8th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C 2019

People speak from the fullness of their hearts!

Ok, so a bit of history, textual criticism and hopefully an insight or maybe even two?

First, let’s start off with a bit of participation in our reflection tonight….lets have some fun exploring the Gospel…it is Mardis Gras after all.

Ok…how many stories were there in the Gospel pericope tonight? 2 or 4 ?

4…Blind one leading the blind—Student and teacher—Speck and plank—Tree and its fruit…

Of the four….how many do you think appear in some other gospel as well?

2-Matthew Chapter 7—Plank and Tree

Final question:  Where is Jesus located physically in Luke’s Gospel when these sayings are proclaimed:  A) Mountain Top  B) Level ground at the base of the Mountain or C) In the Synagogue court yard ?  (B) Luke’s Sermon on the Plain….last two weeks….

Ok Marty…so what….

There is a thing in Scripture Study that is called Redaction…it means that when the Gospels and other Scriptures were being put together, people would remember different things at different times and they put them in places that seemed to make sense….That is what Scripture Scholars believe we have here in Luke’s Gospel….the stories of the Blind leader and the Student and the Teacher….they seem to logically fit here, as part of these “wisdom teachings” of Jesus as he laid out his understanding of God after having his mountain top experience and the calling of the first disciples.

So what we have to do as 21st Century Christians is ask ourselves the questions….like how does this apply to us today?  What are the planks we have sticking out of our own eyes?  When have we been following a blind leader into the ditch?  What teachers are we listening too?  What is our tree bearing for the world?

These are all good questions for us to consider, especially as we near the beginning of the Season of Lent.  A season which encourages us to step into reflection, self-examination, and reparation and restoration.

So what are the planks that are in our own eyes?  One plank that I know I had lodged squarely in the middle of my own minds eye was the mindset I carried toward crime.  I used to be one who would say…you do the crime, you do the time.  Lock them up…and the more heinous the crime the less I cared about the person.  Until I began ministering in the midst of the sea of humanity that is currently incarcerated.  When I was on the outside, I couldn’t see them as human beings, I saw them purely as criminals, psycho paths, or demented things….not really as people.

Then life and ministry came crashing together, and I have to say, the plank was ripped out of my own eye and even today I am still healing from it.  I learn of my own prejudices and biases every day that I step foot into the prison.  It changes me….some for the good and some not so much for the good.  But it has and will continue to change me.  Let me share a story of change…a major plank from my psyche….

A few years back while I was Chaplain at Rush City, I had an officer in the Chapel observing one of the services.  I was not in my office, I was out in a living unit tending to another inmate.  During the service, the observing officer proceeded to have a full blown heart attack.  Now that is a challenge, but maybe even more so when you are having a heart attack behind a locked door, in a locked room,  with 70 guys who have raped, murdered, maimed and injured hundreds of people, and you are the only officer.

The officer fell off his chair, and onto the floor.  The inmates all gasped.  One of them, a former Doctor prior to his incarceration for multiple murder jumped to help the officer.  He managed to get the officer in a safe position on the floor, he immediately assessed the situation, and began administering CPR.  He grabbed the officers radio, pushed the emergency button, advised the responding officers to the medical condition and advised an ambulance.

Now that may not seem like that big of a deal….but in prison….an inmate…NEVER touches a staff member and ABSOLUTELY NEVER touches a radio.  Doing what he did, immediately put himself in extreme harms way, he knew he would be immediately tackled, cuffed and taken to segregation…not a happy place to be.  Yet despite his knowing that he was insuring his own misery and harm, he chose to do what needed to be done to save the life of a person who he knew only as Officer John.  The inmate…Tom…was in the hole for only a few days, his actions saved Officer John’s life and in the end everyone came out safe.  But prior to that incident, I did not see Tom as a caring, selfless person, but rather as a person who had murdered his friend, his wife and their unborn child.  After that, I could no longer see him in that light….

I now saw him as a human being, who had made some terrible life choices, but who’s heart was truly revealed in the midst of another crisis.  Not only was the plank ripped out of my eye, so that I could really see, I also witnessed the fruit of a tree that myself and many others thought was just simply bad fruit from a bad tree, yet it turned out my understanding was truly a bias and not the truth.

What teachers are we listening too?

I am constantly amazed at how my thinking and the thinking of others is influenced by Social Media, by the World Wide Web and by the major communications conglomerates of our world. Some folks lean to FOX, others to CNN, others to ABC or CBS or NBC.  And I ask myself…why?  Why do we do the things we do or listen to the voices we listen to?  Is it because they agree with, or bolster our own sense of understanding or bias?

One Theologian I know said:  You will know if the God  you worship is not the God of the Christian Faith when that God looks like and believes all the same things that you do.

I had a Moral Theology professor that would make us read an ethical case study, then we would have to write our own Moral Theological position papers on the case study, and after that he would assign us to read a Moral Theologian that stood in direct opposition to the position revealed in our paper.  I despised reading their work.  I would argue, get angry, throw the book down, and it took every ounce of energy I could muster to keep reading.  Why this torture?  I approached my professor one day and asked why….he said I am just helping you to uncover your own biases so that you will always know that even when you are absolutely convinced of your own correctness in any moral decision, there will always be another with a different point of view that is most likely as valid as your own.  Ultimately he said, every moral decision a person makes in life ends up having to be lived between that person and their God, our job as Theologians—I believe that is all of us who identify ourselves as Christian–is to let others know there are many points of view and that they all contain some truth.

If there is any one thing I think we could walk away from our liturgy tonight it would be this:  that the journey of faith is a journey of constant conversion and conversation with ourselves, with others and with our God.

I learned a great deal…and even at a conference this week I learned this:  How do we spell the word: LISTEN?  I wonder if any of us have ever realized that those are the exact same letters that are contained the word: SILENT!

As we celebrate our Mardi Gras tonight and join with each other in food, friendship, and fun, maybe it would be a good thing for us to contemplate…even though these Scriptures were written two thousand years ago…they are still speaking!