My article on eating disorders and the Eucharist is now available in the fall issue of Word and World, with the theme of Bread. I'm grateful they gave me the opporutnity to take another look at research I did twenty years ago on this subject for my M.Div. project, and to consider how much the conversation around food and theology has changed in recent years.
decides to invite former Pope Benedict and former Archbishop of Canterbury
Rowan Williams out for a ride in his 1984 Renault. How else could three such prominent theologians
actually have a private conversation about weighty matters? Unfortunately, the paparazzi
get wind of this plan and chase the
three across the Italian countryside until the whole things ends in a tragic
fiery crash, and all three end up at the Pearly Gates together.
welcomes them and informs them that due to their dedicated service to the Lord’s
Church on earth, they will each be granted a private audience with the Holy
One. They draw straws to see who will go first and Rowan Williams is the first.
It takes a
while. . .longer than anyone expected, really. And when Williams emerges he
hangs his head and shakes his bushy eyebrows muttering to himself, “How could
have been so wrong?”
popes are a little encouraged by this, so Pope Francis volunteers to go next.
He is in the inner sanctum for even longer than the Archbishop, and finally
emerges looking puzzled and humbled himself. “How could I have been so wrong?”
Benedict, not at all cowed by this, strides in last. And this time the meeting
seems never to end. Hours and hours go by, and finally the door is flung open,
and God Herself bursts out, hanging Her divine head in despair, crying “How
could I have been so wrong?”
There are many things that have not
changed in two thousand years. One is that we all love a good pearly gates joke.
We know from ancient sources that stories about heaven and hell were told in ancient
Egypt and among Jewish rabbis in Jesus’
time as well. Jesus’ own story this morning is a mash-up of Jewish and Greek
concepts of the afterlife, not one that’s consistent with any one
But as we all know from our own jokes,
these stories aren’t really about what we think of heaven or hell. You don’t
have to literally believe in Pearly Gates with St. Peter at the front desk to
enjoy a good story about popes or presidents or Lutherans or Catholics. Some of them, like this one, are
great jokes because you can easily put in the people of your day; who among us
doesn’t have a family member that could stand in for Pope Benedict in this
joke? The point of these stories is never so much about what we think things
will look like after we draw our final breath, but about how we live our lives
here and now. They are about seeing what is on earth from the eyes of heaven.
Sartre said that the meaning of life
is that it ends, and maybe that’s why we enjoy these stories so much. They are
about the meaning of our lives from that final perspective: if the period were
put on the end of a President’s life today how would we tell the story? If the
period were put on the last paragraph of my life today, how would that story
get told? There’s nothing like heavenly hindsight to put things in perspective.
And perspective is exactly what the rich man and Lazarus get.
So don’t be distracted by things like
flames and the lap of Father Abraham. They are like the bar when the rabbi and the priest walk into a
bar. It’s not about the bar. Jesus is
using his cultural means to make give us a little fantasy that helps us pay
attention to reality. The image of this
huge chasm between Lazarus’ condition in heaven and the rich man’s in Hades is
a reversal of their life time conditions.
And there’s another thing that has not
changed at all in 2000 years, and this is the part that is not at all funny.
There is still a tremendous chasm between the condition of some in this life
and the comfort with which the rest live. We all can still see Lazarus at the
gate, though there are forces in our lives that also work to keep him invisible
There is a great
chasm, and we get a witness to it every day in the newspaper. Often it can be
measured in dollars and cents but there are other gaps as well.
Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman
Between Congresspeople arguing about
health care and those who actually don’t have any
Between we who have the means to recover from the affect of
climate change to our communities, and those millions who will simply lose
their livelihoods and homes.
This story calls us to pay attention to those terrible gaps
that have existed in every generation and seem never to go away. It is only
good news if you are the one who has not been on the winning side in this life.
I do hope and pray that the Trayvons of this world are comforted closely by
Abraham or someone equally wise in heaven, but I do not believe that should be
the only consolation of all the people who find themselves begging at the gate,
nameless and unknown to the haves of this world.
One of the first clues things are reversed in this story is that the rich man is the nameless one. You
might sometimes hear him called Dives, but that’s only because that’s the Latin
word for rich. Imagine the afterlife as a place populated by people who are
finally known by their names, instead of “homeless” or “young black man” or
“shanty dweller in a 3rd world city”. Imagine the afterlife as one
in which everyone who has put their names on buildings and projects and
fortunes simply known as “rich man.”
In heaven it is not as it is on earth.
When Lazarus dies, the scripture says,
he is now “comforted” but the word is more like “encouraged” or even “called
out” John Swanson translates it this way
“Remember you received your good things in your life.
Lazarus likewise the evil.
Now, here he is called as a witness,
but you suffer.” (Provoking the Gospel of
called as a witness. A witness to the chasm, one who after years of being
silent and invisible and nameless is called to witness, to speak.
those witnesses to the chasm:
activists have sought to bear witness is through art, through simply making the
homeless at the gate more visible. In Boston graphic design students are
turning simple cardboard signs in to art-quality colorful media pieces. An
exhibit in Minneapolis a few years ago featured the work of homeless folks who
were using humor to break down the barrier. One man named David
Drew had a sign that read:
simple checklist of things you can do to ignore me: Check your seat belt, check
your stereo, wash your windshield, call someone on your cell phone."
It would be
funny if it weren’t so painfully true.
doesn’t give us much hope that our human pattern of ignoring this chasm will
change much. Indeed, it can seem as though our tools for turning away from
poverty and inequality have only gotten more sophisticated over the years, to
the point where we can now have politicians arguing that it will be good for
the poor to drastically cut the amount of food assistance available to them.
Mayors are rewarded for keeping the homeless off the street – not necessarily
housed, but out of sight and often out of mind. We keep our own eyes fixed on
moving up the ladder and thinking as little as possible about those who have no
access to the ladder at all.
So what is to
be done? From his heavenly hindsight the rich man at least moves from seeing
Lazarus as the guy who will cool to tongue to thinking of someone besides
himself – he asks for a witness, someone to go and warn his brothers, and
Abraham responds that he already has witnesses
He has the
witness of the law and the prophets. Words like Moses’ law of jubilee that debt
not be allowed to create a permanent chasm in society; words like Amos’ lament
for a people who lie on
No one can
cross it – Indeed, it’s true that a man
named Lazarus, risen from the dead, was not enough to convince even teachers of
the law like the Pharisees to repent. But Lazarus was not the only one. Jesus was
raised from the dead as well, and the fact that a man named Luke wrote this
gospel, for a group of Gentile and Jewish Christians who included some rich
people among them, who included male and female, slave and free in their midst
– that Jesus did indeed cross the chasm. We have to get to the end of Jesus’
life to make sense of his story as well, and that story is one that ends with
Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance
and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations,
beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)
witnesses. But we are witnesses only as we let go of our identities as yet
another rich person. We are witnesses when we are named at that baptismal font,
stripped of everything but our identity in Christ, dead to the world’s
evaluation of us, made alive only by our life in Jesus, next to the one who chose the place of
the poor, we who bear witness to the chasm of this life but also to the power
of Jesus’ ability to cross it, to make even the dead alive. When we are
Lazarus, we are witnesses of these things.
end on the Gospel story is that someone does come back from the dead, and at
least a few of us through history have decided to listen. People like St.
Francis of Assisi, who threw off his identity as a rich man and chose to live
among the poor and the animals.
Dorothy Day, who from her baptism sought to be close to the wretched and the
nameless homeless of New York City, bearing witness through writing and
People like Gordon
Cosby, who started Church of the Saviour in Washington DC, really a cluster
of churches, each of which identified with Lazarus in different ways.
Washington Post wrote about him:
“Cosby, who has been preaching since he was a 15-year-old in
Lynchburg (Va.), was raised Southern Baptist in southern Virginia. He went into
the seminary and then became an Army chaplain in Europe in World War II, an experience
that reshaped his faith perspective. He said he came back feeling that
denomination and race were artificial constructs and that people should live in
regular life as they would in war–willing to lay down their lives for their
neighbors, viewing their faith as an urgent tool to change the world.”
at the age of 95 recently, cared for at a ministry he had founded, Christ
House, spending his final days next to homeless men who needed medical care and
company would we like to be known? Just another boring rich person who like
every other has thrown a few coins to Lazarus but never breached the gap, or
the one who was among us like Lazarus, poor, homeless, not esteemed by the
world but finally raised up by God to new life. It will not be in heaven as it is on earth,
this story reminds us. But in Christ we see it could be on earth as it is in
This coming Sunday's text has reminded me again of the astonishing fact that very little has changed in two thousand years. We can still see Lazarus at the gate, only now he's the homeless guy (or woman) with the cardbaord sign at the freeway exit.
I'm fascinated by this Boston project started by some art students to spruce up those cardboard signs. The first step in solving homelessness, they argue, is recognizing the humanity of those who use signs to get our attention, and nothing humanizes better than art (and, I would argue, the stories they tell on this website).
Credits: Karoline Lewis for the alternate parable title: Garret Keizer's wonderful book Help: the Original Human Dilemma; Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies. Bible translation from Eugene Peterson's The Message.
goes again, answering a simple question with a story. At least this one seems
to have a clear enough point to it. It’s no accident that we have Good
Samaritan laws and not Unjust Steward laws. Good Samaritan Hospitals, and not
Rich Fool Hospitals.
it’s so familiar and so evidently simple, that’s just the problem with it.
Like so many
parables, Jesus gives us just enough details
to make it seem real – the dangerous road, the officials in a hurry, the
robbers lurking nearby, the wine poured into open wounds and a donkey hauling a
broken man to shelter. It’s so vivid, it’s
no wonder the story has become synonymous in our culture with what it means to
help a stranger in distress.
are so many details left out; so many complications of helping real people in
the real world, that make it seem easier than it really is.
all know that helping others is actually a pretty complicated affair:
Keizer describes this with bracing clarity in his book Help
“I want to tell it again in different
versions. . . I wnt the Samaritan. . . to take the phone from the saddlbad and hear
the voice of his wife, his sister-in-law, the police telling him that someone
he dearly loves is “at it again.” I want the man by the side of the road to be
his father, his little brother, or his only begotten son, and I want him to be
drunk as a skunk and stripped,
beaten, and left for dead. I want this to be the third time in as many months
that this has happened. . .
“I want the Samaritan – very much I
want this – to get into a big argument over putting the victim on his animal. .
. I want to hear him scream “Just get on the [stupid] donkey.. . .
“I want the Samaritan, on his return
visit to the inn, to learn that the wounded man has recovered enough to trash
his room, harass several guests.. .
“In short, I want to see it get
complicated. And along with that, I want to see it take time, all kinds of
If any part
of you is laughing ruefully after this litany it’s because you know how very
very vulnerable we make ourselves when we help others, and how easy it is to
delude ourselves that we are in fact helping, when maybe we might just be interfering
and making things worse – worse for those we
love if not also for ourselves and our supposed beneficiaries.
I want it to get complicated.
another complication, a metaphor for just how difficult it can be to even
encounter our neighbors: You can no longer take this road. The road from
Jerusalem to Jericho is now blocked by an enormous wall, separating Israel from Palestinian territory; you cannot
simply walk from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Jew and the Samaritan simply wouldn’t end up on that road together
parable is designed to tell us HOW to be
help our neighbors, this story is way too simple, way to quick, lacking in all
the messy details that make the job hard.
You can’t get there from here.
is, most of us would never find ourselves on such a road in the first place.
We’ve built our entire security society out of the assumption that people
should help themselves, and if the world is not safe enough they should pay for
a better security system, a better handgun, an armed guard to accompany us in
the dangerous places. We pay for the health club and the statins best
healthcare we can possibly afford and wonder what that person who had the heart
attack did wrong. We invest everything we can in helping our kids be
responsible and studious and successful so they’ll go to the right schools and
get a good job and never ever have to ask for a handout.
Which is why
when the bad stuff does happen, as it so often does, even now, the person in
the ditch is so often incredibly alone.
suffering of the one in the ditch is not just about theft and violence and
wounds. The suffering of the person in the ditch is that of being passed by.
that is the pain that I hear, over and over again, of those who find themselves
thrown off the fast track of life.
What’s surprising is not that bad stuff happened. If you live long
enough you expect that. What’s surprising and so saddening, again and again, is
how utterly isolating it can be, when you are the one who lost the job, you are
the one with cancer, you are the one whose spouse is slowly drifting away on
the ship of Alzheimers. What so many people tell me hurts the most is that the
rest of the world keeps on racing by, and hardly anyone stops to say, “are you
story is supposed to tell us how to help our neighbor, it’s finally not that
helpful, in a world designed to keep us away from unfamiliar neighbors. But
that’s not actually the question the
religious man asked, not what Jesus was trying to answer.
is WHO is my neighbor
Samaritan,” the man answers Jesus, grudgingly, because in his religious mind the Samaritans
are the ones that have it all wrong. They worship in the wrong place in a weird
way. Their religion took a strange left turn several centuries ago and ever
since then it’s been much easier to live separate lives, keep to ourselves and
not expect anything from one another.
answer, finally, for the lawyer and for us,
is that the neighbor is finally that unlikely character that offers YOU
help – the one you would be least likely to talk to on the road, the one you
might even cross the road to avoid. The Samaritan, that most unlikely neighbor,
is not necessarily the person you would point at and say, now there goes a good man. THERE goes
someone who observes the law and walks upright.
And in that
sense, you could say that when we are the ones lying in the ditch by the side
of the road, and we cry out for help, we might end up relying on someone like
Jesus – someone none of the religious authorities in his day thought was right.
Someone who had no place to lay his head, who was called a glutton and a
drunkard. Someone who ate with all the wrong people.
Jesus may be
revered in some circles still but for many of us it’s still maybe a little bit
embarrassing to call on him for help, or even admit that we need that kind of help.
Anne Lamott ,
in her memoir Traveling Mercies,
describes her own conversion as exactly such a reaction. She was sick, strung
out, broke, and utterly alone. She reached rock bottom, was lying alone in her
room and sensed the presence of someone there. She sensed that it was Jesus,
and writes that her first thought was “Anyone but him.”
But that is
how grace works.
ourselves beaten down, tired, stripped of all our pretensions of being really
good people. We find ourselves in the ditch, the one place we swore we would
never be, looking so pathetic we can’t blame anyone else for passing us by.
ourselves utterly unable to walk the road alone anymore.
Then it is
Jesus, the last one we want to turn to but the only one who is still around,
who picks us up. Who gives us wine to drink and anoints us with oil. Who walks
alongside us because we can no longer travel by ourselves, who gives everything
he can and says, “I’ll come back for you.”
Who is my
neighbor? Like it or not, in all kinds of guises we might not expect. it’s
winter. . . .still winter, we might say. 4th Sunday of Easter and
the scene outside seems stuck on constant loop, and the lectionary has bumped
us all the way back to Hanukkah. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ description of
Narnia under the witch’s reign – always winter, never Christmas.
The Feast of
the Dedication, or Hanukkah, that’s the context of this scene. Jesus is walking
in the portico of Solomon during the feast, the commemoration of the time when
the Jews had been banned from worshipping God for over three years, and finally
after the Maccabean revolt had an opportunity to re-dedicate their temple.
winter, they are remembering one rededication, but doing so rather carefully
because even as they are celebrating the freedom they gained in the past the
Jews look outside their window and see history stuck in a loop. . . another
empire, another foreign ruler watching over their shoulders and making sure
that their demands for freedom don’t go too far.
The porch of
Solomon was a site of memory but also a place of slaughter. It was a place that
had been rededicated but only after too much blood had been shed, too many
children had died. In Jewish lore of the time there was speculation about
where, when the anointed one, the Messiah came, the new age would begin. Where
would the anointed one declare that the reign of God was at hand that the new
age of God’s people worshipping without fear would begin? Some people thought
it would be at Rachel’s tomb, since Rachel was the mother of all the exiles,
the one whose weeping would not be silenced. And some thought it was here, at
Solomon’s Porch, at the place where the innocent had been slaughtered and God’s
people had not given up on longing for God’s reign.
And in this
place, Jesus uses language that evokes the kingship of David, where he speaks
of being a shepherd, the kind of leader who will gather the scattered and
protect the vulnerable.
vulnerable is what they are – and it does not matter where they are
massive temple is not safe, and it too will some day in the not too distant
future be destroyed. Even this place of celebration can be in a moment marred
by violence. Even this holy place can be desecrated.
Back Bay turned into a scene of bloodshed
a passenger plane used as a weapon
an elementary school attacked.
most sacred places can be violated. . . and our most revered heroes fall
verse, by the way, is that people took up stones to stone Jesus for what he said
And the next
story is that his dear friend Lazarus is dead.
Death is all
too close, all the time. Illness and violence strike randomly, even to Jesus
What makes a
shepherd a shepherd is not that he leads us away from every danger, but that he
leads us through.
It is not
mere protection Jesus offers, but assurance, the knowledge of being known, of
never being alone. Of being unsnatchable.
We tend to
imagine that the important word is FOR. That what God does FOR me makes me a
Christian and what I do FOR God and neighbor is what it’s all about. So we ask
what our church life does for us; and what our church does for their
neighborhood. We occupy ourselves with doing more and more of the right kind of
service for the world and build communities intent on telling people what the
church can do for them.
argues that the heart of the Gospel is instead the little word WITH, as in when
the angel says to Mary, this child shall be Emmanuel, God WITH us, and when
Jesus says, Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth.
WITH me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
shepherd does for the sheep is first and foremost simply being with them,
through good and bad.
after all, don’t cause the grass to grow or the waters to be still. They do not
make wolves and lions go away; they cannot make sheep more perfectly sensible
and independent. But they are with
their flocks, and in that with-ness, the flock is assured.
And so, as Jesus is standing on this porch of
Solomon, talking about being a shepherd,
he emphasizes that he is a shepherd because he is WITH his Father, and in his
communion with God he offers us communion with him. He is a good shepherd
because about to enter into the ultimate with-ness of humanity, entering into
the suffering and death which is always part of the human experience.
My Sheep are
with me. And no one will snatch them out of my hand
that mean, if you lived as if you were unsnatchable? What might it mean to give
witness to all God’s sheep being unsnatchable.
How would we
If it did
not matter whether you look good enough, or work hard enough, or are liked by
everybody? If you believed that even the scariest events of our time could not
separate you from God’s love?
it mean to live knowing that goodness and mercy will pursue us, like sheepdogs
nipping at our heels, all our lives? That even when the scene outside our doors
or inside our hearts seems stuck on a constant loop, a Groundhog Day blizzard
over and over again, even then goodness and mercy will keep invading our lives,
keep running into the chaos, into the bloodshed, into the hurt with Words of
strength and acts of compassion.
it mean to be a church that knows that being with God means being with our
brothers and sisters, and that no one, not even the most unloved by the world,
is considered lost by our good shepherd?
witness does not run from the places of darkness. Such a witness is not
paralyzed when it seems like there is nothing we can do for the hurting or the wounded. Such a witness says simply, let us
be wth God’s world because God is
popular to say this week that we are all Bostonians or all Texans, but wise
voices from outside this country reminded us that we ought to remember how
often violence invades the lives of people throughout the world, sometimes at
the hands of our own government.
So yes, said
one journalist at Britain’s the Guardian, "I'm all up for us all being Bostonians, today.
But can we all be Yemenis tomorrow, and
Pakistanis the next day?" Can we be with one another even then?
with us because God has chosen to be with us. And when we pray with one
another, when we hurt with one another, when we enter into this life WITH one another, we give witness to that God who
has said, YOU are unsnatchable.
received that promise at our baptism . . . You belong to Christ
And we are
commissioned in that same moment to witness to that reality to the world – we are
anointed, chosen. We who count ourselves one with Christ, we are anointed to be
one with God’s world.
to Christ. We invite you to hear these words, to receive a sign of that
anointing, and to live it
As the sun
was just coming up one fall morning in 1970, an Iowa-born, Minnesota-educated
agricultural scientist named Norman Borlaug was in his laboratory fields in
Mexico, working with research assistants, as he did every morning, testing
varieties of wheat that would produce greater yields.
were a good 40 miles away from the city where he and his wife were lodging at
night, so when he looked up to see his wife running across the fields toward
him, he knew it would only be for big news.
He turned to
his assistant and said, “That’s my wife, coming to tell me that my other has
died.” Why else would she have hired a ride to come all this way?
But when his
wife arrived, she called, out, “Norman, . You’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize!”
were present at the time confirm that his first reaction was, “No I haven’t” Not that he didn’t believe his
wife, but he thought maybe it was a prankster with a Norwegian- accent. The
peace prize for a botanist? Death would have been much easier to believe.
Borlaug didn’t really believe the news until he’d talked on the phone himself
to the committee, until the reporters started calling, until he got on the
plane to Oslo and actually was called away from his rice fields and research
long enough to see his work from a global perspective. In fact he said later
that he finally understood the prize as being not about him so much as about
the “ the vital role of agriculture and
food production in a world that is hungry, both for bread and for peace".
We are so
accustomed to the story of Easter morning that we perhaps don’t even notice any
more that NO ONE reacted to the resurrection with an alleluia. Or even joy,
No one said, WOW! Or Yay! OR “yes, I
knew it!” or “Oh yeah, all right”
At best the reaction was “Wha??” or stunned silence. Some of the gospels report people running
away, afraid. In Luke’s gospel the men who
first here from Mary and the others react the way people have for
Our translators have protected us. nonsense, “bullshit” drivel, garbage. A hoax.
Here they were the people who had been closest to Jesus, who
had been with him almost constantly for years, who had seen him feed the
hungry, and cast out demons, and still a stormy sea, and heal the sick and even
raise Lazarus from the dead
These people who seemed to believe that Jesus was from God,
they heard the news and said – no way. No way. We know what crucifixion does
and no one was survived it. We know that Jerusalem is the city that kills
prophets, we’ve seen that headline. The
dead stay dead, that is just reality.
the people we have held up as heroes of the faith for generations,
and when they hear the news they say, that’s a bunch of crap.
responded right away with Alleluia – that took a while. It took going to see
for themselves, it looking living into it.
It took a
little while to get to alleluia, and in most cases it meant people had to go
see for themselves.
honestly, what good is resurrection if
it’s just something in a news report; what good is that? We read news every
day, and most of it doesn’t stop us in our tracks. We might hope for news on
the scale of Borlaug’s stunning announcement – maybe that’s why we can’t stop
checking our email, why we jump when the phone rings, why we worry that we have
missed some vital message if we are out of touch for even a few moments.
maybe, that the news we will hear will be someone offering us a stunning
opportunity, and you, only you, are the
right person for the job. Or the news of a miracle drug being discovered that
will save your loved ones life, or someone coming to say that our property is
sitting on vast mineral rights and could we please sell it to them for a
But most of
the time it isn’t that. The emails are a long succession of mostly the same
things, headlines are full of awful news – another shooting, another head-on
collision, another war, another 100 jobs lost, another celebrity break-up. We
scan them and occasionally shake our heads, but really what do we expect?
truth is, in day to day living, it’s awfully hard for us to see anything other
than the reality of death as well – one day after another, another . . .
this reality all the time until it hits home, until death comes to our house,
our neighborhood, our family, and then some deep part of ourselves protests.
Some part of ourselves has an inkling that this is not what God intended.
inkling, this risky sense that the story is not over is what Flannery O’Connor
meant when she said faith is what you
know to be true, even if you really can’t believe it.
I am not resigned to the shutting
away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.
The answers quick & keen, the
honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness
of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
happened on Easter, and what took everyone quite a while to come to terms with,
was that Jesus story was not going to end the same way all the others did. That
God, God was not resigned to seeing the message of the kingdom of God at hand
just stop with another unjust death.
raised Jesus from the dead he joined us in saying, I am not resigned
I am not
resigned that Jerusalem will forever be a place of death instead of life.
I am not
resigned that the ones with the most power and the most weapons will always
I am not
resigned that children go to bed hungry
I am not
resigned that history should be a list of one war after another, listing the
winners as those who fought the most battles.
I am not
resigned that death will always be the final word.
I am not
resigned that the message of God’s shalom will always end in another dead prophet.
God was not resigned, and instead
raised Jesus from the dead.
In Jesus God
gave us a sign of a new creation, one which is so astonishing it first makes us
fall silent, and then so beautiful we
can only sing alleluia!
And as we
live into this news, as we sing alleluia not just this Sunday but every Sunday,
we learn how to live to look for that new creation everywhere we go.
Every Sunday as we gather at this table, even the
most ordinary Sundays, we say “It is our duty and delight at ALL times and in
all places, to give you thanks, because on THIS day, you overcame death and the
we say those words, because on THIS day – and next Sunday and next Sunday again and again on the 8th
day of every week we celebrate that God has begun something new in Jesus, and
we are witnesses to that reality that everyone longs for but hardly anyone can
fully take in.
We come here
again and again because this news is not easy to take in, And even though we know it to be true we can’t quite believe it.
and also because we will never believe it
until we go out and experience it for ourselves.
We go and see Christ risen ourselves as we take
800 pounds of food to VEAP from our food drive.
Christ risen as we build relationship with our sisters and brothers in El
Salvador, and see to it that not only our children have chairs to sit in but
they do as well.
risen when all families eat together at this table and then go out together to
advocate for equality together.
We see Christ
risen as we promise to create supportive housing for homeless youth in this
part of our city.
Christ risen as we will join with Lutherans from across the state to advocate
for cleaner energy.
Christ risen even when we hold one another in grief, and we pray for one
another when they cannot pray for themselves when we bury our dead,.
We move back
and forth from nonsense to alleluia,
and we come
back again and again to get a glimpse of that new creation, where where there
is abundant bread and peace for everyone.
On this day
Christ overcame death and the grave, and we shout Amen and alleluia with those on
another shore and in a greater light.
subtitle of the cover article in the latest Lutheran caught my interest: “from
Sunday into Monday.” But I opened the article and found stories of retirees
packing snacks on a Tuesday, or who chose to locate a worship center near a
community crossroads. While there were
wonderful examples in the article of congregations that have paid attention to
community needs and developed vital and meaningful programs around those needs,
the article still left me wondering: “where are MOST of the members of these
congregations on Monday morning?”
often, our understanding of the “ministry of the laity” in the Lutheran church
has been reduced to the volunteer things we do for the church. While it’s great
that some of those volunteer hours are served outside the church walls, I wonder how many working Lutheran adults
are weary of hearing that they should
get more involved in volunteerism, while they struggle to figure out what faith
means in the 40-60 hours a week they are in paid employment, and the many other
hours they spend caring for their kids or their aging parents. The question is not "what new thing do I add to my schedule to act out my faith," but "how can what I already do every day reflect Christ crucified and risen?"
are always reluctant to reduce faith to ethics, or to give prescriptive answers
to the dilemmas so many adults face. But if the church is to be vital in the
future – that is, if we expect persons under 65 to get engaged – we had better
figure out, and quickly, what best supports the Monday morning faith of those
who spend their weekdays in the working world.