Tag Archives: poor

Shamelessly Serving the Body of Christ

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

Let me start out by making an admission: I feel somewhat hesitant to preach on today’s Gospel reading. One reason stems from the historian in me. This same story is told in all four of the Gospels, and no two Gospels are in complete agreement as to exactly what happened. In Matthew and Mark, the anointing took place at dinner in the house of a Pharisee named Simon the Leper. And there, Mary anointed Jesus’ head (not his feet!), and absolutely nothing is said about her wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. When Luke tells his version of this story, he completely dissociates the story from this female disciple. Instead, it is a notoriously sinful woman of Galilee, with no name, who anoints Jesus head and wipes her tears from his feet with her hair. As it stands, we must live with some uncertainty regarding the details of this story.

 

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Conjugating God: The Past, Present, and Future Tenses

By the Rev. Darren Miner

For a printable pdf version click here.

Gospel Reading

✠ In the Name of him who was, and is, and is to come. Amen.

Today is the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, and Christmas is right around the corner. (But I bet you already knew that!) The Gospel reading we heard today is a familiar one. We hear the first part each year at the feast of the Visitation, and we hear the second part at the feast of St. Mary the Virgin. On those feast days, the focus is quite rightly on Mary. Today the focus is on what God has done in the past, continues to do in the present, and will do again in the future—and what that means for us!

The story takes place right after the archangel Gabriel has announced to Mary that she has been chosen to bear the Son of God. Her response is to visit her elderly cousin who is miraculously pregnant. The Church Fathers assure us that Mary does not visit her cousin Elizabeth so as to verify what the archangel had told her. Mary is not a doubter. But perhaps she just needs to share her joy with one who will understand it.

At the moment that Mary enters Elizabeth’s house and greets her cousin, the child in Elizabeth’s womb, the prophet John the Baptist, recognizes the presence of his Lord in Mary’s womb and gives a mighty and prophetic kick. At that same moment, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and with a mighty shout, she prophesies the message that her unborn son cannot yet proclaim: namely, that Mary and her child are uniquely and supremely blessed by God.

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Poverty, David, and Us

A sermon preached by Christopher L. Webber at the Church of the Incarnation, San Francisco, on August 2, 2015.

The story of David and Bathsheba  is not a love story. In spite of Darryl Zanuck and Cecil B DeMille it’s a story of moral values  in conflict with human passions,  It’s about biological urges,  not love. I said last week  that marriage is an evolving institution. The Bible tells us of wives being purchased,  of multiple wives, of wives and concubines. Love is an occasional aspect of Biblical marriage but not primary, not necessarily expected. And nowhere do we find  the language beloved of conservatives that marriage consists of one man and one woman.

In all the long story of David,  forty-some chapters in First and Second Samuel and the First Book of Kings  love is mentioned maybe a dozen times but never with David as the subject.  David, so far as the Bible tells us, never loved anyone. Jonathan loved David,  and Saul’s daughter Michal loved David, and Judah and Israel loved David, but we are never told David loved anyone.  He didn’t even know Bathsheba’s name until the day he saw her and wanted her.  He wanted her and as king, he got her,  but it was not about love.

We talked about that story last week  and how lust led to murder, but don’t get distracted by the love angle  or even the sex angle.  Yes, this is a story of moral failure  but I think we miss the point if we put the focus on the adultery. That may be more interesting, it may make a better movie or headline, but I think the emphasis is on property  – property and robbery –  and we don’t see it because adultery is more interesting.  But we have to think ourselves back  three thousand years to a day when women were property first of all  and love was an occasional bonus.
What we heard today is the prophet Nathan’s indictment of David and it is put in terms of property.  Nathan indicts David for robbery, not adultery.  David had done his best to cover his tracks  but a king can’t hide. A king is a public figure  surrounded by courtiers and word gets out. Word got out and Nathan knew he had a job to do: because someone needed to call David to account and because no one, not even the king, maybe especially the king, can flout the law of God. Someone needs to call the sinner to account.  Someone needs to call the sinner to account  no matter how much power or money they have. But it isn’t easy to speak truth to power. It’s not easy to get past  the third assistant secretary.

It’s also dangerous to speak truth to power.  Power insulates.  We have separation of church and state not because the church has no role in the state but because it does and can only fill that role effectively  if it is separate and unentangled and free to call the state to account  in a way an established church can’t do. There were priests in Israel  but they were paid to serve the state not to criticize it. Nathan the prophet was free with nothing to lose but his life. David had dealt with Uriah and he could deal with Nathan if he had to.

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