The trouble with much of our social activism is that it often starts with, “What can the church do to serve the world?” So the church ends up running errands for whatever the world happens to be craving at the moment. Not all action in the world is God’s action. We should begin as the baptized and the baptizers asking, “How can the church serve the imperative of the gospel (to “go into all the world…baptizing”) and thereby help the world discover its true identity as God’s world, God’s cherished creation?” On the other hand, the trouble with much of our evangelism is that it often starts with, “What can the church do to save individuals?” So the church ends up speaking to individuals, pleading for inner change, ignoring outward needs and pressures, corporate evil, social injustice. Salvation is thus reduced to the personal, the therapeutic, the subjective, the emotional, the individual and is thus made petty and local. Our baptismal mandate is more cosmic, more “worldly” than that. Our evangelism and social activism are one in speaking and doing the Good News to God’s cherished heirs. This is all baptismal work, and we had best be about that work with vigor.
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A people’s vision that speaks of Life, of sacrificial means for the recurrent renewal of life, and of suffering for identity with the source of life, is a vision that can neither be destroyed, denied nor ignored, even though such has been attempted.
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It is a recurrent pilgrimage, and it is made with propriety, a certain sense of formality. I understand a little more of it each time. I see a little more deeply into the meaning of formality, the formality of meaning. It is a religious experience by and large, natural and appropriate. It is an expression of the spirit. –N. Scott Momaday, “To the Singing, to the Drum” Natural History, February, 1975.
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“Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it.”
~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
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“Nor, sad to say, can more and better exegesis bring us all the way to a solution. Indeed, careful exegesis heightens our awareness of the ideological diversity within Scripture and of our historical distance from the original communities (in ancient Israel and the earliest churches) to whom these text were addressed. In other words, critical exegesis exacerbates the hermeneutical problem rather than solving it. That is why seminary students sometimes come away from Bible courses puzzled and alienated. As Oliver O’Donovan once remarked, interpreters who think that they can determine the proper ethical application of the Bible solely through more sophisticated exegesis are like people who believe that they can fly if only they flap their arms hard enough.” –Richard Hayes, Moral Vision of the New Testament
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When you sent your Spirit on the beloved Son,
A dove became a harbinger of suffering.
When he arose from the waters of baptism,
Your Spirit drove him into the wilds.
Now, in these forty days of fasting and preparation,
Remind us, we pray, of Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness.
As we hunger, bring us to your table.
As we thirst, give us your cup.
As we wander, guide us by your Spirit.
As we wait, teach us to hope in you.
Prayer written by Joel M. LeMon
Assistant Professor of Old Testament / Hebrew Bible
Candler School of Theology
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He had raised the hood and studied the mechanism and he said he could tell that the car had been built in the days when cars were really built. You take now, he said, one man puts in one bolt and another man puts in another bolt and another man puts in another bolt so that it’s a man for a bolt. That’s why you have to pay so much for a car: you’re paying all those men. Now if you didn’t have to pay but one man, you could get you a cheaper car and one that had had a personal interest taken in it, and it would be a better car.
- Flannery O’Conner
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