Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gospel 1: Waldo 0

Today marked the first visit of Bishop Waldo to ECOOS. His sermon came mostly from 1 Timothy:6-19.
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
He fleshed out the Epistle by relating an anecdotal story of someone he knew who had lost both wealth and family, and who eventually was brought closer to the ideal of "setting one's hopes on God" instead of on "the uncertainty of riches."

I really would have liked some commentary on the Gospel for today, Luke 16:19-31 with its rather graphic images of Hades.
It is currently unfashionable to talk about the reality of Hades. I guess preachers might be afraid they will scare people off with stories of eternal torment, flames etc. After all, God loves us and wouldn't allow such a place to exist...right???
‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, 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.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

And where did Jesus get the notion that there was a great fixed chasm between those in Hades and those that have been spared? The chasm won't even allow a moment of mercy to be performed  for the one being tormented.
The final sentence of the story speaks to an awful truth. Many today would discount the teachings of the Old Testament as products of a primitive culture. We have all heard the talk about how the O.T. was written to keep women in their place. We have all heard the talk about the O.T. as myth. We have even heard the talk that Moses, when he came down from the mountain, made all those laws by himself.
Yes, we are guilty of not listening to Moses and the prophets. Is it any wonder that people deny the resurrection?  I hate to do this to you, but here is what the nefarious Episcopal Bishop (ret.) John Shelby Spong who denies a physical resurrection of Jesus concludes,
"The Easter story appears to have grown rather dramatically over the years. Something happened after the crucifixion of Jesus that convinced the disciples that Jesus shared in the eternal life of God and was thus available to them as a living presence. This experience was so profound that the disciples, who at his arrest had fled in fear, were now reconstituted and empowered even to die for the truth of their vision. This experience had the power to force the Jewish disciples to redefine the God of the Jews so that Jesus could be seen as part of who God is. Finally this experience was so profound that it ultimately created, on the first day of the week, a new holy day that was quite different from the Sabbath, to enable Christians to mark this transforming moment with a liturgical act called 'the breaking of bread.'
When these biblical data are assembled and examined closely, two things become clear. First something of enormous power gripped the disciples following the crucifixion that transformed their lives. Second, it was some fifty years before that transforming experience was interpreted as the resuscitation of a three days dead Jesus to the life of the world. Our conversation about the meaning of Easter must begin where these two realities meet." (From his web page)
I understand that Bishop Waldo had only a limited time in his first sermon to us, and he did succeed in coming across as a nice guy, but he certainly missed a teachable moment when he ignored Jesus' images of Hades.

I guess he didn't want to scare anyone off.

P.S. 09/28/2010 Fr. Matt Kennedy does an excellent job with his sermon on this parable. You can find it here. Thanks Fr. Matt!


  1. I forgot to add the experimental language for today's liturgy.

    Offertory Sentence: Brothers and sistes, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, and you will store up for yourselves treasures in heaven and life in the presence of God.

    Proper Preface: It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. For through Moses and the prophets you have taught us your ways; and through Jesus Christ you have shown us your glory and given us hope, that, in following your will, we may receive good things in this life and in the life to come... Therefore...

  2. Some of the revisionists espouse a "Jesus only" approach, asserting that Paul and the early church came in an laid all the pick-your-phobic stuff over the pure peaceloveandjustice that Jesus modeled. Guess this Gospel is problematic. And wait 'til they see next week's assault on self esteem.

    btw you should ban that first commenter. Something not quite right about that one...

  3. I'm always astounded that people think they can be "Christian" while at the same time denying either the Virgin Birth or Christ's resurrection. Those two things are fundamental to our theology. The denial of either/both castrates the Gospel and leaves us with no hope whatsoever.

    Perhaps, that's why there are so few sermons about the reality of Spiritual Death/Hell in the afterlife.

    BTW, we get a reference to Hell in virtually every sermon in my theological neck of the woods.


  4. Tim,

    This Gospel lesson must be a problem because revisionists must have to assume that Luke 16 cannot be trusted to contain the Word of God either. They are then left with what they call a "spirit led" ministry. Without the Gospels, how can you be led by the Spirit?

  5. Randall,

    Alas, we have put the devil in the closet in our quest to be "a welcoming church."

    Our previous rector once stood in the pulpit and declared that there was no literal Devil. I recall one man who walked out at that time, never to be seen again.

    The moral of the story: If you really want to scare people away from the church, deny the reality of Hades and its ruler.