Archive for October, 2011

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

St John’s Gospel, 19.25-30

Combined with the outer emphasis on peace and service is an inner emphasis on care for one another in the church. Through small groups and in other less formal ways, members of the church show their care for each other. More than one person related the story of a child with Down’s syndrome born to a couple in the congregation. The child, Decker, had heart trouble with complications. There were meals, phone calls, a real sense that this was everyone’s child. Sadly, Decker died in surgery at the age of four months.

While Decker was near death and in the hospital, Rae Ann, an M.D., pulled together a group to do singing and praying and sharing of stories about Decker. The idea took shape when on a Saturday night, the word came that he was in crisis. Rae Ann had gone to visit Decker and his family and drove home from the hospital singing a song. It was a song of prayer, asking God to give her guidance how to respond to this family. Somehow the answer came to her that the church should sing for Decker. Sunday morning Rae Ann stood up and invited people to her house that night to make the tape. Probably half the congregation was there. Marilyn and Gretchen, two women of the church, drove down to Denver General Hospital at 10 or 11 that night. They played the tape to everyone including those who had made the tape.

When Susan and Steve, the pastors, did the funeral, it was as if it had been their child who had died. Then the father stood up and read the Scripture: nothing can separate us from the love of God. One member asked him later, How could you have such faith? He said, it was the church had showed him that Christ was alive and real during that time. (2-3)

Lois Y. Barrett and Jeff Van Kooten, “Congregational Sketches” from Treasure in Clay Jars (2004)

In this last week, our community of friends has experienced the death of a young child and the pain and suffering of his parents. Their family, friends, and church community has surrounded them with love, food, prayers, and presence. In fact, the sign-up calendar for meals, groceries, yard-work and house-cleaning is fill up through March.

It is the role of the Church to surround the family experiencing death, to shield them from the feeling of helplessness, to mourn their loss and share in their lament, to pray for them and with them for God’s mercy, and to stand in presence as the person of Christ, just as Jesus asked his disciple to do for his mother at the moment of his own death.

The Church is its most vulnerable in a time of death, and certainly the death of a small child; We ask of ourselves of God and His control, or whether or not He has any control over these situations, and, if He did, why would He allow this to happen. But the Church is also at its greatest and only strength, living out its calling to receive and shelter the helpless, like the widow and the orphan in distress, as St James compels (James 1.27). This is our calling in the face of death.

As it has been said, ‘if you would avoid tragedy (and suffering), avoid love.’ The courage that Christ gives us is to live lives free from the fear of death, so that when death comes, we do not shy away from it and from its painful consequences, but instead sing, pray, and stand vigilant in its presence. Because where we are in the face of death is where Christ is also.

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From this morning’s New York Times:

While the cameras surround the flamboyant fringes, the rest of the country is on a different mission. Quietly and untelegenically, Americans are trying to repair their economic values.

David Brooks, 18 Oct 2011

Having a physical appearance and exhibiting personal qualities that are deemed highly appealing to television viewers. (cf. photogenic)

[τηλε -, at a distance (here relating to television) + -γενής, producer]

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From New Raleigh:

The Occupy Raleigh protests today ended in the arrest of 19 people. State Capitol Police requested that the group leave the Capitol grounds and when some didn’t comply, they were arrested. At that point the crowd had dwindled to around 100 from its peak. Those Raleigh Police reported that 400 were in attendence[sic] and some local media reported as few as 100. But independent observers and Occupy organizers put the number closer to 1,000. Protests were also held in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and continued in Charlotte for the second week.

[Photo by Shawn Rocco, News & Observer, Oct 15, 2011]

Why did Occupy Raleigh seek a permit for public assembly? If the movement – any movement for that matter – is to be affective, it has to demonstrate its willingness to face persecution, even incarceration.

What if the hundreds of demonstrators yesterday had descended on the Capitol grounds without a permit and forced Raleigh and its police to deal with an unauthorized assembly, and not just the vigilant 19 who stayed into the wee hours of the night past the allotted time and were arrested?

Would that have been a more affective witness to the seriousness of the movement, and not just another march on the Capitol?

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The [early] Christians made charity a central part of their way of life. Believers were constantly urged to charity by the leaders of the community. Alms were collected at every liturgical assembly, but we also read about something called “oblation”. In Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition we were about gifts of oil, milk, and olives, which would be brought forward by those who had no money at the same time the bread and the wine were brought forward. The priest was instructed to pray over these gifts (though no using the same words he would use for the bread and the wine, of course). The gifts would be used to succor the poor and needy: “They who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those, who through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.” (110-111)
Carl J. Sommer, We Look for a Kingdom: The Everyday Lives of the Early Christians (2007)

To give assistance to in time of want, difficulty, or distress

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A recent write-in to the News & Observer Opinion section reads:

Commenting on the response to Burgetta Eplin Wheeler’s column about grandparents having to raise grandchildren with no support and to one of his own columns, Barry Saunders quotes a critic as asking, “Isn’t there a saying from the Bible, ‘God helps those who help themselves’?”

The question deserves a prompt answer, and the answer is no. It does not come from the Bible.

The quote is far more an expression of a false sense of individualism that fails to see how living with others means depending on one another. On this the Bible scores really high. Here is just a sample: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” “Bear one another’s burdens.” “The Spirit helps us in our infirmities.”

Robert L. Brawley
McGaw Professor of New Testament Emeritus, McCormick Theological Seminary

The primary location of Christianity is not so much deep within the self of the believer, but in the worship and practice of a believing community. This community’s view of the world is formed by the scriptural narrative. (54)
Sam Wells, Transforming Fate into Destiny: The Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas (1998)

The Last Supper, Jaume Hugue (ca. 1470)

a) A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.
b) a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority, the adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity.

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Religion is always social, and therefore also political, a matter of what a people do together, not just what they believe in the privacy of their hearts. (7)

The lines of social and political structure emanated from the altar. And it was these lines of structure which constituted high and impenetrable frontiers to separate Israel from the Gentiles. Israel, which was holy, ate holy food, reproduced itself in accord with the laws of holiness, and conducted all of its affairs, both affairs of state and the business of the table and bed, in accord with the demands of holiness. So the cult defined holiness. Holiness meant separateness. Separateness meant life. Why? Because outside the land — the realm of holiness — lay the domain of death. The lands were unclean. The land was holy. For the Scriptural vocabulary, one antonym for holy is unclean, and one opposite of unclean is holy. The synonym of holy is life. The primary symbol of uncleanliness and its highest expression is death. So the Torah stood for life, the covenant with the Lord would guarantee life, and the way of life required sanctification in the here and now of the natural world.(43)

Jacob Neusner, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Exile & Return in the History of Judaism

Boris Dubrov, Prepearing for Passover holiday (2006) (website)

adj., conforming to dietary laws; ritually pure

[Yiddish kosher, from Hebrew כר, fitting, proper]

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Because Christian love is based on the common relationship of all, without exception, it can know no barriers of caste, class, citizenship, religion, ideology, parenthood, or whatever. The basis of the new belonging and acceptability is the recognition and acceptance of the common fatherhood of God. Regardless of our too human relationships of acceptance or rejection, we are now interrelated through a third other who immediately opens new possibilities to bypass the normal acceptance-rejection dynamics of group or personal relationships…

Like any other human group, it will have easily recognizable features: the “language” of the group might best be summarized in the Our Father; the members are from all classes and all ethnic backgrounds; their lifestyle is best described in the life of radical love and forgiveness spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount; their most distinctive cultic rite is the festive and joyous banquet proclaiming the memory of their founder. By that which is most original to them – the newness and uniqueness of universal fellowship under God-Abba – they will shine forth and be a new light to all people and all social structures. This new light will be good news to some and judgment to others. (63-64)

Galilean Journey, The Mexican-American Promise, Virgilio Elizondo

The Calling of St Matthew, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1599)


The branch of theology that is concerned with the nature, constitution, and functions of a church.

[Latin ecclesia, from Greek εκκλησια from εκκλειν, to summon forth : εκ-, out; see, κλη-, to call.]

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