Second Sunday in Lent- Fr. Chris- February 25, 2018

February 25, 2018

 

Audio Version

Do you know how long it takes to reenact the 1964 Christmas TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” If it helps, the original show was 55 minutes long. And so any idea on how long it takes to then act it out on your own? Well when Nils Morgan Duncan, my 4-year old son, is the director, the answer is 90 minutes. Under Nils’ direction the run time is increased by at least half an hour. That’s right, the Duncan household must have watched Rudolph’s story at least 20 million times this past Christmas. So much so that one evening Nils had us all reenact the entire show. We all played various parts, but Nils played the coveted roles of Hermie the Elf, Santa, and of course, Rudolph… I believe I was assigned the part Abominable Snowman.

For those not familiar with this 1964 TV special, it is based on the legend of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The original poem was written as a promotional book giveaway by Robert May for Montgomery Ward Department Stores in 1939. The story took a back seat during World War II due to paper shortage and the name Rudolph sounding a little too German. However, by 1947 the war was over and the book was picked up by a publisher and then later turned into the beloved song we know today. The story really took off when Gene Autry recorded and released the song and as we all know, from there, Rudolph went down in history.

The story gained such renown that in 1964 it was turned into a stop-action TV special and in 2017 the Duncan clan’s DVD copy was just about worn out. The story is about Rudolph, the reindeer born with a glowing red nose which makes him a misfit in Christmas Town. Then there is Hermie, the elf who doesn’t like to make toys and instead dreams of becoming a dentist. You have had plenty of time to see this special since 1964, but just in case get ready for some plot spoilers. Anyway, Rudolph and Hermie run away and meet Yukon Cornelius, the prospector. All together, they are trying to keep away from the Abominable Snowman. Throughout the movie, they sing “Why am I such a misfit? I am not such a nitwit… why don’t I fit in?” Rudolph and Hermie just can’t seem to find a place where they feel they belong.

Paul writes, “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” In the Old Testament, God makes three great covenants and all three are found in the first two books of the Bible, Genesis and Exodus. Last Sunday we heard about the first one, when God put his bow in the sky as a sign to Noah and all flesh that he would not drown creation again. Next Sunday, we will hear a bit about the third covenant with Moses and the Law. But today… today we get a portion of Abraham’s covenant and with it a name change. Abraham’s covenant is threefold:

  1. A multitude of nations- in other words, Abraham was going to have at least one child and from his lineage there would be a vast family tree full of life and greatness.
  2. God will give Abraham and his descendants great wealth.
  3. Finally, God promises Abraham that his descendants will be blessed or have the Lord’s favor.

Now in today’s lesson, we hear a repeat of just one portion of Abraham’s covenant from God pertaining to becoming a great nation. Throughout Scripture, there is a repeated theme of women who due to their age or circumstance should not be having children. Take for instance Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, and even Mary, the mother of Jesus. God’s promise that Abraham will be the father of a great line of people is significant because of Abraham and Sarah’s age. Within this covenant, what we heard in Genesis was that it was conditioned on Abraham’s virtue. Specifically, God says, “…walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you…” And as a mark of this covenant, there is male circumcision, but also Abram and Sarai’s names were changed. Abram, by itself, means “Father” and “hamon” means “multitude.” Therefore, Abraham means the “father of a multitude.” At the same time, Sarai’s name changes to Sarah which signifies her role in this covenant as well. Her name change is to a more formal dialect which means “princess.”

Back in the North Pole, Rudolph, Hermie, and Yukon find themselves in a close call with the Abominable Snowman and wind up landing on the Island of Misfit Toys. Here they encounter all the toys that no one thinks are worth playing with such as “A Charlie-in-the-Box,” a train with square wheels on his caboose, a bird that can’t fly but swims, a cowboy that rides an ostrich, and a water pistol that squirts jelly. All the misfit toys want is a chance to know the love and joy that comes with belonging, but as they declare about themselves they are all misfits. However, our heroes are misfits too. And in the end, it is the misfits who save the day. They tame the Abominable Snowman, return to Christmas Town, the Rudolph with his nose so bright guides Santa’s sleigh, and the special ends with the toys being picked up by Santa and delivered to loving children all over the world. The misfits find that they in fact had a special role to play.

Despite God’s charge to live blamelessly that we heard in today’s reading, Abraham is a bit of a misfit. In fact, that is what Paul’s letter to the Romans is pointing out. Paul is saying that Abraham was not righteous because of what he did. No, he was righteous because God reached out with love and grace and Abraham responded with faith. Let’s refresh ourselves a little bit about our righteous Abraham and Sarah. Abraham gives up Sarah, his wife, who is also his sister, to the Pharaoh in Egypt in trade for sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels, and even slaves. Then the Pharaoh is stricken sick and he sends them both away and they keep everything that was given to them. Later, after first hearing the promise of children, Sarah laughs at God, but then does not get pregnant immediately. So she offers up one of her slaves, one of the ones she got in Egypt with that shady deal, to sleep with Abraham and then she plans on taking the child from Hagar to make her own… And Abraham, he goes along with the plan. Abraham and Sarah later kick Hagar and her child out of the tribe to survive in the wilderness on their own. And then Abraham will later pull the whole “you can have her because she’s just my sister” trick to the king of Negeb and once again they get even more riches.

Now don’t get me wrong, this was definitely happening during a different time and different place, but even still, Abraham was not the most upright in action. He did not in fact live “blamelessly.” But through it all, he had faith… A faith that will inform generations all the way to us sitting here today and beyond. And quite frankly look at all of the people in the Bible… Except for Jesus, they are all misfits, but even Jesus wasn’t exactly what the people were looking for initially. And yet as Paul says about Abraham, “Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’” Paul goes on to say, “It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

You see, we too are the misfit toys. But thanks be to God there is grace and there is love that calls us into a closer relationship with our creator. And through Christ, we find that we do fit in and are accepted. The fact that we are misfits only highlights the greatness of the creator at work within us. This season of Lent is about remembering who we are and whose we are. It is about understanding that we are not God and that each of us falls short. Yet, the freedom in that discovery, in that proclamation is that we are then able to live more fully in the light of God’s love and grace and to freely share it with others. And so from one misfit to another… Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist

Address

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785
Website:http://www.stpaulskaty.org
Email:info@stpaulskaty.org

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