Saturday, August 31, 2013

SUNDAY SERMON: KENT HARUF'S BENEDICTION

PAUL KLEE
BEFORE THE BLITZ, 1923
From Benediction, a novel by Kent Haruf.
Rev. Rob Lyle, of the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, is preaching on a Sunday morning. The text is from Luke.

"Love your enemies...what is Jesus Christ talking about? He can’t mean this literally. That would be impossible. He must be speaking of some utopian idea, a fantasy…

[Y]ou can’t love people who do evil. It’s neither sensible nor practical...They’ll only do wickedness and hatefulness again. And worse, they’ll think they can get away with this wickedness and evil, because they’ll think we’re weak and afraid. What would the world come to?

But… what if Jesus wasn’t kidding? What if he wasn’t talking about some never-never land? What if he really did mean what he said two thousand years ago? What if he was thoroughly wise to the world and knew firsthand cruelty and wickedness and evil and hate…from firsthand personal experience?... And what if in spite of all that he knew, he still said love your enemies?...

And what if we tried it? What if we said to our enemies: We are the most powerful nation on earth. We can destroy you. We can kill your children. We can make ruins of your cities and villages and when we’re finished you won’t even know how to look for the places where they used to be. We have the power to take away your water and to scorch your earth, to rob you of the very fundamentals of life. We can change the actual day into actual night. We can do all of these things to you. And more.

But what if we say, Listen: Instead of any of these, we are going to give willingly and generously to you. We are going to spend the great American national treasure and the will and the human lives that we would have spent on destruction, and instead we are going to turn them all toward creation. We’ll mend your roads and highways, expand your schools, modernize your wells and water supplies, save your ancient artifacts and art and culture, preserve your temples and mosques. In fact, we are going to love you...We have set our hearts on it. We will treat you like brothers and sisters. We are going to turn our collective national cheek and present it to be stricken a second time, if need be, and offer it to you. Listen, we—

But then he was abruptly halted. Someone from out in the congregation was talking. Are you crazy? You must be insane! A man’s voice. Deep-throated. Angry. Loud. Coming from over on the west side of the sanctuary near the windows. What’s wrong with you? Are you out of your mind?”

Later, Rev. Lyle reflects:

“People don’t want to be disturbed. They want assurance. They don’t come to church on Sunday morning to think about new ideas or even the old important ones. Thy want to hear what they’ve been told before, with only some small variation on what they’ve been hearing all their lives, and then they want to go home and eat pot roast and say it was a good service and feel satisfied.”

PAUL KLEE
DESTROYED PLACE, 1920

5 comments:

  1. You and Pope Francis seem to be on the same wavelength: http://en.radiovaticana.va/m_articolo.asp?c=724673

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  2. Glory be to God, Kevin, thank you! I'd seen something similar from the Pope but that he is calling for a day of prayer and fasting is so unbelievably theologically, spiritually, psychologically, and in every way sound that I can hardly stand it and will post the full text tomorrow.

    Cause the deal is: peace costs. Peace doesn't mean (and I say this for myself more than anyone) sitting around self-righteously spouting off and telling the rest of the world how to act. The sacrifices are mostly small, hidden, often consist of keeping our mouths shut rather than engaging in fruitless "discussion"...always the results are meager (in a worldly sense).

    But one of the myths we need to debunk is that the people who go to war (and this is in NO WAY to diminish their tremendous dedication, hard work, and sacrifice)are the ones who do all the work, while to be a peace-maker means to sit on your rear drawing pictures of unicorns. To be a peace-maker means being both infinitely passionate and infinitely tender, just as Christ was. Christ was the ultimate peace-maker and the cost was his life...

    All of this has been much, much on my mind. I've been reading lots of books, watching lots of films, taking lots of notes...So, what with the Pope's pronouncement, I think I'll just make this a whole week of reflection upon violence and non-violence, war and peace...

    Thanks again...

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    Replies
    1. Heather, I was electrified when I went to the link of Pope Francis' words! I can't get them off of my mind and I was imagining for a moment what it would feel like to see a major newspaper have them for the front page banner headlines! The call to ACTION is what stirred me so much. The accessibility and simplicity of his words moved me deeply. Thank you for making this the topic of today's post. (I started this reply before you posted for Sept. 2, but decided to finish this here.) I hope and pray it gets wide coverage. Kind of strange that this would happen just as you began some serious posts on nonviolence again....
      God bless you!

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  3. I loved Haruf's "Benediction" and I've been thinking a lot about what I would do about the Syrian situation if I were Obama. Clearly Rev Rob Lyle would not take the military strike option, but I think it's also clear that Haruf's opinion is that if Obama took a "Rob Lyle option" he would be condemned by the vast majority of Americans and his presidency would become untenable.

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  4. (((But… what if Jesus wasn’t kidding?)))

    I've said on 3 occasions in so many words while writing to our good Bishop in so many words that if "Jesus" didn't mean every word HE said then, He's the biggest liar who ever walked this earth and...

    END YA SAY sinner vic? BE NICE NOW!

    http://arsorandi.blogspot.ca/2013/08/do-we-need-fr-dwight-longenecker.html

    Go figure brothers and sisters in Christ! :)

    Peace

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I WELCOME your comments!!!