Friends: Today I find myself reacting to a sting that could not smart more had it been delivered by a bee. And in some sense it was, since “B” is also the first letter of the surname of the spokeswoman of the Lady’s Auxiliary who delivered it. Beyond this, my inborn sense of tact requires that I not identify her further. (Suffice it to say that I earnestly pray that Mr. Carrington Bertram does not have an aversion to emaciated harpies, lest his matrimonial choice turn out to be have been a calamity of ill-consideration.)
Last Monday, this skeletal “bee” came to the Rectory for tea, and proceeded to inform me that most recent meeting of the Auxiliary had two agenda items: number one, Mrs. Bertram’s own effort to counter the sinister influence of the Hip-Hop music on the Youth, and, number two, complaints about last week’s sermon. Offering her a crumpet I knew she would never accept, I banteringly enquired if any complaints about the sermon had been forthcoming. To my shock and horror, there was barely an intake of breath before she embarked on a litany that began with the length of the sermon, and ended with an untoward focus on “idolatry’ and an unhealthy pre-occupation with one Miss Gwendolyn Patel. Miss Patel, buzzed the bee, apropos of nothing, was young enough to be my granddaughter!
In the intervening days since this outrage, I have nevertheless striven to turn the other cheek. I find that taking long walks is a good way to clear the mind of homicidal impulses, and so have been wandering through areas of town into which I had heretofore never ventured. On Wednesday, I was on the “wrong” side of the tracks, and heard a strain of music wafting through a broken window. As I listened, I surmised that this was some of the “Hip-Hop” music that the Lady’s Aux was so exercised about. I wrote down the lyrics, and as I have since pondered them, I find not only are they not objectionable, but they are, in their small way, profound! It turns out the “wrong” side of the tracks was the “right” side on that day! I am speaking figuratively, of course.
Today’s reading is from the lyric I so fortuitously overheard. The song’s title appears to be “First I look at the purse,” and I would like to introduce it to you. The song begins:
Some folks look at the eyes/ Some folks look at the nose/ Some folks look at the size/ Some folks look at the clothes/ I don’t care if her eyes are red/ I don’t care if her nose is long/ I don’t care if she’s underfed/ I don’t care if her clothes are worn/
Today’s youth is continually barraged with the message that superficial measures are the most important. Imagine if everyone was judged solely on qualities such as spindly frames, loose clothes, and gaunt noses? You wouldn’t like that, would you? Certainly for some of our flock, even prominent members of the Lady’s Aux, this would be a case of “making three strikes and so being out” as our friends who toss around the baseball love to opine. And yet the lyric tells us that we cannot judge underfed people so harshly, for that is a superficial measure, and does not hold a candle to more important considerations.
Yet how do we measure critical spiritual attainments? It is easy for a man of the cloth, because you may judge him by the brilliance of his sermons. In the case of people who may or may not be sitting right next to Mr. Carrington Bertram in the front pew, Romans 14:3 enjoins us to exercise care: “Let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth not.” We must not assess a book by its cover, even if the cover shrouds it like an opera dress on a weather-beaten scarecrow. And this is where the Hip-hop music once again guides us:
First I look at the purse!
We do not have to be Calvinists to understand that the surest way to know if someone is averse to hard work is if they are carrying a worn, mangy purse! Why else are you wearing your Sunday Best, if not to assure the Lord that you have been working hard enough to afford a new fashion ensemble? And the Lord appreciates that about you, or else why would we so often see people who don’t dress in good clothes end up in the poorhouse? The next time you pass a horde of vagrants, check to see if they know to accessorize properly. And ask yourself if this could be a chance correlation, or if it must be evidence of a Grand Design?
A woman can be as fat as can be/ With kisses sweet as honey/ But that don’t mean a thing to me/ If she ain’t got no money
Kissing a woman that is too fat, we are told, is almost as bad as kissing a woman that is too thin. Here, the Hip-hop bards are surely referring to the problem of eating disorders that afflicts so many of the more privileged youngsters in our community. Indeed, this problem was foreseen in the Good Book, since Proverbs 25:16 warns us: “If you find honey, eat just enough -- too much of it, and you will vomit.” Throwing up the honey would be wrong! The Psalm describes the proper Christian way to go about this: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,” (51:7). I would urge some of the older ladies in the Congregation to please make a note of it.
It is far better to accumulate deposits in the bank than in the thighs, and indeed, we need look no further than the comely images of Mary over centuries of portraiture to realize that her fine raiment and well-toned physique were surely signs of her virtue. It would be inappropriate to call Mary, the mother of our Lord, either freshazimiz or phatilicious, but she clearly is all that. Indeed, who among the male members of the congregation has not thought to himself: “Oh, to have been in the Holy Ghost’s shoes, if the Holy Ghost had shoes,” eh?
The message here – perchance I should call it the “money” message – is that there are members of the community, some who tend to harangue and vilify the Youth, who may actually have something to learn from the Youth (perhaps we might think of the Youth as Africanized honeybees who may actually teach the older European honeybees a thing or two). They must learn, because while “B” may begin the word “battleaxe,” it also begins the words “be” “beaten” “by” and “Beelzebub.” And that is the path some of you are on, or my name is not Reverend Cavendish!
Labels: Sunday Sermon