Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Unspoken Gospel, Again.

To the shock of many, today's Psalm, which was read in unison by all, contained one of the most imprecatory verses to be found in the Psalms.
Psalm 137,
1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!’
8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!
I was not surprised to hear gasps at the reading of verse 9, for we have been fed a steady diet of expurgated Psalms and lessons over the past several years, and words like this are not what we expect to hear on Sunday mornings. But to have to say them out loud as a congregation?


Today's Gospel reading from Luke 17:5-10 contained more of those troublesome verses, this time about slaves.
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.
‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’
While the Jesus' is giving us a message about the seemingly endless labors that we are to do for him, and how we should be humble servants, there remains the unspoken possibility that some of His apostles owned slaves at one time or another.
I guess I needed some help with this part of Luke, but like last week, there was no mention of the Gospel lesson in today's sermon.

Instead, we heard a relatively mild sermon that focused on today's Epistle, 2 Timothy 1:1-14

To the rector's credit he did mention Psalm 137:9 but digressed into talking about corporate guilt over historical events. I was puzzled by the mention of German Christians' corporate guilt over not standing up to stop National Socialism and its "religion" as it swept that nation, while in the same breath mentioning our corporate guilt over the Crusades. I was puzzled because these historical periods present two seemingly opposite ways of approaching a political problem involving an anti-christian force. No explanation was given. I was left to ponder the timeless question of Christian action vs. inaction when the consequences of both appear to be negative.

Whenever a preacher goes down the road of apologizing for corporate guilt, I often wish they would bring up the notion of "original sin" somewhere in the course of their discussion. For some reason, that usually does not turn up.

We all have the same Judge, and no amount of coroporate apology or expressions of feelings of guilt on our part will untimately remove our guilt. There is only one way that we can be cleansed of our sin and the sins of our fathers.

Jesus is the Way.

That is the faith that we are to not just demonstrate in our lives as our rector would have us to do, but that is the life saving faith that we are to spread to our guilty world so that others might learn of God's amazing grace (one of the hymns for today).


  1. Regarding the last verse of Psalm 137, I noted with dismay the failure to even mention that this was national Respect Life Sunday. So much for trying to protect those who are least able to protect themselves.

  2. Unfortunately, the concept of collective/corporate guilt is most often used as cudgel to bully those who clearly were not responsible for some outrage --indeed, were not even alive-- into doing penance, usually by writing a check. Perhaps, I'm too jaded by way of the legal biz, but I'm not one who gets vexed about collective guilt for the sins of individuals.