News, Connections and Photos from the life of the faith community at CAPC Oakland
This month we’re talking about Mission – looking throughout all of the Bible texts to see that we are in fact called to be and become the people of God here on Earth – not just from the teachings of Jesus, but back to the beginning of the chosen peole called Israel.
Abraham and Sarah are called to leave what’s familiar, their homeland and “people” to find a new one, to become a new people difined first and foremost by the blessing of God. But it’s not a blessing that makes them superior to everyone else, rather it’s a blessing that they’re given and ushered into so that they might bless others, and usher them into a bless-full relationship with the God who calls us. The testimonies of the Bible tell us that we too have received a similar, if not the same, call – blessed to be a blessing to and among the nations.
Somehow along the way the Hebrew people, who came to call themselves the chosen people as God had called and sent them to be that blessing-giving people in the world, as superior, more loved by God, than others. It led them to focus on their own purity, righteousness, well-being and relationship with God. Yet back in Genesis 12 (the call of Abraham and Sarah) it seems to be more other-focused. It’s not self-denial, or self-destructive, rather it’s a blessing that is given and has to be received through the giving of it in return, or the “paying of that blessing forward.” The people of God, the Chosen People, were chosen, called or sent to be a reflection of that blessing, to be a sign, symbol and signpost of what God is doing in the world, and who God is. It’s a vocation to be in the world, but not of it.
They’re sent to Canaan – not because it’s about that place as the best, but rather because it was the space that was the bridge, or connection between the great powers and peoples of the ancient world – Egypt, Mesopotamia (Babylon and Assyria), and later Greece and Rome. Look at the map above – it’s clear, it’s valuable real estate because it’s in the middle of everything, it’s like the city square, or market place of the ancient world – a place through which everyone would pass, mingle and exchange ideas, experiences and insight. I think the reading of the history of Israel as a call to be a people sent from Canaan to the nations of the world as a sign and signpost is what the First Testament is trying to tell. Their problems with idolatry are twofold – one, they forget the God who blessed Abraham and Sarah and them by extension, and two, they forget that they are blessed to be a blessing – that receiving the blessing is actively passing it on in relationship with others.
Isaiah 58 is a prophetic warning from God, a course-correction to the Israelties – the Chosen People – to remember and reclaim what it means to be called, chosen and sent. In Luke 4:14-20 Jesus gives his commencement address which articulates what it means for him to be called [He does so by quoting and interpreting Isaiah 61] chosen and sent – and what it means for us by extension to announce the reign of God inturding in the world in which, but not of which, we live.
Question for Going Deeper:
1. What grabs your attention in these texts?
2. What did the Israelites get wrong about fasting and religious festivals, the ways in which they observed and practiced their faith in life?
3. How does Jesus’ vision and vocation contrast with that critique of the Israelites behavior in the time of Isaiah 7th century BCE?
4. How do we as the Church tend to see ourselves as a chosen people, as the place and space where God moves and acts in the world? How is that mistaken and misdirected?
5. Does God invite us to be a people that are chosen?; called? Sent? Why? And what does that mean for you?