Quenching an Audacious Thirst

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 9.07.35 PM
“Creative Commons Deer Drinking” by David Williss is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Psalm 42:1-5     2 Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being[c] craves you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God. When will I come and see God’s face? My tears have been my food both day and night, as people constantly questioned me, “Where’s your God now?” But I remember these things as I bare my soul: how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode, to God’s own house, with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs—a huge crowd celebrating the festival! Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Musings

A cold drink of water
on a hot day
refreshes me.
I long for that same refreshment
from God.

O God,
quench my thirst,
satiate my hunger.

I long
to have God
physically present to me.

I want to
walk with God in the garden
“while the dew is still on the roses.”
I want
Yeshua to stand at the foot of my bed
and waken me in the middle of the night.
I want
the gifts of the Spirit
to rattle through my bones and enliven me.
I want!…
I want!…
I want!…

BUT,
It is not about me!
And yet,
in some strange way
it is about me…
that insistence

That audaciousness
that unheard inner calling
that persistent nudging…
keeps finding me
keeps hounding me
keeps insisting
and I try to run away…
__________

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasm
èd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturb
èd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
More instant than the Feet —

Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.’”
[from Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven”]

__________

I can keep running until
my legs cramp
my lungs burn
my runner’s high evaporates

until I hit the wall;
then I can
give up and face the metaphoric death
of spiritual hunger
of drying up and blowing away
or
give in to the persistent insistence
incessant invitation
constant calling
in the name of God.
Perhaps.

When I listen
attend,
pay heed,
the “It’s about me”
becomes “It’s about the others”
becomes giving pieces of “me”
giving that with which I have been gifted
giving from ‘my’ abundance
giving from my self
becomes the simple gift of sharing self
solidarity with those in need

The spookiness of this giving
is that the more I give
the more I have to give
such giving does not deplete me
but helps me grow and mature.

So, I rejoice!

Tales of a Magic Monastery — Theophane the Monk

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 2.39.38 PMTheophane the Monk, Tales of a Magic Monastery (Crossroad Publishing Co., 1988).  

This book is a series of stories about a magic monastery. The book proudly proclaims “all these stories are true.” Of course, true does not mean historically factual. Their truth speaks to the authenticity of the inner journey of faithing.

I thought it good fortune to go to the Magic Monastery for Christmas. But at the foot of the hill sat a blind beggar, and when I drew near to give him some money, I hear him ask “Who will lead me into the heart of God?”

I couldn’t go on. Who would lead him into the heart of God? 

I sat down in front of him, I took his hands. “Together,” I said. “Together we will go into the heart of God.” (page 54)

The last story is a simple one: the monk was asked why he came to this monastery. “Because I heard that this was a REAL monastery.””Oh, no my friend, this is not a REAL monastery. This is just a MAGIC monastery.” He asks to be directed to a REAL monastery. “Why don’t you stand by the door and let people in. If you can even once REALLY let someone in, he will direct you to the real monastery.

Just Jesus — Walter Wink

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.55.36 PMThis delightful book shares a collection of stories and brief thoughtful essays that help us understand how Wink developed his passion for scholarship, theology, and nonviolent social justice. It also gives insights into the later development of Wink’s Lewy Body Dementia.

In the forward June Keener Wink, his wife, writes,

[T]hroughout his illness Walter retained the core of himself, the man who loved and laughed. Oftentimes we wept together. His book was not finished. He could not die yet. Several times it seemed like he was ready to give up, but then, with new enthusiasm, the old scholar would rise up in him. Or perhaps the Holy Spirit moved him to renew his ever-present passion for giving his ‘last full measure of devotion’; in other words, to be an evangelist, as he liked to call himself.” (p. 9)

This little book is a treasure.

It Spooks — John D. Caputo

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 5.34.23 PMJohn D. Caputo, et alIt Spooks: Living in response to an unheard call, Shelter50 Publishing (2015).

“John D. Caputo writes with pointed insight and a smattering of human as he dethrones the dry bones of religious academia and deconstructs our Western understanding of God: a god he suggests does not exist, but insists. In one volume Catherine Keller, Brian McLaren, Peter Rollins, Michael Gungor and a host of others (known and no-mane) academics artist writers photographers and painters offer a broad perspective of responses to Caputo’s contention of a spectral, weak god who has no agent  but you (and me) to enact that which is holy. Prepare to try on the “It Spooks” tautology s you consider the role(s) you play in this world and what it might mean for you to live in response to this unheard call.”   [from the Back Cover]

Caputo’s essay (“Proclaiming the Year of the Jubilee: Thoughts on a Spectral Life”) deals with that which “is always coming but it never quite shows up; it keeps getting postponed.” His observations and insights in this essay are a good introduction to his weak theology — that is, God is weak and is dependent upon us to make God present and active in the world. Some quotes from his essay:

If it spooks, if it is at all spooked, the whole thing — thought, being, God — the one big question I have is how to live with it, with “it,” with whatever’s spooking things. How to proclaim the year of the Jubilee even though it never comes? How to lead a spectral life. (page 14)

Walter Benjamin turned the idea of the messianic inside out and said that we are the messianic generation. … We are the ones the dead were waiting for – which is an eerie thought – to make right what was done to them. … We live in messianic or spectral time… We live in the space between a memory and a promise. (page 21)

He or she or it, I know not what, one or many, real or unreal, saving or dangerous, whoever or whatever this is, will not leave me alone. (page 26)

God is not an entity who answers to the name “God.” but a call calling in an uncertain voice, in and under the name (of) “God,” delivering an obscure message, leaving us restless for something, I know not what, eliciting a desire not just for this or that, but a desire beyond all desire, for a knowing without knowledge, reducing us to prayer, to praying like mad to an unknown God, where we pray God to rid us of God. (page 28)

The year of the Jubilee … is not eternal rest but the restlessness of a call for what is coming that intensiv\fies temporal life to the limit. (page 41)

The 32 responses which follow are refreshing and provocative — poetry, personal reflections, theological essays, paintings. Aaron Murphy describes three things that “haunt” him — his unconscious, poverty, and the future. He also shares his brief prayer to open him to those and other experiences: “

Peel me like a tangerine
Lay me open like a book
Blow through me like a violent breeze,
so I can see what falls out when I’m shook.”
(page 185)

May that be a prayer for all of us! 

 

Insurrection – Peter Rollins

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.01.53 AMRollins, Peter, Insurrection (Howard Books, 2011)

“Rollins writes and thinks like a new Bonhoeffer, crucifying the trappings of religion in order to lay bare a radical, religionless, and insurrectional Christianity. A brilliant new voice — an activist, a storyteller and a theologian all in one — and not a moment too soon.”  — John D. Caputo  [from the Back Cover]

The difference between a revolutionary and an insurrectionist is that a revolutionary works for the violent overthrow of the powers that be, in order that his/her side may take the reins of power into their own hands. Insurrection, on the other hand, is a movement from within — leaven in the loaf. Insurrection plants seed and nurtures them so that the system might change from the inside out. Rollins calls it pyro-theology — casting our cherished practices and doctrines into the fire so that we might focus al our energies on working to transform the world, rather than interpreting it or escaping it. Interested in learning more about Peter Rollins?

Insurrection us divided into two sections: Crucifixion and Resurrection.  A few selected quotes:

To participate in the Crucifixion is to experience the breaking apart of the various mythologies we use to construct and make sense of the world. The Crucifixion experience is nothing less than the taking place of the Real. It is the incoming of that which cannot be contained by our various mythologies [or theologies], that which ruptures them and calls them into question. (page 23)

In the sacrifice for religion, Christ loses everything for God, while in the sacrifice of religion Christ loses everything including God. (page 27)

 Radical doubt, suffering, and the sake of divine forsakenness are central aspects of Christ’s experience and thus a central part of what it means to participate in  Christ’s death. … It is the time we stand side by side with Christ …[but] undergo that death in our own lives. (page 29)

It is only as we are cut loose from religion at the very depth of our being — experiencing an existential loss of God, rather than some mere intellectual rejection — that we are free to discover a properly Christian expression of faith. (page 62)

[I]n the image of Christ, we bear witness to the divine sharing fully in our existence (Incarnation) and offering a way of gaining victory amidst it (Resurrection) through the loss of all that would claim to protect us (Crucifixion). (page 113)

The Incarnation tell us that if we want to be like God, then we must be courageous enough to fully and unreservedly embrace our humanity. … [W]e must read the Resurrection in its full radicality: as the state of being in which one is able to embrace the cold embrace of the Cross. If the Crucifixion marks the moment of darkness, then the Resurrection is the very act of living fully into this darkness and saying “Yes” to it. (page 112)

[I]n the Resurrection, we discover that God remains, dwelling in our very midst in the embrace of life. … Resurrection is not something one argues for, but it is the name we give to a mode of living. (pages 160 & 161)

dIf you are not familiar with Rollins, check out the YouTube interview of Rollins by Rob Bell.

The Weakness of God — John Caputo

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 1.59.28 AMCaputo, John, The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event (Indiana University Press, 2006)

Instead of looking at the concept of God directly, Caputo focuses on the event that energizes the name of God. Perhaps. Caputo regularly adds “perhaps” after referring the the name of God — suggesting that we acknowledge our uncertainty in the face of God. “God does not exist; God insists.”

Some years ago I gave up using the language “discerning the will of God” (grappling with God’s existence); replacing it, instead with “discerning the call of God” (attending and responding to God’s insistence). “For Caputo, the event exposes God as a weak force, a powerless power but also as conjuring up something unconditional.” (from the Back Cover). A few thoughts from The Weakness of God:

The modest proposal I make in this book is that the name of God is the name of an event: or rather that it harbors an event, and that theology is the hermeneutics of that event, its task being to release what is happening in that name, to set it free, to give it its own head, and thereby head off the forces that would prevent this event. (page 2)

The movement of the event … has to do with a transforming moment that releases us from the grip of the present and opens up the future in a way that makes possible a new birth, a new beginning, a new invention of ourselves, even as it awakens dangerous memories. (page 6)

Suppose we imagine God not so much in terms of everything that we desire, which seems a little acquisitive, but in terms of everything that desires us, everything that draws us out of ourselves and calls upon us. calling from below being to that which is beyond, that summons up what is best in us, that asks us to go out of our creaturely way of being  and love generously, to live and love, to live and let live, to love and let love, to live by loving unconditionally. (page 36)

For the call calls quietly and is easily lost to all but the most patient and attentive ear, one tuned to the silent peal of its appeal. … The name of God is the name of an event neither inside nor outside, above or below, but up ahead, neither real nor unreal, but not yet real. … The world cannot cotain it. and so it makes the world restless until it is brought forth, which never quite happens. That is why the name of God occupies a considerable place in our conscious thoughts even as it settles deeply into our unconscious. (page 123)

“While this view of God flies in the face of orthodox theology, it also poses a provocative version of theology in a radical and postmodern mode.”  (from the Back Cover) His analysis of the Genesis creation story and the story of the raising of Lazarus are alone worth the price of the book. Caputo loosened the soil around my theological roots, challenging and facilitating both my growth in theological understanding and a heightening of my spirit.  Before I started reading Caputo, I was likely headed toward Spong’s alumni association of the church. With Caputo and many others, I have finally identified the nature of my lover’s quarrel with the church. This website is my exploring that spat.

Wisdom’s Child — The Human Being by Walter Wink

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 1.47.01 AMWink, Walter, The Human Being: Jesus and the, Enigma of the Son of the Man (Fortress Press, 2002).

Wink was a colleague of Elizabeth Boyden Howes. What she does not do at any length in Jesus’ answer to God, Wink does in this work — namely, provide a deep scholarly study of the “son of man” passages in scripture and other sources.

His aim is to discover what went into this designation that Yeshua* used for himself — apparently the only title Jesus claimed for himself. Moreover, Yeshua’s* self-understanding and living out of that image begins to give us parameters for understanding what it means to be truly human. The amazing thing about this title is that it not only applies to Yeshua*, it can also apply to you and me. While this is a serious study, it is an enjoyable read.

Following are a few quotations from the book:

Something was about to happen to humanity as a species. A new mutation was seeking to emerge. The womb of the world was pregnant with God waiting to be born, in a human, as a human, as human. (p. 58)

It is indeed awesome how Christology has been used to avoid the clear intent of Jesus. So the astonishing freedom of the Human Being was sabotaged in the interest of institutional harmony and rule by law. (page 74)

The Human Being* seems to function as the mediator of God’s intent for our becoming whole. (p. 80)

The son of the man was not just Jesus, but any and all who were in touch with Jesus’ ‘Abba’ (‘Daddy’ in Aramaic). Because it is still evolving, incomplete, imperfect, unknown, and virtual, the Human Being straddles consciousness and unconsciousness. It is a partial revelation, partially hidden, partially disclosed, and still emerging. Because it is not a symbol of perfection, Sophie’s [Wisdom’s] Child embraces all previously excluded from the Beloved Community.

The Human Being, like the Christ, is an archetypal realty, But as an archetype of humanness, the Human Being makes people whole, not perfect. It exercises power, not through compulsion, but by nonviolence. It defines as human, not prowess in battle or beauty of body or achievement of high office, but that which is left when the desire for these has been crucified. It offers us the secret of our individuality.

At stake are the entrenched values of the Domination System and its gospel corrective. The goal is not to transcend or surpass the human, but simply to be the humans we were created to be.

Jesus could not tell others he was the Messiah. For if he told them, they would not have to discover the Messiah within themselves. And if they did not discover the Messiah within themselves, they would not learn that they had such powers of discovery within themselves. And if Jesus did not enable them to discover such powers within themselves, he was not the Messiah.

It can be terrible to fall into the hands of the living God. But that seems to be the price  for authentic life. (p. 147)

The ascension was the entry Jesus into the archetypal realm. (p. 152)

The ascension was a fact on the imaginal plane, not just an assertion of faith. It irreversibly altered the nature of the disciples’ consciousness. They would never again be able to think of God apart from Jesus. (p. 153)

Personally, I have found the church’s elevating Yeshua to being the “god” of salvation to be distasteful and not helpful. It has robbed every one of us the capacity to move toward the wholeness that human life intends — instead, making us beggars for our own salvation at the foot of the throne of God. For me, the Christological richness resides in designating Yeshua as the preeminent Human Being who energizes, catalyzes the messianic impulse within each of us. He was the first fruit of a rich harvest of human wholeness. What Yeshua incarnated he made available to all humanity – namely, the reality of a God-filled life of compassion, peace, and justice. As Wink concludes:

The gist of this book is, simply, that Jesus was the son of the man is enough. What this lean and pared-back Christianity has to give to the world is not its creeds, dogmas, doctrines, liturgies, and devotions, though some of these traditions still hold great validity for many. It offers, simply — Jesus. And the Jesus it has to give is not the Jesus of the two natures, or the second person of the Trinity, or the one who is of one being (homoousious) with the Father, though people within certain belief traditions may value all these concepts. If the Human Being archetype is carry out the transformative task, we will need to develop new theologies, liturgies, prayer forms, and devotional practices that can help people tap that luminosity.  But I want to worship the God Jesus worshiped, not Jesus as God. (p. 259)

Amen and Amen!

Jesus’ Answer to God — Elizabeth Boyden Howes

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 1.45.55 AMHowes, Elizabeth Boyden, Jesus’ Answer to God (Guild for Psychological Studies Publishing House, 1984)

Most often, those studying the Gospels and Yeshua’s life, ministry, and teachings focus on Jesus’ answer to humankind — that is, what did he do for us. Howes, a New Testament scholar who also studied with Fritz Kunkel and Carl Jung, turns the process inside-out and upside-down. By a thorough-going study of the synoptic Gospels, infused with an understanding of Archetypes and other Jungian concepts, Howes attempts to decipher Yeshua’s relationship with God — that is, how Jesus understood his call and mission. Howes paints a different picture from so much of traditional understandings about Yeshua.

The key is understanding the ground of Yeshua’s call is found in his baptism and wilderness experiences. Yeshua went into the waters of the Jordan like his Jewish compatriots — probably a combination of repentance, obedience, and confusion. He emerged from those waters with a deep commitment to God and a growing sense of call. The wilderness experience depicts Yeshua’s confronting each of the current understandings of Messiah that were present in the thinking of the Israelite people. He rejects each of them.

Throughout his ministry, Yeshua encounters the attempts to pin the label of “Messiah” on him. He resists those attempts, striving instead to help the common people understand that the messiah (messianic* dynamic) was within them. For example, Yeshua does not take credit for healing others; instead, he credits the faith of the person healed, of that person’s friends or family, of the disciples. A few words from Howes:

Christianity has historicized (or made literal) the inner mythic elements Jesus lived and taught, and therefore there has been a mythologizing of the history of that man. … Jesus lived his own inner myth as the immanent expression of God transcendent and incorporated it into his personal history, and taught others how to live their history. (page iv) In the wilderness, the Holy Spirit revealed itself to [Jesus] as the core resource and manifestation of God within his humanity. … The true Messianic process behind the hoped-for Messiah might be described as the Holy Spirit working within. … He knew that he would serve God and God only in some unspecified way (which could be called the resurrected life). … He did not know specifically what God’s will for him would be. (page 22)

[Mark 4:26-29] describes the possibility of the Kingdom of God growing slowly in a natural, evolutionary way. … There is no mention here of any Messianic agent, which throws great light on the Messianic function as process, not as a “who.” (page 88) 

“To sell all” — three simple words … This “all” then is one thing … To sell the “all,” the one thing, means to renounce that right to choose specificity of one’s own desire and to let oneself be molded by the Patterning of the moment. It is as if our life were on loan. we can either take it and run away to shape it as we will, or we turn it back to its Source in a volitional act of choice which makes us co-creators with the process of God. (page 88f)

Jesus’ Answer to God has been one of the most refreshing and challenging books I have read regarding New Testament studies.

Jesus – Teaching in the Temple

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.56.08 PM
“Creative Commons Jesus at the Temple Relief” by Nick Richards is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mark 12:35-37   35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “Why do the legal experts say that the Christ is David’s son? 36  David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said,The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right side until I turn your enemies into your footstool.’[a] 37  David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ so how can he be David’s son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight..
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Instead of personal comment, two quotations regarding the above passage:

“David’s lord is none other than the New Human Being [son of man] whom Jesus embodies and manifests … who, because he is David’s lord, cannot be David’s son.”

Herman Waetjen, A Reordering of Power: A Socio-
olgical Reading of Mark’s Gospel (1989), p. 195. 

“In the face of a tradition that was to outdo itself in making lofty claims for Jesus, Jesus seems to be denying the foundation of these claims. … “… At stake are the entrenched values of the Domination System and its gospel corrective. The goal is not to transcend or surpass the human, but simply to be the humans we were created to be.”

Walter Wink, The Human Being: Jesus and
the Enigma of the Son of Man (2002), p. 121

 

Advancing the Creation

Pillars of Creation
Public Domain (words added)

Romans 8:22     We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

 

Musings

Too often we remove faithfulness from its connection with the whole order of creation. The truth is that 13.7 billion years of creation brought the universe to the point where human consciousness has developed the capacity for self-reflection and faithfulness. Cosmologists tell us that we are the universes capacity for self-reflection. When we waste that gift on selfish intention (namely, seeking to escape this life for an after-life in heaven), we deny what the creations labor pains have been birthing. 13.7 billion years of preparation and we want to waste that energy by denying the life that creation formed in us.

There is a deep inner spirit that can take us beyond our short-sighted and often selfish desires to be the center of it all. That spirit (which we sometimes call God, Spirit, Mystery, Divine, Allah, Higher Purpose, YHWH, Buddha, Tao, Messiah, …) only wants us to be whole, integrated, mature, wholesome persons whose lives in the here-and-now radiate peace and justice. That is what creation has been working towards for 13.7 billion years. That is the inner insistence which calls us into being and action in the name of God. Perhaps. If there is any coherent understanding of predestination, it must run something like this — without a specific blueprint, the universe has developed its own rulesand rituals.That serendipitous plan has been, from a human perspective, nothing short of miraculous for it gives each one of us the capacity to grow into the likeness of one whose life transformed the direction of the human-divine encounter and, thereby, advanced the creation.