I think it's safe to say that we are a people who are used to talking about what’s offensive. Most of us have participated in discussions about whether something is racist, sexist, heterosexist, or classist, among other qualities. I'd also guess that just about all of us have been offended by the words or actions of another.
The year after my ordination, I was privileged to be able to spend a few days on retreat at West Malling, an abbey of cloistered Anglican sisters on the what was the pilgrimage route to Canterbury Cathedral. I still can hear their voices as they sang the same words from Psalm 34 at the beginning of each office
Oh, magnify the Lord with me Come, let us worship together.
We come together this morning to honor Ara Moses Baltayan and to commit his soul into God’s loving care. Ara’s friends and family tell me of a man who was a loving father and devoted husband who worked hard to provide for his family. He enjoyed photography and taking his sailboat out on the Sound. He was committed to the community and to serving it through Rotary—the international service organization for business and professional leaders. And then there was his connection with this place, this parish, Christ Church.
“In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost.” In the opening lines of the Inferno Dante finds himself in an unknown place, unsure of how he got there or where he is going. As he wanders through the woods, he encounters the Roman poet Virgil who will be his guide into the hell’s depths. As they approach the gates, Dante looks up and reads the inscription: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
This week on his HBO show Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver looked at food waste in America. According to his statistics, America throws out forty percent of the food we produce annually, totaling $165 billion. It’s enough to fill 730 football stadiums.
One of most incongruous, and sad, photos I brought back from the Holy Land when I visited in 2004 was of two Palestinian men, shepherds in an urban land, herding four scruffy looking sheep through the machine gun ringed Kalandria checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Always, always, always think twice before accepting an invitation to one of Herod’s birthday parties. Incest, unjust imprisonment, murder, seductive dancing, potential pedophilia, deception, backstabbing, conniving, severed heads, rivalry, hatred, peer-pressure, crooked politics—our Gospel story has it all.