Thursday, June 26, 2008

holy hospitality

The scripture passages we've been reading for the past few weeks, in Matthew, are intense. This week seems to be, well, like a tall drink of water. (Pun intended.) The disciples have just heard from Jesus about how they're to be sent out like lambs among wolves, to set families against themselves, to persecution and rejection and more. Then, he reminds them of his deep and knowing care for each one of them (really, for each of the hairs on each of their heads). Finally, he clarifies that the welcome others give to them will be welcome given to Jesus the Christ.

This is pretty intense: the disciples become Jesus' presence in the world. They are to be so filled with his Spirit that even a glass of water given to them will be like a glass of water given to Jesus.

They belong together, in their inmost being.

Pretty wild: as we're disciples, we get to be the physical body of Christ in the world.

And, then, we're reminded of how precious hospitality can be. How much we depend on it.

I read this text knowing that there are times when I'm able to feel like one of those disciples. And there are times when I feel like the one doing the welcoming. Or not, as the case may be.

Welcoming everyone who comes is a difficult thing; some people are hard to embrace. Yet, we're called to live into this beautiful and old tradition of providing hospitality to one another.

As we prepare for worship this week, I invite you to imagine who would be the most challenging person to welcome. And, begin praying that you could warmly welcome that person, and that they would be drawn to our church.

May it be so.

Friday, June 13, 2008

b team

It's a big Sunday this week: we're celebrating everyone who's graduated this year, giving thanks for volunteers in our church's tutoring programs, and honoring fathers day.

Plus, we'll celebrate resurrection grace (as always).

And, we get this fabulous scripture passage to share, from Matthew, about Jesus sending the disciples out in ministry.  Like a yearbook photo, he gives the list of names.  And one bit I love is that some of them get extra comments--about who their father is, or what they used to do, or what they're going to do.  Crazy thing is, the extra notes don't exactly give great honors to them.  In fact, they bring out the precariousness of the whole thing, reminding us that Matthew was a tax collector (and tax collectors then were a bad scene), and that Judas is going to betray Jesus. 

I'm always heartened to know that Jesus chose and empowered folks besides the shining stars.  He picks the B Team.

All of which is helping me remember and know that God doesn't send some other, got-it-all-together group of people to do the work of the church.  He sends us.

The church is just us. 

And, then, we have the power (through the Holy Spirit, of course) to make change in the church.  

If we're called to be the church, and we've got the ability to help "church" preach what matters most, what would you most want us to say in our words and actions?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

drawing lines

As I re-read our Gospel text for this week, from Matthew, I started to feel some sympathy for the Pharisees. I know, I know. They're always the ones getting it most wrong. But, like them, I feel responsibility for drawing the lines about what Christian behavior should look like.

Trouble is, as we noticed last week, the most important stuff is impossible to see. And Christ is inviting us into a whole new way of living, full of mercy and emptied of rigid adherence to things that we think make us righteous. That's tricky to do. I mean: the last thing I want to say is that following Christ is easy. It should take sacrifice. There's a lot of stuff in this world that we need to be careful about resisting, and a lot of virtues we're called to in God that are less than convenient.

So, these Pharisees are worried about the kind of people Jesus is hanging out with. Sometimes, I worry about the kind of people I hang out with. There are reasons to surround ourselves with people whose lives seem to be good role models for our own.

I suspect Jesus was noticing that there's also a danger in this: that we'll surround ourselves with people who we think are good role models, as if we're all righteous, and isolate ourselves from others. This is dangerous for a bunch of reasons: it cheapens the power of God's grace when we assume that our religious communities are already for people who've gotten their act together (as if you need to be perfected before you're welcome in the church), and because it makes us blind to the sin we hold. Like thinking that we've got it all together, and that we're so much better than those "sinners" over there. And thinking that we know how to draw the lines of who is a righteous person and who is a sinner. Or what is on the list of sins that would qualify a person to be known by that sin.

So, recognizing that I've got some sympathy for the Pharisees, I wonder who Jesus was talking about when he said, "I came to call not the righteous but the sinners." Maybe all those bits that are like a Pharisee in me are just what he meant.