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.

 

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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.

And What of Love?

anewI’ve been thinking a lot about Abraham lately.

Specifically the story of Abraham and Isaac. More specifically, about Abraham’s call by God to sacrifice Isaac. The so-called “test.”

I’m as bothered by this as I am about God inflicting Job with all his woes as the object of a wager with Satan.

This is not my God, this God who uses and abuses his very own.

It is one of the reasons why any rational person should rebel at the demand that scripture be taken literally. For the God portrayed in these examples is not a God to love or worship. It is only a God to be ignored at one’s peril.

But of course, most of us aren’t literalists. We see that scripture is the reflection of those who came before us on how they came to recognize and live with this transcendent God. How they came to see their relationship to this all-powerful deity. How they came to enter into the grace of faith and understanding.

As is so often the case with scripture, because surely it is divinely inspired, scripture often informs scripture. We find answers to the deeply agonizing questions offered up by one text in another.

Such is the case today, at least for me. Today John tells us that in those final hours in the life of the Master, he said some amazing things. Among them, he issued his own commandment, a “new” one as he said.

love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Go back to the story of Abraham and Isaac. Think about it from the point of view of today. Your neighbor comes to you, a pious woman, one who you know goes to church regularly. You see a worn bible next to her favorite chair in her living room when you visit. She often makes reference to biblical passages in your conversations. She is known for her commitment to acts of charity.  She says to you:

“God spoke to me last night. It was the clearest thing you can imagine. He told me that he wants me to take my dearest child, my youngest, and offer her as a sacrifice to him. Please say goodbye to my darling girl, for you will see her no more.”

What would you do? Well, quite obviously, you would either alert the woman’s husband or call the authorities. In any case, you would do all you could to prevent her from this act. If you learned of the act after it had been done, you would expect the woman to be taken into custody and either held for treatment or otherwise confined. Many would of course dispute her “vision” and claim her either mad or a murderer.

That would be the sane response.

Yet we read the story of Abraham and Isaac as if it all makes perfect sense. In the story, Abraham, known to love Isaac as his long-awaited son by Sarah, makes not a single objection. He offers no mental reservation, no agony of decision whatsoever. Is this even normal?

Of course it is not. And the story is just that, a story. God does not and would not ask such a thing of his creatures. The story illustrates in some crude fashion, how important it is to put God first in one’s life. It suggests that God means more than anything else. God’s desires come first. And it is crude, let’s be clear.

As is often the case with a teaching moment, we go way over the top to make a point. This the writer did. If you think you know what loving God means, well let me tell you what it REALLY means, the writer suggests. It’s hyperbole in its extreme form.

God would never ask such a thing. No rational person would do such a thing. It it meant to instruct us on what it means to love God, and of course to show us how very very short of the mark we really are. We cannot comprehend even how to love God like this.

Yet, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus shows us exactly and perfectly how to love God. He simplifies it for us. Love your neighbor as I have loved you.

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.

Jesus, in his time with his disciples has shown them again and again the meaning of love. This willingness to think of others first, this willingness to get up when tired, and offer help, this willingness to bear the condemnation of others for the “company you keep”. Jesus showed his disciples that to lead, indeed to love, meant being last, being the servant, making sure that each and every person one encountered was brought into wholeness. Jesus was about to show them ultimately that life itself was worth sacrificing for a principle–not someone else’s life, but his own.

The principle of course was that being true to God in one’s heart, and living that out no matter what the personal sacrifice might entail was the way to bring heaven and earth into an embrace. Jesus answers the dilemma we face in the gruesome story of Abraham and his efforts to commit infanticide.  He shows us what the love that the ancient writer was attempting to define actually is in real and practical terms.

Scripture informs scripture, and forever teaches us that the stories are just that, stories which help us jump into the cloudy waters of our minds, to yet peel away another layer of darkness on the journey to the light.

Amen.

Where Fear Treads

palm_sunday02Have you ever noticed how much fear dominates the final scenes of Jesus’ life? And how the Lord responds to it Himself? It’s quite an object lesson.

We start with the processional into Jerusalem. The people come out in droves, lining the street as he passes, waving palms and placing cloaks across the crude roadway in honor of the great Rabbi that some perhaps have heard preach, and many others by word of mouth have heard of.

The welcome him to Jerusalem. Something exciting seems afoot here.

At the Passover Supper, Jesus tries to explain what is to come. He makes a special point of emphasizing to them how they should remember him.

He disappoints his disciples by telling them they shall not be great lords and masters in the coming kingdom but lowly servants, a thought that distresses and confuses them further. Peter assures the Lord that he is up to the task, he will willingly die for Jesus.

Judas, apparently so overwhelmed by how Jesus is not what he has suspected, fears that all has been for naught, and goes off to betray the very man he has followed for so long. His fear overcomes him, and he reckons his life worth a few pieces of silver. His fear has won.

When they come to arrest Jesus, one of his followers strikes out in anger and fear. He gains a rebuke from Jesus, and an instant healing of the damage done by the sword.

Peter in terror, of course denies the Lord, his fear overcoming him completely. All the other apostles hide in fear.

Arguably the enter proceedings before the Sanhedrin is an illustration of fear, fear of the unknown and fear that this man, this Jesus makes too much sense and is a danger to their authority, but also to their sense of how things should be. If you have lived your life in God a certain way, is it not petrifying to entertain the thought that you have judged things wrong all those years?

Perhaps because they are powerful men with authority, neither Pilate nor Herod seem fearful of Christ. They question him carefully, and find him without criminal intent or plan. Yet the Jewish council continues to demand his death, and having aroused the crowds, they take up the chant, “Crucify HIM.”

For now fear has entered the population in general, and those who formerly welcomed Jesus with palms and obeisance, have been converted into an unruly mob that is operating from fear. This one they welcomed has been arrested! His followers are in denial or hiding. Will they be arrested as well for seeming to welcome this now “so-called” Messiah? They are offered his release, but their fear condemns them to call for the release of Barabbas. Barabbas seems the safer of the two to them.  Call for the pardon of Jesus, and they too may find themselves in chains.

Jesus is paraded through the streets and people watch. They follow silently to Golgotha, where the crucifixion takes place. AND THE PEOPLE STOOD BY AND WATCHED.

And he died, and the curtain in the temple was rent, and the sun was eclipsed, and these same watchers now beat their breasts in lament. Fear now renewed.

Jesus throughout is the model of courage. He shows us how to behave in the face of terror, for certainly what lay before him as he entered Jerusalem was clear and frightful. He prayed to God that he be released from what lay ahead, but acknowledged that he was prepared to do as God wished, not as he might.

He stood in the face of unbelief and affront without blinking, without trembling, without fear. He answered calmly and then became silent for he knew that nothing he could say would change the outcome. It was his destiny and always had been. He bore his pain silently, and even on the cross cared more about others than himself.

Fear is the enemy. It always has been. Evil entered this world when the first human acted out of fear and denied help to his brother, but thought first of himself. “I have enough for me, but not for both of us” and he turned his hand against his brother and sent him away to death in order to save his own.

Fear has been our companion throughout human existence. Fear drives us to make decisions that appear right, but are usually not. It causes us to forsake exactly what we have claimed. Peter is the seminal example of what fear does to even the best of us. It is an object lesson.

No matter what the situation, we must turn away from fear and enter into the light that is Jesus. Bathed in that glowing presence, we can breathe freely, think clearly, and make the choice that God would always have us make–the choice that brings forth the kingdom in glory and love.

It is time to enter Jerusalem. It is time to face our fears. It is time to grasp the hand of our Lord, take a breath, and renew ourselves in the loving embrace of our God.

Amen.

All We Need is Love

The Beatles - All You Need Is LoveToday we hear the great Pauline statement of love, sometimes called the wedding reading. Although I don’t understand the Beatles to be great spokesmen for formalized religion, they certainly got the message.

Paul, (the saint I mean!) makes it most clear, that above all things love is the key. It is the key to God, it is the very definition and essence of God.

Let us read the words again, and let them sink in:

If I

speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

We are told through the media what love is. It is tied up in sexual yearning and romance. It is surrounded by diamonds and roses and get-away vacations to tropical destinations. It is emotions brought to the boil. It makes one “weak in the knees” and unable to eat, unable to focus on work or daily concerns. We worry about it, we obsess about it. We pick apart every conversation, every word searching for hidden means. We rejoice when the phone rings and we despair when it doesn’t. This is what the media tells us.

But Paul tells us something quite different. He explains what real love is. It is patient, kind, not rude, not jealous. It forgives easily, wishes only the best for the other, rejoices in the others victories and suffers with failings. It is based in faith, hope, and trust. It is an eternal thing.

But Paul is not seeking to explain to us how we are to love each other, even though that is part of it. He is explaining what GOD is. He is telling us that this is what God is to us as beloved. This is what we must be to God.

Yet, it is how we are to be with one another. It is to permeate our very being and form our foundation for being in the world.

Why is this?

Paul explains that we are mere mortals, and given our humanness, we cannot see the true reality of existence or of God. We see as if through a glass darkly as he points out. St. Augustine remarked that most all we think we know about God is in all likelihood wrong.

If this is so, then why do we bother? Why do we bother to try to know God and why do we try to do  what we believe he would have us do? We are doomed to failure it seems.

Paul admits that our prophesies will come to nothing and our knowledge will fail, so why the attempt?

It is because with the love which is inborn within each of us, we have a chance. Not to understand perfectly for Paul is correct, that can never be in this life. But love guides us to make the better decisions most of the time. We will not always choose as the Spirit would have us do, for we are willful humans with pesky human desires that sometimes overrides the still small voice within.

But if we cultivate love in our lives as our singular goal, we will most surely choose as God would have us more than not. This will enable us to speak truth, and to use our gifts for the betterment of all, and for the glory of God. Love ever before us, brings us to right thoughts, and right action.

Amen.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

The answer to that question determines a lot doesn’t it?

We are all familiar with the words of Mark 8: 27, and we know the answer that Peter Simon gave, “You are the Christ.”

Yet, if we talk to people of faith, surely we will get many varied pictures of exactly who this Christ is.

To some he is the suffering atonement that gains our place in heaven.

To others he is the radical street politician who turns the world and its assumptions on its ear and presents us with a new way to see each other.

To some he is brother, best friend, constant companion, always available in our times of need to comfort us, reminding us of God’s eternal love.

He is no doubt all these things, and much more. Our answer to the question though dictates I would argue much about ourselves and what we are prepared to DO in His name.

I have been digesting something I read last week, well, ever since I read it. It went something like this:

“Do you really think that God will think better of those who are less welcoming than those who are too welcoming?”

In other words, some tell us we are too tolerant of things and people they consider acting or being in ways that they define as not Godly. So they reject them or their ideas. Not obviously of course; they use the Christian safety valve–“I hate the sin, NOT the sinner!”, they smartly remark. But of course, it looks the same, feels the same, and results in the same–rejection.

And you can’t say that we weren’t warned. When Peter finds Jesus’ teaching about suffering unacceptable to happen to God’s Son, Jesus explains:

” You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings think!”

So we know that God doesn’t think as we do. There are many examples of this of course through out the scriptures where God acts in ways that confound us and are so very different that what we would expect. Yet somehow, many of us seem to think that somehow we have “cracked the code” as it were. We feel competent to speak for God on issues not mentioned in the bible at all, or if they are, in ways that are so different to the situation of today as to be dangerous to apply.

Since we are woefully inadequate in much of our understanding of the culture of those times, we should be dubious in applying rules and “laws” designed to deal with very specific problems of the day. This has been proven again and again as it relates to Paul’s letters which are unarguably often addressed to A faith community, and one that is suffering specific problems, not all of which we are necessarily aware of. Paul’s statements must be taken with the proverbial “grain of salt” when they relate to human-created social relationships. After all, Paul seemed rather certain that most of his flock would live to see the returned Christ. What else might he have been in error about?

In any case, we seem to be on solid firm ground when we adhere to the actual teachings of Christ, and they the teachings,  universally point that God thinks about love first and foremost. What grows love, what spreads love, what enhances and purifies love? When we are unsure about how to respond to some new or  even old social arrangement or thinking, we should place it up against the standard of love.

Does it further it or deny it? Does it bring all peoples in closer communion or divide us?

Would it be a good thing for God to spread his love through only one vehicle, or would it be helpful to reach out to disparate peoples in disparate lands and cultures and use those things that were normative to their environment to grow his loving human family?

Who are you? Are you a follower of love?

Amen.

God Invites

One of many great lessons I learned in the Episcopal Church has to do with the table of the Lord. Again and again, the priest intoned, “it is the Lord who calls us to the table, not the church.” My own church would do well to heed this advice.

Sadly of course, we know that so far it has not. It continues to pick and choose, based on often flimsy biblical evidence, who may approach the communion table. And the scriptures today, do point to this fallacy it seems to me.

In Ezekiel 17: 22-24, God speaks through the prophet:

I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.

Now I would be the first to tell you that exegetically speaking, this passage probably has nothing at all to do with Jesus. Just as assuredly, all Christians look to the Hebrew Scriptures as speaking to the coming of Christ. So in the passage above, the tender shoot is Jesus, who will put forth his Church, bearing branches and fruit. Note that it further says, “birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, . . .” Now this may in fact be stretching a point, but I don’t think it unfair to suggest that the passage doesn’t limit those who will find a home there to only some chosen group or groups.

While there is no direct statement in Ezekiel, we are further advised in 2 Corinthians, that we, as believers, “walk by faith, not by sight.” In other words, we as followers in Jesus must do our best to understand his teachings and then live by them, trusting in faith that God, through the great Spirit of Wisdom will guide us aright.

Of even more importance, we must recognize that as members of the body, we are all individually responsible for living up to our baptismal promises. We cannot, much as we might like, rely on the Church to advise us on what is good and proper. Paul tells us:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor. 5: 6-10)

Surely we must always give due respect to the official teaching of the Church, and we must do everything in our power to understand and reconcile our own beliefs with those of the Church. But in the end, it is our own conscience which must lead us forth, and we cannot stand behind the curtain of the Church on judgment day, however you might define that for yourself. We are each solely responsible for our living up to our promises to do good.

It is always a bit amusing to me how the more conservative members of the Christian community tend to rely most heavily on Saint Paul to the exclusion often times of Jesus himself.

Jesus was noted, throughout his entire ministry for inclusion rather than exclusion. He went out of his way to point this out, in the people he ate with and in the people he healed. Many of his “friends” were scandalous. They were non-Jews, gentiles and Samaritans, unclean persons, tax collectors, and all manner of reprobates. And he treated them all with the same welcome. He healed, he broke bread, he spoke with them.

He at no time ever advised his followers to reject anyone as unworthy.

Yet the Church does.

Is our Lord powerful enough to deny his presence to any of us if he deems us unworthy to meet him at the table?

If so, then it would seem prudent to allow him to make his own choices. The Church should in every way, welcome, soothe, and minister to the all God’s people.

But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mk 4:26-34)

Amen.

Let There Be Light

We take light for granted. It is but a flick of the switch away.

But it was not the case for much of human history.

No, life was ruled for much of its existence by the natural movement from daylight to darkness.

Darkness was not evil, but it could be frightening. Darkness emboldened those carnivores that hunted by night, surprising their prey when it was too late to escape.

Fire was safety. It was warmth. And it was, believe it or not, a mechanism by which truth could be deciphered. How else the gauge the truth-telling of a speaker than to be able to see his face. How do his eyes react? Does his temple throb? Does his face twitch?

I don’t mean to make a great deal of this, but certainly we began to see light as having relationship to truth, a reality that is made clear to us in the Johannine passage for today: Jn 3:14-21.

that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

There can be no doubt as to the truth of this passage, yet, it is not universally the case is it? Those who still retain the now archaic means of producing photographs do so in a dark room. Light spoils the results. And surely the early Christians were often forced to the catacombs and other recesses to practice this new faith, done in the darkness away from the authorities who would arrest them.

Yet, the claim rings true. Jesus is the light.

Light is clean, bright, pure. It opens our vistas to broader seeing. It offers us the opportunity to move without groping and stumbling.

God is Light.

This Light, burns away, burnishes our very being.

And it is a gift freely given.

After all that Israel had done, God returns them to the land of Judah.

After all that Israel has done, indeed the world, God sends his Son.

All to remind us that we are Loved.

All to remind us that we are Forgiven.

All to remind us that we are called to the Light.

Called to be the Light.

All of us.

While no doubt most Christians would insist that John tells us most clearly that we can only share in God through believe and confession of the Son, I think it reads much more broadly.

Jesus is God among us. Jesus is Light. God is Light.

Believe in the Light, the utterly free offering of God to love you for no reason than that God created thee. Believe in that. Believe that all things may be proven false in the world, but never that.

The Love of God is for all, forever.

We need but say yes. We need but to step into the Light, to merge with the Light, to Live Light.

It is all one beautiful whole inclusive dance of light.

Come join in the dance of Grace.

 

Waffles Anyone?

Have you ever made waffles? No I don’t mean open the freezer and pop a couple of frozen discs into the toaster. I mean make up a batter and heat up the waffle iron. Real waffles, the kind your mother used to make?

One has to learn the art of waffling. It’s not the batter, any good cookbook will give you the simple recipe. No, the art is in the pouring. Too little and the waffle is deformed with incomplete edges. Too much, and batter drips out of the iron and makes an awful mess.

Just right? Ahh, now that is a thing to behold. You learn by doing. Pouring and then watching as the batter oozes and slides around the patterned nubs. When you have the right amount, it runs slowly like lava until it has covered the entire grid. Close the lid, and wait until it’s golden and you have perfection.

Today’s readings remind me of waffles.

Jesus relates a number of parables all of which have a common theme: that the Word infiltrates throughout the world.

The good seed grows up among the weeds and at harvest can be separated. The mustard seed grows, it fills out into branches and twigs and becomes a wonderful full shrub that can support and care for those who nest within its intricate structure. The yeast permeates the entire dough, leavening it all over time.

We learn that if we live as vital members of the Kingdom, we too permeate all of creation and leaven it for good.  Some of our “good works”, our “good neighborly” voice rubs off on those around us. Or as the Buddhist might say, good karma draws good karma.

We look at the world around us and there is little to be happy about. Governments worldwide fail miserably to serve their people. Our misbegotten practices, designed to satisfy our own greed has seemingly turned Mother Nature against us. People argue and war against each other over real or imagined wrongs, greed, fear, and other negative emotions. It is easy to believe that we are “going to hell in a handbasket” as the old saying suggests.

These parables give us comfort in remembering that that is not so. In the Hebrew Testament from Wisdom, we are reminded that God is always just, and when we emulate that justice, that mercy, and that forgiveness, we are most like God and we can be assured that we are seeping into the cracks of a broken world, working the magic that is love. We are joining together, uniting a fractured community and binding it together. We knit a network that provides hope and security to a frightened people.

Paul reminds us in Romans that we do not act alone, but that the Spirit of God is ever with us, perfecting our words and actions so that they are more than the woeful efforts of our individual desire. The Spirit residing within makes our words more loving, more gentle, more powerful. We reap a greater harvest than we perhaps can be aware of. We remember to trust that our meagre efforts will yield a hundredfold.

We are not alone as souls lost among the evil of our times. We are lighthouses providing the guiding light that calls home the frightened and tired sailor. We form an interconnected network that upholds and uplifts humanity to an ever-growing awareness of God’s center in us all. We are a thread in the tapestry that creates the perfection that really underlies all the mud we seem mired in.

Or we can be. If we remember.

Amen.

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8: 26-27
Matthew 13: 24-33

 

No Prophet Comes from Galilee

With that, the Pharisees and scribes,  gave their opinion on the upstart preacher known as Jesus. “This rabble knows nothing about the Law–they are damned.”

We tend to shake our heads. Clearly we think, Jesus was the Messiah, one of greater import than any could have suspected. Yet, before we move on, secure in our prideful “understanding” we must remember one thing.

In Jesus’ time, these Pharisees were the learned men of their time. They examined Torah in excruciating detail and followed the Law as they believed, in all its detail.

And in their “knowledge” they failed to see the truth of Jesus. When people said, “there has never been anybody who has spoken like him,” they took this as a sign that the man was a lunatic, a dangerous and disruptive influence.

Am I suggesting that we should ignore our theologians and exegetes and rely on our own understanding based on our own interpretation?  Hardly. Theologians and biblical scholars are most valuable people. Their contribution to our overall understanding of the meaning of scripture has been over the ages, incalculable.

But I am suggesting that there is more to faith than “book learning.” It is easy enough to become trapped in constant reading of new books which dissect every word of Mark or John, or one of Paul’s  letters. It is easy enough to feel superior in understanding because of this. It is so very easy.

But if we are to truly walk the path of Jesus, than we must do more than become scholars in the various hermeneutics techniques. For Jesus made it quite clear than the Pharisees were getting it wrong precisely because of their devotion to the particulars. They were missing the big picture, the overarching, the general.

Love God and love neighbor Jesus said. He said that summed up everything. He said he had not come to abolish the Law, rather he came to fulfill it. Not “one iota” of the Law would be lost. The seeming paradox is apparent, yet when we think deeply we discover no paradox at all. By loving God and neighbor, by probing the depths of love, we automatically do all those things that the Law would have us do. 

We discover a higher level of consciousness, one that allows us to share in the Godhead. Once attained, all the Law becomes obvious, without all the rules and petty regulations. We love in its fullest sense, and thus we do what is right at every turn, without reference to any list.

We can then see who is the prophet and who is not, simply by whether their message conforms to unitive living or not. We are no longer held hostage by rules of where the prophet might arise. WE have a new way of seeing, a new way of listening.  We may find the prophet at the next bus stop.

Amen.

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