Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pax Christi...

I interrupt my prayer time to scribble this thought, preceded by a memory...

A few weeks ago, one of the little boys in our congregation--and all of his family more or less new believers--just after I announced the sharing of the Pax Christi among us, turned to his mother and said, "What am I supposed to do with a 'piece of Christ'?"

The phrase haunts me. You do not have to affirm Transubstantiation to believe that in the bread and wine we each of us are given a "piece of Christ" as well as the peace of Christ. But the phrase is polyvalent, for it reminds me not only of Eucharist but also of St. Paul's reminder that while we (together) "are the Body of Christ," we are individually "members of it." Which is to say we each of us are "pieces of Christ."

And so I am thinking of both discipleship and ministry. It may be that the first step, the first and on-going practice of discipleship is the imitation of Christ--going as Jesus goes, learning to see as Jesus sees, to love as Jesus loves and speak as Jesus speaks; to die as Jesus dies if it comes to that, in hopes of rising as Jesus was raised (Frederica Mathewes-Green has suggested--though these are not her exact words--that Christians are those of whom it is a compliment to say, "They never have an original thought"). But the imitation of Jesus, and also of Stephen, Paul and the saints who lived cruciform lives--all of them live with Christ's words on their lips, die with his forgiveness on their tongues--is toward this end: the imago Christi. The imitation of Christ forms us into the image of Christ

We imitate Christ until we become him--a piece of him anyway. Evangelicals have long said words to this effect: Christ has no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet; we may be the only Jesus a stranger or neighbor sees today. We are a piece of Christ, sharing the peace of Christ.

Perhaps in their own way Sacramentalists say the same thing--that the pieces of Christ received become a part of us so that we become a part of Christ, a piece of Christ's peace in the world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Politicos and Their Coins

I have a new insight about the very familiar story concerning Jesus and the Herodians and Pharisees' attempt to "entrap" him, which is to say their desire to confine him, marginalize him, isolate him from at least half of those who are following him.

The story is simple. The Pharisees, who were religious, and the Herodians, who most probably were not, conspired together to ask Jesus a "hot-button" political question--whether or not to pay taxes to Caesar--and to our ears the question sounds more practical than political, a matter of degree rather than of conflicting allegiances. But for the Jews of Jesus' time, especially the religious and political, it was an incendiary as questions of homosexual unions or abortion. And whichever way Jesus answers, if he answers either "yes" or "no," he will offend one side or the other among the debaters. The Pharisees and Herodians know that--in fact, they are counting on it.

That Jesus answers differently and better is clear.

But here is the thing. It occurred to me today that whereas our attentions naturally go to the answers, and especially to the more comprehensive, spiritual answer Jesus gives--and most of our preaching deals with those things--it escapes our attention that adversaries and enemies do much the same thing in our own day. That is, they pose questions for us--should gays be ordained? are you in favor of abortion? can one be a Christian and a member of the armed services?--not because they are interested in answers themselves, but because they are trying to divide (in order to marginalize) believers. Either way we answer we offend someone; we are drawn into political squabbles; we find ourselves isolated.

Joseph Bottum has recently argued that the Mainline died when it was irretrievably politicized. It is a cliff Jesus avoided in this text, a ledge to which our enemies try to lead us over and over again, in the name of the "common good" or lip-service to faith's role in the court of public opinion. But beneath the innocent query there can be a diabolical agenda, and divide and conquer tactic that would be worth many coins both to Caesar and to religion's self-important detractors.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Never mind...

Remember Emily Litella, the Gilda Radner character who constantly misheard things and blasted away about what she thought was at issue ("Why all the uproar about violins on TV? Violins are lovely instruments!"), until Jane Curtain set her straight, often impatiently. Emily would respond, "Never mind."

Sometimes she said another thing, too.

All that to say, about a week after my last lament about being dropped, apparently, from Amazon, I was told by a friend that he had seen my post, went to Amazon, and found my books sitting there as always. I followed suit, and sure enough... they were gone for a while, buried deep in a new grave and a stone rolled over them, but they have risen from the dead.

Okay, so that is a little over-dramatic. But they are there all the same and I am pleased.

In other words, Never mind.