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22C Sirach 3: 17-8, 20, 28-9/ Hebrews 12:18-9, 22-4a / Luke 14:1 ,7-14
You know, if you look through Scripture—
from the Old Testament to the New Testament—
from Genesis to Revelation—
from creation to the second coming. . . .

God is consistent—
Very consistent—
with how He interacts with us humans.

God comforts the broken hearted!!!

God calls forth the humble for mission!!!

And God confronts—God challenges
the arrogant and the self-righteous
and the prideful.

Today, I want to use a story
by the Southern fiction writer Flannery O’Conner.

And when I read today’s Gospel—
I just couldn’t resist using it.

Flannery O’Conner’s story is called “Revelation.”

Mrs. Ruby Turpin and her husband, Claude,
walk into a tiny and crowded doctor’s office.

Claude was kicked by a cow—
and the ulcer on his leg that needed attention.

And as soon as the rather plump and self-assured
Mrs. Turpin enters the waiting room—
she immediately makes it known to everybody
that she’s not the sick one—
it’s only her husband Claude
who needs to see the doctor.

And then Ruby begins to size up everybody in the waiting room—
doing her mental arithmetic to
calculate everyone’s “worth.”

How they were dressed. . .
What kind of shoes they were wearing. . .
Whether they had bathed that day or not.

Whether they owned their a home or not—
What neighborhood they live in.

And what race they were—
Categorizing people if they were black or white trash.

Or were they decent folk—
like her and Claude.

She noticed the white trash woman
whose boy was covered in dirt and
had absolutely no manners at all.

And the lady who had bought her
jewelry with green stamps.

And then there was that extremely unattractive
college girl reading her college textbook—
Human Growth and Development.

What a horrible scowl she had—
Poor thing—
Ugly and a bad disposition to boot.

But much of Ruby Turpin’s time
was spent just being grateful.

“If it’s one thing I am,” she tells herself—“It’s grateful.”

Grateful she’s not black or white trash—
Grateful for all the gifts God has given her.

“When I think of all I could have been besides me,”
Ruby muses—“and all I got—
a little bit of everything—
and a good disposition besides,

I just feel like shouting
‘Thank you, Jesus—
Thank you Jesus for making
everything just the way it is.
Ruby starts up a mindless
conversation with the only other woman
in the room she deems as worthy.

She’s stylishly dressed—
and she’s the mother of the
ugly and scowling college girl
reading Human Growth and Development.

The conversation turns to farming—
and Mrs. Turpin brags that she and Claud
own a home and some land—

and they have hogs which they keep in
a concrete pen so their hogs’
feet won’t get dirty.

A black delivery boy enters
and Mrs. Turpin goes out of her way
to show him kindness—
because—
well—
that’s just the type of woman she is.

Mrs. Turpin and college’s girls mother and
one of the white-trash women
start discussing the possibility of
sending all the blacks back to Africa.

And Ruby thinks to herself—
we should send all the
white trash people over to Africa too.

And all this time,
the ugly college girl is just seething—
staring at Ruby with such intensity and violence.

Mrs. Turpin tries to engage
the girl in conversation—
but she refuses.

And then the ugly college girl hurls her
Human Growth and Development book
and hits Ruby right above the left eye.

And she charges at Ruby—
wrestling her to the floor—
and starts choking her.

It takes everyone in the office
to get her off Ruby—
the doctor finally having to inject her
with a sedative.

But before the sedative takes effect—
Ruby Turpin looks into the eyes of the girl—
and realizes that somehow the girl knows her—
knows her more than she knows herself.

And the girl screams at Ruby,
“Go back to hell where you came from—
you old wart hog.”

The college girl’s name?

It’s Mary Grace—
Mary Grace.

With that name Flannery
is pointing out that God—
Out of love—
confronts and challenges and un-nerves—
the proud—
and the self-righteous.

Doing whatever is necessary to
break through that hard shell—

Anything—
Anything—
To try to get our attention—
Using grace—
Using Mary Grace—
to try to break through our fallen human nature.

The college girl and her mother are taken in an ambulance—
and Ruby and Claude head home.

They spend the rest of afternoon lying in bed resting.

And while Claud sleeps,
Ruby fixates on what Mary Grace said to her.

She cries at first—
but then gets angry that she
should be the target of this message,
since there were so many other—
lesser people in the room to whom it
could have been directed.

How can she be a hog from hell?

Isn’t she a respectable, hard-working,
church going lady?!?!

Occasionally, she would raise her fist—
and shake it at heaven—
defending her position to God.

Eventually, as the afternoon was coming to a close—
Ruby wandered down to her concrete pig parlor—
and started hosing off her pigs.

And her railing against God and Mary Grace continued—
holding her hose—
sometimes pointing it in the air—
“Why me?
I’m no trash around here—
black or white—

Who do you think you are—
calling me a hog from hell.”

And then—then—
Ruby has a vision—
her second huge revelation of the day.

She saw a streak of lightening in the sky.

It was like a swingin’ bridge extending up to heaven.

And upon this swingin’ bridge—
souls were rumbling and dancing toward heaven.

And in the front of the line—
there was all those white trash people—
clean for the first time in their lives.

And there were the bands of black people
singing as loud as they could.

And battalions of freaks and lunatics
shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs.

How joyful and happy they were.

And bring up the rear—
the very back of the procession—
was the tribe of people Ruby recognized at once.

They were like herself—
They always had a little bit of everything—
And even their virtue was being burned away.

It isn’t that it’s impossible for
the proud and self-righteous to make it in—
but the privileged place—
the privileged place—
is for those who know
they can depend only on the mercy of God. (Barron, Pivotal Players)

And then the vision faded.

As Ruby left her clean pig parlor and headed home—
the woods around her were filled with the sound of crickets—
and Ruby realized that what she was really hearing
was the voices of those souls climbing
upward into the starry field and shouting “hallelujah!”

You see Sisters and Brother of Christ—
God is consistent—
very consistent—
with how He interacts with us humans.

God comforts the broken hearted—

God calls forth the humble for mission—

And God confronts—
God challenges
the arrogant and the self-righteous
and the prideful—
all out of love.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled—
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

And when Jesus tells us not invite
our friends and our relatives and
the rich to eat with us—

but instead invite the poor and
the crippled and
the lame
and the blind—

Maybe—
Just maybe He’s trying to giving
those of us who have been
given a little bit of everything. . . .

a little taste of what heaven will be like.

Holy Spirit 08/31/19 and 09/01/19