The Heart of the Story
The lectionary reading drops the healing of the man with dropsy; known today as edema which can originate from congestive heart failure causing swelling in the lower legs and feet. Thus the story for today is about Jesus going (once again) to a Pharisee’s house for dinner and telling a story about humility. (One approach to the text would be a sermon along the line of, “The Way Up With God Is Down.”)
My own take is to do something along the line of, The Heart of September. In the way back machine when I took flying lessons. My instructor would frequently have me circle the field and then “stick” the landing. In other words get a good view of things then do a perfect landing – the most important part of the flight! Every reading this month leads to the finale on September 29 in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
September for many traditions will be a lead in to the annual emphasis on stewardship. Here’s a quick trip through the month:
Sept. 1: On Giving a Dinner Party: Don’t invite your family or rich neighbors – Invite the poor
Sept. 8: You Can’t be a Disciple – Unless you give all your possessions away
Sept. 15: How to Welcome God – Welcome social outcasts
Sept.22: The Best Treasure – Faithfulness is everything
Sept. 29: Buy Now – Pay Later: Swapping out rich and poor
Personally, I plan to use The Way Up With God Is Down theme. Throughout the weeks of September in the readings from Luke’s gospel, Jesus continues to turn the values of our world inside out and upside down. In this week’s Tale the Seanchai visits a Cèilidh in progress and troubles the notions of the village elders.
A Tale of Tír na nÓg
Trouble in Baile an Chumain
The Seanchai walked slowly as he entered Baile an Chumain on the old rocky road; the sounds of the Cèilidh drifting along the gentle breeze that lightly stirred the leaves of verdant trees. Many were those who had come to follow the Seanchai as he travelled about the towns and villages of Cúige Mumhan. Among his strange company were a few poor, a blind man who clutched the arm of a follower of Aoibhell – the fairie who some say brought scorn to young women and an old couple who had been turned out of their home. The ragged troupe wandered the hills and valleys and when welcomed into homes, would bring the joy of music and good stories of kindness and peace. They gave of what they had and in return were blessed with food and drink and sometimes a place to rest. Music and dancing, laughter and delight flourished in those places. Ofttimes their journey was joined by one or another of the villagers who longed to learn the tales and unite with the song.
At times when the little company was not greeted kindly they would pass by such a place and it seemed as though a wee bit of light would leave the place with them as grey clouds swirled in a darkening sky.
As the Seanchai and his band rounded the road into the heart of the village, there was the sound of laughter and fine music of the Cèilidh and an open door seemed to beckon them. The Seanchai walked to the door and saw the large crowd. His face was bright and the large room brightened. A local young teller of stories rose to greet the Seanchai and most of the village elders make a gesture that he might join them as word of his music and tales had reached Baile an Chumain before him.
“Welcome! Welcome!” the chief elder called, “Enter to join us and perhaps tell a tale and sing for us.”
“Yes,” the storyteller added, “Please join us for it is said that you are more than a Seanchai. You are The Seanchai are you not?”
The Seanchai did not answer the storyteller, but smiled and entered the room waving to his troupe that they should accompany him. The chief elder did not look pleased. The harps, whistles and drums went silent and unfriendly eyes beheld the Seanchai’s little company.
“Oh please good sir,” the chief elder spoke, “As you see there is little room left and the food will soon be scarce.” His creeping frown and cold eyes revealed a heart that was as rock and a spirit as .ice. “You are most certainly welcome here, but could your company perhaps wait at the gate while you tell your story and sing for us?”
The elders in the crowd nodded their agreement. They wanted the Seanchai to stay and bless their assemblage and give of his fullness to them. There were a few who sensed a sadness emanating from the one who had come to bring joy to their village.
The Seanchai was not angry – he looked at the elders with sadness and compassion and spoke to the gathering.
“My dear citizens of Baile an Chumain, your hearts are too small to receive the fullness of the music and your ears stopped so that the stories of the blessed realm cannot enter your spirits. The things you hold to yourself will be gone as the morning fog and as you grasp with tight hands the food and drink that should lift the burden and ease the pain of those who have not, you increase your own sorrow and weigh down your spirits.
If you had invited this poor company to share in the music, the stories and the food, you would have much more when the Cèilidh was past than you did when it began. Your days would have known a growing joy and a more beautiful song, but now even the things that you had will flow away as the water of the river runs to the sea. When you give away you are blessed with abundance. When you welcome the least of our people, you welcome the spirit of Tír na nÓg.
The Seanchai turned and walked slowly out the door into the fragrant evening air. As the small band made its way along the road they could hear the music begin once again. The life was gone from the notes and the voice of the Cèilidh was dull – indeed it was no longer a Cèilidh but a cold gathering of empty hearts.
Yet, in the sorrow of the evening a voice was heard to shout, “Seanchai! Seanchai! I would come with you; I would follow you and your people!” As he ran to catch them his countenance was bright with joy. It was the young storyteller running toward them carrying a sack. He came to them and opened the sack of food and drink he brought from the village.
They sat under an old daur tree, the young storyteller who would be a Seanchai struck a flint and they ate and drank with joy in their hearts. The Seanchai closed his eyes and sang a story of the bright day that lay just ahead of them when the next dawn broke. And their hearts were full, their spirits bright and the lights that dance in the north gave a blessing.