Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ezekiel Goes to a Funeral

So that post on Psalm 51 I've been kicking around in my head never got written. Another time, maybe.

The Gospel lesson appointed for the Office today (Matthew 25:14-30, Proper 11, Year 1) is the Parable of the Talents, where the guy goes off and leaves three of his servants with various amounts of money, each according to their abilities, and when he comes back he is full of praise for the two who invested the money and made interest, and furious with the one who buried it in the dirt and returned the original amount. That's another passage I just don't really get. Something really troubles me about the third servant, who accuses the lord of being 'harsh' and reaping what he hadn't sown and gathering what he had not planted, and the vitriolic response of the master -- "You wicked and lazy slave" -- seems to indicate that maybe he was on to something. I Googled the parable and looked for commentaries to help, but it seems the consensus really is that the traveling master is understood to represent Christ and that the third servant is duly punished for not doing something with the gift he was given. It still doesn't sit right with me, though, and I am unsatisfied. So that's all I can say about that.

This afternoon I went to the funeral of a beloved teacher from high school, who had also been a good friend and colleague of my parents. The funeral was at a Foursquare church, where apparently he was very active, and within the confines of my own ignorance and prejudice and snobbishness I am still trying to reconcile the memories I have of this very free-thinking, well-educated, objective, progressive person (who gave no hint that I ever picked up on that he was remotely spiritual) with the discovery that he was active in a Pentecostal community.

I confess to some ambivalence about going, not really sure what the worship experience would be like there, and wondering what kind of strange ideas, cheap theology and corny music I might hear. I thought fondly of Ouiser in Steel Magnolias, who declines to visit Annelle's church because "they'd probably make me eat a live chicken," to which Annelle responds, "Not on your first visit." But my mother needed to go, and I was more than willing, out of respect for this great man.

Well, it definitely wasn't an Anglican rite. But as the pastor got up to speak about the importance of community and God's healing power even and especially in times of great pain and bewilderment, I just had this sense that we really were talking about the same God. And then, suddenly, I heard that "still, small voice," and what came into my mind was a phrase from Ezekiel: "I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh," and I cried through the rest of the service.

1 comment:

kr said...

: (. Oh, Paul, we hardly knew ye.

Dunno whether you read my blog post(s?) on this one. I figured he was either WAY Christian (Evangelical) or completely not at all in the game ...

Anyhow, at the funeral it helped me to page through his Bible, which was just as marked up as his Howard Zinn on the other table was ... I don't think I really read any of the notes, but words like "Jesus" and "love" were repeated and stuck in my memory.

I'm still not sure how to reconcile the man I (a little bit) knew with the knowledge that he at least sometimes listened to KLUV.

But then, most Catholics might not want to understand me as entirely orthodox, but I'm pretty sure I am ... so ... well, I guess it's all hopes that The Truth wins out in the end!