Sermon from Morning Prayer: May 27, 2014

Margaret Rodgers

Morning Prayer Sermon

Chapel of St. Ignatius

Seattle University

May 27, 2014

I sometimes forget that Jesus was a teacher.  Of all the roles Jesus has played in human history, I feel that Jesus as teacher might be the least lauded.  Perhaps because in our scriptures his words are often cryptic and contain several layers of meaning.  We brush over them, get to the good stuff.  And I wonder now in reflecting on our text today, Matthew 13:18-23, why I haven’t paid just as much attention to the things Jesus said as I have for the things he’s done.  Or that have been done to him.

Take for instance Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower.  I never really paid too much attention to it – it seems pretty clear, cut and simple.  Those that do not understand divine revelation are susceptible to losing even what they do know of the kingdom.  Those that do not have strong roots into divine revelation quickly fall away when questions arise of its paradoxes.  There are also people that may understand and believe, but then get caught up in the cares of the world or the lure of wealth.  As such, their understanding and belief in the word of the kingdom does not bring about the kingdom.

And then there are those that know and understand, and their efforts are multiplied, thirty, sixty, hundredfold.

Even here in this explanation, upon closer inspection, I see questions arising from what I initially thought clear, cut and simple.  For instance, I think of Galatians 5:22-23 which describes fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  So when I read our passage for today, I’m assuming this is the “fruit” Jesus is referring to.

If you understand and believe in the word of the kingdom then these things will be multiplied in your life.  Sounds like a self-help book when I say it flatly like that.

Just before this explanation, in the previous passage of our biblical text, Jesus also says he keeps his words cryptic to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah which is in some ways quite disturbing.  One certainly is because even though Jesus explains this parable, there is plenty others that I’m not sure I “get.”  I’m not sure I fully get this one either, considering the flat understanding I just stated.

So understanding and believing is not so clear, cut and simple, right?  Hence, the importance of the role of the teacher.  In my own personal life, from a child up into now,    a bigger child, it has been the teachers in my life that have illumed existence for me in a way that helps me better understand it and my place in it.  Often times, just like Jesus’ cryptic messages, it’s not the clear, cut and simple stuff, but the stuff that really made me think.  Made me lay awake at night constructing and deconstructing how this new knowledge could fit in with my other knowledge.  Sometimes this required me to reject old knowledge, sometimes reject the new.  But always, learning.

Today, I’d like to commit to listening better to the words of Jesus, our teacher, our guru.  If you don’t already, I invite you to listen deeper as well.  Let us both never forget that Jesus still has much to teach us concerning the kingdom of God.  And when we learn together in community, our teachers can help us truly hear and understand.  Amen.

Morning Prayer Meditations Student Reflections


Reflection on Matthew 6:7-15

~ The Rev. John Forman

My Benedictine brothers and sisters chant, pray, study and contemplate scripture all day and into the night.  And the one pericope they encounter more often than any other is this one: The Pater Noster, the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer.  It is repeated in different forms from before the sun rises, throughout the day and into the evening.  Because they hear or see it or say it or chant it so often, monastics recognize more readily than most of us that when a passage of scripture becomes too familiar or habitual, or mechanically routine or repetitive, it loses its prophetic juice and can become paralyzed.  We need to encounter the Living Word in scripture if it is to transform us.

And so, while I appreciate the effort of the folks who worked so hard on the Inclusive Bible version we just heard, their primary intent was to recast gender-based language, which is fine, but the reading is still quite familiar.  Several years ago, Neil Douglas-Klotz reinterpreted this text from a Syriac Aramaic gospel in an effort to recapture some of the poetic, multivalent mystery of Aramaic.  While we can be reasonably certain that Jesus spoke some version of Aramaic, we cannot with absolute certainty know that these were the exact words that Jesus spoke. Literalism not only becomes less important, it is ultimately impossible because, like its sister languages, Hebrew and Arabic, Aramaic expresses multiple layers, tones and colors of meaning.  Aramaic is also rich in references to earthiness, natural cycles and mystery.

So working from an Aramaic text back into English, we can not only hear the prayer more like it may have been heard to First or Second century Jewish ears, the rephrasing can breathe new life into a deeply familiar and treasured prayer. What emerges is a prayer of renewal that connects us to a masculine-inclusive feminist Christ, not simply to a gender-neutral prayer.  What emerges is a rebinding to the source of Love that loves all creation—infinitely and unconditionally.  I hope that when you encounter this prayer again in the days and months ahead (in fact, we will pray it again in a few minutes!) that the translation I am about to read to you evokes renewed insights, offers renewed healing and inspires renewed devotion.  I’ll read it to you slowly so that it has a chance to soak in:

O Birther! Mother-Father of the Kosmos,

Focus your light within us – make it useful:

Create your reign of unity now –

Your one desire then acts with ours,

as in all light, so in all forms.

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.

Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,

as we release the strands we hold

of others’ guilt.

Don’t let surface things delude us

but free us from what holds us back.

From you is born all ruling will,

the power and the life to do,

the song that beautifies all,

from age to age it renews.

Truly – power to these statements –

may they be the ground from which all

my actions are grown. Amen

Morning Prayer Meditations Student Reflections