Which Side?

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 5:1-7 or Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 80 or Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

They say in Harlan County
there are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
Florence Reece, “Which Side Are You On?”

Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.
1 Corinthians 11:19

Much has been written lately about the uncivil disintegration of contemporary American society, and for good reason; each day occasions new, often vicious spoken and written attacks calling into question the veracity, integrity, and intentions of those holding views different from the speaker or writer. Christians haven’t opted out of all the name calling, and have penned missives – some against their brothers and sisters – every bit as strident as those of our secular neighbors. I recently read part of such an exchange, which left me, as the news these days tends to do, despondent. And then I read the lectionary texts for this week, which offered a bit of perspective, if not consolation. Read more

Crisis of Faith

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 33:12-22
Luke 12:32-40

“Crisis of faith.” So often, these words are used to describe the process in which someone begins to ask questions, to make probing inquiries, about the doctrines and the traditions handed down to them.

To emerge from a crisis of faith, then, is to reach some level of comfortable affirmation that what we said we believed all along was, in fact, true. That the questions and even the doubts that vexed us during that brief period of spiritual struggle were not ultimately a threat to our certainty. That we can return to the way things were, before our convictions were unsettled by this unwelcome crisis. Read more

Rich Towards God

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 12:13-21
I work in development for a Human Services non-profit that meets people’s basic needs, while we advocate for systems that distribute resources in a more just and equitable manner. As a result, I spend 40+ hours a week thinking about people and our relationship to resources, primarily money. People who have it; people who need it; the systems in this country, county, town that have privileged and continue to privilege some people’s ability to amass it.

I think a lot about how to motivate people who have money to share it, but I also wonder why our society – our life together as organized through a system that we call government – is structured such that basic needs are not considered a right or subsequently funded with public dollars, i.e. our gathered resources. Honestly, it would be great if jobs like mine didn’t exist because the political will to care well for each other did. So, I welcome Luke’s willingness to talk bluntly about our relationship to resources. To be honest, I could use some help in knowing what to think. Read more

Unified in Prayer

The Gospel this week (Luke 11:1-13) gives us the very familiar account of Jesus teaching us to pray the Lord’s Prayer (or the Our Father as we Catholics name it). I’m ashamed to say that there have been times in my life when I’ve prayed the Lord’s Prayer and thought: this again? Often I don’t even think about what I’m saying, I just go into saying it by rote. More than once, I have said, “You know, this prayer is kind of boring.” And I have heard those words from friends and parishioners too. After so many times of saying it, the prayer can feel a bit lot a hot Sunday summer afternoon, when listlessness and ennui are the order of the day. Read more

Answering Tyrants and Their Tweets

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

“You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness
against the godly all day long?…
You love all words that hurt,
O you deceitful tongue.”   -Psalm 52:1,4

“Be like an astute businessman: make stillness be your criterion for testing the value of everything and choose always what contributes to it.” -Evagrius

No preacher can read Psalm 52 this week, with its condemnation of a tyrant that loves “lying more than speaking truth” and “words that hurt,” without thinking of Donald Trump and the latest of his racist outrages.  Add to that Amos, who receives an oracle that condemns a people of religious pretenders more interested in economic exploitation and power than goodness, and we have a scriptural witness that seems tailored for our time.

But in reading the whole of our scriptures for Sunday, I cannot help but think that there is “a better part” that we must choose—a stance that begins with Amos’s call to “be silent,” continues in the example of the green olive tree in Psalm 52, and rests with Mary’s listening at the feet of the Lord.

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