Judith Simonson challenges Christians to take notice of the passages from scripture that we privilege over other passages. We do this with the Bible just as some Christians treat the Koran.
On what bases do we prioritize the scriptures? How ought we to engage in this privileging, given the sometimes contradictory pronouncements from the word of God?
On this Sunday when we are still freshly celebrating the Resurrection, we might explore what it would mean to give priority to what liberates, what “makes new,” what welcomes and embraces, rather than to what differentiates and judges. Peter challenges us to love, as does John’s Gospel: “love one another as I have loved you.”
When it comes to picking and choosing sacred texts, Christians hold their own in a world of diverse faiths. It has become altogether too easy in recent years to point to difficult verses in the Koran and lay blame for world events there. But we Christians are also adept at pulling out isolated verses from the Bible to buttress our arguments on current disagreements, while ignoring seemingly contradictory texts. . . .
I submit, here, that the main contribution Christianity makes to the world of religion is to tell about God's love for the undeserving as it was given flesh and blood in the story of Jesus. Jesus' command that we love as he loved, continue[s] to make real that which would otherwise be an abstraction. Jesus had to go away, but we are here. His way of life as a demonstration of God's love is now to be our way of life. . . .
[W]e in the churches are filling the newspapers and airwaves with discussions of church polity, lifestyles, hymnals, gender issues, popular religious figures and their downfalls, and complaints that Christmas is becoming too commercial. At the same time, people learn how the world works and come to the conclusion that God must have the same value system. In our world, you are rewarded for what you do, respected for what you have, and money will buy almost anything you want. Why shouldn't people come to believe that heaven can be bought, too?
Jesus calls us to live in another way entirely, demonstrating being God's way of being: loving without regard for wealth or status, and willing to sacrifice for the good of the other. Our motivation needs to be clear also, lest people think we are doing this to curry favor with God. We care for others out of gratitude for what God has already done for us. One advantage of being out of step with the world is that people are more likely to ask why. – Judith E. Simonson
In Acts, God struggles to adjust Peter's assumptions to the scope of God's mission, and a person Peter had thought to be outside the bounds of salvation receives the Good News with joy. What assumptions does God struggle to adjust in your congregation? What eagerness for the gospel might you begin to see in those whom you are hesitant to reach? – Taylor Burton-Edwards
It is extremely provocative to take into serious consideration Peter’s teaching that “what God has made clean, you must not call profane.” God makes clean all those who enter the baptismal waters. We are drowned and brought back into life. We are utterly changed. But there are some people in our world, in our communities, and in our neighborhoods and families who are not recognized as the newly born baptized. This passage calls us to ask: Who today is called “profane”? Who, then, must we stop maligning?
In Revelation, God comes to dwell among mortals on a new earth where, among other things, the undrinkable water of the sea and human tears are made new and offered as the water of life to all who thirst. How does your congregation “desalinize” the chaotic, pain-filled waters around you and invite all to receive the water of life? – Taylor Burton-Edwards
Judith Simonson is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Taylor Burton-Edwards is the Director of Worship resources for the United Methodist Church.
Homily Service 40, no. 6 (2007): 3-10.