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Talkin’ ’bout this corrupt generation

Talkin’ ’bout this corrupt generation

Friday, June 21, 2013 — Week of Proper 6, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 970)

Psalms 88 (morning) // 91, 92 (evening)

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Acts 2:37-47

Luke 21:5-19

No matter how old you are, you’ve probably rolled your eyes at the inflexibility of your elders, or repeated some exasperated version of the phrase, “Kids these days!” Every generation has its alleged shortcomings—and its own characteristic greatness. But whether we are Hard Timers, Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, or Millennials, our reading from the Acts of the Apostles has a timeless message for us: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

What does it mean to save yourself from your generation? It is an incredible challenge along the lines of Paul’s encouragement in the letter to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (12:2). (The more common translation for “age” is “world,” but “age” is more to our point.) To save ourselves from our particular historical moment, we must train ourselves to overcome its blind spots, to uproot its assumptions, to resist its deadening habits, to defy its destructive currents. Difficult work.

Impossible work, in fact, for mere time-bound mortals. As a Christian with a fairly mainstream theology of grace, I am a bit taken aback but Peter’s admonition to “Save yourselves.” I was pretty sure that salvation was God’s job, and that I couldn’t really do anything to save myself! I think that the spiritual tools that Peter offers to his audience give us a more thorough understanding of “saving ourselves” from our generations. Peter calls his community (a) to repent, and (b) to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism. Only repentance and the gift of the Holy Spirit can help us to avoid the prejudices, patterns, and perils that are present in our historical moment.

Today, let us invite the grace of repentance and the gift of the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts—not against our generations for counter-culturalism’s sake, but truly in the direction that God is leading, as best as we can discern. When Peter’s community saved themselves from their generation and moved in a new direction, our reading says that they sold their possessions, met each other’s needs, spent time in the temple, and broke bread together at home.

This picture of apostolic community might have several points of connection with our various contexts: divesting of material things, dwelling in God’s presence, eating meals while facing each other instead of the TV. Yet what stands out to me is the pace at which the church moved: Day by day.

The reading narrates that, “Day by day,” they broke bread “and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” And, “day by day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” The apostles find joy, generosity, trust, and even success in taking things day by day.

What a profound reminder that human history is made up not of easily-characterized and stereotyped generations, but of people who live day by day. People who build daily lives of gladness and giving, over and against the impulses and compulsions of their contexts. In so doing, they save themselves and many, many others.

Inspired as a child by Maria Von Trapp, Luke Skywalker, and Jesus,

Lora Walsh strives for wisdom, justice, and a simpler way.  She serves

as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director

of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by

St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas

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Lora Walsh

Enjoyed that comic, Ben! This post was loosely inspired by a conversation with the Ark Fellows (our Episcopal Service Corps program here in Arkansas). We were discussing some of the characterizations and complaints about "emerging adults." It seems that inter-generational tension makes us more likely to become defensive than reflective.

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Benedict Varnum

I had to chuckle at your topic. I mostly hear complaints about "this generation" loaded into anxiety about the cultural devastation wrought by social media. I have my own rant about that, which involves wondering wildly how people will possibly relate to one another in an age where they can sit at home and write letters that the postman will deliver, but this comic from xkcd synthesized it all pretty nicely the other day: http://xkcd.com/1227/

Not exactly the stuff of salvation, but perhaps a reminder that the demons we worry up for ourselves may not always be as threatening as the quiet ones that softly discourage us from looking for problems within ourselves first.

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