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

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mark 9: 38-50

27 Sept.  2015       Mark 9:38-50
In today’s Gospel, Jesus points to three dangers to our current institutional church:  (1) the exclusivity of defining who are “authentic” followers of Jesus; (2) the exclusivity of “shoulds and oughts” versus the Gospel of unconditional love of neighbor; and (3) the numbness of complacency. 

I was privileged to spend an evening with Sr. Simone Campbell, organizer of the Nuns on the Bus, who addressed Jesus’ issues for our time.  She reminded us that Christians are called to "radical acceptance,” not exclusivity.  Since we are called as a community of human beings, we cannot leave anyone out. We make peace only by bringing everyone to the table, no matter how much we disagree with each other.  Our Presiding Bishop elect, Michael Curry, echoes the call into radical acceptance when he invites Episcopalians to become part of the Jesus movement.

Sr. Simone suggested that we could begin practicing unconditional love of our neighbor by reclaiming our foundational story of the common good, expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution. Rather than imagining ourselves rugged individualists, which she sees as the root cause of exploitation on all fronts, we could fight for a conversation about building a shared vision of “We the People” in 2015.  The General Convention of the Episcopal Church suggested doing this by going into neighborhoods.  We could choose to think more about how to bring our neighborhood together in conversation about the common good, including all those with whom we disagree.

Finally, Sr. Simone suggests that our complacency is our response to being besieged by antics and sound bites and polarizing event.  We have become numb; we lose our salt. Numbed by what we see, we don't engage in the hard work of conversation. We replace the hard work of real democracy with entertainment, and look at the performances, polls and ratings rather than face the crises we are in. Sr. Campbell concluded that we can replenish the salt within ourselves when we each do one thing and do it well.  What is your gift?  What do you do well?  And how can you use what you do well in community to work for the common good?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mark 8:27-38 Justice Reflection

Mark 8:27-38      Justice Reflection

At the time of today's gospel reading, the Jewish people had lived under foreign rule for seven hundred years, sometimes in exile, sometimes in their occupied homeland.  Often they were persecuted, their religious practices banned, their holiest places desecrated.  They longed for the restoration of the glory days of David and Solomon, and they looked for another anointed one, the Messiah, to lead them to self-rule.  We can't know what Peter is thinking when he says to Jesus, "You are the Messiah," but it's not unlikely Peter is expecting Jesus to lead Israel to new glory days.

The people are better than Peter at identifying Jesus:  They put Jesus in the direct line of great Jewish troublemakers.  Elijah was a thorn in the side of Israel's royal household, and he had to hide out much of the time.  Most of the other Hebrew prophets were unpopular for rocking the boats of the comfortable and upsetting the precarious equilibrium of the fearful.  According to the Letter to the Hebrews, "… they were mocked and scourged, in chains and imprisoned, were stoned, sawn in two, put to death with the sword, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.…"  John the Baptist was beheaded for condemning Herod's marriage to his brother Philip's wife.

Jesus' description of his future makes him look a lot more like a prophet than a national hero.
In today's gospel, Jesus puts us right in the middle of his future:  "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."  There's no wiggle room here: What is required of us "for the sake of the gospel" is very clear in scripture:  We are to imitate Christ, which means sticking our necks way out beyond our own security and comfort.  We cannot play it safe while poverty leaves people without hope, while children go to school too hungry to learn, while sick people have no access to medical care, while minorities are given long sentences in inhuman prisons for minor offenses, while God's creation is profaned for profit.

Prophets were not popular in Biblical times, and they are not popular today -- in our time, prophets have been assassinated, in this and other countries.  But the whole world is crying out in pain, and Jesus expects us to take risks to do something about it.  What are we going to do?