I am profoundly struck, however, by the parallels between the Occupy movement and Jesus’ band of homeless wanderers ... The covenant renewal possibilities around here are mostly about breaking down dividing walls – dividing walls between ourselves and God, between us and all sorts and conditions of fellow human beings, and between ourselves and the rest of creation. Once again live in right relationship, well fed, healed, and at peace, the reign of God will indeed be here in its fullness.Thanks to my friend Jason Samuel for sending the link to this sermon preached by our Presiding Bishop at the Diocesan Convention held in St. Louis last week: a really great job of weaving the challenge the Occupy Movement is making to the powers and principalities of our culture with the challenge the radical rabbi from Nazareth made to his. It seemed to me particularly relevant reading on this cusp between Black Friday and the First Sunday of Advent.
You'll want to read it all but here's a start:
“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’” It seems to me that most of these bands of campers have done just that. “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.” The Occupiers have shared food, cared for each other, and challenged the rest of us about justice in the size of paychecks. Now those who have been evicted are struggling with how to continue their global demonstration.Read the rest here ... and give thanks for the gift of bishops who lead and colleagues who forward!
We have the same challenge in the Church – both in presenting the good news we have to share, and in how best to do it. Our old settled tradition of staying put in church and waiting for others to come to us doesn’t work so well with younger generations or the unchurched. Our message remains the same as it always has, but we need new ways of telling it and showing an effective response to the hungry outside our doors.
What does Jesus tell his band of wanderers? He sends the 70 out two by two to every city where he plans to go himself. He SENDS them OUT. That’s where our word “mission” comes from. When they arrive in the mission field, they’re supposed to find some place that’s interested in hearing what they have to say, and then stay long enough to build some community and have an effective conversation. They’re supposed to start with good news of peace, and then share food, heal the sick, and tell about the coming reign of God.
Our fall-back habits are rather different. For centuries we’ve depended on an established pattern of building beautiful churches and expecting that people will know where to find good news. That’s not quite the same as what Jesus told those 70 missionaries. Nor is the news that’s always proclaimed. We’ve often heard supposed Christians start out with words of damnation rather than peace – listen up, believe right, or you’re going to hell! And most of us still tend to think that a bit of bread and a sip of wine is the only meal that’s really needed, and that an hour on Sunday morning is enough to build the reign of God.