Marcus Borg died this morning after a prolonged illness. I received a phone call this afternoon from a Cathedral parishioner and friend of Marcus, relaying the news to me.
I first became aware of Marcus Borg when I was a sophomore at Hendrix College. His landmark book, Jesus: A New Vision had just been released. It hit me at exactly the right time. I was a philosophy & religion major who knew God and increasingly knew about God, but I had little room or need for Jesus. Marcus’ book gave me an entirely new access point: to consider Jesus as Jesus had been historically, as a wisdom teacher, a healer, a social prophet, and more.
I’ve never known anyone who disliked today’s Old Testament passage from 1 Samuel. There’s something so alluring about it, about the child Samuel, a boy wrested from his family and committed to a lifetime of menial service in the temple at Shiloh, who is almost asleep in the hazy twilight when a voice calls to him, beckoning and luring him forward. Three times the misty voice calls, until the priest Eli realizes it must be God calling Samuel to something important, something unique, some role only Samuel can fill.
Some of you will know of the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas. Bishop Lillibridge is a wise and true Texan. Some years ago I heard him speak at a workshop, and he imparted several important aphorisms. Perhaps the most profound was this: “If you discover that the horse you’re riding is has died, dismount.”
Bishop Lillibridge also had something to say about one of our appointed readings for today. More about that in a moment.