Archives: Proper 18

Jesus Repents of Racism

Have you ever been new at something and just really wanted to get it right?

You’ve been given an unprecedented opportunity and all you can think is, “Don’t screw it up.”

It happens to me all the time.

Even though I’ve been working at St. Francis for two years and been ordained a priest for almost ten years, every day I pray to God, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me turn this dear lovely church into an ecclesiastical train wreck.”

I see other people engaged in new endeavors doing the same thing. A friend of mine and her husband are preparing for their first baby, due to be born at the end of November.

Of course, my friend Sara is nervous, wondering if she can handle the pain of labor, wondering if her child will turn out to be a ballet dancer or a serial killer or whatever.

But her mom is also a friend of mine, and talks to me about whether or not she’ll be a good grandmother.

Sara’s mom, Nancy, will tell me she’s planning to offer no parenting advice to Sara because she doesn’t want to be overbearing and interfering, while five minutes later Sara will be telling me she’s so glad she’ll be able to rely on her mom’s parenting advice.

The two of them get so worked up I start to wonder if I’m being too blasé about being a godmother for the first time.

Is it possible to negatively influence an infant in Iowa all the way from Indiana?

Could I singlehandedly turn him away from God and the Church and the Kansas Jayhawks and everything else I love if I don’t do everything exactly right?

Whether it’s a new job or a new baby or a new church, we all feel nervous when we’re venturing into the unknown and the stakes are high.

This is the situation in which we find Jesus in our Gospel today.

Jesus has traveled very far from his home in Galilee. He is ministering in Tyre and Sidon, what would feel to people in his time like a foreign country.

He is not among the Jews, he is in a country of Gentiles, Syrians and Phoenicians, foreigners with whom Israel has rarely been on good terms. Continue reading

What Jesus Is Really Saying About Church Conflict

Church conflict is nothing new.

Sometimes people think there should be no conflict in church, as though by virtue of being Christians we can and should cover over all disagreements with niceness.

Jesus in his teaching in our gospel lesson today seems to proceed on the baseline assumption that conflict in Christian community is normal and natural, and should be dealt with honestly and with compassion.

As we all know, honesty and compassion are all too rarely the watchwords of our church conflicts.

Many times anger, hurt feelings, and lack of clear communication drive us toward either sweeping everything under the rug to keep the peace, or openly hostile entrenched positions that lead to explosions and people leaving the church permanently.

The result is either a Body of Christ pristine on the outside but riddled with the disease and rot of resentment on the inside, or an openly dismembered and bleeding Body of Christ hemorrhaging members and vitality.

There must be another way. Continue reading