God is a Verb!

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God is Real. God is a Haunting Presence – an authentic, dynamic force that transforms my inner world by calling me forth to change the world out there (or, at least, to challenge wherever true life is subverted, debased, constricted, corrupted, sabotaged, suppressed, undermined, confounded, marginalized, and / or silenced).

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God is not a noun that demands to be defined —

supreme being

omnipotent

omniscient

omnipresent

God does not exist

 is not a “being”

 cannot intervene

 is not an excuse

 nor a magician

God is a verb that invites us

to live

to love

to be

God insists, calls, nudges

nags, entices, challenges

confronts, jogs, badgers

torments, needles, pester

besets

The insistence exists

it may come as an unheard inner voice

but it comes, it is real

the calling persists

it may only be a nagging nudge

but it calls, it is real

the invitation entices

it may be beyond observation

but it invites, it is real

the challenge confronts

it may only an internal wrestling

but it challenges, it is real

God is the name we attach

to that which is    godly

divine

mysterious

wholesome

good

to the     insistence

calling

invitation

challenge

which moves us  beyond ourselves toward others

to care for orphans and widows

to show hospitality to strangers

to care for the poor

to seek out the least, last, lost, left out

to find solidarity with the marginalized

draws out     abundant life

compassionate watchfulness

persistent presence

God does not exist and yet for me…

 

God is the name we give to that which results from the insistence, the calling, the invitation, the challenge. God is the name we give to the  courage to be, to demand better, to resist empire through insurrection rather than violence or revolution, to meet power with love, and to rejoice greatly!

Speaking Truth to Power

Hand Symbol

Institutions (governmental, political, social, religious, financial, etc.) demand compliance. Compliance is their definition of “truth.” To speak truth to power sometimes means refusing to speak (that is, refusing compliance). When the institutions of Empire (the Domination System) experience resistance, they turn to violence. Yeshua showed another way, the way of nonviolent resistence. The question that each one of us must face is “Will we follow Empire or Yeshua?

Mark 15:2-5, 15, 34          2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. …  15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified… 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice,  “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”  which means,  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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Mark 15:2-5, 15, 34

The story is so familiar.
so romanticized,
so admixed with
the accounts by Matthew, Luke, and John
and the preaching of 20 century
that it is difficult
to separate fact from fiction
to appreciate the mythology
of the ubiquitous venture…

A man standing by and with the poor
over against the ruling powers
of government and the religious establishment
unwilling to mount a defense
where no defense will matter.

So he stands silent
and is found guilty.

He is found guilty
of speaking truth to power,
of sedition,
of ‘pissing off’ the establishment.

No wonder he had to die on behalf of us all
for we, too, stand outside the halls of power.

It seems strange for a Teaching Elder
who has served as a church bureaucrat
to be on the outside…
disempowered,
emasculated,
debilitated,
incapacitated.

I was trained to lead a dying church,
educated in the ways that ‘used to be,’
taught to preach with eloquence
but not with truth.

Like a lamb I followed with little direction
in the path of least resistance.

So, what has happened to make a difference now
to loose the fetters
and open my mouth?

Why am I now willing
to be radical
in my thinking,
if not in my actions?

I have found a new language that has given me my voice
a new framework for old ideas
that has given me my thoughts.

I have deepened my friendship
with a soul brother
who has walked with me
through deepest darkness.

I have found light in the darkness
life in the midst of smoldering death;

I have found a Way*
and one who brings the messianic into the midst of daily life
abundant life into the midst of the ordinary
one who stood with the marginalized
one who stood with me and for me.

The Way* I found (or did it find me?)
has not changed the world but it has
changed me
transformed me
deconstructed and rebuilt me
with voice and intellect
with sentence and reason.

Is that enough?

Am I willing and able
to convey a coherent word
to speak truth to power,
to lay it on the line for those shackled
by the institutions of power and repression?

Am I willing to speak a truth…
am I willing to speak…
am I willing…
Am I?

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
thank you, God, for forsaking me
for leaving me with responsibility for myself
and respond-ability with others.

Now, as an adult,
it is time really to hear it
insisting, calling, inviting, nudging…

__________________________________________

I am Barabbas
imprisoned with the rebels
voice-less and
mind-less…
even worse  —
a voice that babbled
a mind that speculated
old worn-out and withered truths.

Little did I know
 that seminary was the processing center
for the prison called “the religious establishment”
that I was formed to be a long robe
spouting “eternal truths”
that led people into captivity
and not freedom, not abundant life!

Maybe being on a cross in the presence of Yeshua*
is the one freeing action that leads to abundant living…
abundance that cannot be lived alone (released)
but must be shared with others on crosses.

When God is Wrong!

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Information in the wrong hands is bad. Knowledge in the wrong hands is evil. Wisdom knows which hands can hold it.

Genesis 3:3-5        3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons A collection of Gerd Leonhard’s key messages: what the immediate future hold for us?” by Gerd Leonhard is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

In Dialogue with Genesis 3:3-5

Sometimes that which comes in the name of God (perhaps*) makes demands contrary to our nature. “Don’t seek knowledge. Don’t be wise about matters of value and morality. Don’t resist power.” These injunctions seem to be more the currency of empire (the Domination System*) rather than the insistences that come in the name of God. Perhaps*. To attempt to live in conformity with these admonitions robs us of our humanity* and puts us in touch with treacherousness and evil, even making God a participant in that evil.

Resisting the treacherous and insidious is an eye-opening experience that exposes us, making us aware of how naked we are in the face of the powerful. Such exposure opens us to the possibility of our own deceit and the willingness to ‘throw under the bus’ those we care about (“She made me do it.”) in order to absolve ourselves of responsibility. Responsibility, however, is what makes us human*. Responsibility is what calls us to make decisions about the direction of our lives. Responsibility is what opens the window on the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice.

If you hear God commanding, run in the opposite direction. Such ultimatums are seductive appeals that serve as recruiting ads for the Westboro Baptist Church and its ilk. Instead of such blatant edicts, pay attention to that still, small voice that speaks within the depths of your being, calling you to personal responsibility for yourself and for the poor, distressed, suffering, and marginalized of the world. It is your choice in response to the question, “What have you done?”: Empire* or Commonwealth*.

Tune in or Tune Out?

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The Bible calls them false prophets and diviners. Today we call them liars. And yet, even when we know they are lying, we give them the center of attention. “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” (Adolph Hitler — and certainly epitomized the truth behind the “big lie.”)

Jeremiah 29:8-14       8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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Musing with Jeremiah 29:8-14

This is the insistence* that comes in the name of the God of Israel: don’t pay attention to those who claim to have it directly from the mouth of God. They are charlatans, deceivers of the worst kind. Don’t pay attention to their scheming dreams. They are simply having nightmares. God’s calling is quite different. Yes, you may have to endure a time of alienation from that which you desire in the name of God. Perhaps. But stick with what you know to be God’s genuine calling. That calling is an invitation into the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice, an invitation to be fully Human*, which is the only true hope for the future. When you respond to that insistent beckoning, you will be living in concert with all that can be truly identified with the name of God. Perhaps*. When that is what you desire, you will find it at every turn and in every person you encounter. Instead of searching for God, know that will have become present through your very actions. Search instead, for the truly Human*. That is God’s insistence / calling for each of us. Exile and alienation are the direct result of abandoning the insistence* that comes in the name of God. Perhaps*. To be restored to your full Humanity*, to citizenship in the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice, simply requires that you listen to that unheard calling that resonates within you and respond in the name of God by attending to the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in your midst. Invite them into your life and you will experience, through them, the presence of grace, mercy, and peace in the name of God. Perhaps. Then you will know that your exile and alienation are over.

Pogo Was Right

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Treaties, internatioal accords, political negotiations depend on war and/or the threat of way, while toying with the illusions of peace. Is it true that peace can only happen when generated by peaceable folk like you and me?

Isaiah 62:6-12          6 Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest, 7 and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth. 8 The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the  wine for which you have labored; 9 but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy court. 10 Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. 11 The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, “See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” 12 They shall be called, “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord”; and you shall be called, “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Dalai Lama Peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace” by BK is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Dialoguing with Isaiah 62:6-12

Jerusalem — foundation for peace…

divided city

Jews

Arabs

Christians

Armenians

bone of contention on the world scene

for centuries

Would that world history could pause

political debate cease

with citizens committed to peace

coming together to plan

a peaceable future

grounded in a peaceable now.

The problem is not Jerusalem

As the great 20th century philosopher

Pogo, reminded us

“We have met the enemy

and he is us.”

Because we are divided within,

unwilling to acknowledge our shadow

projecting our inner fears

outward onto others

because we have not brought

peace into ourselves

because we choose

violence as a way to

resolve critical issues

because we value winning

more than

integrity or

justice…

we are not at peace

within ourselves

with others or

among the nations of the world

Isaiah’s vision of peace

is not about unity

among the nations of the world;

instead the prophet

invites, calls, nudges, insists

the people to an inner spirit

of holiness

of justice

of vision

of peace

God’s people will be

‘the city not forsaken’

the locus of peace

NO! not the contentiousness

of belligerent religious groups

jockeying for position

in the midst of a society

which has no favor to give them…

NO! not the endless theo-political debates

about abortion

gay rights

science

climate change

prosperity gospel

The city not forsaken,

the foundation of peace

will be anywhere

the homeless are given shelter

the hungry are fed

the marginalized are given the freedom

to invent their futures

the poor are given a just chance

all people are engaged according to their true capacity

rather than the bias of the powerful.

A pipe dream?

A fanciful dream?

The rantings of a lunatic?

Perhaps!

But, perchance

… maybe the deepest desire of humankind

… for all one knows, a potentiality waiting

for a tipping point

… conceivably the foundational design of the creation, God willing,

an embryonic and evolving dynamic

in the hearts and minds

  of world leaders and

common folk like you and me.

Finding Jesus Hidden in the Gospels (meeting Jesus again, AGAIN for the first time

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I have been haunted by a messianic* specter — a presence would not let me go… spooked by effete and bankrupt theologies, doctrines, and dogmas that have accrued to the legend / mythology of the one called Jesus Christ…  The supernatural phantom parading as Wonder Worker, Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild, Jeee-zus!, Personal Savior, God, … has not worked for me. And yet I keep seeking… looking…  hoping…  And in my search that messianic specter keeps rising up within, energizing me and drawing me out, as if wanting me to release it from its prison. John Caputo might call that messianic* specter an insistence in the name of God. Perhaps. Whatever it is called, ‘it spooks!’

Caputo (along with Peter Rollins and others) has loosened the soil around the root system of my Self, allowing movement and flexibility as it works to integrate my consciousness with my unconscious — the light and dark within. Even so, he did not get to the heart of the matter — breathing life into the corpse of Yeshua that has been moldering in the church. That fresh breath has issued forth from Elizabeth Boyden Howes’ Jesus’ Answer to God. Rather than focus on the exterior dynamics of Jesus’ answer to humanity, Howes reading of the gospel accounts (flavored by her training as a Jungian analyst) hones in on the interior journey and struggles faced by Yeshua*. Her reading is cogent and compelling. Yeshua* is continually at work confronting, transforming, and integrating the darkness within — a “continual operative dialogue between himself and God moving to more consciousness.” This inner dialogue and transformation is the germinal messianic moving toward birth. That messianic* enterprise (or God process) is not the private property of Yeshua*. His message is that it is available to all of us. He is a catalyst, not the chemist. His presence (physical or metaphoric) energizes those with whom he comes into contact. His is a transformative presence.

The first six chapters of Jesus’ Answer to God lay the foundation, walking us through Yeshua’s* baptism and wilderness experience, his dealing with the traditions of Israel within which he lived, his understanding of forgiveness and the Kingdom of God, his role as healing symbol (rather than Healer), and his self-understanding of his role vis-a-vis the messianic expectations of Israel. So much of Howes’ offering was eye-opening and breath-taking. As I read through chapter seven (Yeshua’s* choosing to go to Jerusalem) it all seemed to fall into place. Yeshua* distanced himself from Israel’s expectations of a Messiah, replacing that archetype with the Son of Man* — “a special indwelling quality of judgment for actions” which is inherent in the inner dialogue between a person and God. Yeshua* is the all-inclusive one who reminds us that we must “sell all” for the sake of the kingdom.

The image of Yeshua* that inhabits Howes’ book is that of a growing, transforming human being who is passionate for finding God within and, through enduring interior dialogue, to engage others in a like transformation that is the essence of the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice.

Beneath the Messiah Mask,

underneath the Savior Screen,

behind the Christ Cloud…

lies a real human being —

Yeshua*…

a poignant

passionate

persistent

Human Being*

who is grounded in the divine

open to the mystery

a symbol for healing, and

a catalyst for the messianic.

AND Yeshua*

grounds me in the divine

opens me to the mystery

is a symbol for my healing

catalyzes my messianism*

is the God-process* for me

opening me to the necessity

and possibility of integrating

my light and darkness

the good and bad in me.

I have been ambivalent toward Yeshua*…

uncomfortable with the Jeee-zus CHRIST

This animated image proclaimed by most Christians —

Savior who took my place

Messiah who fulfilled the hopes of Israel

Christ who is God incarnate

Son of God who knows all

That Yeshua* seemed unreal

lifeless

inert

incapable of bringing life

of inspiring transformation

of stirring deep passions.

That Yeshua* is actually

a figment of the imagination of the church

throughout the years…

theological reflection, doctrine, dogma

based on a biased reading of scripture

finding what the church wanted to find

missing the real, live human being

that was Yeshua*.

This animated, determined, striking individual

confronted and confounded

the religious and political leaders of his day

just as he

confronts and confounds

the religious and political leaders of our day…

though not many sense

the confrontation and confounding

instead, wanting to recast Yeshua*

in their own image.

A Wonder-Worker is more palatable

than a prophet who

dares speak truth to power

challenges the long robes of institutional religion

sides with the poor and

opposes anyone, any system, any  institution

which restricts the freedom to make informed decisions.

The Yeshua* I want to follow is

more a rebel

than a follower of the status quo

more a teacher

than a despot

more a prophet who understands messianism*as compassionate love moving toward all-inclusive justice

than a Messiah who will lead people away from this life

into a heavenly dwelling place

where the cares of this world are unimportant.

Strangely enough this latter view

seems to be the underlying picture of the Gospels

Yeshua* began to hear a deep, passionate call

at his baptism,

began to shape that call

as he experienced an inner conversation

in which he said “No! to the various imagesof Messiah which seemed to be part of Israel’s DNA.

Yeshua* came to understand through his own experience

that God was not some heavenly adductor

waiting around to punish / reward people

for immorality, on one hand,

or respectability, on the other.

Instead, God was to be experienced as an unheard inner voice

insisting on love, peace, justice, and wholeness

in human affairs…

the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice

was to be encountered first inwardly

then outwardly as an expression of

the depth of human community and cooperation.

To follow in Yeshua’s* Way means

that I am finding ways to integrate the darkness

that lies deep within me

with the light in me

that I try to show to everyone

To follow in Yeshua’s* Way means

not putting off life until I get to heaven

but investing myself deeply in the NOW

(in the meantime).

To follow in Yeshua’s* Way means

living fully now

laughing

crying

experimenting

loving

forgiving

seeking justice

being all-inclusive

The present moment —

in the meantime —

is the time we have,

God-given time,

the day of salvation.

The present moment is the time to

be present

listen for the insistence

respond to call

accept the invitation

reach out to others

be myself.

Following in the Way of Yeshua*

 

the present moment is the time

to be a real human being —

darkness and light

good and bad

forthright and deceitful

proud and shameful

integrated beyond the duality

whole and wholesome

to be a living, breathing

third way.

Does this require some readjustments in me?

Most assuredly,

even though, I scarcely know

what this needed adjustments are.

I will blunder ahead,

as I have these 75 years —

sometimes insightful

sometimes blind to myself

sometimes on target

sometimes amiss —

and always listening for

that unheard inner voice

which begins again

that child-like conversation

with my “friend,” Yeshua*.

[Image: “Creative Commons Superhero” by John Hain is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Agents of a Waiting God

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What kind of friend are you? One who has a solution for all my problems; or one who is willing to simply be present to me in the midst of my problems? If you are one of the latter, you are an “agent of the waiting God.”

Job 3:1-10          3 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 Job said:3 “Let the day perish i
n which I was born,and the night that said,‘A man–child is conceived.’ 4 Let that day be darkness!May God above not seek it,or light shine on it.5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it.Let clouds settle upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.6 That night—let thick darkness seize it!let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months.7 Yes, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry be heard in it.8 Let those curse it who curse the Sea,those who are skilled to rouse up Leviathan.9 Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none; may it not see the eyelids of the morning— 10 because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb,and hide trouble from my eyes. (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Joyce Meyer Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting” by BK is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Musings over Job 3:1-10

Ever have one of those days? You know the kind I mean… one bad thing happens after another… disasters seem to keep piling up… nothing goes right. Job had one of those days. He wanted to curse the day he was born. He wanted nightfall to some so he could hide in the darkness. The brightness of the sun just hurt his eyes. The worst part of it… his ‘friends’ wanted to explain away his misery and solve Job’s ‘problem. Even if those ‘friends’ had accurately analyzed Job’s situation and presented him with the perfect solution, Job would probably not felt any better. When faced with the dark night (or even the overcast day) of the soul you must live through it, instead of escaping fro m it. Those are the times when we value the people who stand with us, offering only their presence instead of their solutions. Those are the time when we find out who our true friends are. Thanks be for those who are savvy enough to allow us to feel our pain while staying close. They become for us agents of a waiting God (God incarnate) who patiently embraces us, providing us with the spaciousness that alone affirms our strength in the midst of weakness.

I Don’t Believe in the Bible!

Bible - Not

There is too much “belief” in the Bible based on lack of understanding of the Bible and its role in the life of the faithing community.

2 Timothy 3:14-17          14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

[Scripture quotation from Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Bible science” by Joe Flintham, used under CC BY / Desaturated from original]

Thinking through 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Be fully cognizant of what you have learned and its effects on your practice of faithing. Pay special attention to who your teachers (and other influences) have been.  Keep a child-like attitude as you mature as a follower of the Way lived and taught by Yeshua*. There is a special place for scripture in the process of your faith formation. It will give you clues about how to interpret that unheard inner voice of insistence that comes in the name of God. Perhaps*. Some will attempt to enshrine scripture, giving it ultimate authority over every aspect of life. Be careful not to treat scripture like a god. Don’t get me wrong, scripture is exceedingly “useful” as we continue to grow in the practice of faithing — we continue to learn from scripture; it reminds us when we stray from the Way’s path; it even tutors us in dignity and justice. All this to the end that we who claim to belong to God might be proficient practitioners of the Way of Yeshua., demonstrating love, compassion, peace, justice, and wholeness.

I don’t believe in the Bible!

I just don’t!

I know that,

as a Teaching Elder,

I am expected to…

but I don’t!

And that’s OK.

Since SCOTUS handed down

it’s decision on

same-sex marriage

a significant group

of Christians

have gone ballistic…

citing “God’s law” and

“the Bible says”

assuming that

they have proved their case

namely,

that there is a clear

God-given (even God-demanded)

Biblically proven

one way (and only one)

— their way — 

that marriage can be understood.

While I may disagree with their conclusion

while I am not willing to accept that

they ‘channel’ God or that

they have an inside track on

what the Bible means…

I am willing to let them have

their understanding of God

their reading and/or interpretation of the Bible

I am willing to give them the courtesy of

practicing their faithing in their own style.

I am NOT willing to let them dictate

how I read and/or interpret the Bible

how I understand God or no-God

how I practice my faithing

I am willing to sit down

and dialogue with them

about God

about interpreting scripture

about the practice of faithing

within the Christian tradition…

I will NOT stand for

a diatribe designed

to pummel and upbraid me

because I do not do it their way.

I do not believe in the Bible

because it is

a tool for the practice of faithing

not the essence or object of faith

a finger pointing toward wholeness in life

not life itself

a collective witness from those on the journey of faithing

not a manual dictating the specific steps of the journey

a series of essays, songs, stories, and more written by those on the journey

not a dictation from a transcendent super-being.

I do believe, with 2 Timothy 3:16 that scripture is exceedingly “useful” as we continue to grow in the practice of faithing. Its usefulness, however, is not primarily in directing our attention heavenward or providing us with scientific, historical, or cultural ‘facts’ which are designed to be a turn-by-turn GPS navigation system for constraining life’s journey and coercing it in one specific direction (usually heavenward). Instead scripture’s usefulness lies in its ability to arouse within us a passion for abundant life in the here and now, in the meantime. Does scripture give some directions (as opposed to demands)? Yes indeed! And the directions are only somewhat specific — for example, “do justice, love compassion, and live within a god-like humility” or Yeshua’s invitation to care for the poor, distressed, and suffering. The rest (namely, what we must do specifically in particular situations) is left up to us. Community among those desiring to be faithful to Yeshua’s Way is vitally important. Most of scripture’s capacity for “teaching” and “correcting” is accomplished in dialogue, in community. In fact, I am willing to suggest that the primary “use” of scripture is to begin dialogue among Christian practitioners about their faithing journey in the dailiness of life to the end that life not become a chore but, instead, a joyful and bountiful pilgrimage.

So…  do I believe in the Bible?

No… no… a thousand times ‘No!’

I use the Bible to begin and/or continue dialogue

about the direction of my life

and the efficacy of my journey.

I have a lover’s quarrel with scripture

because the context in which much of it was written

demanded (or, at least, generated)

a more powerful (violent) understanding of God

based upon a more primitive understanding of the world

(a more primitive sciencedependent upon a set of cultural criteria that make no sense today).

My lover’s quarrel with scripture

is often evidenced by

arguing with specific passages and/or authors

deconstructing and re-writing particular texts

turning scriptural arguments upside-down or inside-out.

In short,

I do not revere scripture,

I honor it!

Growing Outside The Meditation Garden

Matthew 6:30-36

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. [NRSV]

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. [MSG]

[Scripture quotations are from:  New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved    and      Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002]

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How appropriate…

a meditation garden

outside the front door

of the retreat center

 

 

on the grounds of the monastery

of the Sisters of St. Benedict

The garden was designed and constructed

as a gift to the Sisters

and it also serves as

a gift for retreatants

such as me

Lush green leafy plants

each having its own space

not being crowded

or crowding others

and a cluster of Salvia ‘Caradonna’

purple meadow sage

as beautiful, serene and peaceful

as you would expect

a meditation garden to be

The surprise was finding

a single, small orange flower

outside the garden

growing in the gravel

beside the short retaining wall

supporting the garden

Was it from    a stray seed from the garden

a remnant of that which had been there before

the residue from a bird dropping

or …?

whatever the reason

it was there in all its glory

like the lilies of the field

it too would neither toil, nor spin

it too would be a testament

to the vitality of life

to the insistence

      and the persistence

of an unheard inner calling

The indefatigable persistence

of that single orange flower…

to BE, in all its glory,

outside the meditation garden

     has become a challenge

metaphor

insistence

calling

to me

I don’t fit the norm of  the meditation garden

the church

(the institutional church)

I am a remnant of that which had been planted previously

in the meditation garden

I am evidence of some bad/good preparation

prepared   to understand the basic theological concepts

and also for thinking new thoughts

to perpetuate the institution

and also for challenging old assertions

to exegete the scriptures

and also to listen for the authentic teachings of Yeshua

to live a ‘Christian’ life

and also for the insurrection that is the Way

to accommodate this world

and also for pre-saging the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice

It is a formidable challenge

to maintain the “and also”

when the meditation garden is disinterested

indifferent

apathetic

adamantly opposed

when the “Body of Christ”

is too comfortable with emulating the “world”

to follow the Way of Yeshua

burdened, crippled by mourning that its

power and prestige have been thwarted

by a secular society

Taking root outside the meditation garden

is  a mournful lament

an anguished, tearful cry

and a life-bearing protest

a migration toward integrity

an insistent calling

“Here I stand, in God,

I can do no other!”

 

 

On NOT Being Flummoxed!

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God, audaciously, expects great things from us. Without our response, God is not active in the world. Do our actions resemble the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice (Kingdom of God)

James 1:2-18   2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, 7 for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 8 for the doubter, being double–minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 9 Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, 10 and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away. Trial and Temptation12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. [NRSV]

[Scripture quotation: New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved]

[Image: “Creative Commons Albert V Bryan Federal District Courthouse – Alexandria Va – 0014 – 2012-03-10” by Tim Evanson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Conversing with James 1:2-18 

Dear friends, God audaciously depends on us to bring about the Great Commonwealth* that is “to come.” Such responsibility, however, can try us and find us wanting.  Don’t be dismayed. Keep at it. Such endurance produces maturity and wholeness. Sometimes, when insistence insists, we are flummoxed — deeply desiring but not knowing how to respond in a wholesome way. Hang in there with the insistence.  Let it continue to invite, nudge, beckon, urge until the calling bears you up as if you are surfing on a wave or borne aloft on the wind. Resist the insistence at your own peril. Those who listen only to the temptations that are driving wealth and status may feather their own nest, but are out of touch with what is meaningful and helpful and wholesome and “Godly.” So you will likely face either trial or temptation.  Hang in there with the insistence that insists and you will be walking in the light. Succumb to temptation you will find yourself in a darkness that you may not realize because of the neon signs and flashing strobe lights.  All generosity, all giving of self, all care for the least / the last / the lost / the left-out is a sure sign of a haunting specter, bearing the name of God, which insists us into action.  Listen, listen, listen!  Then do, do, do! Maybe then you will begin to experience the first fruits of the Great Commonwealth*. Perhaps*.?