Magazine article The Christian Century

Enter Here. (Living by the Word)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Enter Here. (Living by the Word)

Article excerpt

Sunday, April 21 Acts 2:42-47, 1 Peter 2: 19-25, John 10:1-10

I HAD ALREADY attended two colleges when one day I wandered into a third. The sign above the door of an old mansion in Fort Vancouver, Washington, read "Evergreen State College."

"What seminars are you offering this fall?" I asked a woman behind the desk. "Reality," she responded. "Sign me up!" I replied.

Fifteen years later I was attending an Evergreen State alumni meeting when the president of the college asked our group, "Was Evergreen your first college?" A few hands went up. "Your second?" A few more hands went up. "For how many of you was Evergreen your third college?" Most hands, including mine, went up. The president studied us a moment and said, "We did a bad job of finding you."

Yes, perhaps I could have used a better shepherd, but I had also needed to try different college "gates" before I entered the right one.

The two non-Gospel readings speak of shepherds and flocks, of the world on the other side of the gate. Acts paints a picture of the Christian community behaving as if it were the beginning of a love affair. In terms of the human they expressed the highest forms of togetherness and generosity, and in terms of the divine they experienced wondrous signs. That image reminds me of that moment in front of that desk at Evergreen State, when I was ready to sign on.

But then there's 1 Peter. Here, the flock isn't experiencing devotion and wonders and signs, but pain and injustice. I'm willing to see it as a good dose of reality. After all, I'm not still in that comfortable college setting discussing "reality" as portrayed by philosophers and the media. And the Christian church is no longer living in communal bliss in Jerusalem. There's a world beyond the intimacy and the intensity of first ardor, cautions the New Testament writer, a world that is not always easy or kind. The temptation in the rapture of finding one's own flock is to forget other obligations or dismiss them as less worthy. But being an Evergreen student doesn't allow me to skip paying my taxes. Being a writer doesn't exempt me from responsibilities to my husband and our sons (though it does permit frequent ordering of take-out). Belonging to the flock named Christian doesn't exempt us from the requirement of living in the wider world.

Before I get too cozy with the responsibility in these verses, however, I note verse 18 (conveniently omitted). "Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh." I hear the writer telling the readers a hard truth. …

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