The Gospel and Empire


Icon of Humility, Service and Care for Creation

Icon of Humility, Service and Care for Creation

Looking forward to Holy Week, I went back to Bishop Spong’s columns on the scripture and Holy Week. In today’s Gospel, the debate over who Jesus was continues. The backdrop is the plot against Jeremiah in the first reading. Who was plotting against Jesus? Initially, I think it was the Roman authorities who were trying to squelch the radical reformer from the hinterlands of Galilee. The crowds were growing and, as they did, Jesus posed an even greater threat to Roman rule. The early followers of the Way worshipped in the synagogues as Jews who followed the teachings of a Jewish Rabbi called Jesus. It was only after the rift when “Christianity” split from Judaism that “the Jews” came to be implicated in Jesus’ death. How the Jewish people have suffered once this took hold and once the church abandoned the nonviolence of Jesus.

We know very little about the details of Holy Week. It seems to me that most modern scripture scholars agree that the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection were fashioned by writers who were targeting specific communities and who were building the story by bringing in events which show Jesus to be the Messiah proclaimed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Continue reading

Called Out of Empire

Isaiah (58:9b-14) makes God’s message quite clear. Oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech bring darkness and gloom. In a more positive vein, bestowing bread on the hungry and satisfying the afflicted bring the light of God. Gloom shall become like the brightness of midday.

On May 13, 1961, Merton wrote in his journal:

The great work of sunrise again today.

The aweful solemnity of it. The sacredness. Unbearable without prayer and worship. I mean unbearable if you really put everything aside and see what is happening! Many, no doubt, are vaguely aware that it is dawn, but they are protected from the solemnity of it by the neutralizing worship of their own society, their own world, in which the sun no longer rises and sets. Continue reading

9/11: Remembered, Revisited, Redirected

Jesus is Lord!

The question of the week is, “Where were you on 9/11?” There is another question to be asked but we will hold that for a moment.

I had recently retired as a public school educator in Gwinnett County, Georgia and I was fortunate to get a post-retirement consultant’s job with a company in Cambridge, Massachusetts; however, I would be working with schools in Georgia. Having been offered the job, I was invited to a training session for all the company leadership and consultants in Boston. I boarded a Delta jet in Atlanta on 9/9/01. It is the only time I have been on a plane that was returned to the gate because of mechanical problems. Repairs were made and we took off for Boston. In hindsight, the delay may have been an omen of things to come. Continue reading

Are We Worshipping the Beast?

The Book of Revelation, often mistaken for a book of predictions, is an eschatological book. It is really about the imperial Roman Empire which is persecuting the Church. The eschatological imagery allows the author to critique the Roman Empire without appearing to critique the Empire. Rome is the Beast.

In chapter 20 the author says:

Then I saw thrones; those who sat on them were entrusted with judgment.
I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded
for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God,
and who had not worshiped the beast or its image
nor had accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands.
They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Continue reading