Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

FORGETTING THE AMNESIATIC GOD


READING: MATTHEW 22: 1-14, EXODUS 25: 1-9,
PSALM 106: 1-6, 19-23

WHAT'S THE DEAL? DO ALL GOD'S PEOPLE JUST GET AMNESIA?

As I was reading these passages this week I realized something. According to these narratives- the people of God have a hard time remembering their past. And when we forget our stories there's no telling what we'll make of the present....

EXODUS
Moses has been gone too long. There's no sign of the Israellite's leader, no sign of the cloud that comtained God who had been travelling alongside the people. And an outbreak of chronic forgetfulness was creeping in. The people forgot who it was that called them out of Egypt, forgot who made a safe passage for them when faced with a powerful Egyptian army, forgot who had been providing for them day in and day out since they had been wandering in the desert.

This is not news to me. I've read this before. But I stumbled onto something I had not thought about before. We can say anything we want about the Israellites concerning the creating of the calf, but they seem to be nothing but a "chip off the old block" because God too seems to be forgetful and has a bad case of amnesia. God sees what the people have done and decides to simply obliterate God's people.

God's anger seems to get the best of God when God declares to Moses, "I look at this people--oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people! Let me alone now, give my anger free reign to burst into flames and incinerate them. But I'll make a great nation out of you (Moses)."

Moses then basically says to God, "Have you FORGOTTEN your promise that you made to YOUR PEOPLE- the promise to bring them out of Egypt into the promised land and to make them great?"

Moses seems to have the wonderful job of being the KEEPER OF MEMORIES AND STORIES. And the job of the KEEPER is to help people to re-member their stories. God seems to have momentarily forgotten the story and so has Gods people. So Moses confronts God and asks God to "re-member" God's promise. Then Moses goes to the Israellites and confronts them and tells them to "re-member" their story.

Interestingly I have a deeper appreciation for God after reading this story. The rational Westerner in me usually thinks in terms such as "God is unchanging", or "God is ominpotent or omnipresent", etc.. etc... . But then I read the this and I am reminded that we have domesticated the Hebrew God who sometimes is just simply WILD AND UNTAME and utterly beyond us. And yes, the Hebrew God seems to be much more fluid, change/process oriented than the God we like to worship. There are things that I love about this and things that scare the hell out of me. But thank you Moses for helping God and Gods children to "re-member" who they were and their story.

PSALM
The psalm for this week is a petition to God to remember Gods people in every moment of our life. This re-membering is important for the Community of God. Re-membering has a dynamic aspect and very active dimension to it. To re-member is not just to recall, but to practice the retelling of our story in such a way that we continue to live the story of our faith in the here and now and allow the story to re-member the the body of Christ, or to unify and strengthen who we are as brothers and sisters.

MATTHEW
In the Matthew telling of the banquet story the dinner host is an absolute prig! After his guests all bail on him sends his servants out to invite anyone who is willing to come to the party- good, bad, ugly, rich, poor, outcast, whoever. So the servants do so. (here's where it gets ugly) The guesthall is filled and host ought to be pleased (since the servants have brought back exactyl who the host told them to bring). But instead the host singles out one individual who is "dressed the wrong way"

In pure drama queen fashion the host declares, "Friend, how dare you come in here looking like that!' The man was speechless. Then the king told his servants, "Get him out of here--fast. Tie him up and ship him to hell. And make sure he doesn't get back in.'

Did the host send word to the guests ahead of time what the appropriate dress was? Would some of these folks know the "appropriate attire for such a banquent (especially if they were not part of the social class that attended such banquets)? Did the host have to call this person out in such fashion.

I would suggest that maybe this parable is a "how not to host a party" in the kingdom of God. I wonder if Jesus was saying through this parable- "our dear host has FORGOTTEN our STORY- the part that talks about welcoming the stranger/sojourner when he/she is among us." Maybe this was Jesus' wake up call to RE-MEMBER, rebuild the commUNITY of God.

MAY WE HEAR THE STORIES, AND RE-MEMBER (or live out) THE STORY IN COMMUNITY WITH ONE ANOTHER.

shalom,
jonathon

(this article can also be found at The Phaith of St. Phransus)

7 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

Jonathan,
I am jealous of the aesthetic quality of your posts. You always have the coolest icons.

I think you hit on a key point that draws connections with our discussions about RO. The idea of remembering (re-membering/anamnesis) seems to sit at the core of the lectionary passages this week but also at the center of faith itself.

Does this not draw us into the centrality of the Eucharist for Christian worship? In terms of restoring preaching to its proper place, we must consider strongly the return to the liturgy of Word and Table. Since we began celebrating the Eucharist weekly, it has had a profound effect on my preaching. Specifically, the point is no longer simply moving people to individual conviction at the altar, but moving the entire body to the table of the Lord where some will receive salvation, but others will be called to repent, to reconcile, to be reconciled, to be prayed for, to exchange the peace, and for all to rejoice in the Good News of the Gospel.

October 06, 2005 9:23 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

In reference to the Matthew passage, how would you connect the king as a poor host to the idea of Jesus' judgment of the Pharisees and Temple authorities? How would this play out in your interpretation of the passage?

October 06, 2005 9:26 PM  
Blogger St.Phransus said...

scott,
I know traditionally the host/king has been interpreted as God and the new guest as a sort of paving the way for gentiles. So in this aspect my interpetation is a creative stretch.

I think this "remembering" interpretation might capture the spirit of eucharist in the text.

Also please understand that this interpretation comes out my devotional time and these thoughts have been formed out of this theme that has continued to speak to me this week.

October 06, 2005 10:56 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Jonathan,

I liked your emphasis on remembrance. I read Capon's little book, The Parables of Judgment, and he has some very interesting takes that make some moves similar to yours.

I think your attention to all the lectionary texts is a very helpful approach.

One of the great joys of lectionary preaching, for me, is the number of different interpretive paths the Scripture lead us down.

As I read your reflection, I was reminded of Barbara Brown Taylor's book, The Preaching Life, where she talks about the way she prepares to preach, by imagining herself in the role of the different characters and playing out the story over and over in her mind.

As one who is much more mystical than I am, how do you approach reading and interpreting the passages?

Thanks for your post.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

October 07, 2005 7:09 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Some interesting thoughts.

October 07, 2005 8:03 AM  
Blogger Eric Lee said...

How cool. A friend of mine on LiveJournal named Dan made a similar post just last night about rememberance using Gordon T. Smith's A Holy Meal: The Lord's Supper in the Life of the Church.

I added my comments to this in Dan's post.

October 07, 2005 2:47 PM  
Blogger St.Phransus said...

I use the lectionary for my daily devotion time. i have adopted a process that our new bishop has spoken about, and it works for me quite well. Its called the SOAP method.

1. I read the lectionary passage and listen for words or phrases that jump out at me.

2. SCRIPTURE: I write down in my journal the scripture passage that contains my word or phrase

3. OBSERVE: I then write down a synopsis of what I have observed about the passage.

4. APPLICATION: next I write down how I will apply and live out the word/phrase during the day (in very concrete ways).

5. PRAY: I write a prayer and spend some time in silence and listening.

this week the word "re-member" has really spoken to me. in fact, my word or phrase each morning has had "remember" or something similar to that. craziness.

shalom,
jonathon

October 07, 2005 11:04 PM  

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