Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, July 3, 2016:

Complementary Series

Isaiah 66:10–14

Psalm 66:1–9 (4)

Galatians 6:[1–6] 7–16

Luke 10:1–11, 16–20

Semicontinuous Series

2 Kings 5:1–14

Psalm 30 (2)

Galatians 6:[1–6] 7–16

Luke 10:1–11, 16–20

I've seen many Christians and churches returning to this passage recently, wondering if the early mission of the Church should be our mission.  Should we leave our church buildings and go out into our neighborhoods?  Perhaps we should abandon our church buildings altogether and meet in bars or coffee shops, all the better to meet the inhabitants of our communities. 

But what if Jesus wasn't speaking literally?  I know, I know, we have the book of Acts which shows that the early followers took this passage literally.  But we suspect that the early followers often misinterpreted Jesus.  What if we're being too literal here?

English majors know that when a journey appears in a work of literature, it's often a metaphor for the journey of life.  What if Jesus used this metaphor to show us how to move through our lives? 

There's the message of simplicity, which we get in many of our Gospel texts, along with the reminder not to be too attached to worldly goods and worldly acclaim.  And there's the message of community, the value of having some like-minded friends beside you.

If we interpret this passage metaphorically, we're still not able to escape the evangelism message.  We still need to deliver the good news that God loves us, that the perfection of creation has begun, the Kingdom is breaking through. 

I think of this idea each year as I witness Vacation Bible School.  I see children who aren't interested in church as grown ups offer it, but who LOVE Vacation Bible School.  I know more than one parent who goes from church to church so that the child can repeat the wonderful experience of VBS.  I know children who love VBS so much that they bring their closest friends.

What would happen if we felt about our faith the way that children felt about VBS?  Would it be easier to go out into our communities to tell people what's going on behind our church walls?

More than once, I've said, why can't we make regular church more like VBS, so that people want to come year round?
Here, too, I see a variety of Christians wrestling with these questions.  We will see a variety of answers, as we continue to try to discern how to let our lights shine brightly against the darkness.

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