Wednesday, January 27, 2021

He was teaching...

In next Sunday’s  lectionary there is a story from Mark’s account of the Good News about Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. As I was discussing the story in a Zoom meeting with colleagues I noticed that the Greek word that was translated as taught might be better rendered as was teaching.

That might seem to be unimportant but I think Mark’s choice of the Greek tense wasn’t accidental. For Mark Jesus’ teaching was ongoing. It didn’t happen just once; it happened all the way to Calvary and beyond. It is still happening.

Over the years there have been moments when it was clear that there were lessons I needed. Most often they came when I saw something in Scripture that I hadn’t noticed before, but there were times when something a friend said delivered  the lesson that I needed.

Some of those lessons took years for me to receive. When I was in first grade I was asked to read a sentence that included the word nowhere. When I read it as now here my classmates laughed. If they hadn’t laughed I would probably not have remembered that moment. Years late as I thought about that moment I saw that the memory contains an important lessen.  I need to be now here or I will be nowhere. If I don’t pay attention I will miss what Jesus wants to teach me.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Discipleship


In the Preface of his Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "In times of church renewal holy scripture naturally becomes richer in content for us."

It seems that Bonhoeffer didn’t see church renewal in the same way that many of us do. It certainly wasn’t about programs to attract new members or the revision of liturgical texts to make them more relevant. Church renewal meant, chiefly, the renewal of Christian’s discipleship, of our obedience in following Jesus. It meant, in Bonhoeffer’s case, the obedience that had led him to reject the unholy alliance between the Nazi regime and the German Evangelical Church, a rejection which led to his execution in April 1945.

While the shape of Bonhoeffer’s obedience might seem obvious nearly seventy-six years after his death, it probably didn’t seem obvious to many of his contemporaries, including some in the Confessing Church, and the shape of our obedience today may not be obvious. Knowing, not what would Jesus do, but what Jesus wants us to do takes discernment.

Often Christians think that discerning a call to action should begin by looking inward. I think a better way to start is by looking outward to see signs of what God is already doing. We are called, I am convinced, to share in God’s mission in the world. The church does not have a mission; God’s mission has a church. So we are to look outward, seeking the signs of God’s mission, and only then look inward to see what gifts and passion we offer for the mission.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cancel Culture

Some of conservative friends complain to me about cancel culture, which they see as a major threat. Recently they have cited some business decisions as terrible examples of the left’s attempts to stifle speech. The earlier of two recent examples was Amazon’s decision to stop hosting Parler. The second was the decision by some retailers to stop selling My Pillow products.

Speech is never really free. It always comes with costs, consequences. (When I was first ordained I decided to stop using certain words, knowing that I would not always be aware of who could hear me. That minor display of wisdom may have saved me from serious trouble.) The consequences of allowing Parler to be used in planning and carrying out an  insurrection might reasonably include having to find a new host. The consequences of spreading lies about an election might well include losing customers.

I don’t want to stop you from speaking but I don’t have to do business with you. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Being Beloved

On Sunday we will be remembering Jesus' baptism. In all of the accounts in the synoptic Gospels these words are spoken about Jesus, you are beloved. 

Some years ago, at the baptism of a parishioner, I said that those words have been spoken about each of us, all of us. Whether believe it or know it or want it we are loved by God, extravagantly and without exception. 

Without exception? 

Yes, and that challenges me to accept that people I don’t like, people with whom I disagree, people who hate me and want to hurt me - all of them are beloved. 

When I pray Compline as I go to bed each night I often pray for Donald Trump, one of God’s beloved. Although my prayer might not always be heartfelt, I pray that Donald would know that he is beloved, that what matters most is not winning, but being loved and loving others. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

White Privilege and Black Lives Matter

On Sunday Jan and I participated in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Conway. For most of the time we all stood quietly on the sidewalks at a major intersection in Conway Village.  Many of the people driving by honked their horns in support. From  time to time younger members of the group would lead us in chanting “No justice, no peace “ and “Black lives matter .”

It was in more than one sense a privilege to be there. As a person of privilege in our society it was important for me to use that position of privilege to stand up for those who had far too often been pushed to the margins, ignored, oppressed, and  killed. By those enslaved them, by lynch mobs, and even by those whom we authorize to protect and serve.

Two days after the Black Lives Matter demonstration I read a letter to the editor in our local newspaper. After a brief nod to the sorrow so many of us were feeling after the murder of George Floyd, the writer criticized us at great length for failing to condemn the looting that had accompanied some demonstrations in other in other cities. I shouldn’t have been surprised. That kind of response is so common in our society. Unless we condemn all violence the writer seemed  to be suggesting we have no right to condemn police brutality.

I am assuming that the writer of this letter to the editor is white,  a person who is protected by the color of their skin from having a police officer kneel on their neck until they die.  know my white skin protects me from that kind of death.  I just hope that at some point the writer will come to understand white privilege, and that until black lives matter as much as white lives American democracy is threatened.