A Shalom Community

Here is the sermon skeleton for the 2nd week after Pentecost Year A, 2017.

I’m attaching some stuff that doesn’t come up in the sermon, but that we can go back to in reference as we think about growing more and more as a Shalom church.

The inspiration for all of this comes from:
Nessan, Craig L. Shalom Church: The Body of Christ as Ministering Community. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

And here is a video of Dr. Nessan giving a brief overview of this book.

Also note: the “manuscript” section of my sermon is something I view as a “jumping off point.” I almost always open the floor for discussion, feedback, pushback, what-have-you. This sermon was written in skeleton form before the announcement of the verdict in the Philando Castile manslaughter case. If you’re coming to church tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the verdict. We can’t ignore it. Our Black siblings in and out of church are in pain because of systemic racism and white privilege, and the acquittal of the officer who shot Mr. Castile brings this up. Again. For the Nth time, just this year. As a community who strives to be a Shalom Church, how can WE (an almost exclusively White congregation belonging to a predominantly White denomination) be the hands and feet of Christ for our kindred in pain, and also see the face of Christ in them? What does a Shalom Church do in situations like this?


Pentecost 2A (2017)

Last week our Gospel reading came from Matthew 28
where Jesus authorized the Great Commission:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and teach all nations, (make pupils of all nations/gentiles)
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And, Jesus says, I will be with you always, to the completion of the age.

I gave us Lutherans a bit of a ribbing by commenting that
when Jesus says “Go,”
We quote Luther and respond, “Here we stand. We can do no other.”

Well, there’s a joke in every truth, and a truth in every joke.
And it’s no secret that Lutherans are really terrible at evangelism.
But to defend us for a moment,
I think that word “Evangelism” bears a big chunk of the blame.

It’s not so much the word itself, but the way in which it has been co-opted to mean
that we must go knock on doors
and harass people in the streets
pressuring them to say a sinner’s prayer
or asking them “If you died today, do you know FOR A FACT that you will go to heaven?”

Even the Roman Catholics have distanced themselves from Evangelism in that sense of the word,
and now they talk about the “New Evangelization.”
I don’t understand that word, because as far as I know
there is no verb, “evangelizate.”

In any case, Evangelism is supposed to be a sharing of Good News,
not a sales pitch for eternal fire insurance.
Scaring people with hell and fire and brimstone
or pressuring them to say the right words or what have you
isn’t spreading good news.
It’s spreading terror.
You might get a convert or two here and there, but not for the right reasons.

When Jesus COMMISSIONED those first disciples/apostles,
he was sending them out with authority
to show that his Good News was about healing and wholeness and peace,
concepts that are wrapped up in the Hebrew idea of Shalom.

He was forming a Shalom Society, a Shalom Church.

And he had already prepared his disciples for that work.
That’s what his whole ministry had been about.
And before the crucifixion, he had sent them out as interns in a way.
That’s where today’s Gospel reading comes in.

Now, this story of the sending of the 12 shows up in all 3 synoptic Gospels (Mt, Mk, Lk)
and one might argue that it also shows up in John 14
with the promise to his disciples that
You will do the works that I do
and greater works than these.
But John’s Gospel frames the story differently from the other three.
We don’t need to get too much into that today,
but it’s interesting to notice how the synoptic authors tell the story.

Mark, historically the 1st account, which Matthew and maybe Luke drew from
shows Jesus sending out the 12
with authority over unclean spirits.
They preached repentance,
cast out many demons,
anointed with oil and healed many sick people.

Luke 9 talks about the mission of the 12 in terms of Jesus giving the disciples
power and authority over demons, to cure diseases, and to proclaim the kingdom of God.

Luke follows that up in chapter 10 with a broader sending –
the sending of the 70 (or 72, depending on which translation you’re reading)
to heal the sick and to proclaim the kingdom’s at-hand-ness.
So, 2 sending stories in Luke.

And here in Matthew 9 – 10
Jesus tells the 12 disciples, whom he now calls “apostles” (sent ones, not just students)
to proclaim the at-hand-ness of the kingdom of heaven
heal the sick
raise the dead,
cleanse lepers,
cast out demons.
He gives them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out
to heal every disease and every infirmity.

There are a lot of neat little details that vary from one Gospel to the next:
Most of the versions talk about entering a town or city
and accepting hospitality where it is given
eating what’s placed before you
sharing peace if it’s there,
but shaking the dust off your sandals where there is no one to hear your message.
But in Matthew and Luke we get that curious little phrase about
how it will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment for that town.

That’s just kind of interesting because people in the North American church
usually associate Sodom and Gomorrah with homosexuality
even though Ezekiel straight out says:
49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom:
She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned;
they did not help the poor and needy.”

And Matthew’s version is the only place where Jesus says
NOT to go to the Gentiles or even to the Samaritans,
but instead to go ONLY to the “lost sheep of Israel.”
One could write a dissertation on that particular variation
and what that might mean.

So, there are some differences between the various Gospel accounts,
but what’s significant is what they have in common:
Namely, that Jesus is looking for willing Co-workers in this kingdom work.

God is coming to us to offer us PARTNERSHIP in bringing about the reign of God.
Jesus is building a community of Gospel partners:
NOT to harangue people about life after death or repeating a sinner’s prayer,
BUT RATHER to proclaim that God’s rule is coming to earth
and is, in fact here!
THAT’s what the Good News is.

Jesus gives us the power and the authority to put on display what God’s rule looks like:
peace and healing and wholeness
or, again, that fabulous Hebrew word: Shalom.

Jesus never commissioned us to go into the world and make Lutherans of all people,
teaching them to sing hymns in 4-part harmony
and to memorize the Small Catechism
to follow the Revised Common Lectionary when we meet every Sunday inside a fancy building.
It’s important to remember that all of those things are cultural trappings
— colonialist trappings, in fact —
that can sometimes get in the way of ACTUALLY proclaiming the kingdom of God in word and deed.

Those are things that we have to hold onto pretty loosely
unless we, too, want to be like Sodom and her daughters:
arrogant, overfed and unconcerned
unwilling to help the poor and needy.

But there are important aspects of Lutheran identity that can HELP us in our evangelizing task:
Luther’s 2 Kingdoms thinking is one example
as long as we don’t think of them as separate spheres,
which is what got us in trouble in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

[An oversimplification of 2-kingdoms theory holds that there is a right-hand kingdom that concerns itself with the things of the church and spirituality and there is a left-hand kingdom which entails life in the world. The actual theory is more nuanced than this, and Luther himself understood that GOD RULES BOTH KINGDOMS, but “popular” understanding of 2-kingdoms theory holds that these are two entirely separate dimensions of life: One is civil, the other is religious. It’s where the idea comes from that religion/spirituality should be held apart from political life, because it is “personal” and “individualistic/subjective.” It’s different than the separation of church and state as Jefferson would have framed it, but again in the popular imagination, there’s probably little distinction. And this is part of the reason that German churches didn’t, as a rule, involve themselves in a struggle against Nazism. Clearly, the situation is more complex than all of this, but that’s the idea in a nutshell.]

But if we think of those kingdoms more as God’s 2 “STRATEGIES”
we can have a healthier concept of what it means to be a concerned Shalom community in the world.

God’s right-hand strategy includes the task of disciple-making.
We are a part of Christ’s body
who are formed into that membership by the biblical narrative
and by thoughtful liturgical practice.

And God’s left-hand strategy includes the social ministries of our Shalom community:
striving for justice and equality for all people
caring for creation and responsible use of the resources we’ve been given
and respecting the dignity of all human beings as creatures made in the image of God.

Underlying this approach to being church in and for the world
is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea that the Church community —
the Shalom Community —
IS the presence and existence of Jesus Christ
through the empowering and gifting of the Holy Spirit.

The work Jesus calls us to is God’s Work.
The tools he gives us to do this work are one another:
Our gifts and talents put to use for the betterment of the world
Our proclamation and our prayers
Our “evangelism” in word and deed.

We have the power AND the authority from Jesus himself to work with him to bring Shalom to the world.


Twenty Virtues of the Shalom Church

1. Commitment to inclusivity
2. Love for enemies
3. Readiness to forgive
4. Repenting of violence
5. Nonviolent resistance
6. Solidarity with the oppressed
7. Hospitality to strangers
8. Care for the physical needs of all
9. Preferential concern for the weak [ed. for those whom we have marginalized]
10. Just economic and legal dealings with others
11. Basic posture of praise and thanksgiving
12. Loving the earth as our neighbor
13. Readiness to learn a new paradigm for human participation in the world
14. Stewardship as care for creation
15. Holding one another accountable for the care of creation
16. Affirmation of the common humanity of all those created by God
17. Respect for the dignity of the [people/groups whom we have] marginalized
18. Commitment to building an inclusive church
19. Defending human rights
20. Immersion in the theology of the cross.

Twenty Core Practices of the Shalom Church

1. Praying for peace
2.  Interpreting the actions of others in the kindest way
3.  Forgiving
4.  Resisting violence
5.  Advocating nonviolence
6.  Hospitality
7.  Charity and generosity
8.  Healing ministry
9.  Restorative justice
10. Holding accountable the privileged and those in authority
11. Wonder
12. Simplicity
13. Attending to the local place
14. Living sustainably
15. Advocacy for the creation
16. Admiring the divine image in the face of the other
17. Expecting to encounter Christ in the person of the vulnerable one
18. Participating in the suffering of others
19. Principled opposition to genocide
10. Advocating for human rights

12 Representatives of Shalom Church

1.  Mohandas Gandhi
2.  Martin Luther King, Jr.
3.  A.J. Muste
4.  Dorothy Day
5.  Oscar Romero
6.  Mother Teresa
7.  Francis of Assisi
8.  Chief Seattle of the Suquamish
9.  Wendell Berry
10. Bartolome de Las Casas
11. Sojourner Truth
12. Desmond Tutu



Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.