The Pharisees were not wrong to question Jesus, but as much as we might want to empathize with them, to agree that there are simply certain things good people do not do, Jesus rejects human propriety as an orienting standard. Jesus is talking about the human heart, something Christians today also must consider.
Perhaps the kind of wakefulness that Christ is calling us to in anticipation of his coming is a wakefulness to the urgent cries and needs of one another. Perhaps Christ is calling us to truly recognize one another before we will be able to recognize God in our midst.
Christians are called not to ignore despair, but to help sow joy in its wake; not to condone hate, but to be all the more zealous in their own loving in its face. The politics of overcoming evil are about neither ignoring nor condoning evil, but rather, fighting it with the strongest power possible—love.
Habakkuk 2:4—’The righteous person will live by his faith’—is a familiar text. The recognition that the faith in question may be God’s own faithfulness, rather than our own stumbling faith, may inspire a stronger confidence in us as we face a world of injustice.
Beyond mere understanding—which we can arrive at with languages not our own—God’s communication in people’s native tongues at Pentecost manifests a deeper commitment to the recipients of revelation. The Holy Spirit addresses us in the language of our hearts and our dreams.
Although the parable is typically referred to as that of ‘the Prodigal Son’, the son who receives the father’s welcome has long since fallen from his state of prodigal living into one of the most abject poverty and lack. This father’s loving embrace challenges us to consider our provision of welfare and welcome to those in need among us, irrespective of how ‘deserving’ we might suppose them to be.
Both in Jesus’ baptism and in the later giving of the Spirit through the laying on of hands in the early Church, we see significance accorded to touch. This importance given to touch—to the tangible—summons us into the realm of human and bodily connection and engagement with others.
‘And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.’ The notion of love overflowing in knowledge is odd to modern Western ears, accustomed as we are to a divide between reason and affections. However, such a love that overflows in knowledge could transform much of our politics.
The greatness of the love commandment lies not in its surpassing value over and against all of the other commandments of Jewish law but, rather, in its ability to hold up all the rest. It’s less about beating out all of the other candidates and more about helping them to do their jobs.
In turning Jesus’ seemingly dismissive image of dogs and children at the meal table to her advantage, the Syrophoenician woman illustrates the tenacity of parents fighting for their children. As we act in God’s name within the world we should show the same determination on behalf of all of his children.
In this week’s reading from Mark’s gospel Jesus challenges the complacency that so commonly comes with privilege. The ease of privilege within the status quo can inure us to the claims of truth or justice that might unsettle it or that might trouble its assurance of its purchase upon reality. Yet such claims lie at the very heart of the Kingdom of God.
Our discomfort with the notion of God visiting the sins of parents upon their children may lead us to avoid wrestling with Exodus 20:5-6. This would be a mistake. This reference occurs in the context of the prohibition upon idolatry and challenges both our attempts to sanitize God and our idolization of our children.
It is tempting to airbrush out the uncomfortable reference to the Canaanites living in the land promised by God to Abram. However, the questions raised by this text are worth tarrying with, presenting us with challenges that are deeply pertinent to our own situations.
Perhaps part of the reason why disparities in food distribution continue to exist is that, when those of us who have food enough on our tables try to respond to disasters such as famine, without connection with the people who suffer them, both they and us are likely to come away empty. The ironic use of famine in Naomi’s story is able to suggest to us another way, an approach to famine that sees first the emptiness in relationships when kin from the ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ worlds find ourselves absent from one another.
Exodus reminds us of what as human beings we have in common with the land and all of its resources—we are all both creations and possessions of the eternal God. In light of this, as we recognize and respond to our own needs and desires, making claims on the land as a result, we must also recognize the land as possessing its own distinct claims, dignity, and integrity.
In the account of the slave with the spirit of divination, Paul, Silas, the Philippian jailer, and his family we encounter dynamics of agency and constraint, of freedom and slavery. There are a number of surprising instances of human action within this narrative which nonetheless speaks powerfully of the power and activity of God.
One plots and schemes in order to exert control. One embarks upon a pilgrimage in order to relinquish control. Entering Jerusalem as a lowly king, Jesus foils both the plots of those who would capture him and those who rally around him as a political revolutionary.
Although at first glance they may appear incidental, the frequency of border crossings in the story of the raising of Lazarus suggests the presence of a theme. Through a narrative of successive boundary crossings, the power and willingness of God to traverse any distance and border is made manifest.
Preventable cases of and deaths from malaria remain a reality in many poor countries in our world. In Jesus’ encounter with a royal official and the healing of his fever-ridden son, we can gain insight into an appropriate way to relate to such continuing crises.
In John’s account of the Wedding of Cana, the part played by Mary merits our attention. On account of the honor due to her as a mother, she wields great authority. She provides us with occasion to reflect upon the esteem in which we hold mothers today and the authority that we accord them in our lives and society.
In light of the two kingdoms doctrine and the separation of church and state, understanding the appropriate form of Christian prayer for and engagement with the political realities of our societies can be complex. In Jeremiah’s message to an exiled people, we find a pattern for prayer in a pluralistic context, a calling that identifies our primary task to be one of seeking the common good and welfare of our communities, rather than one of submission or conversion.