To inspire and support all baptized people —
By A. Wayne Schwab —
These lines are intended primarily for individual Christians, seeking inspiration, support, and guidance for their daily life missions in Christ through Bible reading and worship.
They may be useful to preachers and teachers as well.
Church symbols call for imagination. How does one connect Christian symbols to one’s daily life? The Holy Spirit fuels the imagination. Let the imagination play with the symbols and daily life experiences. Think afresh about the symbols. Think afresh about the various arenas of daily life – our homes, work, community (from our neighborhood outward to our town or city), the wider world (including everything from our region or county to the huge arenas of business, government, and social norms), leisure or play time, spiritual health and growth, and our church life. Let the symbol and the Spirit interplay with your life in one of these arenas. A variety of outcomes are possible from what you can do yourself to what you can tell or teach to others.
Love and justice are your guideposts or touchstones. Define them afresh for yourself – biblically based, just reworded. Maybe experience love as when, without limit, you seek to value others as they really are, and to care for them, forgive their faults, and help them to put their skills and talents to their best possible use. Maybe see justice as the public face of love. In public life, we love by seeking for everyone equal access to the good things in life – whatever helps people to become all that they are created to be, and to put their skills and talents to their best possible use.
You may need to think afresh about evil and sin – the two blocks to love and justice. Evil is whatever blocks love and justice, thus separating people from God and from one another. Sin can be understood as evil chosen consciously.
The Church Year
Take a fresh look at the seasons of the church year. These seasons are weeks long. Here are some samples for those weeks, including a day in them. The samples used are in the order of the arenas of life noted in the first paragraph. Do note that, while the samples may seem relatively inconsequential, they were quite substantial to the people reporting them.
Advent is about coming. God comes among us. What seems to be coming or developing in my home life? In my friendships? What does the loving and just God appear to be doing or wanting to be done here? My partner and I find we are taking more time to chat with each other. We call it the Spirit helping us to come more closely together.
Christmas is about God among us, here and now. Work is work except during the times that I amaze myself by seeming to go beyond my usual abilities – God’s work! A co-worker comes to me for help with a difficult problem, and I am able to give it – a gift of the Spirit!
Epiphany is about God appearing. We planned a block party, and we asked our next-door neighbors to help. That was a bold move. All on the block saw them as recluses; although friends and family came to see them, they never gave us the time of day. The alleged “recluses” were glad to be asked, worked hard, and now often stop to chat with us.
Lent is preparing for baptism at Easter. What is it like to experience baptismal living? I despair of the lobbyists who have taken over Washington! I find the Spirit giving me this antidote from my church’s public policy page – “Who is the most effective lobbyist in Washington? I am!”
Easter is new life, a fresh start. Tom overworks. He is surprised at how much playing basketball with friends relaxes and empowers him. He finds that he returns to work with fresh vigor and imagination.
Pentecost is about the Spirit’s presence and work among us today. Mary says that, at this season, prayer comes more easily, and seeing God at work in her life and the life of those around her happens more often. What has helped is getting time with God and time with the issues of daily life closer together. Prayer time leads her to issues of daily life and how to live them out with more care and being fairer. Times of seeing God at work in situations are increasing. Daily life and prayer are both newer and fresher than before.
The church year as a whole can be the church’s special gift to us to appreciate the various parts of our lives as unique, as well as God’s different missions through each part.
Sunday’s Bible readings are selected to reflect on the seasons of the church year. The daily readings attempt to progress through all the books of the Bible in a three-year cycle; sometimes there is a secondary connection with the church year. Again, let the interplay of imagination between daily life and the text be entrusted to the Spirit. Love and justice continue as guides for the imagination.
For preachers and teachers, include with each of your presentations at least one example of how your theme has been lived out by someone somewhere. For help in discerning the indications of justice in each of the Sunday readings, see Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year C, (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012). Its editors have been careful to use a broad range of contributors to insure a variety of insights.
[This unique commentary is the first to help the preacher identify and reflect theologically and ethically on the social implications of the biblical readings in the Revised Common Lectionary. In addition to providing commentary for each day in the lectionary calendar, this series introduces twenty-two Holy Days for Justice. These days are intended to enlarge the church’s awareness of God’s call for justice and of the many ways that call comes to the church and world today. The days include Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Earth Day, World AIDS Day, International Women’s Day, Cesar Chavez Day, Yom HaShoah, and Juneteenth.
For each of the lectionary days and Holy Days for Justice there is an essay that helps the preacher integrate a variety of social justice concerns (including racial/ethnic issues, sexism, classism, ecology, and violence) into their preaching. The contributors are a diverse group of homileticians, pastors, biblical scholars, theologians, and social activists.]
The Proper Liturgies for Special Days
Again, find their connection with areas of daily life by relying on that interplay of text, imagination, and Spirit. Some starting points are noted below.
Ash Wednesday can raise questions about just what changes we will make in specific areas of our daily life.
Palm Sunday can relate to remaining loyal to specific missions or ministries in the midst of forces that seek to pull us away from them.
Maundy Thursday can suggest an experience of being called to a depth of caring and love not known before.
Good Friday can point to examples of being called to missions that are more costly than we expected.
Holy Saturday can suggest both personal and social issues that, while they seem dead, can still find new life.
The Great Vigil of Easter – a suggestion for planners: include a reading from a prophet calling for correction of social injustice; from the Vigil, begin the Eucharist with Holy Baptism following the Gospel and sermon; the Eucharist continues with the Prayers of the People to its end with the dismissal; a festive meal concludes the celebration. Personal and social stories of the Spirit’s works of death and resurrection can reflect the good news of God’s reign among us.
Our daily lives always have two issues – how to be loving and how to be just. These two words are the core of God’s will for how we live in any season.
Principal feasts are discussed above.
Sundays, Holy Days, Days of Special Devotion, and Days of Optional Observance, like the feast days, are well served with the interplay of the Spirit, the themes of the appointed lessons, one’s imagination, and how a member, or members, are living out some aspect of those themes in any of their daily mission fields. In particular, the saints’ days or days of unique church leaders call for beginning one’s imaginative reflections around the specific mission field or fields in which that person’s service was rendered. For example, William Laud, serving in both the church and the wider world of government, calls for the story of a contemporary leader, either in today’s church, or in the complex realities of church and state relations in our nation.
In all, God’s mission to make the world more loving and more just and our part in that mission are central.
article for fall 2013 P’s and my edits.813