Mar 272017
 

Audio Sermon for 8 AM

Sermon for Sunday, March 26, 2017 – The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Audio Sermon for 10:15 AM

Sermon for Sunday, March 26, 2017 – The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Text for Sermon at 8am 

          That Gospel reading alone is a sermon unto itself.  So, I decided to take a slightly different slant on this sermon.  This week I invited Vestry members and a few other parish leaders to join me in an exercise to engage with this morning’s scripture readings and to create short poems known as centos. I will say more about that in just a minute, but first there is one homiletic point about our Gospel reading that I feel compelled to make.  It is in regard to term “The Jews” as used in this reading and throughout the Gospel according to John.

It is important to know and remember that all of the characters in this story are Jews.  It seems obvious, but perhaps it cannot be said too many times – Jesus was a Jew.  One of the historical truths about John’s Gospel is that it was written at a time when Christians were being expelled from synagogues and the split between Judaism and Christianity was forming.  There is a hint of that historical reality in this story when we are told the man born blind was expelled from the synagogue for testifying that Jesus came from God.  The writer of John uses the term “The Jews” throughout to refer to hostile Jewish authorities with whom Jesus and his disciples clashed.   We will come upon this phrase “The Jews” again next week in our Gospel and on Palm Sunday in our passion Gospel.  So we need to be mindful of this historical context and not extrapolate that the Gospel condemns Jews – for that is a sad part of Christian history that has contributed to the suffering of legions of our Jewish neighbors. And indeed, Jesus does not condemn even those who sent him to the cross – hanging there he says “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Those words are for all of humanity!

          That said I want to turn now to sharing more with you about the cento form of poetry as a way of engaging the lectionary readings that is both fun and quite profound.  I had never heard of this form of poetry until our diocesan Pre-Lenten Clergy Retreat in that Jay and I attended in February. The retreat was led by The Rev. Roger Ferlo who is the Dean of Bexley Hall Seabury Seminary in Ohio, and a friend of our Bishop Alan.  Roger presented us with a fascinating program that got us to use the creative centers of our brain. 

His last exercise with us was to invite us into the process of constructing poems in this form known as cento.  The website poetry.com says this about the cento form:

From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets. Though poets often borrow lines from other writers and mix them in with their own, a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources… Modern centos are often witty, creating irony or humor from the juxtaposition of images and ideas.

Roger Ferlo’s slant on writing centos was specific to scripture.  He had each of us at the retreat read a set of lectionary texts for one of the Sundays in Lent, and then gave us the following directions:

Step 1. Read the four passages slowly, marking words and phrases that catch your eye or ear or in some way rivet your attention.

Step 2. Take a second look at the words or phrases you’ve marked.  Choose one from the Old Testament reading (at random is fine) to start your drafting process.  Keep the phrase short, no more than 8 to 10 syllables, give or take.  It’s OK to work with someone else if that’s easier and more fun (or less scary).

Step 3. Do the same for each successive passage (Psalm, New Testament, Gospel), juxtaposing a phrase from each passage that in some way speaks to (probes, explains, contradicts, supplements, seems to follow upon the thought of) the opening phrase.

  1. You now have the draft of a cento. Read it aloud as a stand-alone poem, just to yourself or to someone else if that helps. What makes sense to you?  What new or unexpected meanings emerge?  You may decide that a line you’ve chosen is inadequate to the task of emerging meaning.  Look for a substitute.  Don’t hesitate to ask for advice. And don’t worry if what emerges doesn’t seem pious.  Heterodoxy (difined as thought not conforming with accepted or orthodox standards or beliefs) sometimes goes with the territory.  Poets barge in where theologians fear to tread.

(Directions for writing a Cento from The Rev. Roger Ferlo)

          I love that last line, “poets barge in where theologians fear to tread” because it highlights that this is not a process that is meant to bring us to insights that make systematic sense.  Rather it is a spiritual tool that can help us be free to hear what the Spirit is trying to be speak to our heart as we engage with our holy texts.  And that can be fun, soulful, surprising, disconcerting, deeply comforting. 

          You will find these directions for writing scripture centos on an insert to your bulletin so that you can take them with you if you like.  I commend this to you as a tool to use in whatever ways might feed you.  I will end now by sharing 11 centos constructed this week by several 8 am service attendees for me to share with you as part of this sermon.  They are all based on the scripture texts we have shared here today.  I am just going to read them to you in the order I received them, with a slight pause in between each. What I notice is that all together they beautifully form into a larger cento with wonderful repeating of certain lines and many shades of meaning.

          So here they are, St. Paul’s Newburyport  8 am Centos:

1

The Lord looks on the heart.

He revives my soul and guides me

Live as children of light

God’s works might be revealed in me

2

Sanctify yourselves and come

Down in green pastures

Christ will shine on you

And now I see

3

Sanctify yourselves and come

Through the valley of the shadow

Rise from the dead

Who had formerly been blind

4

I will show you what you shall do.

Goodness and mercy shall follow me

Live as children of light.

Give glory to God!

5

Fill your horn with oil and set out

along right pathways

Try to find what is pleasing

Give glory to God.

6

Fill your horn with oil and set out’

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow

Try to find what is pleasing

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this

7

How long will you grieve?

The Lord is my shepherd

now in the Lord you are light

one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.

8

Anoint for me
Goodness and mercy
Exposed by the light
Received my sight

9

The Lord looks on the heart,

and leads me beside still waters.

In the Lord you are the light.

I went and washed and received my sight.

10

The Lord looks on the heart

My cup is running over.

Live as children of light

“Lord, I believe.”

11

Once you were in darkness, but now 

as I am the light of the world,

Sleepers awake!

Live as children of light.

In the name of Christ. Amen+

 

Text for Sermon at 10:15 am

          That Gospel reading alone is a sermon unto itself.  So, I decided to take a slightly different slant on this sermon.  This week I invited Vestry members and a few other parish leaders to join me in an exercise to engage with this morning’s scripture readings and to create short poems known as centos. I will say more about that in just a minute, but first there is one homiletic point about our Gospel reading that I feel compelled to make.  It is in regard to term “The Jews” as used in this reading and throughout the Gospel according to John.

It is important to know and remember that all of the characters in this story are Jews.  It seems obvious, but perhaps it cannot be said too many times – Jesus was a Jew.  One of the historical truths about John’s Gospel is that it was written at a time when Christians were being expelled from synagogues and the split between Judaism and Christianity was forming.  There is a hint of that historical reality in this story when we are told the man born blind was expelled from the synagogue for testifying that Jesus came from God.  The writer of John uses the term “The Jews” throughout to refer to hostile Jewish authorities with whom Jesus and his disciples clashed.   We will come upon this phrase “The Jews” again next week in our Gospel and on Palm Sunday in our passion Gospel.  So we need to be mindful of this historical context and not extrapolate that the Gospel condemns Jews – for that is a sad part of Christian history that has contributed to the suffering of legions of our Jewish neighbors. And indeed, Jesus does not condemn even those who sent him to the cross – hanging there he says “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Those words are for all of humanity!

          That said I want to turn now to sharing more with you about the cento form of poetry as a way of engaging the lectionary readings that is both fun and quite profound.  I had never heard of this form of poetry until our diocesan Pre-Lenten Clergy Retreat in that Jay and I attended in February. The retreat was led by The Rev. Roger Ferlo who is the Dean of Bexley Hall Seabury Seminary in Ohio, and a friend of our Bishop Alan.  Roger presented us with a fascinating program that got us to use the creative centers of our brain. 

His last exercise with us was to invite us into the process of constructing poems in this form known as cento.  The website poetry.com says this about the cento form:

From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets. Though poets often borrow lines from other writers and mix them in with their own, a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources… Modern centos are often witty, creating irony or humor from the juxtaposition of images and ideas.

Roger Ferlo’s slant on writing centos was specific to scripture.  He had each of us at the retreat read a set of lectionary texts for one of the Sundays in Lent, and then gave us the following directions:

Step 1. Read the four passages slowly, marking words and phrases that catch your eye or ear or in some way rivet your attention.

Step 2. Take a second look at the words or phrases you’ve marked.  Choose one from the Old Testament reading (at random is fine) to start your drafting process.  Keep the phrase short, no more than 8 to 10 syllables, give or take.  It’s OK to work with someone else if that’s easier and more fun (or less scary).

Step 3. Do the same for each successive passage (Psalm, New Testament, Gospel), juxtaposing a phrase from each passage that in some way speaks to (probes, explains, contradicts, supplements, seems to follow upon the thought of) the opening phrase.

  1. You now have the draft of a cento. Read it aloud as a stand-alone poem, just to yourself or to someone else if that helps. What makes sense to you?  What new or unexpected meanings emerge?  You may decide that a line you’ve chosen is inadequate to the task of emerging meaning.  Look for a substitute.  Don’t hesitate to ask for advice. And don’t worry if what emerges doesn’t seem pious.  Heterodoxy (difined as thought not conforming with accepted or orthodox standards or beliefs) sometimes goes with the territory.  Poets barge in where theologians fear to tread.

(Directions for writing a Cento from The Rev. Roger Ferlo)

          I love that last line, “poets barge in where theologians fear to tread” because it highlights that this is not a process that is meant to bring us to insights that make systematic sense.  Rather it is a spiritual tool that can help us be free to hear what the Spirit is trying to be speak to our heart as we engage with our holy texts.  And that can be fun, soulful, surprising, disconcerting, deeply comforting. 

          You will find these directions for writing scripture centos on an insert to your bulletin so that you can take them with you if you like.  I commend this to you as a tool to use in whatever ways might feed you.  I will end now by sharing 12 centos constructed this week by several 10:15 am service attendees for me to share with you as part of this sermon.  They are all based on the scripture texts we have shared here today.  I am just going to read them to you in the order I received them, with a slight pause in between each. What I notice is that all together they beautifully form into a larger cento with wonderful repeating of certain lines and many shades of meaning.

          So here they are, St. Paul’s Newburyport  10:15 am Centos:

1

Sanctify yourselves and come

Down in green pastures

Christ will shine on you

And now I see

2

Sanctify yourselves and come

Through the valley of the shadow

Rise from the dead

Who had formerly been blind

3

For the Lord does not see as mortals see

He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways…
Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true
One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see

4

Fill your horn with oil and set out

along right pathways

Try to find what is pleasing

Give glory to God.

5

Fill your horn with oil and set out’

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow

Try to find what is pleasing

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this

6

The spirit of the Lord came mightily

I will fear no evil

Children of the light

We are not blind, are we?

7

The Lord does not see as mortals see.

In the Lord you are light;

Born blind so that God’s works might be revealed.

I shall not be in want.

8

Fill your horn with oil and set out;

goodness and mercy shall follow me;

now in the Lord you are light;

I went and washed and received my sight.

9

I will show you what you shall do.

For you are with me.

All that is good and right and true

Lord, I believe.

10

The spirit of the Lord came mightily

Your goodness and mercy shall follow me

In the Lord you are light

He opened my eyes

11

How long will you grieve
I have come to sacrifice
I shall fear no evil
Now in the Lord you are light
Though I was blind, now I see.

12

Here is an astonishing thing!
The spirit of the Lord came mightily.
Light is found in all that is good and right and true.
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In the name of Christ. Amen+

 

 

 

 

 

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