Airbnb, Hospitality, and the Gift Economy

Chi-Ming Chien, EP board member and blogger, examines the tension between the economy we live in and the economy which God calls us to participate in:

“It’s ironic that, as we participate in the sharing economy, more and more of our lives get ceded over to the domain of the transactional. Where previously we might have a couch or spare room for a guest to crash in, now we rent it out. Where previously we might have offered an unused desk space in our office for a friend needing a place to work, now we list it and charge by the hour or by the day. Where previously (in antiquity, it seems…) we might have given someone a lift if we were headed their direction, now we charge for a Lyft. Interestingly enough in Lyft’s case, what started off as a suggested donation has moved toward fixed charges as the service has matured.

The core issue, as I see it, is that despite our best efforts, we continually get bent toward relationships characterized by transaction or exchange– what Jacques Ellul, the French sociologist and theologian, calls the Law of Money.”

Read the rest here:

Tensions in the Law

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 7:7-17 OR Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 82
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

Law and land are themes running through this week’s lectionary readings. In Deuteronomy, Moses spells out the law for the Promised Land that the Israelite’s will soon inhabit. In Luke, Jesus discusses Torah and its interpretation with a young lawyer as he journeys to Jerusalem, a journey that requires many Israelites to pass through the land of the Samaritans, a people in dubious relation to the law. In Psalm 82, God is the great judge holding council with the gods of the nations.

As a member of a late modern society, I sense in myself a certain complacency with regard to the law of this land. Even dramatic cases of judicial corruption do not, I am sad to say, disrupt my complacency for long. ‘We’ve got checks and balances,’ I say to myself, ‘the system will right itself.’ In blinding us to corruption, our system may find a reflection in the system confronted by Amos. Amaziah, Jeroboam’s chief priest, becomes a recognizable image of an administrator of human justice. He seems well aware that, for the system to function, protocol must be maintained. And this protocol entails a kind of behavioral training for those who live in the system. Amos flouts the dispositions for the professional prophet with the disruptive tenor of his words. It is not for speaking falsehoods that Amaziah diplomatically tries to banish him to a place where his words can do little harm; it is because he threatens the stability of the kingdom.

So the surface issue of law hovers above a deeper, systematic condition. Law is underwritten by ideology: a symbolic order by which we justify frequently unjust ways of life. Read more

Difficult Freedom

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

With regard to last week’s readings, Jim McCoy began in meditation on William Stringfellow’s description of the freedom of the church… “you are freer than you think.” During Lent, worship in our congregation recalls repeatedly Jesus’ temptation in the desert, which echoes the Exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ wandering in the desert. Prior to the gospel reading, we sing “forty days and forty nights/thou was fasting in the wild/forty days and forty nights/tempted, and yet undefiled….” If the dramatic event of liberation from the tyrannical Pharaoh speaks to us clearly of what we are freed from, the desert experience is key to learning what we are freed for. Read more

On Receiving Gifts

by Halden Doerge
(2 Sam 11:26–12:13a; Ps 51:1-12; Eph 4:1-16; John 6:24-35)

The readings for this week offer an odd combination of themes. Both the Old Testament and Psalm readings are quite clearly concerned with the fallout of the affair between David and Bathsheba (though perhaps rape might be a more appropriate characterization). The Gospel and Epistle readings however seem, at first glance to have little if anything to do with the first two readings. In the Gospel we hear about Jesus being the bread of life whom the Father sends down from heaven to give life to the world. In the Epistle we are reminded of the fullness of Christ’s gifts in and to the church, as manifested in the multiplicity of charisms and ministries which build up the body in love.

What, we wonder do David’s sexual exploits have to do with Jesus being the bread of life? Or the fullness of Christ as given to the church in grace? Much in every way, I think. Read more