I often think I hear colleagues asking, “How could we attract nuns to our church?” Actually they’re talking about “the nones,” of course. One of the clearest findings of the Pew Forum’s new religious landscape study is that fewer and fewer people have any religious affiliation at all. Catholics and mainline Protestants show the biggest drop. I feel pretty conflicted about all of this.
Season after Pentecost | 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 (Psalm 34:15-22); Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69 | Semi-continuous first reading: 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43 (Psalm 84)
The preacher faces several challenges in these Ascension texts. How can we present Jesus’ departure from the earth as an occasion for not sorrow but celebration? How to translate the kingship and hierarchical language into imagery that speaks to a world no longer governed by kings and monarchs? Feminist biblical scholars note a third challenge: How can we counter Luke-Acts' use of the Ascension to exert a degree of social control?
Offering the elements to the unbaptized can be seen as a development and not a revolution, but it is a significant change. Is it a good one?
This year, as many years before, I planned my summer vacation schedule with this stretch of lectionary readings from John 6 in mind. I suspect I am not alone. Five straight weeks of chewing on the bread of life is just a little more than most of us Protestants can stomach. I’m not sure I have that many sermons on the subject in me. So please take my reflections here with a grain of salt. I’ll share with you what I can, but then I’m off to the airport.