If you go to a party the second or third question is what do you do? We Americans are a hyperactive people taking our identity largely from what we do. When people learn our occupation they then know how to relate to us. If you’re a Doc, you get to hear the organ recital, “My arm hurts, my leg is swollen and I can’t find a decent doctor. If you are a lawyer, you get to hear a tired lawyer joke. I try never to wear a clergy collar on an airplane. If I do usually one of two things happens: the passenger next to me is intimidated and ignores me or worse they confess to me the entire trip.
• As Americans what we do defines who we are.
• As Christians what we do should grow from who we are.
• The message of the Gospel reading for today is that the taproot of Christian identity is relationship to God. Doing and being must be outward and inward expressions of our vital union with God. Nothing else will do.
PRESENCE AND AVAILABILITY
The amount of time devoted to teaching certain subjects in school is inversely proportional to the frequency with which the children will make use of the subject when they grow up.
Adults in most working situations spend:
• 2 hours = talking
• 8 hours = listening
• 1 hour = reading
Yet in school enormous amount of time is spent teaching reading; a very small amount of time teaching how to speak and almost no time at all teaching how to listen: to be present and available to one another.In fact the less the real person is available the “more businesslike” a person becomes. As Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury, once put it: “I am trying to cultivate a life-style that does not require my presence.”
Orazio Gentileschi, 1563 – 1639 Mary & Martha
MARTHA IS PRESENT BUT UNAVAILABLE – In the Gospel reading we find the two sisters of Bethany, Martha and Mary. They are almost types for us as we look at selves in the mirror that scripture provides us. Martha is present but busy and unavailable. We are so like Martha.
Even in the household of faith we are busy about many things. As Hannah Whiteall Smith writes, “The ambition of most Christians is to have a vast number of things; and their energies are all wasted in the vain effort to get possession of these things:
• some strive to get possession of certain “experiences”
• some seek after “ecstatic feelings”;
• some try to make themselves rich in theological “views” and “dogmas”;
• some store up a long list of works done and results achieved;
• some seek to acquire “illuminations,” or to accumulate “gifts” or “graces.”
In short, all Christians, almost without exception, seek to possess a store of something or other, which they fancy will serve to recommend them, and make them worthy of His love and care.” Even our virtues have a shadow.
Our natural tendency is to try to earn our way into God’s favor BECAUSE WE DO NOT REALLY TRUST THE GIFT OF GOD’S GRACE!
MARY IS PRESENT AND AVAILABLE
We are called, like Mary, to be both present and available. This is particularly hard for us busy people who live as if the Kingdom of God will arrive only if we behave like it is a political campaign frantically working to make happen what only God can make happen.
Paul writing to the Christians in Colossae expresses his hope that they will continue steadfast in the faith in Christ Jesus. Steadfastness is a manifestation of God’s grace. It is not so much a matter of feelings but rather a putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on keeping on. The late Elton Trueblood used to say that it “was the mark of committed people that they did some things whether they felt like it or not.” A life of following Jesus is not like passive. It requires the “setting aside” of myself which requires discipline and practice. It is the keeping on keeping on part of the journey.
Episcopal Spiritual Life Renewal Process – This is the year of the Bible – Saint John’s Reads – The Bible through in a year. Ignorance of the Bible is no longer acceptable here. I ask you to join with me and do this thing. Then we are not just present but also available.
The Children’s Bible in a Nutshell
In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas
The Bible says, ‘The Lord thy God is one,’ but I think He must be a lot older than that.
Anyway, God said, ‘Give me a light!’ and someone did. Then God made the world.
He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren’t embarrassed because mirrors hadn’t been invented yet.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden. Not Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel. Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.
One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check. After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.
Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston.
Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on
Pharaoh’s people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable.
God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include: don’t lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor’s stuff. Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.
One of Moses’ best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the fence fell over on the town. After Joshua came David.. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn’t sound very wise to me. After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore. There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don’t have to worry about them.
After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of The New Testament. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn.(I wish I had been born in a barn too, because my mom is always saying to me, ‘Close the door! Were you born in a barn?’ It would be nice to say, ‘As a matter of fact, I was.’) During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Republicans. Jesus also had twelve opossums. The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him. Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount. But the Republicans and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn’t stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead. Anyways, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of Revolution.
The reason we find humor in this child’s version of the Bible is because we know the stories. If we do not know the stories then we lose almost all there is to the Gospel. That is why I say, “ignorance of the scriptures is no longer acceptable here at Saint John’s”
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.