Light_in_the_Darkness

Inside and Out

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

I was leaving a meeting with several clergy members. Just behind me, close enough that I could overhear their conversation, was the long-time pastor of the leading Baptist church in town and walking alongside him was the moderator of our local ministerial alliance, who happened to be the pastor of the local Unity congregation, fifteen members strong.

My own experience with ministerial alliances, especially in other cities, was that they were ecumenical, even interfaith, so I never thought twice about whether our moderator was Unity or Baptist or Muslim. Apparently, not everyone agreed. Since the Unity minister’s election, most clergy in town had quit coming to the ministerial alliance and my own suspicion was that they were boycotting the alliance, (a suspicion later proven true).

The Unity pastor was inviting the tall steeple Baptist pastor to the alliance meetings, “We’d love to have you join us the second Tuesday of each month at noon.” The Baptist said, “Well, we have staff meetings on Tuesdays and I’m usually tied up.”

So the Unity guy replied, “I bet we could re-schedule our meetings to accommodate you. We’d love for you to come.”

The Baptist stopped, turned to the Unity pastor and said, “Children of Light have nothing to do with Children of Darkness. I won’t be there.” The Unity pastor was stunned, shocked into silence while the Baptist walked away without another word. Read more

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Who Is This?

Thirteenth Sunday afar Pentecost
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6:56-69

It is at the eucharistic table and in our liturgies that we likely most often encounter Jesus’s words in the gospel of John, that his flesh is true food, his blood true drink, and that when we eat and drink, we abide in him and he in us.

Perhaps we couldn’t be blamed then if such claims of Jesus slide down into the belly of our hearts with ease, like comfort food, filled with familiarity and fond association. For those who have lived this story long, we hear bread and think body, body and think bread – a mingling of symbols and referents that comes as a hard-won accomplishment of good formation.

Add to our formations the distance most of us typically experience between our food and its source. The realities of eating the body of another being are somewhat muted by a food industry that does the hard work for us, and conveniently renames body and flesh as “meat.” To eat a body is a rather pedestrian act that the majority of us easily embrace without too much reflection.

Given our grasp on eucharistic symbols and our eating formations, perhaps it is then difficult to identify with the Jews’ disgusted question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52) and Jesus’s disciples who ask, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (6:60)

As a child growing up on a small farm, where my family’s eating life was marked by considerably less distance between farmyard and table, it was not entirely unusual to sit down to a meal, and for one of my siblings or I to ask about the meat on our plates, “Who is this?” We hoped the answer would be no one we knew. Read more

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Wasting Time in the Banquet Hall

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 OR Proverbs 9:1-6
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

My children have a beloved book called Clown of God by Tomie de Paolo. I will not give much detail here so that if you haven’t yet read this book, you can enjoy the book’s surprises. Yet I don’t think I give away too much of the story to say that in this beautifully illustrated book set in medieval Italy, readers discover that yes, someone as silly-looking as a clown – even someone who “only” juggles for a living – is a follower of Christ.

I mention my kids’ book because I think this week’s lectionary readings are about discovering what it takes to become a wise fool, a clown, for Christ. This week’s first readings are variable depending on your tradition, but whether you’re reading in 1 Kings (2:10-12; 3:3-14) or Proverbs (9:1-6), you’ll find each author describing God’s wisdom in contradistinction with human wisdom. Read more

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Truth Telling and Race in the “United” States

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Ephesians is written to the ekklesia, the gathering, a “new humanity” in which dividing walls are broken down through Christ’s submission-to/assumption-of the state’s bone-breaking violence in his own body. This passage advocates truth-telling for the upbuilding of Christian community so that we are transformed by and participate in God’s character revealed in Christ: self-sacrificing love for the sake of others.

I offer a truth that is not new or of my own thought, but I believe it will continue to be a (perhaps, the) primary challenge for the church as it fleshes out this calling in this country at this time.

The church abjectly fails to embody the beloved community as long as it recapitulates racial divisions inherent in the culture in which it’s situated. Read more

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The Authority of Prisoners

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

In Ephesians 4 Paul begins a sustained account of the shape, nature and practices of life in Christ. He calls on the Ephesians to embody a vibrant unity based on their common faith and baptism. He uses the metaphor of “walking” to describe how believers are to embody a common life in Christ.

One of the most striking things about the epistle reading for today is that it begins with a personal plea from one who is a “prisoner in the Lord.” In the NRSV Paul is said to “beg” the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. In this light, it appears that Paul the prisoner is begging the Ephesians.

This certainly is an appropriate posture for one who is a prisoner, but it is not a very good translation of the Greek. Other English versions use verbs like “urge” or “entreat.” They are less idiomatic, but convey appropriately the sense Paul’s entreaty conveys a presumption of authority. Paul is someone to be listened to. Read more