Absent a lectionary commentary this week, let this reflection on the practices of Lent (written by EP Coordinator Brent Laytham) serve instead. Written at Lent’s beginning, it may help remind us what we’re about on this Laetare Sunday, more than halfway to Easter.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
When I was a child, the adult members of Pittsburgh society adverted to the Bible unreasonably often. What arcana! Why did they spread this scandalous document before our eyes? If they had read it, I thought, they would have hid it. They did not recognize the lively danger that we would, through repeated exposure, catch a dose of its virulent opposition to their world. Instead they bade us study great chunks of it, and think about those chunks, and commit them to memory, and ignore them. By dipping us children in the Bible so often, they hoped, I think, to give our lives a serious tint, and to provide us with quaintly magnificent snatches of prayer to produce as charms while, say, being mugged for our cash or jewels.
Annie Dillard, “The Book of Luke,” The Annie Dillard Reader, 276
By the twelfth chapter of St. Luke’s gospel we get it: Jesus and the kingdom he inaugurates turn everything upside down. The proud are scattered, the powerful are brought down from their thrones, the hungry are filled with good things, the rich are sent away empty, the poor find good news, the captives are released, the blind recover their sight, the oppressed go free. Blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who weep; woe to the rich, the full-bellied, and those who are laughing now.
These words of justice and compassion stir us, move us, inspire us. Occupying a place somewhere between the destitute poor and the obscenely wealthy, we want what Jesus wants. Preach it, Jesus. Read more
Easter 5, Year C
She stood outside of the meeting room, a cigarette in hand–crying. This was a weekend spiritual retreat, a time of renewal, but for this woman it was clearly painful, even degrading. My wife approached the woman and asked what was wrong. “I’m Baptist,” she said, “and everyone is just saying such bad things about us.” The retreat was put on by the Episcopal Church and this being a southern Episcopal gathering “Baptist bashing” is bound to be the common sport. The Baptist are the dominant denomination in the region, often conservative brands. Many in the Episcopal Church grew up in Baptist churches or similar denominations and they consider their new status as Episcopalians to be an enlightened escape. So they take cheap shots, ridicule the Baptists and feel self-satisfied.
The flipside occurs of course. I migrated into the Episcopal Church from a world that found it unimaginable that either Episcopalians or Catholics were even followers of Jesus. The Episcopalians were clearly apostate sinners who didn’t read the Bible. The Roman Catholics were not really Christians since they didn’t believe in the Bible and they worshiped Mary. I think it is fair to say that every Christian group or denomination has its Christian “other” that can be made the object of exclusion. Read more
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic… I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I had a liaison with another woman. I was painfully honest with my family and I asked my wife’s forgiveness. I have been stripped bare….”
– John Edwards, August, 2008
“I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. There is no one else responsible for my sins. I am responsible…. I don’t think God is through with me. I really believe he thinks there are still some good things I can do, and whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I’m hopeful about is all those kids I’ve seen…in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world that I can help them in whatever way I’m still capable of helping them.
– John Edwards, May 2012
In the summer of 2008 I departed from the lectionary to preach a sermon series on David. That was the summer the scandal involving then presidential candidate John Edwards broke. The David story is among the readings for this summer’s lectionary cycle, coinciding with the news of Edwards’ trial that filled North Carolina media.
Like it or not, I wonder how to read one story in the light of the other. Do we pass off Edwards as just another politician doing religious things? Do his emotional confessions stem from political expediency or from refiner’s fire? Are they expressions of hand-in-the-cookie-jar panic or scalpel-in-the-heart contrition? And if we hear John Edwards’ words with nothing but suspicion, can we hear the David story with anything other than the hermeneutic of suspicion? Read more
This blog by EP Endorser Lee Wyatt is running on the Slow Church website run by Chris Smith.
Though we live (or have lived) in the age of the Emerging/Emergent Church, I have a different proposal for a new vision of church. I call it the Submerging Church! Am I serious, you ask? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe both. Read on and see what you think.
The Submerging Church, as I see it, is radically subversive, relentlessly incarnational, and ruthlessly hospitable. It dives deeply into everyday life, sharing it with others, while at the same time questioning and critiquing the conditions of that life we share. Since this community lives from its center, the risen Jesus Christ, its boundaries are porous and permeable with arms outstretched to everyone who encounters it.