A Deeper Communion

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 5:1-7
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?” Jesus asks his disciples. “No, I tell you, but rather division.”

At first glance, Jesus’ proclamation seems to resonate profoundly with our current cultural moment, which has a surplus of division and a deficit of peace. The faction-based rhetoric clogging our airwaves and the vitriol that plagues our social media sites seems just the sort of thing that divides “father against son” and “mother against daughter.”

We have elevated divisiveness to an art form, so that not just households, but communities, classrooms, and congregations bear the marks of estrangement. Even among followers of Christ, virtues like gentleness and kindness are dismissed as “political correctness,” and a willingness to offend is worn as a badge of honor.

It’s not hard to see why this Jesus found in Luke chapter 12 might excite some readers. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” it seems, has been replaced by a tough-talking firebrand who tells it like it is and who isn’t afraid to burn bridges and upset apple carts.

Imagine this Jesus on Twitter, taking no prisoners as he drops truth bombs, 140 characters at a time. At first glance, this is a Messiah tailor-made for our times. But a first glance, at this biblical passage or any other, hardly makes for a responsible or faithful reading of God’s word. We have to ask whether Jesus is really laying out the kind of iconoclastic vision that animates our political rallies and fills our Facebook pages, or if, when he informs his disciples not to anticipate that he will bring peace, he might be getting at something deeper. Read more

A Glory that Breathes Life

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 8:5-17 OR Acts 17:22-31
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

There is a glory that breathes life back
in a corpse and brings strangers together

as friends. Call that one back who fills
the held-out robe of a thornbush with

flowers, who clears muddied minds, who
gives a two-day-old infant wisdom beyond

anyone’s learning. “What baby?” you ask.
There is a fountain, a passion circulating.

I’m not saying this well, because I’m too
much in the scatterbrain sweetness. Listen

anyway. It must be said. There are eyes
that see into eternity. A presence beyond

the power and magic of shamans. Let that
in. Sink to the floor, full prostration.

– Rumi (“Scatterbrain Sweetness” in The Soul of Rumi, Barks, Coleman, ed.)

Growing up in my small-town Midwestern church, we were, on the whole, conservative in our speech about the Holy Spirit. Being committed to the practice of baptism, we immersed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but baptisms are the only memories I have where the Spirit was spoken of among our church people, let alone invited as a presence into our worship or shared life together. Read more

How Do You Sing the Lord’s Song?

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Lamentations 1:1-6
Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Funny enough – there ain’t a whole lot of communing going on in the scriptures provided for World Communion Sunday.

Exiled from the Promised Land, the people of Israel are inconsolable and vengeful. (Make sure you read that last line in Psalm 137. Read it again. You got it – they want somebody to enjoy bashing baby heads into rocks). Her streets empty of God’s people, Jerusalem also suffers, mourning and shedding tears (Lamentations). Separated from each other, holy people and place are incapable of singing the Lord’s Song.

Yet, World Communion Sunday sounds so nice. I have thoughts of happy people at church standing in a big circle holding hands, singing together, sharing Eucharist and a tasty potluck, earnestly wishing God’s peace and goodwill to fellow hand-holding, encircled singers around the globe. Read more

Law, Economy, Freedom and Community

stained glass style picture of the communion cup and breadExodus 20:1-20

There’s a running gag on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report in which the fake-bluster, windbag host, Stephen Colbert, interviews members of Congress in a segment called “Better Know a District.” In a recent installment, Georgia representative Lynn Westmoreland was on the hot seat, and Colbert asked the congressman about his very vocal support for displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings—courthouses and such. “Can you think of any other places where the commandments should have prominence?” asked Colbert, trying, mischievously, to press the point that there might be other sites (churches, anyone? a synagogue, perhaps?) where the Decalogue is more at home.

Westmoreland didn’t get it—he kept talking about courthouses—and so Colbert (a devout Catholic, interestingly) went for the kill: “What are the Ten Commandments, congressman?”

Not surprisingly, Westmoreland was stumped. Read more