"Outside the box"
Originally composed for chapel at Canterbury Episcopal School, DeSoto TX
Psalm 33; Gospel: John 21.1-14 (Easter 2, RCL Year C)
Note: this page uses the SP Tiberian font. If you do not have this font installed, you will see odd characters instead of Hebrew letters at points in the text.
In school and at home, we meet a variety of literary works in a variety of media,
and while some times we use them to pass the time or enjoy an exciting story,
in most of them, there is a serious message about God for anyone who will look for it.
Harry Potter follows in the steps of the medieval pilgrim Christian Rosenkreutz,
preparing, proving, and purifying himself in stages as he turns lead into gold on his journey to death and new life.
(NB: This sermon was written before the release of the final book in the series).
Homer Simpson reminds us of how society has turned many of its principles into mere talk.
And Winnie-the-Pooh is always there, exhibiting the calmness of Tao-knowledge,
no matter what disaster befalls him.
(Laughter: I was well-known for having the Latin classes read Lenard's translation, Winnie Ille Pu, and for using The Bear as an example of approaches to faith in Comparative Religions).
Around here, “Fiddler on the Roof” is also very popular
(due in part to fine production last year), especially the songs,
but one of my favorite parts of the story comes in the spoken lines,
where one of the characters explains how the story of Jacob marrying Rachel (Genesis 29.15-28),
when “properly interpreted” tells us that the lesson of the Bible is that we can never trust an employer.
For a long time, I've liked that answer:
for one thing, it shows what we call “thinking outside the box”
a way of thinking that is so important
to exploring the unending puzzle and mystery that the Bible presents as we find God's revelation,
as well as becoming well-educated.
On the other hand, we need to avoid the sort of thinking that turns to focusing on one particular point
so that we miss seeing the forest because of all the trees,
because the man in question doesn't seem to know much more about the Bible,
and one-sided expertise is as dangerous as any other false certainty.
However, he's not entirely wrong:
because as the Psalm we read together makes clear, we should trust God – and only God.
Not kings, not armies, not our own strength, not horses or armor or tanks,
and the rest of the Bible adds wealth,
and even our own strength and cleverness to the list of what we can't trust.
What is this trust in God that we talk about so much like?
I want to direct your attention to that last phrase we read together:
“let your loving-kindness be upon us.”
Anyone who studies another language knows that there are words that just don't translate easily,
and this one is one of those words: dsh
it means that God is always there, always loving us, no matter what we may have done.
One aspect of trust is shown in the Gospel lesson today:
trusting God means doing what God wants,
even if it seems to be nothing more than fishing from the other side of the boat.
Armed only with that trust and the feeling that he must therefore do what God asked,
Martin Luther King Jr, went before the most powerful people in the world,
as did his namesake, the German reformer Martin Luther.
Much of what we take for granted today is the result of the work of people like these two.
As we deal with the tragedies that have struck our school and our nation in the last week,
we should remember these people and what it means to trust in God.
In the last analysis, that is all that can help us.
To close, I would like to read a passage from the book of the prophet Habakkuk.
This is a small book of three chapters, often hard to find, but it speaks directly to our time.
The prophet saw the state of things around him:
disaster, the apparent victory of evil, and he took his case to God.
His concluding utterance reminds us, that as Martin Luther King Jr wrote,
“Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but ultimately it must give way to ... Easter.”
(“Give us the Ballot,” similar phrases are in many speeches, cf. A Testament of Hope).
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (author's translation, very DE)
Even though the trees do not blossom,
even though there is no fruit on the vines,
even though the trees have no fruit,
even though the fields fail to grow food,
even though there is no food for the animals,
even though there is no food for us,
Yet I will still rejoice in God,
and remain faithful to the one who saves me.
God is my strength,
he gives me the feet to run, (or the wheels to roll!)
and leads me securely on the highest peak.