(1) Jesus Christ sets us on the path of freedom which is based on truth and leads through love to eternal life. (2) Yet false gods continue to enthrall us with the path of power which is based on falsehood and leads through indifference to death. (3) Even Christians have fallen under their spell. (4) But Jesus is calling us to join him as prophetic witnesses in breaking their spell beginning with his Church. (5) Use this website to strengthen your witness to Jesus for our good and his glory.
As Christians committed to recovering the integrity of our witness to Jesus
Christ, today offers us a perfect opportunity to do so. We might excuse a
lukewarm Olympian indulgence in the observance of Halloween. Far better,
however, would be to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the
surprising start of a profound reformation of the Roman Catholic Church sparked by Father Martin Luther on October 31, 1517. We might celebrate this well by reading the
original Ninety-Five Theses that
caused all the excitement to begin with. We might do this even better by
discussing this document with our companions in our prophetic mission group.
To better understand
The Ninety-Five Theses as spark, some
background might prove helpful.
was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony. He was baptized the next
day on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours.
As Christians, we are called each day by Jesus to join him on the narrow
and difficult path of freedom. It is on that path alone that he calls us each day to share
his truth, love, and vitality with all others without condition just as he
shares them with us.
love, at his last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus said
to them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you
love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.By this all will know that
you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, New King
James Version, here and following).
have loved you: now that’s a hard and scary thought. We do
well always to remember this love which Jesus has for us. The apostle Paul
described the love which we are to have for one another in this way (Romans
the Global Technological System (GTS). It is humankind’s greatest monument to
those six conventional yet false and destructive gods of Olympianity—especially
to Vulcan, god of technology. As it turns out, technology most definitely isn’t—and
has never been—neutral. That was one of many falsehoods of the gods we failed to discern in our adoration of them.
it primarily to devote ourselves, instead, to Yahweh, the one odd god of truth,
freedom, love, and vitality. Because Yahweh created the heavens and the earth
as the perfect context for a covenantal relationship of freedom and love with
his human creatures, we want to witness to that freedom and love by developing ways
of living that affirm the vitality of creation.
ways of living that nurture and protect all species and their habitats, we need
to relearn together how to live without two fundamental innovations of the GTS:
motor vehicles and electricity. In a previous essay, “Getting Much Closer to
the Land,” we reflected on the need to remove the GTS as our mediator with the
land and reestablish direct contact. To do that, however, we will also need to
get much closer to one another.
Today Jesus Christ is calling us
Christians to witness more clearly to him by developing a way of living which respects
the integrity of God’s good creation. We respect that integrity (as opposed to
violating it) when we live within (as opposed to trespass) the vital limits of
When wood and
kindling are first placed in a woodstove and lit, they burst into wide playful flames.
Later, after the kindling has burned away, the heavier wood burns brightly and
releases great heat. Finally, as the fire burns out, only random embers remain.
To keep them burning until morning, these scattered embers need to be banked.
They need to be raked together, some new wood needs to be added, then the whole
pile needs to be covered with ash until no ember is seen. In the morning, once
the ash is removed and new logs are added, wide playful flames begin anew.
of bursting into flame and dying down is an apt analogy for the Church today in
the US, Canada, and Europe (perhaps elsewhere as well). Beginning with Pentecost,
the Holy Spirit burned wide and playful in the hearts of an increasing number
of people beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Through the centuries, the Church
burned brightly and released the great warmth of Christ’s love in the world.
Now, after two centuries of being drained of meaning by the exponential yet
parasitic growth of the Global Technological System (GTS), all that remains are
One sign of
the absence of Jesus Christ in our churches today is our desperate inability to
When once talking
with Jesus about this challenge, Peter felt he was going far beyond any
reasonable limit by suggesting to Jesus that maybe forgiving someone seven
times was more than enough. In his always surprising and often irritating way,
Jesus told him no, there was in truth no limit to the number of times we were
to forgive another person (Matthew 18:21-22). So, when Jesus speaks to us again
as congregations, or at least to us in our prophetic mission groups, we will clearly practice persistent forgiveness.
unlikely to discover that, however, if you went to church on Sunday. Our Sunday
worship services are too tame, bland, fluffy. They have all the nutritional
value of marshmallows.
TV has had an
injurious influence here. Now, those of us in the pews understand ourselves as spectators.
As sophisticated media consumers, however, we demand a liturgy that is smooth
and upbeat, with a well-rehearsed choir (or praise band), a dramatic reading of
a short passage from the Bible, and
an entertaining pastor. His time with the children up front should be one of
short stories, visual aids, and little giggles. If she is more serious during
her sermon, her words should nonetheless remain rather abstract so that none of
us will find them too personal and possibly discomforting. She must never speak
concretely enough to challenge our self-centered adoration of the Olympian
gods. That would be meddling. Instead, her sermon should be the moving retelling
of a story either about herself or some non-threatening, pre-approved other. We
want to leave church on Sunday with a satisfactory sense of having experienced
something pleasant. Whew!
This is a
short meditation on the liturgical readings for today, the Eighteenth Sunday after
Pentecost (Year A), according to the Revised Common Lectionary. The readings are Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-15, Philippians
3:4b-14, and Matthew 21:33-46). Read these first. The words of the biblical
witnesses are far more important than my words which follow.
In Isaiah, we
learn that Yahweh’s people in Jerusalem and Judah have been planted there by Yahweh
where he has nurtured and protected them with his truth, freedom, love, and
vitality. He expected this same fruit from them. He did not get it. Instead,
his people devoted themselves to the six conventional gods of Olympianity and
produced the fatal works of falsehood, power, indifference, and death. So what
will Yahweh do? If his people really want to be the people of those other—destructive—gods,
he will grant them their wish. He will withdraw his nurture and protection from
them. Then his people will experience first-hand what liars those other gods
truly are and what destructive consequences come from worshiping them. Can that
really be what his very own people want?