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Rogation Year C May 13, 2007

  • To:
  • Subject: Rogation Year C May 13, 2007
  • From: Grant Morris Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Fri, 11 May 2007 20:51:22 -0600

H O M I L Y     G R I T S     EASTER V, 2007

Rogation (traditionally the Sunday before Ascension Day)
May 13, 2007

Acts 13:44-52 We  now turn to the heathen
    or Leviticus 19: 1-2,9-18 The social gospel in Torah
Psalm 145 Exaltabo te, Deus
 Revelation 19:1,4-9   The marriage of the Lamb
 John 13:31-35   A new commandment, that you love one another

At little St. Andrew's-on-the-Alley, where for thirty years I was
vicar on Chicago's wild west side, there was once a little round
rosette  window over the front door, not anything remotely like the
great rose windows of Gothic cathedrals, but with a diameter of
nearly two feet, more like a little nosegay window. It had only a
little pane of frosted,   leaded glass in it. It was the architect's
brave little lagniappe in the brick. A seminarian friend, who
pottered in making stained glass at Nashotah House while a student
there, offered to make an upstart rose window for that space, and so
he did and for several years we enjoyed the tinted light it cast on
the narthex floor. Its design was the X of Saint Andrew's Cross, with
a fish and a loaf rampant. Early one morning I came to celebrate
eucharist and found the window had been robbed away and we were left
with what we soon learned to call The Burglar Hole. It provided easy
access into the building for the items that both vestries and vandals
are fond of: silverware, brassware, bells and brazen censers. Joe
Dixon, a member of the Bishop's committee, a Mason and a man of
parts, soon cobbled together the novelty of a wooden replacement,
about the size of a barrel top, and painted with the image of a Fish,
and a Bible verse. The Fish had a nice little smile, and it might
have been a catfish, for Joe used to love to catch them. Perhaps its
smile was meant to further illustrate the Bible verse, "Love ye one
another", which Joe had painted in a semi-circle around the Fish. Now
if fish are going to smile, there's a good reason for it--the
invitation that Jesus extends to his disciples at the Last Supper,
and to us at the eucharistic meal, is "Love ye one another." The word
FISH in Greek is IXTHUS, anagram for Jesus Christ of God the Son,
Saviour, (thus ichthyology comes close to being theology about the
FISH!) We are invited to have this IXTHUS for our mystic meal.  Long
ago, fish was always on the menu at holy mass. 

Judas missed that part of the Last Supper where Jesus said the little
phrase that Joe painted on his plywood window. Judas, if his name did
not mean simply "Jew",  by then had "gone to his own place." The
rabbi knew what had happened, for he declared that GLORY was coming
closer now, that GLORY which is the shining presence of the eternal
God, the beauty and strength of the truly Human One whom we now know
is Jesus, the Jew who is our Lord,  that SHEKINAH was now moving
closer to him. And so Jesus declares, "A new commandment I give to
you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you." By this
everyone will know that you have been in my classroom, and have been
my students--the ones who have learned from me, if you have love for
one another.

Jesus calls this a New Commandment. He knows we have short memories,
that perhaps ten is too many for us to remember. I have only once or
twice in all the years of my ministry sprung the surprise at Sunday
service: "All right now, close your books and the first one who can
recite the decalogue, raise your hand." (We used to read the Ten
aloud in Lent, in the penitential office, so we did have a chance to
learn them.) Not many A+ pupils those days. If Jesus had said, "By
this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, that you memorize
the Decalogue", we'd have a smaller class than we have today. If we
remember that the Ten Words were expanded in the Torah, in all the
books of Moses, in the Book Leviticus, which we heard from today but
which we hear very little of the rest of the year, and in libraries
full of learned commentary accumulated over centuries, well we would
have few if any disciples for Jesus at all today.

The first lesson is all legislation, all prescriptive law: You shall
be Holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy. What does "holy" mean? It
means, basically, "different." You shall be SET APART from other
people, because YHWH ( the tetragrammaton--the original four letter
word)  your God is set apart--quite different-- from other gods. The
differences are given in great and endless detail, in applications to
farming, for instance. You have no exclusive right to your
crops--when you reap, you shall leave some for the poor to glean and
gather, the poor of the earth who will  have no harvest of their
own.  Now we have changed that law, to permit us to store the surplus
in silos, to manipulate the price, or even to burn it up to keep the
prices up on the world market. Or kill the cattle if there's too much
milk to make a killing in milk. But you shall be different. Because
YHWH is not the God of profit, or of capital, or of the market, but
of the poor. You shall not strip the vineyard--you shall leave
something for the friends of the poor man Jesus, who helped you pick
your profit. A decent wage for the migrant worker of harvests, is
part of the commandment "You shall not steal." You shall not by fraud
divert the wages of the ones who made your fortune with their sweat
and labor. You shall not deal falsely, nor lie, nor use the name of
religion to sanctify your stealth, you shall not profane the very

You shall not! you shall not! you shall not! There is a relentless
application in  Leviticus of the Holiness of God--the differentness
of God's people. To every imaginable social and political and
economic situation Torah speaks in a living voice today. You shall
not oppress or rob your neighbors in the human community, you shall
look out for the crippled (no euphemisms here about 'physically
challenged'!) , no cursing of the deaf, no taking advantage of the
disabilities or the diversities of others. No stumbling blocks before
the blind, no new buildings not handicap-accessed, no partiality to
the great and famous in the courts, no slandering, no handicapping
the difference of your neighbors, be it for race, religion,
sexuality, national origin, or other variation in the human family.
The only legitimate "difference" allowed is that you are not to be
like any oppressors: you are to be different. Justice is the

So how is it that Jesus comes along after all this excellent
legislation, and says "A new commandment I give you, that you love
one another." There's nothing new about that--the old books of Moses
are all based on that, the love of neighbor. Jesus adds to that
commandment one ingredient that makes it NEW. All the laws about
gleaning, and lending money, and paying fair wages, and respecting
other folks' lives and families and property--all expect fairness,
decency, equity, justice. No one had to do more than the fair share,
no one had to do for others any more than the Law expected him or her
to do for himself or herself. You shall love your neighbor as
yourself. But a mole hill beside Jesus' New Commandment--that you

Jesus added something forever that evening to illustrate what the
Love of God must mean amongst his disciples. He added the Cross.
Jesus added his Body to his teaching, he added himself to his
syllabus. By this will everyone know you are distinctly my own
disciples--by this kind of commitment, this kind of loving. Greater
love has no one than this, than to lay down life itself for one's

E. M. Forster said that he hoped that if he were ever put into a
position where he had to choose between betraying his country or
betraying a friend, that he would have the courage not to betray his
friend. Peter failed in that choice, remember, but lived to repent
and be restored to that Friend. Jesus himself set that standard of
commitment for himself and for us, whom he calls to be his friends in
making peace in the world. And throughout human history, and as
apostles who face down the official authorities of government--the
friends of Jesus have done this as he himself did. Jean Daniélou
wrote in "The Lord of History":

"In a pagan world, the Gospel wears the appearance of a crime against
organized society. It is significant that Christ himself was summoned
before a court of justice, it was in court that he found occasion to
declare himself and his programme officially, before properly
constituted authority. . . the same situation has been repeated all
over the world, Christians being everywhere liable to arrest in the
name of the law for the crime of Gospel. . . . The right of preaching
the Gospel is absolute, inalienable; whenever it is challenged by any
political system, Christians are obliged to vindicate it, even at the
cost of their lives. . . martyrdom is simply the limiting case of
this situation." (pp288-289, The Lord of History, first published

Instead of having to remember all the Bible verses in the book
Leviticus, which tell us all how to love our neighbors as ourselves,
Jesus says, look at me here on this Cross. Now is the Son of Humanity
glorified, and in him the God of Love is glorified. Can you see how
Love is done? Can you see what the Father says? The wood of the Cross
and the wood of Joe Dixon's window have the same short note: "by this
will everyone know that you are my disciples, that you love one

What will the world see today when it looks at Jesus' disciples,
compared to the followers of other faith systems, or the lost ones
with no faith in God, or the followers of Mammon, the Dollar Diety?
Will Campbell, in "Brother to the Dragonfly" tells a parable: "'You
know, Peacher Will, that church of yours and Mr. Jesus is like an
Easter chicken my little Karen got one time. Man, it was a pretty
thing. Dyed a deep purple. Bought it at a grocery store. . . but
pretty soon that baby chick started feathering out. You know,
sprouting little pin feathers, wings and tail and all that. And you
know what? The new feathers weren't purple. No sirree Bob, that damn
chicken wasn't really purple at all. That damn chicken was a Rhode
Island Red, and when all them little red feathers started growing out
> from under that purple, it was one hell of a sight. All of a sudden
Karen couldn't stand that chicken any more. Well, we took that
half-purple and half-red thing out to her Grandma's house and threw
it out in the chicken yard with all the other chickens. It was still
different, you understand, that little chicken. And the other
chickens knew it was diffrent too. It didn't bother any of the
others. Wouldn't fight back or anything. Just stayed by itself.
Really suffered too. But little by little, day by day, that chicken
came around. Pretty soon, even before all the purple grew off of it
while it was still just a little bit different, that damn thing was
behaving just like the rest of them chickens. Man, it would fight
back, peck the hell out of ones littler than it was, knock them down
to catch a bug if it got to it in time. Yes sirree, Bob, the chicken
world turned that Easter chicken round. Now you can't tell one
chicken from another. They are all just alike. The Easter chicken is
just one more chicken. There in't a darn thing different about it.' "
I knew he wanted to argue and I didn't want to disappoint him. 'Well,
the Easter chicken is still useful. It lays eggs, doesn't it?' It was
just what he wanted me to say. 'Yea, preacher Will,it lays eggs. But
they all lay eggs. Who needs an Easter chicken for that? And the
Rotary Club serves coffee. And the 4-H club says prayers. The Red
Cross takes our offerings for hurricane victims. Mental health does
counselling and the Boy Scouts have youth programs.'"

So what's new and different about us, once our Easter feathers fade?
The vision of John in the second reading, of the throne room of God
and the marriage of the Lamb, says that the Bride of the Lamb had on
some special clothes--not purple feathers like Will Campbell's Easter
chicken, but it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright
and pure. And the fine linen, John said after a closer look, was the
work of justice, the deeds of righteousiness, of the disciples, the
saints. The bloody shirt and necktie of Martin Luther King Jr., from
the Lorraine hotel, and all those other blood stained robes of the
saints--have been washed, bright and pure, and the Bride is still
working on her trousseau. It's different.    Saint Emily Dickinson
saw the difference:

      Do people moulder equally,
      They bury, in the Grave?
      I do believe a Species
      As positively live
      As I, who testify it
      Deny that I am dead
      And fill my Lungs, for Witness
      > from Tanks, above my Head--
      I say to you, said Jesus -
      That there be standing here
      A Sort, that shall not taste of Death --
      If Jesus was sincere --
      I need no further Argue -
      That Statement of the Lord
      Is not a controvertible --
      He told me, Death was dead.