Unstructured Thoughts

EinsteinWe can never explain God simply can we? Never, no matter how much we try.

Oh we can pretend that we can. We can for instance call God, “love”.  All that needs saying right?

No, it but starts the conversation surely. How does this “love” allow for all this hate and misery and pain and suffering in this world of ours? And even before these creatures called humans deigned to stand up and gaze over the grasslands, it was so. Some animals are carnivorous, feeding off other passive creatures. How “loving” is that?

When the opposable thumbed ones stood up, did they do so out of a desire to see the world in a bigger context or because it enabled them to see danger when  it was still far enough away to do something about it? Before they too became somebody’s meal?

Creator of the universe? Yes, but is this “our” universe, or a lot of “ours” universe? Is it our playground or simply our small slice of this one? Are there many? Do they each have a God, or is this one running them all? Is Jesus our Jesus, or is Jesus, Jesus everywhere?

Oh you know the answer? Confess, it’s only a guess. You guess you know. You choose to believe you know. You don’t really know.

Is that the essence of God? Is it determining to believe what you can’t know? But perhaps I cannot know what came before the “Big Bang”. Astrophysicists tell me that I may not ever be able to. Is that where God is?

Are we all just struggling humans trying to make human sense out of what is not human? After all, did the psalmist have it right when he said, “how hard for me to grasp your thoughts”? Can I grasp them? What exactly is “in my image” mean after all?

♥ ♥

But then there is this: “if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?”

We are tantalized with both you see, the confounded frustration of never “getting it” to the assurance that we can. Or at least the belief that we can. For that image thing surely means that we must “think” in the manner of God, in the sense that 2 + 2 = 4, and if A = B, and A = C then B = C. It must be like that, surely?

So why can’t we KNOW for God’s sake? Actually why can’t we know for our own sake, for surely God doesn’t need us to know, but we desperately need to know. Or don’t we? Is there some delicious wonderment in believing rather than knowing? Is that comforting and empowering somehow that cold factual knowing can’t be?

♥ ♥

After years on his cushion, a monk has what he believes is a breakthrough: a glimpse of nirvana, the Buddhamind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what has happened is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then the master gives the student dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he says, kill him.

Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way.

If that’s true, and it may well be, then what are we to do then? Toss the bible in the trash? Stay away from every edifice that signifies the place of knowing, i.e., Church? Don’t read what anyone writes about the subject? Because the minute you think you have a handle on God, like partially set jello in your hands, it slides away? The minute somebody makes sense, or assures you that they know, you can be very sure they don’t?

I don’t recall wherein his Confessions, he said this, but  Augustine said, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed.”

How much clearer could that be? And pray tell, why does Augustine then proceed to tell us so much about God? We are driven to explain what is inexplicable, and by its very nature is probably clearly not what we explain.
Perhaps it is what keeps me in the Catholic church and out of it at the same time. I don’t trust the messenger any more, yet I know God is there. It’s all very funky in my head when I try to sort it all out. Perhaps sorting is the wrong thing to do. Just let it ferment old girl, just let it ferment. It will take care of itself.

♥ ♥

I do know that this passage has stayed in my head for more than a week. I can’t shake it. I guess I ask God a lot for wisdom. Maybe because that is one of the few things in the Bible where a feminine aspect of God is clear. Wisdom is SHE, damn it, and if you don’t like it, well too bad.

Anyway, I long for this:

There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy,

unique, manifold, subtle,

mobile, clear, unpolluted,

distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen,

irresistible, 23 beneficent, humane,

steadfast, sure, free from anxiety,

all-powerful, overseeing all,

and penetrating through all spirits

that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.

24 For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;

because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.

25 For she is a breath of the power of God,

and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;

therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.

26 For she is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

27 Although she is but one, she can do all things,

and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;

in every generation she passes into holy souls

and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

28 for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

29 She is more beautiful than the sun,

and excels every constellation of the stars.

Compared with the light she is found to be superior,

30 for it is succeeded by the night,

but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

8 She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,

and she orders all things well.(Wis. 7: 22-8:1)

Until God so chooses to grace me, I remain but a God Seeker. But then, truly, whether we know it or not, aren’t we all?

Amen

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Always in Hope and Prayer

Our_Mother_is_CryingAfter witnessing another round of Washington gridlock wherein all too many of the players jock only for their own personal best position, it is all too easy to lose hope.

All too easy to give up the fight when so many are aligned in an evil dance of pointing the finger at each other rather than at ourselves.

Our selfishness, our greed, our pride, our self-righteousness, our ambitions all serve to pit one against the other in an endless dance of death where neither can let go for fear of being dealt the final death-blow, and yet we slowly bleed  each other to death.

People are really suffering in our world, and people are really afraid. The two often don’t coincide. Those who live in fear, fear the one’s who are suffering and clutch all the more tightly those miserable things they have acquired, all the while attempting to build a fortress to contain these things from being taken.

Those who suffer do so in great silence, too weary from the struggle to just exist. The pain in their eyes echoes but one question: how can you let me die? Worse how can you let my innocent child die?

We argue over whether a human has the RIGHT to food, to shelter, to health care, as if it were a real question and not one created by forces that control the means of food, shelter and health and want only to exact a price for them in order to afford yet another jet, or condo, or island for their pleasure. It is all too awful at times, all to hard to fathom.

We were created in the image of God, yet we have distorted it by all the ugliness we continue to hold within us. Worse, we look at ourselves and see through this distortion our God become like us. How unnatural, how grotesque!

Yet there is this:

JUST ONE

I ask for just one miracle this weekend:
that I will no longer believe the impossible is.

That I will find the faith to believe
that liberation will come
for those who are imprisoned by their own
– or another’s –
fear and judgement.

That I will find the faith to believe
that the most intractable minds can be changed
– even my own.

That i will find the faith to believe
a different world will be born
from the empty hells of this one.

That I won’t stop living for the end
of all that would destroy us.

From Hold This Space

And from this praying upon unholy knees, we rise again to continue on, learning, teaching, reaching upward in love, in goodness, in equality, in justice, crying forth for a miracle of salvation for the human race.

Where Does Peace Start?

kink-jesus_spankI am probably a lot like you. I’ve been mulling over this Syria thing for some time. I’m frankly pulled in two directions. It is appalling to see all this death caused by bombs carrying deadly gas. Yet is being torn apart by shrapnel any more civilized?

I weep for average people who did not start this unholy war, yet I weep for the dead children that continually fall in the streets of our urban cities.

I recognize the big issues of letting Assad “off the hook” and emboldening Iran yet further, yet I recall that much that is wrong in the Middle East today is part and parcel of American and European meddling and interference decades ago.

And then smack dab in the middle of all this, comes this:

spanking

Now I very innocently (so I thought) replied:

I was spanked as a child. Although it didn’t make me hate my parents, I believe that there are better ways of assisting a child to grow up rather than through violence against them. We are a violent culture and we will not be a peaceful one until we start at the most basic level to stop hitting others. Maybe we can then take the next step and stop killing them. Funny how peace works.

That was met with this:

It’s called loving the child enough to discipline them. Spare the rod and spoil the child. If you spank a child when they are young enough and make sure they understand the reason for the spanking and reinforce your love for them you will not need to dicipline (sic) them through spanking as they get older.

It only got worse from there, even when I cited to the literature which says there really is no dispute about the fact that physical discipline is counterproductive period.

But what saddened me was the trotting out of the tried and true “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. How much abuse in the world of child-rearing has occurred using that phrase as justification? And all for the reason that it is utterly misunderstood.

Again we are plagued by the fundamentalist and their literalist approach. An extraordinarily excellent explanation is given here about what a rod is biblically and what a rod is used for biblically and what Solomon meant by this phrase from Proverbs. Basically the word rod is shebet or shevet, the same world used in Psalm 23, which “comfort”. Why does the rod comfort? Because a shepherd uses a rod not to beat the sheep, but to guide, (pressing it against them to move them), protect, (from predator animals) and to hold (keep them from proceeding further into danger).

Given that Solomon was the son of David, a shepherd, is it more likely that Solomon meant the phrase in this manner than as license to wail upon a child?

Can anyone imagine that Jesus would spank a child?

I find synchronicity in today’s first reading:

Who can know God’s counsel,
or who can conceive what the LORD intends?
For the deliberations of mortals are timid,
and unsure are our plans.
For the corruptible body burdens the soul
and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.
And scarce do we guess the things on earth,
and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;
but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?
Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight. (Wis. 9: 13-18b)

We are mere mortals and yet some of us claim to “know what God wants”. We do not. We can only reach for the very best in humanity and assume that God wants at minimum that. Beyond that, we can have no idea. We are weighted down by our bodies and “many concerns” as Wisdom announces.

If love and peace are the highest attributes we as humans can conceive, then war and violence can play no part in God’s plan. We may, as we have always done, call upon God as our partner in war and violence, but we are but excusing ourselves from responsibility in doing so.

It is said in response to the question of “how to we make peace in the world?”, that we should be peaceful. We start that by creating peaceful homes.

It’s the Jesus thing to do.

Amen.

Community of Love

trinityI was reading something yesterday that caught my attention. It was about some issue or other, political in nature, it matters not.

A commenter remarked that the problem with “getting the minority vote” (in this case the African-American) was that the “Democrat (sic) Party teaches all that stuff about mass entitlement and it’s hard to get those ‘ethnics’ to understand things like responsibility, individual hard work and the importance of our freedoms”.

Now we can move beyond the obvious racial tones exuded here, for that is not my point. The speaker here obviously heralds the Republican mantra that above all else are good Protestant values of individual efforts and personal responsibility. And there is merit in some sense to the argument. These are fine things. We all need them to some degree. They promote self-esteem and accomplishment.

Yet, we learn that the is certainly not the basis of our true place in the universe.  We are the product, as it were, of cooperation and community. So many things must come together in symbiotic relationship to make us–the laws of physics require that all work together in order to achieve a stable universe, and ultimately humans.

Is it any surprise to us that this is true? We know that our God mirrors that relationship in the Holy Trinity. God shows us by His very nature that we are meant to work in unity with others to achieve our truest selves. We are meant to be in community.

Some suggest as well that we are best from God’s point of view when we don’t think too hard about things, when we “have the faith of babes”. They take this to mean simple and unquestioning–never mulling over those things we do not understand, never reconciling those places in scripture which speak of things that we recoil at today. Yet in Proverbs, Lady Wisdom sets us straight:

“When the Lord established the heavens I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
when he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race.”

God delights in wisdom. God delights in our minds which surely is a mirror of His own. Wisdom found “delight in the human race” precisely because She realized the magnificence of God in that the sentient mind is a mind made for God, one she can join with and soar to great heights. See how God delights in Wisdom and see how Wisdom delights in human.

Wisdom can be who we are. Wisdom is the human mind that continues to crack the code of disease and bring relief and good life to millions. Wisdom is the human mind that creates new and amazing ways by which we can communicate with each other and bring the human family together no matter our physical distance. Wisdom enters the human mind and partners to eradicate fears and superstitions about physical processes.

The Psalmist marks forth the wonder of what God has wrought in perhaps my favorite lines from scripture:

When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place —
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?

You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet:

We stand in awe of our Creator as we should. We tremble to think of our place. Yet, God works in good measure. He gives us all we need to join with Him. God graces us with wisdom, with a well-ordered mind, and with the beautiful model of Trinity. When we take these gifts and marry them together in their own trinity, we soar as humans, and we touch the face of God.

From Meister Eckhart:

‘Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?
I’ll tell you.
At the heart of the Trinity
The Father laughs, and gives birth to the Son.
The Son then laughs back at the Father,
And gives birth to the Spirit.
Then the whole Trinity laughs,
And gives birth to us.’

Amen.

 

Taste and See the Goodness!

 

 

Sophia, or Lady Wisdom tells us:

Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.” Prv 9: 1-6

Lady Folly tells us:

The woman of folly is boisterous,
She is naive and knows nothing.

She sits at the doorway of her house,
On a seat by the high places of the city,

Calling to those who pass by,
Who are making their paths straight:

“Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,”
And to him who lacks understanding she says,

“Stolen water is sweet;
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of Sheol. Prv 9: 13-18

We are called to wisdom, signified by the “perfect” table set by Lady Wisdom, and not the table of Lady Folly, who tells us, “no matter, eat, drink, and be merry–take what you need, cheat, lie, it is all toward the goal of satisfying only you.”

Yet, as always the question remains, how do we discern the wise and forsake that which is evil and wrong? On some things of course, it is quite easy–we know not to cheat or murder. We know not to steal, but what exactly constitutes cheating?

Paul offers us his advice:

Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit,
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks always and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Eph 5: 15-20

Note that he tells us to “try” to understand the will of God. Paul reminds us that it is not always easy. He suggests that immersing ourselves in scripture and prayer, and praying continually are useful in opening ourselves to the Spirit which we know will guide us aright.

Lastly in the Gospel of John, Jesus gives us the most important help: the Eucharist. Now admittedly, not all of the Christian community agree that the bread and wine that we receive each mass is indeed the real body and blood of our Lord, changed in some mysterious way from their original elements.

We as Catholics do believe this, and we take this offering as God joining us in a special way that we can count on to bring us to God’s will for us.

What does that mean?

Often, as a dissenting Catholic, I find that those who profess a strict adherence to church teaching, tell me that my way is “easy”. It’s easy to just love everyone they claim. It’s hard, so they say, to cut across what is popular and secularly permissible. That is how they discern “it is the right thing.”

But is it hard?

I really don’t think so.

If we take the Bible as a whole, we see a steady progression, it seems to me, in understanding that God’s love extends to all his children. Those that thought they had his exclusive attention are often angry and shocked, and yes, unwilling to accept that “others” also find His favor.

While it may seem “hard” to speak against the poor’s “drain” on the budget, or why gays should be denied marriage and the full sacramental life in the church, or why women should be regulated in their health care by more “knowing” men, is it really hard to take these positions? Or is it really quite easy?

Easy in the sense that it always makes us feel better when we can point our finger at someone, anyone, and say they are not as good. They don’t live “right” in one fashion or another. They are different, not holy and “saved” because they are not willing to forgo this or that perceived sin. But what is hard about not getting an abortion if you are post menopausal? What is hard about not engaging in homosexual behavior if you are not homosexual? What is hard about not marrying a divorced person if you are happily married to your first spouse? What is hard about working hard and paying your taxes if you are blessed with a good-paying job.

What is hard about being “holier than thou” toward someone else? It’s really easy isn’t it? It is human nature to not want to feel oneself to be the most disadvantaged, the worst off. We quickly look for someone to point to who is worse off, or simply worse  as we define things.

In discerning that is God’s will for us, it seems to me that we are better off doing that which doesn’t divide people into groups of “like me” and “not like me.” For in the end, we are all God’s chosen. We are not God. Our job is be gracious, kind, loving, charitable, open-hearted, strong in spirit, helpful, compassionate. If God wishes to judge anyone as unworthy, I’m sure he doesn’t need our help.

Lift up your Hearts to the Lord!

Amen.

 

Thunder, Perfect Mind

This is a feminist poem found at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

I thought it was powerful and beautiful.

Thunder, Perfect Mind

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to your selves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing.
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.
 
 
For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband,
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time on the day of birth.
And he is my offspring in due time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.
 
 
Why, you who hate me, do you love me
and hate those who love me?
You who deny me, confess me,
and you who confess me, deny me.
You who tell the truth about me, lie about me,
and you who have lied about me, tell the truth about me.
You who know me, be ignorant of me,
and those who have not known me, let them know me.
 
 
For I am Knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Give heed to me.
I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.
 
 
Give heed to my poverty and my wealth.
Do not be arrogant to me when I am cast out upon the earth,
and you will find me in those that are to come.
And do not look upon me on the dung-heap
nor go and leave me cast out,
and you will find me in the kingdoms.
And do not look upon me when I am cast out among those who
are disgraced and in the least places,
nor laugh at me.
And do not cast me out among those who are slain in violence.
But I, I am compassionate and I am cruel.
 
 
Be on your guard!
Do not hate my obedience
and do not love my self-control.
In my weakness, do not forsake me,
and do not be afraid of my power.
For why do you despise my fear
and curse my pride?
But I am she who exists in all fears
and strength in trembling.
I am she who is weak,
and I am well in a pleasant place.
I am senseless and I am wise.
 
 
Why have you hated me in your counsels?
For I shall be silent among those who are silent,
and I shall appear and speak.
Why then have you hated me, you Greeks?
Because I am a barbarian among the barbarians?
For I am the wisdom of the Greeks
and the knowledge of the barbarians.
I am the judgment of the Greeks and of the barbarians.
I am the one whose image is great in Egypt
and the one who has no image among the barbarians.
I am the one who has been hated everywhere
and who has been loved everywhere.
I am the one whom they call Life,
and you have called Death.
I am the one whom the call Law,
and you have called Lawlessness.
I am the one whom you have pursued,
and I am the one whom you have seized.
I am the one whom you have scattered,
and you have gathered me together.
I am the one before whom you have been ashamed,
and you have been shameless to me.
I am she who does not keep festival,
and I am she whose festivals are many.
I, I am godless,
and I am the one whose God is great.
I am the one whom you have reflected upon,
and you have scorned me.
I am unlearned,
and they learn from me.
I am the one whom you have despised,
and you reflect upon me.
I am the one whom you have hidden from,
and you appear to me.
But whenever you hide yourselves,
I myself will appear.
For whenever you appear,
I myself will hide from you.
Those who have […] to it […] senselessly […]
 
 
Take me to yourselves understanding from grief,
and take me to yourselves from understanding and grief.
And take me to yourselves from places that are ugly and in ruin,
and rob from those which are good even though in ugliness.
Out of shame, take me to yourselves shamelessly;
and out of shamelessness and shame, upbraid my members in yourselves.
And come forward to me, you who know me and you who know my members,
and establish the great ones among the small first creatures.
Come forward to childhood,
and do not despise it because it is small and it is little.
And do not turn away greatnesses in some parts from the smallnesses,
for the smallnesses are known from the greatnesses.
 
 
Why do you curse me and honor me?
You have wounded and you have had mercy.
Do not separate me from the first ones from whom you have known.
And do not cast anyone out nor turn anyone away
[…] turn you away and […] know him not.
[…]
What is mine […].
I know the first ones and those after them know me.
 
But I am the mind of Perfect Mind and the rest of The Thunder.
I am the knowledge of my inquiry,
and the finding of those who seek after me,
and the command of those who asked of me,
and the power of the powers in my knowledge
of the angels, who have been sent at my word,
and of gods in their seasons by my counsel,
and of spirits of every man who exists with me,
and of women who dwell within me.
I am the one who is honored, and who is praised,
and who is despised scornfully.
I am peace
and war has come because of me.
And I am an alien and a citizen.
I am the substance and the one who has no substance.
 
 
Those who are without association with me are ignorant of me,
and those who are in my substance are the ones who know me.
Those who are close to me have been ignorant of me,
and those who are far away from me are the ones who have known me.
On the day when I am close to you,
you are far away from me,
and on the day when I am far away from you,
I am close to you.
 
I am […] within.
I am […] of the natures.
I am […] of the creation of the spirits.
[…] request of the souls.
I am control and the uncontrollable.
I am the union and the dissolution.
I am the one below,
and they come up to me.
I am the judgment and the acquittal.
I, I am sinless,
and the root of sin derives from me.
I am lust in outward appearance,
and interior self-control exists within me.
I am the hearing which is attainable to everyone
and the speech which cannot be grasped.
I am a mute who does not speak,
and great is my multitude of words.
 
 
Hear me in gentleness, and learn of me in roughness.
I am she who cries out,
and I am cast forth upon the face of the earth.
I prepare the bread and my mind within.
I am the knowledge of my name.
I am the one who cries out,
and I listen.
I appear and […] walk in […] seal of my […].
I am […] the defense […].
I am the one who is called Truth,
and iniquity […].
 
 
You honor me […] and you whisper against me.
You who are vanquished,
judge them who vanquish you before they give judgment against you,
because the judge and partiality exist in you.
If you are condemned by this one, who will acquit you?
Or if you are acquitted by him, who will be able to detain you?
For what is inside of you is what is outside of you,
and the one who fashions you on the outside
is the one who shaped the inside of you.
And what you see outside of you,
you see inside of you;
it is visible and it is your garment.
 
 
Hear me, you hearers,
and learn of my words, you who know me.
I am the hearing that is attainable to everything;
I am the speech that cannot be grasped.
I am the name of the sound
and the sound of the name.
I am the sign of the letter
and the designation of the division.
And I […].
[…] light […].
[…] hearers […] to you
[…] the great power.
And […] will not move the name.
[…] to the one who created me.
And I will speak his name.
 
Look then at his words
and all the writings which have been completed.
Give heed then, you hearers
and you also, the angels and those who have been sent,
and you spirits who have arisen from the dead.
For I am the one who alone exists,
and I have no one who will judge me.
 
 
For many are the pleasant forms which exist in
numerous sins,
and incontinencies,
and disgraceful passions,
and fleeting pleasures,
which men embrace until they become sober
and go up to their resting-place.
And they will find me there,
and they will live,
and they will not die again.
 

– Translation by George W. MacRae with a few small unscholarly illuminations by Wm. Jef Pratt

Can You See?

“The Lord says this: A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of the flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord. He is like dry scrub in the wastelands: if good comes, he has no eyes for it, he settles in the parched places of the wilderness, a salt land, uninhabited.

A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.” [Jer 5-10]

What a statement!

We are so prone to relying on things of the flesh, our minds, our bodies to make our way in the world. We trust in ourselves and each other to achieve happiness in this life.

You are what you make of yourself,  we are told. Some would argue that the rich are so because they deserve it, and at least some of the poor because they too have failed to try. Thus, our lot in life is in our own hands.

God tells us differently. He tells us that when we rely on ourselves, when we become the “master of our fate” we see through dirty glasses, or as Paul suggested, through a glass darkly. We are simply unable to define what is good and joyous. We mistake happiness for houses and cars, bling in other words.

And because of that, we take up our residence in the “parched places, the uninhabited salt lands. We miss the paradise God offers, we simply do not see it. We blindly stumble along in life unaware of the true happiness, the true joy which God extends to us.

Quite simply, we life partial lives, unaware, as little more than dumb animals, conditioned to respond to blaring music and neon lights. We become addicted to the glitz, to the ever offered “fix” of adrenalin rush that we think is living.

When disaster strikes, as it must in every life, we fall apart. We are without foundation. We flounder, wail and collapse in disarray.

The one who knows where in her treasure lies, she is undisturbed. Her joy and happiness is firmly rooted in the reality of God, unswayed by the vagaries of human existence.  Her joy is undisturbed.

The choice remains for each of us.

Can you see?

Amen.

**The excerpt is taken from the RSV. I checked with the NRSV, and the NJB. Subtle differences in translation miss this insight given in the RSV, or at least my interpretation. It just goes to show you that there is no perfect translation.

Sophia Wisdom

 

Sophia Wisdom

 

I have been giving much thought in the last few weeks to the question: Who can know the mind of God?

It is an important one to be sure for everyone at all times, but more so for me at this time of transition in my life.

How can I know God’s intentions, his plans, more, his desires for me? If I wish to follow, then this is critically important.

My life, to this point would suggest that I have discerned the Spirit poorly, flitting from Catholicism, the religious community, away, and then to the Episcopal Church and now turning back homeward.

But I wonder, does it really?

Today’s first reading poses the question more starkly perhaps than anywhere in the Hebrew Testament.

What human being indeed can know the intentions of God?
And who can comprehend the will of the Lord?
For the reasoning of mortals is inadequate,
our attitudes of mind unstable;
for a perishable body presses down the soul,
and this tent of clay weighs down the mind with its many cares.
It is hard enough to know what lies within our reach;
who, then, can discover what is in the heavens?
And who could ever have known your will, had you not given Wisdom
and sent your holy Spirit from above?
Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened
and people have been taught what pleases you,
and have been saved, by Wisdom. (Wis. 9: 13-18)

These words of Solomon echo in my heart as well. How, how Lord can I understand what I am to do?

I am cautioned not to rely on reason. Paul and many prophets have said as much. We are to be fools for Christ, meaning that the way of the cross is in direct contradiction to right reason. Through utter humiliation, salvation and the right path lies. We are to turn the other cheek, repay evil with good, all unreasonable, yet true.

Does this mean that our minds are worthless?

I think not. I think those who wish to contain God in a book would like to think so. The fundamentalist makes fun of learning and education, pointing to all the passages that warn of intellectual knowing. They are desperate to understand God by simple reading of the text.

Yet, I think they are wrong. God would not give us fine minds if they were not meant to be used. We are to use all our powers of discernment in finding our way in the world. We are to work with our minds to create a world in which all are free, fed, clothed, housed, attended to, as needed.

But when we seek to understand who we are and who God is, we must suspend our rational mind, because God is simply bigger than we can grasp. He is the contradiction and the paradox. We approach him with metaphor as the writers of various Biblical books did.

And where does that leave me?

I can conclude, and sometimes I do, that I am poorly translating the Spirit’s lead. I am misunderstanding somehow. But perhaps I am merely going through my learning, correcting my errors.

I am not suggesting that the Spirit directly sets us up for pain and suffering as a means to teach us lessons. No, I do not believe in a meddling God such as that.

What I do believe is that when we get some notions that are wrong, if they will become teaching moments, the Spirit remains quiet, and lets us lead ourselves into the abyss. Always ready and willing to lead us out again, to be sure, but we learn by our own willful choice.

And what have I learned? Perhaps humility. I came to Catholicism with a serious believe that it was the best and the first Church. I never let go of that. Even in ecumenical settings where I professed a belief that God reaches to people in all manner of ways, I still clung arrogantly but quietly to the smug belief that I was the better Christian by faith.

Worshiping as a Protestant and seeing things from the other side, has done much to help me to break from that ugly belief. For indeed, I do not claim any Christian faith, and certainly no non-Christian faith better than another. Only better for me, me alone, with my peculiarities and personal quirks.

I am drawn back to Catholicism because, somehow it resonates more deeply in me than any other. Not because it is the best or first. For indeed I don’t believe I could prove that if I wished to.

For those who can’t figure out why I am leaving a perfectly wonderful tradition in the Anglican Church, I can only say, that it has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with where I am called.

Unless of course, this is but another false path in my wandering journey. Then I will, with God’s grace, learn the lesson held out for me. Until then, I do my best, more humble now for sure, knowing that I don’t know, I only believe.

Somehow God assures, that is enough.

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