to live in your light
to act in your might
to think in your wisdom
to walk in your kingdom
to abide in your love,
your presence to prove. Amen. (David Adam)
“It’s hard work.”
That’s what Jared said to me after his football practice on Friday at Masuk. Indeed it is! To do anything well it takes hard work, dedication, effort and energy. That is true of football as it is of life. I can’t think of anything worth doing that doesn’t have a component of work. Be it our relationships, raising kids, our jobs, sports, all of which take hard work and dedication.
The same is true of our faith. We have to work at it, through prayer, silence, study and service. And sometimes it’s just plain hard.
Those following Jesus had a hard time with his teaching: Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”We hear those words, think of the Eucharist and don’t realize what a stumbling block those words were for Jews & Gentiles of Jesus’ era. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?"
Jesus goes on to talk about the Spirit which brings life, not the flesh. He’s trying to move the conversation forward from body and blood (bread and wine), to think about the Spirit. Jesus aid, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”The community that Jesus was talking about, one embedded within in his body & blood, challenged those who followed him in his day, challenged them to be reconciled with God and their neighbor, to live as he lived and accept his words as spirit and life.
Many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with Jesus. But there were those who continued to walk with him, like our patron saint Peter, “You have the words of eternal life.”
In every time, there are those who have found in the words of Jesus eternal life.
This year would have been the 100th birthday of Clarence Jordan. He was born in Talbotton,
Georgia on July 29, 1912. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Agriculture in 1933 and a Ph.D. in New Testament Greek from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1939.
We remember him today because as he read what Jesus asked of his followers, Clarence Jordan was determined not to walk away and to live as faithfully as Jesus asked.
So in 1942, Clarence and his wife Florence along with Martin and Mable England, bought a 440-acre farm, in Americus, Georgia, that they named Koinonia Farm (Koinonia is greek for our understanding of community & fellowship). Their idea was to create a Christian community on that farm for reconciliation between races (esp. blacks & whites) and between rich and poor. The farm’s purpose was to teach agriculture to poor rural farmers and to demonstrate brotherhood and peace through community and they did by working with local African-American families and inviting some to live with them. It was in Jordan’s own words "a demonstration plot for the kingdom of God."
The community that farmed together and had whites and African Americans sharing work & meals together. For manhy in the nearby community, it was seen as a threat. They suffered property damage, shootings and bombings. The Jordans and Koinonians were thrown out of the local Baptist church they attended, and crosses were burned on the Farm by the KKK.
The Americus community decided it no longer wanted Koinonia Farms in the area, and every local business began to boycott the farm. The Farm survived the boycott largely due to Jordan’s writings and a mail order pecan business. It also became the spiritual birthplace of what we know today as Habitat for Humanity, when it began to look at ways to help the poor build their own homes.
Jordan’s most famous work was his Cotton Patch Version of the bible, most notably several gospels and Paul’s letters. As he put it, “The purpose of the "cotton patch" approach to the scriptures is to help the modern reader have the same sense of participation in them which the early Christians must have had. By stripping away the fancy language, the artificial piety, and the barriers of time and distance, this version puts Jesus and his people in the midst of our modem world, living where we live, talking as we talk, working, hurting, praying, bleeding, dying, conquering, alongside the rest of us. It seeks to restore the original feeling and excitement of the fast-breaking news-good news-rather than musty history.” He knew that his version would not be perfect. “To be sure, this is a risky undertaking. For one thing, it simply can't he done with absolute accuracy. But admitting the risks, perhaps the rewards will more than offset them.”Clarence Jordan died at age 57 in 1969. He died in his writing shack behind his house while he was translating the gospel of John. He was buried in his work clothes in a simple coffin on the Koinonia Farm. The funeral was small, with members of the farm, some of the local community and others attending. "He be gone now," reflected a neighbor in 1980, "but his footprint still here."
I find that Clarence Jordan was one who heard Jesus speak and knew the words were spirit and life. So much so that he and his family endured so much in the 1950s and 1960s that would have led most people to flee, but he couldn’t. Clarence Jordan once said that what he hoped to achieve in life was “to have been faithful.” In that he excelled, he did the hard work.
Today, let us follow Jesus and hear his words for us, for they are Spirit and life, and Clarence Jordan maybe the guide to help us with that! (His words from John 6 – Cotton Patch Gospel)