7 Pentecost July 15, 2012–Object Lesson

Again this time, what I’m posting is from my notes as I didn’t write an entire script for myself, so this won’t be totally verbatim. Experimenting.

Good morning! I think I would call what I’m giving you today more of a reflection than a sermon, but I’ll let you be the judges. I may get a little longer than I originally intended.

I have to say that when I saw the Old Testament and Gospel readings for today, I was excited as I considered all the literary and pop culture references I could possibly make use of regarding David, the ark, and, of course, Salome, though she’s not named that in scripture–it’s Josephus and tradition who give her that name. In both Mark and Matthew, she’s known by the same name as her mother, Herodias (depending on the translation), but is more often simply referred to as “the girl,” as we’ve heard today. 

I love the these narratives–the intricacy and intrigue! As Jerry can attest from our EfM classes–I began year one, which is the study of the Old Testament–and would get very excited, especially when reading about David, who I found out is more than just a character who fought Goliath and united Israel and Judah. 

And so I reread an essay our friend Samuel wrote a few years ago about his method for teaching Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé,* which was the first thing that had popped into my head upon reading the Gospel lesson. One aspect Samuel discusses is the idea of objectification–the making of people into objects–when I read that, I knew what I wanted to talk about.

That’s a large part of what’s going on in today’s OT and Gospel readings. We see David making an object of himself, dancing, cavorting, and celebrating his blessings in front of the ark as it is brought down into Judah. That’s why David’s wife, Michal, who is Saul’s daughter, despises him. If you read a little further into 2 Samuel, you will find her asking David why was he dancing and making a fool of himself in front of all the people? 

We see the ark being made an object, the seat of the name of the Lord, something that needs to be protected and venerated so much so that in next week’s OT reading, a permanent home needs to be constructed, a home that will itself become The Temple, an object that assumes paramount importance to the Hebrew people up until the present day.

Of course, we see Salome made into an object of desire by Herod and an object of manipulation by her mother as she dances for her stepfather and his friends and pleases him so much that he is willing to give her anything. And she asks for an object–the head of John the Baptist, who as pointed out in Samuel’s essay, has been made an object by being separated from Word and flesh. Herod, though, had also made him an object of fear and veneration just as at the beginning of today’s reading, he and his advisors make Jesus an object by saying that he is Elijah, a prophet, or John the Baptizer raised from the dead–no possibility that he is simply himself.

We, in turn, objectify those in these stories. They have become objects of familiarity and comfort to us; they help affirm our faith.

As much as I could spend more time this morning indulging the academic in me, taking these stories and characters apart and analyzing them even further, there were several stories in the news this week that I think relate very well to this idea of objects.

We’re all familiar, as I’ve said, with the names of David, Herod, Salome, and Jesus, but how many of you are familiar with the name Najiba? No one? I wasn’t either until I heard about her story this week on the CNN website. She is the young Afghani woman, in her 20s, who was killed by the Taliban. According to one story, she was an object of desire and dispute between two Taliban commanders who had been having relations with her. In order to “save face,” they accused her of adultery, which is indeed a crime in Islam, but needs the matching testimony of four witnesses, gave her an hour-long trial, convicted her, sat her down on the ground, and at nearly point-blank range, shot her nine times from behind. All the while, nearly 100 men stood around on the hillside, laughing and cheering, “God is great!” All because she was considered nothing more than an object.

And what about the Sandusky case and the Penn State cover up? I know that Sandusky is human with failings, but it seems he considered the boys he molested as objects, as apparently did officials at the university, not as humans to be treated as such and protected.

I’m sorry for being so depressing. We do have good news this week in terms of no longer considering those in the LGBT community as objects as the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies at our Episcopal National Convention passed a resolution allowing the blessing of same-sex unions within our churches. That’s up to each diocese/bishop, but it’s a step forward.

And let us not forget how the poor, needy, and others on the margins are being used as objects in the political campaigns this year–discussed in broad terms, derogatory terms, not given voice though–as each side tries to influence voters. Certainly not often discussed as humans in need of help.

This is where Paul enters in; today’s New Testament reading is all about our adoption by God through Christ, who sees us as human, as individuals, and who loves us as such.

My prayer this week, then, as we all go forward in our journeys is that we remember that Christ on the cross is not an object to be only gazed upon, still and silent, but also the Son of Man who adopted us ALL as his own. As we act as his hands and feet in the world, let us also remember that none of us, as God’s children, are objects either. I hope we will treat each other as such, but also help others to see this, too. Amen.

Today’s lessons from the Revised Common Lectionary:
*Gladden, Samuel Lyndon. “Unveiling Salomé: The Word-Made-Flesh Undone.” Approaches to Teaching the Works of Oscar Wilde. Ed. Philip E. Smith II. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008. 180-187.

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