Oh How Can It Go So Wrong?

humilityWho among us has not felt the ugly cloak of self-righteousness upon our shoulders? For most of us, it is a humbling and heartbreaking experience, one that leaves us filled with shame and begging to be forgiven for forgetting who and what we are.

Not that I favor the constant not-really-so-humbling- practice of constantly confessing loudly our sinful nature. I find that rather self-righteous actually. I see no need to heap ashes upon my head on a regular basis. My failures and limitations are known to God and to me, and in the quiet of my own heart these things are pondered deeply and acted upon appropriately. All else is for show it seems to me.

Today’s liturgy focuses on the famous parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. As we all know, the Pharisee was among his peers an object of piety, a stickler for the details of Jewish law, and always quick to call for perfect compliance in the strictest sense. The tax collector, was an outsider within his community, working for the Romans, taking his pay as a cut from the exorbitant tax bills of his fellow Jews. The more he got from them, the more he got. He was shunned and hated by all those who saw him coming.

The Pharisee enters the temple and begins reciting all his virtues–how he is superior to most of his fellow Jews, especially this lowly tax collector. He apparently thinks that God needs reminding and remind Him he does. On the other hand, the tax collector dares not even raise his eyes heavenward, so ashamed of his sinful nature is he. He begs for mercy.

No doubt the Pharisee, perhaps not with words, but in intent does not beg at all, but merely asks to be given his due, what he assumes is his (wealth, prestige, power) because he is who he is, a Pharisee.  The tax collector expects nothing, but he trusts that this God of love will consider his plea.

We are led to recall the first reading from Sirach:

The LORD is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.
Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.
The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan,
nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.
The one who serves God willingly is heard;
his petition reaches the heavens.
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay. (Sir 35: 12-14, 16-18)

Can we relate?

If there was ever a story to point out what Pharisees might appear like today it is this story:

A server at a popular Italian eatery in Kansas was shocked to find that customers had left behind an anti-gay message on their bill in lieu of a tip.

“Thank you for your service, it was excellent,” the customers had written. “That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD. Queers do not share in the wealth of GOD, and you will not share in ours.

The customers continued: “We hope you will see the tip your fag choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly. It is never too late for GOD’S love, but none shall be spared for fags. May GOD have mercy on you.”

No doubt any decent person finds this type of thing utterly shocking. One can easily see the self-righteous arrogance of the writer. So very sure they are right. So very sure they know the mind of God. So very sure they will be properly rewarded for their public chastisement of the young waiter. The slurs make it clear that there is no human love offered, but merely condemnation.

Good people of faith will of course be horrified and condemn this behavior for what it is, an utterly misguided reading of scripture, a failure to recognize the over-riding directive of love that we are all to obey first and foremost, and a blatant exhibition of raw bigotry.

Others will condemn the words used, but claim that the action was still appropriate because they too are sure they understand the bible correctly.

Some few others will remind us that it is our “job” to advise the sinful of their sins, since they may be somehow “unaware”. Christian duty is their cry.

People of no faith will nod their heads and once again point out that this is what “religion gets you”. If there is anything good in religions of any kind, it has long been lost to powerful interests within and their acceptance of “rules” that on their face are unfair, unjust, ugly, bigoted. No God who would create such a rule, they argue, is a God worth worshiping or following.

As I remain separated from my Church, I watch as it struggles with these issues. Pope Francis signals that at the very least, our rhetoric has been ugly and off-putting. It does no good to welcome with the one hand while the other is demanding that to be a member in good standing, one must cease and desist being who you are. There is no welcoming in this. There is only some sick pathetic attempt to portray something one is not.

One wonders how the patron at the restaurant learned such ugliness. Jesus certainly modeled no such behavior. The companies like Hobby Lobby who are suing the government in order not to be required to provide health insurance to their employees that includes coverage of birth control and other reproductive assistance is another example. Where does Jesus model this sort of “my way or the highway” approach. Did he not uphold the Samaritans on many occasions–a sect reviled by ordinary Jews.

If one believes that this is from God, then surely one must be horrifically wrong, for this is not love, this is not compassion, nor is it forgiveness, welcoming, community, support, loving kindness. There is nothing good here at all. There is only hatred, fear, and self-righteousness, that suggests that in finding you lesser I am somehow better.

And this cannot be so.

This cannot be God.

 

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.

Explaining the Inexplicable

hidden-3d.com-gallery-x-3Dimka_Chel_CamelIt is surely true that one of the greatest lessons I learned as I ventured into the blogosphere is something that cannot be learned easily in the real world, unless over long periods of time.

It is that everyone’s brain does not work the same. We tend to think that they do. When we come up against a person who seems unreasonable and without logic in their thinking, we tend to say “it’s just them”, as in something is wrong with them individually.

But when, via the Internet, you meet dozens and then more dozens of people who have this same “problem”, you realize that there must be really different ways to organize thinking.

The two groups that have frustrated me the most are fundamentalists and atheists. I probably should subdivide that somewhat because not all atheists are the same, nor probably all fundamentalists. Let us just say that the most fervent among either group share this trait–a perfectly ironclad belief that they are right, and a perfectly ironclad belief that there is no fact out there that can change their mind. They basically don’t acknowledge the latter of course.

Fundamentalists insist that I suspend all my senses and the accompanying logical deductions that seem to support conclusions in accord with those senses and believe that for whatever reason God wants us to believe a completely different scenario of “how things came to be”.  Our senses serve double duty–allowing us to function in a natural world, yet designed apparently to lead us terribly astray if we follow them to their logical ends. In other words, see the dangerous animal ahead, but don’t look much further into what composes the animal.

Atheists, at least the vocal ones nowadays, say all such God-talk is utter nonsense, and there is no point in trying to debate a fantasy. No one who believes in God, whatever their education can be other than a dolt. They are reduced to making fun of believers, mining the Bible for quote after quote, ridiculing the logic and implications. If you try to point out history, context, literary genre, or anything similar, they point out that “progressive” explanations are merely attempts to not dump the baby out with the bath water.

Atheists reduce all religion to fundamentalist definitions because that is the easy target. It is would be akin to defining and then criticizing all political parties using only the Tea Party model.

It is frustrating to “explain” belief to a non-believer. It is hard to explain because if you have not had that “moment” its hard to make it understandable. It requires a willingness to think outside the box I guess.

I have no answer for the fundamentalist. Mostly life either throws them a curve that upsets their apple cart or it doesn’t. For those to whom that happens, they discard fundamentalism rapidly thereafter, and alas often any belief in God at all. This is the unfortunately reality. The Internet abounds with various “help” blogs for “recovering fundamentalists”.

But there are a vast number of atheists out there who are not of the vocal and hysterical variety. They are just quietly what they are, much as I was for many years. Contrary to the “new” atheists who claim they are discriminated against, I and I dare say most atheists have never felt this. Frankly it’s something that seldom comes up in any conversation.

Among my atheist or agnostic friends, still the subject of “why do you believe in God” does arise in a friendly way, and as I said, it is hard to explain.

This is all to say, that I have found what I believe is the most cogent and helpful explanation of what believing is all about. And it’s all about stereograms.

Stereograms are pictures that contain other images within. For some, the other picture is apparent almost immediately. For others, it takes some minutes, maybe longer. For some few, it never happens. The beauty here is that even those that “never can”, can at least recognize that others can.

Thus belief is seen as “another way of thinking” or “another way of seeing”. Some can “see” this way easily, some after a while, some only after a long while, and some never. But the nevers (atheists) can at least know that others can see this different way.

If that all sounds confusing, then I urge you to go to Making the Spiritual World Real. I’m quite sure that David Flowers explains it much better than I. If we can make inroads in our differences, at least to understand each other, then we have moved miles.

Blessings this day.

Who Was That Masked Man?

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.Well, he doesn’t wear a mask, but he wears a white cossack. Along with the other wardrobe symbols of the papacy of Rome,  they denominate him as Pontiff. Yet, he is so much more than the God’s representative on Earth. He is a man and he has his own ideas.

It is often said that many a president has nominated and had confirmed a supreme court justice who later turned out to be quite a bit different than was anticipated. That certainly happened where Dwight David Eisenhower and Earl Warren were concerned. Eisenhower became quite unhappy with the liberal turn of the Chief Justice. Similarly, after Chief Justice Roberts became the deciding vote that upheld “Obamacare” many a Republican rued the day that Bush selected him for the top job.

One wonders are some cardinals (so many of whom are arch conservatives chosen by JPII and his successor Benedict XVI to continue the conservative imprimatur they put in place, now wondering what they have wrought in the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to St. Peter’s Chair. Surely I am in no position to know.

But many on the outside are scratching their collective heads and wondering just who this man is. He was thought to be  fairly conservative from a doctrinal point of view, with great humility and great concern for the poor. Yet, today, he is at least giving reason for those Progressive Catholics to hope that change may be in the air. It seems that every few weeks he grants another interview and says tantalizing things that suggest that he is rethinking things thought by conservative Catholics to be set in stone.

As I said, I am no one to reach a conclusion on these issues. I find it unlikely that there will be a major change in doctrine, but I could see that Francis might adopt the position that it is wrong to deny the full sacramental life of the church to those who are in “dissent”, being practicing homosexuals, divorced and remarried, those seeking contraceptive care and so forth. That would be the most I believe we could expect.

I am told, certainly by the ultra conservative Catholics, that no such thing will happen, and they are ruthless in pointing out emphatically that this Pope is offering no light at the end of the tunnel as it were, but merely the victim of “poor word choice”. Such poor choosing of words seems, alas to happen again and again, and the rising frantic denials of the uber Right suggest that they are pretty darn scared that change of some sort is coming.

Several, in fact, on the very conservative “Catholic Answers” admit to being “troubled” and “uneasy” with this Pope. They tell each other, that all the “other” Catholics will surely misinterpret the interviews and think it’s now “alright to abort babies” and use birth control. They, of course, being so much wiser and capable in dissecting papal announcements are very sure that no such encouragement is warranted.

I don’t know, and time will tell.

I have thought  that at the very least this Pope is telling his fellow priests to stop beating up on people for their sins and start helping them to be more loving Christians. After all, what is confessed is not grounds for denial of Eucharist unless the sinner is open and public in their sin. Few are. Perhaps we are headed for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the RCC.

In any event, I haven’t seriously thought about going back. That is not because I’m waiting for a more explicit statement, but rather that more and more, I find organized religion to be a hornet’s nest in every direction. It seems that almost everywhere I look, I find dissension within churches and within congregations. Some if it pains me deeply. I have no desire to become embroiled and I have found being a “backbencher” a detachment that doesn’t work either.

So I remain outside.

Yet, I continue to feel a vitality in that.

People call themselves, “spiritual but not religious”. I have never cared much for that self-designation and have considered that most who use it aren’t much of anything. Basically I have seen them as people who rarely think about God, and have a knee-jerk “of course I believe in God” reaction when asked. Beyond that, they are too busy.

That surely is not fair, although it may fairly define a good many people. Yet many people are spiritual but like me find religiosity increasingly confining and unfulfilling. I have heard a new term and I rather like it. It’s called being a “spiritual creative”.

What this means, at least to me, is that one picks and chooses those practices, rituals, and behaviors from a broad range of varying religious traditions. One feeds oneself with those things that seem to help create a God-space within which a loving God can move within, helping one be shaped to His will. In other words, I have become a jack-of-all-religions. Well, not all, really, but I draw from different traditions. I may, for instance decide to combine lectionary readings every day, with meditation, praying at set times during the day, practicing mindfulness, reading spiritual books or deeper thoelogical and scholarly writings. I might celebrate other holy days that only Christian ones. I might include service to community as part of a spiritual practice. The list is as endless as are the rituals and practices of all the faith systems of the world.

This makes for some exciting possibilities, and plenty of dead ends I suspect.

But after all, it is the journey that counts, right?

Blessings, Amen.

It is worth your while to read the wonderful interview conducted by the Jesuits with His Holiness. You can find it here.

Naming our Golden Calves

Golden bull sclupture on grey glassIt’s ironic isn’t it that the Israelites created a golden calf and not a golden bull. I mean given their belief that their God was a jealous God, one prone to dangerous anger, one wonders at their use of a newborn, still fragile, unknowing of much of the ways of the world, as their symbol of deity.

In any case, the story is fraught with puzzlement. Like much of the Hebrew scripture, God is portrayed as hardly all-knowing and often not all-powerful. He often argues and gives in to human logic (or what passes for it), and he seems to be in need of human hands to accomplish his ends at times.

This is perhaps why some folks think they know God and know what He wants on any given issue.

So Moses argues with God and dissuades Him from destroying the people for their “stiff-neckedness”, something one would have thought God had learned by now. It shows that Moses is the more rational of the two, reminding God that all His work to date would be for naught, and worse yet, he would look pretty weak and puny to non-Hebrews if in the end, he just mashed his sculpture into a ball and started over again.

Literalists of course, ignore all the strange and contradictory conclusions to be drawn here. Historically a lot of them used to (and perhaps still do) tsk, tsk, at the Catholic church for its use of statues of saints, calling it idol worship. One of course often misses the plank in one’s own eye when busy pointing out the planks in other people’s.

There are so many problems with concluding that the Bible is the “word of God” in a literal fashion. Least of which is that none of the fundamentalist crowd will ever answer the questions. They are quick to point out ( having matured no doubt) that they don’t claim that God literally “wrote” the bible, but only that he caused the writers to write down “in their own words” all that he desired humanity to know and nothing he did not want them to know.  Since they have pointed this out, I think it only fair to answer, “well why?”

Why what, you ask? Well, if God “used” people to write “in their own words” my question would be why would he do that? A God who can inhabit a burning bush, cause tablets to magically contain the ten commandments, part waters, create plagues of locusts, bring forth water from a rock, can surely manage to make a book of instruction can’t He? So what is the point of using these intermediaries?

Well, the answer begs the question. It’s just a not very logical way of explaining why God didn’t just start with one, and go through a list of commands. He did it once, so I guess he could make a longer list right? It explains why the Bible doesn’t read very God-like. Rather of course, than just simply state the truth–men (maybe women but we don’t know) wrote it.

My friend, Dr. James McGrath from Butler, said it thusly:

“People spoke it, others wrote it, still others copied it, still others collected the writings together, still others elevated the collection to the level of Scripture, others claimed that collection to be the Word of God, then the words of God. And that doesn’t “settle it.” The Bible tells me so.

So to claim that it does settle it, under the fundamentalist adage, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it”, suggests to me somebody is busy sculpting that calf again.

Churches can become calves too. I’m afraid that given enough time, almost all of them do. The church becomes THE thing. Certainly true of the Roman church, where rules and rules upon rules tell every Catholic what to do and when. They’ve relieved a bit of that, given the falling numbers, but there is still plenty of it. The Roman church formed from a winning of the battle of orthodoxy. But it didn’t go away. It erupted full force during the Reformation. It continues today. Most every church is formed around the belief that only they have the “true” understanding. That human hubris  sounds pretty darn calfish to me.

Then of course there is the infighting within the denomination. Who is a heretic? Who is a real prophet, seer, Guru? What is right teaching, wrong? Churches split nowadays over gay rights even suing each other over the very physical structures. People vie for personal power within the institution. People steal from the coffers in the name of something or other that somehow or other they justify as being “Godly”.  Your preacher “needs” to live in splendor given that he is “sweatin’ for Jesus” and you have no idea how stressful that is with the powers of Satan working so feverishly at every moment.

All that power, so necessary to “rightly lead” is a calf for sure awaiting its gilt covering.

We can get real personal and find that calf growing in our garage with that car that is oh so essential “given my long commute”, or that state of the art entertainment center, because after working so hard for the Lord, I just got to unwind! The calf grows in our relationships as we struggle to be in control, and form our partner into what works for us, draped in a facade of “what is the right way” to be a couple.

We are a stiff-necked people. Until we stop using the poor Israelites to teach a story to OTHERS about their lack of piety, well, we will continue that tradition. It’s all about your own calves. They surround you and me.

Is it time to melt down a few?

Simplify. Quiet down.

Find your real God.

She’s waiting.

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.

Trying to Understand You

shoesIn reading Luke this week, I find Jesus’ missing a bigger issue.

Yeah, I know, what chutzpah!

Jesus tells us on the one hand to be humble lest we be embarrassed by being taken down a peg or two if someone more illustrious shows up. And then he pretty much trashes that whole idea, but telling us that, we should avoid the whole patron/client thing of his time, and be really radical and invite only the poor, the forgotten, and the rejected of society to our banquets. God will repay us for that–we repay each other with the former.

Jesus says that we do this because “they can’t repay the debt”–the poor. And so, I assume that means that our largess in giving this big food binge is truly a giving.

Ask anyone who gives of their time at any sort of aid organization. They will tell you that they “receive much more than they give”. This always seems a problem from my point of view. If I am getting more than I give, then I’m getting my debt repaid quite well aren’t I? And it doesn’t matter whether I am getting repaid by all those who see me and think I’m something else for being so giving, or whether I’m getting my reward from God. I’m “buying” something in either case, am I not?

I work at a food pantry once a week for a couple of hours. I work in the back with the food. I notice that when I leave the facility, those who have come there to get food tend to not want to engage with me. They don’t look my way, they often don’t respond to a hello. I don’t engage with them inside the facility because I don’t do “that part”. I know there is a lot of filling out of forms and questions.  I’m sure it’s not pleasant to be questioned like this, all to obtain a few bags of groceries once a month.

The point is, I’m always a bit shocked at this. I’m the benefactor come to help, aren’t I? What’s not to like?

Now, please understand I am not there for that, but I do admit it surprises one when people are sullen, look away, and aren’t beaming with happiness. After all, we are all beaming, smiling, and admiring each other in the back for our willingness to extend a helping hand. Oh, yeah, that’s that “I get more than I give” thing isn’t it? We feed off admiring each other for our goodness. Even the average “random act of kindness” involves SOMEBODY seeing what you did.

And that all just bothers me a lot. I don’t feel that I should take away more than I gave, or even break even.

And I realized that there is really no way around this dilemma, for there are precious few circumstances where one can give meaningfully and be totally anonymous too.

But there is one way we dive deeply into the issue.

And that is to try to immerse ourselves in what it must be like to be the one who “cannot repay the debt.”

Such a journey is fraught with danger. One of the worst things any of us can do is to think or say, “I know how you feel.” The reality is that we can’t. Even when we have “been there, done that” we can’t truly know how anyone else feels in the same circumstances since they come with their own sets of experiences and personality skills that are always going to be different from ours.

But we can try to put ourselves in their shoes. Think of any time when you were utterly in someone else’s hands or worse, you were simply in the hands of “facts” that you couldn’t know yet. Anyone who has waited for the week to transpire to learn the results of a medical test starts to see my point. When did you feel helpless? When you had no control of your immediate future?

Letting those feelings wash over you I suspect gives you a view of at least how it feels to be one of those who stands in long lines to receive something called “free.” Free food, medical care, housing, clothes. A whole statement comes in the bag of food. You are presumed to be lazy, incompetent, a failure in life, or some combination. That may be, and usually is, far, far from the truth. You have made poor decisions probably, but so have all of us. Most of us have had the family safety net to ensure that we didn’t have to go public with our limitations.

When I see a group of men standing around talking as I leave the pantry, I still smile and say hello, but I don’t seek a response now. I don’t wonder why they don’t answer. I just try to imagine how painful it is to need like this. And I can appreciate their desire to be anonymous in their need.

It may not be walking a mile in another’s shoes, for that is not really a possibility, but it is growing in empathy, and it cuts against judging. Those are both good things. It’s the best I can come up with so far.

If We But Understood

Scripture-1I’ve been reading around a lot lately. By that I mean, I’ve been reading a lot of different things from a lot of sources, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist. I seek truth and somehow it’s one of those things that you know it when you see it.

It has made me puzzle a bit about scripture.

We certainly do revere it, and no doubt we should. There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from texts written from times so far ago.

If you begin to delve into how

scripture became such, well, it’s a bit jolting at first. I mean to learn that what we consider scripture today was not always so considered is a bit unnerving. It must be one of those things that fundamentalists avoid thinking about.

In terms of Christianity, scripture was, well, more or less what some group or other said it was. Various “churches” relied on different writings as sacred. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of agreement of course, but on the fringes, there was lots of disagreement. It was nearly four hundred years in before the “canon” was officially set, and of course Protestants today don’t agree about what Catholics call The Apocrypha.

We don’t consider things like the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary Magdala  and a few others “scripture”. We (not us of course, but church elites) have decided this for us, determining that such tracts are from heretical sects “stamped” out by the “true” church.

But all this tends to depend on how you view the bible. If you are that strange thing called a fundamentalist then you believe that the bible is the “word of God”. They mean by that that although humans wrote the bible using their own language and idioms, God made sure that the essential “facts” were all there. In other words, nothing is in the bible that God didn’t want in it and nothing is not in it. Which is all very weird when you think about it.

This means that God made sure that the people who were deciding what was and what was not scripture must have been led by the Spirit to choose just the “right” ones. I mean, after all, there is that Protestant thing about some books not being scripture, so doesn’t that sort of mess up the whole “spirit-guided” theory as to what IS the bible?

I suppose other religious groups faced and dealt with the same problems.

All this, of course, depends on our conclusion (and it is one we surely made), that God said all he had to say about “things” a very long time ago. Because I don’t hear any Magisterium or their Protestant counterparts, sitting around debating any “new” stuff.

This seems to me to be just flat-out wrong.

The bible is a collection of writings, made by almost all  men, and anonymously for the most part. Surely they were inspired to speak of God as they saw him, and as they saw God interacting in his creation. That seems to me a fine definition and an accurate one. Given that they were inspired by God, they gave us wonderful wisdom of the love of God, and His greatness.

But is God no longer interacting with his creation?

If He is, and certainly I can think of no one who would argue otherwise, then is he not inspiring others to write of their understanding of His workings in the world? Surely every theologian and every biblical scholar thinks they are writing truth. Surely this is true of every hymn writer, and every “inspirational” writer.

Are they too scripture?

Well, perhaps not all. Some are in it for the “job” and the money and the power. Some are sadly misguided. Some are deeply immature in their faith. But we all agree, mostly at least, that some people have an ability to lift us to the heavens with their prose or poetry. Some speak so beautifully that we are forced to see God more clearly, more deeply than before. Is this not scripture?

We all can point to those who do this for us. Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Walter Brueggeman perhaps. A Jon Sobrino perhaps? I suppose it might be hard to decide but clearly we can all point to those who speak truth about God and us.

Is this not as beautiful as a psalm?

How Great Thou Art Hymn

Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel he gentle breeze;

Refrain

And when I think that God his son not sparing,
Sent him to die – I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

Refrain

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Is this not scripture, God-breathed and valuable for teaching? (2Tim 3:16)

Inspiring Words Are a Gift to the Heart

eternityI found this really special blog the other day. And today it had this lovely poem.

It was and is powerful stuff.

I hope it inspires you.

To those who withhold refuge,

I cradle you in safety at the core of my Being.

 

To those that cause a child to cry out,

 

I grant you the freedom to express your own choked agony.

 

To those that inflict terror,

 

I remind you that you shine with the purity of a thousand suns.

 

To those who would confine, suppress, or deny,

 

I offer the limitless expanse of the sky.

 

To those who need to cut, slash, or burn,

 

I remind you of the invincibility of Spring.

 

To those who cling and grasp,

 

I promise more abundance than you could ever hold onto.

 

To those who vent their rage on small children,

 

I return to you your deepest innocence.

 

To those who must frighten into submission,

 

I hold you in the bosom of your original mother.

 

To those who cause agony to others,

 

I give the gift of free flowing tears.

 

To those that deny another’s right to be,

 

I remind you that the angels sang in celebration of you on the day of your birth.

 

To those who see only division and separateness,

 

I remind you that a part is born only by bisecting a whole.

 

For those who have forgotten the tender mercy of a mother’s embrace,

 

I send a gentle breeze to caress your brow.

 

To those who still feel somehow incomplete,

 

I offer the perfect sanctity of this very moment.

 

Author unknown
From the blog: Blue-Eyed Ennis

Holy Ground

burningbush-smIt’s been an interesting few days since I last posted here. Nothing to write home about as they say, but, well, interesting remains a good word.

It was odd on Sunday, yet breathtakingly freeing too. No screeching, nails-on-a-blackboard rendition of the Gloria to endure. If you were unaware, it fell victim to the “changes” initiated by the Vatican’s desire to change a few words here and there in the mass, throwing everyone into disarray and confusion. The Gloria, one of the most beautiful songs, has been torn asunder and reworded into phrases that no longer soar, but stumble around in the mouth, and search in vain for a key to lay them across.

And let us not forget the “Creed” now properly “authentic” with its reference to consubstantiality. Yes, those of us who had long said the Creed from memory are now back to flipping pages so that we don’t “screw up”. Nothing of course done with that “for us men, and our salvation” crap. Couldn’t drop the men in that phrase could ya?

I surely did not miss the homily. Our priest was on vacation for the month of July and so we had visiting priests. One gave a dynamite homily, the rest were pretty so-so. No loss there.

I’ve returned to more meditation.

I can’t get the picture from my head of Moses standing in the sand, hearing the voice. “Take off your sandals! You are standing on holy ground.”

I feel like whispering a lot.

I feel like I’m standing on holy ground.

The point is of course, that we are all standing on holy ground all the time. Yet mostly we don’t realize that. I’m just realizing it a lot at the moment. That is a very good thing.

I’m curious about where I am going, but not enough to sit and think about it much. I rather think it will all work out.

I have some desires in that regard.

The more I look around the religious world of my town, the less enthusiastic I become. I have little urge to “get involved”. They all want you to do that you know. They are always introducing themselves and inviting you to coffee after services, and gee, would you like to be a reader? It’s hard to be anonymous. And I had rather grown to like being anonymous. After all, I’m there to visit with the Lord, not to make friends.

Which is not to say that community doesn’t have its place. It does. But I rather think it more belongs in the food pantry and at the Habitat for Humanity work site than it does in the comfort of the Church hall over coffee and donuts. Just my thinking at the moment.

I so enjoy sharing information though, and it would be nice to find a community to discuss ideas. Let’s gather and unpack the liturgy! Let’s read this book and search out its insights. That I miss, or maybe it’s my often wrong but still arrogant belief that others have something to learn from me.

Arrogance and self-importance tend to attend with me at formal “church”. I want to “be” of note. It’s one of the reasons that I came to see my involvement at my previous Episcopal church wrong for me. I flourished in a world that thought like I did, and that caused me to “get involved” in all too many things. My ego supplanted Jesus.

The more we learn about Christ, the more we learn about the bible, the more I guess we are prone to that. I KNOW WHAT HE MEANT! I’ll explain it.

Well, that’s what a blog is all about isn’t it? I will explain it. I know what He meant.

Well, I don’t know what He means for me right now!

I fumble in my humility. But I really like it too.

I’m just a small creature. I’m that ant I look down upon in the desert, scurrying along, seemingly, to me at least, going in no particular direction or for no purpose. I expand his field to encompass even a block and I wonder could that little ant even contemplate how large his world is, even if only expanded to a block in size?

That’s me.

I’m just freaked out by how big God is, and how little I am, and how presumptuous I can be, and how He loves me anyway, and probably shakes his head with a wry smile on his “lips”.

I’m playing “church” for one. Just me and God. And God is setting out my altar every morning in shades of pink and red and spurts of white light coming over the mountains, and I plod along on this Holy earth, avoiding the mud holes left by last nights rain. Diego gallops along following his nose.

He’s the smarter of us two. He just does dog easily and without any thinking. I don’t do human nearly as well. But I’m paying attention now. And perhaps that’s all I’m supposed to do right now.

 

 

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