7/15/2012, Change Is On the Way

amos 7:10-15, ephesians 3:7-20, mark 6:7-13


Most of you are aware that last week I was in retreat with about 50 other people, primarily nuns.  We focused our attention on the teaching of an Australian ex-priest named Michael Morwood, who led us in consideration of A Christian Spirituality for the 21st Century.  One of Morwood’s main points concerned our use of scripture. He emphasized that the biblical books were written from the worldview and culture of its own day, intending to make points understood by people of the time.  We, however, are reading it in the 21st century.  Our  worldviews and diverse cultures and scientific knowledge demand that we read those ancient Judeo-Christian scriptures less as literal accounts that convey historical facts than as metaphors that offer perennial truth.

So naturally, as I reflected on the lectionary readings for today, the week’s influence rubbed off on this homily preparation.  I experimented with reading the Old Testament passage something like this:  Pope Benedict told Sandra, "Go away, seer! Go back to the land of your Protestant family. Earn your bread there. Do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in the Church. This is a royal sanctuary, the Roman Catholic institution.   Sandra answered Benedict, "I am no prophet. Nor am I the disciple of a prophet. I was a mother and a homemaker, and gathered tomatoes and cultured yogurt for food. But YHWH took me from this domestic task, and said to me, 'Go prophesy to my people, the faithful Catholic laity.' "

What would you make of putting your own name into that passage?   Doing this really fits quite applicably into the political and economic and religious situation in which we find ourselves today.  Amos, you see, was just a common farmer to whom God kept giving visions that indicated God’s displeasure with the economic and political and religious injustices that had come to be the order of the day for the Hebrew nation.  Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, complained to Jereboam the King that this common man was plotting against him. 

We know there are plenty of laity out there  making complaint that the high priests of our faith do not want to hear. The question for us is: will we keep speaking out about what God is showing us, or will we be silenced by the religious authorities?

Likewise, consider the Gospel passage where Jesus makes it clear that he is not going to assume the total responsibility for speaking and enacting the message of how the kin-dom of God is intended to be lived out on earth.  In the several chapters of Mark previous to this one, Jesus laid out a pattern for those following him in discipleship.  In chapter 3, Jesus calls the disciples to follow.  In chapter 4, we hear him teaching them about the kin-dom.  In chapter 5 he demonstrates the power of God’s kingdom by casting out demons and healing sicknesses.  Then he arrives in his home town at the beginning of chapter 6, and his own family and friends reject him as a crazy person.  The disciples have yielded to the call, they’ve been taught, they’ve seen with their eyes the possibilities of the new kin-dom, and they’ve learned that the cost of this lifestyle may be rejection. 

Now… now they are ready to be sent out themselves as bearers of the Good News!  And what does Jesus teach them in the sending?  He teaches them to go in simplicity and utter trust.  “And so they set off, proclaiming repentance as they went.  They cast out many demons, and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”

               How are we to read this passage for application in our own day and age? The repentance  to be proclaimed is (in the original Greek) “metanoia”-not the need to be forgiven of sins, but the need for engagement with a changed way of being in the world.  The demons to be cast out are those addictions to ways of life that protect us from emptiness and shield us from pain… but they also inhibit our freedom and strength to engage productive ways of change.  Humankind is in desperate need of healing from political and religious afflictions.  What oil of mercy we might freely pour over them if we were ourselves truly free to go into society as agents of healing!

Perhaps the fact that Jesus sends them out without the security of  possessions is the first lesson to be examined.  Especially at the age most of us are at now, we are longing for the freedom of simplicity.  We are making conscious efforts to divest ourselves of possessions that need to be cared for, and stored, and insured from the possibility of loss.  All of this stuff has become just a burden, spiritually as well as economically.   But maybe the biggest question of all before us as we sense ourselves being called out to be a voice of  change and healing in the church is to ask ourselves what baggage of our own religious history we need to leave behind in order to be these agents of change in a hurting world?  That’s exactly what Jesus was doing in challenging the religious system of his day. The Old Law had to give way to the law of love: individual and communal freedom to live in justice and health and  compassionate  fulfillment of the Kin-dom of God.

The question of leaving behind old ways of understanding our Christian heritage is huge and it is daunting. But it seems to be the question before us right now, as we step into a 21st century world of diverse and exciting spirituality while we are hampered by carrying 2000 years of doctrinal baggage that does not speak life to the world in which our children and grandchildren live.  Many of  us sense that this baggage we carry, as rich a treasure as it has been, no longer speaks life to us either.

The example of necessary change that Jesus lived and taught, the way he considered this message so important that he would go all the way to an ignominious death for it is the challenge that we have before us today.  It is a challenge that I believe this community is called to hear and to live together.  So what I bring back today from my own week’s experience with Michael Morwood, a modern day prophet calling us all forth to be voices of prophetic change, is a desire to engage this conversation of change with Lumen Christi, with RCWPriests, and with Mcinnville Cooperative Ministries.  That will be at the very least, a starting place.

 May the peace of Christ be with us as we journey together in simplicity and trust, in the kin-dom of God.

By Sandi Demaster