A Way of Love, Not a Way of Sin Remediation

A re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination (originally posted to social media on September 23, 2019). MVS

Sin isn’t a homogeneous substance that exists in human hearts. It isn’t a phantomous thing that can only be combated with prayer and good intentions.

The Bible doesn’t make the case that all of humanity is bad to the core and that sin is about individual human choices and that the only way to fight sin is to win people to Jesus. That story has been placed upon Scripture and, at the same time, fits so nicely within the framework of individualism and religious conservatism. Which is why it persists in the USA. Continue reading

The Rich Man and Lazarus: Warning Tale and Interpretive Key to Luke

fyodorBy Ched Myers, on Luke 16:19-31, this weekend’s Gospel text

Note: This piece was originally posted to Radical Discipleship in October 2016. As was the case last week, this is a longer post, because of the importance of Luke 16 to those of us suffering from “Affluenza.” For a recording of a recent webinar Ched did on this gospel text, go here. [Right: Fyodor Bronnikov, “Lazarus at the rich man’s gate,” 1886.]

This Sunday’s gospel completes our journey through Luke 16. How rare it is that the lectionary allows a sustained look at Luke’s narrative argument! Last week’s text was Jesus’ subversive tale of the “defect-ive” discipleship of the beleaguered middle manager of a “filthy rotten system” (16:1-13). I read it as a poignant fable for those who would try to monkey-wrench the dominant economic system to provide a modicum of Jubilee justice for themselves and others.  The “paired” story of Lazarus and the Rich Man represents, in turn, a warning tale about the dark consequences of failing to deconstruct the systems of vast social and economic disparity that hold our world hostage. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Hope in Worthless Places and Common Life

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

“Abandoned Lot at 1400 Avenue E North” by Wendy Cooper

Proper 22, Year C

By Ragan Sutterfield

A couple of weeks ago I went on a birding tour of Monterey Bay. My guide on the trip was Debra Shearwater, a legend in the bird watching world, who has guided birders through those waters for over forty years. It was her birthday and it was the last season she would be leading pelagic tours.

As we watched the shearwaters, albatrosses, and murre’s of the bay, Shearwater told us about the changes she had seen. The water, she said, has changed color over the years. The krill populations have crashed and so fewer Blue Whales are seen. Over the last nesting season, large numbers of ocean-going birds had complete nesting failures, many of them not even bothering to lay eggs. “Go see them while you can,” she said, “especially the Northern birds, they are disappearing quickly.”

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Discipleship as Defection from the Mammon System: Jesus’ Parable about a “Manager of Injustice”

luke16By Ched Myers, on this weekend’s Gospel text Luke 16:1-13

Note: In this piece, originally posted to RadicalDiscipleship.net in September 2016, Ched offers a longer study because of his conviction that this is a crucial text for middle class Christians. A more detailed version of the reflections below can be found here; a webinar exploring these themes can be found here. [Right: “The Wicked Servant,” Ian Pollock, 1972.]

Summary: This Sunday’s gospel can be read as a poignant fable for all who realize that they have been disenfranchised by the dominant economic system, and who would try to “monkeywrench” whatever status they have in it to provide a modicum of Jubilee justice for themselves and others.  This parable illustrates the contemporary strategy of navigating what Wendell Berry calls the “Two Economies” by using capital to build social relations, rather than sacrificing social relations to build capital.  Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Balm in Gilead

Close up of oils on altar

Proper 20(25) C

By Laurel Dykstra

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? Jeremiah 8:22

Jeremiah’s exile lament uses the language of health and healing to speak of a return to faithfulness. The phrase has become an expression for a universal cure.

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When Spirit Starts Scratching

Speed Limit 3By Tommy Airey

The first time I heard her was in the middle of the night. She woke me up. I dragged my angry ass out of bed and bee-lined it for the bathroom. I strained straight up and pounded on the ceiling. Her scratching stopped. For five seconds, all was quiet on Washtenaw Avenue. But she would return. And would keep returning night after blessed night.

About 72 hours after the first episode, Lindsay and I hypothesized that the serial scratcher was a raccoon. Her nocturnal lifestyle gave her away. After midnight, she let it all hang out, hauling in branches and pinecones and rocks. The havoc played out in the vent that became her home that winter. Sometimes it sounded like she was playing a friendly game of marbles. Sometimes we were certain the light fixtures were going to crash through the ceiling. A raccoon roommate is like having an uncle who watches Fox News. He shows up at the worst times and he’s impossible to ignore. Continue reading