Monday, July 25, 2016

Let the Dead Bury the Dead

I came to the church meeting distraught by all the negative, hateful messages that had consumed me from following too many political commentaries on social media. Those of us gathered around tables chatted away while waiting for the meeting to begin. As I ranted and raved about the political mess in which our country is embroiled, a brother beside me looked me in the eyes and said: “Let the dead bury the dead.”

This really caught me up short. I immediately knew what he meant. The verse he quoted comes from Luke 9: 60, and follows with the exhortation: “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

The political scene as it is playing out in US America has distracted me far too much. Hearing and reading the discussions of others, I can safely assume that we are all too distracted. Our business as Christians is to get on with Jesus’ Kingdom work, proclaiming the Good News. Jesus gave us the formula for this proclamation in his inauguration address in Luke 4: 18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

During the same weekend of the church meetings, I listened to a podcast of an interview of Xavier Le Pichon by Krista Tippett on her radio show “Onbeing”. Dr. Pichon is a world-renowned geophysicist and a devout Christian. After discovering that the continents are dynamic and moving instead of being static, Dr. Pichon was at the top of his career as a scientist. However, in his middle thirties, he became disenchanted by how his work consumed him, and how he was “not seeing people in difficulty and suffering,” To alleviate what he called his “spiritual crisis,” he went Calcutta, India, to work with Mother Teresa for six weeks. From this experience, he ended up working for a community of  L’Arche for three decades; a community that works with severely handicapped people.

Dr. Pichon went from being a world-renowned scientist to cleaning the diapers of people who for the most part have been pushed out of view to the margins of society. He left the comfort of his cushy job and fame to serve “the least of these.” He is a model of one who “let the dead bury the dead,” to carry out Jesus’ mission to “bring Good News to the poor.” He is proclaiming God’s Kingdom and making God’s Kingdom “come on earth as it is in heaven.”

It seems to me that we would be a lot less stressed during these anxious times if we would be about the work of God’s Kingdom, instead of trying to solve everything through allegiance to a false empire.

During the interview, Dr. Pichon stated that he spends one-two hours in prayer every day. This is what sustains him to continue to work with the challenges of the severely handicapped. This is also part of Kingdom work. If I spent as much time in prayer as I do on social media, I’m sure my anxiety about the political mess would abate significantly.

Let the dead bury the dead, and go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.


  1. Yes, a favorite program of mine (On Being)! Dr. Pichon does have his own, compelling story. Not so unlike Henri Nouwen's. But the fact that he gave up one vocation for another, doesn't discount the former vocation, as though it's meaningless.
    Any my question: What does it mean to proclaim God's Kingdom? Yes, Dr. Pichon and others have demonstrated their way of doing it, but I think the key starts with a tidbit we overlook and don't proclaim nearly enough (part of which is fully claiming all the implications): the Kingdom of God is within you!

    1. Thank you once again, Hillel, for your thoughtful comments. Yes, I wasn't trying to discount his previous vocation, in fact if I recall correctly, he still is involved in the field. And yes, not unlike Nouwen, who is also a spiritual guide of mine. And, yes, the kingdom of God IS within us, and I alluded to that fact by naming Pichon's 1-2 hours of daily prayer, saying that that is also kingdom work.

      My answer to your question is that we should as often as possible be with the marginalized of our society and hearing their stories and giving them dignity as made in God's image--maybe not a total life's dedication like Pichon and Nouwen, but a lot more than what most of us do. I spend time as a volunteer chaplain to Latinos who are hospitalized. A very humbling experience hearing their stories.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting on my posts.

    2. Thanks Don, for your posts, comments, discussion. Yes, I agree completely, that " we should as often as possible be with the marginalized of our society and hearing their stories and giving them dignity as made in God's image".
      My main point is that I am so very convicted, that Mennonites, and likely Anabaptists in general (for that matter, so much of the institutional church), seemingly doesn't adequately understand what it means to be made in the image of God (and also conveyed in the assertion that the Kingdom of God iw within). For me has become a life-changing principle, that has not come without deep pain and loss (!), but nonetheless is so life-giving! So revolutionary! Thank-you! Blessings!

    3. Thanks again, Hillel for your comments. I totally agree with your comment about no "adequately understand[ing] what it means to be made in the image of God." This has been the basis for much of my teaching and direction on spirituality. Perhaps you have read my post on "original sin or original blessing."

    4. Yes I did...but I forgot to change the identity of myself when I default it was left as my signin ID (catharus) when I log into Feedly, the software I use to manage the blogs I follow. Thanks!

    5. Ok, saw it! Thanks again for your interest and comments!