April 21, 2014

Living Resurrected

            If you are a pastor, you are probably tired this morning!  You may feel as “snuffed out” as one of the candles at the Good Friday Tenebrae service. You have kept homiletical vigil over the season of Lent, and yesterday you tried to present the best news ever: the last enemy, death, has been conquered.  Christ is risen, indeed.

            It is not just members of the clergy who are weary, faithful laypersons have sought to live into spiritual disciplines that have cultivated attentiveness.  We have tried to make the past forty days (a little more than a tithe of the year) a time of creating space in our lives for the stirrings of the Spirit.
            Over the next few Sundays, the New Testament readings from the Gospel of John and Acts, as well as 1 Peter (where we do not linger enough) will explore what it means “that death is behind Jesus,” in the words of Moltmann. We will learn anew that resurrection is not just about what happened to Jesus; it is the hope for all creation, including us.
            First Peter offers this affirmation about the impact of Easter:
Praise be the Abba God of our Savior Jesus Christ, who with great mercy gave us new birth: a birth into hope, which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; a birth to an imperishable inheritance incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you . . . (1:3-4).
We are “born into hope” because of God’s action in Jesus, through the power of the Spirit.  Death retains a powerful hold on humanity, especially untimely, violent and lingering experiences.  The inescapabilty of death prompts us to try to secure our lives, and we overreach.  Because humans inveterately behave this way, Moltmann turns the equation around and says: “The wages of death is sin.” 
We can live as resurrected people, knowing that the horror of a godforsaken death is behind us.  We do not have to cling so desperately to this life, our things, or even our disappointments about how we have managed our years.  All the promise of our lives—some fulfilled, some left fallow—will be gathered up into God’s eternity.

With the Spirit as our companion, we can move from life, through death, to life.  It is God’s pattern of making all things new.  In our baptism, we have been “buried with Christ,” and are “risen to walk in newness of life.”  While we have hope beyond death, even now we live into the resurrecting power granted to Christ’s body.  Alleluia!

Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity. To learn more, continue visiting our website.

April 17, 2014

Loving Our Neighbor

            I have just returned from a service of unity and hope, which was offered by the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City in partnership with clergy from the larger community.  It was a profound time at the Jewish Community Campus, the site of violence this past Sunday.  Not only did we remember the three who were gunned down, but we also strengthened our bonds as persons of faith.

            The religious communities were in fully display: Rabbis in their yarmulkes; Sikhs in their turbans; Muslim women in their hijabs; clergy with and without collars; pastors in robes and stoles; and many others of us.  The large theatre could not hold all of us; other large meeting rooms were full, also.
            I encountered Central students, our graduates, and a board member in the gathering.  In addition, I was able to greet faculty members from varied institutions.  The solemnity of the occasion was palpable, and those who spoke showed great theological sensitivity to the diversity of faith traditions.
            One speaker remarked: “Many expected an explosion in our community after this violence.  There was an explosion—of love!”  The power of love to overcome hate was a common thread among the speakers.  Eric Holder, Attorney General, spoke of the significance of accompanying one another in displacing evil with good.
            Most apt were the haunting words of Psalm 130:
            Out of the depths I cry to you,
                        O Lord,
                 Lord, hear my voice!
            Let your ears be attentive
               to the voice of my supplications.    
            The prelude of violin and flute called us to quiet our hearts, and the solo by Millie Edwards called us to prayer, and the Hebrew song (led by Cantor Sharon Kohn) called us to express our grief communally.  Music offers a medium that transcends words, and the poignancy of these selections conveyed what we could not voice.
            Maundy Thursday in Holy Week summons us to listen to these words of Jesus: “I give you a new commandment (mandatum), that you love one another.”  He was summoning them to embody the same love he had as he washed feet.

            Yet, the commandment is ancient, also.  Leviticus 19:18 instructs: “thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.”  This is the heart of our common faith, and God breathes holy intent through this simple word of guidance.  Our community made strides in that direction today.

            Molly T. Marshall

             Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.