Hitchens/Wilson sneak peak from LEVEL4 on Vimeo.
Jesus talks frequently about metanoia: turning around, or changing your mind.
I remember having problems with that myself. I thought, "What am I supposed to turn around?" I'm baptized, I'm confirmed, I've gone to the Eucharist, and I'm even ordained! How foolish. That's precisely the blindness Jesus is talking about.
People the most obedient to commandment and church formulas can very often be the hardest to convert. They've taken the symbol for the substance. They've taken the ritual for the reality. They've taken the means for the end and become inoculated from experience of the real thing.
Fr. Richard Rohr
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be
consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are
born to Eternal Life.
Those at the edge, ironically, always hold the secret for the conversion of every age and culture. They always hold the projected and denied parts of our soul. Only as the People of God receive the stranger and the leper, those who don't play our game, do we discover not only the hidden and hated parts of our own souls, but the Lord Jesus himself. In letting go, we make room for the Other. The Church is always converted when the outcasts are reinvited into the temple.
God speaks the true word of power, but we cannot believe it. We trust in our power, which we think will change the world, but what has it done?
Conservatives tend to mistrust powerlessness, while liberals tend to mistrust power. Jesus puts them both together in an utterly new way that satisfies neither group. We have never had the courage to take the word of the Lord seriously. We are afraid of both gospel power and gospel powerlessness. We've experienced just enough Christianity, someone once said, to forever inoculate ourselves from wanting the real thing.
I am convinced that most of the saints were religious dropouts from societies that were going nowhere. Faith called them to drop out and believe in something else. Jesus' announcement of the reign of God was telling us that culture as we've created it is on a track toward self-destruction and emptiness. All we have to give up is the utterly false understanding that we have of ourselves from civil society. For some reason that liberation seems to be the most difficult thing in the world!
It's important to realize that Jesus' message was being given, at the same time, to those on the top of society and to those on the bottom. To those on the top, he is always saying, "Come down. Give up your power, your righteousness, and your explanations. Jump off the tower." To those on the bottom-all the nobodies-he's always saying, "Come up! You've got faith. Go show yourself to the priests. You've got the power."
There's a gospel to the oppressors and a gospel to the oppressed, reversing both of their self-evaluations.
Shame and honor were, in fact, moral values in the culture Jesus lived in. In other words, retaliation was the rule of Jewish culture. For Jesus to walk into the midst of that and to say, "Do not retaliate" is to subvert the whole honor/shame system. People who heard this would wonder, "How do I find my self-image, my identity?"
And all Jesus does is to point radically to God. Who you are in God is who you are. In that system there are no ups and downs, no dependence upon families and villages for self-esteem, upon wealth or good societal standing.
Jesus puts identity on a solid foundation: life in God and not in passing definitions of honor and shame.
As we observe Holy Week, my thoughts are turned toward the ceremonies of commemoration that we engage this week. From Good Friday through Easter, we will have observed home church services, interdenominational services, the church calendar, fasting, and so on...
Please, at this holy time of remembrance, let us consider that the institutions of rights not overshadow what these services mean.
Feasting, Communion, and Foot Washing Services are not an end in themselves, but a deliberate act of forcing us to reconsider the pattern of life that Jesus gives. These reenactments of His "new commands" are to heighten our awareness of how life in the kingdom is to look. If we simply "observe" these ordinances without walking the reality of them daily we miss the point.
Tonight, we will overlay the Stations of the Cross with Maundy Thursday into one Service, but our lives, each day, will reflect our love for God by loving people in the ways that He has "ordained."
At the cross, everyone is equal. If it was important to Jesus to reconcile us through terrible sacrifice, should not His followers endeavor to commune, eat with, and wash those who are suffering without Him. Should we not, at least embody the same kind of love?
He "stands at the door and knocks" (that is the door of the Church)... Could it be that He does this in human form-in the form of the poor, the homeless, the unfortunate, the simple, the mentally ill, the incarcerated, and all the cultures we might not want to touch?
"If you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto Me..." (Jesus) Lets consider today.
Finding our present in the past
This week’s Lectionary:psalm 119.97-104, jeremiah 31.27-34, luke 18.1-8, & 2 timothy 3.14 – 4.5
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3.16-17
Meditation: …'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" (Luke 18.3b-5)Reflection: It's easy to miss the point. One should not, after all, pray to God this way! Badger God, hound God, throw all God's promises into God's face and demand that the Judge of the universe do right? Far be that from us, for whom decorum determines godliness. God hears us the first time we pray! Admittedly the judge was evil; but isn't this a contrast parable, implying how much more quickly God will answer our prayers?
Consider: In this week’s scriptures, I think the lectionaries’ point is to point us in the direction of praying really, really hard—persistently working toward God’s ends with great determination. However, that’s not how these pan out for me…
Psalm 119 has always been a bit of a paradox for me. I mean that we are not given the author’s identity (many believe that it is a psalm of David), but without knowing his specific difficulties with authority, those in power, the elderly, etc., we are simply guessing at what his problem really is. There is one point of view represented, and we never really get the other side.
Much of this psalm sounds like an arrogant youngster, complaining (as we do) about how the power structures’ and such “don’t get it.” And then there is the point of view that he really has been disservices by know-it-all leaders, bent on keeping him in his place. It’s probably accurate, that the truth of his circumstances lies somewhere in between.
Scripture is full of folks believing that God is on their side because they are right. Fortunately, God has wonderfully preserved their stories as “earthen vessels” that captures their most base character flaws for our benefit.
When we get to Jesus’ parable about the unjust judge, we are tempted to believe that he is giving us a pattern for prayer. The trouble is that this picture looks nothing like the “Our Father,” and leaves his question, about finding faith on the earth at his return, hanging in mid-air.
We are great at bugging God to give us everything we want, ensuring that we never suffer inconvenience or discomfort, calling it prayer, but if prayer is “communing with God,” surrendered listening to the master, perhaps we would find ourselves in the position of fulfilling God’s Kingdom here on earth, just as in heaven.
Unjust judges are slow to hear the cries of the least important. I suggest that if we were to spend less time burdening God with how right we are, deferring to listening to him in our weakness, I am sure that he will find faith on the earth, his will being done…Just a thought.
2 timothy 4 .1-5
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
How To Screw Up Worship
Proper 16 (year c)
Psalm 71.1-6, Jeremiah 1.4-10, Luke 13.10-17, & Hebrews 12.18-29:
When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day." Luke 13.13-14
Meditation: "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12 .28 & 29)
Reflection: The reign that God proclaims and that we receive "cannot be shaken." Whatever we may or may not see, whatever we may or may not accomplish, this promise is true. We can trust it.
"Jesus heals a crippled woman, provoking criticism from Pharisees who, perhaps threatened by Jesus' growing popularity and power, accuse him of breaking Sabbath rules. Jesus' response is quick and severe; he exposes their hardness of heart by asking, 'ought not this woman ... be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?' Jesus rejects the rigid interpretation of the law and insists instead on the spirit of the law - that the Sabbath provides liberation and renewal for all." - Freed from Bondage
Consider: Shaken, NOT Stirred? As we look at this woman, bound in sickness-"crippled for eighteen years," the religious authority may well have marked her as undeserving of kindness, through an embellished purity code system. First, she was a woman-property, and of little more worth, and a long sickness might have been believed to be God's just judgment on her in their eyes. So, Jesus affirms her as a "daughter of Abraham" and exposes their hypocrisy-they would rather take care of cattle, instead of a child of God.
Jesus points them to the Sabbath-the true meaning, and spirit of Sabbath. Remember him speaking on another occasion, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" (Luke 6.9). The words he uses after freeing her, connotes the idea of obligation under the law. They surely understood his rebuke to be lawfully endorsed.
Prophets "pluck up" and "pull down." They "destroy" and "overthrow" (Jeremiah 1.10). His prophetic words and actions, reprimand the religious leaders of the day, for placing legalistic, and oppressive regulations-business as usual-ahead of the weightier matters of the law-like justice and mercy. Ultimately, prophesy is "to build and to plant," redirecting and renewing a vision with true compassion, as a worshipful reflection of God and his merciful order.
Today, the church seems to have things organized in such a way that this worshipful reflection finds its place in the margins of "normal" church life. The "business" of church, seems to have superseded the true "work" of the church. I wonder what will remain when our shaking begins.
Lord, let the shaking begin...