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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wild Goose 9: Communion, McLaren


Sunday Morning Communion + Brian McLaren.

            We gathered at the main stage for an open-air communion service on Sunday morning, the crowd huddled in the few shady areas on a very hot day.  Brian McLaren was the preacher and his text was Acts 16:11ff.  Paul and his associates are in Philippi, a Roman colony.  Think: Guantanamo.  One of the messages in this passage is how the gospel spreads through the power of hospitality.  In Verse 16 we are introduced to an exploited young woman, a slave girl.  When Paul releases her from her bondage, she is “saved.”  One way to translate “Christ” is “liberating king.”  Slavery was the basis of the Roman economy; Paul interferes with it and so draws the ire of the establishment who were profiting from the girl’s talent. 
            The story of the jailer tells us that people do not participate in the empire willingly but because they have to.  Paul’s strategy involves turning the tables on the magistrates, causing them to be afraid of their superiors.
            As McLaren was speaking he was interrupted by “security forces” who proceeded to round up all the men in the congregation between the ages of 16 and 35.  They were herded into an enclosed area off to the side.  They would question each man and several were hustled away.
            Meanwhile, McLaren talked about how we have been effectively intimidated into not responding to violence, torture, and war.  One example of people for whom we need to stand up was our Muslim sisters and brothers in Palestine.  The New Testament is full of songs of praise and protest.
            The drama continued.  Some in the congregation began to respond to the activities of the “security forces” by trying to free one of the men who was bring taken away (my wife claimed to be his mother and vouched for him, signing papers to get them to turn him over to her).  I joined a group that was surrounding the “jailed” men, encouraging them to escape.  Eventually, the “security forces” were overwhelmed and had to make a run for it.
            McLaren kept on talking.  The good news for the middle class is that we are allowed to switch sides and work for the Kingdom of God instead of for evil.
            After the sermon/drama, the service continued, led by Paul Fromberg.  We communicated with loaves of bread and cups of wine provided by the people.  Then worship morphed into a communal, shared lunch.
            It could have been better organized and focused.  (20 minutes of thanking the various individuals who organized the festival could have been done at another time rather than in the middle of a communion service.)  But it was a great celebration, and a meaningful exercise.


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