Confronting Empire with the Word

swordBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7.13-14)

The final Sunday of the church year celebrates the feast of Christ the King. It is at once a redundant and a confounding claim: Greek christos translates Hebrew meshiyah, meaning “anointed,” marking a person as a king (or priest, in some Jewish traditions). That is, the very label “Christ” for Jesus suggests royal authority. Yet many today reject the image and language of “kingdom” in relation to the nonviolent Jesus, preferring the wordplay, “kindom.” While we certainly embrace the image of the discipleship community as one, big family of faith, we believe that something crucial to who Jesus is—and who we are as radical disciples—is lost when we abandon the notion of God’s “kingdom.” Continue reading

Pâstâhowin: The Cosmic Consequences of Breaking Covenant

aslongBy Ched Myers

Note: This is Ched’s last post in a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during Year C, 2016. Thanks to RadicalDiscipleship.net for hosting these gospel commentaries over these last couple of years!

On the day after the election, we awake to an America dominated by what Van Jones (on election night) called “whitelash.”  How resonant, then, is Sunday’s gospel:

“The days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down….” (Lk 21:6); and

“By your endurance you will gain your souls.” (21:19)

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Resurrection: The Hope That Vindicates God’s Justice

romeroBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson

There is nothing more radical than resurrection.

From the time Daniel 12 apocalyptically announced that God raises the dead, the intellectual elite in Judea rejected it. Sophisticated skeptics have always scoffed at the notion that life extends beyond the bounds of death, because such a belief threatens to undermine the status quo from which they benefit. Consider, for example, this from Ecclesiastes, a text likely written before Daniel:

The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun. (Eccles 9.5-6)

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Salvation as Wealth Redistribution

zaccheusBy Ched Myers, on Luke 19:1-10

First, as always, let’s put this Sunday’s gospel reading in its broader narrative context. The story of Zacchaeus represents the culmination of one of Luke’s important subplots: Jesus’ challenge to rich men (Gk plousios) to “turn their lives (and assets) around.” As pointed out in previous posts, this narrative strand forms the backbone of Luke’s “Special Section” (Lk 11-19), a pattern worth reiterating here (with links to my comments earlier this year):

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Praying Ourselves Down From Our Privileged Perch

prayerBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Prayer is central to Luke’s Gospel. The opening scene has the assembly of the people in Jerusalem praying while Zechariah is doing his priestly duty (1.10). The adult Jesus’s first appearance in the gospel is while he is praying (3.21). Luke regularly shows us Jesus at prayer as he discerns the Way (5.16; 6.12; 9.18; 9.28-29). Continue reading

Never Give Up: Faith as Tenacious Agitation

By Ched Myers

Note: This post is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during Year C, 2016. [Image below: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes/Associated Press, found at http://www.thefeministwire.com/2014/10/fergusonfridays-black-freedom-fighters-men-interview-black-women-front-line-ferguson/.]

ferguson

This Sunday’s gospel lesson is the second of two key stories about “determined prayer” in Luke. As is so characteristic of the third evangelist, this vignette about a woman’s unflagging insistence on being heard corresponds to an earlier one about similar importunate behavior by a man (see Luke 11:5-13). That text came up in the middle of the summer (see Wes and Sue’s comments on “shameless audacity” and its relevance to the Black Lives Matter movement here). Each story has two “onstage” characters (a protagonist and antagonist), with the Divine “comparison” well offstage. But while the earlier object lesson took place in a village setting and concerned neighborly hospitality and mutual aid among social equals, our text for October 16 takes place in the city and pits social opposites; it pertains to the public vocation of tenacious advocacy for justice. These twinned stories together articulate how deeply connected the personal and political were for Luke, and should be for us. Continue reading

Have Mercy on Us!

lepersBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

The final leg of the journey to Jerusalem begins with this week’s gospel (Lk 17.11-19). Alert readers, though, will note that Jesus and the disciples have not gotten very far. At the very beginning, Luke tells us that “they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him” (9.52). Now, eight chapters later, Luke says, “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the midst (Gk, dia meson, misleadingly translated by NRSV as “between”) of Samaria and Galilee.” Like the Israelites in the wilderness, they seem to be going in circles in the land north of Judea. Perhaps this is a sly reference to the disciples, like their Israelite ancestors, lacking the faith that the journey they are on will lead to the place of God’s abundant provision. Indeed, as we heard last week, the disciples had just demanded of Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (17.5). Continue reading