Homily Grits by Grant Gallup. From Louie Crew's Anglican Pages (Unofficial)


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8/17/2006



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Homily Grits




H O M I L Y G R I T S FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, 2007

by Grant Gallup
First Sunday in Lent, 2007

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 A wandering Aramean was my ancestor
Psalm 91 - Qui habitat
Romans 10:5-13 The word is near you
Luke 4:1-13 Led by the Spirit in the wilderness

Today we leapfrog over the first days of Lent, by way of the first
Sunday in Lent. We do not include Sundays in the 40 days of Lent, so
they are always denominated Sundays IN, but not OF Lent. Advent on
the other hand has its own Sundays held tightly to its properly
celebratory bosom--for a Sunday cannot be penitential, 'though you
will sometimes hear a misguided proclamation to that effect. Every
day we call in honor of the Sun, Apollo, or Sol Invictus, is in honor
of the Son, our Domine (thus, in Spanish Domingo), our Lord, and is a
little Easter, never a little Lent.

Nevertheless these Sundays are crowded about with Lent--for us now a
season of solidarity. Anciently, the catechumens (always converts to
the church then, not proselytes from other denominations) were
admitted to the catechumentate with the ceremony of ashes, and this
was years before their Baptism at a far-off Easter. If they died in
faith before Baptism, they were buried as Christians, having received
the Baptism of Desire. During the time of their listening, they were
given moral training and expected to change not only the way they
thought mythologically, that is, how to explain the world, but to
change radically the way they behaved, as individuals and as a
community. The creed was a secret, to be shared with them only
moments before their immersion and chrismation. The gnostic heretics
thought the mythologies were more fun than the moralities.

Lent, instead of being lengthened over the years, as its name would
imply, eventually was limited to the forty days before the Paschal
feast. It also gradually became a time for those who had fallen away
> from the faithful, or who had renounced or had become taitors
(handers-over, i.e., traidores--those who handed over the church's
sacred books to the imperium--a lesser offense than burning incense
before the idols) to come on board again, and they were treated like
newcomers. Back to square one. Nowadays, when someone has been away
> from the church for years or has abandoned the eucharist and the way
of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we don't think much of it. It is
so ingrained in our minds that the church is just another
organization, like the Lodge or the PTA, that so long as we pay our
dues and go to annual meetings, we are still nominal members. I had
parishioners even in my first poor ghetto parish who would not miss
sending an annual check to pay their "membership" as they thought,
and who came to services only on high feasts and bonfire nights. They
were mostly working people who could not get off their Sunday jobs to
go to church. But this is not church membership as it is described in
the Pacto we call the New Testament, where the church is never called
an organization, but always an organism--a living Body. There are no
optional duties, tasks, or disciplines. Voluntary, maybe, but not
optional. This is a new nationality we are undertaking, as
naturalized citizens, a new family we are being adopted into, with
new names and identities. The church is a polis, a city to which we
have come, and so we must look on Lent as something more than an
opportunity for self-improvement, like a dancing class after a day at
the office, or for heroic discipline, or Stoic askesis, like spring
training for your tennis skills. It is a basic training company, and
together we learn to behave as a unit which will one day offer itself
in combat, in la lucha, in the struggle. Now, in our communities of
Christian commitment, we have hardly any catechumens--people instead
make arrangements for church membership with a clergy assistant, on
an individual basis, and only in some places is the catechumenate
fully restored, so that we don't normally enter Lent with a view to
being Baptized at Easter.

What then is the point of Lent in such a pastoral situation? I
believe we have a special opportunity to use this sacred time as a
season of "solidarity anyhow." Lent is a time for us to do anamnesis
on our past as Wandering Arameans, remembering that our origins are
in not settling down, claiming the real estate, owning the land and
exploiting it, but moving in harmony with its rhythms and with its
other populations, its myriad but diminishing species. We return to
Eden before the greed, and find ourselves with Robert Graves "In the
Wilderness" with Jesus too--it was the first time a Garden, and the
second time it is a Wilderness--another parable of our having lost
our way. Matthew says that angels ministered to Jesus after the
temptation, and Robert Graves names them:

"Soft words of grace he spoke
Unto lost desert folk
That listened wandering.
He heard the bitterns call
> From ruined palace wall,
Answered them brotherly,
He held communion
With the she-pelican
Of lonely piety.
Basilisk, cockatrice,
Flocked to his homilies,
With mail of linked device,
With monstrous barbed slings,
With eager dragon-eyes
Great bats on leathern wings
And poor blind broken things Foul in their miseries."

Poet Graves' catalog of Christ's companions in the wilderness has
been much reduced by multinational agriculture assaulting the
ecosystem--the wilderness is cut down and cleared to raise cash crops
("All this I will give you if you fall down and worship me." -- The
devil didn't get a taker from Christ, but he got one from Capitalist
agrobusiness.) Which now claims dominion and has nearly completed its
destruction.

The catechumenate of olden time consisted of folks who were together
turning to the gospel for liberation: from false gods, from the
violence of the world, from its values (or anti-values) of greed,
self-aggrandizement, racism, slavery, abuse of slaves (servants),
wives, and children. (Very little of that has changed! It's just that
the church only half-heartedly smiles and suggests they're not nice.)
In a word, they were turning away from the way the western world
works, and were seeking liberation from the power of those ways in an
EK KLESIA, a community of the called out, to board the life raft that
was departing the sinking ship. Called out and away from the
anti-life of the world, the world's way of what it called Life, but
which the Church rightly in those days saw as Death. We now wear
polaroid shades so as not to notice.

If we are to have Lent mean for us the same quality of thing, a
powerful season of solidarity in the contemporary world, then we have
to look again to be in solidarity with those who are turning to the
true God to deliver them, those who are looking for liberation. It
will be a mistake to look to the church's current praxis for models.
It is, across denominational and confessional lines, tragically
confused and compromised. It partakes of marketing strategies, it
does not live its own truth.

And where do we find these people looking for evangel?, these entire
nations of people who will want to board the lifeboat of Peter and
sail away from Titanic? We do not find them very much in the
churches. This may be because the Church, especially in north
America, seems less and less likely to be a place where the gospel of
liberation will be celebrated, or even referred to. They hear
instead, mostly the SPELL, that is the cultural incantation of class
conformity, of settling down comfortably into our consumerist,
capitalist society and mistaking it for the koinonia of the Pacto
Nuevo of Jesus. It is of course nothing of the kind.

We must look beyond the church's customers or burgesa "market area"
or "target population" if we are to find those who are looking for
liberation. Our Me First World populatons are probably already lost
to the Utopia that must come if humankind is to downsize itself into
the Creator's paradigm for a peaceable kingdom on this planet and to
adopt a lifestyle that will enable us once again to go on retreat in
the wilderness with bittern and basilisk, cockatrice, and the
pelican, and where "none shall hurt nor destroy in all my holy
mountain." Reproduction control must be observed in our species, if
other species are to have a space on the planet for their life, and
for God's project that they delight, inspire, and guide our
spirituality in the future, as they have done in the past.

We see these alterntive populations, we see these people of hope, far
away in Latin America, looking for ways to express politically and
economically what it is their own ancient stories and the mythology
of gospel mean when it talks about liberation, of "salvation" (a word
so corrupted by prostituted religion that it is practically useless)
of redemption and deliverance. We see these people in Africa and
Australia, struggling to put into fleshly reality the project of God,
that is a community in which there is no discrimination based on
race, color, caste, sex, sexual orientation, national or cultural
history, or any other measure for diminishment. A human family to
share the earth with other species. We see these people turning to
God in many foreign places, but we don't often see it when they are
closer to home. We fail to see that the aspirations of the people of
north America's prisons and ghettoes and streets, for lives of
meaning and dignity, for food and shelter, for health and safety, we
fail to see these as people with whom we should be in solidarity.
Instead, we invariably choose to be in solidarity with our own
privileged class of people, burgesa or ruling class, across national
or geographic or political borders. Our burgesa revolution, like
Hitler's in Germany, has won the day, and has imprisoned or isolated
the lumpenproletariat, and intimidated the morally upright privileged
classes of pastors and teachers into acquiesence and silence. "Let's
wait and see," we all whisper, "Things aren't possibly going to be as
bad as we fear." Paul writes to the Romans and to us, when he says
"the people who practice justice based on the law have to live by it.
But the justice based on Jesus demands that we operate with proximate
realities, not remote possibilities. " The word is near you, on your
lips and in your heart." What is it that we have got to show in our
life together, that the women and men of the world around us--the
people depicted so clearly in what we see on television and in the
movies--would want to be a part of? What is it that we are likely to
do in Lent to demonstrate in some significant way our solidarity with
their efforts to turn their lives and destinies around? What is it
that we can do to tell our own names and limn our own destinty? Are
we part of the problem of the wretched of the earth, or can we offer
an answer? What is it that we have available to us to express our
solidarity with powerless people?

The 40 days which Jesus spent in the wilderness are the days in which
he was himself powerless, and at the same time tempted to show off
power, and to take power from evil, and to test God's power, and to
test his power over God (that is, to practice magic). "He ate nothing
in those days," says Luke--the simplest and most radical rebuke to
the consumer society created in the modern West. Luke speaks of
ministering angels. To manipulate the power of God, and call it
prayer. Jesus, the homeless, hungry one, is tempted to a capitalist,
individualist solution to the problem of his own hunger: make this
stone into a loaf of bread for yourself. This one stone, this one
loaf. Bread for one's own hunger, not for the people's. Food for my
personal menu, my breakfast tray, my din-din. "Bread eaten in secret
is sweet," says one of the Proverbs of Solomon, one which perhaps the
devil quoted to Jesus that day in the desert. But Jesus refuses a
solution to hunger which is only individualistic, which does not
change the system of providing bread for all. Food stamps for the
"deserving poor" and soup kitchens for the well-behaved derelict are
not the answer of Jesus. He sees that humankind cannot aim at meals
on wheels alone as an economic solution, in isolation from
distributive justice. Jesus would one day provide the model when he
asked his disciples to take action in solidarity with the hungry:
"How many loaves do you have here? HOw many fishes?" He showed that
it is in the re-distribution of what is available that abundance can
be had for all. The community must commandeer resources, find its own
power to satisfy human needs, and have lots left over, but it is to
be a community solution in solidarity with all the poor, and not an
isolated indivudal running away with his sardine and his kaiser roll.
One cannot say a table grace over such a meal. As an Italian prophet
recently denounced McDonald's hamburgers--a highly individualized
meal--as symbolic of the west's selfishness and refusal to think of
food as family meal.

The devil also offers Jesus all the political power there is, over
all capitalist democracies, people's republics, state houses,
aldermanic offices, multinational corporations--and the devil tells
him (and here, for once, he was not lying) "These are all mine; they
belong to me. I offer them to you if you keep me on as your unseen
partner. You do the P.R., and I'll keep books. I have the authority
here," the devil says, "The EXOUSIA." Authority in our sacred
writings is almost always written about as something delegated, and
Jesus refuses it. What authority he would not take in a Satanic
swindle, Jesus was nevertheless freely given, because Matthew tells
us that after his suffering, after his supreme solidarity with the
world of the oppressed, and for whom he died, he is exalted and at
his installation says, "All exousia, all authority in heaven and
earth--in mythmaking and in politics--has been given to me, and I
give it to you, to make disciples, to teach, to model the lifesyle of
the Rule of God, and immerse and bathe the world in the liberation I
deliver to you: And know that I am with you all the rest of history,
until the completion of the Age." Jesus fought for such authority,
and struggled on his people's behalf for it, and so has shown us that
AUTHORITY is not to be taken by little deals with little devils, but
has been won by Him by His defeat of wrongdoing and His victory of
justice.

Finally Jesus is tempted to recklessness, to throwing himself down,
tempted to use religion and its institutions (and its buildings, by
the way) in a reckless Adventist plan to force God's hand, so that
surely God will see to it that our privatized agenda and our own
clever timetable is met, once we have placed ourselves in impossible
situations, like cultists in a motel or on a mountain top. Thomas
Aquinas, in his discussion of the power of God, wrote that "nothing
so contradictory falls under the power of God's omnipotence." Jesus
said, "Don't test the limits of God's power." Jesus was strengtheed
by the testing, as we are, when we are a people trusting in God and
living in solidarity with the project of liberation which we call the
Kingdom of God. The Evil One makes it appear that Evil has all the
cards, all the authority, all the power--it so appears to us in the
last days of the capitalist imperium, now devouring the world. It has
pushed off the face of the earth the original peoples, the "Leavers,"
as Daniel Quinn names the pastoralists, succeeded by the
hunter/gatherers in his novel "Ishamel", and replaced them with us
Takers, who know nothing of an amicable relationship to Nature but to
rape and pillage for accumulated and hoarded foodstuffs and the
wealth they bring us. Jesus is powerless, the devil of our
exploitative capitalist culture says, and we must take the devil's
way or have no way out at all. But Jesus refuses it all and (our
primal myth says) wins it the hard way. And is winning it the hard
way, even now. We hope.

Just before Jesus' departure the disciples will ask for the power
that the devil had offered him in the wilderness: "Is it now that you
will restore the basilea, the dominion, the power and the glory, to
us and to our people? Will we now get political power?" Jesus says,
"Never mind the times aned seasons or places where the Holy One has
decided to place his exousia, his authority, but you have already
received, and you will receive, all the power you need, the DUNAMIS,
the raw power of the Holy Spirit, indeed, the miracle-working power,
you will recieve this for the purpose of worldwide witness, worldwide
solidarity, with me. Jesus here uses both the words authority and
power--God he says has the authority, and its times and seasons are
appointed. But you have the DUNAMIS, THE DYNAMITE POWER (Alfred Nobel
used the word for his invention) and you are not helpless. You have
all the power, all the dynamite you can use, if you are looking to
have a revolution and build a new world. If you will use it in
witness, if you will use it in solidarity with the Jesus Scheme, the
liberation of peoples everywhere, from Nicaragua to Nigeria.

GRANT GALLUP
CASA AVE MARIA
MANAGUA, NICARAGUA C.A.

____________________________________________________________________________
 *  The Series: Father Gallup's "Homily Grits":
    http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/grits.html
 *  The Series "Joy Anyway!":
    http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/joy.html
 *  Louie Crew's Anglican pages:
    http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/rel.html
 *  Louie Crew's home page: http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew
 *  Send mail to: lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu

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