Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Year B All Hallow's Eve WED 2018 Truly Scary
Year B All Hallow’s Eve WEDNESDAY, 31 October 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. 38 The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. 42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.” 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” 46 And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48 So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
Happy All Hallow’s Eve. My daughter said she googled “Truly Scary Pumpkins” and one of the top hits was a pumpkin with the words, “Student Loans.” She did not get it. Luckily I have a few years to set her straight on that one before she takes any out.
But Pharisees are a lot like Student Loans, seriously. They may look good from the outside, but the price they demand is far too steep. That was what Jesus was saying in his condemnation of the Pharisees and the Lawyers here in Luke.
They were fixated on the Letter of the Law, and not the Spirit. Right now my oldest has come down with a raging case of puberty. She argues and fusses to argue and fuss. God bless her (and God help her if she keeps it up. Thankfully it has eased off in the last few weeks.) But she is so zeroed in on whatever it is that she is focused on that she cannot get out of her way. One time she argued with me because I agreed with her.
As we are here together on this Hallow’s Eve when our forebears felt that the worlds were close, things tended toward the spooky. It is getting dark so early. It is getting so chilly in the night. Crops are in and the fields and the leaves go from green to brown, and we are reminded very clearly that like the sun, and the leaves, we too will go down and be no more.
The Pharisees and Lawyers thought they could control and nit-pick their way into the Love of God, but their eyes were so fixed on heaven that they were no earthly good. If I have a repeated theme it is this. Grace. Grace. Grace. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less. (Thanks, Brennan Manning!)
“Jesus, you did not wash your hands!” Can you just hear them whine? We all know of the needlers and busybodies who are so busy on the infraction we just had, that they missed the felonies of their own hearts. Washing your hands, or not, does not keep you from the love of God. As Jesus says elsewhere, it is not what goes into us that defiles us, it is what comes out.
This week we have seen people at their worst. Saying that God’s love for one is greater, or more real, than God’s love for another. Hating fellow lovers of God, that is what is truly scary. When the prophet Samuel came to anoint one of the sons of Jesse, and he was as surprised as anyone when it turned about to be the runt David we are reminded how God sees things. “Man looks at the outward appearances, but God looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7 That is still true.
There is nothing scarier than what can come out of the heart of humans, especially one who has justified their cruelty in the name of the Almighty. When we point a finger at anyone, it might be better when we notice all the ones on our own hand pointing back at us. Ghandi was accused because of his non-violent approach that he was not fighting injustice. He supposedly said, “Where there's injustice, I always believed in fighting. The question is, do you fight to change things or to punish? For myself, I've found we're all such sinners, we should leave punishment to God.” As we continue to grow into our callings, spreading Grace and not judgment, may we remember that. Fight your own demons, even on Halloween, and leave the rest to God. Amen