Thursday, March 18, 2010

Join the Sackcloth Party

Before we start the Sackcloth Party, I have one question. Since traditional sackcloth was made of goat hair, does cashmere qualify?

I didn't think so.

This year, someone with good intentions wished me a perfectly miserable Lent. He really should be more careful what he wishes for. Several things have come up in the past few weeks, and yesterday I read a couple of articles about the Episcopal church which, together with these earlier events appear to be the fulfillment of that wish. I am struggling to decide which story is worse:

1. The story of the sale of Fr. Kennedy's former church to Muslims in fulfillment of the vow of the Presiding Bishop that she would rather see churches sold to anyone or anything other than the departing parishioners of a former Episcopal parish, or

2. The story of the election of the first openly non-celibate lesbian bishop as bishop suffragan in the diocese of L.A., or

3. The story of how the bishop of Washington D.C. (where the youth of this parish is headed on a mission adventure) is justifying his approval same sex wedding blessings with some incredibly idiotic reasoning.

None of these things should come as a surprise, but just like an expected death of a loved one, it will take time to come to grips with the reality of the fact.

Appropriately, Psalm 69 was appointed for reading this Thursday. Verses 24-30 are marked in parentheses in the lectionary and are thus considered by the lectionaristas as optional, but I have included them here.

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
my enemies who accuse me falsely.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonoured because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
set me free because of my enemies.

You know the insults I receive,
and my shame and dishonour;
my foes are all known to you.
Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Let their table be a trap for them,
a snare for their allies.
Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
24 Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
25 May their camp be a desolation;
let no one live in their tents.
26 For they persecute those whom you have struck down,
and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more.
27 Add guilt to their guilt;
may they have no acquittal from you.
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
29 But I am lowly and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, protect me.

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall live in it.

It is time to put on the sackcloth and ashes, for I have sinned, I have not done enough, and I am truly sorry.


  1. What can you do beyond holding fast to the faith and refusing to embrace the new order? We are all called to witness, that is to sow the seeds of truth. We may be fortunate enough to see them sprout and to be present at the harvest, but that is God's doing, not ours.

    Likewise, remember that a substantial part of the Old Testament consists of the writings. "minor" prophets who preached truth, but whom the people ignored. I rather doubt that God considered them "sinners," merely because they couldn't slow the descent into idolatry and sin.

  2. Correct, we are called to sow the seed even on stony ground, and sometimes we are asked to pile the manure around the fig tree.

  3. Off Topic: Don't take this personally, but commencing at 1:35 PM CDT, I shall not have any affinity for our brethren in South Carolina.

    I trust you'll understand.


  4. I am certain that the Tigers will win that game.