January 18, 2011

For more commentary on this week's readings, see
the Reflections
on the Lectionary
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the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access
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is the season uniquely applicable to us who are Gentiles, the grafted-on
branches to the tree of salvation, those who do well to marvel at the magnitude
of the grace of God Christ that includes us. This is not common in our religiously
pluralist setting, especially in our part of the world where the common
assumption is that we're not grafted on at all--we're mainstream.

my lectionary column for the Century this week (subscription required), I bring up the dramatic shifts the
world has seen in Christian demographics. My understanding of this has been
helped immensely by one thing: pastoral sabbaticals. I took two during my
pastoral years, in each case to visit congregations in developing-world
countries for the purpose of learning from them what it's like to be a
Christian in that place.

those experiences back to the congregation I served was enriching all around.
It enabled bridge-building connections that grew and deepened over time, as
Christians from overseas spent time with us and expanded our local experience
of the global church. It also enabled me to alert parishioners traveling abroad
as tourists, business people, students or military personnel to visit
congregations and fellow Christians wherever they can find them. Here I weave some of these people's stories into
the larger narrative of global church change.

It's tremendously important and
satisfying to be part of such Epiphany connecting and recruiting. I know of
nothing more effective in stirring a congregation from spiritual myopia to the
broader vision of what God is doing in our world. It's another facet of
Epiphany light, well worth our prayers, preaching and Spirit-moved
participation in that kingdom once announced in Capernaum--the kingdom that
extends to the ends of the earth and to the end of time.


More to Graft

What a lovely observation about being grafted into the tree of salvation. Living where Christianity is a mainstream lifestyle, it is a joyful thing and a cause for celebration that the graft has been successful in this community. The church blossoms and bears fruit when it is nourished by the root and grows in the light.

Thank you for sharing your sabaticals, too. They remind us that there are more branches, natural and wild, to be grafted into this wonderful tree. May we all embrace salvation through grace, not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors.