Lost Sheep and Broken People

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 7:11-14 OR Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15: 1-10

I once imagined the easiest commandment to keep was the one against idolatry. It seemed rather simple: don’t go sacrificing animals to statues of false gods and I’d be fine. I was much younger then. I hadn’t yet lived into life’s ambiguities, hadn’t yet recognized the power of my own desires, hadn’t yet read enough theology – Augustine in particular.

When I understood idolatry as getting the order of my loves wrong, specifically by desiring (and thus secretly worshipping) something more than God, I saw false gods everywhere. Nearly all recorded history – from the founding of ancient Sumer to the unedifying rhetoric of the current US presidential race – can be read through a biblical lens as a very long series of idolatries, all of them sad.

In the same way that a microscope reveals nasty-looking creatures swimming in a glass of tainted water, a biblical lens makes visible the idolatries that reign in what we like to call “the world,” as if we were merely in the world and not of it. The Bible doesn’t cut us much slack when it comes to our dealings with the world. What other nation besides the Jews would include the prophets – those town criers of communal betrayal and merited retribution – in their sacred texts, second only to Torah itself?

As for Christians today, it’s not as if the line between faithful church and idolatrous world is bright, broad, and evident to all. Nor am I one to lecture another on keeping one’s loves in the proper order. If I’m able to rightly name another’s sin, it’s because I know that sin from the inside. Read more

The Hope of Widows

Third Sunday after Pentecost
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 17:8-24
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17

Together this week’s lectionary readings bespeak a current that flows throughout the biblical narrative. These are vibrant stories and exaltations, full to the brim with joy and gladness at the beauty of a life restored. The world of the bible, like our own, is a world fraught with difficulty and marred by suffering and sadness. But, like seedlings which break through concrete, the power of resurrection—of life itself—breaks forth and beats the odds. These are stories of hope amidst hardship, light in the deepest shadows; they bear witness to the power of God which, in the end, holds sway even over Death itself. Read more