Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, October 13, 2019, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C). Services start at 10:15 am and, as I wrote last week, “You all come”.
One of the ideas that popped in my head when I read today’s lectionary was the question as to what Christians do? Jeremiah tells the Israelites in their Babylonian exile that even though they are far from home and under great stress they should continue their normal lives. It is one way to maintain the connection to their far away homeland.
But what does it mean to continue one’s normal life? For us today, it would be things like attending church regularly, reading the Bible on a similar regular schedule and taking time for prayer each day. But is there anything else we can do?
One of the things about faith that John Wesley wrote about was the need to seek perfection. Lead the life that exemplifies what Jesus taught us two thousand years ago and seek to make each day better than yesterday. Lead the life that tells those around you that you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus.
But how do we do that? When Jesus stood before the people in the synagogue in Nazareth, He said He had come to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and free the oppressed. He set the guidelines for what Christians should do.
And therein lies the rub. Our history as Christians tells us that, in the words of the prayer of confession, we have not always done what we should have done but done what we should not have done. In the 1930s, Christians in Germany turned their back on the plight of the Jews. In the 1960s, Christians in this country sanctioned the repression of blacks who sought the same rights as their white counterparts. Even today, there are many Christians who sanction the repression of many simply because of the color of their skin, their lack of income, or where they came from. Despite their claim to be Christian, it is quite clear that their allegiance is to a more political god.
This is more than a theological question. Can a person support repression and terrorism and still be considered worthy of the name Christian? Can a denomination which sanctions (quietly or openly) repression of individuals because of the color of their skin, their lack of financial status, or even their gender or sexual identity be worthy of being a Christian denomination? It leads us back to the beginning question, “What does a Christian do?”