How does one get a Biblically Informed Imagination? By reading or listening to Scripture. A little bit of time in the Word of God each day shapes our imaginations and deepens our faith.
I find myself using the phrase "biblically informed imagination" lately. I first read and heard that phrase during a video/DVD Bible study on Revelation. Revelation, not plural, is the last book of the New Testament. John of Patmos records a vision he had. He describe images that are mystifying, dazzling, and frightening. Prof. Bruce Metzger says in the DVD that in order to understand the vision and gain an appreciation of the images one must have a biblically informed imagination. As the study proceeds, Professor Metzger shows us what biblical texts and images inform Revelation.
Tonight during the homily I used that phrase again. Instead of Revelation I was talking about the Beatitude from Matthew 5, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." When we think of "pure in heart" we often think of the professional religious: priests, pharisees, scribes. But, the biblically informed imagination leads us in another direction. We think of those who are not up front or noticed.
Yesterday was the Lesser Festival of Mary, Mother of Our Lord. She is pure in heart. She says yes to God's will. In the homily tonight I argue that the Canaanite woman before Jesus is pure in heart. She should not have seen Jesus for who he is, but she did. "Lord, Son of David" she cries out. The pharisees don't see Jesus as "Lord, Son of David." They see him as a reckless law breaker. But, the one who is the least likely, the one who know one would suspect, this Canaanite woman sees Jesus as God and knows that he can heal her daughter.
Blessed are the pure in heart for you shall see God.
Today is the Lesser Festival of Mary, Mother of Our Lord. I am including a link to a wonderful article about her. What amazes me most about Mary is that she said "yes" to doing God's will when she could easily have said no. With great faith, she said yes to giving birth to and raising our Savior, Jesus. Mary is a model of faith for all of us. We give thanks to our heavenly Father for the gift and inspiration of Mary!
Change or Die. That's the provocative title of Alan Deutschman's book. The full title is:
Change or Die: Could You Change When Change Matters Most?
A group of us received a couple of quotes from this book during the Stewardship Seminar hosted by Gloria Dei last Saturday. A council member asked that I order the book for the church. I am happy to do so. The content of the book ties in with the previous post.
Individuals and organizations have the ability to change and adopt to new situations, but often choose to not change. Deutschman talks about how change is necessary and how change can happen. Sometimes, such as in the case of health issues or non-development in organizations, people take the bull by the horns and make necessary, life giving changes. But, sometimes not. Doing nothing is the easy route. But doing nothing can also mean eventual death and extinction.
There will be more on this book, as I read through it.
What comes below appeared in the NewsNotes and Stew church newsletters in July 2014.
Involuntary Reduction in Force. Some might call it that. I just say Night of Terror. Here is what happened. … In April, when most of the snow FINALLY melted, we put our 13 laying hens on half of the garden. The hens free range within the bounds of an electric poultry fence. The hens did great in the garden. They scratched and pecked all the weeds so that by mid May there was nothing left for them to do. We decided to move them to the other half of the garden on a Monday night a couple of hours before sun down.
When the hen house is moved, so is the poultry fence. The hens, like many creatures, lunge at the opportunity to be on the other side of the fence. No fence means freedom to scratch and peck in new areas. But, the beauty of chickens is that when darkness descends they return to their house for a safe rest. Except when they don’t. This time around, 11 of the hens did not want to go to the house. Freedom was simply too delicious to be cooped up behind the fence again.
As the sun’s light diminishes, I try to herd the chickens to the hen house. I may be more successful with cats. Finally, I broke down and retrieved the fishing net. I caught all but five. The final five proved to be elusive. I could not get close enough to them.
I noticed a curious pattern with the final five. They kept returning to where their home used to be. As darkness settled deep and the moon shown bright, they settled exactly where their house was. Even though the housing and their familiar roosts were only 30 feet away and clearly visible, they kept returning to what used to be. And, they were settling down for the night on the ground.
I kept at it until 10:30pm. They eluded, resisted, ignored food offers, and when I gave them space again, they returned yet again to where home used to be.
By 10:30 I was exhausted. I bid them goodnight hoping for the best. I am so glad the windows were closed because in the morning, what little evidence I discovered indicated that night on familiar ground did not gone well for them. The night of terror left me with 8 laying hens.
This incident is a parable for me. I am a man who needs routine, ritual, and familiarity. But, there are times when returning to what is familiar will cause harm. The church, its congregations and individuals are often resistant to change. Given the choice many of us will choose the familiar over the new and unknown. But, the problem is that sometimes, not always, sometimes what is most familiar to us will lead us into harm.
As we reflect upon the future of our church in relation to the community that we are a part of, we need to ask God for wisdom to know whether or not what is familiar to us will lead to harm or if it will lead to life.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
(Apostle Paul, First Letter to the Church in Corinth, chapter 13)
The Apostle makes positive and negative statements here to help take away the blinders from the naive. Love is hard. Love is not about satisfying the self, but about giving oneself over to others. True love of others is rooted in the love of God. God first loved us. In response, we love others. Love isn't easy, especially when love suffers long. We pray for God's help to love as God loves us.
August 3 - Pentecost 8
Isaiah 55:1-5; Ps 145:8-9, 14-21; Rom 9:1-5; Matt 14:13-21
You notice that in the bulletin is the first 21 verses of Matthew 14. The reason is because we will miss a powerful contrast of banquet and eating experiences if we simply focus on the Gospel lesson today. The Gospel lesson message of good news becomes even more powerful when we contrast it with Herod’s banquet.
Herod’s banquet is about celebrating himself, his position of authority and power. The food he provides is provided through the labor of others. The entertainment is sensual. And, in the context of this celebration, we learn what Herod truly fears. He does not fear God. He fears “the people.” He fears shame. Fear of the people keeps him from killing that inconvenient truth teller named John the Baptizer. But it is shame, public humiliation, that he fears even more. Vows have been said in front of honored guests. “I will give you whatever you ask.” At this party we see treachery, manipulation, hatred laid bare. The girl twisted by Herodias’ words, seeks the head of John the prophet and baptizer. Because he fears shame more than anything else. The banquet becomes an exercise in earthly power. John’s head soon appears at the party.
In stark contrast, Jesus also holds a banquet. A very different setting. A very different experience all the way around. Whereas, Herod, in celebration of his birthday, invites friends who represent his political and economic and military interests. Invites are motivated by the desire for consolidation of power.
Jesus, on the other hand, holds his banquet right where the people. Jesus is moved by compassion. A compassion we witness in the Old Testament stories. God feeds the people in the desert after the Exodus. God’s prophet Elisha feeds a hundred men in the desert with 20 loaves of bread and some heads of grain. The feeding in desperate places and in desperate situations shows God’s compassion. God’s generosity.
People are in need for teaching, for healing, and then for food. Jesus once again shows God’s generosity. He is moved by compassion. He has only the barest of items to work with: five loaves, two fish. Out of almost nothing, God’s generous work grows forth and five thousand are fed. In addition, God’s abundance shines forth and 12 baskets of leftover and picked up. We are left to wonder.
Jesus, God made visible, dwells amongst the people, people who are of no significance buy the worlds standards. People who are in great need. Jesus loves them through Word, healing, and food. With Jesus, there is no fear. There is welcome. Come, friend, there is more than enough for everyone.
As it turns out, on that day, Jesus is not faced with a choice to avoid shame and humiliation like Herod is faced with. Jesus’ choice comes later in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus chooses to take on humiliation and shame by accepting his arrest, the agony of suffering and death on the cross. He takes on the cross for the same reason that he feeds the five thousand. God is for the people. God wants to provide salvation. God wants the world to know love, forgiveness, and peace.
One of the curious things about the story of the feeding of the five thousand is that the people’s response to God’s grace is not recorded for us. Instead, we are left to contemplate God’s goodness and to offer our thanks to the God who provides for us.
Our offering of thanksgiving continues as we approach the Altar. For Jesus takes the bread and wine provided, he joins with it, in order to give us what we need most in this world. God’s grace: love, forgiveness, peace.
All God’s people say…Amen.