Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Price of Greatness

Mark 9:30-37

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

How we go from there to convicted murderers being ordained, the three strikes you're out law, and America bashing is probably beyond me, but that never stopped me before.

One way to get there is to give a rambling 25 minute sermon without notes. Here is my take.

Jesus catches his disciples arguing over who is the greatest among them, puts them in their place, and teaches them a lesson in humility. Translating this into modern liberal speak means that we should look to promote the least to the first, and if this includes ordaining a convicted murderer, then the Episcopal church has interpreted Jesus' lesson as a lesson in radical affirmative action. (I am not aware of the case our rector cited of a man serving a life sentence (for killing his wife with an arrow) getting ordained in the Episcopal church in Virginia, but I do recall the case of James Tramel in California, and you can see what happened to him here)

Moving on to the three strikes law, according to the Rector, this has been a miserable failure. I think we got there from taking a look at God's mercy. I guess California would be better off letting repeat offenders go. I am no expert in the California justice system, but I see where the AP published this story that California's recidivism rates declined to 27 year low in 2006. Also, if NC had a three strikes law, the Gaffney serial killer would not have been out and free to kill. I know we are supposed to show mercy, but are we supposed to be stupid?

Last but not least, we have the case of America and the price of greatness. I don't know what our rector has against America, but it has come out in little bits and pieces in several of his sermons, today's included. Maybe there is a collective guilt in the liberal mind over living in such a properous land. The guilt comes from the notion that America has prospered through exploitation of resources, people, and nations. I think that is a false simplification of a more complex history. Is our prosperity hard to reconcile with Jesus' message? I will argue that America is the best country in the world, and if that puts us last through the gates of heaven, then that's okay. If by becoming a lesser nation, we could move ahead a few places in the line to enter heaven, would that be right?

Doesn't an ebb tide ground all boats?


  1. One of the other things that caught my attention this morning was the complete and total dismissal of the letter to the Hebrews. I continue to be fascinated by 815--and its minions--who feel free to discard entire sections of the Bible whenever the Scriptures fail to support the liberal agenda.

    My suggestion is that all future sermons need to be taped so that when the hammer drops (and it will), we won't be discussing plausible deniability or playing "he said, she said" games. Res ipsa loquitur.

  2. Anonymous2:31 AM

    Your rector should be encouraged to record his sermons. A good, small, thin-line, inconspicuous digital voice recorder can be acquired for around $100.

  3. First, Christ was speaking to his disciples, i.e. Christians. This means, as among ourselves, we should concern ourselves with service and not with the accolades of men. To go beyond that, and try to tie it in with American bashing, which inter alia, implies an extraordinary amount of ingratitude for God's blessings, is not clear to me. Yet another example of those seeking to impose their own agenda on God's word.

  4. Anonymous11:02 AM

    Ok Pewey - as usual - you and your buddy Cato didn't get it. All you two are trying to do is throw darts at Charlie and the congregation is getting tired of it.

    If you and Cato are so miserable - may I suggest the church in York - they are so conservative they creek when they kneel down.

  5. Cato,

    There was a suggestion a few years back to cut a peep hole in the brides room (peeping out and not in) and videotape the Sunday service for broadcast on the local cable channel. This died due to lack of enough techies in the congregation.


    It might be a good idea for a rector to review the tape like a football team having to watch a Monday morning tape session. The only problem is when you have a player-coach, he might be biased in his review.


    Correct as usual.


    Share the love.

  6. It seems that Anonymous loves to try and shoot the messenger but never cares to add to the discourse. It would be useful to occasionally present an honest position supported by facts rather than constantly nattering about someone else's opinion.

    As to that conservative parish in York which Anonymous seems to hold in great distain--doesn't it make you wonder why their ASA remains strong while ours continues its inexorable decline? Any chance that it's because they preach the Gospel rather than the "new thang"?

  7. I would hate to have anon consider the church in York as a place to plant their liberal mission flag!

  8. Anonymous11:12 PM

    ". . . and the congregation is getting tired of it."


    Well . . . parts of the congregation are getting tired of it. And parts of it are loving it.

    A Parishioner

  9. Anonymous1:52 PM

    Anonymous Ned says:

    I see nothing in the pulpit has changed since I left back in 2003.

    Keep up the good fight. One day we will prevail.

  10. Rubashov9:20 AM

    Wow, I hadn't realized that this blog isn't anonymous to people in your congregation. You're braver than I am, Pewster.

    Listening to the sermon on this gospel up here in NC, a couple things struck me. Personally, I thought it was a perfect gospel reading for my daughter's first service as an acolyte. :)

    In terms of TEC, I've been wondering why our congregation hasn't had the kind of turmoil that appears here--given the contrast between a priest that is a big fan of Ubuntu, etc. and a rural mountain congregation. When she started the "least of these" sermon, I figured we'd get into social justice and whatnot. Sure enough we did, but...she kept the focus local--on service work we do for the distressed in our community, staying away from big national/political issues. Everyone likes hearing that, and if she feels better dressing it up as "social justice" instead of just plain old loving your neighbor, eh, seems like a reasonable compromise.

  11. Anonymous10:13 PM

    GROW UP! This is childish in the best sense.

  12. That's two "GROW UP" posts this evening. It seems Anonymous might have need of Roget's.

  13. Sorry, but I have to post this on this thread also.

    "Grow up": Contrast with "grow into."

    Usage: As a pejorative directed at someone who has not reached the commentator's level of sophistication, tact, and learning. Often used as a means to terminate a discussion.

    Example: Creaky conservative curmudgeons who cannot grow into the tension of biblical reappraisal because of their cramped, compartmentalized, craniums, are told to "grow up."