A Homily Preached at Diocesan House

By Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow
9 August 2012
Judges 8:22-35, Psalm 27, Saint John 1:43-21 (Feria)

With a practiced finger, the sales clerk pushed the bridge of his spectacles half-way up his nose and squinted.  “You could ride this bicycle all the way to heaven.”  The young lady, just twelve, returned her answer, “All I know is that I want to ride and to ride and to ride.  How shall I know if I get to heaven?”  “First of all,” the sales clerk said, “you’ll be on your way by doing what you really want to do.”  With practiced skill, he continued.  “And you will know you are there, because you will forget to ask your question along the way.”

And so it is.  The Lord who made us made it possible for us to find him by following what he made us to enjoy.  I have staked my life on this proposition: where there is truth, there is God.  It is not really possible to misappropriate truth.

In the Gospel today, Nathanael asks Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?” (1:48).  The answer “I saw you under the fig tree” means something like “How could I not know you?”  You see, we are his, and his forever.  Our paths lead to him.  Our paths are in him.  I know I have forgotten to ask my questions along the way.


A Rope We Cannot Give Away

A Homily Preached at Diocesan House by Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow
Thursday after Advent Sunday

Isaiah 26:1-6, Psalm 118:19-24, Saint Matthew 7:21-27
1 December 2011

[Better to understand the image of the rope, look at Edwin Friedman’s fable, “The Bridge.”  It has been made into a brief film, “The Crux,” available on YouTube.  The Staff at Diocesan House have seen it and discussed it.  —  H. S.]

It happens every year.  It is as certain as finding Santa Claus at Macy’s in November.

Here we are almost at the very beginning of Advent, and things are about to take a turn.  They do every year.  The solemn and sobering image of our Lord as Savior and Judge will again this year, as it does every year, morph into the image of our Lord as a pitiable and helpless Baby, so helpless that even our help seems necessary.  Even a Little Drummer Boy has a gift to offer.

I understand this.  It’s so much more rewarding to be helpful than it is to be accountable.  Taking a rope is a lot more fun than being asked what in the world we’re doing with rope in our hands—especially when the rope isn’t our own.

While we have time, let’s let our Lord be our Savior and Judge, and not distort him into helplessness.  He can be a Savior and Judge at once, at the same time, because his Mercy is his Justice, and his Justice is his Mercy.  I mean by this that Jesus’ love for us, unconditional and uncompromised, seems to be one or the other, depending upon where we are, where we’ve strayed or where we haven’t strayed, or whether we’ve identified with him or accepted a substitute.

In the terms of the Gospel today, we receive his Justice if our house is built on sand, if we’ve heard and not acted on his words.  We receive his Mercy if our house is built on rock, if we’ve heard and acted on his words.

Each one of us has the power, the freedom, to decide which foundation our lives shall have.  We inevitably become in this life what we most want to be.  And this choice is a rope that we cannot give away either in time or in eternity.