What an unsavory and offensive wish — that God would wipe out all those whom I consider wicked and unrighteous that God would be a ‘heavenly hit man’ to resolve my ‘black and white’ view of the world.
A vengeful God no longer ‘fits’ assuming a dualistic world where I can clearly between the unjust and the just the wicked and the good the foolish and the wise the faithful and the unreligious assuming that I am to be included with the just the good the wise the faithful
A vengeful God is the result of arrogance and pride vengeful gods and Psalms about them need to be turned upside-down need to be turned inside-out or they need to be ignored
Lord, save me from myself from my vengeance from my hatred from my fear set me free to engage others without fear to love without regret to interact without hatred to live without why
The story is so familiar. so romanticized, so admixed with the accounts by Matthew, Luke, and John and the preaching of 20 centuries 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 Executive Presbyter 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.
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!
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?
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
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 to feel the insistence calling to accept the invitation to be moved by the lure to follow the calling
to step away from the cross and live into the resurrection that stirs within
Mark 10:23-3123 Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!” 24 His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, “Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! 25 It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.” 26 They were shocked even more and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God.” 28 Peter said to him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms because of me and because of the good news 30 will receive one hundred times as much now in this life—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and farms (with harassment)—and in the coming age, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first.” (CEB)
Yeshua spoke to his disciples, “Wealth is not a passport or a visa providing entrance into the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice.” This confused the disciples, so Yeshua tried another approach. “It is easier for a camel to swim across the Mediterranean than for a rich person to become a citizen of the Commonwealth.” “Woe is us,” cried the disciples. “No one can measure up to those standards.” Yeshua knew that he had to help them understand. “You are correct that it seems impossible from a human perspective. However, listen to that unheard inner voice which insists in the name of God. Perhaps.” Peter interrupted him, “What about us? We have been following your Way.” “If you left everything behind because you are following me and the Way in response to what you hear God calling you to do, then you already have abundant life and you have moved into that dimension of reality which we call the eternal. You are living in the presence of God where everything seems topsy-turvy — those in prominence are being humbled and the humble are taking precedence; power and wealth are no longer ends in themselves, but means to give everyone what they need; violence is no longer tolerated, having been replaced by reconciliation and justice.
After readingyesterday’s post, a friend emailed me. She understands about the inner experience of the risen Jesus, but said that she was “still not sure how to justify the empty tomb.” While I replied directly to her, I thought that a few comments on the topic might be a good follow-up to yesterday’s post.
John Caputo suggests that it is more productive to pay attention to the event – that is, what happens in the name of God – rather that the being of God. Theological inquiry tends to conclude that metaphysical and ontological questions about God tend to speculate about that which is beyond human comprehension. The so-called “proofs” for God’s existence don’t really prove anything. Instead, you end up where you began. If you begin with the assumption that God exists, your reasoning “proves” that God exists. On the other hand, if you begin with the assertion that God does not exist, you gather evidence which “proves” your case. As soon as you make a declarative statement about what God is, you have to qualify that statement by saying, “But not quite so!”
It is far more productive to talk about that which happens in the name of God. This phenomenological approach, Caputo suggests, focuses on the event of God. In a like manner, rather than focusing on the tomb’s “being” (its historicity), I might ask about the tomb as an event in the life of a faithful person. When resurrection was bubbling up in the life of the life of those who had followed Jesus, what role might the empty tomb have played? More to the point, what role might the empty tomb play in the life of faith today.
I am aware that all the earliest Easter stories seem to have their origin in the latter part of the 1st century. They, like the Christmas stable, are metaphors that need to be interpreted, not facts to be “believed.” I see the empty tomb as a poetic image of the empty place / the hollow gap that we face as we move from second-hand faith (believing what we have been told) to first-hand faith (trusting what we are experiencing).
Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writes, “The time period between Good Friday and Easter is a poignant time for me. As a Muslim, it has meaning beyond its meaning as Christian creed. … I ponder on the poignant time between Good Friday and Easter, which is where I see most of us human beings. As Jesus is believed to have been in the tomb for three days, most of us humans spend our lives in the metaphorical tomb of existence. We stand between a womb and a tomb. Most of us are in this in-between stage, the cosmic “three days” that all of us find ourselves in: not dead, and not yet resurrected.” [See the full article here. I recommend it. It is good Easter reading.]
The empty tomb is, for us, an in-between time, a gap, a transitional space. Perhaps the Celtic concept of “thin places” comes close to the metaphoric meaning of the empty tomb – caught between birth and death, and yet on the cusp of resurrection.
This is why my preferred Easter story is the original ending of Mark’s gospel (Mark 16:1-8). The focus is on the empty tomb and its effect on the women, who flee in terror. .. End of story. Aposiopesis — asking each of us to finish the story in our own way… to finish the story with us as participants along with the women. It is our empty tomb… my empty tomb.
The following reflection comes after reading Bernard Brandon Scott’s The Trouble with Resurrection. Scott reminds us that “The trouble with resurrection is that we have literalized, narrowed, and constricted it, turned it into a credal belief, and in the process forfeited its great claim and hope.” The following picks up a number of ideas, images, and phrases from Scott’s work.
Resurrection is a resounding symphony a spectacular work of art a beautiful poetic image arising out of the bosom of Israel preserving the grace of justice in the name of God
Resurrection has been scandalized by centuries of dogmatic veneer of mis-interpretation of foolish theology
Too many Christians who think they believe in the resurrection actually believe in the immortality of the soul a Greek idea making resurrection unimportant impugning the body as evil commending the soul as good
Immortality focuses on the world to come devaluing nature as a useful resource to be consumed without regard to be devoured with no thought for tomorrow to be exploited for human satisfaction turning Christianity into a hunting safari saving souls to be taxidermied into heaven
Resurrection is a gift that bubbles up and overflows in a transformed people the endowment of hope that constitutes a New Humanity the reality of memory and experience that insists upon me daily
As kingdom people we are offended by the crucifixion we want life to be unsullied by death but we can not abandon what we know about Yeshua that he lived fully into God that he made God known to us that the kingdoms of this world are not God’s kingdom
As kingdom people we continue to experience a presence a potentiality bubbling up into our midst the force of love that did not die on the cross like our first-century forebears we live in hope and confidence Rome has not defeated God God’s Kingdom thrives just as Yeshua has taught us whenever we take care of the poor and disadvantaged when we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty
Resurrection persists because of an empty tomb not because of a resuscitated body because we experience an insistence in the name of God more powerful than the insistence in the name of Caesar
Resurrection is a story that enfolds me not an event that happens to someone else a movement embracing our passion for life not a dogma that creates truth a passionate experience not a creed
We long for a Parousia a consummation that will signal the ultimate victory of good over evil and yet we silently cry out my God, my God why have you forsaken us?
A contemporary prophet reminds us “The arm of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice” resurrection is that bend which happens in the name of God a possibility that Yeshua opened up for all a potentiality that simmers within us
Resurrection bends us into the story drives us back to faithfulness and trust that God’s justice is always happening always insisting always appearing on the horizons of our lives inviting us urging us calling us into abundant life in the face of death into the well-being of all in society into the healing of a fractured world
Resurrection is the well-spring of hope that molds life that transforms me an insistence that will not let me go that brings me back to myself where I find God within waiting to burst forth wanting to arise
“If we could lift the veil, and if we were attentive and watchful God would continually reveal Godself to us, and we should see God’s divine action in everything that happened to us, and rejoice in it.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade,The Sacrament of the Present Moment
1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known
If we could lift the veil and see the Presence beyond my presence within my presence animating my presence…
If we could lift the veil and not be surprised when insistence in the name of God comes knocking at the door of our awareness wanting admittance…
If we could lift the veil that clouds the mind and the heart preventing us from seeing the disadvantaged and marginalized around us and within…
If we could lift the veil and see the sunrise that greets the new day the dawn of a new presence within and around the dawn of a new way of being present in the world…
If we could lift the veil if we would let go of the distractions if we would see deeply within if we would let go of the desire to control if we would embrace the tension between the conditional and the unconditional the sacred and the secular the limited and the unlimited the whole and the partial
If I would lift the veil if I would be attentive and watchful if I would be alert to the invitations if I would pay attention to the insistence if I would pick up on the nudges that come in the name of God…
O, Yeshua, your words fill me with awe, excitement; the impending cross, anguish and also with deep disappointment with myself
I have spent a good portion of my life attending to your call, your insistence.
My problem has been that I have treated you less like an insistence that echoes and continues to reverberate within my inward being and more like an invitation, received in the mail to which I haven’t yet RSVPed.
The projectile of your insistence nails me to the cross of reality the moans and cries of the marginalized keep me awake at night the screams of the tortured continue to echo through the recesses of my being
I want to be an insurrectionist for the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice to be a follower of Yeshua in the active voice to be a tree that bears in season the fresh fruit of compassion, peace, and justice to be an agent in whose footsteps the presence of God is experienced.
I want… I wish… I hope… but Yeshua’s question to me is simply “Do you do?”
Sometimes the knife-edge between memory and promise between spooking and insisting between past and future between life and death… sometimes that knife-edge cuts deeply into the soul; and cut, I bleed!
The insistence that comes in the name of God invites us to all that is good and just, nudges us, beckons us, calls to us until we find the passion to walk the Way with integrity. That Way attends to the wisdom of Yeshua as a guide and levels the playing field so that we participate in a vital faith that seeks out the least, the lost, the last, and the left out. That insistence marshalls the forces of our strengths and calls us to use gifts that we never knew we had or that we have been afraid to exercise. Above all, our responses to that insistent calling will arise out of purity of heart which is, as Kierkegaard said, conforming our will to the truth that resonates with audacious act of kenosis (self-giving) by God and Yeshua – so that we might give away our very selves for the sake of the world. Let it be so!
May all the grace that comes in the name of God (perhaps) insist good from us in such a manner that all our desires are shaped by love. May the calling that we hear turn the motivations of our hearts up-side-down so that we may walk in the Way of Yeshua, which is that new creation that turns our priorities in-side-out so that we level the playing field as we invite and are inviting by the least, the last, the lost, and the left out into a divine (and very human) partnership. All this we dare to insist as we walk in the Way of Yeshua, whom we experience as the Anointed of God. Perhaps.
We have been knit together in the womb of insistence in the name of God. Perhaps. There we have found mercy, being born anew as brothers and sisters of Yeshua. May the tapestry of our lives be reflective of the audacity of God’s kenosis — a pattern that empties everything into a humanity textured by a concern for others, colored by response to an unheard calling in the name of God. Perhaps.
What is the difference between aloneness and loneliness? What role does solitude play?
Psalm 68:5-65Father of orphans and defender of widowsis God in his holy habitation. 6 God settles the lonely in their homes;he sets prisoners free with happiness,but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Recently, while on a three day retreat, I awoke full of lethargy on the morning of the middle day. That’s unusual for me; I am a morning person. It was a lackluster day – low energy, not much focus, no creativity. Since the next day returned to “normal” I didn’t pay much attention to the lethargy I had experienced. I wrote it off as the result of a poor night’s sleep. I should have paid closer attention. It was an early warning signal that something was stirring within me.
After returning home, I began to realize the reason(s) for that stirring. On the one hand, my life has developed a rather clear pattern — without a lot of variety. I am doing the same things over and over — reading, writing, phone calls with my soul brother, my quarterly 3-day and monthly 24-hour retreats, church on Sunday, bridge on Wednesday, and interaction with my daughter and grandkids… a lot of time in my apartment. All good stuff, but not much variety. My life has always had a lot of variety to it. Not a lot of opportunity to fall into pattern ruts. Now I am in a pattern rut.
More important than this pattern rut, or maybe the reason that I am in a rut, has been a deeper awareness and recognition. Ever since my wife’s brain trauma 35+ years ago and the resulting frontal lob dysfunction, I have had to deal with my aloneness — that is with the reality that I had lost my best friend, my life’s companion. As we often do in relationships, I had expected my wife to fill my gaps and bring me to some sense of completion. I know that this is a fantasy, but a fantasy that many/most of us take into marriage and other significant relationships. Being enamored of another often hides, rather than reveals, the fantasy. Henri Nouwen has suggested that significant relationships can often open “enormous space” within us but many times that space cannot “be filled by the one who opened it.”
When the fantasy is destroyed it is easy to get sucked into a black hole of existential despair or to distract oneself by chasing after other fantasies. However when anyone pays attention to the loss of the fantasy, they can get in touch with the philosophical / spiritual state of aloneness. I was able, through a gradual process aided by a lot of people, to acknowledge my aloneness and transform it into solitude. Solitude is a cluster of spiritual practices which can enrich and transform. In solitude I was helped to move toward a greater sense of integrity and wholeness. A hear and a half ago my wife died. I grieved, but was not devastated because I had been dealing with my aloneness and solitude for quite some time.
Now to the something “stirring” within… I finally realized and have been able to articulate that I am now experiencing loneliness. Loneliness and aloneness are quite different, though related, phenomena. Aloneness is a foundational reality of life, a spiritual dimension that undergirds who we are and what we do. Philosopher A. N. Whitehead said that “religion is what we do with our aloneness.” Loneliness, on the other hand, is an emotional reality, a feeling that comes when circumstances are not as desired. I am aware that loneliness is something that we often try hard to “fix,” often to our detriment — rushing to a new relationship to replace a relationship that has ended. I am not sure how to proceed, but I do know that my loneliness is not something I need to “fix.” Instead, I need to experience its full force, learn from it, and move with it and through it. No goals… no timeline… just solitude, reflection, journaling, talking, and being.
Then, hoping against hope, I will be more settled in my home and free with happiness.
When encounter with God is described as inwardly experiencing an insistence, a call to peace and justice, then it becomes my responsibility respond as God’s agent in the world. The only existence God has is mediated through human agency. We become the presence of God in the world. Pete Seeger put it this way, “God’s counting on me; God’s counting on you.”