Monday, September 15, 2014

Blogging the Lectionary, Sort Of. On Forgiveness. Kinda.

Last time I wrote about the lectionary it was for last Sunday’s gospel and the gospel from about three Sundays before that. Blogging about the lectionary is really struggling with what the Gospels are really saying, especially when I find it hard to understand or implement. 

So when I read today’s Gospel  (Matthew 18:21-35) and Jesus saying we must forgive “seventy times seven” and then his hyperbolic parable about a debt that's impossible to incur let alone repay, perhaps to represent an unforgivable sin? … I struggled with what seemed to me to be an impossible ask laid out in this part of the gospel: to forgive unconditionally — even though that’s more or less what I pray for each time I say The Lord’s Prayer. It's what Christians are supposed to do.

Today’s sermon by Rev. Daniel Pearson helped immensely in this — and I was particularly struck by a story that he told about a friend who referred to Desmond Tutu talking about forgiveness from the heart and then choosing to release or renew that relationship.  What did this mean?

Read this interview with Desmond Tutu.  I have bought the book and will be reading it. 

Um, informal book group anyone? Maybe beginning of October?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Conformity of Love: Blogging the Lectionary

Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15)

That's from the lectionary of three weeks ago that I never got around to writing about. This might end up a bit of a series, personal reflections on these questions. I invite you to join me in them. (Take your time with them. I have.)

  1. Who do I say Jesus is? (And the corollary is: and do my actions reflect that?)
  2. What does the Cross mean to me? 
  3. Why the Church?

Who do I say Jesus is?

And is it different from who I say God  is? (Inasmuch as I know who God is anyway...)

I say Jesus is Beloved and Lover. What I mean is that Jesus as the Son of the living God, is the embodiment of God's unconditional love (chesed - loving kindness). He loves us, he listens to us, he comforts us.

I was going to say more than this, share my history of how my view of Jesus has changed over the years: from this divine guy who pats the heads of children but is distant, to the brief period where I claimed him as mortal prophet only but worth following, and to where I am now, currently. And it’s almost like I know both less and more about Jesus, through study of the Gospels and in my own experiences. But I trust more. (If not completely yet.)

Do I show my belief in Jesus as Beloved and Lover in who I am? In my actions? 

Probably not. Probably more than I think I do. And that’s what today’s gospel from Matthew is about. (Matthew 18:15-20

It has been bothering me all week, this gospel about confronting sinners and gathering the church — because of the stories of ostracism and how victims of abuse are the ones who end up outside their community. 

Not one commentary that I read this past week addressed this. It was all about church conflict and how to handle it, albeit with some recognition that this isn’t a cookie-cutter, or the only, solution. Matthew isn’t talking about how to negotiate the conflict over whether there should be all white flowers or all red flowers for Christmas, or whether the rectory should be kept or sold, or if one’s theology is right or wrong.

He’s talking about relationships. Relationships that make up a community. It’s not the issues, it’s the people.

Last night, my husband and I watched “Divergent”, the movie about a girl who doesn’t fit in to any of the factions and who may end up Factionless, without community, without family, as a result. While watching the movie, I did think that the Factionless are actually a faction and could pull it together. (Maybe I should read the books.) Ultimately, “Divergent” is about the dangers of conformity: don’t look in a mirror, accept your orders, etc.

And I think if Matthew’s community and Jesus’ disciples had a place in this post-apocalyptic world, their conformity would be that of love. Which I very much suspect would put them square with the Factionless and the Divergent, because love is all the virtues of each of the factions rolled into one: kindness, truth-speakers, putting others first, even dauntless with their courage and leaps of faith.

A conformity of love. 

Not a conformity of shaming.

Not a conformity of power-wrangling.

Not a conformity of ostracism.

Not a conformity of fear.

A conformity of love.

In Matthew 18:17, Jesus says: "if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

And how was Jesus with Gentiles and tax collectors? He loved them, he ate with them, he talked with them. Sin is breaking relationship. Jesus is about restoring relationship.

But what do you do about murderers and abusers and … and … ? This is where I get stuck. How do you restore relationship with those who destroy them? 

What this gospel makes clear is that it is not up to you or I alone. There’s a community. God is among us and within us. I think it also helps that relationship is a two-way street and it takes two to agree to a right relationship, but beyond that I just don’t have any answers.

Do you? (Please post in comments if so. I think I have managed to turn threaded comments on which should still work even if you post anonymously. Let me know if you have issues.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

What I Learned in August

Given that I've missed two weeks of blogging the lectionary (sometimes the questions raised take more than a week to untangle--presumably ordained priests work this out in seminary, or before they get there or something), here's something a little light-hearted.

Things I Learned in August:

1) Scones in Australia are biscuits in the U.S. (biscuits in Australia are cookies in the U.S.; scones in the U.S. are pretty close to rock cakes in Australia). How long have I been living in this country before I figured this out?

2) I experimented with not liking any post on Facebook for a couple of weeks. My newsfeed reduced the appearance of Pages that I follow (but didn't "like") although there was still sufficient past likeage, I guess that they didn't disappear. So if I wanted to "like" something, I would comment. I would not have said this resulted in deeper conversations, but it felt more connected. If I didn't like anyone's post who likes to count likes, I'm, um, not that sorry. :)

3) Babies aren't as terrified of me as I thought -- and I'm not scared that they'll scream or cry or puke. Witness:

4) I am very patient hand-feeding a dog, more patient than I thought I'd be. Ours is recovering from vestibular syndrome, which means he walks about drunk and has difficulties getting about, etc

5) "The Hebrew letters that comprise the word Elul – aleph, lamed, vav, lamed – are an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” a verse from Song of Songs that means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (from here)

I am participating in chatting at the sky's What I Learned in August.