Readings for Proper 8 (13) Eighth Sunday after Pentecost 6 July 2008 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

For the Lectionary and other reflections, check out Proper 8A/Ordinary 13A/Pentecost +8 July 6, 2008 Textweek

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:10-17; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30


In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

As I was listening to the Old Testament reading I thought, does it make a difference if as you’re hearing it, in the background of your mind you’ve got the music of a Bollywood movie going on? And it does, the picture just slightly changes. As we work through the book of Genesis what we’re doing these few Sundays, is looking at the written history of the Hebrew faith and it’s written-back history, rather than a recorded history. So someone hasn’t taken the newspaper cuttings of the day and placed the history on record, rather someone has written-back this history in order to establish and to create a sort of faith-pedigree.

Last Sunday the GAFCON meeting occurred in Jerusalem – this is the Global Anglican Future Conference - and they prepared the Jerusalem Declaration which seeks to reaffirm in the eyes of some, an Anglican pedigree. Now we can sit on the sidelines and watch these pedigrees being promoted, being formed, but at the same time it might be helpful to ask of ourselves, what is my pedigree and what is the pedigree that I seek to establish? In what line, in what lineage do I stand and what is the line and the lineage that I seek to create?

As we read in Matthew, the question is asked, ‘to what will I compare this generation?’ As we engage that question, we start with comparisons of one age to another. Invariably there will be some looking back toward a golden age, but very soon once you start making comparisons cross-generationally, what comes to light is there are also cultural comparisons that are probably equally influential in forming and shaping who we are and where we go. Having just returned from Bali, where I spent some time reading a book on the cultural formation of India, it feels almost like there’s a washing machine of comparisons going on from one culture to the other.

Last week instead of worshipping in a church, I went to a service in a mosque and joined the Muslims in worship, and it’s amazing to what will I compare? It is amazing to find in another language in another culture in another faith, a sense of being together and at one in what we do. The real question is to look at ourselves in comparison to our culture and/or our generation. Where am I in relation to the hallmarks of my culture? Where am I in relation to this generation? What do I create as a foundation for the next generation? Maybe we might also look at the different generations that we have lived within ourselves. A while ago, Margaret Mead I think it was, said that the generation gap has come down to seven years and I would imagine that by now that gap has closed even more, in which case some of us have lived quite a few generations already. Go back and compare them: look at childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and the many generations contained within those. Where have I grown, and where have I remained? What do I hold onto; what have I let go of? What changes, what influences have unfolded me, and what changes and influences have inhibited me? Then we can start to look at what changes do I comply with, what changes am I creative of? The church is changing – am I a part of that change, in bringing it about, in fostering and/or hindering its unfolding, in setting new directions or in maintaining current courses? Each of us has a part to play and each of us plays a part.

In the Romans reading today we read of some of Paul’s struggling with self. There’s a glimpsing, a knowing of the Divine; Paul knows within himself the place of the Divine; at the same time he knows another law, ‘making me captive to sin’. What is that other law that makes Paul captive to sin? What holds us back? What is the operative law within ourselves that holds us back from reaching our divine potential? Jesus, when he spoke to the disciples said, ‘Greater things you will do’: why two thousand years on do we still look back and say, ‘Wow, didn’t he do wonderful things!’

What is it, what’s the other law at work, the other law that Paul wrestles with in the letter to the Romans? I wonder if it’s fear. I think that fear is the force of inertia, it’s the force that holds us where we are and it’s captured beautifully in that Paul reading we have today: ‘Better the devil you know’. Is there another law making me captive to sin? Is Paul’s struggle our struggle, your struggle and my struggle and therefore also the struggle of the church?

The GAFCON conference will now be on the agenda at the Lambeth Conference, even though its members will boycott the Lambeth Conference. They seek to draw a line between those who want to take the church into a new future and themselves who want to go back to past traditions. And as the debate unfolds, we might consider exactly the same being played out in our own lives. In our lives there is that part of us that wants to hold on; in our church is a part that wants to hold on, and the same at the political level. Rising oil prices are already generating a culture of future-fear; global warming is adding to the same future-fear. From those fears there are economic implications, they in turn, add to the culture of future-fear. And it’s in that culture of fear that political and religious fascists have a message that will be heard: they will offer a return, a going back to security.

Returning is not the orientation of tomorrow. Repenting is – turning toward a new wisdom, a new way forward, that’s the struggle of Paul in today’s reading.

It’ll be the struggle of Anglicanism at Lambeth, and it’s our struggle, as we seek to create a sustainable presence of the Divine in this community and in our hearts. Jesus said, ‘Come to me’. ‘Come to me and you will find rest for your souls.’

The Lord be with you.
Peter Humphris