Worship in Place | Repent. Repair. | Lent 3 | March 7


The video above includes the full service, except for the time for sharing. For sermon video only: https://vimeo.com/512227518

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained through One License with license A-727859

Order of Worship | Repent. Repair. | Lent 3 | March 7



Land Acknowledgement 

We acknowledge we are gathering on land where Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and other Indigenous peoples have lived and labored, fought, and loved. We continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.      

Call to Worship

Peace Candle 

VT 745 | God Whose Giving | Martin Family

Children’s Time 

Reparations: An ongoing conversation

Offering/Dedication Prayer  https://www.columbusmennonite.org/donateget-involved/donate

Special Music | The peace of the earth be with you | Alexander Martin, violin

Scripture | Exodus 20:1-17



VT 651 | Lord Have Mercy | Conrad Grebel University Choir

Scripture | John 2:13-22

Sermon | The Universal Destination of Goods   [Manuscript Below]

Silent Reflection

VT 753 | Heart and Mind, Possessions, God | Debra and Galen Martin, singing; Sarah Martin, cello

Sharing of Joys and Concerns

Pastoral Prayer

Passing the Peace 

Extinguishing the Peace Candle 


Cookie Sunday | 11:00 am


Thanks to everyone who helped lead today’s service

Sermon: Joel Miller

Worship Leader: Robin Walton

Music coordination: Debra/Galen Martin

Children’s Time: Bethany Davey

Reparations Reflection: JoAnn Knapke

Peace Candle: Laurie Zimmerman and Steve Rolfe

Scripture Reading: Eliza Wertenberger

Zoom Host: Gretchen Geyer


Sermon Manuscript


“A reality prior to private property.” 

Those words were part of a speech given by Pope Francis in 2015 at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements in Bolivia.

Let’s think about that phrase a bit.  “A reality prior to private property.”

What comes to mind?

First of all, can we even imagine it?  Here I am talking to you from my house, through my laptop via my wifi, wearing my clothes, seeing clearly through my contact lenses that I purchased with my money with a discount through my vision insurance.  My life, our life, is so defined by private property that “A reality prior to private property” seems like some kind of exotic anthropological study we could only read about, perhaps by purchasing a book through my Amazon account.

Just about everything is now for sale and thereby owned by someone.  Maybe the air we breathe is the largest remnant of a world prior to private property.  It’s still mostly an outlandish idea to think of air as something to be bought and sold, accessible only to those who can afford it.  Of course a decent argument can be made, and has been, that we do buy the quality of air we breathe depending on which neighborhood we can afford.  But still, hopefully, air can at least help us imagine a reality prior to private property. 
Here’s the longer quote from the Pope:

Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples.

The reality prior to private property of which Pope Francis speaks is this thing called the universal destination of goods.  I’d never heard of this idea until last fall when we got this little newsletter from the Catholic Worker community in Bloomington, Indiana.  Several years ago we hosted one of their families in our house when they were passing through Columbus and we’ve received their quarterly newsletter ever since.  The main entry contains this quote from Pope Francis and then a string of quotes and reflections looking into the longstanding Catholic social teaching known as the universal destination of goods. 
I’d been holding onto this newsletter as a reference for a sermon yet to be, and that sermon is now. 

Because…one of the lectionary readings for today is the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20.  And the place in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church where the universal destination of goods shows up, is in its teaching about one of those commandments:  “You shall not steal.”

So let’s start there.   

The seventh commandment is tied for being the shortest.  You shall not steal.  Two Hebrew words; essentially, Don’t Steal.  Some scholars hold that this commandment originally referred to people.  As in – don’t steal people.  No kidnapping.  You’re not allowed to take/capture/steal other people’s bodies and use them for something against their will.  Whatever the history of private property might be, it makes sense that one’s body is where it all begins. 

But the rabbis also taught that this refers to property.  Do not steal what rightfully belongs to another person.  Which raises the wonderful ethical question of what does rightfully belong to a person?  How far can we extend this notion of private property which others have no right to have access to?

Well, to address this question we have to go back even further, a really good place to begin: The beginning. 

This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says as its official teaching under the commandment “Do not steal,” edited only slightly for gender inclusive language:

2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of humankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race…
2403 The right to private property, acquired by work or received from others by inheritance or gift, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of humankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.
2404 In their use of things, a person should regard the external goods they legitimately own not merely as exclusive to themselves but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as themselves.
The catechism goes on to teach that if someone is in dire need for the basics of life, that it is not considered theft to “put at one’s disposal and use the property of others,” because of…you got it…the universal destination of goods.  

So according to the catechism, private property is perfectly legitimate but takes on its legitimacy under the greater reality prior to private property, the universal destination of goods.

Now, we’re not a Roman Catholic church, so we don’t officially share this catechism, but one of the favorite biblical passages of the 16th century Anabaptists was from Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.”  This has impacted Mennonite’s approach to property, mutual aid, even political allegiances.

And this particular social teaching extends back well before the Catholic/Protestant divide.

Thomas of Aquinas wrote in the 13th century: “In cases of need all things are common property, so that there would seem to be no sin in taking another’s property, for need has made it common.”  Summa Theologica II-II, q.66, a.7

In the 6th century Pope Gregory wrote: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours.  More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

In the 4th century Basil the Great wrote: “Are not thou then a robber, for counting as thine own what thou hast received to distribute?”
(These final two quotes taken from the Catholic Worker of Bloomington Autumn 2020 newsletter.)

To which we might reply: Come on, now Basil the Great, I worked hard for this. 

In the 1st century, Jesus walked into the outer court of the temple precinct, the economic hub of his people, made a whip of chords, drove out the people and animals, and overturned some tables, redistributing some coins all over the floor.  Mark’s gospel records Jesus as quoting the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations…But you have made it a den of robbers.” 

In John’s gospel Jesus laments that the necessary exchanges of currency for pilgrims to purchase animals to fulfill religious duties had devolved into a mere marketplace, benefiting the wealthy few.  So he does an intervention.      

Although the universal destination of goods has always been and remains within the orthodox, standard teachings of the church, these ideas sound completely unorthodox to those of us who have undergone the amazingly effective catechism of runaway capitalism.  As the 1619 Project of the New York Times illustrated, the foundations of this system included a very literal breaking of the ancient commandment “Do not steal,” African bodies captured to produce white wealth. 

And let’s bring it back to that.  Let’s bring it back to bodies.  Let’s bring this back to our bodies.  After a series of quotes which might break a personal record for most quotes in a sermon, let’s bring it back to these holy possessions we have been given, the way we hold all of  this in our bodies.

This is actually what Jesus brings it back to when he is asked by those witnesses in the temple about what right did he think he had to do what he was doing.  What sign would he show that this action, his words, had any legitimacy?  Jesus gives his response about destruction and resurrection, to which John notes – and this will be the final quote: “But Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body.” 

Even that story is about a body.

A reality prior to private property.  The good and beautiful creation of autonomous bodies who eat and drink and love, and breathe common air.  Bodies which must not be stolen or commandeered for a purpose that might harm that body or other bodies. 

As Pastor Mark has written multiple times in his blog, and as I have also tried to emphasize, Lent is not about turning up the volume on whatever guilt we may have within us for not measuring up to whatever it is we imagine we must measure up to.  Repentance and repair is about naming hard truths, as Bethany highlighted last week.  Naming hard truths for the purpose of liberation.  Such that our liberation from the catechism of endless consumption and accumulation, would lead to the liberation of others toward a better realization of the universal destination of goods.  This begins in our bodies.  A refusal to have our bodies be stolen from us.  A willingness to lend our bodies for the purposes of justice and repair and dignity for all. 

Your body already knows what to do.  Breathe in this gifted air.  Hold it briefly, gratefully, in your body.  Then give it back.