Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Third Sunday in Easter: It's in the living, in the loving

Chris is there to greet me as I arrive. After  full house last night, there’s not a sign that anyone was there. Thankyou OWS West Park coop! It’s always frustrating when  visitors are arriving and our people aren’t there yet. One threesome got anxious and left. So at 11, I start regardless. 
I asked who knew what day it was, and of course someone responded Earth Day. Not a bad day for the Easter season with its emphasis on new life, beginning again, the renewal of the earth. But I find it pretty hard to connect any of today’s scriptures with Earth Day. 
I ask if anyone knows where these scriptures come from and Hope knows about the lectionary, but that’s about it. I explain that it is a common lectionary, used by Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, UCC...just about all the historic churches except for those from the free church tradition. And that a committee chooses them, sometimes with a clear theme, sometimes not, some times with a consecutive run through a scripture and sometimes not. And that’s why it’s so good to get together with my colleagues every Wednesday and hear the Catholic, Lutheran and personal  understandings of the texts.  You can go anywhere around the world today and hear these same texts read. 
But sometimes, like today, the passages leave my colleagues and me  scratching our collective heads. Like take the Acts’s Peter addressing you Israelites...and what exactly was he? Then essentially accusing the Jews of murdering Christ (you killed the Author of Life..) while whitewashing Pilate. In fact, that Author of Life title has this Johannine cosmic Christ thing happening. Like they killed GOD. And letting a murderer go free. This from someone who betrayed Jesus three times after his accent gave him away. All this towards the end of some kind of violent sacrificial compensatory scheme that had to be carried out. So if it’s all a predetermined plan, what’s with the anger? The guilt?
Fact is, passages like this can be, were, used to create a theology of contempt. A theology that wound up taking countless innocent lives. What do we do with that?
First, every part of the Bible comes from a particular socio-cultural-political context. This passage clearly comes from after the Roman defeat of the Jewish revolt. After the Empire had triumphed. It shows signs of trying to placate the empire. ( A practice the church continues to this day...) The books chosen to be in the Bible got in through, like the lectionary, a committee process, voted in or out. With a clear ideo/theological agenda in mind. 
So is the Bible as we have it the word of God? I can go there. As James Cone says, it is not infallible, but it is reliable. This is the book God wants us to have. But the other ones, the ones that didn’t get in, they keep popping up out of the desert too. And I believe that God wants us to see them in dialectical conversation with the canon.
So what’s the point of a passage like Acts 3: 12-19? Maybe to show  what can happen when you sell out to the Empire. Look, the Bible is filled with contradictions. Like the two differing genealogies in Matthew and Luke. So what do we do? We seek to read the scripture through the eyes of Jesus,and that is our truth. And that alone should lead us away from lethal contempt. 
But how do we know Jesus? Well today’s Gospel takes us back to the wounds again. I’m not going there again. But there is this additional piece. A hungry Jesus who eats a piece of broiled fish, see, this resurrected me is just like you. And all that prophetic Nostradamus/Criswell predicts! or Jean Dixon prophecies for a people who didn’t see the world that way. Creating an ex post facto Biblical future  telling scheme. No that’s not how we know Jesus. 
There’s only one way we know him...we know him by knowing him...we see him..the two way mirror...we see him in the faces of others...we should be called children of God(I John 3:1)....and we seek to show the face of Christ to those we encounter. Doing that together makes it real. We need each other to do that....and that can keep us on the life giving, new life giving side of’s in the living, in the loving....
We gather in our circle. Greet and introduce our visitors. Say our Alleluia! Amen! and sing Amen. Easter continues. 
The session meets. Reviews yesterday’s meeting. The OWS situation. The insurance situation. The legal situation. All the situations. We’ve only made it here so far by the grace of God. Not the best business plan. But for now, it will have to do. 

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Read the New York Times review of the Unsound Festival.

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