It’s good to be back in the office. Thanks especially to Doug for all the good work he did in my absence. We are well served by his ministry. Thanks also to Jennifer who preached all three Sundays and to everyone who had a hand in keeping our operations running smoothly in my absence. And thanks to you all for making this sabbatical time available to me. It is invaluable and I pray it will bear fruit in our life and ministry together.
Though this was the last of three January intensives, I do have some work to do in order to meet the requirements for the diploma. I have 5 brief papers and 4 practice sessions to do between now and the middle of May. The time away was intense and meaningful, especially the interaction with the other students and faculty. This year’s focus was on systems and structures as well as contemporary issues. I learned a lot exploring how systems and structures help to sustain racism, domestic violence, hunger, gang violence, the “new Jim Crow” (mass incarceration) and powers that oppress. We have explored some of these issues as a congregation in the past and will continue to address them as we move forward.
I was very sorry to hear of that death of Marcus Borg last week. Though roundly criticized by many for his challenges to the tales of the “historical Jesus,” he was a deeply devoted practitioner of the faith who provided a source of hope and faith for many.
The point is not that Jesus was a good guy who accepted everybody, and thus we should do the same (though that would be good). Rather, his teachings and behavior reflect an alternative social vision. Jesus was not talking about how to be good and how to behave within the framework of a domination system. He was a critic of the domination system itself.
In those words, he asks to see that Jesus was a major opponent of domination systems. In The Heart of Christianity, his masterful statement of faith, Borg wrote, “The Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms us into more compassionate beings. The God of love and justice is the God of relationship and transformation…The Christian life is not about believing or doing what we need to believe or do so that we can be saved. Rather, it’s about seeing what is already true — that God loves us already — and then beginning to live in this relationship. It is about becoming conscious of and intentional about a deepening relationship with God.”
These words speak to me a profoundly spiritual vision. What would the world be like if we committed ourselves to be “conscious of and intentional about” our relationship with God, the one in whom we live and move and have our being? It seems to me that this practice would have transformative consequences for our lives as individuals as well as our life as a congregation.
Sunday we will consider Jesus as a teacher, looking at some of his own teaching as well literature from the Hebrew scripture in which he would have grounded. Always we are looking for what Jesus and these texts have to tell us about God’s way and God’s work in the world. Join me as we continue to make the road by walking. After worship this week we will have our annual meeting. Everyone who is interested in the ongoing life of FBCPA is encouraged to attend. See you Sunday at 10:00 AM
God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.