Proper 16B aug 30 2012 1
The Rev Cynthia Hizer
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, GA
Kings 8:1,6,10-11, 22-30, 41-43
In the name of the One Holy and Living God.
What if we came into church each Sunday like this:
First, we take off our shoes at the door and place them on a rack.
Then we walk in the door and bow to the sanctuary candle, or the altar, or both.
Then we walk to our pew, turn around and bow to the pew. Then we stand and wait till everyone else gets in the room,
then we turn toward the center aisle and each side of the church bows to the other side. we bow to each other.
And then we sit down.
This is what happens in a Buddhist meditation hall. They take off shoes, come in the door, bow to the Buddha,
their teacher who teaches them how to bring peace, to end suffering in the world.
Then they bow to their meditation cushion, the place where they hear the teachings, the place of their journey, and then they bow to the community, the place where they practice the teachings of their beloved teacher.
So we can do this too. Bowing means reverencing, or revering, or honoring.
We already bow to our great and beloved teacher, Jesus, who teaches us how to end suffering, how to live in compassion and peace and hope.
We already bow to the cross and the gospel book as they process into the church. Then we could also bow to our pew, the place where we will listen and learn and pray,
and then we could bow to each other – our fellow pilgrims with whom we will practice the teachings we have just heard.
We already pass the peace of Christ – what if when we do that, we remember we are also practicing peace with each other.
The importance of this place – this community, this altar, this sanctuary light, this pew, this room, the importance of this dwelling place –
is infused throughout our readings today.
King Solomon stands before the altar of the Lord and spreads out his hands to the dwelling place.
Our psalmist longs for the courts of the Lord, as a place of home, nest for the sparrow, a place of springs of water. The courts of the Lord – all of this - is a landing pad for pilgrims on a spiritual journey.
That is why we are here isn’t it?
For a spiritual journey? To learn how to pray, to learn who to pray to. To learn how to be a good person, for our children to grow up to be good people, to have a moral compass, to respect the dignity of all people, which we say in our Baptismal Covenant,
to get peace in our lives and peace in the world, to end the suffering and violence and cruelty. To find unity and meaning with all that is.
We come here to learn something different than what we learn outside of here. To learn the skillful means to practice peace when we do leave here, this place of springs of water, this nest for the sparrow, these courts of the Lord.
Paul is writing a letter to the Ephesians – a Gentile mission church he established on his way back to Jerusalem after a long mission trip. After Pentecost the new Christian church spread rapidly throughout Gentile territory, mostly thanks to Paul. He stayed in Ephesus for three years, and later wrote this letter to them, or one of his followers might have written it.
It is a letter of encouragement.
How to act, how to live in the family, in marriage, and in worship. It is a letter of totality – surrounding, immersing us in what he calls the whole armor of Christ.
What we might call attuning ourselves to the teacher, the teachings, the community - the courts of the Lord.
So to be surrounded, immersed, attuned, we bow and reverence the Christ, the candle, the altar.
We bow to our journey, our pew, the place of hearing the teachings that matter so much to the world. We bow to each other for support, for remembrance, and we make ourselves ready to proclaim, as Paul says in his letter, to proclaim the gospel of peace.
What if we loved this work, this practice, these skillful means, so much, that we were compelled to take off our shoes at the door? to be in a state of vulnerability rather than a state of readiness to run? To be vulnerable, to put on this armor that Paul speaks of: belt, breastplate, sword, shield, helmet – and radically bow to the practice of peace.
It is so radical, it doesn’t seem natural. It seems man is wired to react, retaliate, defend. Yes, in the ancient part of our brain, the reptilian brain it is called, where duality and separateness reign.
But Jesus operated out of the front of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, I think that is what the scientists call it. It is the place of higher thinking, complex thinking, the place of unity and compassion and love.
It is so radical we need a place to practice before we go out of this place and proclaim the gospel of peace.
So this letter today is a letter of encouragement to you.
A letter of how we make ourselves ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
By being vulnerable.
By bowing to each other – those who will help us in this difficult journey. And bowing to the teacher, to the altar, to the sacrament of bread and wine that are life, and hope that we might be able to make the whole world
a place of springs of water,
a nest for the sparrow,
the inner sanctuary
and the courts of the Lord. Amen