Sermons 2007
"Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Lent 1C 2007 Luke 4:1-13

About six years ago I was in Atlanta, Georgia, a city to which I find myself returning often to see my three grandchildren and their parents. This particular occasion six years ago was to baptize my middle grandchild, the second granddaughter, Mary Claire Smith. It was a particularly joyous occasion for me. The celebrant that day was my Seminary classmate, the Reverend John Taliaferro Thomas, “JT” to us, son of Emory Thomas, the eminent Civil War Historian.

The preacher that day was a lay person, the wife of the resident priest theologian. And I must add, a much better preacher than he. I leave their names out lest someone find these remarks on the internet and create some unwanted and unneeded uxorial tension.

I remember the word she keyed on to lead into her sermon: liminal. Liminal – having to do with a threshold, the technical term is limen for thresholds, physical, psychological, and physiological. The term lintel, the crosspiece at the top of a door, comes from the same Latin term, limes, meaning border or limit.

It struck me that these two terms and the doorways they describe are good metaphors for our Lenten journey this year if for no other reason that we overuse wilderness and desert during this season of the Church year.

The ECW last week was privileged to hear Sue Ann Bangel describe her family’s Seder dinner each Passover. I was once privileged during my time as a Seminarian to be present at the congregational Seder dinner of Temple Beth-El, located right across Seminary road in Alexandria from Virginia Seminary. What was interesting about this Seder is that it took place in the Seminary Refectory – Refectory is one of those peculiar Anglican terms that means Dining Hall.

Having undergone significant reduction in income the years that I was in Seminary, I had hired myself out to be a server in the evenings in the Refectory, and so was part of the crew that volunteered to serve at this Seder Dinner. Once we had put the food on the table the rabbi – was a Reform congregation – invited us seminarians to join them for the dinner and the reading of the Passover liturgy. It was wonderful. It was a liminal experience. The entire liturgy, the entire Exodus experience, is summarized in part of our Deuteronomy Lesson for today:

"A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

I might add that Murray Newman, one of my favorite professors at Seminary, was the Old Testament professor who required all first year Seminarians to memorize the wandering Aramean passage and we were held accountable on an examination for having done so. Central to the Passover experience and the center of the Wandering Aramean experience is the threshold over which the Chosen people passed, and the lintel marked in blood under which they passed on their way into their 40 years in the desert.

I wonder sometimes how many of the ancient Israelites succumbed to the temptation NOT to cross that threshold, not to go through the door into an unknown future. Surely there were a few, Charlton Heston notwithstanding.

In our lives we come to two doors almost every day. One door is the path we need or should take; the other is not. Sometime the temptation is as simple as choosing to make the effort to recycle or not. I think the crunch point for me has been what to do with an old computer that I can’t even give away. I’ve thrown at least three of them into the trash bin without even thinking about how polluting that is. And the only recycling center I know of is a long inconvenient way away on US 360 beyond Tappahannock around Miller’s Tavern. Such small temptations, such a seemingly inconsequential step across that threshold but having done it once, it IS easier each time thereafter. And the consequences are not apparently immediate.

Crossing other thresholds through the door of temptation do have immediate consequences – and I suspect most of us, if not all, have suffered them from time to time. The Classical myth story of King Midas comes immediately to mind, without hitting too close to home. Midas begged the gods to make him wealthy beyond comparison. The representative of the gods asked Midas how he wished this to be done. Midas asked that everything he touched be immediately turned to gold – and so it was. When he picked up his wooden spoon to eat, it turned to gold. When he picked up an apple for dessert, it turned into gold. And when his dearly beloved daughter jumped into his lap before he could stop her, she turned into gold.

Maybe we can think more carefully about those liminal events that come hurtling seen and unseen into our lives, maybe we can chose carefully to cross those thresholds we should.