Peaches - Brent Aldrich

The Deeper and Richer Life of Gratitude

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.”

Gratitude is at the core of our identity as the people of God.  God has created us and continually provides for us.  Even when times get tough in our broken world, when we’re hungry and thirsty and our soul is fainting within us (v. 5), God hears our cries and delivers us.  The Israelite people certainly knew their share of troubles – being slaves in Egypt, wandering in the desert for forty years, going into exile, and so on – but yet the Psalms, their prayerbook that gave shape to their life together was filled with prayers of thanksgiving like today’s reading from Psalm 107 that celebrate the goodness and the provision of God.

And yet, gratitude is one of the most difficult virtues for us to cultivate in the Western world.  Why is this? Above all, we are extraordinarily wealthy; we have the resources and technologies to take care of almost all our needs, and thus it is easy for us to lose sight of God’s provision. Additionally, we are immersed in a sea of advertising every day that fuels our ingratitude by reminding us of all the things that we don’t have, but that we should want.  We also are so far removed from agriculture that we easily lose sight of God’s providing through creation for our most basic need, food.

So what can we, as Westerners, learn about gratitude from the Israelite people of the Old Testament?

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Moses

Leadership Lessons

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Let’s give credit where credit is due. I had never read the stories about Moses in light of what it means to be a leader of God’s people until I heard Lillian Daniel preach at an Ekklesia Project Gathering many years back. As a good seminarian I had only thought of Exodus as a witness to God’s preferential option for the poor or as a testimony to the fact that the people of God have always been whiny. Lillian delightfully re-narrated one of the Moses stories and suggested that if he were to be an effective leader he might need to take a course in anger management. Read more

roman coin

Who Decides?

18th Sunday after Pentecost
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 45:1-7 OR Exodus 33:12-13
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

Our Gospel lesson is the well-known but short debate between Jesus and the Religious Authorities over rendering taxes to Caesar or to God. It is common for us to hear Jesus saying, “Give unto Caesar that which is his and give unto God that which is his,” as a statement on the separation of Church and State. Only in the most indirect way is this a statement on church and state. It sounds like Jesus is saying that we should balance church and state, God and Caesar; sort of 50/50, half and half kind of approach.

Jesus’ interest has little to do with making a statement about the separation of church and state, which has to do with political involvement by the church in the affairs of state and religious involvement by the state in the affairs of the church. Church/State separation is a constitutional issue and only in an indirect way is related to what Jesus is talking about here. Read more

It’s About Us

18th Sunday After Pentecost; 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

Perhaps our response to Sunday’s lectionary gospel text ought to be Quaker-like silence.

It’s Matthew, after all, so we are familiar with the uncompromising eschatology. But what to say? It’s a passage that contains one of the hard(est) sayings of Jesus: plenty of mystery but seemingly little grace.

In Matthew’s version of the parable of the wedding banquet (would that it was Luke’s!), a king plans a great nuptial feast for his son. Twice he sends slaves to summon the invited guests but, for reasons left unsaid, “they would not come.” (The second wave of slaves are brutally slaughtered by some of the guests—a shocking, inscrutable over-reaction that prefigures more violence to come). Read more

CD cover

Why Do We Build the Wall?

EP endorser Tony Hunt offers this meditation on a theme from this past summer’s gathering:

Immigration, the Church, and Hadestown

Since the Ekklesia Project Gathering this summer, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on how immigration is explored by one of the better records of 2010: Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown, a folk opera that reinterprets the classical story of Eurydice and Orpheus. Read more