Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Worst Sermon Ever? The Presiding Bishop Explains Away Paul and the Female Slave

While vacationing paying a pastoral visit to Curaçao this past weekend (on my dime?), our Presiding Bishop delivered what may be her worst sermon ever. I suspect she did not study my blog post from 3 years ago which I reposted this Sunday about the missing verses from the lectionary selections for Sunday: Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21 (See RCL and the Abbrevelation of John) for amongst other misinterpretations she said,

"The reading from Revelation pushes us in the same direction, outward and away from our own self-righteousness, inviting us to look harder for God’s gift and presence all around us. Jesus says he’s looking for everybody, anyone who’s looking for good news, anybody who is thirsty. There are no obstacles or barriers – just come. God is at work everywhere, even if we can’t or won’t see it immediately."

No obstacles or barriers as long as she ignores verse 15 (left out by the lectionary editors) which seems to directly contradict the P.B.,
"Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood."

There certainly appears to be a barrier for those creatures. I wonder if John included preachers of falsehood in with those who practice falsehood?

Now, that was not the part of her sermon that initially caught my attention, nor was that what led me to suggest that this might be her worst sermon ever. No, it was her interpretation of the story of Paul and the slave girl that left me shaking my head. You may recall the version that Luke gives us in Acts 16,

"Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities." Acts 16:16-19 (KJV)
I understand that there are different takes on this passage, and here is mine: Paul does let the possessed girl cry out her message for several days before he casts out the spirit. One might guess that this kind of hawker might draw in the crowds initially, but being praised by the demonically possessed seems counter-productive to Paul's ministry. Paul heals the girl, freeing her from possession, but in actual fact it is not Paul doing the healing, but Jesus Christ whom Paul rightly invokes.

Our P.B. has a very different opinion, and after she worms the obligatory remarks about homosexuality into the Gospel, she... well, read it (emphasis added) for yourself...

"We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the divine, and instead use other people as means to an end.  We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognize that different is not the same thing as wrong.  For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected."
"There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it.  Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God.  She is quite right.  She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves.  But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!    The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns."
"An earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God.  The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand.  This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor.  This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household.  It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her."
"Paul is annoyed perhaps for being put in his place"!  I don't get it, but I can only assume this is a reflection of the modern attitude that Paul was an arrogant, self righteous, homophobic, hung up, misogynist who needs a little put-down from revisionist teachers and preachers so that today's congregations won't take Paul's letters too seriously.

Paul deprives the girl of her "gift of spiritual awareness"! Are you kidding me? The girl was possessed! (Remember this comes from the leader of a church that believes that homosexual marriages are a gift from God, so with that in mind, demonic possession as a gift from God makes perfect sense).

"Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it." Oh, she must really dislike Paul, but the fact is that Paul sees demonic possession as something that is neither beautiful nor holy, whereas our Presiding Bishop sees it as a gift from God. Bad Paul: destroyer of God's gift. This too fits the revisionist picture of Paul as an intolerant man who is merely a reflection of a first century value system that we have mercifully outgrown.

"She, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!"
Now this is going too far. Does God's nature include possession?
"The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns."
The amazing thing is that anyone with a bishop's miter on her head would spread the supposition that Paul had forgotten God in the first place.

"This time, Paul remembers who he is..."
The P.B. has identified the earliest recorded case of Transient global amnesia!

"It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her"
Well Jesus, through Paul, wouldn't have healed her that's for sure!

Never mind the fact that Paul freeing this girl from slavery, the slavery of possession, seems totally lost on the P.B. The whole thing has me thinking of what Paul would do if he had to listen to this woman harping on and on for however many years that we have had to listen to her revise the Bible.

Later in her sermon the P.B. reveals a touch of problematic ideation when she says,

"Looking for the reflection of God’s glory all around us means changing our lenses, or letting the scales on our eyes fall away. That kind of change isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s the only road to the kingdom of God."

The problem is that we are not the ones who are capable of changing our lenses, nor are we capable of removing the scales from our eyes. Those things come as true gifts from God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. We cannot be our own instruments of change. If we could, then we would not need a Great Physician.

In researching this blog post, I ran across "Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary" which the P.B. should have checked during her sermon prep,

"Acts 16:16-24 Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers. Those who do good by drawing men from sin, may expect to be reviled as troublers of the city. While they teach men to fear God, to believe in Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives, they will be accused of teaching bad customs."

Pass the Blue Curaçao, I think I need to make a Blue Hawaiian... or two... or three.

                                  From Cocktails in Charleston

Transient global amnesia here I come!

Addendum, from my Bible study on 05/21/2013

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 King James Version (KJV)


  1. Thanks for sharing it - and enduring it. Posted to Stand Firm, and it is popping up all over Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes all we can do is expose the works of darkness.

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  4. Oops...I'll get this right sooner or later. I meant to say, "It sounds like the odds of this sermon winning the prize are looking pretty good. I think the one about bovine emissions might be trailing by a nose."

    Gotta watch out for those Blue Hawaiians...

  5. Anonymous12:06 AM

    Just when one thought it was safe to read her inane sermons. Terrifying, Pewster. Terrifying.

    One is tempted to chaulk this up to ignorance or perhaps even arrogance. One fears it might be the influence of the defeated one.

  6. Anonymous1:28 PM

    What is this woman's obsession with homosexual stuff?
    And of course we should not be surprised that this woman has not problem with critisizing Saint Paul. After all, if she were to read what God actually said through Saint Paul she would realize that she is not a Priest.

  7. Sounds like she's possessed by the spirit of eisegesis.

  8. Hannah,

    Correct, a spirit that is out to paint a picture of Paul that fits the current worldview/TEc view of sexuality.

  9. Here is my take on the sermon for what it is worth.

    1. Interesting point Fr. Dale, but I think we all know the counter arguments that would come from those blind to that insight.

  10. Pewster,
    False doctrine is one thing. Advocating for child sacrifice is quite another.

    1. Dale,

      The one leads to the other. The Episcopal church came to its position as abortion advocates because it chose to walk apart from the Church Catholic in matters of doctrine.

  11. Anonymous1:13 PM

    I am a Catholic. I am not sure why anyone would continue to be an Episcopalian. It is as if the PB is a culmination of years of wrong. As an aside, she is in her own way kind of awesome. There is some kind of condition that is diagnosed for people who cannot see their own shortcomings. Can't remember what it is called, but she has it.

    1. Anonymous 1:13 PM,

      As the Episcopal church shrinks into a niche church, it will lose the very diversity that it claims to cherish. There will always be some who buy into the progressive version of the Gospel, and there will be fewer and fewer voices of dissent. Why continue should be a question for all Episcopalians. In my mind the answers should be either to call the false teachers out, worship God as best you can, and find as orthodox a parish as you can, or to yield to the Zeitgeist completely and rest in your niche.

  12. Just for 'fun' an "Ode to the Schori Story":

    Did you hear Ms. Schori's story?
    Like a web of pure deceit.
    Wade with her into the quagmire...
    Where apostasy's complete.

    If she tells you there's no Satan,
    Do you think the Devil cares?
    I'll suggest he smugly snickers
    In the Kingdom of the Air.

    If she swears there are no 'demons',
    Only angels who've been hurt,
    Would a red flag rise within you?
    Would your soul be on alert?

    If she brings you divination,
    And she calls it "spirit blessed",
    Would you run, my friend for cover?
    Or embrace this wicked mess?

    If she tells you Paul's a bully
    For this exorcising gift,
    Would you say "Hey wait a minute!"
    Do you think you'd catch her drift?

    If she tells you "Please don't worry"
    "Divination does no harm..."
    Would you, could you find the exit...?
    Could you, would you sense alarm!?

    If she tells you "Re-Imagine!"
    All the Scripture you've been taught,
    Would you recognize her blindness?
    Or the snare in which she's caught?

    If she says "Close up your Bible!"
    "A new gospel's what you need!"
    Would you see through her deception,
    If she prayed a Wiccan Rede?

    1. Tom,

      If she smiled at you in her pointy hat,
      Just what would you think of that!

  13. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Billy Madison said it best:

  14. Anonymous2:47 PM

    Anonymous - That was perfect... LOL... I can't stop laughing