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


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Lent 5-C Homily Grits

  • To:
  • Subject: Lent 5-C Homily Grits
  • From: Grant Mauricio Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 11:21:52 -0600

H O M I L Y      G R I T S     LENT V-C

April 1, 2007
Isaiah 43:16-21 I am about to do a new thing
Psalm 126 In convertendo
Philippians 3:8-14 Straining forward to what lies ahead
Luke 20:9-19 When they heard this, they said, "Heaven forbid!"

In this last week before the Church puts on the widows weeds of Holy
Week, we have a gospel which will ease the task, for it can hardly be
called Good News for the Church, and is enough to set us to mourning.
It is perhaps Church History in a précis, a harsh compendium, a bill
of indictment against the people of God gone bad. The creed of such
treason would be perhaps a parody: "I believe in wan, wooly catalytic
and apolaustic search," and the response to its preaching would
always be that of Jesus' congregation today: "Heaven forbid!" The
members of this Church, the tenants of this Vineyard, were enumerated
by Jonathan Swift, the dean of St. Patrick's Anglican cathedral, as
"the Place of the Damned":

The folks who pretend to religion and grace allow there's a Hell, but
dispute of the place; But if Hell may by logical rules be defined,
"The Place of the Damned,--I will tell you my mind. Wherever the
Damned do chiefly abound, Most certainly there is Hell to be found,
Damned Poets, Damned Citics, Damned Block-Heads, Damned Knaves,
Damned Senators bribed, Damned prostitute Slaves; Damned Lawyers and
Judges, Damned Lords and Damaned Squires, Damned Spies and Informers,
Damned Friends and Damned Liars, Damned Villains, corrupted in every
station, Damned Time-Serving Priests all over the nation; And into
the bargain, I'll readily give ye, Damned Ignorant Prelates, and
Councillors Privy. Then let us no longer by parsons be flammed, For
we know by these marks, the place of the Damned; And Hell to be sure
is at Paris or Rome, How happy for us, that it's not here at home. "
A man planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants", so Jesus begins
his sermon with a parable, "a word thrown along side" of life--in
this instance, alongside of church history--to put it under a
spotlight. When Jesus spoke to his audience, he was speaking to the
tenants of the vineyard, and they knew it. Every Jew knew immediately
that the Bible had always refrred to Israel as the vineyard of YHWH,
the place where YHWH grew his own grapes. And every Christian must
know that it means the Church, as it did for those who crafted this
parable in its present form. The story has features of an allegory as
well as being a parable, for it can be footnoted with the names of
prophets, as the slave/servants of God, insulted, beaten, exiled,
crucified. The old text about the rejected Stone is plucked from the
rubble and made the foundation for a "New Thing" in sacred history.
The first listeners to this evangel could not say with us the
responsories "Gloria tibi," and "Laus tibi" before and afterwards,
but uttered instead, "God forbid!",

Ancient Israel, like the modern empire of the U.S.A., was both a
State and a Church--a powerful union of armed power with official
myth. As in old Israel, the rejection of prophets in the U.S. began
very early on--and most of them are forgotten, ignored, or silently
suppressed. The religion of the Catholic canon saved for us the
Hebrew Bible, against the Marcionites who would have dumped it,
against the Medieval church, which locked it up, against liberal
protestantism which privatized its prophecy into Dear Abby advice. We
know about Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. But more
people know Jay Leno than any of them and can more easily quote him
than them.

In north america, you celebrate Columbus Day in October, which is El
Dia de la Raza (the Mestizo Race white folks tried to wipe out) in
Central America.  But you do not celebrate Bartolomé de las Casas,
friend of the indigenes, nor Antonio Valdivieso, the martyred first
bishop of Nicaragua, who gave his life defending the Indians against
the land owners (his sacred remains have just now been unearthed in
Nicaragua). The process for his canonization has begun.

The Declaration of Independence established the politics of north
America in the same year that Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations "
was published, establishing our religion for the forseeable future.
Dissent was not lightly dealt with, and (as Howard Zinn writes in "A
People's History of the United States") when Daniel Shays, a poor
farm hand, led his rebellion of humble folk in 1786, the
recent-rebel-now-prosperous Sam Adams called for hanging them: "In
monarchy the crime of treason may admit of being pardoned but the man
who dares rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer
death." Mobocracy was in place, and stays there. The U.S. is now as
fond of capitalist punishment as it was of chattel slavery, to the
contempt of the civilized world. Alexander Hamilton, who stands
sheathed in gold (the real symbol of U.S. democracy) in Chicago's
Lincoln Park, called for a government of the rich and well-born, a
President and Senate chosen for life. We have nearly achieved it.
Feminist voices were raised from time to time, as that of Abigail
Adams, who in 1776 wrote to her husband, "Do not put such unlimited
power in the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if
they could. If particular care and attention are not paid to the
ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold
ourselves bound to obey the laws in which we have no voice of

It took hundreds of slave rebellions and conspiracies--Gabriel
Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner--and the bloodiest war in the
republic's history, before chattel slavery would end, another century
before women could vote, and another hundred years of prophecy and
protest before justice was half way won by Black folks in the
sixties, on the level of the vote. La Lucha continua!

In a prophecy of his own death at the hands of his own people, Jesus
tells the Old Church's officials , that they--the keepers of the
vineyard called Israel, are the murderers of the son of the Owner.
What will the Owner of the vineyard do? Will he permit the world to
believe that he is dead, or disinterested, or will never come back to
claim his own? Not so, says Jesus. He will come and kill the tenants
and give the Church to others.

The hearers interpreted this as the most outrageous heresy and
treason. It was perfectly all right to mourn over the fact that we
had made mistakes, had been disobedient. That's what fast days were
for, days of atonement, Yom Kippur on the tenth day of Tishri, as
ordered in Leviticus; that's what Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are
for, the two total fast days ordered in the Book of Common Prayer.
That's what the forty days of Lent are for, in a half-hearted way.
It's true the old Israel had killed its prophets and murdered those
sent to preach Shalom to her, and so indeed has the New Israel as we
Christian people like to call ourselves. We dutifully canonize modern
martyrs by giving them a day and a set of lessons, though there is a
suitable waiting period; maybe people will forget. But to go on from
that to claim that the Covenants could come to an end, the contract
cancelled, the Pacto expire, that is too much. It's unpatriotic.

Back in 1989 I met in Chicago a young lad, raised in the Episcopal
Church by black bourgeoisie parents, whose name was Dread Scott. He
was born Scott Tyler, but renamed himself, with spelling correction,
for THE Dred Scott who was born in 1836 as a slave in Virginia. At
the age of twelve Dred filed suit for his freedom, saying that since
his owner had taken him to Illinois, he was now in a free State, and
a free man. The U.S. Supreme court ruled, in its continuing belief
that property has priority over personhood, that Dred Scott was still
a slave. Stare Decisis. Let it stand. His namesake, my Chicago
friend, took the name from history and Behold! he did a new thing
with it! He disrespectfully displayed a U.S. flag at the Art
Institute, and caught the spotlight of the press for several weeks.
He called it "the proper way to display the American flag" --on the
floor, to walk on, upside down, and splattered with the blood of its

When he was asked at a forum, "If this isn't your flag, what country
would you like to be in?" he replied to the effect that the United
States and the Soviet Union had so carved up the world that it
doesn't matter where you live, you are an oppressed person and called
to struggle for liberation wherever you are. "This flag,"said Dread
Scott, "was carried by the U.S. Cavalry as they massacred Native
Americans and Mexicans, to steal their land. It is the flag worn on
the uniforms of policemen as they murder and oppress Black people. It
is the flag painted on the side of 'Fat Man', the atomic bomb dropped
on thousands of people in Hiroshima. This is the flag which is
burned, from Palestine to Peru, from South Africa to south Korea,
> from Vietnam to Iran, by oppressed peoples. This is the flag to which
Dred Scott appealed in 1847 and was told it was not his flag."

The reporters pressed their question, "Where would you rather be, if
not here?" And my young friend Dread Scott replied with words that
could have come out of the mouth of a prophet, out of the mouth of
the Nazarene: "The future," he said. "I'd rather be in the future."
One thing I do, says Paul, "forgetting what lies behind, I strain
forward to the future, to what lies ahad, for I'm pressing on towards
the goal, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

The early church loved this parable and preached on it frequently and
saw itself in the parable as the others to whom the vineyard of the
Lord was given. And over the centuries of Christian testament, of our
own Alianza with YHWH, in the name of Christ, we have read the story
that way. Old Israel was the wicked husbandman, and new Israel (read:
ourselves) was the nice new tenant. But have you read the newspapers
lately,  in the last several hundred years?

For the story has the possibiity of another hermeneutic. We have
become the tenants now of the vineyard, and it is now we who murder
the prophets. And futher, it is our own most successful and
prosperous of all nation states in the history of humankind (not the
old mini-states of Palestine) which now assumes itself the Chosen,
the Master Race, the Supremes. Whether we call it self-determination,
patriotism, or Manifest Destiny, all of it is the assertion of
absolute authority over the vineyard of the Lord. For the whole earth
is become the vineyard of YHWH, and not just the tiny backyard
boundary of ancient Israel. It is humankind itself which is has the
tenancy of the vineyard. And it is the U.S. which now in the modern
world is coterminous in power and mythos with this global dominance.
Whether we think of the Church as the new tenant or our modern
secularized human race which cannot depend upon God, the story comes
out the same. The pride of post-Christian, post YHWH human beings,
who find ourselves alone and afraid on spaceship earth drifting in a
silent universe. For the builders of our institutions, whether they
be religious institutions or nation states, are always busily
rejecting the Stone which can hold the arch together, the keystone is
always being rejected, because it is seen as unworthy of the great
edifice of Christian imperialism, or unsuitable for the architecture
which must be used for the new Babel: an inclusive, eclectic,
ecumenical, parliamentary architecture for building human society.
The trash and rubble of the unwashed and uneducated Palestinian
carpenters and such like can hardly be the keystone of our Brave New

But the church herself needs to be told this story, and our own
cities with all their pride, our nation, with all its power and
greed, needs to be told that the owner of all this vineyard, the
creator and eternal God, is one who has decided to claim his
vineyard. The word to us is: The Stone which the builders reject has
been chosen for the keystone. This parable is aimed at us.