Community and Christian Communism
2009-04-15 by David von Schlichten

In John 20, Thomas encounters Jesus when he returns to the community. The passage emphasizes that community's profundity and puissance.

The passage from Acts 4 features Christian Communism. Most of us respond to this reading by seeing it as unrealistic. Perhaps the passage challenges us to have a Christian Communist mentality, i.e., challenges us to think of our possessions as not ours. Even if we all cannot literally sell everything and give it all to the Church, perhaps we can change our thinking so that we live as if we own nothing.

Both passages point us to an ever new paradigm for community. 

I look forward to more postings from our guest blogger and to others plunging into the tub.

Yours in Easter,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Everywhere a Sign
2009-04-13 by Carmen Nanko-Fernández

Several months ago I was sitting on a plane parked at the gate—with each new announcement about our mechanical difficulties I could feel my stress increase.  Words like hydraulic and leak are not comforting.  I headed to the tiny rest room contemplating a decision, should I stay on this plane or was it better to get off—and I asked “please God can you give me a sign?”  Coming as I do from amidst Hispanic culture there’s an almost seamless expectation that such a request is not unreasonable; the sacred permeates our dichos [our sayings] so much so that my question was more rhetorical than petition.

In some ways, probably much like Thomas, I wasn’t expecting a sign; though receiving one would have been appreciated.  Imagine my surprise to find illuminated in the plane restroom the divine words—apparently aimed at me—“return to your seat.”    That was enough for me—I had asked for a sign and now I had one…never mind that these words appear often on a plane, certainly during turbulence, or  as take-off becomes imminent—which it seemed was now a reality.

This week’s lectionary readings too are focused on signs.  Poor Thomas, unfairly labeled a doubter by centuries of Christian interpreters, is merely asking for the same proof his companions had received.  Why is he not brave Thomas?  After all the door was locked, the disciples were terrified, and he was out and about.  Thomas is merely asking for a sign necessary to restore confidence –a confidence that even after Jesus’ first appearance still seems not to have taken root if the disciples a week later are once again in the house with doors shut.

There is a tendency, after the emotional roller coaster of Holy Week, to race to Easter glory so quickly that we fail to digest the fear and anxiety that undoubtedly permeated the community of Jesus’ disciples post resurrection.  The readings for this first Sunday after Easter are a reminder of those anxious and stressful times when signs were necessary to restore confidence. 

But confidence restored requires concrete expression, a lived faith. The reading from Acts provides some indication of how those early communities themselves become signs of divine promise.  They cared for each amongst them according to their need, and understood their possessions to be held in common.  The testimony of what was seen and heard must now be witnessed in the lives of the faithful.  This is fidelity fully aware of the brokenness of the human condition, as the first letter of John points out “…I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…”(2:1).

For us today, ours are certainly unsettling times.  Insecurity plagues our daily lives—and unlike the stories of our faith that we tell and retell during this cycle in our lectionaries—we do not know how things will turn out.  We can race from passion to glory because in a way we know how the story turns out.  The promise of the resurrection obfuscates the anxious struggles of our ancestors in the faith.  However, it is that same promise that evoked from those early communities particular ways of living in their stressful days,  ways of being with others, especially  with those in need, that was modeled by the one whose ministry and resurrection gave them hope. 

At some point buoyed by the Spirit, the disciples had to unlock the doors and emerge from the room.  Acts stands as witness to the response of these early followers to the resurrection of Jesus, an embodied sign as lived by a community of faith.  From the sign that is their testimony we are well-advised to “return to our seats” and act as if we have indeed received the good news in our own unsettled times.

Our guest blogger this week is
2009-04-12 by David Howell

Carmen Nanko-Fernández, assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where she teaches courses in US Hispanic and pastoral theologies. She is the President of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States.  Some of her publications are accessible online at the electronic Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology.

2009-04-10 by David von Schlichten

For thirty-three years, I have studied the hands of God.

I am Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Amid the animal and hay smells on that chilly night, I held that baby close to me.

He stared up at me, occasionally blinking, the eyes of the Messiah.

Through the years, I prayed hard, “Please, God, help me to be a good mother.”

And the Holy Spirit did indeed use my hands. I cleaned up his barf and poop.

I held his hands as he tried to walk on his own.

I'd shake my finger at him when he would bring home a sheep

and want to keep it as a pet. “Can we, Mom? I'll take care of it.”

Joe and I watched with hushed amazement

as Jesus grew taller, stronger, smarter,

as he hammered and sawed wood,

as he taught teachers.

He had crushes on the local girls,

and we hoped he would marry one of them. That never happened.

I recall my son, now an adult, standing naked in the river and John

shoving him under with huge, hairy hands.

And my son set out to start a revolution, humble and bold.

He blessed and broke some boy's lunch and then fed thousands of people with it.

He took a dead girl by the hand and raised her to life.

Last night, my son used his hands to break and pass bread.

He used his hands to pass the cup. “Take this, all of you. Never forget.”

Today, I saw my son, the one I raised with my own hands, . . . .

I saw the nails –

I saw him hang in front of me.

I heard him scream.

Do you know what it is like to watch your child die,

knowing there is nothing you can do?

Now his body is down from the cross.

I hold him in my arms, a mother's pitiful piety.

Look what they did to my boy.

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

Surely this terrible Friday cannot be the end.

Surely there is more work for my baby's hands to do.

If Only
2009-04-10 by David Howell

If only Jesus had gone down the mountain after the transfiguration and headed back to Galilee.
If only he had been more discreet in his Sabbath healings.
If only his responses to the Pharisees had not been so biting and clever.
If only he had not been so indignant with the moneychangers in the temple.
If only Judas had understood the nature of his kingdom.
If only a rabbi sympathetic to Jesus had the ear of Caiaphas.
If only Pilate had not seen freeing Jesus as a way to assert his authority over the Sanhedrin.
If only he had not been scourged and mocked and suffered so horribly.
If only the fabric of events that led Jesus inexorably to die on the cross had not been so perfectly woven.
If only… then this would not be the Friday that is good, that breaks our heart year after year to reveal just how deeply we are loved by the holy.

John Sutton

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