I was both excited and nervous as I unpacked my boxes in the parsonage to begin my first year as a pastor. It had been a busy day with people coming in and out of the house, but after a while I was sitting alone and I looked around my new home trying to decide how I was going to arrange my furniture. As I moved and pushed my furniture about, I felt prompted to look out through the front door to observe the community in which I would be living. I peered out of the window and there was a house diagonally across the street that caught my attention.
Rev. Cody Sanders, Ph.D. candidate in Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling at Brite Divinity SchoolThere is something in these furious, feverish words that beckons beyond a simple description of what life will be like if you choose to follow a peculiar call from Jesus and your closest friends and family don’t. Beyond description, there is something of a call in this passage trying to work its way inside of us. These words beckon us beyond a recounting of our inevitable losses on the journey, to embrace our sacred calling to disturbers the peace.
Rep. David Price (Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill)Religious ideas are crucial, both to understanding this history and to dealing with its current manifestations. Realism as to people’s sinfulness and will‐to‐power figured directly in the Constitution’s checking of political power—Madison in The Federalist sounds like a good Calvinist—but taking such beliefs to the extreme can erode all trust and hobble democracy. As for current politics, as Jim Wallis asks in his new book, why should Christians believe in sinless markets any more than they believe in sinless governments?
Rev. Michael Kinnamon (School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University)Where does this leave us today? How can the ecumenical impulse be revitalized in such an era as ours? The answer to this may be suggested in the distinction between optimism and hope. Optimism involves the expectation of a better future based on a reading of present circumstances; hope involves the trustful anticipation of genuine newness, perhaps beyond our imagining, based on the promises of God.
Thank you for your decision to conquer evil with good. You have decided to defeat opposition and resistance with diligence and perseverance. But above all, thank you for allowing love and hospitality to prevail over hate and hostility. When I arrived to this country it was precisely people like you, women and men of faith that practiced hospitably and your Christian love, who left an impression and transformed my life forever. Please don’t have any doubt that God uses every gesture of Christian love and radical hospitality that you make towards an immigrant in order to transform lives.
Rev. Jill Edens, United Church of Chapel HillThough the disciples have left everything to follow Jesus, the discussion as they travel to Jerusalem reveals that they are profoundly unready for what is to come. In this pivotal moment we encounter blind Bartimaeus who Mark holds up as a model for discipleship: “As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
Dr. Eloise Kaeck, Green Mountain Presbyterian Church (Green Mountain, NC)The story told here in Acts 10 could be turned into a dramatic presentation in several acts, with its angel visitations, a Roman from the occupying army wanting to talk with a rough fisherman from Galilee and the surprise reversal Peter goes through. Peter thought of himself as Jewish, very Jewish. Peter lived in the cosmopolitan world of Joppa, a seaport on the Judean coast. Ships from the seven seas and caravan routes up the coastal plain made for all kinds of languages on the streets of Joppa, strange sights and sounds, colorful dress, exotic smells of food from Africa, Asia and Europe being sold in the bazaar. The world in which Peter lived and our world have much in common. North Carolina is a global village today just as Peter’s world was in the first century A.D. We think of ourselves as homogeneous, Euro-Americans. However, now North Carolina has people from Pakistan, Lebanon, India, China, not to mention Native-Americans, African-Americans and Latinos. The world in which Peter lived and our world have much in common.
Rev. Nancy Petty, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church (Raleigh)While I’m quite sure that this Jeremiah passage doesn’t have anything of relevance to say about my decision to come to Pullen, it does, however, have something to say about one of the most significant social justice issues of our day—that of immigration. As you well know, immigration and immigration reform is one of the most debated political and social justice issues facing America. In recent months, the conversations on the issue of immigration have reached a boiling point—in some places, such as Arizona, the debate has turned violent.
Dr. Norman Wirzba, Duke Divinity School (Durham)Now, imagine that God comes to you one day and says, “I need you and your family to gather all the animals living in North Carolina. I need you to feed them and protect them. I need you to build a floating farm and make sure they stay alive because the world around them is crumbling and dissolving. The places these animals have called home are disappearing, and I need you to make a home for them.” What would you say?
Rabbi Mark Strauss-Cohn, Temple Emanuel (Winston-Salem)What is it about the rear side of a car that they are a primary location to display our affiliations: sports, political groups, rock bands, restaurants, ideologies, personal interests, vacation spots, synagogues (a very popular one here in Winston-Salem)… You see these signs everywhere.
Rev. Jean Newell, Creighton United Methodist Church (Phoenix, Arizona)As he wrote his letter, I imagine Paul’s hope and prayer was that Philemon’s life had been so changed . . . so transformed . . . by his faith in Christ that the slave owner would not hand out punishment or death to the returned slave but would, instead, live out his faith and accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ. If there was to be any restitution made, Paul assured Philemon, he—Paul—would gladly be held accountable.
Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker, Myers Park Baptist ChurchThis man is scary. To others, probably also to himself. He lived among the tombs. There was no place else to live. He wore no clothes, the text says, and had no home. Does that mean no family too? The diagnosis of the time: He was possessed by demons. We guess today a psychological disorder, but let’s not be armchair psychiatrists, two thousand years away.
Rev. Nancy Petty, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church (Raleigh)It’s an image I can’t get out of my mind: a rescuer washing goo off a pelican. The bird was found alive but coated in the oil slick making its way ashore along the Louisiana coastline. The rescuer, volunteering hours of her time, was gently and compassionately bathing the bird in hopes of giving it another chance in the wild. It is a sad but hopeful image from the Gulf of Mexico. And of all the images I have seen from this, the worst oil spill disaster our country has ever experienced, it is this one that causes me to reach for the remote as fast as I can to change the channel.