thinking theology

Who is important anyway? This week’s news included stories of the continuing atrocity of Boko Harun, the earthquakes in Japan, another failed missile launch in North Korea, war robots who can kill without conscience issues or compensation for injury.

People of faith continue to speak out for justice, for consideration of the earth and its creatures, for peace, and a willingness to see ourselves as one family, one people, one earth. And this morning we read about Tabitha, who must have been one of the original disciples. Why was it important for her to experience resurrection? Why heal her? I wonder if it’s just because it was the obvious thing to do, an act of love and solidarity, even with a woman. Or was it important to show the other women disciples that in the household of faith, they were of equal value? I wonder how many opportunities for healing witness we miss every day, how often we let someone fade away as if they were less desirable or needed.

The church in our time will have to decide if the way we weigh tribal values in Hebrew scripture has more validity than Jesus’ command to withhold condemnation and act with compassion. The people we have told to leave, because of lifestyle, conviction, status, nationality, or whatever, have remained astonishingly loyal. First Nations people continue to value the gospel, despite how it was used against them. Refugees continue to be grateful for our meagre efforts. Gay, lesbian, and transgender people continue to lobby for full inclusion, despite our best efforts to ostracize and judge. Of course, many have left and many condemn religion as a tool for oppression and violence. There is no exculpation for the past, but we can change our present focus.

I think many of us believe we are at a turning point now. We can no longer play one concern against another, weigh one cultural value against another. We are being called to be the household of Christ. That means we have only one value: compassion. Our actions must be governed by protecting the least of all humanity, whether or not those people have received our cultural sanitization and seal of approval. The only enemies for Christians are hunger, fear, and oppression. Our only weapon is sacrificial love. And the words we have are welcome, peace.

When we speak and act like Jesus would have us, the riches of grace and purpose will fill our hearts with faith and our hands with work in his name. St. Paul was a murderer, but he was transformed. St. Peter was a traitor, but he found a new path to faithfulness. Tabitha was just one woman disciple, but her healing witnessed to the inclusive, world changing love to which the first disciples witnessed. May it be so in our midst again.

flying sheepSecond Thoughts

Today’s Good Shepherd reading makes me restless. On the one hand, there is an invitation to be part of the herd, an opportunity for rest and passivity. On the other hand, that invitation has a history of resistance to it. How we hear John 10:22, has more to do with us than with the passage I suspect. The news is fraught with tragedy, war, earthquakes, famine. In the church also, there have now been decades of upheaval. But when we hear this news, we are cautioned to think of it as the birth pangs, the advent of something new. I am not sure how comforting that actually is.

What gate lies ahead for us? Where are we being guided? Most sheep resist being sheared. Are we, the church, the world, being sheared of our excess? Are we being invited to be bare to the elements, stripped of our covering and reduced to our essential selves? Most of us find vulnerability difficult, frightening, isolating.

Jesus says that he is with us all the way. He is the good shepherd but he may draw us along frightening paths, across new outcroppings of rocks. The pastures may contain grass that is different, vistas unseen. So how do we see ourselves? Sheep safely grazing, or wild mountain sheep, leaping at the call of the one who leads us into the unknown?

About resurrection, Paul says, “What is sown is perishable, what is raised has life.” The pastures we have known have been good to us, and we have learned from them, but now is the time to travel into life in the hills of hope and promise. I think many of us believe we are at a turning point now. We can no longer play one concern against another, weigh one cultural value against another. We are being called to be the household of Christ. That means we have only one value: compassion. Our actions must be governed by protecting the least of all humanity, whether or not those people have received our cultural sanitization and seal of approval. The only enemies for Christians are hunger, fear, and oppression. Our only weapon is sacrificial love. And the words we have are welcome, peace.

When we speak and act like Jesus would have us, the riches of grace and purpose will fill our hearts with faith and our hands with work in his name. St. Paul was a murderer, but he was transformed. St. Peter was a traitor, but he found a new path to faithfulness. Tabitha was just one woman disciple, but her healing witnessed to the inclusive, world changing love to which the first disciples witnessed. May it be so in our midst again.

 

 

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