Crossing the Red Sea

The Reckoning

13th Sunday After Pentecost

Exodus 14: 19-31
Psalm 114
Romans 14: 1-12
Matthew 18: 21-35

Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, admits to her admiration of those who understand “the risk of prayer.” She describes the tearful, sorrowful response of two faithful Jews leaving each day to engage in the always dangerous practice of prayer, not knowing if they would survive the experience to return to their families. It is this same risk we undertake when we host scripture, actually seeking to encounter a Word from the God whose fury can consume like stubble, whose answer to our “Here I am” will not leave us untransformed. And so we come to the collision of these texts with this time, just over half way through the season after Pentecost, when the church is called to full participation in what God is up to in the world so loved (how goes that with all you all?). Read more

Fallible Church, Deliberate Grace

12th Sunday after Pentecost

Ezekiel 33:1-11
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

 

It is strangely comforting to hear Jesus talking about a sinful church.

Some heap admiration on Jesus’ teaching, and then dismiss it as too lofty to be attainable. Turning the other cheek is for the spiritual elite. Loving one’s enemies is for the age to come. The Beatitudes are true spiritually, but not in practice.

But if ever we wondered whether Jesus were a realist or not, his words in Matthew 18 put that question to rest. The church Jesus envisions is not some idealized community we have not yet discovered or planted, or can’t belong to. The church Jesus envisions is entirely realistic: it is my sinful congregation and yours. We don’t need to be told that sin exists among the saints. We see the havoc wrought in our parishes by pride, greed, and sloth. We know the devastation of own wrath, envy, lust, and gluttony. Consequently, these words hold out the hope of experiencing grace because they reveal that Jesus knows full well the half-born condition of the community he leaves behind. His words take hold of us as we and our congregations are today and not as they can never be. Read more

James Hunter, Neo-Anabaptists, and the Ekklesia Project

EP Endorser and former regular bLOGOS contributor, Mark Ryan, shares his review of a book likely to be of interest to many in EP.

James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World (Oxford, 2010) begins with the claim that Christians are called to do just that: change the world. This vocation is grounded in Christian identification with the creating and re-creating God of scripture who issues what Hunter calls “the creation mandate.” Asserting that modern persons understand world-change primarily as cultural change, Hunter launches into a sophisticated, clear discussion of culture and the dynamics of cultural change. Read more

Signposts and Seeds

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

This week’s comments are pointings and plantings rather than a single extended reflection. My focus is on Matthew 16, but first a word about the other readings.

Rene Girard’s seminal insights, as well as those of his able interpreters (and critics) provide a profound context for the lectionary passages of the day. It is worth wrestling with how these insights shine light on parts of the texts that can be overlooked in more conventional readings: seeing through the “official” policy of “justified,” veiled violence by telling the story from the perspective of victim; turning “the logic of sacred violence” and blood sacrifice on its head, unveiling God’s revelation of Christ’s atonement and the witness of the Church as “living sacrifice.” Psalm 124 then becomes testimony. (Athanasius says that most Scripture speaks to us; the Psalms speak for us).

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Now some signposts and seeds from Matthew 16: Read more

Followers

Easter 4:  Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2: 19-25, John 10: 1-10

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…All who believed were together and had all things in common;  they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people…

So – what the hell happened?  Luke’s description of the early church, after the disciples’ baptism in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Peter’s surprisingly fearless sermon, is certainly a rosy one.  Where is this church, because I want to go there?! Read more