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And then that. Plus mugs

So, about two weeks ago, my husband was walking home from work and got hit a tad bit by a car.

I realize this sounds very traumatic and awful, and really, it was not great at all–however, now that we are on the other side of a stitched-up ear, and an ankle surgery, things are calming down. All told, we were extremely lucky.***

However, that whole Spouse-Gets-Hit-By-Car thing did put a crimp in my sermons for a minute. I wrote the last two in bullet-point form because I thought to myself “There’s no way that I can make actual, thought out sentences at present.”

Then, uh….many complete sentences resulted.

Please enjoy.

***Protip: Do not get hit by a car. Also, do not hit a person with your car. Basics, mes amis.

***Also, I should add: everyone has been amazing and incredibly supportive. The congregation, the bishop, the diocesan staff–everyone. If you have to deal with something like this, then I’d advise you to clone all my people, and borrow them before you do.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

Sept 8, 2019

Ordinary Time, Proper 18

Luke 14, Philemon

  • A few months ago, I discovered a subgenre of Etsy shops that I hadn’t known existed.  Etsy, of course, is a huge website where you can find basically everything handmade for sale.  
  • So I was poking around through the assorted “Inspirational Sayings” section—the section where you can find the same 5 Bible verses in brush-script printed on mugs, journals, wall hangings, t-shirts, wine glasses, etc.  Stuff like “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord” from Jeremiah, or “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” in Philippians, or some part of Proverbs 31, about the perfect woman, or just “Believe!” or “Faith!” or “Hope!” That sort of stuff.
  • I’m not knocking this—there have been times in my life when I’ve been struggling, and I found that keeping a verse that I found meaningful around was just what I needed.  That being said, Christianity is a LOT more than writing “believe!” on a coffee mug.  And sometimes this stuff strays into the performative arena.  
  • When, lo and behold, I came across a Qu’ranic verse in the exact same brush script lettering!  
  • I have rarely been more excited.  YES.  Apparently, this desire to condense an entire vast religious tradition down into the Pumpkin-Spice Latte-version of signifiers is universal!
  • So, if you want, you too can buy a mug that says “Fiqr, coffee, then the day”—a reference to early morning prayer.  Or a wall hanging that reminds you that Allah is surely with the patient, or to say Thanks be to God in all things.  (seriously, it’s so great.)
  • My point here is that the tendency to shrink down our religious traditions to nice, safe packages that don’t demand too much of us is pretty across the board.  
  • And in that context— This gospel is a bit off message?  It probably won’t be on a mug any time soon.  “Hate your father and mother” surrounded by flowers.  
  • Because a lot of popular Christianity, the high-selling, Hallmark, brush script kind, tends to rely on the assumption that Christianity is family-friendly!  Not, family-hating, I guess.
  • Remember, Jesus here has just left his fancy dinner with the Pharisees, that we saw last week.
  • So, part of what he is saying is to reset expectations for the folks in the crowd who have only been with him since he has enjoyed such rich friends.  “no—this way of life isn’t the best way to win friends and influence people.” 
  • But it’s also a very blunt statement of priorities.  The term translated as “hate” here doesn’t quite have the feelings-heavy connotation we hear in English.  Jesus isn’t quite asking his followers to become furious with their families.
  • The other place this verb is used is when he points out that you can’t serve two masters—you either love one and hate the other, or vice versa.  So you can’t serve God and money.  
  • The connotation here is one of priorities, of where your first loyalty lies.  You cannot have your family ties as your priority over God and be a disciple of Jesus.
  • How’s THAT for family values?  
  • To be a disciple of Jesus means to have that come first.  To order the entirety of your life according to the reign of God.  
    • and the reason Jesus is reminding people to count the cost is because frankly, that’s a lot!  
    • it’s uncomfortable, and weird, and people yell at you sometimes.
    • Occasionally, you end up, like the disciples, wandering about in the wilderness following a homeless rabbi for three years instead of inheriting the family fishing business
    • Sometimes you get a very heavy guilt-trip in letter form from Paul telling you to free your slave Onesimus, whom you just located again after he ran off.
    • Sometimes you open a laundry in your church basement.  
    • Weird stuff happens, is my point.
  • and the breadth of that cannot be explained or captured in a mug slogan.
  • In fact, those mug slogans are deceptive.  Because when Jeremiah says “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to hurt you” God is saying that as the Israelites are being led into exile in Babylon.  It’s a note of comfort, but it’s also saying “Don’t worry—your descendants will be fine.  You should get comfortable however.”
  • Philippians, when Paul talks about getting strength in Christ, he’s writing from prison.  Christ is giving him strength to bear up under imprisonment for preaching the gospel.  
  • And Proverbs?  That’s literally designed to be a trite piece of wisdom.  It’s from a tradition where young men would learn to be wise by copying pithy sayings.  It was intentionally a pithy saying.
  • Jesus informing us that we need to hate our families, and consider well how much this will cost may worry us, but it’s just that Jesus doesn’t want us to settle for a pat, slogan sort of faith.
  • Christ invites us into a faith that will transform every part of our lives, including the relationships we have with our nearest and dearest.  Christ offers us not worn-out sayings that fall short, but an ongoing, transformative way of life that deepens and changes as we grow, that keeps up with us as we face the trials of life.
  • So, don’t hate your family and don’t put your faith in a mug.  Instead, concentrate on the God who can fill your whole world with new abundant life.  That is what will save us.

Amen. 

About megancastellan

Episcopal priest, writer, wearer of fancy shoes.

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