The religion of Israel is a great theater. Moses goes up on the mountain and the clouds close underneath him like curtains. He brings down the commandments, and the children of Israel are unimpressed. Solomon builds a huge temple. Inside, behind a great curtain, is the Holy of Holies, where the high priest, like Moses before him, communes with the Lord.
As the gusty winds of change blow unpredictably through the church, Jesus provides an intriguing sound bite in the Gospel lesson: “One puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” Fresh wineskins, as faith communities experiment with alternative worship rituals. Fresh wineskins, as local congregations adopt new administrative structures.
When the congregation I serve initiated a prayer chain several years ago, its participants were amazed at the response: healing intercessions requested for all manner of illnesses and ailments—physical, emotional, spiritual, societal. The calls poured in from members and nonmembers alike.
We humans know our language cannot communicate the greatness of the divine, but we try anyway. We love to use the prefix omni, which takes a common adjective and expands it to the size of the universe: omnifarious, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omni-loving, omni-merciful, omni-cool. The omni words are reserved for God and God alone.
Where I grew up, everybody was pretty much just like me. It was a small, southern community, with a long history, deep roots and consistent Christian morality. The only visible difference was our whiteness or our blackness. Ethically speaking, that’s how we saw everything too: white or black, good or bad.