So it’s Monday, which means prepping for the coming Sunday. Here’s what I’m beginning to think about.
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. I’ve got to choose between Isaiah and Genesis.
First, I cringe at the sentence, “incense is an abomination to me.” Fortunately, we still have the Book of Revelation to trump that.
So Isaiah makes me consider that “learning to do good” is what is pleasing to God. The “Learning” is interesting to me more than the task. Admittedly, I think a risk here is to be vague without being concrete about what oppression, defense, and “ceasing to do evil” means. Are Christians oppressed? If so, how? Is oppression about being shut out of economic networks? It is not knowing how to plan for the future? Most of the time, when my colleagues talk about “oppression” I sympathize, but then I’m not sure what it means. Getting threatened – sure. Just feeling bad about yourself? Not convinced.
When God says, “Let’s argue it out” I wonder about how we talk to God. What if argument is not about a war of words, but a way of learning how to think through the necessary tasks of doing good and seeking justice. It mitigates the perfectionist, puritanical impulses of the utopian, making justice about a process of working through the problems. Also “argument” prefigures the divine “logos” as logos, in Greek, can mean argument. Jesus is the divine argument.
And then: there is obedience. I love preaching about obedience because it’s truly countercultural. How is obedience different than being oppressed? Sometimes it’s just easier and more liberating to just do the work you are told to do. Can you imagine every musician in an orchestra demanding their own voice when rehearsing a symphony? As the abbot of my order remarked to me: Obey me in all the small stuff; argue the big stuff. It makes life a lot simpler.
In Genesis (15: 1-6), Abram seems a little disappointed in God. Someone else will inherit his wealth because he has no children. I think about how “inheritance” works – and what we do inherit from our families – cultures, traditions, wealth. Those who inherit little are at a disadvantage in the US. “What do you inherit” and “what will you pass down to your children?” are questions I might ask myself this week.
The passage in Hebrews references Abraham. I’m struck by the kinds of characters God chooses: it seems random, and not based on merit. Rather, he’s the one who is chosen for absolutely no reason, except by faith. But even that faith is the kind of argumentative sort. Abraham is not exactly “obedient” but petulant and resentful.
What makes a “home,” a home and where do we find our home? What identifies the heavenly city, and can we find it here – even in NYC, or in the cities where we make our lives. Perhaps in the school, our libraries, our Saloons, churches, are they places where we have already experienced the kingdom? How so?
The gospel this week invites reflection about the apocalypse; or what would you do if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? A month? A year? What if you knew that a planet was going to hit Earth (say, like the movie Melancholia). I’m also interested in exploring why Jesus says “sell all your possessions and give alms” and why I’m decidedly not going to do that. Is it because the selling possessions and the end of the world are tightly linked?
I might explore the difference between a human economy and a commercial economy. A human economy, as I would define it, is one where exchanges are not counted because trust between the different participants is assumed. A commercial economy, by nature, requires a calculation of goods that are exchanged between strangers. In both cases, the question is: why do we trust our families? Or our coworkers; or our commercial institutions? What happens when they fail?