Sunday, May 08, 2005

Buy Truth and Don't Sell It

I attend a Lutheran church, but it's one of those churches that has abandoned the standard lectionary. We only visit the standard texts for Christmas, Holy Week, Pentecost and sometimes Advent. Ordinarily this bothers me, especially when, for instance, Ascension Sunday is pre-empted by a Mother's Day celebration.

But today, I got a few surprise blessings in the deal.

The first was in the reading, which today was from Proverbs 23. I have the idea in my mind that the Biblical texts read in the liturgy should speak to us just as much as the sermon does, if not more so. I'm convinced that is their purpose in the liturgy. But in practice, I've rarely seen it happen that way, perhaps because of how thoroughly the sermon has usurped the role of the texts.

But today, the text spoke to me. As Psalm 23 was being read, one line took hold of me and captured my focus: "Buy truth and don't sell it." Maybe it will leave you cold. When I talked to my wife about it, she wasn't impressed. But it spoke to me. "Buy truth and don't sell it."

What it said to me was this: Truth is valuable. It is worth sacrificing for. We should do what we can to obtain truth. It's worth bending our rules to obtain it. We should seek it out. It's worth the cost. And conversly, we shouldn't be willing to part with truth. It's a treasured possession. Once we have it, we shouldn't let it go for anything.

The second blessing I received this morning was, I think, an illustration of this. As I said, our church was celebrating Mother's Day today. As part of the children's sermon, the children were given flowers to distribute to all the women in the congregation. While this was going on, one of our church's adminstrative assistants sang a song. What you should know about this woman is that she has dedicated her life to the service of the Church. So far as I know, she has always been single. The Church is her family.

There are a number of women like this in my church -- women who haven't chosen the "traditional" life of wife and mother, women who have, I believe, a vocation to the single life, women who give themselves completely to the rest of us.

And so this woman who sang during the distribution of flowers had a note put in the bulletin which said, "This song is dedicated to all women who nuture through Christian love." With this simple note, she transformed my perception of what we were celebrating from the biological and social function of motherhood to a deeper sense of nurturing and life-giving spirit.

She bought truth.

Then the third blessing was that our assistant pastor, who has an incredible gift for taking banal assignments and transforming them into something beautiful, also picked up on this deeper theme and, with the help of a couple of key passages from Isaiah, turned what was billed as a sermon about mothers, into a wonderful message about how there are some aspects of what God does that simply can't be grasped with anything other than the image of a mother.

He didn't sell truth.


LutheranChik said...

This is a bit off tangent, but I loved the way the people in your church expanded the concept of "motherhood" to include everyone.

Interestingly, in my church -- which consists of many extended families who've lived in the area forever, and where prayers tend to be family-focused -- my pastor has begun praying, in the Prayer of the Day, for "single people and their friends." I really appreciate that.

Andy said...

Actually, that's not off tangent at all. That was the main thing that got me started on this post. If it seemed like my point was something else, it was me who got sidetracked by what it was wrapped in.