Mark 12:38-44 -- Teaching in the temple, Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!”
A little ironic, isn’t it, that the Sunday following the Liturgical Double Header of the Investiture and Installation services at Washington’s National Cathedral we get a Gospel text warning about those who like to parade around in long robes and hang out in church and banquet halls!
Of course, the point Jesus was making was not that there was anything wrong with being “a scribe” or dressing up for church. The point Jesus was making was the same one he made over and over and over again – the one that threatened the “orthodoxy” of his day so much that they finally plotted the execution of the revisionist rabbi from Nazareth. The point, of course, is that when the rituals meant to express our faith become more important than the action that faith calls us to we’ve missed the point. We’ve fallen short of the mark. We’ve failed to live up to God’s dream.
That was then. This is now. And it’s the same point.
The good news is that with all the parading around in long robes last Saturday and Sunday (and there was plenty of that and, for the record, I loved every minute of it!) there was a central focus on the Millennium Development Goals as a means for us to live out the Gospel. The Presiding Bishop called the church to claim the MDGs as a way to not only proclaim but accomplish “the year of the Lord’s favor” – to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind and release to the oppressed.
Not everyone was so enthusiastic about +Katharine’s MDG focus, however. Some folks who self-identify as “reasserters” had lots to say on their blogs about what they didn’t like about the Investiture – critiquing everything from the vestments to the hymns to the fact that there “wasn’t enough talk about Jesus.” Well, I guess I’d rather be part of a church focused on acting like Jesus than one focused on talking about Jesus. I’d rather be part of the “revisionist” tradition willing to challenge the orthodoxy in order to live out the Gospel. (See also: WWJD)
I want to be part of a church committed to proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor Sara McGinley writes about – the one daring to partner with God to end poverty in our generation, to work to turn the human race into the human family by breaking down barriers and building bridges rather than walls between peoples and faiths and nations.
And – as an unapologetic liturgy lover -- I want to be part of a church that lets us parade around in our long robes every once in awhile while we work together on those Gospel goals. I guess all of that adds up to why -- for all it's failings and faults and creaks and wobbles (yes, I'm still mad about B033!) -- this church of my birth and baptism is the place I continue to choose to live out my life of faith.
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the eff ectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.