Sunday, July 08, 2007

An Heirloom of Love: a reflection for Proper 9C


Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

When I was little I remember a certain chair that belonged to my great-grandmother. It was a desk chair with a curved wood back, arms, and seat; a swivel chair on wheels. My brothers and I loved to twirl in that chair, round and round we’d spin. But, because it was old it wasn’t the hydraulic lift and swivel like desk chairs are today. No. This one was like a nut and bolt: the seat was a big nut that screwed onto the threaded bolt-like base. So, if we twirled enough in one direction the seat would screw right off the base and we’d end up on the floor.

My mother ended up with this chair and moved it with her everywhere, for decades. Over the years it was painted every color of every generation including, as I remember it, yellow – and then – olive green.

A few years ago, after my mother died, I found that old chair stuffed into my mother’s storage locker, broken in several pieces. She couldn’t bear to throw it out. But, now it was neither a cherished antique, not an heirloom nor a legacy, just a broken chair. So, I threw it out.

In our Gospel this morning Jesus sends the “appointed” out in pairs, seventy some people. Their task is to continue the ministry of Jesus, to go where he had intended to go and do what he had intended to do. They are to offer a way of passing down from one generation to the next an experience of Jesus. They are to offer folks, long after Jesus has gone, a precious heirloom of God’s love poured out in Christ, given for us.

What they are offering is the gift of relationship.

And, so, these appointed ones are to travel light. No need to carry any baggage. Just go and be present for the people they meet. Visit with them. Share stories. If they are welcomed, wonderful. A legacy will begin; a family history of God’s people will be shared and lived into in a new way. But if they are not welcomed, don’t worry. Move on. Don’t carry that baggage either, the baggage of being rejected or ignored. It’s ok. God’s
work will happen somehow, someway. Just move on and try again.

Of, course it will be difficult work at times. Not only will people reject the appointed ones but some might become hostile: “scorpions, snakes, and wolves” will come out to “attack” and “bite.”

Jesus’ advice to such threats: just keep going. The kingdom of God is near.

By their presence and with the intent of their hearts, these appointed ones bring with them the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is like a precious heirloom; it grows richer over time. The kingdom of God is like a priceless well aged piece of furniture, growing in value the longer the kingdom of God resonates around us. And like antiques which carry the stories of those who have used it, the kingdom of God becomes a part of our very being. And we become a part of the kingdom.

We, Christians today, are the appointed ones. We are charged to go out and share this heirloom with others. This heirloom, our Christian faith, is like a rich antique table. Around this table we invite all to join us, to come and share in the feast. We bring nourishment to the hungry, those who are starving, spiritually, or physically.

Today’s Gospel cautions us; We bring God’s love - we don’t need to bring everything. It reminds us that some of the things we might cling too are really not needed. They may feel like part of our history and our tradition, but being old doesn’t necessarily make them valuable. Some things, like that old broken chair, don’t need to be saved, stored, and moved around just for the sake of saving them. Some things just need to be discarded.

Religion is like that too. Sometimes we need to discard particular ways of understanding our faith. Often the way we understand God and what God is doing in the life death and resurrection of Jesus is bound by the culture and society we live in. Many of the ways we understand God are human constructs, they can be helpful but not always “necessary” – God is mystery.

So, this gospel helps us in our housecleaning. What’s important is to bring only the most valuable and necessary pieces – ourselves, and God’s love. Our Collect for the Day sums this up: O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

14 comments:

Diane said...

Mompriest -- I love this. (Like it better than mine, actually). and you are quite right that sometimes we do have to throw out old conceptions of faith... I'm sorry I didn't think of that. I'm not posting mine this time. But I might keep yours around for future reference, if that's ok. I tend to get into ruts.
So thanks for sharing!
And yes, go ahead and share... or put the word out, if someone else is willing. Just let me know and I'll link to you.

mompriest said...

Ok. I let's both leave posts for someone else to post a poem for us to discuss and see what comes up. I'll do it later today or tomorrow. You can do it earlier if you like.

Thanks for your feedback on the sermon, considering how dried up I feel at least I can still pull out a five minute homily.... :-)

Once I got the metaphor going I guess I was ok. It just took awhile to get there. I did some major re-writing at 5:30 this morning instead of just some tweeking...

Diane said...

maybe that's one of my problems. I do feel that I need to go for 15 minutes, and sometimes that's good, and sometimes it dilutes things. It is so crystalizing to have just one central metaphor. I like how you brought in the risks of reaching out.

Also, I used to preach every sunday (like you) and I think that's better. Now it's usually not so often. I'd actually like to get back to the every Sunday thing, with an occasional break.

mompriest said...

Yes, in an odd way preaching every Sunday is much easier - there is a flow and a rhythm that comes and a sense of voice that gets developed. But it is good to get a break. I have only had two Sunday's off since Holy Week, one the deacon preached, and one I was out of town at CREDO (an ECUSA clergy renewal conference). Plus, I've preached every Sunday, with a few exceptions and vacations, for the last six years...

I hope you get to preach more often!

Thanks for the feedback.

mompriest said...

Oh, and you can save this one for future reference it you like...

Barbara B. said...

I agree with Diane's comment -- I love this too!! Really great metaphor and important message. And since I'm presently church-less, this was my sermon for the day. :)

Diane said...

oh, jut wanted you to know that I threw down the gauntlet, so to speak. See if anyone else wants to post a poem...

Now, what other thing can I post this evening? Hmmm.

Jan said...

I just posted a poem by Denise Levertov--"Primary Wonder." I also have other poems on my blog.

mompriest said...

Cool. We're heading over to Jan's blog for a poetry conversation! I'm gonna create a link there soon.

Serena said...

Love the sermon, and like Diane, I'd like to save it for future reference!

mompriest said...

Serena, Sure, of course. Thanks.

Sally said...

What an excellent sermon- I love the heirloom illustration!

Just catching up with blogs after a busy weekend :-)

Grace thing said...

I LOVED THAT. So poetic and true and beautiful. We so often try so hard to preserve the old because we love it and it worked for us and it carries memories and meaning...but there comes a time to let go. But then others throw the baby out with the bath water, to use a horribly hacknedyed expression after your lovely homily. I think the things, the doctrines, the words, tell us themselves when it's time to move on. We just need to listen.

revabi said...

Well written.

That must have been hard to throw tht chair out.
You are a good preacher. I see below that you linguistic intelligence. It is a gift not all of us have. Bless you.

I will with God's help....uncomplicating the complicated

I was baptized when I was nine years old. I have vivid memories of the baptism itself, of being terrified, as I was fully immersed three ti...