Thursday, May 13, 2021

Easter 7 sermon

 (if you go to Trinity, Milton, don't read this!!!)

Easter 7,2021

          Listen again to how Jesus ends his prayer for his disciples in today’s Gospel.

“…now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. SANCTIFY them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I SANCTIFY myself, so that they also may be SANCTIFIED in truth.”

          What I find compelling in that passage is the use of ‘sanctify’ and ‘sanctified’.

          The first definition of ‘sanctified’ in the dictionary is “set apart”. To be ‘set apart’ from other things. That explains why Jesus says of his disciples that he “sent them into the world” they do not ‘belong in the world’. They are ‘set apart’ from the world.

          The other definitions are “holy”, “consecrated” and “hallowed”.

          “Hallowed” is a synonym for “Holy” as in the Lord’s prayer—“hallowed be thy name” could be “holy be thy name” just as easily.

          And to ‘consecrate’ is to bless a church or worship space by a Bishop to “set it apart” and make it ‘holy’.

          (A short aside about ‘sanctified’: I grew up in an Evangelical Methodist Church. It was not like a Methodist Church in Litchfield—it was a ‘mountain Methodist’ church—with revivals and hour-long sermons! When I was 12 I went to a revival and the preacher scared me so bad about hell and damnation that I went to the altar rail to be ‘saved’. But being ‘saved’ was just the beginning, you had to be ‘prayed through’ as they put it, to be ‘sanctified’. So, a half-dozen or so adults surround me and ‘prayed me through.

          It was a tiny town (500 or so) and everyone knew Jimmy got ‘saved’ last night. I was in my seventh-grade math class, very embarrassed, when I dropped my pencil and when I bent over to pick it up I looked up Bonny Tilly’s dress.

          “Oh, no,” I said to myself, “being saved didn’t take!”)

          And “holy” in and of itself is an interesting word. In her book A History of God, Karen Armstrong writes about ‘holy’ in a astonishing way. She writes, “When we use the word ‘holy’ today, we usually refer to a state of moral excellence. But in Hebrew,” she continues, “the word KADDOSH has nothing to do with morality as such, but means OTHERNESS; a radical separation.”

          ‘Sanctified’ is ‘to be set apart’ and Holy is “other”.

          Makes me want to sing the ‘Sanctus’ (there’s a form of ‘sanctified’) by saying, “Other, Other, Other Lord God Almighty”.


          So where am I going with all this word study?

          I hope I can explain it to you.

          Our God is “Other” from us, distinct from us, separated from us.

          And yet Genesis tells us that humans were ‘created in the image and likeness of God’. So, some piece of God’s ‘otherness’ is a part of us.

          But we are not gods. We are flawed and damaged creatures because God is not the only ‘other’ in us. We are all plagued by an ‘other self’ that rebels and cries out against God.

          We need to become aware of our ‘other self’ and coax it out of the darkness into the Light of God.

          No one has said this better than Elsie Landstrom, a poet. Let me close with her poem.      

          Song to My Other Self

Over the years I have caught glimpses of you

In the mirror, wicked,

In a sudden stridency in my own voice, have

Hear you mock me;

In the tightening of my muscles felt the pull

Of your anger and the whine

Of your greed twist my countenance, felt

Your indifference blank my face when pity was called for.

You are there, lurking under every kind act I do,

Ready to defeat me.

Lately, rather than drop the lid of my shock

Over your intrusion,

I have looked with you with new eyes

Opened to your tricks, but more,

Opened to your rootedness in life.

Come, I open my arms to you, once dread stranger.

Come, as a friend, I would welcome you to stretch your apartments

Within me from the cramped to comforting side.

Thus I would disarm you. For I have recently learned,

Learned looking straight into your eyes,

The holiness of God is everywhere.

Amen and amen.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.