Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Lectionary: 284

The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

I have been reading a biography of the Scottish philosopher, John Macmurray. The devout young man, sent to war in 1916, preferred to serve in the medical corps. He was assigned the job of triage. The lightly injured were treated and sent back as soon as possible to the front. The more seriously wounded were separated into those who could be treated and sent back to the front, those who would never fight again, and those who were doomed. He was instructed to give first preference to those who might return to battle; the homeward-bound and the fatally wounded would get what was left over. 

After suffering a recoverable wound, the preferred type, he was invited to preach to a small Protestant congregation in England. He discovered that he had more affection and sympathy for the German enemy -- men with whom he had fought, killed, sang and laughed -- than the civilians who had never seen the trenches. His message of "Love thy enemies" fell on deaf ears and hostile minds. 

Eventually the young man suffered a severe-but-not-fatal wound which ended his military service. He returned to academia and only reentered a church fifty years later, after he had retired. Like many young veterans, he had discovered the church is only a social organization which promotes stabilizing "family values" while politely ignoring the Gospel of Peace. He practiced his religious faith by developing another approach to philosophy, an approach which recognises the presence of love and invites reconciliation into economics, politics, war and peace. 

The joy of the disciples in today's first reading identifies those who belong to Christ; they may or may not find a welcome in stable, traditional societies. These women and men cannot use religion to lock everything and everyone in place. At times they are jailed for their beliefs, in which case they sing hymns while incarcerated. At other times they are politely "shown the door."

The story is told of African-American man who decided to attend the white Christian church. He walked into the church, up the center aisle and sat down in the front pew. Immediately two ushers confronted him and walked him out. Undaunted, he started in again and got half-way up the center aisle before they grabbed his elbows and hauled him out. A third time he marched up the steps only to be blocked at the front door. 
Finally he retreated to the street where he prayed: "O Lord, you see that I tried three times to enter that church to praise your holiness and was thrown out each time." 
The Lord replied, "Never mind, Son; I've been trying for fifty years to get in that church and I never got as far as you did." 

There are Christian churches -- parishes and dioceses -- that courageously listen to the Word of God and welcome new people, new things and new times. They believe the Lord walks with them; he shows them the way to the future, and not the past. He helps them to acknowledge their fears and move forward. We have been sent to build and repair these churches; to be different and to make a difference. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.