Every Thursday morning I offer a discussion group called Tea and Questions (and coffee too for those so inclined). Before heading into discussion, I also offer a morning prayer service with a short homily. Unfortunately due to various life circumstances and weather and all that-
nobody showed up this morning. one person showed up and we went right into discussion. I figure though, why let a good homily go to waste- I’ll post it on here.
For those who would like to read the bible lessons ahead, they are: Isaiah 60: 1-17 and 2 Timothy 2: 14-26. For reference to this homily I used the 2 Timothy passage.
I speak to you as a sinner to sinners, as a beloved of God to God’s beloved, and as one called to bear witness to those called to bear witness. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening… Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene.”
I imagine all of you have some idea of what gangrene is, if you don’t it is defined as the localized death and decomposition of body tissue. If left untreated the causal infection can spread and cause the gangrene to spread as well.
There are two kinds of problematic quarreling going on in this letter. The first mentioned is when an argument is started by one saying that another is wrong and then stating what they believe the truth to be. Believing differently, or correcting bad teaching is not the problematic aspect, it is when people begin to quarrel over things they cannot know. A good example here is predestination theology… fighting over things they cannot know is often what theologians do best. Theologians, like myself, are often well- intentioned and begin simply by writing or examining a theory to find its truth or lack thereof. It is when we forget about the larger picture and create factions over theories, theories that only God can truly know the answer to, that is where we go astray.
I admit I chuckled a bit because as a Trinity College student, I am aware of a longstanding rivalry with our fellow Anglican seminary across the street: Wycliffe. We wrangle about words like there is no tomorrow sometimes. 21st century Anglicans in the wider Church could sometimes use a reminder of this letter too. Differences divide us it seems on almost every issue: “High Church” vs “Broad Church” vs “Low Church”… liberal vs conservative… democratic vs socialist. These differences and perspectives are important to discuss, and discuss honestly but discussing and arguing are two different things… with an unfortunately thin and emotional line dividing them.
The second type of arguing that goes on in this letter is arguing or talking about holy things in a way that does not treat them as holy. Profane is the word Paul uses, which also means desecration- to make something that is sacred… not sacred. How then do we combat false teachings if we are not to secularize them, and we are not to argue them? Paul answers this in metaphor, he likens us to utensils in a kitchen- some are made of common materials and are for common use, but some are made of more precious materials. Most likely in your own homes you have dishes that you bring out for special occasions, and dishes that you use day- to- day and remain behind- the- scenes. Think of this though, if you went to someone’s house, and needed a glass of water; you go to the kitchen and notice that there are many glasses but all are dirty- maybe a lipstick stain here, maybe some hot chocolate residue or coffee grinds in others. Behind the sink there is a sparkling clean jam jar. Which one are you more likely to use?
When we follow Christ we are cleansed and transformed from being ordinary, everyday, behind- the- scenes into something more special. Then we use our gifts, bestowed by the Spirit and a part of what makes us special, to be kind, patient, and correct those false teachings with gentleness. Nobody’s heart was ever turned by yelling at them, but by gentle and loving discussion. Go and do likewise. Amen.
Until next time