Lectionary Commentaries for September 5, 2010
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 14:25-33

Jeannine K. Brown

We live in a market driven society, so it is not surprising that we feel the urge to “sell” Christianity in the marketplace of competing ideas and ways of life.

Yet, when Christian mission is shaped toward the “sell” mentality, it more often than not becomes a “low-cost” and “low-risk” commodity.1  How else will we persuade others to receive the faith, if not by coming in with a lower or better offer?

But is the Christian faith really a low-cost, low-risk endeavor? The lectionary text for this week, Luke 14:25-33, offers a challenge to a market driven approach to Christian mission. The text begins with two discipleship sayings that require absolute allegiance to Jesus (14:25-27). Then Jesus provides two brief stories or parables to illustrate the importance of “counting the cost” and giving up all for Jesus (14:28-33).

Jesus’ first discipleship saying is framed in stark language: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (14:25). This saying fits thematically with Luke 12:51-53, where Jesus warns of families being divided over his message. Because Jesus in his person and message requires those who would follow him to answer the ultimate allegiance question, it is not surprising that he may inherently bring family strife.

The language of this particular saying, however, raises concern for many. Does Jesus really call us to hate our biological families and our very lives? Two observations are helpful in this regard. First, Jesus is using hyperbolic language here as he does frequently in his teachings (e.g., Matthew 18:8-9). This becomes clear when we compare this saying in Luke with its parallel in Matthew (10:37): “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew, drawing on the same Jesus tradition as Luke, seems to have interpreted the more stark language of “hate” to refer to primary allegiance. For Matthew, this saying indicates that our primary allegiance must be to Jesus rather than to family.

A second helpful observation: the use of “hate” in Luke might reflect an idiom that comes from Hebrew. In Genesis 29:30-31, we hear that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah and that Leah was “hated” by Jacob. A similar use of the Hebrew word for “hate” occurs in Deuteronomy 21:15-17 where it is also clear that the issue is one of preference or allegiance.2  This coheres with what we have seen in Luke and Matthew. Jesus is not calling his followers to hate their families in terms of emotional response; instead, he calls for undivided loyalty to himself above family loyalties.

The next saying emphasizes the same point about loyalty. Discipleship is defined by following Jesus and “carrying the cross.” This phrase indicates that giving up self interest and competing loyalties are central to discipleship. Neither of these sayings of Jesus lend themselves to an “easy believism” or a “low-cost” form of faith. Instead, they stress the high cost of following Jesus.

The two brief parables that follow illustrate this cost by suggesting two scenarios. The first envisions a landowner building a tower, either for storing produce or guarding land and animals (14:28-30). If the landowner has not estimated how much the tower will cost, it is possible that the project will remain unfinished due to lack of funds. The end result will be ridicule from all who see the unfinished structure.

The second story is about a king who assesses the number of his troops in light of the greater number that his enemy possesses (14:31-32). If he cannot win with the number of soldiers he has, the only wise course will be to negotiate with his enemy long before they meet in battle. Jesus uses these two stories to illustrate the necessity of “counting the cost” of discipleship. Jesus extols a commitment to finishing the discipleship journey once begun or not beginning it at all. Following Jesus is an all or nothing proposition. The concluding summary makes the connections clear: “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (14:33; for this theme see Luke 12).

In this passage, Luke’s Jesus calls people to a kind of discipleship that is not cheap (akin to Bonhoeffer’s aversion toward “cheap grace”), not easy, and not to be entered into without deep consideration of the consequences and costs. This passage speaks to the importance of loyalty and allegiance to Jesus over all other competing loyalties, including family, self-interest, and possessions.

While emphases in the earlier part of Luke 14 on the redemption and freedom that Jesus brings and the inclusive nature of God’s kingdom are assumed in this last part of the chapter, those inclusive and redemptive themes should not dull our sense that here in 14:28-33 are some difficult sayings of Jesus. We will always prefer preaching and teaching about God’s grace, that is, God’s own covenant loyalty to redeem and save, but we ought not neglect preaching about the covenant loyalty that is expected from us in return. Salvation in Jesus is not merely a transaction. It is, at heart, a covenantal relationship. And no relationship lasts without loyal commitments and actions. Because the one who redeems us also calls us into costly discipleship, Jesus’ command to “Follow me” is both gift and demand.

1This is Michael Knowles’ language in “Everyone Who Hears These Words of Mine,” in The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables, ed. R. Longenecker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 295.
2Robert H. Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings, rev. ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994) 8-9.

First Reading

Commentary on Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Carolyn J. Sharp

The majestic speech of Deuteronomy nears its conclusion in this stirring exhortation.

In the wilderness beyond the Jordan, the Israelites listen as their prophetic leader, Moses, describes the kind of people they have become: a people formed in the crucible of covenant, a people who are made and unmade by the grace and ferocity of their God. Under the banner of YHWH, Moses had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and guided them through the perils of the wilderness. They had been brought to the towering possibility of Sinai, and they had assented. Theirs would be a life lived in obedience, a faith practiced and witnessed through their devout adherence to the Law.

We listen with them now as Moses lays out in stark terms the choice that lies before his audience: obedience or death. Love God and live; serve other gods and perish! The entire Torah has been driving inexorably toward this choice, made most visible in the call of outsider Abraham and his subsequent near-sacrifice of the long-awaited Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19; see Hebrews 11:8-19). Blessings and extravagant abundance will belong to those who heed the voice of God; unspeakable calamity, terror, and affliction will be the lot of those who abandon the covenant.

In this liminal moment on the brink of the Promised Land and at this crucial point at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses exhorts believers to a renewed and fervent commitment to the God who alone is capable of saving us. Here, Deuteronomy employs powerfully hyperbolic language to dramatize the moment of decision that the book is placing before believers. Moses thunders, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” The people must understand what is at stake, and — as will be reiterated by Joshua when Moses dies — they must choose life, which is serving God.

This deeply moving text may serve as an antidote to a narrow-minded view all too common in Christian circles even today: that the Law is a legalistic trap that keeps believers ensnared in calcified ritualistic minutiae. Far from it! Moses is urging his people to commit, heart and soul and body, to a vibrant relationship with the God in whom they live and move and have their being.

The radical hope of Deuteronomy is that God’s redeemed people should never go back to Egypt. Egypt the actual country? Certainly we see antipathy to that age-old enemy throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Consider Jeremiah 44’s vicious invective against Judeans who fled to Egypt during the Babylonian invasion; consider, too, that many of the biblical prophetic books contain bitter oracles against Egypt. But Egypt as terrifying spiritual metaphor looms even larger. In the ancient Israelite imagination, Egypt represents captivity — not only the enslavement of Israelite bodies before the time of the Exodus, but spiritual enslavement in the form of the ever-present threats of idolatry and hopelessness that accompany this once-subjugated people into their future with God.

Living as a holy people involves risk. Wilderness times abound for communities surviving in actual diaspora, for believers contending with the looming threat of cultural displacement, and for those struggling with spiritual anguish or personal experience of the abandonment of God. Deuteronomy knows that believers may be tempted to choose familiar captivities to sin and cultural subjection (ah, those cucumbers and melons and figs! — see Numbers 11:5, 20:5) rather than the alarming freedom that we have in God.

Deuteronomy exhorts us not to yield to fear — not to “go back to Egypt” — but rather to fear only “this glorious and awesome Name, the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 28:58). Deuteronomy’s rhetoric of blessing and curse means to catalyze repentance in the hearts of its hearers, so that they return to God and God’s loving restoration can be theirs. This is crystal clear from Deuteronomy 30:1-5, which affirms God’s compassion for those in diaspora who return to the LORD and live anew in obedience.

Deuteronomy teaches us that the stakes in choosing or not choosing God are dramatic. This is something the biblical writers knew well, for the final form of Deuteronomy emerged after the Babylonian onslaught, when terrible things had happened to Judah: the plundering and razing of the Temple, the despoliation of Jerusalem and slaughter of its citizens, and the deportation of Judean political and religious leaders to a life of exile in Babylon.

That Deuteronomy is reflecting on the exile of the sixth century B.C.E. may be seen in its proleptic gestures toward a time when all of the blessings and the curses will have already happened to the people (30:1). The abundance and peace Israel once knew have been withdrawn; maladies, ruin, and destruction have become their life. God is fully prepared to destroy this holy people — quite literally to take them back to Egypt — and this time, they will not have discernible worth even as slaves (28:68). A harsh warning indeed; Moses’ exhortation is relentless because it is intended to compel the believing community to throw itself once more upon the God who is all compassion (Hosea 11:8-9).

The brilliance of this lection lies in the way it weaves together past and present, formative ancient memory and the urgent present moment of decision. Preachers may want to consider the ancient story of liberation that we have in the Resurrection over against current cultural narratives of liberation. What can it mean to “hold fast to God” (Deuteronomy 30:20) in our diasporas today, as Christians who are in the world but not of it (John 15:19, 17:16; Romans 12:20)?

The magnificent words of Moses blend with the joyous strains of the Exsultet as Christians seek to understand what it means to “choose life” in Jesus Christ. Just as Moses cites Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 30:20) in order to ground Israel’s hope in the ancient promises of God, so, too, contemporary preachers may cite Deuteronomy to ground the Christian hope in the ancient struggles of God’s people. Their dread is our dread: God may yet hide God’s face from us. But their joy is ours too, and it is a transcendent and invincible joy: to serve the living God, and in that service to discover most deeply who we are.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 18:1-11

Henry Langknecht

The story of Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house and God’s use of the potter’s process as a metaphor for God’s own work is wonderfully and frustratingly straightforward. We get it. But it immediately raises questions.

The hermeneutical question is, “what relationship or analogy shall we suppose between Jeremiah’s audience and our own communities?” In the text, the “clay” represents a “nation” or a “kingdom,” and at his call in chapter 1, Jeremiah was indeed “appointed a prophet to the nations”–a broader scope than that claimed by most parish preachers. So is this text of mere historical interest–“look how God used to be involved in the affairs of nations?”

Or does the reference to the “house of Israel” in verse 6 invite us to hear ourselves addressed in the passage since we, like Israel, are in a specific covenantal relationship with God–a covenant to which prophets urge us to remain accountable. And if we do hear ourselves addressed, how narrowly focused is our understanding of “ourselves;” is God’s dealing with the nation of Israel typical for how God deals with individual Christians or congregations, or should the potter metaphor be reserved only for God’s work with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church–the whole “people of God?”

The theological questions revolve first around God’s prerogative to discard a blob of clay (a nation–even the nation of Israel) when God senses that it will fail to conform to God’s purposes. Second, we must grapple with the testimony of Jeremiah that the peoples’ actions and disposition contribute directly to God’s ability to form them for use. Further, is a discarded nation (or church body or congregation) utterly condemned (separated from God forever), or is it only out of the picture for the particular part of the mission for which God is forming vessels? Those who believe that a people’s salvation is by grace alone will struggle with the former meaning even though the language of the text leans in that direction: “Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways…”

Assuming that many of us will consider the contemporary congregation or church body to be a faithful analogue for the “nation of Israel,” the ecclesiological questions are, first, “who exactly has to repent here in order to render the lump of clay useful?” Again, it is a matter of scope; is it the individual Christian, the congregation, the denomination, or the nation that must change…and how, exactly? And second, does the promised presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church offer any more protection from the potter’s negative judgment than was offered to Israel through the covenant (a decidedly conditional protection according to this text)?

The clarity of this episode from Jeremiah allows these questions to arise quickly. Enjoy wrestling with them (as I have here), for in the process your own theological commitments will be taken down to the potter’s house for some debate with God’s vivid metaphor.

One possible means for encouraging your audience to engage the text is to use the sermon as a means to enter fully into the potter’s metaphor–extending, through sensory imagination, the bare bones given here. The first step in such a composition process is to establish a firm theological framework made up of brief true statements inferred from the text and then fleshed out by the whole canonical and Christian witness. A possible framework from this text might be: God has a mission; God employs nations and peoples in service to that mission; people are free to choose whether to be employed (or employable); God desires people to repent of evil and turn toward God’s will; God is active in the formation of that/those people; God is a sovereign mission director (God alone decides who is suitable).

Once the framework is in place, the sermon can enter into the metaphor in a number of ways. Gather the elements of the scene: the potter, the potter’s hands, the clay, the wheel, the shaping tools, and the water (for sure, do not forget the role water plays in shaping pots!). Or envision the steps in the process–even those that occur before and after the throwing and reshaping referred to in the text: for example, the envisioning of the shape depending on the intended use; the kneading of the clay (to get the air out); the firing; and the glazing. Then, flesh out the theological framework by imagining the dynamics of the potter’s work.

For example, note how advantageous it is for the potter to recognize the unsuitability of the clay before the clay is fired and glazed. At that point all that is lost is the potter’s time and patience; but after firing and glazing the piece is useless. A sermon that uses the imagery of the text but builds on a broader theological framework might consider whether the Church is a lump of clay–and therefore able, through water and the hands-on work of God, to be reformed for mission–or a useless bit of dust-collecting kitsch (no offense intended to St. Paul’s use of the “clay pot” imagery!).

However you might use this iconic metaphor, when I am sitting in your congregation on September 5th, let me hear about the use to which God intends to put this finished product, this people. What is God’s mission and what is our part in it? As the wheel spins and the water flows, what does the potter feel in this lump of clay? What in us serves as encouragement (or discouragement) that this vessel will continue to serve God’s purpose?


Commentary on Psalm 1

James Howell

How fascinating: the book of Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible, the hymnal of ancient Israel, opens with a poem about ethics, lifestyle, and decisions.

It is as if the secret tip is being shared before we bother praying or worshipping. The goal is a changed life. God requires a decision, it’s black and white, and God wants to pervade the part of you that chooses. A thousand little decisions and the occasional Big Decision: do you “walk in the counsel of the wicked or delight in the law of the Lord?”

Once the choice is framed this way, it’s no choice at all, is it? I mean, you would never knowingly choose evil or destruction. Will I jump off a cliff? Or sit down to a sumptuous dinner with those I love? Will I ruin my life? Or fulfill my destiny?

But if the choice is so easy, why then do we find our ears perking up to the whispering of wickedness? And why would our attitude toward “the law of the Lord” not be fairly characterized as “delight?”

The “counsel of the wicked” is sneaky, isn’t it? The devil doesn’t jump out in a red suit, breathing fire, and wielding a blazing pitchfork. No, the devil dresses up like an angel of light, promising you the moon.

The “good life” is defined by society in ways that mimic the good life God offers, yet different enough to fool us. Then, we are led to a vapid life that pays little attention to God and leaves us hollow inside: wealth, pleasure, leisure — not evil−but a bit out of kilter with God’s adventure, which would be the richness of generosity and prayer, the pleasure of service and worship, and the leisure of Sabbath rest and silence in the presence of God.

Society says, “Don’t break the law, maximize your portfolio, travel and relish the party circuit.” But the Psalm shakes its head and pities us for missing out on the “delight in the law of the Lord.”

Part of our quandary is this: Robert Frost wrote “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry that I could not travel both…”1  But we think we can travel both — and not only both, but other roads as well. I’m in a clearing, four roads diverge, and I can’t miss a thing:  I’ll take all four!

But we cannot take four, or seven, or even two. You wind up splintered, divided, out of focus. The “road less travelled,” the way of him whose delight is in the law of the Lord, seems boring or restrictive, when in fact it is the true joy of every heart.

“Blessed is the man…whose delight is in the law of the Lord.” Some scholars like to translate “blessed” as “happy,” although we had better be careful. Our frenetic quest for “happiness” can deflect us from God.

My friend and Psalms scholar Clint McCann put it well: “For Psalm 1, happiness involves not enjoying oneself but delight in the teaching of God. The goal of life is to be found not in self-fulfillment but in praising God. Prosperity does not involve getting what one wants; rather, it comes from being connected to the source of life.”2

Delight in the law of the Lord
How do we learn to praise? How do we become “connected to the source of life?” We block out time for prayer, we never miss worship, and we become daily students of Scripture.

But it’s even more. Of the blessed one, Psalm 1 says “On God’s law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). At Qumran, the Essenes took this seriously, and scheduled it so that somebody from their village was studying and copying Scripture by hand twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year.

We can’t stay up all night reading the Bible, and we have to earn a living, eat, clean the house, and exercise. But is there a way to make “the law of the Lord” a streaming, omnipresent reality in our daily routine?

We begin by making a devotional regimen as essential as brushing our teeth. Maybe we plant little mnemonic devices (a cross, a printed prayer, a picture of St. Francis) in the desk, bathroom, kitchen, or car.

But can we begin to conceive of God as a constant companion?

Sometimes I travel alone, and it’s not as much fun as traveling with my wife, my children, or a friend. We share in the joy of walking together, settling down for a meal, and chatting over the highlights and challenges of the day.

Without these companions though, can we comprehend that we are never alone and God is there beside us wherever we find ourselves?

I talk to myself more than I like to admit. Can I talk instead to God? Can what I studied when I opened my Bible last night or this morning come alive in a seemingly un-religious situation? Do I behave differently if God is there?

Isn’t the comfort of God’s lingering presence the holy solution to the nagging loneliness we bear deep inside?

And don’t underestimate the crucial need we have to become diligent students of Scripture. I know some people love Bible study, and to others it feels corny and irrelevant. But, Jesus called “disciples” – a word which means “students.”

God wants to be known, understood, reflected upon in the mind, and explored intellectually. We are wired to discover immense fulfillment in the simple probing of the heart and nature of God, in the mental stimulation of reliving the Bible’s stories and singing its songs.

Like a tree
The Christian life is not pretending to be somebody I am not, but rather discovering who I really am, and then being that person, authentically and zealously.

Thomas Merton said, “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. It ‘consents’ to His creative love. It expresses an idea which is in God’s mind. So the more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him.”3
What if I think of myself as an idea in God’s mind? The more I consent to be what God made me to be, the more I am like God.

Trees never try to be something else, like wart hogs or sledge hammers. They are content to be trees. But you and I struggle. We can be whoever we want to be, but the less I am in sync with God’s plan, the more hollow I become. I cannot find truth and meaning just any old place.

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Am I like a tree?

My life is not my own: I depend on the sun, the rain, the grace and power of God which I do not control but only soak up as precious gifts. I live in the light, but my roots go down deep where it is dark.

Holiness is not a matter of gritting our teeth and diligently trying to do what God requires. We may grit our teeth, and we do try hard. But I am not able to do what God wants of me. I am not capable of the life God wants for me.

A changed life is the gift of God’s Spirit. Paul described this new life, the life for which we were made, as “the fruit of the Spirit;” not “the fruit of my good intentions.” “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Galatians 5:22).

We feel our arms stretched upward, our roots deep, and we are trees giving glory to God, swayed only by the wind of the Spirit, watered by the grace of Baptism.

1From the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
2J. Clinton McCann, Jr. and James C. Howell, Preaching the Psalms (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001).
3Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1972).

Second Reading

Commentary on Philemon 1:1-21

Holly Hearon

Philemon can be a challenge from the perspective of preaching.

It has no central Christological themes and its primary issue–the status of a slave–can seem out of tune with contemporary concerns. What I find fascinating about the letter, however, is the messiness of the situation it describes. It looks a lot like life as I know it. I approach the letter, then, as a kind of case study on moving towards change.

Establishing the Context
Paul writes to Philemon in order to issue an appeal on behalf of Onesimus. In verses 15-16 Paul writes that Onesimus has been separated from Philemon “for a while so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but . . . a beloved brother.” How did Onesimus come to be separated from Philemon? Some have proposed that he was sent by Philemon to serve Paul while he was in prison. A parallel situation is described in Paul’s letter to the Philippians where we learn that the Philippians have sent Epaphroditus to Paul in his imprisonment (Philippians 2:25-30). Others point to verse 18 as an indication that Onesimus is a fugitive slave who has perhaps stolen from Philemon (“If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything…”). The precise details elude us, but Paul’s rhetoric indicates that he is attempting to re-negotiate the relationship between two individuals of unequal social status yet who are bound together in the ministry of Christ.

Negotiating Relationships
Relationships are messy. And, so often, it all depends on point of view. From Philemon’s perspective Onesimus is a slave, and, as a slave, he has been useless (verse 11). What Onesimus actually was, we do not know. We never hear his voice nor are we told what he thinks or feels. We only hear just enough to suggest that he is estranged from Philemon. Because he is a slave, Philemon can do pretty much anything he wants to with respect to Onesimus. From a legal stand-point, it is his right.

Paul’s perspective is different. He tells Philemon that this useless slave has, during Paul’s imprisonment, become like a child to him. The only other person about whom Paul speaks in this way is Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:22). Paul goes on to describe Onesimus as “my own heart.” The depth of their relationship is indicated, on the one hand, by Paul’s willingness to assume as his own responsibility any wrong that Onesimus has done towards Philemon (verses 18-19), and, on the other hand, by Paul’s caution to Philemon that, if he considers Paul his partner, he should welcome Onesimus as if he were welcoming Paul himself. What this means for Philemon is that he cannot “see” Onesimus without seeing Paul, nor “see” Paul without seeing Onesimus.

This creates a stress point in the relationship between Paul and Philemon. Paul has called Philemon his “dear friend and co-worker.” The word translated as ‘dear friend’ is agapētos (“beloved”), a word Paul also uses to describe Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17). Therefore, just as Onesimus is dear to Paul, so is Philemon. Although Paul is bold enough in Christ to command Philemon to do his duty (verse 8)–i.e. to welcome Onesimus as his brother–he is unwilling to act in the matter of Onesimus without Philemon’s consent (verse 14). This language could be passed off as a rhetorical strategy to gain Philemon’s good will, but it may also reflect the very delicate path that Paul must tread.

Although Philemon will act of his own volition, he will not act in isolation. There are Apphia and Archippus, to whom the letter is also addressed, not to mention the church that is lodged in the house they share with Philemon. They are watching to see what Philemon will do. And there is Paul, who expresses his intent to visit Philemon when he is released from prison. Finally, there is Onesimus, whom Paul intends to send back to Philemon. He is probably wondering more than anyone what course Philemon will pursue.

Bound Together in Christ
Although the letter to Philemon contains no major Christological images, it is nonetheless grounded in an understanding that we live in and for Christ. It is “in Christ” that Paul commands Philemon to “do his duty” so that Paul’s heart (perhaps a play on verse 12 where Paul refers to Onesimus as “my own heart”) might be refreshed. This language of “in Christ” is a reminder that it is by the spirit of Christ that we live and are brought into a relationship of kinship with one another. It is because of this kinship relationship that Paul can dare to “command” Philemon, challenging him as a brother. Philemon is praised for his faith–that is, trust in and loyalty towards–the Lord Jesus. “Lord” can also be translated as “Master”, a word that is used (significantly) only in reference to Jesus in the letter. Yet, Paul urges Philemon to make that faith effective by perceiving the good thing still to be done for Christ, whose spirit binds them together.

The letter to Philemon challenges us to discern, in and for Christ, what is the right thing to do. It would be easy if doing the right thing was, for example, taking out the garbage, or helping an elderly person cross the street. It is another when the right thing involves a radical transformation of social relationships: of learning to see people that time and experience have led us to view one way in a completely new way. It is another thing when this radical transformation of social relationships asks us to give up what we have come to view as our rights: to willingly let go of privilege. It is another thing when this letting go of privilege leads us to assume a relationship of kinship–of obligation–with those whom we have formerly viewed with suspicion because we now recognize that we are bound together in Christ.