Thursday, April 30, 2009

UNFATHOMABLE CALLING

A poem I penned about the mystery of calling and vocation

We may not with certainty know
That to which we are called.
There is a naïve arrogance
In declaring our vocations.

We serve in terms we can fathom
Without fathoming our divine range.
We may miss it by a mile
But still happen onto what God intended.

Seeking to know is less useful
Than living questions with a certainty
That grace ever goes before us
And leads us, unwittingly, home.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

RESPONDING TO GOD'S CALL

Calling is part knowing, part mystery, but all encompassing

O God,
I live in response to your call.
My life is not my own.

But yielded to you,
my life is given creative capacities
and myriad opportunities
to serve, to learn,
to grow, to give--to live more fully
than if I'd never heard
or never responded to
your call.

Yet your call remains a mystery,
an enigma that challenges me
without being fully fathomed
or sharply focused.
I would like to understand more,
in the thought that I may more pointedly
cooperate with your purposes
in my life.

But if my fuller knowing
ignites my pride or selfish will,
or inhibits an iota of your desire,
then let me carry on
seeing as through a glass darkly
that I may be led haltingly
into a future that fulfills
your call on my life.

Amen.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

EVER READ THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS?

GENEVA CONVENTION GENERAL PROVISIONS, ARCTICLE 3

"WE DON'T TORTURE." Given all that's transpiring in the national news' daily revelations about the extent to which American intelligence officials under direction of the Bush Administration tortured detainees suspected of being terrorists by the use of waterboarding and other "enhanced techniques," it might be good to know what the Geneva Conventions say. Below is the most specific part, but you can read the entire Geneva Conventions documents by clicking here.

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A DEEPER SOURCE FOR PROTEST & CHANGE

Objection to war and a passion for peace can come from a place of Christ-centeredness in the soul.

FEAR & PARTISANSHIP. I've been thinking again about conscientious objection, national and international security alternatives to militarism, and protests to war--whether pre-emptive war with Afghanistan, Iraq or war with any people. Objection to war can emerge from different places in the psyche or soul. Among others, fear and ideological partisanship are two prime sources. But neither of these are the places out of which the likes of 18th-century American Quaker John Woolman lived and articulated his objections to the accepted norms of his day--slave-holding, money lending, and wars on Native Americans.

A DIVINE CENTER. There is another place out of which challenges to accepted social compromises―even compromises mouthed by so-called Christian leadership―emerges. It is also a place out of which livable alternatives arise and strength to stand even amid the severest criticisms springs. It is, in the words of Thomas R. Kelly in A Testament of Devotion, a divine center, a sanctuary within, the Shekinah of the soul, the inner Light.

SENSITIZING BEFORE THE ALTAR. Kelly writes, "Woolman…resolved so to order his outward affairs, so to adjust his business burdens, that nothing, absolutely nothing would crowd out his prime attendance upon the Inward Principle. And in this sensitizing before the altar of his soul, he was quickened to see and attack effectively the evils" of his day.

SILENCES OF THE SOUL. "The value of Woolman and Fox and the Quakers of today for the world," Kelly writes, "does not lie in their outward deeds of service to suffering men, it lies in that the call to all men to the practice of orienting their entire being in inward adoration about the springs of immediacy and ever fresh divine power within the silences of the soul."

REJUDGING, RECREATING. "A practicing Christian," says Kelly, "must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul to the inner sanctuary, who brings the world into its Light and rejudges it, who brings the Light into the world with all its turmoil and its fitfulness and recreates it (after the pattern seen on the Mount)."


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TO LOVE THE WORLD

Another Earth Day passes with not so much as a recognition from my evangelical brethren. It seems like Evely is right on.

"To believe in God is to believe in the salvation of the world. The paradox of our time is that those who believe in God do not believe in the salvation of the world, and those who believe in the future of the world do not believe in God. Christians believe in 'the end of the world,' expecting a final catastrophe, the punishment of others. Atheists in their turn invent doctrines of salvation, try to give a meaning to life, work, the future of humankind, and refuse to believe in God because Christians believe in him and take no interest in the world.

"All ignore the true God: he who has loved the world! But which is the more culpable ignorance?

"To love God is to love the world. To love God passionately is to love the world passionately. To hope in God is to hope for the salvation of the world.

"I often say to myself that, in our religion, God must feel very much alone: for is there anyone besides God who believes in the salvation of the world? God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble him enough, who love the world enough that he could send them into the world to save it."

From In the Christian Spirit by Louis Evely quoted in A Guide to Prayer by Jobs & Shawchuck.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

OVERSTEPPING BOUNDARIES TO INVITE PEOPLE

Bishop Robert Schnase describes the radical nature of Jesus' hospitality

“At every turn, the disciples seem ready to draw boundaries and distinctions that keep people at a distance from Jesus. They have a thousand reasons to ignore, avoid and sometimes thwart the approach of people, reminding Jesus that some of these people are too young, too sick, too sinful, too old, too Roman, too blind, too Gentile to deserve his attention. Jesus teaches, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’ (Matt. 18:5). In every instance, Jesus radically challenges the disciples’ expectations by overstepping the boundaries to invite people in.”

“Hospitality has us seeing people as Jesus sees them and seeing Jesus in the people God brings before us.”

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (Abingdon)

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

HOSPITABLE PLACES

Room for friendships to grow

“Hospitable places allow room for friendships to grow. Food, shelter, and companionship are all interrelated in these settings. In such environments, weary and lonely persons can be restored to life. Jean Vanier writes that when people sense ‘that they are wanted and loved as they are and that they have a place, then we witness a real transformation—I would even say a resurrection.’” – Christine Pohl in Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Monday, April 20, 2009

OF STRANGERS, HOSPITALITY, & INTENDED BLESSINGS

Four points for reflection on the Emmaus road/table story

BULLET POINTS. Well, the weekend got away from me. I reflected fully on the Luke 24:13-35 account of Jesus as the stranger on the road to Emmaus and the revelation of his true identity when he broke bread with the two who offered him hospitality. However, I did not take the time to share my reflections or development here fully as I had hoped. What I can offer, at this point, are four one-sentence observations that could use some further consideration and unpacking:

- Unrecognized, Jesus often meets us on our road of confusion and anxiety. Luke 24:13-16

- Sometimes, we need the stranger more than the stranger needs us. Luke 24:17-27

- When we make room, simple things like breaking bread can reveal an eternal dimension. Luke 24:28-32

- If we do not offer hospitality we will never know what intended blessing we missed. Luke 24:33-35

More later.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

HE MEETS US ON THE ROAD

Unrecognized, Jesus often meets us on our road of confusion and anxiety

DON'T RUSH. I am in a hurry to get to the points in the Emmaus Road story that I want to make--the points about hospitality--so I can engage in an urgent plea for a recovery of the simple but profound practices of hospitality today. But I should not rush past what there is to note and learn in the fullness of this multi-dimensional story of Luke 24:13-35.

TALKING IT OVER. As I slow down and look back at beginning of this story, I see two anxious disciples of Jesus on a seven-mile road that connects the city of Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. It's later in the same day that the disciples had received word that Jesus was no longer in the tomb and alive. The two are excitedly talking about all that had happened--the tragic events of the weekend and now this: Jesus was reportedly alive again.

WHAT DID IT MEAN? Hard to believe and harder to digest, the news must have been both exciting and troubling to these disciples. It took them by surprise. What could it mean? It had disconcerting political ramifications both for the Jewish community leaders and Roman governmental authorities. How could the disciples be sure Jesus was alive? And, if indeed he was alive, what might happen next?

FOCUSED INWARD. As they are discussing it all, Jesus came up and walked along with them, but they are kept from recognizing him. Two questions: Why did Jesus come up to them? And, why did they not recognize him or why were they kept from recognizing him? In response to the second question, I postulate that the two disciples are so overwhelmed with the news and so internally focused on their concerns that they are oblivious to almost everything else. I've been in such a state of mind and spirit at times. And Jesus would be the last person they would expect to come up and walk alongside them.

HE MEETS US IN OUR QUESTIONING. Why did Jesus come up to them? In terms of motivation and purpose, I can't answer that question directly. But here's what intrigues me: Jesus DID come up to two very troubled and concerned people that he loved and had invested in. And when he came up to them, he helped them understand, offered them insight, and connected the past, present, and future events in a fulfilling manner. Jesus meets them in their sincere questioning and in that I find a lot of encouragement for my own journey.

WHO ELSE IS LIKE THIS? Jesus meets us on our road of questioning. He is with us in our bewilderment. He finds us in our confusion. He meets us in our searching. And wherever, whenever that is, Jesus offers his counsel--even when we don't recognize it is his presence, his voice. Does anyone know of anyone else like that? Has anyone found such an anticipatory and caring guide in life? There is none like him.


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

EMMAUS DISCOVERIES

The stranger beside us on the road is the Christ with us at the table

RIGHT AFTER THE RESURRECTION. I've been reading what the Scriptures have to tell us about what happened immediately after the news of Jesus' resurrection. Or, initially, to some of the disciples, it was the perplexing case of an empty tomb and a missing body. These post-resurrection stories help me get a handle on how Jesus' followers reacted, responded, began to piece together what had actually happened, and started to assign meaning to it all.

STRANGER ON THE ROAD. Central in Luke's account (24:13-35) is the story of two disciples walking to Emmaus on Sunday after hearing the startling morning news. They are joined by a stranger who engages them in conversation about the day's news. As they excitedly tell him what they know, he points out its roots and intention from the Scriptures. But it isn't until the disciples extend hospitality to the stranger--offer him shelter for the night and food for his stomach--that he is revealed: the stranger is Jesus.

CHRIST AT THE TABLE. Imagine these disciples so full of anxiety and looking inward that they didn't recognize the very one they had spent their days with over the past several years. It isn't until they some into the dim light of the evening dinner table that they begin to see clearly. There are the hands that broke the bread of Passover a few nights before. There are the eyes that convey authenticity, truth. They now connect these to the voice that resonates with the love they knew in their hearts. The stranger on the road is, clearly, Christ himself at the table.

HOSPTIALITY AND GRACE. I love this story for its multi-dimensional way of conveying the conflicts and promises of the moment. And I love it for its enduring challenges to Jesus' followers, certainly to receive strangers and offer generous hospitality, but not just these. Over the next few days and posts, as I continue to live with this story, I want to share some fresh observations and insights I'm gleaning from it. As much as there is to garner from what happens with the stranger on the road, there is perhaps more to learn and apply from what happens at the Emmaus table. Stay tuned.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PRACTICING RESURRECTION

Fair warning: this is a longer and heavier reflection than usual, but it has an important short list at the end

WHAT RESURRECTION LIVING IS NOT. The last line of a well-known Wendell Berry poem ("Manifesto: Mad Farmer Liberation Front") is "practice resurrection." Taking Berry's cue, what will it mean for me to practice resurrection today? I’m pretty sure I know what it does NOT mean:

- Practicing resurrection is not the same as having some kind of confidence that life--and justice, truth, freedom, etc.--ultimately triumphs because “that’s the way life is.”

- Practicing resurrection is not the same as having a “positive mental attitude” or possessing a hopeful outlook on the outcome of things.

- Practicing resurrection is not the same as believing everything will turn out okay if I just do the right things.

- Practicing resurrection is not the same as believing in the immortality of the soul or eternal life.

- Practicing resurrection is not simply observing and getting in sync with the “circle of life.”

GO AHEAD, THINK POSITIVELY. Don’t get me wrong: I believe it is valuable to think positively. I try to practice thinking positively each day. My frame of mind is “can-do.” I take Wayne Dyer seriously when he says to “shun naysayers, whiners, complainers, critics, and those who say it can’t be done.” I believe in my God-given capacities to positively impact relationships, communities, and the world. I am convinced that doing the right things (and, secondarily, doing things right) impacts foreseeable outcomes significantly. If we do not think greatly or deeply we will not realize great things or become people the world must reckon with. I am convinced we live at the lower limits of what is humanly positively possible; a representative few of our race in each generation seem to exercise their capacity more fully and make it clear that we can become and do much more than most of us think we can become and do. I believe in eternal life.

THOUGHT, ATTITUDE, DISCIPLINE. But little of this has much to do with my belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ or what I believe it means to “practice resurrection.” All of the above are primarily matters of thought, attitude, and discipline. They require nothing obviously or overtly transcendent. They require challenging your thoughts and thought patterns; they require checking my attitude and training myself to look at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty; they require discipline to follow through, to stay committed to principles, to master a science or trade or profession, and to “make the most” of what one has been given.

A RELATED ASIDE. (Regarding looking only at the bright side or at the glass as half full, my refusal to acknowledge emptiness does not somehow negate or fill up the emptiness that really does exist right under my nose! Application: looking only at positive things and good situations does not make the reality of negative things and dreadfully hurtful situations go away. Every positive person has got to deal with what is going wrong in our world, for it may well be that what makes me feel so positive is at the expense of others who suffer directly or indirectly for or by my PMA-motivated actions.)

RESURRECTION IS NOT NATURAL. Practicing resurrection is something quite different than a sunny disposition or choice to think positively. To begin with, resurrection is not natural. Things decay. Animals die. People die. Death is natural, part of the “circle of life” in the fallen world as we know it--birth, growth, contribution, reproduction, maturity and legacy, demise, death, and decay. It is not in the natural order of things for something or someone to come back to life. Metamorphosis is in the natural order of things. Seeding is in the natural order of things. Renewal of life after a season of dormancy is in the natural order of things (I think Berry is most likely referring to these in his poem, though poets leave much open for interpretation and meaning). But resurrection is NOT in the natural order of things.

REALLY DEAD AND REALLY ALIVE AGAIN. Resurrection means that a living being dies completely (deader than a doornail, we say) and it is subsequently raised to life again in all its material reality. Resurrection means a once-living being is really dead and then is really alive again. To believe in and practice resurrection is to step outside the natural order, “the circle of life,” “the way it is.” To believe in and practice resurrection is to move in the realm of faith and the transcendent.

THE RESURRECTION OF ONE. To this point in human history, we know of only a handful of humans who are reported to have been bodily resurrected from death. One who has been resurrected, the account of which has been more scrutinized than any single event in human history, was raised in a transcendent act of God for a cosmically salvific purpose. In this case, resurrection was not simply because the person was sorely missed and longed for and not because the person’s death was a tragedy or unfair or untimely or scandalous. Resurrection, in the case of Jesus of Nazareth--the unique Son of God, Son of Man--(1) completed a divine work of salvation, (2) revealed the power of God’s love for Jesus and all humanity, (3) set in motion the reversal of the curse of death, and (4) signaled the ultimate defeat of death itself as a power at work in the world.

TO PRACTICE RESURRECTION. So, to short-circuit what could be an extended and extensive discussion, here's what I think it means to "practice resurrection":- To practice resurrection means to yield oneself fully to God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ and to reflect that love in word and deed as fully as humanly possible into one’s relationships, community, culture, and world--realizing full well that the same sinfulness that crucified Jesus may well condemn and kill you.

- To practice resurrection means to live and act faithfully in the living Word of God (do not make the mistake of limiting "the Word of God" to the Scriptures. Here I mean it in the fullest sense, like William Stringfellow used it to include, along with the Scriptures, the Resurrected Christ and the guidance of the ever-present Holy Spirit, trusting one’s outcome into the hands and care of the same God who resurrected Jesus.

- To practice resurrection means to dare to forgive those who have mistreated you with violence of words and/or actions, whether personally or via systemically, in confidence that Christ has delegitimized not only violence but resentment and retaliation in his death and resurrection.

- To practice resurrection means to stand with people who are vulnerable and mistreated by others.

- To practice resurrection means to dare to do what is faithful with and for God’s creation and creatures in spite of economic loss or the accusation of treason.

- To practice resurrection means to live in faith that the same power the raised Jesus from the dead has raised you to a new spiritual life and is currently at work in you.

- To practice resurrection means to say “no” to death’s powers manifested in the “do this or else” messages in the marketplace, institutions, ideologies, and images that make up the fallen principalities and powers.- To practice resurrection means to do the humanly responsible thing rather than the personally or nationally advantageous thing.

- To practice resurrection means to act from a perspective of shared mission with the whole living body of Jesus Christ--the church--rather than in isolated, insolated, institutional or individual self-interest.

- To practice resurrection means to hold one’s confidence in the Word of God (remember, this is bigger, broader, wider, deeper than the Scriptures) even as foes assail, bodily functions fail, and breath itself is snuffed out.

- To practice resurrection means to live and act against a backdrop of belief that, because of Jesus Christ, “death cannot keep his prey.”

- To practice resurrection means to live fully by faith in a God who resurrected Jesus and who promises resurrection to life to those who so trust in God.

HOW DO YOU "PRACTICE RESURRECTION?" I'm interested to know how you "practice resurrection." What does this mean for you? How do you live in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? How do you live in light of Easter faith? What difference does it make in your dailyness, critical decisions, and ultimate challenges?

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

ON THIS GLORIOUS DAY OF RESURRECTION

An Easter poem by Wilfred L. Winget

O Mighty, Holy Breath of God
On this glorious Day of Resurrection

Blow open all the shutters of our minds
bursting the barriers of
prejudice and pride
insensitivity and sloth
ignorance and fear
stretching wide our vision of
what you are doing
where you are working
in our fascinating
exasperating world.

Blow wide the doors of our hearts
impelling us outward to
the lonely and loveless
the angry and hopeless
the empty and faithless
as ready instruments
of your Grace.

Blow up our lungs to keep us shouting
Yes to Faith in the face of fear
Yes to Hope in defiance of despair
Yes to Love in spite of apathy
Yes to Life in the teeth of death

Through Christ, the Living One,
Our Lord.
Amen

For my fellow seminary friends: this poem was given me by Dr. Morris Weigelt, Ph.D., who taught New Testament at Nazarene Theological Seminary. Wil Winget was his brother-in-law. Wil taught at Spring Arbor University and died a painful death after a long bout with cancer. This poem was written amid that portion of his life's journey.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

THE IN-BETWEEN DAY

A poem for Holy Saturday by the Rev. Stacey Littlefield

Thank you for the day in-between;
Safely tucked in the middle of
Death and Life.

At the start
a torturous journey,
an uphill climb,
stumbling, staggering, sweating
under the weight of the wood.
Muscles tired, strength exhausted,
body beaten, bruised and bleeding,
stretched out on display,
for mockers, curiosity seekers and saints.
A final breath, an impassioned cry
and it was finished.
On the other side of this Dark Day
a light awaits the dawn.
But, not yet...

This is the Day In-Between.
Today His body is still silent.
Drops of sweat and blood have
cooled and come to rest.
Dark, Cold and Damp
is the bed on which his limbs
grow stiff.
Quiet, lonely, without the intrusions
of daily routine or plans for the future.
He does not move.

And I am thankful for this
Day In-Between-- a chance to wait, to meditate,
to embrace the silence and the sorrow,
the call and the cost.
My very life, my only hope
is there in the Dark with Him;
I am surrounded by the Holy Silence of Death,
almost afraid to move,
to disturb the calm;
afraid that the noise of my anxious, shifting feet
might drown out the sounds of hope:
-- a breath, a heartbeat, the crackle
of stiffness softening.

In the Day In-Between
I ponder
I meditate
I wait
I remember
and I begin to Hope.

Friday, April 10, 2009

TERRIBLY GOOD FRIDAY

A poem by Ted Loder from "Guerillas of Grace"

Holy one,
shock and save me with the terrible goodness of this Friday,
and drive me deep into my longing for your kingdom,
until I seek first
yet not first for myself,
but for the hungry
and the sick
and the poor of your children,
for prisoners of conscience around the world,
for those I have wasted
with my racism
and sexism
and ageism
and nationalism
and regionalism
for those around this mother earth and in this city
who, this Friday, know far more of terror than of goodness,
that, in my seeking first the kingdom,
for them as well as for myself,
all these things may be mine as well:
things like a coat and courage
and something like comfort,
a few lilies in the field
the sight of birds soaring on the wind,
a song in the night,
and gladness of heart,
the sense of your presence
and the realization of your promise
that nothing in life or death
will be able to separate me or those I love,
from your love
In the crucified one who is our Lord,
and in whose name and Spirit I pray.
Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

WEEK OF HEAVY PARODY

Believers disbelieve--and try to counter Jesus' cross talk; disbelievers believe Jesus' power--and try to get rid of him. Go figure.

BELIEF AND DISBELIEF. “In the drama of the redemption of the world in the Word of God, Holy Week is heavy parody,” says William Stringfellow. “If in such events the disciples exemplify not faith in Christ as Lord but doubt, and if meanwhile the public authorities, in spite of themselves, confess Christ as Lord, what are we, nowadays, to make of this?”

EXPOSING FRAUDULENT POWER. “If the authorities of this world--including the whole diverse array of principalities and powers, ecclesiastical, political, military, commercial--recognize Jesus as Christ the Lord, it is because his reign is active now and constantly disrupts and confounds their rule and exposes their power (which is no more than the sanction of death) as transient and fraudulent.”

EXPOSING NAIVE PRESUMPTIONS. “If the disciples are ambivalent, recalcitrant, incredulous toward Jesus as the Christ and toward the reality of his reign in the world, it is because they anticipate some other kingdom--one associated merely with the emancipation of Israel or one that appears immediately or miraculously: another worldly regime or an otherworldly realm--and so they are hindered in seeing the ridicule of such fragile and false hopes as when Jesus processes into the city mounted on a colt, and their Palm Sunday expectations turn into demoralization and fear.”

THE LIFE TO WHICH WE ARE CALLED. Stringfellow concludes: “The Kingdom of which Christ is Lord is not worldly but it is not otherworldly; for it is a Kingdom in this world, a historical and political reality, which both devastates and consummates the apparently prevailing order and all of its regimes and putative regimes and revolutionary causes. The life to which those in Christ are called consists of living as a society, now under the reign of the Word of God, beholden to Christ as Lord of all of life within the whole of creation, until that day when his reign is vindicated and the fullness of the power of death is exhausted, and all persons, principalities, and powers are rendered accountable, and this history ends.”

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

LIBERATION

What this day might have looked like from the perspective of a Palestinian

PRISONERS IN THEIR OWN TOWNS. The oppressed people got swept up in the coming of the liberator. For years they had been afraid to speak their mind openly. They had been treated unfairly. They felt like prisoners in their own towns. Everywhere soldiers of their ruler could be seen – a ruthless lot ready to pounce on anyone who stepped out of line. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

IT IS HERE! They’d heard of promised liberation. They’d dared to hope for it, believe the stories. But it sounded too good to be true. Their longing hope was always mingled with cynicism fueled by their present oppression. The day dawned, however, when someone shouted: “Here they come!” “It’s here!” People dropped what they were doing. They cautiously peered out of the shadow of their doubts. Could it be true that liberation was finally going to be realized?

TOWN IN FRENZY. Sure enough, over the crest of the hill came the rolling parade. Folks abandoned their fears and took to the streets. Hope welled up inside them as the procession neared. And joy. This was cause for exuberance. In a sign of gratitude and honor, some put articles of clothing on the ground in front of the entourage. Some saluted. On tiptoe, some waved homemade signs and fronds plucked from nearby trees. Some raised their voices in shouts of exaltation at the liberation that was coming. The town was in frenzy.

WHAT’S THE SIGNAL? The liberating entourage came riding down Main Street. Was it a demonstration of defiance in the face of the oppressive ruler? Was it a show of force, to let the oppressors know their days were numbered and that the liberator could move about wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted? Was this the beginning of the regime’s end? The signal for a grass-roots revolution? What could this act mean? What would follow this day of liberation, this Palm Sunday?

Graphic found here on Flickr

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

CALL OF THE MOUNTAINS

From ancient times, mountains have beckoned to many faith-seeking people

HIGHER GROUND. What is it about the mountains that have always drawn faith-seeking people? Abraham went up to a mountain to sacrifice. Moses went up to a high mountain to meet with God. David found refuge and strength in the mountains. He wrote: “I look to the hills from where my help comes.” Inanimate as ever, yet they seem to beckon to the heart to look up, to come away, to quest, to learn, to journey, to reach, to climb, to scale, to grow, to conquer or overcome.

RESPECT THE MOUNTAIN. Conquering the mountains is more elusive than most imagine. Even so-called “safe” mountain areas like the resorts in Summit County, Colorado evade complete domestication. Last month a plane crashed into a Montana mountain killing all 18 people on board. Recently, a local Breckenridge man was killed in an avalanche not far from here. For all the thousands of us who swarm the mountains for sport or spirituality, like the seas, the mountains call for respect.

STEWARD WELL. Life calls for respect. It is not just mountains and seas. Soil and water and the air we breathe, the persons we encounter, the soul we have been given—all these beckon to us: Do not take for granted. Do not take lightly. Enjoy with reverent respect. Cultivate with stewardship. Use with awe and thanksgiving. Ponder the depth and interrelatedness of this and all things. Be enriched, but also enrich. Be resourced, but also resource. Take, but give. Whatever you touch or attempt or exploit, do so with maximum awareness, respect, and reverence for the miracle and preciousness of life.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT. It isn’t a “sermon” at all. Matthew 5-7 is, according to E. Stanley Jones, a portrait of Jesus and “the human to be.” It is the spiritual and ethical equivalent of a beckoning mountain—not as a matter of retreat or exceptional pursuit, but as a matter of living one’s faith to the full. Individuals, communities, and societies that desire to embody the promise and future of humanity now will embrace the Sermon on the Mount. If you haven’t spent time with it lately, it ever beckons sincere sojourners. I recommend E. Stanley Jones’ “Christ of the Mount” as your sherpa (mountain guide).

HIGHER GROUND. Wesleyan-holiness folk sometimes sing this gospel song by Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932). It expresses longing desire and passionate intent to leave low places and dwell on “higher ground.”

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay.
Tho’ some may dwell where these abound
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world
Tho’ Satan’s darts at me a hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heaven I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on heaven’s table land;
A higher plain than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

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