|Ruins of Coventry Cathedral|
Lectionary Passage: Ephesians 4: 25-5:2To read this passage online, go to http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Ephesians+4:25+-+5:2&vnum=yes&version=nrsv
I’m not usually a big Ephesians fan. I mean, first of all, it probably wasn’t even written by Paul but rather by a seemingly zealous (and sometimes over-zealous) disciple of his. There are problems with it–mainly for women! But this passage speaks something hauntingly real, something with which we can identify regardless of our gender or our place, regardless of where we are in life. We are called to discard our old nature and don a new one. Well, there you go! How easy is that? We are called to see that we are part of one another, that not speaking the truth to others is the same as not speaking the truth to ourselves.
But lest you think that this is some sort of sappy morality check where we all stand and sing “Kum-ba-yah”, think again! It is not a vision of good or right behavior. It is not a call to all be the same so that we can all just get along. It is the call to be something different, to leave our old selves behind and see ourselves anew. No longer can we dismiss our shortcomings as “only human”. Rather, we are called to see ourselves as fully human, fully living imitations of Christ, and immersing ourselves in the Truth that is God, in the Truth that is who we are called to be.
OK, full confessions….I got mad at someone today. No, let me elaborate: I got REALLY mad at someone today. I felt violated, taken advantage of…you name it. You’ve been there. I thought I had it all figured out. And then, I began working on the notes for this week’s lectionary passages. And, there, as if our Sovereign Creator saw fit to provide some sort of show of colossal sacred humor, there it was: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Are you kidding me? NOW? You throw this at me NOW when I’m so incredibly justified???? So, in my own show of incredible restraint, I slammed the book shut and headed off to the sanctuary. (Now, see, that’s the good part of no longer working in oil and gas. Their sanctuaries did not hold near the draw that ours does.) And I sat there in the darkened sanctuary, struggling to be at peace. And I saw something that I’d never seen before. I looked at Jesus in the Gethsemane Window. I’ve always assumed that he carried a look of resolve, a look of incredible peace. But, today, I saw a look of ire. Spilling out of him was an anger so immense, so intense, that it consumed him. What were they doing asleep? Don’t they know how hard I tried? Don’t they know what this means? And then…take this cup, take it from me, so that I can be who you call me to be.
I’m sure it’s wrong, wrong to saddle Jesus with so much humanity. But isn’t that why we’re all here? Because Jesus was human, fully human. Third-century theologian, Athanasius, is attributed with the words, “Christ became human that we might become divine.” To expect yourself to be perfect is not even spiritual, much less realistic. I mean, if you were perfect, why would you need Christ, why would you need God?
The first time that I ever encountered this passage with any real intent was on a choir trip. (Because, in my previous oil and gas life, I actually sang!) Our choir was invited to be part of a national music festival in Coventry Cathedral in England. Now you have to know that Coventry Cathedral, a beautiful middle-age cathedral, was destroyed by bombing during World War II. Everything that they knew was gone, burned, ashes….And, so, in 1940, their provost ordered the words inscribed on the altar that was left: “Father, forgive.” Today there stands a brand new cathedral next to the ruins of the old one dedicated to the work of reconciliation. And where the altar stands, engraved with those words, are two statues, gifts from two countries celebrating the work of reconciliation that the cathedral had proclaimed. The countries who gave the statues are Germany and Japan, the very destroyers of what was.
And so, that year that we were there, the festival commissioned a musical arrangement of their own creed, if you will. It is called their Litany of Reconcilation. It recognizes who we are and affirms what we can become:
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
|Modern Coventry Cathedral|
The litany ends with this:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Grace and Peace,