Thursday, April 24, 2003

Another reply to Leahkim

Leahkim, you wrote:

Often people who don’t believe things can happen, they don’t try hard enough for things to happen. Wouldn’t you agree on that? …sometimes it is really hard to draw the line between realist and pessimist. have hoped and still continue to hope…for many impossible things… Many then thought impossible…became so possible and came true. As long as we can keep our head straight and open our hearts to a warmer brighter side…not giving up…Trying our best…. Hope will exist…

Besides… nobody believed that Jesus was going to rise from death…and he did…

Let’s hope and let’s try our best to make that dream and hope…wish come true.

So much to think about! They didn’t believe Jesus was going to rise from death (theological technicality: “be raised” from death) and when they first encountered the Risen Christ, they still didn’t believe it! We humans have tremendously preconceived ideas of what is possible, and sometimes we are so unseeing and unhearing when anything even slightly outside of our concepts of the range of possibility appears in our lives.

Seems as if a lot of what you’re saying is when people don’t believe (trust), then they don’t try doing or accomplishing anything. One of my most recent posts on this site was about God working through us – I read somewhere God does nothing without human cooperation: I won’t go quite that far, as I think at times God does directly intervene in earthly affairs with what we might call a “miracle,” but for the most part not only the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ is responsible for God’s presence and God’s activity and work in the world; in addition, God has no problem with anonymity, not needing or wanting or expecting to get credit for everything the way humans insist upon.

The biblical writers – especially Jesus and the prophets – the early Church we hear about in the book of Acts and the Church today and all people everywhere, find themselves walking and living such an exceedingly fine line between hope and trust and action and “works!” Without necessarily considering and intending our activities and responses as works righteousness, still seems like people truly and firmly believe God should be giving them points or credits adding up on their charts for everything they try to do and achieve. I know I think that way more often than not!

Then, of course, Jesus is extremely clear about whatever we do to “the least of these” is as if we’d done it to him, and therefore to God, as we know Jesus both as human and as the definitive manifestation of Divinity. Because of this, any reasonable person – especially any reasonable Christian, definitely would strive to start and to finish as many kind and merciful and redemptive actions as possible.

As it says in the Bible: “With God all things are possible;” “With God nothing is impossible;” “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” And that’s when and where our trusting hope and our serious action both need to happen! After all, if the Mighty God of all Creation, our God of Majesty, Glory and Sovereignty could be born on this earth into human society and live and die as one of us, what on earth is not possible?!

In any case, since God indwells each of us as Spirit, and since God works through not only Christians, the body of the Risen Christ, in order to be God with humanity but God also has no difficulty at all working through not Christians as well as people who affirm no Higher Power whatsoever, how much more “unbelievable” can you get?

You also said, “Trying our best…” It appears to me one of our most serious human sins is not in trying to be more than we are, more than we were created to be, but our most serious sin is willingness to be less than we are, less than God created us to be! I know I find myself willing to settle for less (OK, less from myself and less from others) than I “should” – and I say “should” very advisedly!

Holy Week 2003

It’s after Easter; I’d started writing this early in Holy Week, intending to email it to friends and post it on my theology website, Desert Spirit’s Fire Alive. But since I didn’t finish it sufficiently to meet my own timeline, here it is now!

The rumors of war became war, and reports are the allies have been victorious in combat and in their soon to be occupying endeavors. Again contemplating the One both crucified and risen, Whose Word above all is God’s Word of Life to us and for us… I’m moving from the more academic to the more explicitly experiential, so rather than commenting on the War in Iraq that’s winding down, I’ll write about God’s actions in my own life. As again I think about and finally begin feeling about these past years of my journey with the Lord of Life, I watch myself on the periphery of my current communities – ecclesial or otherwise, actual and virtual – and even as I ask myself why I don’t risk integrating myself further into the life of those groups, I’m constantly aware moving closer into the center also invariably and inevitably means moving closer to the edge and the concomitant risk of my being pushed off the edge into marginalization again! Dramatic, but true! Really!

As I’ve frequently mentioned during this past year, our God’s ultimate passion is to journey with the people, and as the Bible and Jesus tell us and show us, its being about the journey means God goes everywhere with you and with me and God can be found by us especially when we meet together in community.

Many, many thanks to all of you who’ve been accompanying me on this walk in trust of the Living One. Without naming specific names (there are so many of you and I couldn’t leave out any of you), special appreciation to those of you who’ve encouraged me in spiritual practice outside the usual expressions of mainline Protestantism. Although I’m convinced I’ll always, always affirm the Reformation “solas,” these new experiences have helped in my remaining not only a Christian of Reformation tradition but also a Reforming Christian.

Extreme thanks, also, to the very many of you who in actual or virtual conversation have provoked my thinking (not hard to do, but still I appreciate it!) that – among other things – has resulted in my website, Desert Spirits Fire Alive!

A lot of the irresolution I constantly live with, which has been over the top as well, can be redeemed only by becoming redemptive for others. Last week I though a lot and felt a whole lot as the Church moved into another Holy Week and particularly another Good Friday, but with constant awareness our God's final answer always is Resurrection: above all God’s Word is the “Word of Life!” To us and, above all, for us.

Thank you, thank you, thank you all!

Sunday, April 20, 2003

God Among Us!

According to the Bible (and Jesus!), here’s how it works:

God says, “I have heard the cry of my people and I have come down to deliver them from slavery and bring them into a broad land flowing with milk and honey!”

Then God says: “Hey Moses! I’m sending you to Pharaoh and you’re gonna tell Pharaoh to set my people free [so they may hold a Feast to me in the wilderness…]! Then you will lead my people out of Egyptian bondage, through the desert and into the Land of Promise, a place of freedom flowing with milk and honey.”

A little later the people beg: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down to earth!”

Then, as Walter Brueggemann expresses it: “This baby named ‘Save!!!!!’”…born into human history, born of a woman, born under the law…in order to deliver those of us under the law!

And still later: “Wait here in Jerusalem until you are clothed with Power from on High; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Samaria and even unto the ends of the earth.”

Now? We’re the ones immersed into Jesus’ death and resurrection in the waters of baptism, we’re the people “clothed with Power from on High!”

Once again God says, “I have heard the cry of my people and I have come down to deliver them from slavery and bring them into a broad land flowing with milk and honey!… Then you [that’s us, the Church!] will lead the people out of bondage, through the desert and into the Land of Promise, a place of freedom flowing with milk and honey.”

To deliver God’s people into the paradisiacal Kingdom of God on earth: from life under the law and into the Promised Land of the Reign of Grace. Presbyterians describe the Church as “The exhibition of the Kingdom of God!!” May we be the exhibition and the realization of Heaven to a world in pain and bondage a world still in need of deliverance…even though it is past the ninth hour and the temple veil has been torn apart; even though it is early Easter dawn and the stone has been rolled away!

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Words about Hope

Leahkim! Thank you for the ideas – since you’ve been reading Homeland, I’ll thank Lu Xun, as well!

You said:
Hope is not a virtue that was with us from the beginning. Hope is something that springs forth from nothingness. Hope is something that exists only for those who know how to hope. Hope exists only for those who believe in it. And in the end, those who persist in thinking that hope does not exist, simply end up proving themselves right.

I want to pick up on “Hope…springs forth from nothingness” and “Hope exists only for those who believe in it.”

Hope springs forth from nothingness? So true: creation and re-creation and the New Creation spring forth from:

1) emptiness, void, abyss

2) Chaos, disarray

3) Death. Absence of life.

God’s living Word, Jesus Christ calls forth Creation, re-creation and the New Creation.

As we move into Easter but look back to Advent, the beginning of the church’s liturgical year, the way God’s judgment always is illuminated and clarified by hope – often joyously dancing out of sin, aimlessness and destruction - is unmistakable, just as our endless immersion in God’s ever-present compassion, mercy and love is abundantly plain.

As we meet Christ Jesus, the One both crucified and risen in the Eucharist and in the world – in one another and especially in the stranger, sojourner and the not-like-us in our midst and also beyond the confines of our neighborhood – and as we offer hospitality to that alien – we, the Church, the Body of the risen Christ, as individuals and as a community move beyond hope to actualize and enact in our midst a time of salvation and of wholeness both for the “other” and for ourselves! All of us, the outsider and those we know and who are similar to us journey from an absence of life and community, from nothingness and emptiness between “us” and “them,” to connectedness and community: to life and the possibility of even more life!

But does the hope capable of generating life in this present moment, that evokes the presence of Spirit…does hope exist “only for those who believe in it?” I’m not convinced! In the Biblical witness – and each of our lives – so very often God works mightily in spite of us, far more frequently than because of us! But I am persuaded a lively hope can be a whole lot easier for those of us who’ve already experienced it and who because of experience find trust in hope easier.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Woman who anointed Jesus

Yesterday was Tuesday in Holy Week; at our evening Voices of Eve liturgy we remembered and celebrated the anonymous (to us!) Woman Who Anointed Jesus.

Our conversation afterwards got onto a different track, so I'll write a couple more theological pieces now.

"Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon king!" Members of the temple hierarchy and theological establishment – both guys – anointed Solomon king to reign in glory and live in palatial opulence. They anointed Solomon king within the recognized, reputable and totally expected imperial structure, within the humanly established order of earthly affairs. Jesus talked about "Solomon in all his glory!"

In that society, in that religious culture, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil poured onto their heads; in that time and place, the only feet that got anointed were the feet of dead people, of corpses. At the house of a leper, the dwelling of a person wholly marginalized by society, a woman nameless to us anointed Jesus not to reign in life but anointed Jesus to his death, a dying in the glory of the cross. A woman – someone with no part in the entire Temple array, one who never could be a priest because of gender and caste – anointed Jesus, way outside of legitimately sanctioned and reputable arrangements and expectations, according to worldly reason and logic, but right within God’s upside down, illegitimate order, God's own scheme that invalidates and inverts most people's imaginings of what should be! The Way of the Cross ... the Divinely established order of human affairs.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

A Lord's Prayer for Justice

A Lord's Prayer for Justice (OFM Capuchin of Ireland)

In our scheme of things, survival of the fittest is the rule. In God’s scheme, survival of the weakest is the rule. God always stands on the side of the weak, and it is there – among the weak – we find God!

Our Father.
Who always stands with the weak, the powerless, the poor, the abandoned. This is the insight of the saints.

Who art in heaven.
Where everything will be reversed, upside down, where the first will be last, and the last will be first.

Hallowed be Thy Name.
May we acknowledge your holiness; your ways are not our ways.

Your Kingdom come.
Help us to create a world where we will walk justly, speak tenderly, and walk humbly with you and with each other.

Your will be done.
Open our freedom to let you in, so the complete mutuality that characterizes your life may flow through our veins.

On earth as in heaven.
May the work of our hands reflect the justice of heaven.

Life and love to us, and help us always to see everything as a gift. Help us to know nothing comes to us by rights, and that we must give because we have been given to.

The truly plural ‘us’. Give, not just to our own, but to everyone including those who are very different from the narrow ‘us’.

This day.
Not tomorrow. Do not let us put things off into some indefinite future, so that we can continue to live justified lives in the face of injustice.

Our daily bread.
So each person in the world may have clean air, pure water, enough food, health care, access to education, and so have the basis of a healthy life.

And forgive us our trespasses.
Forgive us our blindness towards our neighbor, our obsessive preoccupation, our racism. Forgive us our capacity to watch the evening news and do nothing about it.

As we forgive those who trespass.
Help us to forgive those who victimize us. Help us to mellow our spirit, to not grow bitter with age, to forgive the imperfect parents, the family or the community that wounded us.

And do not put us to the test.
Do not judge only by whether we have fed the hungry, given clothes to the naked, visited the sick, or tried to mend the systems that victimized the poor. Spare us this test, for none of us can stand before this gospel scrutiny. Give us instead more days to mend our ways, our selfishness and our systems.

But deliver us from evil.
Deliver us from the blindness that lets us continue to participate in anonymous systems within which we need not see who gets less as we get more.


Thursday, April 03, 2003


One of the revolutionary thing about YHWH is that Yahweh, unlike the other gods of the Ancient Near East, didn’t require appeasement, tribute, protection or beseeching! What does Yahweh require and demand? Here’s some scriptural evidence:

Amos 5:18-24

I hate, I loathe, I despise your festivals
I am not appeased by and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer Me burnt offerings—and grain offerings—
I will not accept them; …
Spare Me the noise of your songs,
I will not listen to or hear the music of your lutes and harps.
But let justice well up like water,
And righteousness like an unfailing ever-flowing stream.

Micah 6:8

…And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?

3rd Isaiah: Isaiah 58:6-8

Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to set the broken free, and to shatter every subjugation?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring into your house the homeless, cast-out poor, to cover the naked and defenseless, and not to conceal yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the morning dawn, and your healing shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your safety and security.