Sunday, August 16, 2009

All Are Welcome at the Tippy Table

Just don't come tipsy! (Ephesians 5:18)

When I was young, we used to go out to dinner on Sundays following church services. My dad would always get mad when we found ourselves at a "tippy table." You know, the kind of table with one short leg that rocks every time anyone around the table tries to cut into their entree. We kids would sometimes try to shore up the table to keep him from creating a scene. He would always figure it out. This experience may have led to my awareness of the need for a sure foundation, especially when eating.

Today's twenty minute sermon sounded pleasing to the ear, except perhaps that reference to Jesus using disgusting words (eating flesh etc was disgusting to 1st century Jewish listeners), but the pewster has "Sunday ears." The rector had to work pretty hard to water down the Gospel of John, and he may have sweet talked some into believing this simplified version of John's Gospel even though he indicated that John's Gospel is always calling us to look deeper. Instead of a a deeper look at God incarnate being the bread from heaven, and all that John 14:6 stuff, we were asked to come the table to be fed by the bread of "wisdom incarnate," that spiritual "she" who helps us when we are happy or sad, up or down. The oft repeated take home message was, "This is what we do," (we come to the table to eat of this bread and drink of this wine). That was too deep for me because I was wanting to know more about this bread, and why do I need it? I wish the twenty minutes had been used to "flesh" this out a little better. Of course, that is what blogging is for isn't it?

I knew better than to expect to hear an exposition on why we should need God to come down from heaven, to walk with us, to die for us, and to feed us with His body and blood. Such a sermon might wander into "doctrine," and we were told today that we are a church that doesn't do doctrine; we are not an "issue" church. We were told again today that we are about "mission." So why, pray tell, was the congregation given a copy of the Episcopal Life bulletin insert headlining the issues whipped up by the liberals at the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal church? The headlines boldly proclaimed "Openness of Ordination Process Affirmed" and "Resources for Same-Gender blessing to be Collected During 2010-2012 Triennium." Maybe these aren't issues any longer. Maybe these are now the mission of the Episcopal church.

So when and how do issues get turned into mission? In the Episcopal church it is when people vote at general convention. These votes are usually not based on careful doctrinal and theological study, and as a consequence, we get a huge number of "resolutions" being hashed together to create a mixed up, jumbled up, shook up denomination (apologies to the Kinks for the "Lola" allusion). Even the Episcopal Life bulletin insert was brave enough to print this warning from the Archbishop of Canterbury where he,

"...concluded that blessings for same-gender unions cannot, at present, have 'the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the communion as a whole,'
because such a change in policy would require 'the most painstaking biblical exegesis' as well as consensus in the Anglican Communion and with ecumenical partners..."

The fact that clergy and lay people continue to vote in favor of such resolutions should tell everyone that the seminaries are putting out large numbers of strangely thinking priests who are perfectly capable of painfully strained biblical exegesis. There must also be extremely poor continuing education for these priests, and there is revealed in the votes of the laity a glaring need for foundational Christian education in the congregations. These so called leaders are the ones building God's altar. I am afraid that they are including way too many of their own desires into the base of their altar.

When we are called to come to the Episcopal altar to be fed, we come not to a solid altar built on a firm foundation, but to a tippy table with legs made up of general convention resolutions, minus doctrine, minus John's Gospel, and minus the resolve to even assert the uniqueness of Christ. No one is happy when dining at a tippy table, such a table should be taken away and repaired, particularly if it is to be called the Lord's table.


  1. Another solid post. I'm afraid you are a voice in the wilderness when it comes to pointing out the fallacy of adhering to current social mores instead of scripture and doctrine. Alas, the way away from Jordan's banks always the easiest.


  2. Rubashov10:25 AM

    Just a quick note that might cheer you up. I'm back at my regular church (in western NC, just up the mountains from you), and our Deacon actually gave a good sermon on the passage from John.

    She asked (more or less) "what's up with this bread stuff, like John, and the Hebrew mana, and the loaves and fishes?" Then she talked about her and her husband's recent experiences with being helpless--with needing to be fed by someone else. First, she continued, John's language reminds us that we depend on God, the way a bed-ridden person depends on their feeder, the same way the mana reminded Hebrews in the desert that they were totally dependent on God for survival. Or the listeners that Jesus fed were dependent on him. No one likes to think of themselves as dependent, she said, but John (Jesus) tells us that we are--dependent on God.

    Second, she talked about how difficult it is to be the feeder--how much time, energy, and patience it takes to it. It takes so much that we can see it as literally giving oneself to the person you're feeding. It takes an enormous amount of love to do that, to give yourself (your "flesh") for someone, revealing the depth of God's love. When Jesus talks about the bread being "his flesh," that's what he means--his love and care isn't something casual, it's a total commitment to us.

    There are probably other interpretations of the passage, but it made a lot of sense to me, and the two halves of dependence and love fit together well. Plus, aside from a concluding reference to our duty to feed the poor (which does fit here), she didn't mention "social justice."

    She doesn't usually preach, but we're in-between rectors now, so hopefully we'll hear her more often.

  3. Great oost, Pewster!

    Regarding this part:
    "Maybe these aren't issues any longer. Maybe these are now the mission of the Episcopal church."

    I think you are correct. The Episcopal Church now views the gay issues as mission.