This Week's Focus -  "Love Among the Wolves"  
     Click Link for Luke 10:1-11


Dear Friends,

In this week’s gospel, Jesus treats his disciples to a harsh dose of reality.  Jesus is telling us that to be an open, active Christian means to be set among wolves. They have vicious teeth and claws, but we are armed with the grace of all-mighty God. It’s as true now as it was then. And the perils are not limited to the media reports of mass-martyrdom in the Middle East. In America today, routinely Christians now suffer the mini-martyrdom of the slight, the smear, the mocking smirk. Increasingly our culture tells us that it’s just not cool to be Christian.

“Those damned Catholics”: That’s the way the president of a major Mid-west university publicly referred to Notre Dame. A US Army directive reportedly banned Bibles from Walter Reed Medical Center. In filing for tax-exempt status, a mega “media watchdog” organization openly declared that it will direct its $20 million budget to discrediting “Christian-influenced ideology.” 

In popular media, the stereotype “Wasp” has long been synonymous with country-club hypocrite; while Evangelicals are dismissed as knuckle-dragging racists. But the most venomous invective is reserved for Christian clergy of every stripe, who, at best, are caricatured as well-meaning dopes and more often than not as lecherous low-life’s. 

When was the last time you saw a movie or TV show that depicted a minister or priest as faithfully living out their vocation as a servant of the servants of God? Remember, this isn’t 1st Century Rome. It’s 21st Century America. Yet the drumbeat is loud and clear: Christians are America’s last acceptable target of persecution.  So pile on… gross parodies, distortions, hate speech… they’re all a free shot. But no matter how odious… it’s only kid-stuff compared to the increasingly intense assault against Christians that is spreading world-wide. 

In Libya, a score of Christians are marched out onto a beach and with choreographic precision they are beheaded for the benefit of some blood-thirsty bloggers. In Indonesia Christian schoolgirls are dragged from a bus and butchered in front of their classmates. In Egypt the ancient Coptic communities have now been virtually annihilated. In Sudan Christian villages are routinely bombed and strafed. In Nigeria entire congregations are rounded-up, gunned down and left to rot. In India venerable Anglican churches are burned to the ground, while the faithful are hacked to death. In Palestine, Iraq and Syria, “ethnic cleansing” has reduced Christian communities to a pitiful few, elderly survivors. 

In this week’s gospel, Jesus saw all this and warned his disciples that he is: Sending you like lambs among the wolves. Two-thousand years later, the pack is still circling. While some of the lambs are merely being marginalized… others are being openly mocked and excluded. While some are being constantly harassed… others are being systematically hunted down and destroyed.

With every passing day we are reminded that the cross of Christ is not a piece of decorative jewelry or traditional wall décor. It is a covenant. It is a challenge. And more and more it is a target. That’s because from the very first it has always been a paradox… on the cross lies both earthly peril and eternal salvation. 

Yet Jesus urges us on: The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. In this gospel Jesus tells us that our faith is not a private matter. We are meant to proclaim it in word and deed. In the face of persecution, to be a Christian is not to slink through life in a defensive crouch. We are here to build God’s kingdom, not bury it in our hearts. That’s not empty, tough talk. There is no bluster or bravado in Jesus. There is no macho in his message. In this gospel Jesus does not order us to mandatory martyrdom. At the same time, denying him is not an option… and neither is revenge.

Jesus is telling us that love among the lambs is easy. Love among the wolves is hard. So what to do? The love of Christ is all we have. But it is more than enough, if we work at it every day. He calls us to make a simple one-on-one transaction. When hated, we love. When insulted, we love. When slandered, we love. That is what Christians do. We love the persecuted and the persecutors. Each one of us is the custodian of Christ’s love. We live in it. We build it. We must share it… with the lambs and with the wolves. That’s why God put us here… that’s why Jesus saved us… to love among the wolves.

God love you!

A Reflection for The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 3, 2016

©The Reverend David F. Sellery
St. John’s Church, Salisbury, Connecticut

Copyright © 2016 David Sellery, All rights reserved.

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