'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd, To bow and bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come 'round right. - Shaker dance.
In the summer months, our church services tend to get simpler. Today's "supply" priest was Fr. Diggs who came out of retirement to preach on this the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel reading for today was Matthew 10:40-42,
40 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.Fr. Diggs pointed out that the Revised Common Lectionary shortened the reading for this day which used to include verses 34-39 as well.
41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;
42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.This is a familiar pattern we see with the RCL. Difficult verses often are not read on Sunday mornings.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Fr. Diggs' sermon was based on verses 34-39 which was fine by me as I had posted 34-38 in last week's blog.
Back when Christianity was new, and families were being split apart, Matthew 10 must have sounded quite familiar.
Today, with the media portraying the average person as if they were defined by their romantic relationships and entanglements, elevating those loves to the highest goal for human beings, can people read these verses and possibly understand what it is to love God above all our earthly lovers?
Yes, we can love, and we are instructed to love each other, but to love God more is to be held to a higher standard. We mustn't confuse human romance with our love for God, but I am afraid that is exactly what happens. Even Bishops are prone to this error, but the complicated wording they use may make you think that they are stating things just right.
"Our lifelong commitments, our mundane daily struggles, our most intimate relationships, our triumphs and tragedies, all of it has the potential to reveal the love of God. Gay or straight, single or called to marriage or union, our family life has the capacity to be the “domestic church.” I pray that all of us in this diocese will continue to grow together into the image of the dying and rising Jesus. May we and our faithful relationships be signs of his self-giving love." Jeffrey D. Lee XII Bishop of Chicago, "GUIDELINES AND LITURGY FOR CLERGY AND CONGREGATIONS WISHING TO PERFORM BLESSINGS OF SAME SEX UNIONS IN THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF CHICAGO."To be simple, to elevate gay marriage into a sign of God's love, when God's Holy word says not to, is something that will certainly set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a church against the Christian Church.
It would be so easy to listen to Bishop Lee and others who glorify human love. Unfortunately, simplicity leads away from such worldly desire and towards submission to God's laws,
"When true simplicity is gain'd, To bow and bend we shan't be asham'd."