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12 Pentecost / Shepherding the Valley #3 - Matthew 28:16-20

Theologians call it "the scandal of particularity."

Why did God choose Israel for special status?

Why did God pick Mary to be the Mother of Our Lord?

If God is universal and God's love is limitless, why is God so selective?

Well, why do people called to love all their neighbors have only one spouse?

Why say black lives matter when all do?

The answer, of course, is that black lives face specific dangers and obstacles that others don't, and the depth of love to which marriage calls sinful, limited human beings makes having one partner hard enough.

For love to be real and not just theoretical, practice and not just policy, it demands specificity— which is why God so scandalously showed up in one particular time and place and face.

The "scandal of particularity" is the only world that I, in particular, know, Annie Dillard writes.

Richard Rohr elaborates: You can't really love universals.

It's hard to love concepts, forces, or ideas.

Ideology is just the ego wrapping itself around such abstractions.

Love—God incarnate—always begins with particulars: this woman, this dog, this beetle, this Moses, this Virgin Mary, this Jesus of Nazareth.

It is the individual and the concrete that opens the heart space for an I-Thou encounter.

Without it there is no true devotion or faith, but only argumentative theories.

We are the particular part of God's church, which is often tempted to hide from devotion behind dogma and theory, that has been planted by God in the San Fernando Valley, a different garden than Mauritania or Manitoba.

In this setting, 42 percent of the population is Hispanic, according to Census Reporter.

Most of our ELCA congregations don't match that.

So there is a gap between where we are and where we are.

Accordingly, one of the areas of focus for our fledgling Twin Valleys Lutheran Parish is

intentional ministry with our unchurched Latina and Latino neighbors.

It's not because they are any more or less special than anyone else—it's because they're here.

Our ELCA has its own scandal of particularity—we are the whitest denomination in the United States.

Our traditions and trappings are saturated in northern European cultural patterns and tendencies.</