A Sabbath Discernment

Image: Sam Mugraby, Photos8.com [Quotation added]
Image: Sam Mugraby, Photos8.com [Quotation added]

Mark 2:27-28 27 Then [Jesus] said, The Sabbath was created for humans; humans werent created for the Sabbath. 28  This is why the Human One is Lord even over the Sabbath. (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Uh oh! Now they’ve done it. Yeshua’s disciples have reaped grain on the sabbath to feed themselves. How dare they violate the sabbath in that manner? Of course there was precedent — David and his companions went to the temple on the sabbath and ate the bread of the Presence. So, what is at stake here? Does human need trump the law; or is it the reverse. Actually, the answer is more complex. The Human Being (‘son of the man’) — that is, the part of Yeshua (or the disciples or you or me) which is truly in touch with God — is the only arbiter that can make that decision. The sabbath law (and other laws as well) is there because quite often most of us are not enough in touch with the inner God-impulse to make such a radical decision. Therefore, we follow the law. The Human Being in Yeshua discerned that.

Forgiveness

"Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco" by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Creative Commons Forgiveness” by Celestine Chua is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Luke 7:48f 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other table guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this person that even forgives sins?” (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]


Sin is the process by which we break and/or damage relationships by inflicting wounds, exposing flaws, dispensing hurts, forcing divisions and separations, and creating isolation for oneself, another, or groups of others. Sin is better defined as a matter of injustice (denying someone their dignity or integrity) than as a matter of immorality (violation of some eternal code of behavior).

Forgiveness of sins is a complicated process because we assume, like the Pharisees (Luke 7:49), that sins are offenses against the authority of an external God and, therefore that forgiveness is the prerogative of that God. Forgiveness is not about some external authority who transmutes wounds, hurts, flaws, or division. Forgiveness is the process (not a simple action) by which we overcome the wounds, hurts, flaws, divisions, and or the isolation that results from breaking relationships.

Forgiveness is the natural result of extending love, compassion, kindness, mercy, and/or justice which invites rebuilding the relationship with the one wounded, hurt, or separated and thereby overcomes the lingering effects of the brokenness and

The process of confessing sins – whether done in a confessional, in a corporate worship service, or to any other person – is simply part of the relational process of transformation. When the priest announces words of absolution in the confessional, when the minister pronounces a declaration of pardon in the worship liturgy, when another person says I forgive you,” they are not actually forgiving sins. They are acknowledging and confirming that genuine repentance and confession are aids (resources) in the process. Absolution acknowledges that forgiveness is a sacred process, entry to a thin place where the impossible possibility (healing brokenness) can happen.

The process of forgiveness begins because something has gone wrong, something is broken – a break within one’s self, a break in relationship with another, a break with the values and practices of a group. The process can begin by an inner stirring (a sense that something is not right), by an insight (an acknowledgement of the brokenness), or by a confrontation (by the one most affected by the break).

For the process to continue, there must be some kind of movement toward wholeness (such as, integrating a symbol of healing) which energizes an inner commitment toward changed behavior OR engages the offended one or a surrogate (for example, therapist, spiritual director, priest, minister, or friend). The healing process includes some concrete action that demonstrates a change in behavior or being. Compassionate (merciful) actions begin to repair damage done from transgressing a group’s norms, values, or practices. Acting justly means promoting and enhancing the dignity and worth of the offended or wounded person with whom the break occurred.

Forgiveness (healing) requires vulnerability of both the offender and the offended. The offender must be fragile in the presence of the broken one – acknowledging the sacred part of the one(s) they have offended in such a way as to yearn for and offer a oneness beyond the brokenness. Forgiveness is the natural process of engaging the brokenness; moving into it, through it, and beyond it. Forgiveness does not demand restoration or repair of the broken relationship. Instead, it offers and invites allowing the other(s) the freedom to respond and the choice of how they will respond. The vulnerability of the offended (willingness to re-engage the offended) requires an openness to the future, an openness to a new relationship.

Regardless of the response of the other(s), forgiveness (healing) is a movement toward a whole, transformed life. It will require change of behavior and/or being.

When Resurrection Bubbles Up

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 10.20.54 AM[A sermon preached at St. Charles Presbyterian Church on April 17, 2016]

When Resurrection Bubbles Up

Old Testament: Psalm 23

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

New Testament: Revelation 7:13-17 & 2 Corinthians 5:17

Intro: the book of Revelation is difficult to understand because it is history written in the future tense. (Wrap your mind around that concept!) And if that is not enough, Revelation does not come straight at you with simple declarative sentences. Instead it couches everything in poetic images and metaphors. The five verses from Revelation are best understood as being interpreted by 2 Corinthians 5:17. Enjoy the word pictures in Revelation 7:13-17; then allow yourself to understand what those verses mean when you hear the single verse of 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Revelation 7:13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

2 Corinthians 5:17  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Resurrection is a story that has been bubbling up in the hearts and minds of people since the beginning of recorded history. Easter is the time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but it is just one chapter in that story.

Unfortunately, we Christians have become overly focused on that one chapter. We have turned this sweeping epic story into an event – literalized, narrowed, and constricted. We have made resurrection a credal belief and, unfortunately, in the process have forfeited much of its great claim upon us and its inherent hope. This morning I invite you to suspend what you normally think about when the word “resurrection” is spoken and let you heart and mind wander with me into the variety of voices that the great story of resurrection bubbles up in us… in me… in you.

Meister Eckhart, German mystic, suggested that the Christian life is a combination of paying attention to Jesus and, resulting from that attention, doing good works in the world on a day-by-day basis. Those good works in the world are not an after-thought; they are the consequence of our paying close attention to Jesus. They are what Eckhart calls the ebulitio the welling up and flowing over of the life of God within us and out into the world. I am going to borrow Eckhart’s term, ebulitio!, throughout the rest of this sermon. When speaking of resurrection we need a colorful term of passionate expression, an outburst of joy, to keep us from robbing the epic story of its heart. Ebulitio! is a synonym for resurrection itself.

When the worship leader calls out “Christ is risen” what bubbles up in you? Is it just the words: “He is risen indeed” (even though they may be spoken with excitement)? Is it just the memories of story that happened so long ago? Or are your teeth set on edge; do you feel a shiver up your spine does your life pass before your eyes – a new life, an unexpected life, a transformed life?

 

When the worship leader calls out “Christ is risen” do you want to pull yourself up to your full height and shout to the top of your lungs, “The grave cannot hold me. I have new life. Throw away your spices and ointment brought to anoint a dead body; discard of the burial shroud you brought to wrap a dead corpse. I have risen, I have risen indeed. My life is an Easter hymn sung in a new key. Life has bubbled up in me and not only me, for we are one with Christ. Resurrection bubbles us in us. Ebulitio!

Life doesn’t just happen; life is not an accident, without meaning. Life bubbles up from within God
… bubbles up insistently… bubbles up into creative transformation in the world and within you and me…

Resurrection is a breath-taking story related in poetic images… the choreography of a beautiful dance supported by a resounding symphony… the colors on an artist’s palette resulting in a masterful painting – a painting that includes you and me. Ebulitio!

Once I began to see resurrection as a story, rather than an event, all sorts of story chapters opened up for me. For example, the 23rd Psalm. Consider its poetic images, its metaphors. Those images are overflowing with life, bubbling up with justice. Even enemies and death cannot stop the flow. Ebulitio!

Life is not about being smarter, richer, more prominent. It is not about waiting for the life to come. It is not about making sure your dogma is right. Life is a gift without whythe evanescence of a rose that blossoms because it blossoms, smells sweet because it smells sweet, and dies because it dies

Ebulitio!

 

Too many Christians who think they believe in the resurrection actually believe in the immortality of the soul – a Greek idea which actually trivializes resurrection, negating the body as being evil while commending the soul as the only good. Immortality focuses on the world to come, devaluing life in the here-and-now. It considering this life as a waiting station to be endured. It tosses nature aside as simply a resource to be exploited for human satisfaction with no thought for tomorrow. It turns Christianity into a hunting safari for saving souls and sending them off to the taxidermist to be preserved so they can be displayed as trophies on the walls of Heaven

But NOT the first century followers of Jesus. After his death on the cross, they were initially dejected, depressed, despondent – seemingly without hope… but life bubbled up effervescently. genuinely surprising them, radiating with the impossible possibility. Ebulitio!

Something electric was happening within that early community, and inside its members. Rome crucified Jesus, but did not defeat God. God’s kingdom was bubbling up in their midst. And, even though Jesus was no longer physically present to them, his presence continued to stir them to something more – to concern for the poor… to solidarity with the disadvantaged… to forgiveness toward enemies… to life abundant, here and now.

Resurrection is that gift which bubbles up and overflows into a transformed people. It is the endowment of hope that constitutes a New Humanity, the reality of memory and experience that insisted daily upon those first Christians.

The book of Revelation tells of white robed ones who have come through an ordeal and who, because life continues to bubble up in them, stay focused on God. Metaphorically, they will neither hunger nor thirst. They will not be subject to the vicissitudes of daily life under Roman rule because they inhabit a different kingdom. Ebulitio!

As kingdom people those followers of Jesus wanted, as we do, life to be unsullied by death. But, when he died, they could not abandon what they knew about Jesus – that he lived fully into God and made God known to them and us; that the kingdoms of this world are not God’s kingdom; but, especially, they knew that Jesus continued to stir their hearts. That stirring evoked in them a strong desire to engage the world on the side of the poor and disadvantaged. Ebulitio!

As kingdom people we continue to experience a present stirring within – a potentiality bubbling up into our midst… the force of a love that did not die on the cross. Like our first century forebears, we live in hope and confidence that Rome has not defeated God, that God’s Kingdom thrives (just as Jesus has taught us) whenever we take care of the poor and disadvantaged; when we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty Ebulitio!

Resurrection persists because of an empty tomb, a hollow space, a gap; not because of a resuscitated body. Resurrection persists because an insistence in the name of God penetrating that hollow space within us is more powerful than the insistence that comes in the name of Caesar

Resurrection is a story that enfolds each one of us, 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 creedal assertion. Ebulitio!

A contemporary prophet reminds us that “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 Jesus opened up for all; a potentiality that simmers within us. Resurrection bends us into the story, drives us back to faithfulness and trust.

Resurrection is invitation, a lure, an inner insistence to participate in life without why – doing things without hope of reward or fear of punishment. It is an invitation to an absurd and preposterous life – loving enemies; accepting and affirming people who are different because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, or nationality; inviting homeless street people to dine in your home; turning swords into plowshares; replacing walls with bridges; not returning violence when facing violence.

Resurrection is living in a world where God’s justice is always happening, always insisting, always appearing on the horizons of our lives. It is residents of Ferguson proudly proclaiming “black lives matter”when a significant portion of society is telling them that only white lives matter (that’s resurrection bubbling up)… broken people telling their stories at a meeting a meeting of AA getting their lives back together through honesty and community support (that’s resurrection bubbling up)… a group of Jews and Muslims forming a cordon around a Christian church in Tulsa and singing “All you need is love” to provide a buffer against hate mongers and their bull-horns (that’s resurrection bubbling up)… indigenous people of Guatemala coming to church bare footed because they have so little and yet they come bursting with joy, celebrating the precious gift of life (that’s resurrection bubbling up).

Life matters in spite of that which torments us. Life is of consequence regardless of the limitations imposed upon us. Life is all the more precious in the face of death that haunts us

When life bubbles up it insists, invites, calls, nudges; it shakes us to our foundations. Then, shaken by the insistence, fermented by the invitation, and sparkling with the call we bubble up. We bubble up as from within God. We bubble up as God’s new presence. We bubble up as God’s Kingdom in the world. Ebulitio!

Resurrection is the well-spring of hope that molds life, that transforms us. It is an insistence that will not let us go, that brings us back to ourselves where we find God within waiting to burst forth, wanting to arise. And that potentiality arises as we go forth effervescently – a glass of cool, fresh water for the thirsty; bread for the hungry; a support arm for the weak; solidarity with those despised by the world; a welcoming for victims and enemies; hope for a fractured world. Ebulitio!

If God is only a celestial police officer and the Bible is only a rule book and life is only a hiccup before we get to Heaven… If Easter is only a Sunday in the church calendar… a time to dress up for church… a day for colored eggs and chocolate bunnies… If that is all there is then resurrection is a magic trick; and ministers and theologians become charlatans. When that happens, no life bubbles up.

When we come to church out of habit to sing hymns of muted joy and appreciate sermons that confirm our preconceived ideologies, then the church has died and we have become white-washed tombs. And yet, resurrection continues to bubble up! It is awe-inspiring and yet terrifying when death turn into life. It is surprising and yet intimidatin when life bubbles up within us. It is an exuberant YES that shakes us up, stirs us, changes us at the core so that we can’t NOT respond in joy. It is a persistent insistence that enfolds us into a new way of being and doing beyond the creed, beyond the hymns, beyond the texts.

When someone we love dies, it is hard to let go difficult to experience them in a new way. It is difficult after Good Friday to allow the Palm Sunday parade to be transformed into a different kind of parade which goes on as the Easter journey – a journey where my beloved now lives within me, where I become the bearer of the hopes and dreams of the one I love.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, something new has arrived!” [2 Cor 5:17]

That is what bubbles us in me, what is bubbling up in you?

Christ is risen; we are risen indeed! Ebulitio! and Amen.

 

On Psalm 18

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 9.21.14 AM
Creative Commons Not merely an absence of noise, ‘Real Silence’ …” by Nagesh Jayaraman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Psalm 18:11, 36     11 He made darkness his covering around him,his canopy thick clouds dark with water. … 36 You gave me a wide place for my steps under me,and my feet did not slip.37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them; and did not turn back until they were consumed.

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco” by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On Psalm 18

Nothing was going right. I thought I was the single focus of all the dissention, hatred, and resentment in the world, so I called upon God. I wanted a celestial solution, a divine denouement to all my problems. But it didn’t quite happen that way. Instead a small unheard inner voice started to nag me. The nagging increased to become more like an insistence, finally morphing into a call. My immediate response was to cry out to God, “Aren’t you going to do something? Aren’t you going to save me?” The more I cried out, the more frustrated and angry I became. Finally my anger got the best of me, “God, you can go to Hell! I’ve had enough.” It didn’t happen immediately but, ever so slowly, I began to realize that the only one I could could count on was myself. If there was a way out of my troubles, I was going to have to take on that responsibility myself. One of the first things I did was to stop blaming others. When I did that I found out that I no longer had to blame myself. I sought out those I had considered as enemies. I wanted to shame them by telling them that I no longer blamed them, but a strange thing happened. Some of them were actually glad to have the opportunity to talk with me. I wouldn’t call them bosom buddies now, but a few friendships seem to be a possibility. Of course, with some of the others, we will probably never be friends and that is OK.

The strangest thing that happened, however, was that I began to see a kind of holiness in some of these people and was thankful that God hadn’t rescued me by smiting them. Moreover, I began to realize that the nagging that became an insistence that morphed into a call was leading me into a new direction in my life. It was as if God were calling me and involved in these new relationships. Could it be true? Is it possible that God is more to be found in the midst of this life, in the midst of relationships, than in a celestial throne room as a special problem solver for the faithful? I am beginning to think so!

When Storms Die Down

Public Domain
Public Domain

Mark 4:37 Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

It had been a long day. Yeshua suggested that they get away from the crowds and go to the other side of the lake. Because the band of disciples contained many fishers, the left by boat, with a number of other boats sailing along with them. All of a sudden a major storm arose threatening to swamp their boat. Yeshua, the land-lubber had fallen asleep at the tiller as the storm raged. The disciples, on the other hand, – fishers included – were terrified. They awakened Yeshua with their frantic screaming. “We’re going to drown! Do something!” Yeshua awoke, looked at the wind and the sea, and said to the Disciples, “Calm down! Be at peace.” It was as if the wind stopped blowing and the waves settled down. The crew, like the wind and waves, settled down and was at peace. One of them exclaimed, “In years to come, when the account of this night is related, people will tell how Yeshua brought peace in the midst of a great storm.” Which storms were calmed on that day? Which storms is Yeshua likely to calm on this day (on your day)?

The Labyrinth of Insistence

Psalm 42:7    Deep called to deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all your massive waves surged over me. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

 

Central to John Caputo’s theology is the insistence of God. “I do not believe in the existence of God but in God’s insistence. I do not say that God ‘exists,’ but that God calls… a quiet but insistent solicitation.” (The Insistence of God, Preface). The sub-title of It Spooks is “living in response to an unheard call.” I have been chasing ‘call’ all my life. (Or has ‘call’ been chasing me?) That is the interruption that insistence beings. But how does one hear and unheard call?

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.49.40 AMa birthday gift
a cross
“Ich Bin Der Weg”
(“I Am The Way”)
and a labyrinth
superimposed upon it
one step toward clarity
an image that unpacks
a deeper truth
a window that opens
a depth that rises to the surface.

As a Christian life is all about living, teaching, being the Way of Yeshua. responding to that inner unheard call is the entrance to the Way. But how does one hear and unheard call? The harder we listen, the more elusive the call. The greater the attention, the more hoopla, the more distant the call. How does one hear an unheard call? The labyrinth suggests an approach.

The labyrinth has a circuitous inward path, a center, and an equally circuitous outward path. The path in tracks us through our daily living — our hopes, our fears, our confessions, our promises. The path in expands our daily living by reminding us of the promises of scripture. The path in is an active meditation that encourages us to sing and dance, to explore our sadness and despair, to pray, to imagine possibilities. to be creative. The path in gives us permission to shed our preconceptions. The inward path is the way of kenosis.

The center is an empty space that is filled with meaning, hope, healing, promise, and direction. It is the emptiness of the space that allows something new to arise. It is the emptiness that provides space for the insistence. It is the spaciousness that gives rise to the call. When the spaces of our life are filled to the full (or are over-flowing) there is no space to hear a spoken or unspoken call. The center is empty space and that emptiness is the font of hope and promise. In the center the unheard is encountered; the unspoken, attended to. In the center the impossible becomes possible; the possible, impossible.

When the way in is a kenosis, a laying down piece by piece of our most preciously held convictions and priorities, our hopes and disappointments, and the center remains a gap, an empty space within which can arise new hopes (or even new disappointents), then the way out of the labyrinth is the path toward newness. The way out follows the same path as the way in, the same circuitous route, the same twists and turns, but in reverse order. The way out re-builds, re-shapes, re-forms one’s life so that it conforms to the Way of Yeshua. The re-shaping into the Way of Yeshua happens in the twinkling of an eye and it takes a life time to unfold. It is the tension between the possible and the impossible. It is living in Holy Saturday, the knife-edge between cross and resurrection, the possibility of the tomb. The way out is a path as circuitous as the inward path. And when you come to the end of the outward path you are out of the labyrinth. No! You are actually at the door that opens inwardly to the labyrinth which is waiting for you… waiting for you to walk the labyrinth of life again, as if for the first time. Call upon call, invitation upon invitation, nudging upon nudging, inner voice upon inner voice — that is the very nature of the insistence that comes in the name of God. Perhaps.

The moments of the labyrinth
are repeated in each step
we take each turn.

We face different paths
and ponder our choice.

Which is the right course to take?

What am I willing to risk?

Maybe I will look like a fool.
maybe I will die or get hurt.

How can I decide
what button will turn
up the volume?

Is this the Way of Yeshua?

When I entered the labyrinth
I took a step
I trusted myself to a circuitous path.

All that I am was present
in that moment,
   the hope,
   the promise,
   the past,
   
and the future.

I walked in trust
and in faith.

My (small “t”) trinity

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.30.46 AM
Creative Commons Trinity” by Steve Hodgson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The pastor admitted that he was tackling a BIG subject, “Understanding the Mystery of the Eternal, Infinite, Triune God! — Really?”

I had hoped for more of the “Really?”
much like Caputo’s “Perhaps” but,
not too much “Really?” that morning.
too much the God of strong theology
the existent God
the only Godly insistence was to care for OUR needs
and encourage US 
through the Spirit.

The big, unanswered question:
how to explain God to a child
Dad’s answer — “Ask Mom.”
Mom’s answer — “Ask the pastor.”
Pastor’s answer (after too many long theological words) — “Ask your parents.”

So, how do I answer that question?
not by the concepts of a strong theology…
not by fancy theological words…
not even by Caputo-izing…

My best attempt, at this time
God is something deep within us and between us
that moves us to be more loving, compassionate, and caring
especially to those who are unloveable, dispassionate, uncaring
and to those marginalized by the structures and powers of the world…

In order to know what it means to be more
loving, compassionate, and caring
I look to the Way lived and taught by Yeshua
a Way that prioritizes the poor
and de-prioritizes the powerful

I know that such a life is not easy
(perhaps it’s impossible)
however, there seems to be a spirit
embedded deep in our DNA
that spooks us individually and in community
to support and encourage one another.

An inner Calling
an embodied Way
a supportive and encouraging Spirit

That is my (small “t”) trinity
my passing description of that divine mystery
that passes before us
and in us
and through us
in the name of God.

Perhaps.
Really?
Spooky, isn’t it?

God Emeritus

Philippians 2:7
            
he emptied himself (CEB)
               [he] stripped himself of all privilege (Phillips)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide and J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins]

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 2.49.36 PM
Creative Commons “And how’s Mrs. Emeritus and the little Emerituses doing?”” by Laurence Simon (Crap Mariner) is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Press Release: God Granted Emeritus Status

The World Academy of Interfaith Theologians concluded its centennial convocation by announcing the results of its research investigating committee into God’s tenure as Supreme Ruler of the Universe and the approval of their recommendation of granting Him [sic] eternal status as “God emeritus.” The following announcement was read at a morning press conference:

The religions of the world greatly appreciate God’s participation in human history since the first human being evolved or was created. God’s tireless energy in running the universe and intervening in history will never again be equalled. He [sic] established multiple examples of “the only true religion” and is noted for the many religious leaders throughout history who were able to proclaim, “I know exactly what God wants for your life…” God has tirelessly answered prayers offered in 4,783 different languages and dialects (with more languages and dialects being added each month).

The announcement that “God is Dead” in the 1960s was premature. Since then, however, God’s position as Supreme Ruler of the Universe (colloqually, “the Big Guy in the Sky”) has continued to be eroded with advancements in medicine and technology, the development of the Big Bang theory, and the discovery of the Higgs boson (the “God particle”) at CERN. To prevent His [sic] sheer exhaustion and/or total neglect, the Academy has intervened and granted God all the rights and privileges of Emeritus.

The Academy is aware that there are many projects that have been promised or actually begun in God’s name. They will continue, but it will be the responsibility of all those who previously had been under God’s influence to pick up the slack and take responsibility to see them to their proper conclusion. If you are involved in one of these projects, you may continue to proclaim that you are working in God’s name only if the results of that work will produce compassion, peace, and justice that contributes to the well-being of all in society.

God was unavailable for comments.

_______________________

Karen Armstrong on Kenosis (emptying):

We are, the great spiritual writers insist, most fully ourselves when we give ourselves away, and it is egotism that holds us back from that transcendent experience that has been called God, Nirvana, Brahman, or the Tao. … We are most creative and sense other possibilities that transcend our ordinary experience when we leave ourselves behind.  (The Spiral Staircase, 2004)

 

Friendship as Collaborative Creativity

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“Creative Commons Friendship, Love & Truth” by plaisanter~ is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reflections on a Friendship

We have learned
through years of collaboration and creativity
that we learn best together
that God most likely happens
   in the space between manifestation of thoughts
   followed by the giving of a word
      sometimes asked for
      sometimes just given
      always welcomed

Some of our best ideas
were spoken and then forgotten

We have learned
that we are at our best
   our most creative
   our most Yeshua-like
when we write and share
   and re-write

We approach our writing differently
poetics and theopoetics
reflections and responses
impressions and ambience
thoughts and feelings
order and ardor
position and passion
effect and affect

Of course its not quite so simple
as two different patterns of communicating
my thoughts invite your feelings
your feelings nudge my thoughts
thoughts and feelings call forth
   deeper streams of being!

Everything changed
when Jack Caputo
became the third person
in the friendship…
   weak theology
   theopoetics
   insistence
   repetition
   jubilee 50
a strong insistence
to explore weak theology
and produce repetitions
using the language of theopoetics
in anticipation of the jubilee year
   50…
   that never actually arrives.

We examine and carefront
   our journeys
   our inner stories of the Way
   our respective life experiences
finding patterns beyond intuition
   insistences, nudges, invitations
      toward wholeness
      toward the Way of Yeshua 
      toward a life of faithing

Spooky, isn’t it?
Haunted by a friend who isn’t there
by a God who doesn’t exist,
   but insists
by the Way of Yeshua
   that seems impossible to live
yet that is who we have become
      might become
         can’t become.

From Progressive Orthodoxy to Radical Theology

Radical Theology2John Caputo seems to write with a pen in one hand a scalpel in the other, striking at the underbelly of my dysfunctional theology. In my attempt to provide a more enlightened and progressive Christian narrative, I was trying to deconstruct God / Christ / Kingdom / Salvation / Resurrection / … using the conceptual framework that I was trying to replace. It is indeed a ruse to posit God’s weakness as a strength. Metaphorically that might be possible, but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

In the past year, I have found myself moving from a “more enlightened and progressive version of Orthodoxy” to the beginnings of a Radical Theology. Elizabeth Boyden Howes, Walter Wink, Herman Waetjen, Peter Rollins, and especially John Caputo have been my guides.

“[A] more enlightened and progressive version of Orthodoxy, …[i]n order to show solidarity with the weak, [posits that] God voluntarily empties Godself of power, freely chooses not to exercise this power, and this divine kenosis does not contradict omnipotence but manifests it. I do not travel down that path because it smacks of a ruse, a kind of docetism, in which the weakness is an even more profound demonstration of power and because it re-implicates God in evil..” (Caputo, The Weakness of God, p. 303, note 24.)

Caputo is correct that saying “God voluntarily empties Godself” is a manifestation of power, dependent upon God as a Super-Being. But, how can such a super-being choose not to intervene contra evil? It is no wonder that it didn’t ‘fit’ for me. In part, the ruse was acting the power-broker by trying to redefine God as a benevolent power. Perhaps, I might have reminded myself of Lord Acton’s axiom about power and corruption.

Kenosis, at best, is an attempt to preserve God’s ultimate power by seeming to limit it, but not really. Fortunately or unfortunately most Christians, when confronted with kenosis in a sermon or a Bible study class, really didn’t believe it. It just doesn’t make sense. Of course, I would argue, that’s the point. I suppose it only makes sense theo-logically! (And at this time, eyes would start to glaze over and thoughts would start to relocate themselves to some place more important.)

I was on the right track, but I didn’t go far enough. In order to talk about the weakness of God, you can’t hold up the image of the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe as the model. To talk about weakness as the primary attribute of God confounds the expectations of just about everyone. And why not? We have been telling them for generation after generation that God is the Ultimate Being who wields ultimate power.

No matter how hard I tried, as long as I continued to use the vocabulary and logic of power, trying to translate traditional theological concepts into a more modern, progressive understanding, I was doomed to failure. Re-filling the old categories, concepts, and understandings with new content wasn’t enough. Instead, it has become necessary to begin thinking in new ways and use new linguistic constructs.

Perhaps we can retain the old, familiar words — e.g., God / Christ / Kingdom / Salvation / Resurrection / … What we can’t do is to assume that there is a physical reality behind those terms. Each time we use one of these words / names we are naming a present construct of our experience — individually and collectively. As an example, in the place of that which the New Testament calls the Kingdom of God, Caputo uses the term “spiritual anarchy” — a force field where the term “God” is what we use to refer to the disruption to our expectations, opening to us the possibility of the impossible — peace instead of war, forgiveness instead of judgment and punishment, agenda set by the 99% on the bottom instead of the 1% on top, justice as a distribution of love instead of a retribution to keep us all is our pre-determined places and roles…

Caputo is right. To the strong theology of a powerful God, all this is as crazy / mad as the Mad Hatter’s party, divine madness! I set before you this day, two ways — the way of the event, which beckons you onward but has no power to compel you to respond or to determine the outcome of your response OR the way of power which always seems to devolve into violence, injustice, or death. As for me and my house, I choose the madness of the weak way that promises the possibility of the impossible — namely, abundant life when we simply abide in the present moment.

Does this make me mad? I hope so!