Slavery and the Cost of Discipleship

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Philemon 1:1-21

Tradition supplies a backstory for the short book Philemon: the slave Onesimus had run away from his owner, seeking refuge in the anonymity of Rome. But there he encountered Paul and was converted. In fact, from the text, we know very little about what how Onesimus ended up with Paul and less about what followed. Still the letter continues to speak to us about power and the cost of discipleship, a cost spelled out in no uncertain terms in today’s gospel.

Paul’s “dear friend and co-worker” Philemon, a believer whose faith Paul praises, had a slave. It shocks us now to realize that the early Christian communities included not only slaves but also slave-owners. Being baptized did not automatically mean that a slave-owner would free his or her slaves. And this is not because ancient slavery was a humane institution. Slavery meant then as now that a person is property. If an owner decided to beat a slave or to use a slave for sex, that slave had no right to resist. While a slave might have a family, the owner was under no obligation to honor those ties.

Perhaps Philemon was not cruel to Onesimus. But in the ancient world, even though a slave might be well-fed, educated, and even able to wield some of the owner’s power, slavery meant shame, because it meant being unable to demand respect. Philemon has power. Onesimus has none. Read more

Northwest Regional Ekklesia Project Gathering 2016

Friends and endorsers of the Ekklesia Project are invited to Portland, Oregon for a regional gathering. See below for the details.  Read more


A Multitude of Ruptures

The post for the 4th Sunday in Advent is Jim McCoy’s post from 2012.

The word “preachy” has never been a complimentary term, even less so these days. The ministers rightly highlighted in the national news who have been doing their vital and admirable work are described as “compassionate, not preachy.” Those of us who not only have to preach but believe we should preach have been faced with how in God’s name do we preach the last two Sundays of Advent 2012, and how to do so in such a way in which compassion and preaching are not pitted against each other.

Read More…

Christ the King

Reign of Christ

For the last Sunday in ordinary time, we have two posts from the archive.

In 2012, the last time through the cycle, Janice Love wrote

It is possible to not be afraid because we as confessing Christians have been made aware of one of God’s great gifts: a telos – an end, God’s intended end.

You can read her post here.

Doug Lee, in his 2009 entry, wrote

Instead of assuming that we can do what is ultimate, what if we gave ourselves to embracing the basic, the flawed, and the provisional as the way forward?

You can read his post here.


Revolutionary Danger

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 1:20-33
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

“Why doesn’t God answer my prayer? Why is my life so hard? When will things get better for me?” This week we are confronted with the difficult possibility that God’s primary reason for existence may not be to meet our every need, to make us happy, or give us what we want. The disciples began to learn that lesson at Caesarea Phillipi.

Caesarea Philippi is a site of incomparable beauty and longstanding political turmoil. Known today as Banias, or Panias, this once Syrian, now Israeli-controlled site in the foothills of Mount Hermon is a major source of the Jordan River. Spring-fed streams tumble through the area, making it one of the most picturesque sites in all the Holy Land. Yet the marks of violent struggle are visible too. The hulls of blown out military vehicles lie frozen as memorials to Israeli soldiers from the Yom Kippur War. Sheep graze in pastures with warnings posted in three languages: “Danger Mines!”

In Jesus’ day, Caesarea Philippi harbored plenty of ethnic, religious and political landmines too. Read more