God is the Subject (Mother Beth)
Learning through the generations of this community.
Relationships developed during lectio divina.
The Pentecost Parade
Bananas from the ALS Walk for sack lunches
Michael Fisher’s playing
RIP Medical Debt
Great discussion of the Gospels in the Men’s Bible Study
The awesome sermon by Deacon Chris on the completion of the cycle of thanks
Building a whole new life thanks to the Emmanuel community
Fr. Caleb and his coffee meetings, emails, and Common Table
The ability to increase my giving every year
The offertory anthems at the second service, which offer something new every week
Coming to Bible stuff to learn more about the Bible
Light from the stained glass windows on the walls
I’m sure all of you know where that list came from – it’s your words, all of you who have been taking time to notice God giving to us here at Emmanuel and to cultivate the joy and wonder of putting it into words and sharing it. In the life of a healthy church, everyone gets room and space to speak about their experience of God and what Jesus has done for them. We’ve tended to be a little timid about voicing our faith at Emmanuel, and I’m grateful that the chance to post cards on the Wonder in All board has seemed to help some of you take that risk. Thank you to everyone who has participated so far, and we’ll be giving another chance today. I’m grateful, also, for the eight laity who agreed to share experiences for the display of Wonder in All stories – thank you, Michael, Joyce, Cathy, Ray and Megan, Hope, Adam, and Lisa. It strikes me, as we hear today Jesus’ very pointed text about the Pharisee and the tax collector, that what those eight Emmanuelítes did, and what each of you is doing as you name God’s activity and write it down, has the potential to help us respond very directly to what Jesus tells us in today's Gospel.
Some of the most ancient passages in the Bible are the most fruitful and profound when we spend time with them. Back in the early 90s, Genesis was the theme of a PBS series with Bill Moyers in which he simply let different people debate their reactions to the material. Whatever you make of Jordan Peterson, his psychological Genesis podcasts have a million subscribers. The Guardian ran an 8 part series on Genesis in 2011, with Anglican theologian Jane Williams leading readers through topics like the dubious morality of the characters, the darkness and complexity of stories some of us carelessly dismiss as cutesy Sunday School material, and the damage that has been done when these texts were used as if they sanctioned oppression and patriarchy. There’s a lot in there. A lot.
Today’s passage from Genesis focuses on a mysterious encounter that Jacob has in the middle of the night. As darkness falls, Jacob is coming from one in a long series of manipulative schemes designed to put himself on top in encounters with family members, and he is on the way to another manipulative scheme designed to put himself on top in an encounter with a family member. Along the way he has done some noble and kind things, and he has turned to God and then away again; in other words, he has been as bad and good as any of us, and rather more calculating than most of us.
“Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.”
Merci, gracias, arigato, efharisto, yadow, a basket of fruit, a bouquet of flowers, a hug. These are words and gestures to express gratefulness to others. Learning to say thank you is often one of the first phrases mastered in a new language. It is a part of good manners, of course, but it really is more than that. Expressing gratefulness is a part of being in a relationship; it is a way of connecting the giver and receiver. It makes a circle of sorts, giving and receiving, receiving and giving.
Brother David Steindl-Rast in his book, Gratefulness the Heart of Prayer, says this about the relationship of giver and receiver. “The interdependence of gratefulness is truly mutual. The receiver of the gift depends on the giver, obviously so. But the circle of gratefulness is incomplete until the giver of the gift becomes the receiver: a receiver of thanks. When we give thanks we give something greater than the gift we received, whatever it was. The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving…In giving thanks we give ourselves. One who says thank you to another really says, ‘we belong together’. Giver and thanks-giver belong together.”
Who do you belong to? I don’t mean by that who is your spouse or your parent, or with whom do you feel a sense of connection. Those ties are important, but not what I’m talking about. Nor do I mean belong in the sense that people say they belong to a particular gym or alumni association. I mean, who do you belong to? Whose property are you? Who owns your life, your very being?
I’m sure there are more than two, but there are at least two for profit businesses in Champaign-Urbana that have positioned themselves as selling opportunities for spiritual growth. Neither of the two I’m aware of is led by someone with any actual formal training in theology, and neither of them has the safeguard of being accountable to a disciplined school of thought like Buddhism or Christianity or Judaism. They just select free-floating activities and themes to market to potential customers. It’s hard for me not to be worried about the possibility of serious spiritual malpractice happening. But you know, the most visible of these for-profit places already has more Facebook followers than most of the houses of worship in Champaign-Urbana.
But honestly, that’s not surprising, because they frame the spiritual life as something that it isn’t, but that is much easier for a contemporary American to understand. Places like these, that let people select their preferred "spiritual" activities divorced from any context, just feel right in a way a parish no longer does. Because if we know how to be anything in 2019, it’s consumers. We know how to be in control of what we choose to own. We know how to graze through offerings and select the thing that seems most attractive, enjoy it for a short time, and then go on to the next option that catches our fancy.
Abraham said to the rich man, “between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless you reject the belief in any kind of reality beyond what is brutely material, death is not so much the end of life as such as it is rather the end of one phase of life that simultaneously marks the beginning of another. While death may permanently separate these phases from each other, there is nevertheless a mysterious continuity between them, for it is the soul of the same individual that continues to live from the one to the other. Speculation abounds as to the specifics of it all, of course, but that’s the gist of it.
But throughout Scripture, death not only divides this life from the next, but it also inverts them. The character of one’s life in the future is often depicted as the opposite of the character of one’s life in the present. And so in today’s passage from Luke, we find that the circumstances in which the rich man and Lazarus respectively find themselves after death have also been radically inverted. You can almost think of their lives after death as like the photo negatives of their lives before death. I know, photo negatives -- not exactly the most current metaphor -- but when I was a kid, I loved holding those creepy strips up to the light after my mom brought home another envelope of pictures from Walgreens. Anyway, when you look at a photo negative, you clearly see its continuity with the original picture -- more than continuity, actually, since it’s the same image as the original picture -- but all the colors are weirdly inverted; what was light in the original is dark in the negative and vice versa. As we’ll see, there’s something similar going on in this story of the rich man and Lazarus.