Reflections on the Gospels from a Justice Perspective written for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church by members of the congregation

Friday, June 27, 2014

29 June 2014 Matthew 10:40-42

Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”  Sayings about welcoming a messenger were common in the Mediterranean world; welcoming a messenger meant welcoming the person who sent the messenger.  If a king sent an emissary, the emissary was to be treated as the king himself.  Jesus quotes this saying in Matthew, Luke and John, giving his authority, granted by the Father, to his followers.  Too often this authority has been abused in evangelism, portraying God as threatening with eternal damnation and bribing with promises of eternal bliss.  No wonder Episcopalians shy away from the dreaded ‘E-word’!

Let's think closely about what Jesus is saying here, and what he said in last week’s gospel story.  He is talking about acting like God, not like gods.  We are each a picture of the God we believe in.  We resemble the master we serve.

What can we do this week, this day, this eternal present moment to show others that God is merciful, patient, generous, forgiving, always steadfast in loving-kindness?  What societal or personal broken relationship can we begin to mend?  Who needs to be blessed with the blessings God has entrusted to us?  What can we do to share God’s loving care in our particular spot on this earth?  Remember your English teacher’s advice about writing?  “Show, don’t tell.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

22 June 2014 Matthew 10:24-39 - “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear”

22 June 2014   Matthew 10:24-39  -   “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear”

In The Message,  Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Gospel for today is clear, direct and appears to be hard and harsh.  Peterson’s translation reads, “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy.  I’ve come to cut – make a sharp knife cut between son and father daughter and mother – cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies… 

These words are hard to hear.  They feel like a bludgeon is being applied to my closely held values of the importance of family.  As I become anxious about the idea that family members can be my worst enemy, I remember the classic song from the Musical “South Pacific” when Lt. Cable sings:

“You've got to be taught To hate and fear, You've got to be taught From year to year, It's got to be drummed In your dear little ear You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made, And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade, You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You've got to be carefully taught!’’

Some of us may, indeed, have been taught to hate.  Most of us have been taught to fear – whether fear uses the word “pity,” “concern,” “careful,” “caution,” or “afraid.”  Fear can bring about avoidance and denial, especially when justice, integrity, wholeness – those qualities characteristic of Jesus’ work among us – might conflict with what we have been taught about “how the world ought to work”.  Fear has a tendency to make us blind.  We do not see that there are systems and structures in place that prevent other folks from enjoying the same quality of life that we enjoy.  Fear can make us both blind and deaf to those who are different from us.  I have experienced servers speaking to me but acting as if my Black friend was invisible – neither seeing nor hearing her -  when out to lunch together.  The biggest complaint of the homeless guys on the Square is that folks treat them as if they were invisible – as if they did not exist.  The Good News in this hard word of Jesus about the gospel inspiring sons and daughters to break from their parents is that Christ has come to break us out of those old and harmful patterns in order that we might experience real love and real justice – finding both God and our true selves in the process.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pentecost 2014

What does it mean to receive the Holy Spirit? The quiet, private scene in John 20:19-23 is so different from the public excitement and clamor of the famous Pentecost events in Acts that the two accounts almost seem to be contradicting each other. But do they really?

At the beginning of the scene John is relating, the disciples are hiding in a locked room for fear of potential enemies. But Jesus appears among them, offers them God’s peace, and breathes on them– conferring the Spirit silently, with a gesture that recalls the way God breathed life into Adam in Genesis. Although John does not emphasize the miraculous aspect of this scene, it changes the disciples forever– transforming them into apostles, empowered by the Spirit to leave that safe little room and go forth to make known the good news of God’s love and forgiveness for all humankind.

The Pentecost narrative in Acts also testifies to the Spirit’s miraculous ability to heal human divisions, overcoming all the fears and differences that tend to keep us apart (language, ethnicity, race, immigration status, religious and political beliefs, etc.) With the guidance of the Spirit, we can grow to see each other as God sees us: as a single human family, all loved and redeemed by the work of Christ. And we too can be transformed, as the first disciples were, into instruments of God’s peace and love.