Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lessons Learned?

One good thing about being an pewsitting Episcopalian is that even though you are not encouraged to do so, you just might develop a desire to study the Bible and Christian traditions. This is because you might walk away from the average worship service with a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right. If you try to put a finger on it, you will usually find the source of the problem in the sermon.

Take Christmas Eve/Christmas Day 2010 for example. We learned:

1. The Holy family was like our dysfuctional families of today.
I think the Holy family functioned perfectly well thank you very much. If dysfunction were present, Joseph would have dropped Mary like a hot potato. In addition, the proof of the pudding is that since everything went according to God's plan, the family functioned perfectly.
1. a.) John the Baptist was like the crazy uncle in every family.
My uncles are not crazy.
2. Jesus was a good Jewish rabbi.
"Good" Jewish rabbis don't get crucified for blasphemy.
3. Paul was a rabbi.
No, he was a Pharisee.
"I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee..." (Acts 23:6).
4. Jews and Christians have hated each other for 2000 years.
A strawman used to support the rest of the revisionist lesson.
5. Isn't it wonderful that we have recovered our Jewishness?
I never knew that we had lost it. Didn't I read somewhere something about an Old Testament? שָׁלוֹם
6. Mary had more children after Jesus.
7. Isn't it wonderful that we have recovered our Catholic roots?

Those last two are contradictory.

The denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary destroys the preacher's argument that we have recovered our Catholic roots.

People argue that the mention of Jesus' brothers in certain passages indicates that Mary had more children, but tradition has held otherwise, and our preacher is pitting himself against some formidable opponents.

"In A.D. 380, Helvidius proposed that Mary had other children because of the 'brothers' in Matthew 13:55. He was rebutted by Jerome, who was arguably the greatest biblical scholar of the day. The Protestant reformer John Calvin seconded Jerome: 'Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages to the brothers of Christ' [quoted by Bernard Leeming, Protestants and Our Lady, 9]. Martin Luther agreed with Calvin that Mary was always a virgin, as did Ulrich Zwingli: 'I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary' [E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., 456]."

The verses in question:

Matthew 13:55-56
55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

Mark 3:31-34;
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

Luke 8:19-21;
19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those ...

John 2:12
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Cousins, brothers, whatever the case, if you bring the subject up as a statement of fact, you should be clear to point out that there are differences of opinion on the subject.

Ah well, another lesson learned.


  1. Anonymous2:56 AM

    Whenever you post one of your "aarrgghh" sermon observations my sympathy arises and feel it almost necessary to comment that somewhere, somehow there was a sermon that went right.
    But I restrain myself.
    However, I thought you'd be amused by my opening illustration/anecdote for Christmas Eve and Day sermons, and let you make the application. A math teacher, attempting to provide a dramatic demonstration of a mathematical proof using fractions, threw a piece of chalk from the front of the classroom toward the back. It hit the back wall and broke into pieces.
    He said to the class, "The chalk never hit the wall." Demonstrating the fraction of 1/2, he showed the students (he had their attention) that by continuously "halving" the distance, the chalk will never "get there." Of course, I re-enacted the throwing, and the hitting of the back wall of the nave, and the breaking of the chalk I threw.
    And when I announced that according to this continuous fraction equation, the chalk never hit the wall, I got the same immediate outburst from some in the congregation just as the teacher did in the class: "Yes it did. I heard it."
    What did "they" hear? What did you hear?
    ....take it......

  2. Given that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit and that God sent messengers to Her, Joseph, Elizabeth and all the players involved, all of whom followed God's instructions with great humility, it is difficult to find a less dysfunctional family in all of history.

    As for Rob's "fraction of halves" problem, I would note, the difference between a mathematician and an engineer in pondering the problem in the context of a beautiful woman at the other end of the room, a mathematician would never try to reach her because he couldn't. An engineer would start walking because he'd get close enough for all practical purposes.



  3. I hear you both.


    What answer did you get from the person who had to clean the chalk mark off the back of the nave?


    Charlie Brown must have been a mathematician.

  4. Happy New Year from Southern California. No snow here but a lot of rain storms and mud slides!

    I hope you and your family had a Wonderful Christmas Celebration.

    God Bless You, ~Ron

  5. Anonymous8:36 PM

    Re: chalk mark,
    That's clean up, baby. Evidence of impact.

    You gotta wonder who cleaned up in the manger. THEY knew something happened there....