June 2020

Bearing Bad Tidings of Great Joy

4th Sunday After Pentecost, June 28, 2020
Jeremiah 28:5-9, Matthew 10:40-42

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –

Sisters and Brothers in Christ, this is a unique and unprecedented time to be a Christian in the world today. So much is happening within our faith community and world, both personally and publicly, that demands our attention and engagement. And we so desperately want to connect with each other as a body of Christ in worship, fellowship, recreation and social action to respond to the urgent needs of our time.

And while I too feel this urgency, I feel more compelled to assume the role of the Prophet Jeremiah as the bearer of bad tidings, urging us not to be too swift in returning to the way things were, encouraging us to move slowly, carefully, cautiously and deliberately in considering to what we would be returning in the form of our in-person life together, preferring that we settle into the unsettling and abnormal contours of social distancing during this pandemic.

Christians are communal people and need to touch and interact with one another in good and bad times. But especially during this time, when our nation is embroiled in racial, economic, environmental and political turmoil, and people from various walks of life are rallying in the streets across the nation, often defying social distancing demands, to raise their cries of frustration toward the status quo; especially now, we are people of God in desperate need interaction, engagement, and sacred community.

However, the questions Christians, more now than ever, must consider are “What kind of community are we striving to achieve? And what kind of God sends us?”

Martin Luther, in his Large Catechism, defined God as “that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress.” (1:1) He further said that many believe God is money and possessions in abundance; they trust and boast of them “with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one.” (1:3)

The Prophet Jeremiah had to contend with prophets of a prosperity gospel such as Hananiah, who told the people what they wanted to hear rather than what God needed them to hear. And, as a result, Hananiah was more popular in the hearts of his people than Jeremiah.

We are told that when Jesus was born, an angel announced to the shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10) But we soon discovered that such tidings were not well received by those whose God was money and possessions in abundance. Even now we must learn to be the bearers of bad tidings for those who cling to such a God, confident that those who presently suffer under their yoke will receive our news as tidings of great joy.

Since the founding of this nation, Christianity has been used as a weapon of the rich to oppress and enslave the poor. And with the recent photo opportunity of our president that forcibly dispersed a crowd of peaceful protesters to display his Bible in front of a church, this truth remains grossly self-evident.

Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)

The questions Christians, more now than ever, must consider are “What kind of community are we striving to achieve? Into what kind of community do we wish to be received? And what kind of God sends us?” Amen.