The Ecology of God’s Reign

Third Sunday of Lent

 

 

 

Exodus 20:1-17

Psalm 19

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 2:13-22

God thought that we might, after some thought, come to the conclusion 

that friends would not kill each other or seduce each other’s husbands 

or wives or get them falsely convicted of crimes or kidnap or enslave 

them or seek to defraud them of their possessions; yes, we might come 

to work all that out, but all the same it would be a good idea to get all 

this down in black and white… the Decalogue is part of God’s summons 

to Israel to be his people… God is telling them that the first step to being 

God’s people is to be human people, and that means living in friendship.

Herbert McCabe

 

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.

Flannery O’Connor (attributed)

 

The American writer Flannery O’Connor was a devout Catholic whose convictions tended toward the theologically conservative. Yet O’Connor’s theology was far from fundamentalist. She was whip-smart and well-read, and her orthodox beliefs were thoroughly tested and hard-won. In a 1955 letter to her skeptic friend, “A,” she defended her faith by saying, “For you it might be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and the physical really are, then I will know what God is. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws.”  Read more

Christmas Praise in a Mutilated World

First Sunday after Christmas

 

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 148

Galatians 4:4-7

Luke 2:22-40

You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,

You’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

                             –Adam Zagajewski, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”

Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.

                             –Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

The appointed texts for this week are filled with such unqualified praise as befits Christmastide. Isaiah, whose language has been oft borrowed by the Church, rejoices at the prospect of Jerusalem’s restoration as a light to the nations; he eagerly anticipates the time when “her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch,” when God’s people “shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” Read more

Mercy Shortage

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

 

 

Genesis 50:15-21

Psalm 103:1-13

Romans 14:1-12

Matthew 18:21-35

 

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now.

                                                                        –Mary Gauthier,  “Mercy Now”

 

I really only love God as much as the person I love the least.

                                                                        —Dorothy Day

 

As reprehensible as it was, Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene’s recently posted image of herself holding an AR-15 next to pictures of the group of progressive Democratic Congresswomen known popularly as “The Squad” wasn’t especially shocking, and not only because it was but one instance in an extensive and expanding catalogue of her outrageous behavior. Such belligerent, threatening actions, facilitated by the anonymity of the internet and enabled by so-called leaders who thrive on divisive rhetoric that often crosses the line into bigotry and hate speech, is no longer exceptional. Political differences have morphed into battle lines, and violence, directed disproportionately toward the powerless at the margins, is not uncommon. While the political roots of this crisis run deep and are many and complex, they are easy enough to sum up theologically: we collectively suffer a critical shortage of mercy. “Every single one of us,” as Mary Gauthier sings, “could use some mercy now.” Read more

Air Hunger

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:24-34

1 Corinthians 12:3-13

John 20:19-23

 

Then the LORD God formed man from the dust

of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the

breath of life; and the man became a living being.

                                       Genesis 2:7

 

When he had said this, he breathed on them and

said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

                                     John 20:22

 

You who pour mercy into hell, sole authority in the

highest and lowest worlds, let your anger disperse

the mist in this aimless place, where even my sins

fall short of the mark… Arouse my heart again with

the limitless breath you breathe into me, arouse the

secret from obscurity.

                                    Leonard Cohen,  The Book of Mercy

 

Pentecost, with its attention to the life-giving breath of God, seems especially poignant this year, with the world immersed in a pandemic caused by a virus that takes away breath and, tragically often, life.  In spite of assurances that the worst may be over, many of us continue to live day-to-day with simmering anxiety that threatens periodically to boil over into full-blown dread, that we or someone we love will become sick and perhaps even die. One of the most fearsome things about the virus is the way it attacks the respiratory system, making it difficult for the lungs to oxygenate blood. Inadequate blood oxygen causes faster and deeper breathing, which causes changes in blood chemistry that lead, among other things, to panic. The name for this response and the terror it causes is “air hunger,” and anyone who has had a serious asthma attack has experienced at least a measure of it. It is a dreadful thing to watch, much less experience.

It’s small wonder, then, that we are so anxious, for breath is essential to life. This is as much a theological claim as a physiological one; Creation is animated by the breath of God, and the breath that sustains the life of every creature has God as its first cause. Just so, the lectionary for this Pentecost reminds us that God’s ultimate intention, both for us and for the rest of God’s beloved Creation, is not sickness and death but healing and wholeness, given freely in the limitlessly merciful and limitlessly powerful breath of God. Read more

Watersheds and Salvation

Third Sunday in Advent

 

 

Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm 95

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-32

 

The river is as far as I can move

from the world of numbers…

            –Jim Harrison,“The Theory and Practice of Rivers”

 

In the introduction to Watershed Discipleship (Cascade, 2016), Ched Myers asserts that “Since the time of Constantine, a functional docetism has numbed Christians to the escalating horrors of both social and ecological violence, because spiritual or doctrinal matters always trump terrestrial or somatic ones. If it is assumed that salvation happens outside or beyond creation, it will be pillaged accordingly.” It’s abundantly clear that the pillaging Myers writes about has inflicted extensive, irreparable damage to the earth, and equally clear that we Christians have been as culpable as anyone in this inflicting, and not incidentally because of the pervasive bad theology to which Myers alludes. Read more