Blogging Towards Sunday, September 12
The texts suggested by the Lectionary (a 3 year cycle through which we travel the breadth of the Bible) address the question of discipleship and grace. We're challenged to love and live as Jesus did. A radical invitation that seems poignantly a propos in this week of threatened Koran burning by a Florida church as we mark the 9th anniversary of the horrific destruction of September 11th and its consequences.
In the gospel according to Luke, again we see that Jesus is encountered around a meal, a celebration: with the wrong people. Tax collectors, sinners, maybe prostitutes and gamblers: folks who were considered immoral or wrong because of their economic activities. At the same time they were the ones with money, enough to host large meals, something that was rare and very costly in the poverty that dominated Palestine in Jesus’ day. It’s in this setting that the parables of Luke 15 unfold: verses 3-7: the Parable of the Lost Sheep; verses 8-10 the Parable of the Lost Coin; and verses 11-31 the Parable of the Prodigal Son, also called the Parable of the Loving Father. All follow a similar narrative structure: something is lost. It’s sought out. It’s found. A celebration occurs to mark that was was lost is found.
In Timothy the Apostle Paul is presented as a faith model. Not as one to emulate, but rather he’s lifted up as the worst of all sinners, the most vile of the enemies of Jesus of Nazareth and his followers.
God seems to be great not because of omnipotence but because of mercy and unconditional grace. Jesus seems to enter intro relationship with "sinners" not to change them or trick them into repentance, but rather because they have value as they are. He seems to be more focused on people than personal piety or morality; more in the tree than in the fruit that it produces.
What does that mean for us in our post-9/11 age characterized by partisan division divisiveness among and between Christians, suspicion of "others" or the "foreign"? In our ministries and lives of discipleship what is our focus? And are we coherent in our own daily life and integration of faith into it? I often associate the word "repentance" with a them versus us perspective, where change is encouraged in the other, yet the gospel text seems to be all about rejoicing together. I think of the threatened Koran burning as a twisted way to provoke repentance (or just get PR). I wonder what such an accepting, person-valuing ministry might look like for the context I serve?; in our larger culture?