Who are we to be fabulous?
A sermon by Louie Crew
Preached at St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, August 17, 1997
Last week I posted the exhortation above to my site on the World Wide Web. I used a Java script to make the words scroll atop the screen slowly as if a ticker tape. I confess to a delicious sense of impish pleasure in imagining the responses of some of the dozens members of the Religious Right who are among the 170+ visitors to that site each day, checking out Satan, some think, just to confirm I’m still around. ‘Who does this queer think he is encouraging ‘absolutely everybody’ to behave as if a Child of God?!’ and ever so slowly the tape scrolls, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. --Marianne Williamson in her book 'Return to Love.' I did not even write it. I wish I had though! And I’ll be sharing it wherever I can.
There’s a similar surprise in today’s lessons. Do you want to be wise? Listen:
Wisdom has built her house,
she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
[Dindin to Die for!]
She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
"You that are simple, turn in here!"
To those without sense she says,
"Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
"You that are simple, turn in here!" In a couple of weeks, new students will arrive in my classroom, some of them already too willing to dumb down, to assume that intellect and wisdom are not their gifts, that wisdom is available only for the few with highest i.q. That’s not Wisdom’s own invitation!
“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.” Wisdom tells us, you and me,.
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.”
That’s quite an invitation, one which our beloved Episcopal Church is poised to issue to ever more people.
I want everyone to raise a hand who has at one point been a member of another denomination? [Well over half of those present at each service did so]
The Episcopal Church needs to grow ever more self-consciously into our reputation of being a church where you don’t have to hang your mind on the rack when you come into the church door. In this world, that is Good News. Here it is perfectly safe to ask questions, to challenge God. Here it is safe to doubt, safe to say, “Wait just a minute: let me put my finger into the nail prints.” In our church we make saints out of people willing to be sassy like that. Here we don’t get judged by our certainty, but by God’s. Here faith is not our gift to God, but God’s gift to us. Here we are saved not by our correctness, but by God’s infinite and unbounded grace.
From the earliest days of Anglicanism, we have never had the luxury of a large body of beliefs about which we can all agree. We are not a church that makes confessional statements.
Hear what our Presiding Bishop said in his last address as Presiding Bishop to the General Convention this summer:
I'm a traditionalist. That's right. I'm a traditionalist because I treasure and believe in the ethos of Anglicanism. As Anglicans, we discern God's will through Scripture, tradition and reason. However, some have chosen to embrace biblical literalism instead of our Anglican tradition. History tells us that biblical literalism was used to support both the practice of slavery and the denigration of women. We have moved past slavery and we are moving past the oppression of women. It is time to move past using literalistic readings of the Bible to create prejudices against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Biblical literalism may be someone's tradition, but it's not our tradition and it's time we came home to our Anglican roots.
Again I remind you: I did not choose these issues. Nor did you. They are the challenge of this generation given to us through the God of history. I believe with all my heart that for the most part, we are responding to them out of the gospel: not some literalist gospel, or a liberal gospel or a conservative gospel, but the gospel of Jesus Christ, whom we know and love.
And because we have persevered to discover what inclusivity and compassion mean for these times, I can offer real thanksgivings today. I give thanks and praise for the women who have enriched the ordained ministry of this church. I give thanks and praise for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who serve this church so faithfully. I give thanks and praise to all people of color in this church, who make us so much more a reflection of God's creation. We are at our best when we can celebrate our diversity and find joy in our being together, joy and thanksgiving for the whole life of this Church and all its members.
What is the most important commandment? Loving God with your Mind, the forgotten, but first commandment.
We not only have the right to think for ourselves, we have the obligation to do so. God does not stand in fear and trembling if we dare to challenge Her. Our “playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around [us].”......
“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil,” St. Paul exhorts. ‘Grow up! Mature!’ the writer of Proverbs tells us. “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
And what does Wisdom teach us about God’s will for our lives? God wills that we have life, and have it abundantly.
Come, O children, listen to me....
Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
What a simple notion--so simple that we might just miss it!
Both of my parents died in the same year, 1982. I was an only child and we were very, very close. Dad died last, and during the time of the funeral, I stayed with their contemporary, a member of their Baptist church who had always given me books while I was growing up. Mrs. W. B. Moore also taught me Latin in high school and remained a dear, dear friend when I became an adult. Late in evening after the funeral, Mama Moore startled me when she said,
“Louie, don’t ever forget your parents.”
But I cannot possibly forget them! I thought to myself but said nothing, realizing that she still wanted to say something quite precious, and quite vulnerable. “I won’t say it down at the Baptist church,” she lowered her voice as if Baptist friends might be at the window listening,” but I don’t believe in an after life.”
Why is she telling me this, and at a time like this? I thought to myself. And I know she loved them as if members of her own family! I kept my eyes fixed on hers the way I had done when years ago she conjugated amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.
“I’m a bit like the Buddhists, I guess. I don’t know for sure, but I believe that the only way that we live on is in the acts that we inspire in others.” She paused a long time.
“Your parents were good people, Louie. Do not forget them. Let them inspire in you the goodness that they manifested to others. I believe,” she continued, “that there is only so much good in the world, and the only way to assure that it continues is to keep sharing the goodness that you have received.”
Listen also to what Jesus says:
Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."
Come, Thomas; come, Mama Moore; come, Louie; come those of you gathered here at St. Stephen’s; come, absolutely everybody! Reach out and put your fingers into the holes which the nails have made. Eat this bread and live forever!
We ask ourselves, who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually who are we not to be? You are a Child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
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