Tora and I have returned from our Amtrak trip across the country in celebration of our 40th anniversary. And it was a fun trip indeed! We crossed the Rockies twice—through Glacier National Park in Montana and over the Sierras of California and the Front Range of Colorado. We visited with Meg in Berkeley for a week and explored that area. I got to hold my new great-niece who is 10 weeks old in Colorado Springs while visiting my brother. I had lunch with my other brother and his wife in Chicago. I spent an afternoon with my sister in Indiana. And we had a weekend with Lia in Center City Philly. We met wonderful people on the train, saw grand things everywhere, thoroughly enjoyed riding the rails, and loved beholding the vast beauty of our country. As a culmination to the adventure Tora and I had a wonderful spiritual retreat with good friends in the Shenandoah Valley. I’m amazed we did all that! I highly recommend Amtrak and I’m sure we’ll be doing more such travel in the future.
I’m also glad that South had a series of guest preachers who provided so much. I’ve been hearing about Art Kaufman and the puppets and Rick Floyd and the clutter. I’m grateful for the creativity of these colleagues.
This Sunday the lectionary is a challenging one. I’m rested and in a relaxed mood, yet all three of our readings focus on ‘disturbing’ themes. Psalm 80 is a community lament for suffering that has come while God seems to have forgotten how to be a Shepherd to the people. Isaiah 5:1-8 is a prophetic passage that describes how God has carefully tended the vineyard yet the vines have grown wild and tangled. Isaiah declares that Israel is a vineyard filled with injustice and bloodshed where God expected to find justice and care. Greed leads humans into tragedy is the core message of this prophet. And, then in Luke 12:49-56 Jesus tells his disciples that he has not come to bring peace but rather fire and division within families. What is one to make of all this?
All three passages disturb the calm that comes with a relaxing summer. I was tempted to find other passages to work with, but then I thought of an encounter I had on the train with a father and son from New Zealand. They were having a great time and the 12 year old had been to NASA’s Space Camp in Alabama. But then this observant and thoughtful 12 year old asked me a question that has stuck with me through weeks of travel. Interestingly, his question ties right in with our passages. I think that’s God’s sign to stay with the lectionary and discover how to keep responding to the concerns of a young visitor to our land. This Sunday you can join me for this journey into justice and hope even as it takes us through the land of fire and division. One never knows where Jesus will lead. Peace.