Worship At Home
Small Group Reflection of 08-30-20
In these days of social distancing we have endeavored to provide a Corpus Christi online worship experience. The Worship At Home web page has been our attempt to provide that. One of the ways our community has used this resource has been to gather virtually in real time using video conferencing software like FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, and Zoom. In an effort to hold onto our deep liturgical roots, one virtual group has gone to the point of having rotating presiders, lectors, and even homilists. The reflections provided by the members of this group have often been very inspiring. In an effort to share these reflections with the larger community several of them have been collected and published here on the CC website.
Reflection from 08-30-20, provided by Olivia DiGiorno.
Homily for Corpus Christi House Church August 30, 2020
Throughout today’s readings, there is a common thread of self-denial as a means of openness to God and liberation.
In the first reading, Jeremiah wrestles with his own reluctance and frustration as a prophet. Having been tasked with speaking out against political leaders for their sins and calling out religious authorities for fixating on rules and protocol at the expense of true conversion toward the justice of God, Jeremiah is tired. Tired of being laughed at, and mocked, and accused of being divisive. Tired of not being taken seriously.
I think most of us know what this feels like. Young people know how it feels to be accused of being idealistic or naive. Women know how it feels to be mocked as “too sensitive” or “abrasive” when they resist sexism and patriarchy at school, or work, or church. People of color are all too tired of being called divisive for calling out racism and for desiring liberation from oppression.
Though Jeremiah tries to hold it all in, to keep quiet about the corruption and injustice, in order to avoid persecution and to feel some amount of comfort for himself, the persistence of God is undeniable. According to the text, Jeremiah experiences the fire of justice burning in his heart and imprisoned in his bones that he simply cannot contain. It’s too painful to suppress and so he denies himself and persists in his justice-seeking prophecy, even though that is difficult, too.
In our current context of renewed reckoning with racial injustice, I observe (and, because I am not marginalized by white supremacy myself, I can only observe) that many marginalized people feel a little bit like Jeremiah. It is exhausting to speak out against injustice and oppression, especially when doing so results in verbal and physical abuse from others. The costs of speaking out are incredibly, devastatingly high, as many recent killings of Black people and others protesting police brutality and racism demonstrate. At the same time, though, the costs of remaining silent in the face of violence and death and collective trauma are perhaps higher. And so marginalized people persist against the parts of themselves that are tired in order to honor their whole selves and remain open to God’s liberating love.
The intense grief of injustice that we all hold in some way, trapped inside our bodies, will only continue to hurt us if we do not allow the persistent Spirit that is within us all to come out in the way we live our lives. When I participate in protests against injustice and watch others pray with their bodies and voices as they do the same, I think we are honoring God. We may not all take to the streets, but we can all find a way to deny our self-centered desires for comfort and ease and instead choose to further God’s vision of liberating justice for all. I wonder, if we held God’s vision of freedom and justice at the forefront of our minds and used that vision to orient our actions, how would we change? How would our families change? Our friendships? Our neighborhoods? Our schools and workplaces and churches?
In the second reading, the theme of self-denial resurfaces when Paul urges the Romans to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. He asks them to deny themselves, to avoid conforming to the status quo of injustice, so that they may be transformed by a renewal of their minds toward God’s will— toward what is good and pleasing and perfect.
When I first read this passage, the images of sacrifice that are abundant in popular American Christianity come to mind first. I think of messaging that connects denying our bodies of pleasure— from food or rest or sex— with what is good and pleasing and perfect and Christian. But when I set that reading of this passage aside, which is tied up with racism and sexism, when I do not conform myself to this age of American popular religion, I find what I think is a truer and more liberating message. Paul is asking the Romans to deny themselves of being trapped within the confines of the corrupt, unjust world they are accustomed to. He is asking them to be open to transformation, to think critically about what God desires for the world, so that they may be liberated together. Considering the context we all live in today, I think this is a hopeful and freeing idea. What might we be able to achieve together if we allowed our imaginations to be broad and our expectations for flourishing expansive? If we did not resign ourselves to death and violence and harm? If we offered ourselves–our minds and bodies–as living sacrifices to each other and to God?
In the gospel reading, too, Jesus proclaims self-denial as the way to salvation. Jesus explicitly tells his disciples that, if they wish to follow him, they must deny themselves. If they wish to save their lives, they will have to also lose something. When Peter rebukes Jesus, telling him that he will not suffer, be killed, or raised from the dead, Jesus’ response is frank: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” First of all, I will be stealing that comeback for future frustrations about social injustice and the people that uphold it. But more importantly, this once again reveals a source of hope that can come with the practice of self-denial. It’s an invitation from Jesus to think bigger than ourselves, to think as God does, and to act beyond our self-interest to realize God’s vision of justice in our lives today.