Pastor’s Blog – October 4th 2015
“…I think we all really need to start reaching out of our comfort zone and doing what’s not always so easy. We need to love those that aren’t as easy. It’s easy to show love and support for [the family of the suffering] and all others close [to that] suffering. It’s not easy to show love and pray for the shooter and his family. But can you imagine the pain he must have been in to do such a horrific thing? The people who are hardest to love and pray for are the ones who need it most. It’s easy to love that employee who always comes into work in a great mood and is always so helpful and nice, it’s not as easy to love the one who comes in always complaining about something and is rude. It’s easy to love the life of the party; it’s not as easy to pay attention to the shy person hiding in the corner. But we need to start loving those around us who need it most. Maybe then we wouldn’t have so many horrid shootings and crimes. Let’s love those who are easy to love but let’s notice those who need love and really, really love them! Praying for everyone back home, and praying for those who need it most.”
~Meredith Marie Young (written in response to the shooting of two reporters at Smith Mountain Lake, VA)
- Job 1:1; 2:1-105-12
- Psalm 25
- Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
- Mark 10:2-16
What is World Communion Sunday?
I found in prepping my material that World Communion Sunday began with the Presbyterian Church in the 1930’s. It quickly gained popularity and was picked up by the Federal Council of Churches in the 40’s. At one point it was celebrated quarterly. Today, however, the special Sunday is only celebrated by a handful of denominations and only largely here in the United States. It has become a day when special offerings are made particularly for the purpose of scholarship in higher education. The increasing frequency of communion celebrated by more and more churches as a result of the special day actually led to a decline in honoring a World Communion Sunday; whereas, the sacrament was likely to be celebrated by Christians around the world at the same time anyway. I suppose you can mark that as a success for those that established the observance of a World Communion Sunday.
While it is good that we have come to observe this sacrament so frequently, uniting us as Christians around the globe, it is equally important that we remember what is actually taking place during this celebration and recall the purpose for which World Communion Sunday was established. A norm gone by for too long and unquestioned becomes a useless symbol overlooked. It is left in the shadows of meaning like a relevant flyer on an information board that has been covered by advertisements. Ironically enough, the importance of the communion sacrament comes from another portion of the Christian Service that we often hurry through, burying it in the midst of flashy sermons or special music, and thus expend little attention for its primary concern.
The Apostles Creed makes mention of the Holy Catholic Church to which we pledge our devotion and commitment. The term Catholic used here comes from the Greek “Katholikismos,” meaning universal doctrine. Christians believe that Christ came with concern for all people of earth. In fact Christ did so to the point at which Christ was willing to give up his own life. The early church, at least, understood a universal sacrifice. If it were true today that would mean that we are all a part of this Holy “Catholic” Church. That means there are Methodist Catholics, Presbyterian Catholics, Catholic Catholics, Pentecostal Catholics and even Lutheran and Baptist Catholics; though they would have some reservation about using such terminology. It is in this universal spirit that we share communion and remember Christ’s sacrifice for all of us; despite the fact that we cannot always agree on the details.
In the Gospel of Mark we have a controversial lesson directly spoken from the mouth of Christ. Christ tells us that divorce is the equivalent of adultery. If we divorce and then marry another we have committed this sin; a sin which is in violation of the commandments provided to Moses from God-self. Yet, we have it that Moses wrote into law the process through which one would acquire a divorce in the first place. This difficult lesson is prompted by the Pharisees questioning Jesus to see if he knew of this provision that allowed for divorce. It was a test.
As a child of divorce I know that the process is not good for anyone involved. Parents must navigate the difficult terrain of their relationship with one another while simultaneously maintain a healthy relationship with child/children. This can be quite difficult and it can be hard for the children involved to have a worldview of happily ever after destroyed before there very eyes.
In the long-run we can understand that divorce may have been the best option. Instead of remaining in a relationship, one that would drain everyone, a mature agreement can be made in understanding love as a very complex emotion. Love is not always so clear cut, and people grow apart. Instead of remaining in a toxic relationship it is better in some cases to end it; or at least postpone, take a step back and rework it.
In contrasting perspective it is not hard to understand how divorce could be used for financial gain and for the selfish pursuance of wants. Divorce can be used in a way that negatively portrays the bond that is found in the marriage contract. It can even be an assault against the connection and community that is so highly sought in biblical texts. It can lead to instabilities in familial structure that ultimately produce far more negative externalities then can be listed here.
If we examine this text again we find that Christ is responding situation-ally to the inquiry of the Pharisees. The Pharisees tell Christ that of course you can receive a certificate and divorce the wife. Just like this you can be done with her. The motif, in which the Jewish tradition is being used for selfish pursuits, is present in the Pharisees’ response once again. Christ here is not simply defining adultery forever more, Christ is expanding the definition of adultery here to counter the hardness found in the hearts of the Pharisees.
This is a Christ who is responsive and strongly advocating for the cohesion of society. The great big issue that Christ is bringing up against the Pharisees in the first place, if we remember from Mark 7:6-7, is that they follow the strict rule of their faith but do not follow it in their hearts. Christ is making the overarching claim against the Pharisees that they have come to use the Law of Moses in pursuit of selfish desire, ways that are belittling the larger community and go against the intent for which God inspired such code into existence.
How quickly are we to divorce those in our life? Christianity is quick to split itself over minor theological differences rather than celebrate what it has in common. Denominations squabble over membership largely passing members back and forth rather than strengthening their missional efforts by working alongside other Christians. We know that it is easy to love the life of the party, but it is hard to love the ones that need it the most. How quickly are we to divorce the individuals within the community that simply need the love of community the most?
When events such as those that occurred at Umpqua come to past we are quick to say what needs to be done. The two major camps will begin to take sides over the airways and in the social media; those that say we need more guns and those that say we will need less. They champion their sides of the issues as if the solution were so easy; and in everyone agreeing to their position, and their terms, these shootings will cease to exist. We are quick to make more legislation to follow, more legislation that is supposed to work, all the while running from the difficult reality inherent in the increasing frequency of mass shootings. We fall into the consistent mentality of having easy solutions to all of life’s problems; a place where everyone wants and tries to be the life of the parties but where no one wants to stay and clean up the messes.
On the problem of evil we often here the plea, “why does this happen?” Or we hear, “how could God let such an event occur?” We fail to see in passages such as Job 2:2 when God turns to Satan and asks the same question: “Satan, where have you come from?” What does this tell us of our responsibility for mass shootings and other acts of violence that pervade our society?
I am not certain that I have all the answers. And that’s okay become I know a relational God that journey’s with me and asks the big questions too. I know the God that prays in the garden at Gethsemane.
I am certain that no issue we currently face is going to be easy just as many of the issues we have faced in the past were never solved so simply. I am certain that we must do the thing that is difficult, that we must love all folks as God has shown love for us. This begins in the softening of our hearts so that we are able to show compassion for those that need it the most.
It is hard to say if someone had shown the shooter at Umpqua this love, the love that was understood to be shown to them in Christ, if the atrocity would have ever taken place. It is not for us to know for sure because all we can do is prepare ourselves for the next one. Will there be a next time? Perhaps it is up to us to do the hard work God has called us to do.
Communion has been defined 2nd as the service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared. This meal is the bond uniting Christian and individuals and groups with each other and with Jesus Christ. Communion has been defined firstly as the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level. This first definition is what communion is not easier than it would be to go through the motions of communion’s second definition. The first definition is the deeper occurrence that we are supposed to remember in performing this act. We are remembering the responsive Christ who was sympathetic for our need of community. We are remembering a Christ that sought to instill a value of love for even the least of these that are in our midst.