May 15, 2022
Easter 5 C – George Yandell
Since God blessed Abraham and commissioned him and Israel to be a blessing to all nations, God’s dream has been to renew the earth, modeled after heaven. All Jesus preached was a new creation, evolved from the old. So what happens when God’s people erect walls to separate themselves from the other peoples of the world? Let’s listen to the passage from the Acts of the Apostles.
When summoned by the circumcised believers of the Way of Jesus in Jerusalem, they asked Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Peter tells them of the trance he fell into at Joppa – how God let down a sheet with all sorts of animals forbidden for human consumption under Jewish law, and told Peter, “Get up, kill and eat. What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Now what did Peter do? He replied not to the question regarding circumcision from the elders in Jerusalem, but how God gave him a vision and corrected Peter- God made the animals good to eat. He replied not to their concern about circumcised vs. uncircumcised, but about table fellowship.
What is Peter doing? He’s leapfrogging over the question of separation between the circumcised and uncircumcised men, and going back to the beginning. He points out that God recalls in the vision of the sheet containing the animals, the very beginning of creation where God created all manner of things and pronounced them good- and calls the Jerusalem leaders to recognize that God intended Israel to be a blessing to the nations, that God was God over all the nations- so if God tells Peter all manner of things are fine for food, it recalls the followers of Jesus to their historic mission- instead of withdrawing and tightening the ring of fellowship, the followers are to sit at table with Gentiles, even Gentile women, and all those who should be sharing God’s blessing.
Seems that God got tired of the followers of Jesus making walls between God’s people and intervened with the Holy Spirit to set the Jesus people back on track.
What is the nature of the blessing Peter offered to the non-Jews? In all his preaching, he recalled the teaching of Jesus- in Christ, God was opening up God’s new creation through self-emptying love. That’s what we hear in the passage from John’s gospel. “In John, Jesus …. [reveals]…God’s love, and so the [historic] imitation of God becomes an imitation of Christ, an imitation of Jesus. The Jesus of John’s gospel says, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (From Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, Marcus Borg, 2006, pp. 184-185)
Thomas a Kempis’ book Of The Imitation of Christ is perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional work after the Bible, and is regarded as a devotional and religious classic. Its popularity was immediate, and it was printed 745 times before 1650. It still points us to love and live as Jesus did.
The new command Peter lived and preached was to love as Jesus loved, with discipline- imitate Jesus. Be rooted in the ancient tradition of Israel to be a light to all people, and share the blessing of knowing the resurrected Jesus through the community of faith. Change as the Spirit directs, always linking us anew to God’s intent. The power of the Holy Spirit will give the followers of Jesus the gumption and the love to carry it out.
What is the nature of faith in this new creation? What is heaven on earth really like? Walls fall down. Folks get surprised by goodness when they have become cynical and expect the worst. Remember Robert Frosts’ poem? MENDING WALL. I want to recite it.
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun, and makes gaps even two can pass abreast…
No one has seen them made or heard them made, but at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; and on a day we meet to walk the line and set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each….
There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder if I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.’ “ I believe the Holy Spirit acts even now to grab our attention, to tear down the walls, and usher in God’s love.
May 8, 2022
Easter 4 C – George Yandell
The scene in the gospel has Jesus at the Festival of the Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jewish leaders query Jesus, “Are you the messiah? Tell us plainly.” He uses a figure that was in the minds of the people- from intertestamental writings, from the psalms and prophets- “You don’t get it, because you don’t belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice- I know them and they follow me.
May 1, 2022
Easter 3 C – George Yandell
It was around 34 C.E. Paul was in his early 30’s. From the passage in Acts we read, Paul was converted in or near Damascus, Syria. But contrary to popular interpretation, he was not converted from a Jew to a Christian, but it was a conversion within Judaism, a deepening of his own tradition. He was very devout as a youth, raised a Pharisee, and knew Hebrew and Greek.
April 24, 2022
Easter 2C – George Yandell
“Peace to you,” said Jesus to his disciples, huddled in the room in fear on Easter evening. ‘Salem’ is Peace in Aramaic, ‘Shalom’ in Hebrew. They feared those who’d collaborated with the Roman officials to have Jesus crucified, they feared living without Jesus. They were scared enough to lock the doors and hideout. Maybe rumors of the empty tomb had reached them- maybe they were just still too traumatized by Jesus’ crucifixion to venture out of a safe place.