That story about the debate over circumcision
that we hear in the Acts of the
was written sometime in the mid-90s,
and it's a different from
from what Paul wrote to the Galatians about 40 years
Fr. Raymond Brown says that decision
to allow non-Jews to become
Christians without circumcision
guaranteed that Christianity
eventually become separate from Judaism.
So, from the very beginning we were
ecclesia semper reformanda
—a church always re-forming, always
always searching for ways to tell the story of faith
to the next
In the early 400s St. Augustine of Hippo wrote about it.
the 1960s Fr. Hans Küng wrote about it.
Now, because of technology,
almost immediate reporting of the ongoing debate
about what we need to do to
How do we think about the wisdom and the glory of God?
do we spread the good news that Jesus taught,
that good news that the reign
of God is at hand?
How do we express the inexpressible?
Just like they
did, we use symbols and metaphors
and create meaningful narratives.
like they did,
we try to live what we
It's like today's
passage from Revelation, for example,
with all those visionary
twelve angels at twelve gates
with twelve names inscribed on
and twelve courses of stone in the foundation,
with twelve names of
apostles inscribed on them.
Those twelves meant more than twelve to the early
Twelve to them meant complete:
all the people of God,
all included in God's house,
all that is.
tells us that the city doesn't have a temple
because all the people live in
They don't need sun and moon
because the presence of God—God's
is in them and lights up the
Another effort of early
Christians to tell the good news in narratives
shows up in today's
a continuation from last week
of Jesus' “last will and
created by the evangelist.
The story is true, but it's not, as
Marcus Borg would put it,
something that really happened.
And the message
is not written for the disciples.
They're not around any more.
communicating in story
first, that the Spirit will be with them to help them
that Jesus lives not only with God but also with them;
second, that love, and the peace that love brings,
are central to Jesus'
How do we see the joy
and the dedication,
the care and the compassion,
the love for one
that Jesus learned from his Jewish tradition,
and called on his
followers to practice,
in the midst of foreign occupation, oppression, and
His own experience had to have taught it to him,
had to have
brought him the peace
that comes from helping
looking at mob mentality found
that people who can think about their own
are more likely to be able to resist
getting caught up in
a vicious cycle of violence.
They also tell us that generosity, kindness, and
release oxytocin, the hormone that brings feelings of
euphoria, and connection to others
and causes them to give more
and to feel more empathy.
It's the exact opposite of the
vicious cycle of violence:
people on an “oxytocin high” can jump-start a
where one person’s generous behavior triggers
So one person does a good deed for another,
and it inspires
people who see it
to behave with compassion later, toward different
Maybe you've seen those TV ads for Liberty Mutual,
person's small action helps someone
and is seen by a third,
who goes on to
do a good deed for someone else.
That really happens.
have shown how altruism spreads
from person to person to person to
how one person's goodness
can influence dozens or even hundreds of
some of whom he or she does not know and has not
It's been 2000 years
since Jesus called us to love one another,
2000 years since he said God's
reign is at hand,
that he said we would have peace.
Where is this peace in
In Michigan, 16-year-old Hunter Gandee
found peace in the world
when he carried his disabled nine-year-old brother 110½ miles
inspire people to embrace people with disabilities.
In Tennessee, Jacob Weiss
and Joy Teal found peace—
and spread it, too—
when they asked the people
they invited to their wedding
to skip the presents and donate instead
fund that gives micro-grants to local nonprofits.
In last Wednesday's talk on
Fr. Jim Bacik shared a story about UT students
from their service project in Haiti
to tell about the happiness they had
among people who lived in garbage dumps—
people whose faith taught
them to live
with love for one another.
In Toledo, Julie is a coupon
but she doesn't keep her bargains for herself and her family.
the first of every month she delivers peace to the world
in the form of
hundreds of dollars worth
of food and household goods
to local efforts to
help the needy among us.
Down at Claver House, a local firefighter
peace in the world every Tuesday
when he brings a package of cookies
thank George for his service in the
There was great joy in
the early Christian community.
It brought them peace, and it was noticed, and
They went about doing good, like Jesus had shown them,
were remarkable for the way they loved one another.
Their world was at
We experience that same
joy, that same peace,
in this community dedicated to the Holy Spirit,
each of the ways we reach out as individuals
and as a community together in
our social concerns ministry.
As theologian Elizabeth Johnson says,
the Holy Spirit,
nothing less than God's own loving self,
active in the world,
bringing new life to all peoples
and the whole of
It's truly the Holy Spirit in us.
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
West Central Avenue (Washington Church)