglo-Saxon Homiletics

Mary Clayton, “Homiliaries and Preaching in Anglo-Saxon England,” Peritia 4 (1985), 207-42. This has got to be your starting point. It’s the best overview I know and most of the later articles are working along lines Clayton lays down here.

Cyril Smetana, “Ælfric and the Early Medieval Homiliary,” Traditio 15 (1959), 163-204. and also…

Cyril Smetana, “Paul the Deacon’s Patristic Anthology” in The Old English Homily & its Backgrounds, Ed. Paul E. Szarmach and Bernard F. Huppé.  (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1978), 75-97. Without a doubt, Smetana is your go-to guy for Paul the Deacon.

Joyce Hill, “Ælfric and Smaragdus,” Anglo-Saxon England 21 (1992), 203-237. I won’t list all of Joyce Hill’s items here because there are some I don’t have to hand. Read whatever you can from her!

Milton McC. Gatch, Preaching and Theology in Anglo-Saxon England: Ælfric and Wulfstan. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977. Mac is an Episcopal priest and fundamentally gets the connection between preaching and liturgy—the only recent author I know of to do so.

I’ll admit to not having read Aaron’s latest volume (The Old English Homily: Precedent, Practice, and Appropriation, ed. Aaron J. Kleist (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007)) so hopefully some material in there will prove me wrong.

So—these are the directions that I would point you in, Brandon (and others). There’s clearly a lot here. The best plan, as always, is to spend the most time mastering the primary sources; secondary opinions can be added in later. Fr. Adam and others, please feel free to fill in and around what I haven’t said here!

Diss Selection on Paul the Deacon

I figured I might as well throw this into the mix—it’s a selection from the diss on Paul the Deacon. The context is a discussion of “critical conversations”; that is, formalized, stylized and (most importantly) bounded discourses common to both modern biblical scholarship and the early medieval monastic situation:

——————————-

Paul the Deacon (†799)

The next point in the tradition is the great homiliary of Paul the Deacon. Appointed by Charlemagne to pluck flowers from amongst the Catholic Fathers,[1] Paul collected 244 items representing 125 liturgical occasions for the Night Office. Following the needs of the Night Office, Paul supplied most Sunday and festal occasions with two texts: a “sermo” for the second nocturn and an “omelia” for the third.[2] For his texts, Paul used homilies of the Fathers whenever possible, preferring works from Bede, Gregory the Great, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine, and using passages from commentaries or other works when an appropriate homily was not available. For instance, of the fifty-six works attributed to Bede in the original collection, thirty-six are homilies and twenty are sections drawn from Bede’s commentaries on the two less popular gospels, Luke and Mark.

In each case, the source was identified so that those hearing would know from whom the teaching came and that it stood within the tradition. Inevitably, though, some of these attributions were incorrect. In fact, of the fifty texts attributed to Maximus, modern scholarship believes that only fourteen of them are actually his;[3] of the nineteen attributed to John Chrysostom, only one is certifiably the work of Chrysostom.[4] In addition, other material was added as the centuries passed[5]—and included more dubious material: many of the so-called Augustinian sermons added later were not written by Augustine.[6]

In one sense, Paul only transmits materials previously written by others and introduces no changes. In another, he exercises important editorial power by shaping the transmission of the tradition. Paul provided all of these texts with a new and uniform context—the Night Office. Each homily or commentary pericope selected by Paul was newly contextualized by the sermon paired with it and the responsories that would interrupt it two or three times in the course of its reading. Furthermore, he was, for all practical purposes, drawing the bounds of the critical conversation by what he included and excluded. For many monasteries with limited libraries, Paul’s homiliary served as the primary repository of patristic wisdom. While more texts were added as the centuries passed, Paul the Deacon’s homiliary passed into the heart of the tradition and became the source for the readings in the Roman Breviary.[7] Like Bede, Paul the Deacon’s work was intended to remain within the critical conversation as well as establishing its foundation. It is directed specifically to the clergy and monastics participating in the Night Office.

Neither the works of Gregory nor Bede were in any way “official.” They were widely read and eagerly sought out,[8] but had no official standing. Paul the Deacon’s work was different. The prefatory letter originally accompanying it documents Charlemagne’s commission to Paul and authorizes the homiliary as the official text for the Frankish kingdom. Charlemagne demanded the establishment of a purified core tradition, and Paul’s homiliary was an important aspect of that program of reform. The texts were to be strictly orthodox, coming from the recognized Fathers, and compiled by one whose orthodoxy and commitment to the tradition was known to the authorizing powers.


[1] Idque opus Paulo diacono, familiari clientulo nostro, eliminandum iniuximus, scilicet ut, studiose catholicorum patrum dicta percurrens, veluti e latissimis corum pratis certos quosque flosculos legeret, et in unum quaeque essent utilia quasi serum aptaret. (Wiegand, Homilarium, 16).

[2] Smetana notes that there are 151 texts identified with the title sermo, 93 identified as omelia and that the distinction in the texts closest to Paul’s original work seems to have accurately reflected the difference between the two. (Cyril Smetana, “Paul the Deacon’s Patristic Anthology” in The Old English Homily & its Backgrounds, Ed. Paul E. Szarmach and Bernard F. Huppé.  (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1978), 75-97, 78. See the discussion of the difference between the two in the discussion of the Night Office in Ch. 3.

[3] Smetana, “Patristic Anthology,” 80.

[4] Smetana, “Patristic Anthology,” 83.

[5] Migne’s edition in PL 95 is representative of the expansion of the collection—it contains 298 texts, up 54 from the original scope.

[6] Smetana, “Patristic Anthology,” 82.

[7] Smetana, “Patristic Anthology,” 75.

[8] The letters of Boniface constantly request copies of Bede’s works from his English patrons and relatives.

M’s Sermon for Wednesday in Holy Week

What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to lay aside his crown for my soul.

In our readings, we are moving in a progression to Maundy Thursday. On Monday night, we heard how Mary of Bethany poured out her jar of expensive ointment onto the Savior’s feet and wiped them with her own hair. A simple act of love. But an act rich with meaning and rich with feeling. Her act gave us a glimpse of what pure human devotion to God looks like.

Tonight’s reading gives us a glimpse of another facet of the depth of love in the relationship between God and humanity. Monday’s reading showed us what human love looks like when humanity is at its best. Today’s reading shows us what God’s love looks like when humanity is at its worst.

A thousand years before, King David had sung in the psalms about the pain of human relationships, the pain of relationships gone wrong:

“All my enemies whisper together about me and devise evil against me. Even my best friend, whom I trusted, who broke bread with me, has lifted up his heel and turned against me.”

As David sang, as David prophesied, so Judas acted.

The one dips his bread in my bowl, this is the one who will betray me.

It’s not like Jesus doesn’t know. He knows the friend who will betray him. And yet he loves.

Of course, if it would be one thing if the betrayal had stopped at Judas. Not only did the disciples fall away in the garden, but Peter himself would betray Jesus three times. But the betrayal doesn’t stop with biblical characters either. I think of things that I’ve done and things that I’ve said. I too have betrayed him.

It’s not like Jesus doesn’t know. He knows the people who will betray him. And yet he loves.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to lay aside his crown for my soul.

The “New” Hermeneutic

At Mass a bit ago I leaned over to M and asked: “When did this new hermeneutic happen? When did inclusion vs. exclusion become the chief means for interpreting Jesus’ healing miracles–and most other narratives in the Bible–even when it does considerable violence to the text itself?”

I was reminded by this by a number of bloggers’ links to a new review of +Spong’s latest publication where he seems (by their reports) to be quite heavy-handed with this approach. Yes, inclusion is part of the Christian message–but it’s not the whole message. Not by a long shot.

On African Bishops

Okay, I may well have been wrong before–with the announcement of a North American Ugandan bishop it seems like there may well be a coherent plan that the “Global South” bishops are following to get a replacement province in place before September 30th so that on October 1 they can demand a new Anglican entity in North America.

If we are moving towards this new flat-earth (Friedman style) Anglicanism where we can all select the bishops we serve under regardless of continent or diocesan boundaries, ++Schori may have to worry about losing me to an African bishop… I quite liked this sermon which arrived over the wires the other day from ++Ndungane. Imagine, a primate who keeps his proclamation centered on the love of God, is open to modern (responsible) biblical interpretation, AND openly confesses a creedal understanding of who Jesus is…