Creator of wealth and wages, sustaining living, feeding multitudes, giving everything, withholding nothing; make us see enough for all as the only way for each of us to have enough; for we say, Give us this day our daily bread, grumbling, while hoarders hoard, spenders spend, treasures trove, and demand grows. Amen.
We heard last week how Peter's first sermon to the in-crowd - the believers - did not get any response. No cheers. No thousands clamoring to be part of the next "new" thing. Not surprising. These guys hung out with a convicted person executed for treason. (And, yes, they are guys. Women are starting to be written out of the early Christian narrative.) Who wants to hang with THAT crowd? And Peter's choice of topic in that first sermon? "We need to replace the betrayer who, as a reward for his wickedness, tripped and fell in the field he purchased with the blood money of betrayal and he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out." Where do I sign up? Fast forward to this Sunday's scripture reading which immediately follows Peter's first sermon to the out-crowd; which at this point consists only of fellow devout Jews who are in Jerusalem for the Festival of Shavuot, i.e. Pentecost. Peter begins, "Men of Judea..." (See previous note on gender.) After some "skillful" exegesis of scripture - I would call it proof-texting - and some questionable rhetoric - I would call it weak hermeneutics - there is a clamorous response of 3,000 persons. (Where does one baptize 3,000 men in one day in Jerusalem?) "Men, what should we do?" the men ask. And like every good (and bad) preacher, teacher and leader has done before him and after him, Peter makes his first mistake with his answer. "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that our sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit...Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Actually, Peter makes a BUNCH of mistakes. Those of us in yesterday's Bible study were part of the discussion around one of the mistakes; a pretty significant one. Compare Peter's first words in this passage with Jesus' first words in Mark 1:15. More "fun" to come in Sunday's message. The point being: Mistakes happened in "The Old Normal" which brought us to this mess that we are in. And mistakes will happen in "The New Normal." My hope for things unseen is a hope that - at the very least - the mistakes are different than those already made.
After breakfast I found myself out in the section of my yard where dandelions and violets are in abundance. I spent a fair amount of time dead-heading the dandelions - a new COVID-19 ritual - to keep the fuzzy, albeit lovely, poofballs of seeds to a minimum. I have found the morning to be the ideal time to do that because the poofballs have not opened up to the day's air...and to the breeze that bloweth where it will. I like to see the happy bees moving from flower to flower. I like to relish the fact that I don't care if my neighbors prefer all-green lawns. My spot of yard is colored with yellow and violet and that rarer white-violet. And it is lovely... Another reason why this morning reflection is a bit later than usual is I got caught up in a powerful and engaging TED Talk given by BJ Miller, a hospice and palliative medicine physician. Given in 2015, the Talk resonates with my/our conditions today. What makes for a meaningful moment in life? The conditions in which Miller works are fundamentally not much different than the conditions in which we find ourselves. The wisdom he shares from experience is poignant and moving. It re-affirmed my sense that "normal" let alone "The New Normal" is whatever we make a moment out to be. He affirmed my notion that an aesthetic that engages the senses is the most robust and dynamic way to affirm a person's humanity, an other's humanity and my own. AND, Miller gave me a dietary revelation, one which I tend to adjust this afternoon. Miller says, "Seriously, with all the heavy-duty stuff happening under our roof, one of the most tried and true interventions we know of, is to bake cookies." Have a bake-full day...
Day 43. Seven weeks ago on Monday, March 16, the stay-at-home order became effective (in Indiana) and all non-essential public spots were closed. The previous day FCC (First Christian Church, Kokomo, Indiana) had just completed our first Facebook LIVE service which I watched that afternoon with my computer on its side. Lunch on Sunday was at an immediate new favorite, Cortona in Fortville, and was our (Elizabeth and I) last meal out before distancing. There is a pressing urge from many interests - individuals, groups and institutions - to "open up" and return the economy and our way of life towards "normal." I celebrate that desire for normalcy! Though I do so with one question and one statement. Question: What was/is/will be normal? Statement: If pre-pandemic was "normal" then it was that "normal" that got us into this horror in so many and varied ways. I agree wholeheartedly with the patriarch of the Addams Family, Charles Addams, who said, "Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly." And so, to avoid a bit of despair, to find some hope for a "new normal" - and to simply learn from the early saints - I turn to scripture and find some peace in a line from this coming Sunday's scripture reading: Acts 2:46 - Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." ..as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen