Sometimes, the Bubbas just get busy. We, too, are working pastors and the Lectionary Lab deadline occasionally gets pushed back for other “life events.” We’ll try not to be late on future editions, but, as Forrest Gump said about the doggie deposit on the bottom of his running shoes: “It happens!”
Commentary for May 13, 2012
Click here for today’s readings
“Surely God just can’t bless THEM!”
The “them” blank has been filled in with lots of suspects in Christian history. There are always people that “we Christians” are just sure reside outside the grace of God. In Acts 10, it was the uncircumcised believers; in our time, it could be Republican believers, or Democratic believers; upper 1% believers, or 99% believers; gay believers, or straight believers; “Muslim-loving” believers, or Christian-supremacist believers.
Of whom might it be said that you (or your congregation members) would be astounded to know they had received the gifts of God by the Spirit?
Isn’t the Bible just absurd sometimes? I mean, come on — seas “roaring” and waves “clapping their hands?” Will the earth really “break into song” and put forth a few paeans of praise? Everybody knows you can’t take this stuff literally — right?
I love Bible texts like Psalm 98, precisely because they are absurd — absurdly wonderful! Let us join the cacophony of praise!
1 John 5:1-6
Well, I hope we’re getting the idea the “love” is important to God! These Eastertide readings from John — nicknamed the “Beloved” disciple — have emphasized over and over again just how tightly bound God’s presence in the world is to our expressions of love.
What’s love got to do with it? Everything, apparently.
Key points from John 15:
- Jesus’ love for us is his imitation (much more than the sincerest form of flattery!) of God’s love for him; that is to say, Jesus learned love from the one he named his Heavenly Father. When he loves us, he’s just passing along what he’s always known!
- Keeping the commandments of Christ always issues forth in one distinguishing way: love for others. If our actions and/or words are not loving, oughtn’t we pause to consider where they might be originating?
- Jesus gives loving one another the force of a commandment (it’s not a suggestion, or merely an example.)
- Jesus chose us — not vice versa.
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
I have found this a helpful tool for thinking about my faith. I have begun to ask myself: “Which of my religious notions is based in obligation-keeping and which are rooted in liberation-seeking?” Pro-life or pro-choice, peace-activist or military defender, capitalism versus socialism, science and religion; which impulse rules in what areas?
This week’s lessons pose an interesting opportunity to play with this question. In both the second reading from I John and the gospel lesson from John 15, we get a lot of obligation keeping language, “I command” and “obey his commandments” and “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
On the other hand, the Acts lesson is about all kinds of liberation. Peter becomes liberated from his notions about the Gentiles and their need to follow certain rules and regulations in order to be accepted by God. And the gentile believers get liberated from a potentially very uncomfortable surgical procedure and a restrictive diet. Peter also discovers that God pours out the Spirit on whomever God chooses, strangely ignoring us and our traditional notions of other people’s readiness for our level of holiness.
Peter verbalizes this shift from obligation-keeping mode to liberation-seeking mode when he says “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
The tricky thing is balancing somewhere on the tightrope between obligation keeping and liberation seeking. Most of us know that pure obligation-keeping religion leads to an oppressive, stifling, regimented legalism that creates communities of faith with blinders on, unable and unwilling to respond either to the world or to God’s new movements of the spirit.
On the other hand, pure liberation-seeking leads to “tossing to and fro on the winds of doctrine,” seeking the next new thing (whatever it is) that will turn us loose from whatever restrictions we wishes to be released from.
The command to love is probably as good a balancing point as any. My Mama told me once that Jesus had to command us to love one another, because love is not easy sometimes. If it were easy, no commands, no orders would be necessary. As it is there are times when we need the command to love so that we continue to behave in loving ways, even when we don’t feel like it. Thanks Mama.
G.K. Chesterton said somewhere, “Jesus told us to love our neighbors. In another place, he told us to love our enemies. This is because, generally speaking, they are the same people.” Again, the command is very, very clear because the task is very, very hard.