September 1, 2019
In his poem “In the Soul of the Serene Disciple” Trappist monk Thomas Merton flips the reader between two vantage points of a shared condition — one in which “poverty is a success” and one where it is “no achievement.” That poverty could be a success in any way is a difficult premise to accept. When we think of poverty, we think about a crushing system of social and economic deprivation that isolates and destroys lives. That is a reality for too many and a challenge that the church is called to help address. But the discipline of Christian poverty, in which a disciple might willingly give up a life of excess and extravagance in order to better focus on all that God provides, is another thing altogether.
Merton weaves between the two perspectives, between the vision shaped by the serene disciple’s devotion and discipline and the ordinary declaration of what the world says is true. He concludes with a provocation that he confronts more than he answers, saying, “What choice remains? Well, to be ordinary is not a choice: It is the usual freedom of [those] without visions.”
As people shaped by the gospel, we are invited to see through the eyes of Christ. We do not pattern ourselves by the usual freedom of the world but are called forth into an unconventional vision.
When we gather together for Communion, we inhabit and practice this new vision. We tell a story of Christ’s rejection by friends and his conviction and execution under the collusion of religious and state authorities. In the face of that story of injustice, the eyes of faith see a reversal: rejection transforming into invitation and death becoming new life. We break apart a loaf of bread and declare a vision of being made one in Christ, where the dividing lines become a place where Christ reconciles us to God and to one another (Eph. 4). We reject the “ordinary” and are invited, instead, into the vision of God’s kin-dom, where all are fed, where all needs are met, where sorrow is banished and the peace of Christ is known “at all times in all ways” (2 Thess. 3:16). We see this vision despite a world where the expectation is violence, where human difference is weaponized, where Creation is abused and where the most vulnerable of God’s family are rejected and their lives so easily snuffed out.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Season of Peace provides opportunities and reflections that point to that new vision in Christ. Online resources are available to help make this a time of encouragement, challenge, inspiration and education for congregations, small groups, families and individuals. These reflections and prayers address peacemaking from the personal level to the global level.
A Season of Peace begins Sept. 1 and culminates on Oct. 6, World Communion Sunday, when the Peace & Global Witness Offering is received.
Bryce Wiebe, Director of Special Offerings, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, September 1, 2019, the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Today’s Focus: A Season of Peace
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray:
Gracious God, keep us from being ordinary. Sharpen our vision through the eyes of Christ, that we might practice your peace, at all times and in all ways. Amen.