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Homily Grits 6-C Feb 11 2007

  • To:
  • Subject: Homily Grits 6-C Feb 11 2007
  • From: Grant Mauricio Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2007 09:56:50 -0600

H O M I L Y   G R I T S     6 - C

by Grant Gallup

February 11, 2007

Jeremiah 17:5-10 Curse the shrub/bless the tree
Psalm 1 Beatus vir qui non abiit
I Corinthians 15:12-20 Resurrection has come through a human being
Luke 6:17-26 The cost and cost effectiveness of discipleship

In Luke, Jesus "levels" with us--he comes down from the mountain top
of visions and ecstasies, of mysticism and mystery, and talks into
our ears and to our experience, not over the tops of our heads into
our idealism. Luke says Jesus comes down from heaven to a level place
with us. This is not his tryst with a few windy souls, in the misty
mount of transfiguration, but Jesus' way with a crowd, a multitude,
the masses, a sweaty "muchedumbre". Whenever I was able in years of
pulpit pounding (well, lectern leaning, really) to escape and sit in
a pew to listen to one of the great preachers of our time I always
wanted to wait my turn afterwards at the narthex door to touch the
power, to grasp the hand of the Chrysostom or Theresa; it was like
getting a gold star on my Sunday school attendance chart, like a hit
of St. John's Wort. "All in the crowd tried to touch him," says Luke
of Jesus' preaching, for "power came out from him and healed them
all." I knew I would feel taller and wiser after such a feel of such
a hand in mine. I became "conscientizado" after listening with the
inner ear to such a sacrament of preaching, quaffing such a cup.
Preaching IS listed as one of the sacraments in the Polish National
Catholic Church. Anglicans would choose Coronation, I suppose, for
the third Bible sacrament, after Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.
We have a College of Preachers, but attendance is not required. But
preaching can crown our faith with understnding, and give us all a
diadem of sacramentum: voices, breath, tongues, lips, ears, and eyes
are its vehicles, power and healing its graces.

Children love to memorize the Beatitudes, and in the Sunday school I
went to, we did indeed get tinsel stars as well for such works of
supererogation. But no one ever asked me to memorize the Woes. They
were never printed up on illuminated holy cards to mark your place in
the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer. Luke does not spiritualize
his earthy gospel and does not talk symbolically about attitudinal
poverty or hunger for an improved value system. Jesus looked at his
church--his own disciples--as I can indeed look at some of my
listeners in Managua on Domingo mornings and accurately say to
them--a gaggle of naufragos and unemployed, with an admixture of
callow youth--as he did: "Blessed are you poor people--yours is the
reign of God in our time. Blessed are you who came here hungry this
morning--I'll see that you have a good meal after mass. I'm talking
soup, cheese, bread, rice and beans. Blessed are you who came here
with some tears today--we're going to have some laughs. I'm talking
jokes and funny stories! Futhermore, blessed are you excluded
ones--crones, gay people, lame folks, blind and deaf, freaks,
different--when they expel you from the church and make fun of
you--be glad and be gay and break-dance and hop around for joy; they
made fun of my prophets, too." But then Jesus looks at the rich--the
privileged--and says, "Watch out you rich folks--you've got all the
goodies you're going to get. Watch out you who are laughing so hard
on top of the heap now, ruling the roost, for you are going to do
some major weeping and mourning. Woe to you when you're highly
esteemed for your fakery, for esteem is what they always gave to

The commentators say that Luke's Short List of the Favored and his
Short List of the Foul are closer to their original form, four of
each, than is Matthew's list. Matthew has had access to an
interpreters' Bible, some spiritualizing interlinear commentary like
Mother Eddy's Key to the Scriptures, which can lock up the Oracles
even tighter away from the real needs of a real world. Matthew is
often described as an "ecclesiastical gospel", a churchy look at
Jesus' teaching. We used to refer to gospel reassurances at the
Absolution of Sins in the old Prayer Books as "The Comfortable
Words", and the Beatitudes in Matthew are often read that way, as
soothing and mollifying to the Church Recumbent. There are caramelos,
paletas and sorbetes here for everybody. We can all find a way to fit
into them we are  after all  sometimes "poor in spirit" especially
fter earthquakes, fires, and floods; and I've joined the  Episcopal
Peace Fellowship. 

Matthew's gospel  dilutes the poverty and hunger so they could apply
to a posh suburban country club buffet with reduced supplies of
Beluga caviar. But not Luke--his Jesus is talking to his listeners in
both cases--he does not speak of the Woeful Rich as if they were
absent, or to the laughing crowds as if somewhere else, the Church of
the Good Reputation as in another venue out on the North Shore. You
who are poor, You who are rich--you know who you are. You're all down
front here in the pews, on the same level, in this Levelling gospel.
" Blessings and Woes! to you this morning." They were not intended to
be comfortable words. "Have a nice day!", someone said cheerily after
service one day to Mother Anne Garrison, a tamed turbulence ordained
a priest in her 70's: "Thank you, but I have other plans," she
replied when someone wished her a nice day.

"Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you,
denounce you, on account of your humanity... rejoice!". This last of
Luke's blessings is also last in Matthew's longer list of eight. Luke
tells us who it is that is happy now, and Matthew tells us how to get
that way. His are "be-attitudes", the dispositions of character
required of the saint. Luke talks about eventualities--Galilea calls
them "special, eschatalogical, paschal values," the beatitude of the
cross. Not often celebrated as blessed, these persecutions! My dear
friend Dorothy Granada here in Nicaragua, was once houounded into
months of hiding by a dictatorial president  here,  who tried to
expel her for having done as a volunteer the witness and work among
the sick poor that the government itself has failed to do. The
beatitude of cheerful voluntary witness and ministry to the sick
poor  shamed the Woe of government failure. For this she is hounded
and harried. The Supreme Court of Nicaragua finally knocked down the
government's order to expel her,  Jesus the artisan of our liberation
gives each of us his disciples not a cash box of venture capital, but
a tool chest of spiritual gifts. They will make us rich towards God,
they will make us blessed, blissful, happy. Annie Lamott writes in
"Travelling Mercies" that when she was a kid "I always imagined that
adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools: the saw
of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of obedience. But
then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old
tools--friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty--and said, 'Do the
best you can with these, they will have to do.' And mostly, against
all odds, they're enough." The poor get these gifts in equal measure
with the rich, most of them, and some of them the filthy rich don't
get at all, like conscience and honesty. The richer you are, the less
of them you'll have, though you may have fair weather friends and the
best prayers that money can buy.

Segundo Galilea, the Chilean liberation theologian with whom I read
in the 80's, says that the first three Lucan beatitudes are all
addressed to the same persons: the poor, the hungry, and those who
weep. These are not separate pick & choose categories into which we
might slip and slide ourselves and our friends,or various categories
of social workers, by sleight-of-hand or canonical dispensation. If
you are poor, you are hungry, and if you are hungry, you have
something each night to cry about--"my tears have been my food,"
cries the thirsty soul. (Ps.42). Psalm 80: "You have fed your people
with the bread of tears, you have given them bowls of tears to
drink." "My enemies revile me all day long, and those who scoff at me
have taken an oath against me. I have eaten ashes for bread, and
mingled my drink with weeping." (Ps. 102.) "Give us each day our
daily bread" is answered a tortilla at a time in the Two Thirds
World, with a little salt for savor. Spiritualize that!

All the beatitudes in both the lists show brilliantly the kingdom of
God in a kaleidescope of exultation, in a bouquet of different images
and signs: comfort, satisfaction, laughter, mercy, the beatific
vision, enlightenment, inheritance, adoption, everlasting reward. But
Galilea writes that Luke's blessing is simply to say this, "that the
Kingdom of God is theirs means concretely that the gospel, the
Christian message, and hence the church, belongs to them," the
poor-hungry-weeping. Any postponement to somewhere "in heaven" voids
them and omits them from the evangel, from honest preaching and
authentic ministry. To preach pie in the sky or even piety on earth
is an insult to the poor, who need bread now for today's only meal.
(Jesus didn't multiply the pieties or perform a miraculous draught of
pocket testaments.)

The Christian community early on discovered that Jesus IS the Evangel
precisely and only because Jesus lives his gospel among us, and
always has. The Chalcedonian formula is the last evidence of the
defeated heretical attempt to isolate Jesus from the project of God
in history. A diluted gospel will continue to present a watered down
Jesus, but it cannot slake the thirst of humankind. We cannot isolate
his teachings and separate them from him, as with the authors of
proverbs and epigrams, and still have good news. When you move that,
you move to the astrology column. Jesus evangelizes by continuing to
live in his Risen Life the Beatitudes of poverty, hunger, and sorrow
in solidarity with those for whom they are not an option. And he
still heals primarily pariahs, people rejected because of their crime
of illness, qeers kicked out by their " disability." But he summons
us all to his liberation, to societal liberation, to interior
liberation, so that even 'though a privileged place is given to the
poor, we too must join them in metanoia, in an "About, Face!" and an
enlistment to his allegiance. Any ministry by religious organizations
or religious people to the church of the poor--the real church--must
work to make these hopes of Jesus come true in our lifetime, in our
global village. It isn't only Christians who have enlisted in this
project of Jesus (and he himself recognized that in Matthew 25) for
the God of Jesus is the God of universal hope.