Saturday, July 7, 2012

"We need some crazy Christians" and Harriet Beecher Stowe

Bishop Curry from North Carolina preached this morning.  He didn't even have to open his mouth before I was excited: I've heard him preach before. 

Bishop Curry preaching at General Convention 2012: We need some crazy Christians!

And I wasn't disappointed. 

Harriet Beecher Stowe was on our calendar for today from Holy Women, Holy Men.  It is Bishop Curry's opinion that, despite the liturgical propers, the best gospel passage for her would be the story from Mark in which Jesus' family tries to restrain him because, depending on the translation, "He has gone out of his mind," "He is beside himself," "He is mad," or, the best in his and my opinion, "They thought he was crazy and they went to get him under control."   As he pointed out regarding the last translation, that is exactly what the Church has been trying to do for centuries.

Because Jesus, by any  normal standards, was crazy.  Love your enemies? Bless them?

"I like being the Right Reverend," he said, "and the Exalted Pooh-bah," but, he said, Jesus said to get rid of all that because the greatest among you shall be your servant.  "Try that," he continued, "at the Republican or Democratic National Conventions."   

Rejoice when you are persecuted? "That's plumb crazy!... and we need some crazy Christians."

Mary Magdalene was crazy, he said.  Jesus gets executed as an enemy of the state. The sensible thing to do is run.  Take the roll call at the cross.  "Peter? Absent.  James? Absent.  Andrew? Absent.  Mary Magdalene? PRESENT.  Hallelujah!"  She was crazy enough to stand at the cross.  And we need to be crazy enough to stand up for Jesus and his love and compassion when it would be an insane thing to do.

We actually have a feast day, he said, for crazy Christians.  It's called All Saints Day.   And not All Sanes Day. Holy Women, Holy Men (formerly known as Lesser Feasts and Fasts) should be known as the Chronicles of Crazy Christians.

Bishop Curry then went on to talk about Harriet Beecher Stowe and all the crazy things she did when she could have been home safely raising a family.  He pictures her as a little old lady knitting and wearing a shawl - with some escaped slaves in her basement.  He sees her slipping slaves up north during a prayer meeting. Apparently Abraham Lincoln, upon being introduced to her, said, "So this is the little lady who started the Civil War" with her book Uncle Tom's Cabin, which so inspired the abolitionists.

We need, he said, more crazy Christians to start civil wars - not bloody ones, but ones against hunger and other evils.  We need Christians who are crazy enough to love like Jesus, crazy enough to give like Jesus, crazy enough to forgive like Jesus, crazy enough to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Amen, my brothers and sisters. Bishop Curry's got it right.

Later we sang a hymn from her writings set to Felix Mendelssohn's tune Consolation.  Here is the first verse.

Still, still with thee, when purple morning breaketh,
when the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with thee.

          -- Voices Found #30

Gracious God, we thank you for the witnesss of Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose fiction inspired thousands with compassion for the shame and sufferings of enslaved peoples, and who enriched her writings with teh cadences of the Book of Common Prayer.  Help us, like her, to strive for your justice, that our eyes may see the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ, when he comes to reign with you and the Holy Spirit in reconciliation and peace, one God, now and always. 

          -- Holy Women, Holy Men

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