Sunday, July 3:
One year from right now, between June 30th and July 4th, we could be in Baltimore, preparing to welcome the entire United Church of Christ to its thirty-first General Synod. And, Yes, we will go out with a gigantic fireworks display at the Inner Harbor !! Here is our banner and theme for the General Synod:
Rev. Kelly Sisson, who serves as pastor of Centenary U.C.C. in Winchester, is preparing to make all of the ceramic plates and chalices to be used for Holy Communion at General Synod, based on this theme.
Our Central Atlantic Conference is preparing for meetings in the near future, where we can learn the practical points we will need to know, to be ready to host the entire United Church of Christ. I hope that several of our Bethel people will step up with me for this opportunity for adventure and service. Among other things, we will find out how we can travel around Baltimore and lodge there at low— or possibly NO – cost, while volunteering as hosts. But mostly, we will be studying hospitality, the art of welcoming and embracing a diverse gathering of God’s children.
Please pray for this enterprise—and pray about what role you might play in “making glad the city of God”
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From our gospel lesson for this coming Sunday, hear the Good News: Jesus told seventy of his followers, “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.” Luke 10:3-6
Can you imagine, setting out on such a bold and naked adventure ?
One of our church members recently told me of two young women of her acquaintance, who have set out with only bicycles and a bit of camping gear, to ride from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. Wow ! What a lot of nerve !!
Jesus’ instructions to the seventy were even more stark. Naked. He wanted his disciples to place themselves at the mercy of their fellow humans, with only good will and good news to offer. They were, in important ways, to live like beggars. They were to depend on the kindness of strangers. If they got meals, it would be as guests at tables they had never known. If they got lodging, it would be as guests on beds they had never known. John Crossan in his book, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, went through vast libraries of ancient literature to realize how deeply weird Jesus’ plan was. Nobody else— before Jesus— was doing it. Crossan calls it “co-mensality,” when Jesus freely and promiscuously shared tables (mensa, in Latin) with all kinds of people: prostitutes and Pharisees, rich people and beggars. We see the Son of God relaxing at the common table with just anybody.
The late teacher Ivan Illich explained in freshly poignant terms what it means, then, for Jesus to be crucified by his own people. They could not tolerate his revolutionary behavior: the way that he kept breaking down all of the old rules about staying clear of strangers and sticking to one’s own kind. The price he paid was to die on a tree: that is, with his feet lifted off of his home land, with the prospect of no proper burial in his native soil. Such a punishment was considered fitting for someone who ignored social boundaries and flouted his people’s traditions.
And isn’t it weird, that we say such nice things about the cross ??
May I never boast of anything
except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ