Before formulating a missionary strategy and before recruiting others to help them in their ministry, the Eleven first prayed.
In 1971, a significant book for the study of the Christian Scriptures appeared. Trajectories Through Early Christianity, by James McConkey Robinson and Helmut Koester, explored the diverse and often contradictory theologies contained in those writings. The authors were convinced our sacred authors presented various ways of understanding the implications of imitating Jesus' death and resurrection in our everyday lives. These inspired writers offer us "trajectories" of diverse theologies, not the straight-line "catechism" theology employed by most Christian churches today.
Spiritual Reflections: This Sunday's readings are marked by dysfunctional community, used and rejected building materials, and near-paralyzed leadership. Not the characteristics of a flourishing enterprise.
Sandy, a friend of mine for many years, was a goatherd. He and his family raised goats not for slaughter but for their milk, from which his wife made cheese in abundance to support their growing family. During one of our evening classes on the Gospel of John, Sandy said he could relate very closely to the role of Jesus as the good shepherd.
German pastor and social activist Christoph F. Blumhardt once said that it is not enough to celebrate Easter by saying, "Christ is risen." It is useless to proclaim this unless we can also say that we have died with him and that we have also risen with him ("Christ Rising," from Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, The Plough Publishing House, 2003). Jesus has come from God to live in our midst as one of us. He has endured and conquered the finality of death. He has laid the foundation for a new life and a new world order.
Students of Scripture must be well versed in the principle of Uhrzeit als End-zeit. Many of our sacred authors employed it. The German phrase can be translated as "The beginning is actually the end." The technique is used when one is trying to direct his or her readers' eyes to a future goal that the author is deeply committed to instilling in their minds and hearts. But instead of just stating, "This is what I expect you one day to become," the writer paints a picture of an ideal past in which those longed-for qualities were already present and practiced.
Easter reflection: We are the Easter people who believe that the cross transformed all suffering and pain, and the Resurrection secured eternal life.
Many of us learned in grade school religion classes that Jesus' resurrection was simply God's seal of approval on everything Jesus taught and did. So if he didn't actually rise from the dead, then the religion he founded and all the rules we learned in our catechism classes weren't binding on anyone. We'd best look for another religion.
In his essay "The Signature of Jesus," Brennan Manning passes on the story of an elderly man who meditated every morning under a big tree on the bank of the Ganges River (Multnomah Pub., 1996). One morning, after he had finished praying, the man opened his eyes and saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the scorpion washed nearer to the tree, the man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that extended over the river and reached out to save the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively, the man withdrew his hand.
Spiritual Reflections: A comparison of the synoptic Gospels with the Gospel of John reveals obvious differences, one of which concerns the miracles or wonders worked by Jesus.