Thursday, July 11, 2013

Being Jesus'...Bowels?

Our texts for this Sunday, as we continue our series from Luke-Acts on "Being the Body" that explores how the church enacts and embodies the teachings of Christ, are Luke 10:25-27 and Acts 15:1-18, which can be read here.

OK, weird blog post title. I know. But that's because, as I thought about which part of Jesus' body this Sunday's Gospel invites us to be, I was struck by this line Jesus spoke about the traveller we now call the Good Samaritan:

"when he saw him, he was moved with pity."--Luke 10:33

The word "pity" here can also be translated "compassion," or the fantastically graphic Greek word "splagchnizomai" (try saying that one out loud, just for fun) which means, literally, "to be moved as in one's bowels." It sounds weird to our modern ears, but the bowels were thought, in Jesus' day, as the core location of love and pity, that which compels one to action on behalf of another.  In other words, when he was "moved with pity," the "Good Samaritan" was not acting out of some sort of moral obligation, societal responsibility, or some sort of condescending do-gooder spirit; he felt an empathy and compassion towards this stranger that was so deep, he felt it in the lining of his intestines.  It was profound, to his very core, too compelling to ignore.  He was with the man he was reaching out to.  He was drawn to him as with an undeniable magnetic force from somewhere deep within.

I know it's kind of gross to think about it in this literal way...but think about it.  To be moved that viscerally on behalf of total strangers?  What would it be like to show compassion with this sort of passion and physical connection with others who are in pain?  What if this is the deep, embodied way Jesus wants us to express empathy in action even towards those who may be our enemies?  How would this change the way we show love and care to others?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Being Jesus' Feet

As we get back onto the lectionary schedule of readings (sort of--I will be pairing the Luke reading
with complementary readings from Acts, because I have decided we simply don't read Acts enough!), our texts this week are Luke 10:1-11 and Acts 6:1-7, 13:1-4, which you can read here.

In my reading for the sermon this week, I was intrigued by the words of a blogger I really respect, Dan Clendinin, who writes at Journey with Jesus.  In considering our Gospel text, he commented:

One of the fascinating things about the Jesus story is how far and how fast it spread. The book of Acts begins in Jerusalem and ends 1500 miles to the west in Rome. The wild fire also burned to the east. By the year 635 believers confessed Jesus as Lord in China. A hundred years after that, Syrian believers had spread the gospel to Baghdad, Tibet and India. The apostle Paul traveled 10,000 miles proclaiming the good news of God's love. How did this happen?

It is a good question indeed.  How did the story of Jesus spread when he was a peasant from a small town with only 12 original uneducated followers, in a day where there were no cars, planes, interstates, phones, email, internet, or other means of long-distance connection and communication?

Well, it began with people who were willing to go, as the seventy did in today's reading--into isolated villages, forgotten corners, wherever Jesus needed them to go to eat with others, befriend others, and, in relationship with others, share the good news of God's Kingdom and how it was very near to them, right where they were.  Anthropologist Margaret Mead once famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  This was how Jesus began changing the world; and this is how it still happens today.

I think about our "group of thoughtful, committed people" at Broadneck and am amazed at how we are changing the world--and how far we are making our impact.  I think of two members of our congregation who left today to travel to Zimbabwe with JourneyPartners, taking along a dear friend of mine from college whose life has already been impacted by her Broadneck connection and whose life will now be shaped even more.  I think about how two members of our congregation spent the last year in Prague as volunteers at International Baptist Theological Seminary, interacting with the ministers and future ministers that make up a student body holding citizenship in 30 different countries.  I think about another congregant's ongoing connection with Baptists in the Republic of Georgia, about a former participant who is headed later this month to spend time in India teaching at a seminary, about our congregation's ongoing relationship with small towns in West Virginia that we will renew in August on our mission trip, about participants who are spending the summer in Brazil, about our connections with Kenya and with neighbors we encounter once a year when we spend a week giving our time to their kids at Music and Arts Camp, about seeing one of our Winter Relief guests riding around Annapolis on his bike greeting people when I was downtown for the Fourth of July yesterday.

I could go on and on, but the point is I have no doubt about it:  we are part of how Jesus is continuing to scatter the seed of his message far and wide, starting with groups of committed people.  And this, my friends, is worth celebrating!  How can we keep being messengers of this good news, the feet of Jesus wherever we travel?