Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday in Advent 3

2 Peter 2:1-10a
V. 9 the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.

Judgment. The writer of 2 Peter is angry, and when we get angry we tend to see the world as right or wrong, good or evil, righteous or unrighteous, godly or depraved.

Many years ago now, before my coming to Rochester, I was invited by a Washington colleague to preach at her celebration of a new ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. She was becoming the rector of one of the minority progressive congregations there. I wondered with her whether this was a good idea or not, going into the lion's den, but she assured me all would be well.

I was vesting when the Bishop arrived, a man by the name of Robert Duncan. I introduced myself. He clearly didn't know who I was. he asked me the usual polite things: parish, bishop, seminary. "Welcome," he said. It occurred to me at that point that my friend had not told him who was preaching that night.

So I began mmy sermon lauding this wonderful parish and their terrific new rector who could bring together such disparate figures from the church as the Bishop of Pittsburgh and the President of Integrity. I smiled at the bishop. He did not smile back. the clergy in the first three rows were in various stages of distress. Off I went into the sermon.

After the service the bishop quickly left and I didn't get to speak to him. (I was with him at an event about a year later and he admitted that he probably would have asked me not to preach). But at the reception afterwards I had a lively conversation with several of the clergy of the diocese. If I recall right, three opened with the same line: "You preached the gospel tonight!" It is, I trust, to my eternal credit that I chose not to be sarcastic that night. I said simply, that's what I try to do, by the grace of God. Clearly I was a puzzle to them.

I started that service under their judgment. Of that I have no doubt. But I didn't turn out as they expected (and perhaps they didn't to me either). What a terrible thing judgment is, which is perhaps why Jesus (who I'll listen to for light years before I'll listen to 2 Peter) asks that we refrain from it.

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