On February 20, several NC Council of Churches staff members had the pleasure of taking part in chapel services at Wake Forest University Divinity School. The opportunity to worship and then have lunch with the students was a joy. Shannon Axtell Martin, our Partners in Health and Wholeness staffer based in the Triad and an alumna of the Div School, brought a powerful message on food as a social justice issue. As she related the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, Shannon said: Following Jesus’ example, we begin with looking…
Shannon Axtell Martin, Regional Consultant, Partners in Health & WholenessThere is nothing like the aroma of bread baking, and the incredibly comforting and satisfying taste of warm, fresh bread. From “give us this day our daily bread” to “I am the bread of heaven” to the feeding of the 5,000 to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, this seemingly simple food is so theologically rich. It is used to represent Christ’s body, God’s provision of manna in the wilderness, and livelihood in general.
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.