Spirituality and the Quest for Justice: Lectionary Reflections for July 18
Colossians joins Christology with ethics. The energy and spiritual vision present in Jesus Christ gives life to the universe. We live in a universe in which human actions exist in a wider cosmic environment aiming at healing and wholeness. Reconciliation is at the heart of the creative process and calls us beyond self-interest to world loyalty. Knowing that God is moving toward healing and wholeness in all things, our calling is to live in alignment with God's personal, community, congregational, and planetary visions of wholeness. Our commitment to reconciliation reflects God's own desire for personal, communal, and global reconciliation.
The story of Mary and Martha points to the interplay of spirituality and service and contemplation and action. Martha is rebuked, perhaps unfairly by Jesus, not because of her actions reflecting her desire to be the perfect hostess, but because of her anxiety and lack of spiritual focus. She was so intent on the product -- doing things just right -- that she neglected the process, the need for providing personal as well as culinary hospitality for Jesus. Mary forgot the purpose of her preparations; to welcome and nourish a dear friend and teacher. Mary and Martha need one another; the activism of Martha invites Mary to leave her contemplations and straighten up the house; Mary's intense focus on Jesus' presence reminds Mary to consider what's really important -- is it the right touch on the dinner table or loving attention to their guest? Both are important, but Jesus implies that relationship always trumps propriety and perfectionism.
The times are challenging and it is easy to give up hope. Transforming and healing the earth requires marathon endurance, and not a one-time sprint. Social reformers need contemplation to restore their energy and to enable them to experience God's presence in their political and religious opponents. Contemplatives need to embrace community transformation and social justice to concretize their spiritual experiences.
A wise homilist may choose to lift up contemplative activists such as Mahatma Gandhi, Howard Thurman, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Mother Teresa as examples of holistic spirituality for our time. In addition, he or she might schedule a class on Centering Prayer or other forms of meditation to give congregants experiences in contemplation.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty one books, including Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for lectures, workshops, and retreats.