When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Today’s reflection celebrates one year of Monday Musings. We began on the first Monday in October of 2016.
As I sit down each week to write this weekly reflection, I am guided to some extent by a quote attributed to the theologian Karl Barth, that one should “hold the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.”
The more accurate version of that quote is: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”
I must confess, that has been a challenge these last several weeks. So much has happened that it is difficult to prioritize one issue over another. Natural disasters have dominated the headlines; but the political arena has presented its share of anguish, drama, and yes, entertainment. Some of the remarks that we hear out of Washington would be funny, if they weren’t at times embarrassingly sad.
In this age of social media, everyone – not the least of which is the current occupant in the White House – is quick with an opinion on just about everything. Facebook, twitter, e-mail, Instagram, Pinterest, androids, blue tooth, and all kinds of other technological wizardry; have made me question whether my words would bring any more clarity to a situation, or simply add to the noise.
I must first consider my audience. How Scripture informs me may not necessarily be how it speaks to those of you who regularly read my thoughts. After all, the makeup of the ELCA churches in the Northeastern Ohio Synod hardly reflects the rest of the population. Most of our congregations are suburban and rural. We have very little presence in the urban areas of our 20 counties.
That motivated me to ask a friend of mine recently for some feedback on a few of my recent writings. He is a retired pastor whose opinion I value perhaps more highly than any other human on earth. He wrote back the following, which I received as affirmation:
“As long as they continue to read and to listen, they are participating in the pastoral dialogue that moves the Church forward.”
And that is my hope – that you, the reader, continue to engage in this weekly exchange of ideas. Although it is mostly one-sided – I write, you read – I welcome your response to anything I write. Some of you already do that. It calls me to accountability, which, admittedly, is not always easy or comfortable for me.
In our life together, there are bound to be tensions, there are bound to be anxieties, there are bound to be conflicts. But pain and anxiety is part of the life of people who want to grow in their service and in their relationship to Christ. Dialogue is important. As long as people maintain open lines of communication, there is always room for reconciliation. It is essential that we make time for each other, especially for those people with whom we disagree. The moment we cut each other off, we end all hope for understanding.
The Gospel lesson for this upcoming October 1, the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, is a vivid illustration of that issue. The Pharisees’ questioning of Jesus’ authority prompts Jesus to launch into a parable of a landowner had two sons and asked them to go work in the vineyard. The first one said he wouldn’t but did. The other said he would but did not. So, Jesus asks his listeners, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”
That’s a question we all need to ask ourselves as Monday Musings celebrates its one-year anniversary. But we need to ask it in a more personal, more direct way. To what is Christ calling us, his church, today? And how are we answering that call?
My blessing this week is patterned after the assigned second reading of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
This week and always, may we think of ways we can restore or build relationships with each other by humbly serving, looking to the needs of others, putting others first and ourselves last, emptying ourselves and taking the form of Christ’s servants. In our relationships with one another, let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.
+Bishop Abraham Allende