Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 OR Job 19:23-27a
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

Mrs. Obrien: I just want to die, to be with him.
Preacher: He’s in God’s hands now.
Mrs. Obrien: He was in God’s hands the whole time. Wasn’t he?

From Tree of Life by Terrence Malick

As the liturgical year draws to its close, the lectionary readings make an eschatological turn, looking ahead to our own end and of things as we know them. It’s a shift in tone that flows seamlessly into Advent, where the church learns once again how to live as Jews, suspended between a ruin and a hope. Signs of ruin are everywhere: a planet we’re quickly making uninhabitable, collapsing world order, a country too divided by corrosive political rhetoric to reckon with pressing fundamentals, churches reeling from self-inflicted humiliations. Amid the rubble of a world plundered and a church betrayed from within, hope can grow hollow and brittle, like dry stems in autumn. What’s to become of our planet, our country, our church, ourselves?

In the fall, the season sharing its name with humanity’s turning away from God, such thoughts may arise simply from observing the natural world’s dying back in anticipation of winter. Sometimes we require some rather more direct reminder. During the now abandoned coronation ceremony for newly elected popes, the master of ceremonies would stop the procession three times to set alight a strip of flax. As the fabric burned into smoke and nothingness, he would address the new pope in a loud voice, saying, “Sic transit Gloria mundi,” (“Thus passes the glory of the world”), reminding him of his mortality and the evanescence of earthly power. Read more

A Vision for Justice

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Isaiah 1:10-18
Luke: 19-1-10

Habakkuk and his lament resonate acutely. He could very well be a contemporary (especially with what hipsters are naming their kids these days), standing next to us as we brace for the daily waves of injustice and violence in our world: suffering at the border, gun violence, endless wars, the opioid epidemic, racism, the lack of political will to meet people’s basic needs for affordable housing and healthcare, the insane vitriol that comes out of the President’s mouth. You could keep going; I could keep going. Read more

The Self-Righteousness Divide, and the Peace of Christ

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Joel 2:23-32
Psalm 65
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Today’s Gospel is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, a parable of two men with two very different prayer styles. God’s judgement is here, but I think it is not the kind of judgement that usually strikes us on our first reading. Rather than seeing the Pharisee and the tax collector as offering opposing prayers, one of which is “good” and the other of which is “bad”, I suggest that we see both as offering prayer to God, and being made righteous through God’s mercy. That alternate reading helps us to think about how we proclaim Christ’s peace in our contemporary divided culture. Read more