Thursday, May 25, 2017

Easter VII Written by a Dummy for Dummies (Part 5)

There was great joy in that city.
Acts 8:8

Today we skip to the 8th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles for a reading titled "Philip in Samaria."   Here's the back story:  Some of the members of the Jewish community have become disciples.   Others push back and persecute the followers of Christ.  The most famous of these is Saul who will later become Paul after his own conversion on the road to Damascus.

Philip, one of the assistants chosen by the apostles in chapter 6 travels to Samaria.  The Samaritans "pay attention" to Philip and unclean spirits are excised. The paralyzed and crippled are cured.  This is even before the "big guns" (Peter and John) leave Jerusalem to lay hands on them and impart the Holy Spirit.

Today's reading provides me with the opening to share some thoughts that I've been reflecting on for the past several weeks.  

When I hear stories of churches closing I think about the vibrant and growing community of Acts and wonder if we really are part of the same group.  What is it about this early church that led to such explosive growth?  Perhaps today's scripture holds a clue.  The good Samaritans (I had to get this pun in somewhere) are attentive to and act on God's word.  Great things happen and the people are filled with joy.

Back in grad school I learned of a concept which has resonated ever since.  It is called the slow buffalo."  Here's how it works.  The priest (or some other leader) comes before a group of people with a need.  Everyone begins to mutter an excuse and run away leaving the slow buffalo to be caught and "win" the job.

For me, the antidote to the slow buffalo can be found in the fable Stone Soup.  It was the attentiveness and response of the people that created the miracle of a delicious soup made from a stone. 

Our social concerns ministry consists of 40 people who are willing to respond from time to time in various needs.  Our future goals are twofold:
  1. Add more people to the list
  2. Create a talent bank of skills that can be applied to various needs 
Please consider adding your name and e-mail to our list.  All you need to do is e-mail me at b.mauro1@yahoo.com.  

Remember "Acts" is more than a title:  it is a verb.

Soup from a stone; fancy that.

Bruce


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Easter VI Written by a Dummy for Dummies (Part 4)

“There was great joy in that city.”
                                    Acts 8:8

Today we skip to the 8th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles for a reading titled: "Philip in Samaria.” Philip was one of the assistants chosen by the apostles in chapter 6.  

Here's the back story: 
Some of the Jewish community has converted to Christianity. Others are pushing back and persecuting Christians.  The most famous of these is Saul who later becomes Paul, after his conversion on the road to Damascus.

The Samaritans pay attention to Philip.  Unclean spirits are excised and the paralyzed and crippled are cured.  This is even before the "big guns" (Peter and John) leave Jerusalem to lay hands on them.  They must have been really good Samaritans.  (I couldn’t resist the pun.)

This attentiveness to the word of God leading to great things provides me with the opportunity to share an idea that has been percolating for several weeks. 

Back in theological school I learned of a concept which affects churches known as “The Slow Buffalo.”  Here’s how it works:  The group is advised of a need.  Everyone mutters an excuse and runs away as fast as possible leaving the slow buffalo with the job.
Stories of the vibrant and growing Christian community of Acts cause me to wonder why today’s church can be so disconnected from their energy.  They also fuel my desire to go beyond my assigned role to ACT more like them.

The antidote to the slow buffalo might be found in the fable “Stone Soup.”  The people’s attentiveness and willingness to act causes great things to happen.  (Soup from a stone….fancy that.)

Our social concerns ministry is an e-mail list of 40 people willing to act from time to time in response various needs.  Future goals are twofold:

  1. Add more people to the list
  2. Create a talent bank of skills to be applied to needs that arise 
Here’s what you can do:  Add your name and e-mail to our list. 

Remember "Acts" is not just a name. It is a verb.

Blessed to be in ministry WITH YOU at St. Mary’s,

Bruce


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Easter V Written by a Dummy for Dummies (Part 3)




I continue my focus on the Acts of the Apostles.

Today’s first reading skips forward to the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.  You may be wondering, “Did nothing important happen between chapters 2 and 6?” The answer is “yes”, but the compilers of the lectionary (the calendar of which parts of the bible are heard on each particular day) have saved the story of Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:1-11) and the descending of the Holy Spirit (2:1-11) for the solemnities of the Ascension and Pentecost. 

(Remember the purpose of acts is not so much to provide a historical account but rather, an encounter with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.)

The heading of today’s reading:  The need for assistants,” provides a helpful hint as to it’s content.  The first line brings up a recurring theme in the Book of Acts:  the early church is experiencing explosive growth.  It also makes clear; the growth has been accompanied by “growing pains”.  

Here are few things to consider when hearing this passage:

·    The Christian community in Acts is not an established church like St. Mary’s.  It is a group of people who have responded to Christ’s message by living communally.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;b  they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.     Acts 2:44-45

·   The Christian community in Acts was not homogeneous group of people.

The Hellenists were probably Palestinian Jews who spoke only Greek.  The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and who may also have spoken Greek.

                                                           (U.S. Council of Bishops Webpage)


A lack understanding of the Jewish background this early Christian community would make the last line of today’s reading appear to be an odd criticism.  The “large group of priests who are becoming obedient to the faith” are not the men we call “Father.” They are the Levites (the descendants of Aaron) whose have served as priests of the temple who have now embraced the teachings of Christ.

Wishing all moms and those who have mothered us a blessed day,

Bruce




19th Sunday in Ordinary Time How Firm a Foundation

“How Firm a Foundation,  you Saints of the Lord,  is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!”                      ...