Monday, October 06, 2008

Epistolary Epiphany

Sunday was Proper 22A, and the appointed epistle reading was from Paul's letter to the Philippians. The passage begins so familiarly - "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." With texts like these, the sermon simply writes itself. The parable of the tenants was the more challenging text, and it's what I preached.

Yet, I found myself struck anew by Paul's words...or rather, his emotion, as the epistoler read the lesson this morning.
"For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ."
While he later mentions a striving between Euodia and Syntoche, I don't think that's what is in view here. Rather, I think Paul is grieving for people who have fallen away from the faith.

We read the letter to the Galatians and think that Paul is just ready to give both barrels to anyone that dares sniff of apostasy. And in 1 Corinthians, he doesn't hesitate to hand a notorious sinner over to the devil for judgment. Yet here in Philippians, Paul is talking about someone who used to strive to attain the heavenly calling...and then fell.

Heretics.
Liberals.
Apostates.
ReFORMERlies.
Mainliners.
Corpse-churchers.

Whatever you've said about them in the past, did you do so
even with tears?

I know I haven't...not until this morning.

Thank you, Jesus, for still speaking to those of us you've called to speak for you.

2 comments:

Bill Crawford said...

At the General Assembly in Birnmingham I sat in a worship service and heard a wispering voice - weep for the PCUSA.

I did so for about 30 minutes. It was a hard experience. The mourning period went on for weeks but then having wept, I turned to prayer, and then it became time to act.

This reaction is also familiar in the behavior of Nehemiah in chapter 1 crying, lead to praying, and praying lead to action.

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

I was with you, friend. It was so bitter to see what was happening and to know that both me (as a minister) and the ministry I represent (preaching for repentance and conversion) were so vehemently rejected while ungodliness was given free reign in the halls of power. If I hadn't left when I did, I'm afraid I'd be permanently scarred in the place of my pastoral heart where I'm supposed to be sad for those who lead in error.

God be thanked, he spared me the callous this time.

Did I mention that the gospel was the Parable of the Wicked Tenants?

God has a sense of humor.