St. Thomas' Parish at Dupont Circle – Washington, DC

Archive for the 'Incarnation' Category

Next to the Gospel of Luke …

this is my very favorite telling of the Christmas story.  It comes from a quarter-century old book by John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected; I first read it in Ron Rohlheiser’s The Holy Longing.  It’s called “Sharon’s Christmas Prayer.”

      She was five,
sure of the facts,
and recited them
with slow solemnity
convinced every word
was revelation.
She said
they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
to eat
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.

And do you know who he was?
Her quarter eyes inflated
to silver dollars,
The baby was God.

And she jumped in the air
whirled round, dove into the sofa
and buried her head under the cushion
which is the only proper response
to the Good News of the Incarnation.

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God gets some skin in the game

Sermon for Christ the King Sunday – St. Thomas’ Parish, Dupont Circle
November 21, 2010 – Wayne Whitson Floyd
Jeremiah 23:1-6 – Colossians 1:11-20 – Luke 23:33-43

There doesn’t seem to be a less American day of observance than Christ the King Sunday.
To start with, there’s that totally undemocratic royalty thing. Elvis may have been “the King,” but that’s as far as most Americans want to go.

Then there’s the fact that it was made up by a foreigner, Pope Pius XI, who instituted Christ the King Sunday in the middle of Roaring Twenties Italy. Popes get to do things like that. It transferred to the last Sunday before Advent for Roman Catholics and Lutherans in 1970. And while this observance didn’t even make it into the American Book of Common Prayer, it is observed by many Episcopal churches, St. Thomas’ Parish among them.

It would have been easier to preach about Thanksgiving today, poking this elitist-King-thing in the eye, Tea Party Style. Instead, here on the edge of Advent, the season anticipating the tender newborn child Jesus, we’re being urged forward towards the words we will sing with full throat on Christmas morning: “Hark! the herald angels sing. “Glory to the newborn King.” These words reflect the central message in this morning’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians — that this improbable child Jesus “is the image of the invisible God … for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

Christ the King Sunday links the birth of Jesus – “veiled in flesh” in poverty and oblivion – to the ultimate Reign of God over all creation. Between the two events, of course, lies a much harder story without an initial happy outcome. In Jesus, the “image of the invisible God” lived in our very midst. Yet between the manger and the throne of God ruling over all things at the end of the ages, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “lies the shadow.”

Luke this morning tells his tale with sparse plot with graphic and jarring detail that might warrant a parental advisory: May contain scenes unsuitable for children under twelve: “Cute baby grows up. We kill him. And he dies, painfully.” Today’s lessons leave us suspended between Bethlehem and Golgotha, with the nearing Christmas carol haunting our ears: “Glory to the newborn King.”

The contemporary spiritual writer Ronald Rohlheiser tells the story of “a four-year-old child who awoke one night frightened, convinced that in the darkness around her there were all kinds of spooks and monsters. Alone, she ran to her parents’ bedroom. Her mother calmed her down and, taking her by the hand, led her back to her room, where she put on a light and said reassuringly: “You needn’t be afraid, you are not alone here. God is in the room with you.” To which the child replied: “I know that God is here, but I need someone in this room who has some skin!”

With the birth of Jesus, God finally will have, to borrow a phrase from that great American theologian Warren Buffet, “some skin in the game” – God’s own personal human stake in the success of the enterprise of creation. That cute baby in the manger will turn out to be the most radical thing God has ever done. And when this happens, class differences – as well as economic, gender, and religious differences — go poof and disappear. “Glory to the newborn King.”

But watch out; now things get really interesting.

It’s a provocative coincidence that this year Christ the King Sunday comes right on the heels of Transgender Awareness Week, when straight people got to become aware again of how uncomfortable we are living in our own skin – and with our own bodies and sexuality – by watching Transgender people openly and thankfully celebrating their own, just the way God has made them.

In fact, Christ the King Sunday could be called Human Rights Sunday, because Human Rights for Christians becomes a whole other matter, you see, once we believe the Good News that God now has some skin in this game. Christ the King Sunday, however inadvertently, ends up telling us something essential about God’s commitment to us in Jesus. It’s like the country saying, “When you serve bacon and eggs, the hen may have made a contribution, but the pig made a commitment.” In Jesus, God made a commitment — put some skin in the game.

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