Scripture/Sermon of the Day.  May 9, 2021

Scripture Reading:  Acts 10:44-45.

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.

(1 John 5:1-3)

John 15:9-12 (17)

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.

Reflection/Sermon:

        The first reading from Acts reminds me of the short story of Flannery O’Connor called REVELATION.  It’s a parable, the kind of story Jesus told, about a woman named Mrs. Turpin.  The story begins with Mrs. Turpin sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with her husband, Claud, who was kicked by a cow and needed his leg looked at.  Mrs. Turpin thought she was a good Christian because she smiled at everybody and said “nice” things to them.  But, to herself, she judged everyone. 
        She thought a woman and her son in the waiting room were “white trash” because their clothing was cheap and they didn’t have manners — the little boy didn’t get up and offer Mrs. Turpin his seat so she had to stand until one was available.  Another girl, an adolescent, Mrs. Turpin thought was “ugly.”  Mrs. Turpin thought, “How pitiful to have a face like that at that age.”  But she smiled at the girl.
        Another woman’s clothing was cheap and dirty and her lips were stained with snuff and her “dirty yellow hair” was tied back with a piece of red paper ribbon.  Mrs. Turpin thought that woman was “Worse than negroes.”
        PEOPLE OF COLOR WERE AT THE BOTTOM OF MRS. TURPIN’S SOCIAL LADDER, ALTHOUGH SOME WHITE TRASH WERE EVEN LOWER.
        Mrs. Turpin believed that of all the people there, God loved her the most because she was nice even to the white trash and the negroes.

II.     At night when she couldn’t sleep, Mrs. Turpin imagined herself having a conversation with Jesus.  She’d think of who she would want to be if God had made her someone else.  She imagined Jesus saying to her before he made her:      “There’s only two places available for you.  You can either be a black person or white trash.”  She’d say, “Please, Jesus, please — let me wait until there’s another place available.”  And Jesus would say, “No, you have to go right now and I have only those two places so make up your mind.”  After protesting and begging she would finally say, “OK, make me a black person, but that don’t mean a trash one.”  So Jesus would make Mrs. Turpin a negro, but a clean, respectable one,a black version of herself.
III.    When she couldn’t sleep and she wasn’t talking to Jesus, Mrs. Turpin would name the different classes of people.  1) ON THE BOTTOM “were most colored people… 2) then the white trash, 3) then above them were the home-owners, and 4) above them, the home-and-land owners, to which she and her husband Claud belonged.” 
        5) The only people above her and Claud were people with a lot of money and bigger houses and more land.
        But things got complex.  Because 1) some people with a lot of money act like white trash and they’re below her.  And 2) some people with “good blood” had lost their money and had to pay rent.  And 3)some “colored people own property — like this colored dentist who lives in town and has two red Lincolns, a swimming pool and a farm with cattle.”

IV.     As the story goes on, the ugly girl in the waiting room — Mary Grace — for no reason, takes the heavy school text book she’s reading and hurls it at Mrs. Turpin’s face, hitting her hard above her left eye.  Then Mary Grace jumps up, howling and screaming, grabbing Mrs. Turpin’s neck and choking her.  A doctor and nurse pin Mary Grace down and inject her with a tranquilizer.  As they pull her off Mrs. Turpin, Mrs. Turpin asks her, “What you got to say to me?”  And Mary Grace whispers at her with venom and hate, “Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog.”

V.      When she gets home, Mrs. Turpin is angry with God for  allowing that.  As the sun sets she’s hosing off the hogs and asks  God:  “What do you send me a message like that for?  How am I a hog and me both?  Why me?  It’s no trash around here, black or white, that I haven’t given to.  And break my back every day working.  And give to the church.  So how am I a hog? 
        She shook her fist at the sky.
        “ Who do you think you are?” She screamed.

VI.     Then Mrs. Turpin looked up at the sky.  The sun had set behind the trees and the sky was red and purple.  In a vision she saw a giant bridge extending into heaven.  And upon it 1) vast hordes of white trash, clean for the first time, and 2) bands of black people in white robes, and 3) battalions of lunatics and freaks shouting and clapping and leaping.  And 4) last, marching with great dignity, were people like herself and Claud.  She could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.
        When it was dark, she went inside her house.  But she didn’t hear the loud chirping of crickets outside. 
        All she heard were the voices of all the souls climbing into heaven, shouting hallelujah.

VII.    Peter and all the people with him must have felt the same shock and astonishment as Mrs. Turpin did —they looked at each other and said, in disbelief:  “LOOK — THE HOLY SPIRIT FALLS ON THE GENTILES TOO!  HOW CAN THAT BE?  God loves all of us — the same.
        “Now what should we do,” they asked Peter, confused. “Following the law of Moses won’t save us.  Nothing we do will save us!  Now what?”
        AND THEY ALL HEARD A VOICE… the voice of Jesus, gentle but strong and clear, and all it said was:
        “Love one another as I have loved you.”