Let Us Proclaim Easter Hope

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

I’m going to take the liberty of ignoring my writing assignment for the day. Let’s talk full-on about Eastertide. Tomorrow, we can go back to the woes.

Like everyone else I know, I’ve been disturbed by the news recently. I think this is true for liberals, conservatives, the whole lot. We can all see great chasms of separation in our society, no matter our preferences or perspectives. And, yet, through all this, we proclaim that Christ is risen.

Whether or not we are in the Paris Agreement, Jesus is Lord. Whether or not we have a border wall, Jesus is Lord. If Clinton had been elected, Jesus would have been Lord. With President Trump in office, Jesus is Lord.

I’m not at all saying that our differences and challenges don’t matter. Quite the opposite, in fact. God is in the hope business. Easter morning manifests for us the sovereignty of God and God’s love. It is the very act of liberating us from our fears, from our sins, and from death itself. So when we look at the world, I think we have to see that God is on the side of all those who live in captivity to fear and sin. The scriptures teach us that from the beginning of creation, God has relentlessly sought us. God offers us salvation – healing, wholeness, liberation, eternal life – again and again.

So liberals shouldn’t give up hope because Trump is in power. Conservatives shouldn’t give up hope because liberals refuse to go away. Use your own examples if you don’t like those. Even if we are facing death itself, we must have hope.

We don’t sit back and imagine that God will sort out our problems, but we also don’t need to think that it’s all up to us. The task for us Christians, then, becomes the proclamation of hope. That proclamation of hope might be a Facebook post. It might be a warm meal for a hungry person. It might be a decision to cut back our carbon footprint, to change our habits of life, for the sake of the planet. It might be an invitation to someone to follow Jesus. But whatever we do, for the love of God, let us not lose our hope. Let us not fail to proclaim the hope that is within us.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! How will your life show forth Easter glory today?

 

P.S. If you begin to be a real Easter Christian, people will talk. See there? I fulfilled my writing assignment after all.

Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and executive director of Forward Movement, a ministry that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his spouse, Sherilyn Pearce, who is also priest, and their social media canine, George T. Dog. Scott blogs at www.sevenwholedays.org.

Because of the Son of Man

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

We’ve been thinking about how if we are boldly living as disciples of Jesus, we’ll get into a bit of trouble. At least, people will mutter about us or condemn us for rocking the boat. You can see this play out in the scriptures as Jesus and his followers go against the grain of the religious and political authorities. Again and again, the authorities speak against Jesus and his followers.

But this doesn’t mean that every time someone says something negative about me, it’s because I’m being an awesome follower of Jesus. If someone calls me a jerk, maybe it’s because I was a jerk (hypothetically speaking, of course). So how do we know when we’re being attacked in the “good way” or the “bad way”? The key comes in the blessing that matches this woe. It comes a few verses earlier in Luke. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

When people speak ill of us “on account of the Son of Man” then we know we’re in good company – the company of the saints through all time and history.

Have people defamed you? Was it because you were following Jesus?

Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and executive director of Forward Movement, a ministry that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his spouse, Sherilyn Pearce, who is also priest, and their social media canine, George T. Dog. Scott blogs at www.sevenwholedays.org.

Pregnant with God’s Possibilities

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

Today is the Feast Day of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We remember the joyful moment between Mary and Elizabeth, both pregnant with sons who would come into the world preaching love and upsetting the standard order of things. Icons and images of this moment show two women, embracing. Mary, we read in Luke, has encountered the Archangel Gabriel who has announced God would like to collaborate with her to birth Jesus into the world. Of course, she immediately goes with haste to see Elizabeth to share this news. God is also collaborating with Elizabeth to bring John the Baptist into the world.

The Babe John leaps in the womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting. Elizabeth greets Mary, saying, “Blessed are you among women.” And Mary replies with her hymn, the Magnificat.

This day, filled with the love and joy of two women, pregnant with God’s possibilities, seems to be in opposition to Jesus’ teachings on the great sorrow people can expect when they strive for popularity among all people.

Mary’s hymn reminds us otherwise. She sings of God who is faithful to God’s children, of God who lifts up the lowly and scatters the strong in their conceit, of God who fills the hungry with good things and sends away the rich empty.

She in her hymn and Jesus in his teachings remind us of God who is unimpressed by wealth, showy gestures, and the number of Twitter followers.

God is in love with us because we are God’s, and blesses us not because we have earned God’s love, but because God waits for us to leap with joy at the sound of love verbalized in the voices, songs, and lives of others. God loves the parts of us hungry for food and love, outcast from the popular table and from our own sense of worth, and vulnerable among a world obsessed with power.

Woe to us all when we forget to meet the voice of God with joy because we are more concerned with what the voices of others say about us. Woe to us when we forget to collaborate with God to birth love into the world because we collaborate with those who would oppress and belittle children of God. Woe to us when we choose to visit with the rich, full, and powerful instead of going in haste to be with those who remind us of our own fragility and vulnerability.

May our souls magnify the Lord. May our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. And may we leap with joy at our own lowliness, the beloved of God.

 

The Trouble with Discipleship

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
In a week with a tough theme here at 50 Days of Fabulous, the lectionary keeps giving us more clues that any idea that Christianity is about being nice are dead wrong. In today’s daily office lectionary, Jesus is giving advice to those he has commissioned to be sent out. He says, “whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you” (Luke 10:10-11).
Where did we get the idea that to be a Christian is to be nice? Why do we imagine that the Gospel is anything other than provocative or, often, deeply disruptive?
There are no saints of the status quo. Every holy women and holy man the church remembers as a saint is known for bearing witness to the power of God’s transforming love. Many of the witness bore witness by giving their lives in Christ’s name. When the church has been at its best — throughout all time and all places — it has often found itself in trouble with the authorities.
Evidence begins to mount that if people are speaking well of the church as just another organization — alongside voluntary organizations and non-profits — then the church itself might be indicted by Jesus’ woe. “Woe to you when all speak well of you.”
The church is meant to bear witness to the power of God’s transforming love, and that love will often stand in opposition to what is polite, to what is acceptable, to what is popular, to what is convenient, or to what is politic.
In other words, I think if the church is being the church, we’re going to be getting into some trouble. The church which is proclaiming the kingdom of God will be rejecting other empires and kingdoms. The church which insists that every person is precious will find itself at odds with a culture that wants to sort people into categories safe/unsafe, good/bad, worthy/unworthy, or in/out. The church which insists there is always enough will be mocked by those whose cry is for a zero-sum world. The church which gently says, “Be not afraid” will be shouted down by entire industries devoted to peddling fear.
It’s time for us Christians to worry less about our reputation and more about the Gospel.

Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and executive director of Forward Movement, a ministry that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his spouse, Sherilyn Pearce, who is also priest, and their social media canine, George T. Dog. Scott blogs at www.sevenwholedays.org.

Clarity

 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

Today is one of those liturgical and national days that pulls us in several different directions. We are in the final days of Eastertide. American readers of this blog will be observing Memorial Day today. And then the daily office readings give us this, in the Gospel reading, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). That’s a pretty harsh saying on any day, but especially today, a day set aside to remember those who have died serving in their nation’s armed forces. How do we square all these different angles?

In this hard saying, Jesus is telling people not to slow down, because there was urgency. He had clarity of purpose, and that purpose was pushing him toward Jerusalem. Anything that was not in line with Jesus’ mission was to be cast aside. So often, when Jesus says hard things, it is because he leaves little room for “nice” or “convenience.” Our theme this week — that stark Woe condemning people of whom others speak well — is right on point. We can’t spend our time worrying about pleasing others for the sake of pleasing others.

So where does that leave Memorial Day? It seems to me that this day very much has an honored place in our national and even our religious life, so long as we remember its purpose. Today is not about a day off from work or a sale at the mall. Today is not a day to stir up patriotic fervor for its own sake. No, today is to remember and to give thanks for those who have died in service to their country. We Christians might also pray for peace, yearning for a day when war is a distant memory, for a day when we no longer have to mourn the loss of God’s precious people in the cause of war.

How might our Christian life change if we had Jesus’ clarity of purpose?

Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and executive director of Forward Movement, a ministry that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his spouse, Sherilyn Pearce, who is also priest, and their social media canine, George T. Dog. Scott blogs at www.sevenwholedays.org.

Dangerous and Scary Stuff

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

This is one of those scripture verses that cuts away at the very idea that being Christian is about being nice. I was raised in the church, and I was always taught that our behavior should be well regarded. “If you do _____, people will talk about you.” It was a warning.

But the Gospel says just the opposite. Or, rather, it applauds the idea of offending a few people. “If you do ____, people will talk about you.” It is how we followers of Jesus are meant to live.

Scandal for its own sake isn’t the point. However, the Gospel demands things from us that are almost guaranteed to be offensive to others. Talking about forgiveness in the face of evil will be offensive to some. Inviting a homeless person into a home is offensive to some. Insisting that wealth must be given to those in need is offensive to some. Focusing on grace over justice is offensive to some.

If we are living in a way that everyone around us looks on approvingly, we’re almost certainly not rocking the boat enough. If you don’t believe me, read the Gospels. Jesus was always getting himself in trouble. His followers were always getting themselves in trouble. The saints of the church were always getting themselves in trouble.

Jesus talked to the wrong people. Jesus said that might and power are the wrong way to live in the world. Jesus got chased out of the synagogue for suggesting that the kingdom of God – a complete upending of the world order – was near.

Do people speak well of you? Have you ever rocked the boat in a way that scandalized others? How did that feel?

It’s dangerous and scary stuff. But whenever I manage to have the courage to do it, my sense is that the kingdom of God has come near.

Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and executive director of Forward Movement, a ministry that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his spouse, Sherilyn Pearce, who is also priest, and their social media canine, George T. Dog. Scott blogs at www.sevenwholedays.org.