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Easter 7 May 20?

  • To:
  • Subject: Easter 7 May 20?
  • From: Grant Morris Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Fri, 11 May 2007 15:45:56 -0600


by The Rev. Grant M. Gallup

May 20, 2007

 2001 Grant M. Gallup

Acts 14:8-18 "The gods have come down to us in human form"
 or Joel 2:21-27 A gospel to the ecosystem
Psalm 67 Deus misereatur
Revelation 21:22-22:5 No temple in the city
John 14:23-29 The Helper will teach you and remind you

"There'll be no algebra in heaven, no learning dates and names, but
only tennis on the lawn, and reading Henry James" -- now that was a
vision of the afterlife that warmed my heart when I came close to
flunking algebra in high school, and cannot even now for the life of
me date the Battle of Bull Run. Our visions of life after death
strongly suggest our hopes for life after birth. We should always
read through them, as through a glass darkly, what kind of world we
want to live in here and now.

The day that John Lennon was murdered, I listened closely I suppose
for the first time to his song, "Imagine" as it was played over and
over on the radio, in renditions by himself and other singers.
"Imagine there's no heaven. . . it's easy if you try. . . no hell
below us, above us only sky! Imagine there's no countries: nothing to
kill or die for, and no religion, too. . . Imagine all the people. .
. living for right now. . .Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you
can. . . I hope some day you'll join me. . . the brotherhood of man.
. . ."

Many were shocked by this song, because the words imagine away our
creeds and pledges of allegiance, invite us into a world without
sects or soldiers, without religion or regimentation, without the
security blankets knitted on our own looms. It struck me suddenly
that another John, long ago in a desert island prison, had such a
vision too:

"I saw no Temple in the holy city, for its temple is the Lord God the
Almighty and the Lamb." No temple, no religion too. In heaven there
won't be any churches, synagogues, or mosques, arguing over which is
the true One. Imagine! There won't be any Sunday morning competition
amongst the televangelists, no crusades or inquisitions, no Holy
Office, Rat Slingers, or Ayatollahs. And there won't be a Chernobyl,
by accident, nor a Hiroshima on purpose. But the Seer's vision is
that of a City that has no need of sun or moon to enlighten it, for
the radiance of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. All that
John Lennon sings in his vision of a New World with no nations,
nothing to kill or die for, is there in John the Seer's song:
"Nothing unclean shall enter, but only what is in the Lamb's Book of
Life." There is no alternative Lamb's Book of Death, for the enemies
of Life to adopt as their own text as they devise a military budget
to defend the class system. For "then he showed me the river of the
water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and
of the Lamb . . . and on either side of the river, the Tree of Life
with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding fruit each month." It is to
be all Life--no scarcity, no famine, but perennial plenty, and the
leaves of that Tree shall be for the healing of the world's peoples.
The healing of the nations! What a wonderful vision! What an
expectation! IMAGINE!

Where there is no vision, the people perish. Where there is no
imagination, there can be no human future, no great art, no great
society, no great politics. AT this end of Eastertide, as we come to
the end of the Great Fifty Days which will be filled up at Pentecost,
we are asked to Imagine, as a church, as a gathered people in the
world, as the anointed people of God, as congregations, as
denominations, as national and ethnic communities, as northamericans
responsible for (yes, responsible for) George W. Bush and the U.S.
domination system. Yes, we are responsible for him and for it, not
they for us. Bush and Powell and Cheney the gang of three--are in our
employ, and history will hold our feet to the fire that is not
quenched, our hearts to the worm that dieth not. We are called upon
to imagine a future without Bush and the Bush League. We are called
to imagine a future hich we have wrested out of our own present, in a
Great Ordeal with the Beast.

And at this end of Eastertide, Jesus calls us to imagine a future
even without himself, without his presence, without his being here
with twelve legions of angels to swing the vote in Florida, or twelve
apostles to convert the world anew. Well, that's really the way the
Church has had to operate in the two millenia since 33 A.D. and the
events which we celebrate in the coming weeks of Ascension-Pentecost.
The immediate presence of Jesus--his physicality--is something all of
us have at some time longed for, pleaded for, wondered why it isn't
ours, and--to judge from the Adventist movements in history--are
reluctant to give up. But Jesus says, "If you loved me, you would
have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater
than I. The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in
my name, will teach you all things, and bring to remembrance all that
I have said."

This message from Jesus' last speech wasn't just for the few gathered
about him at Supper, but this Scripture is written for us, the
latter-day saints, and is calling us to imagine a new way for us to
relate to him and to each other. Firstly, be taught by the Spirit;
secondly, be reminded by the Spirit. You know, the best tachers are
those who remind us of something--something we already know, because
we learned it long ago, and perhaps put it away back in some corner
of our consciousness, so that we need to be reminded of it. Jesus
says the Spirit is that kind of teacher--there really isn't going to
be a lot of new algebra, and dates and names, you see--but as a
people we need to be reminded of Jesus and what he has taught us. The
Spirit will not come to contradict him; this is why heresy is
identifiable: it doesn't fit the template, it doesn't resonate to the
spirit of the Galilean. The Holy Spirit comes to each age in "many
and various ways" and picks up the Bible (and for that matter, other
sacred writings--the Koran and the Upanishads) and teaches new songs
and new dances, and through all the prophets and all the artists and
scientists continues to speak and sing and dance to us, and invite us
into the circle.

In the last several decades a great flap has arisen in the sails of
the old ship of Zion, the Church, about Liberation Theology. Some of
our great teachers, like Leonardo Boff, grew weary of the adolescent
gang that runs the curious curia, and told them to bug off. Lots of
them, like the Dominican Matthew Fox, became Anglicans, a church
which thinks perhaps more highly of itself than it ought, as "a
middle path between the meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome
and the squalid slutterny of fanatic conventicles," as one of its
sons described it. We have our wackos too, but mostly their
infallibility is not recognized, and we keep them as court jesters,
and provide them with cap and bells.

Jesus says we won't have to learn new infallibilties whenever those
addicted to certainty get nervous. Throughout Latin America what were
called Base Christian Communties--self-starting Bible classes,
really--picked up the Bible to find truth there for the political,
social, and economic order, as well as for religious faith. What
these "comunidades de base" did was seen as threat to what the
hierarchy called their "magesterium," grabbing for themselves the
teaching authority of Christ which belongs to the whole of the
Christian people, the church's laity as well as its clergy. The base
community church--the people's church--was filling the space where
the hierarchy had failed to "bring to remembrance" all that Jesus
taught. WE handled the Bible as if it could not be opened in this
century of capitalist/communist conflict, as if there was nothing
there to be learned about the morality of the nuclear arms race, and
nothing there about poverty and wealth, nothing there about war and
peace, nothing there about sexuality, love, justice, nothing there
about race or nation. Jesus says the Counsellor comes to teach
everything, and to bring him to remembrance in the situation.

The Bible is like an old family photo album, you see. The best way to
look at an old family photo album is to sit down next to an old
family member, who re-members the context of the views. If you've got
the Old Ones nearby, they may not need to help you much with the
newest snapshots, the ones we haven't yet mounted in the album: Look!
there's Dr. King, and look! Jonathan Daniels, and Mother Teresa, and
Fanny Lou Hamer, and isn't that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and that new
polaroid picture of Desmond Tutu--let's wait for a better one. But
then we begin to look into the book at its older pages, and we
suddenly find we have gone back a hundred years and all the faces
look the same and we don't know their names and there are no
captions, and we wonder what they were like, and in heaven's name Who
is That One in that strange get-up? And why is there a picture
missing here, and why is this page torn? And this one loose?

When we come to that way of handling the Album, when we come to that
way of looking into the past, of picking up and setting down the
Scripture and tradition of the Family, then we are grateful for the
elders still around, those closer to the old days than we are. They
can put captions to the collection, and re-member for us.

Jesus says that's what the Holy Spirit does, in accompanying our
reviews. We are not going to be able to change the photos in the
album (Marcion, remember, tore up most of the book, and even Luther
ripped out the Letter of James). We are stuck with the Book--with the
unfamiliar poses: that Grandpa stood up and Grandma sat down, or that
some of the children had to sit on the floor. That's the way they did
things then. We are called upon to remember, and to be taught, but to
be led into new ways, so that our pictures will be different, the
ones we add to the album (and there are lots of empty pages waiting
for our additions, once we're sure of them). We will also now find
"liberation theology" in our book, whereas we could only find studio
photos of "systematic theology" or blurred "mystical theology" in the
earlier pages. We'll find new faces in the Album now, that don't look
like the earliest ones. An aunt ran away with a Mexican, and cousin
Ed married that person from Kenya. And the photos now are all in
color. The Church's family album has however both continuity and
change. The old ways have to be confronted, the new ways welcomed.

In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas were mistaken for Greek Gods come down
> from Olympus to work miracles. Barnabas' powerful preaching in our
time would get him a TV contract, and Paul's writing would put him on
the Best Seller List, if he would only put "Soul" in his titles. But
the folks in Lystra wanted to avoid the gospel in their own way, by
making Paul and Barnabas divine--the equivalent of celebrities--and
so be able to handle the gospel as if were not revolutionary, as if
it were no threat to their current RMO-- religious management
organization. As if it did not demand from them abandonment of
religion, instead of elaboration of it, and the marketing of it. For
Paul's message to them was "we are fellow human beings, not to be
dismissed as celebrities. We bring you good news, that you can and
should turn from these empty things to a Living God." That's still
the message of the gospel, 'though we forget it. Turn from the empty
things of your capitalist America church, turn from the empty things
of easy Anglicanism, which my Xhosa priest friend Wandile Kuse
identified as presenting itself as "a form of, and in some ways an
improvment on, Christianity." Turn from these Olympian dieties! Turn!
Turn! Turn! to serve the Living God.

So the farewell message of Jesus, the introductory preaching of Paul,
the raptured vision of John the Divine, and the divine vision of
enraptured John Lennon, all their pictures in the family album now,
carry one and the same messge:


      Imagine a new future for the human community,
      Imagine a new future for the Church,
      Imagine a new future for ourselves.

The throne of God and of the Lamb are in that vision and we God's
servants and friends of Jesus shall worship the Lamb, and see his
face, and his name shall be on our faces, and all the captions there
in place, in the family album.

                           IMAGINE and REMEMBER.