Preachers who glance at this Gospel lesson and contemplate the delights
of contracting swine flu just before Sunday could be forgiven, but a
second look reveals an opportunity to teach about Christian community
and behaviors that imperil it.
Happily, the offices of the Christian Century are located across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the world’s great art museums. I walk across the street occasionally and have a look. It is perhaps a reflection of the lifestyle that many of us live that I tend to view a lot of paintings and not linger for long before any one of them.
I recently purchased the 1800s' homestead where I’ve lived for the past
five years, and I’m busy renovating the house and outbuildings. There
are a few old apple trees on the three-and-a-half acre property, my
favorite of which sends forth green every year from a trunk that appears
90 percent dead.
This little scene in which James takes us into a worship service for a
lesson on favoritism is perhaps the epistle’s best-known passage. The
imagery is crisp and irresistible, the moral lesson so chronically
needed. A worshiper who arrives in minks and gold rings is promptly
ushered to a choice pew, but a poor person who shows up in rags is
relegated to the bleachers.
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a French Catholic, says that if you don’t show up early for mass at his parish in Paris, you might have to sit on folding chairs in a spillover space or even sit on the floor. There’s nothing unusual about his parish priest, although he does have Pope Francis’s spirit of generosity. Gobry’s parish is like other urban areas in France. Despite the country’s reputation for secularism, Gobry thinks the French church may be on the verge of a time of renewal (The Week, January 15).