January 29, 2017
Sermon on the Mount:
The heart of Jesus' teaching was the Sermon on the Mount. In the structure of Matthew, which intentionally parallels the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the Sermon functions in the same way as the Ten Commandments did--as the heart of the law. These teachings, and Jesus' lived example, invite us to reconsider the conventional wisdom. We win, according to this Gospel, by losing, such a countercultural and paradoxical notion that Jesus finally had to live it himself to demonstrate its truthfulness.
Perhaps one way we might understand how this functions in our real-world experience is to consider the way that following these "commandments" of Jesus--really a set of images that point the way--break destructive cycles. In an age of such reactivity, a gentle, humble, love-filled response refuses to return violence for violence, taking all the air out of the many confrontations we encounter. Gentleness, mercy, humility, a willingness to take on suffering rather than foist it on others, deep listening that seeks to understand rather than to win. Imagine the power of these patterns of behavior in bridging the divides that seem so wide and deep these days!
Readings for Sunday:
Micah 6:1-8 † Psalm 15 † 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 † Matthew 5:1-12
"In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.” In the Washington Post.
Hugo Chavez was a populist, too. His opponents never figured out how to beat him. (AP Photo/Jorge Santo)
And have a look at this article by Sojourners:
American 'Christianity' Has Failed
Mainstream Christianity has failed. It looks nothing like Jesus.
January 15, 2017
This time between Epiphany and Lent (which begins March 1st with Ash Wednesday) is not really a season, but a part of Ordinary Time in the church calendar. And yet there are themes that keep cropping up in the readings when it comes to this idea of revealing what has been hidden in darkness.
Vocation, discipleship, community belonging—that is, when I consider my baptism, and my new identity as a follower or disciple of Christ, how does that change my understanding of self and my role or way in the world? Fundamentally, my "I" becomes a "we"—a deep sense that to be human is to be inextricably and joyfully linked to others and to the whole of creation. Every action is shaped by this deep sense.
There's something more. Our "we" opens us to a sense of how much more is out there, of how much we have yet to discover and understand. Watch this recent TED talk for one biological researcher's take on this idea:
Christian hope is rooted here. Different from optimism or a positive outlook, hope is a deep sense of possibility even in the midst of an accurate accounting of where we are and what's happening. Hope has a steady and unflinching eye toward suffering and injustice. And yet it understands death is never the last word. Something new is always around the corner, in fact, already in existence, waiting for us. So what does hope look like in these texts in this time?
Isaiah 49:1-7 † Psalm 40:1-11 † 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 † John 1:29-42
What good news is there for us? What does it call us to do—that is, our vocation?
Lamb of God
When John identifies Jesus, he calls him "the Lamb of God," Many have interpreted this historically as a sacrifice for sin; but lambs weren't used for sin sacrifices in the temple. They were used for the Passover sacrifice, which remembers the liberation and deliverance of the people by God. Think Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. Think liberation from slavery. Think economic justice for people living through one temblor after another on land that has been undermined by fracking. Think meaningful work for unemployed miners. But think even bigger—psychologically, spiritually, holistically. Think hope:
January 8, 2017
So, how's it going? How do you think it is going?
Is the world becoming a better place? Worse? Something in-between? Something else? How are we to think about these things? Is there room for optimism? Pessimism? Something different? How about hope?: That's a bigger word for the Christian faith. What does hope mean? What does it look like? What difference does it make?
As brightly as the story’s star, the Epiphany opens up the stellar power of God’s coming to humanity, and our awkward, dramatic, unlikely fumbling toward the Divine. We see the rewards of leaving the comfort zone of one’s own faith and of interfaith cooperation, the penalties for missing the signs of other seekers, and the ways all of us are Herod, all of us are the magi, and all of us long for power.
Readings for this Sunday:
Isaiah 60:1-6 † Psalm 72:1-7,10-14 † Ephesians 3:1-12 † Matthew 2;1-12
John Lennon, 20th century
“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.”
Shel Silverstein, 20th century
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
Karl Jung, 20th century
"Bidden or unbidden, God is present."
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
Leonard Cohen, 20th century
"There's a crack in everything--that's where the light gets in."
Lao Tzu. 6th century B.C.E.
"Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and water is clear?"
Mahatma Gandhi, 20th century
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Kahlil Gibran, 20th century (other source says Rabindranath Tagore)
"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy."