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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
Though the people freely and unanimously decide “to serve Yahweh, for he is our God,” they quickly discover there’s no one way to render that service, nor just one way to experience Yahweh working in their lives.
AUGUST 23RD, 2015: TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
One of the most fascinating aspects of studying Scripture critically is discovering the different theologies this collection of writings offers. Some of these theologies eventually made it into our catechisms; others are still there for the taking.
Because of their Semitic mindset, our sacred authors presumed that when anyone dared reflect on the implications of God working in their lives, he or she would consistently come up with both/and conclusions, something we modern Greek thinkers abhor. Having abandoned Semitic thought patterns almost 1,900 years ago, we’re constantly striving for either/or answers to our faith questions. That’s one of the reasons the majority of us prefer catechisms over Scripture. We don’t enjoy having such important questions lead us to other questions.
In today’s first reading, for instance, once the Israelites complete their 40 year trek through the wilderness, cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land, Joshua demands they stop their fence-straddling and choose between Yahweh and the other gods inhabiting Canaan. Though the people freely and unanimously decide “to serve Yahweh, for he is our God,” they quickly discover there’s no one way to render that service, nor just one way to experience Yahweh working in their lives. Their theologies evolve as their service and their experiences evolve. Explanations which worked last year, might not work this year. That’s why there are at least four different – sometimes contradictory – theological sources in the Torah alone.
Such differences also carry over into the Christian Scriptures. In our second reading, the unknown author of Ephesians attempts to theologically explain the relationship between Christian married spouses, basing it on the relationship which the risen Jesus has with the church. Sadly, given the understanding of husband and wife’s roles in his day and age, the writer identifies the man with Christ and the woman with the church. So he logically concludes, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” It’s no surprise that more perceptive theologians today, working from a different cultural understanding of the relationship between committed spouses, have developed theologies in which the wife isn’t expected to be subordinate to anyone – even their husbands. What worked in the 1st century CE, doesn’t have a chance of working in the 21st century CE. Times and theologies have changed.
But we hear one of the biggest changes in biblical Christian theology in today’s gospel pericope. Though all Jesus’ followers are convinced he gave us the Eucharist, our sacred authors employ different explanations to help us understand that gift.
Paul of Tarsus is the earliest theologian to deal with the Eucharist. In his oft-quoted I Corinthians 11 passage, he chides some in that particular community for not “recognizing the body.” Their selfish behavior during celebrations of the Lord’s Supper proves they’re not experiencing the body of Christ in those participating in the celebration with them. Though the Corinthians presume the risen Jesus is in the bread and wine, not everyone presumes he/she is in those around them – especially the poor.
But by the end of the first century CE, John takes the focus off of the community and puts it on the Eucharistic bread and wine itself. Forty-five years after Paul, the test of a true Christian now revolves around seeing the bread and wine as the risen Jesus’ real body and blood.
No wonder some of Jesus’ “disciples no longer walked with him.” Not everyone – even in John’s community - bought into this new theology.
No wonder many later Christians did buy into it. It’s certainly less demanding than Paul’s insights. Little skin off my teeth if the risen Jesus is in the bread and wine; lots of skin off my teeth if he/she’s in the person standing next to me.
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