Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is It With This Generation?

Tasha Tudor

What am I to think of this generation?

You sit at home and complain that the world is not the way it should be. You yell that others should dance to the beat of your drum, and that your passions should be shared by all!

John, a saintly son of a man, fasted and abstained from alcohol - so you called him crazy and killed him. I, a fleshy son of God, eat at parties, drink wine and hang with low-lifes - so you call me a heretic and seek to kill me.

And so Jesus said:

Thank you Abba for keeping the so-called wise ones of this generation in the dark of their own reasoning, so that Your light may burst forth upon the world from mere infants!

All authority is mine from the Father - just as no one knows the Son except his Father, so then no one knows the Father except His  Son and those who come to dwell in me.

Come! Come to me all you who are heart-broken, beaten down and bone-weary;  find rest and comfort in me.

Come! Come to me my children and take up my cross and yoke with me and learn my Way. I am gentle and selfless; in me your soul will at last find shalom.

Come! My yoke is comfortable to carry. My cross is as light as the down from an angel's wing.

Come!

(adapted from Matthew 11:16-19, and 25-30)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Accepting Grace

Ford Madox Brown



Matthew 10:40-42
 
"We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing."
(The Message)
 
Meditations: 
  • In the Body, what does it mean to be "intimately linked"?
  • Do I let my actions be my witness, or do I skip that part and just tell people that they have to accept Jesus?
  • Don't stress out - we can't all be messengers.
  • What is the blessing of accepting help? Why is it as important as giving it? Why is it harder to to receive than to give?
  • Don't stree out - we don't have to do it all.
  • Do we overlook the little because we're too busy looking for the large?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Isaac on the Altar of a Blood-thirsty God

Genesis 22:1-14
 
He Qi
I have been wrestling with God on this for years; but I am still at a loss. God says that He is going to break covenant with Abraham by taking away the future generations like sand that He had promised. To make the test even harder, He directs Abraham to commit the sin of murder, to kill an innocent; and not just any innocent - his beloved son! God knows what Abraham will do before he does it, so the test must be for Abraham's edification. How far will I go?

After torturing Abraham and bringing him to the brink of child-sacrifice, God provides a last second substitute. We try to comfort ourselves by saying that this presages the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Many want to believe the rest of the Bible literally, yet insist on reading this story figuratively. Abraham would sin if God told him to - did he fail or pass the test by blindly premeditating such an act? 

Yet I am newly struck by the number 3. In verse 1 God calls to Abraham (which means "father of many"), and Abraham answers: "Here I am." Isaac says "Father" in verse 7, and Abraham again answers: "Here I am." Finally, in verse 11, the Angel of the Lord calls out Abraham's name twice, and Abraham answers for the third time "Here I am." Like Peter being asked three times to feed God's sheep, Abraham is asked three times if he is "present".

Today I chose to believe that it was God asking the question each time; first as the Father, then as the Son, and then as the Spirit. I feel better if I can convince myself that Isaac was not alone in that crushing moment he learned his father's plan.

I will continue to wrestle with God on this even if my limbs pop out of joint, but I am glad that Abraham and Isaac's test is in the Bible. It is an invitation to contend with God on acts of injustice and explore more deeply. To serve Him in love rather than blind fear or obedience.

What do you think?

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Long?

Gabal Gabow



How long Master?
Will you ever remember that I exist?
How long will Your back be turned to me?

How long must my soul writhe?
How long shall my heart lie broken?
How long will they dance on my living corpse?

Think on it and answer my plea!
Let me see again the bright light of hope,
Or I will surely fade away into death's dark sleep.

My enemies will crow their victory,
Rejoicing in my soft weakness without You.
They will taunt that I have lost my shield and armor.

Haven't I trusted You to be faithful?
Save me so that my heart may soar in the wind.

But if You do not, I will still sing to You,
For You have always been generous in my life.
 (Retelling of Psalm 13)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beginningness


Before the beginning of time was the eternal God. Our beginning was His creation of space and a nascent mass we would someday call home. The earth was an assemblage of primordial solids, liquids, gases and plasmas still with out form; still unlit. His Spirit moved across its face as God said: "Here is light. So be it." The light's embracing  and warming of the cold dark world pleased Him. He spun the planet to separate the hours into days and nights. The first day came to a close.

The next day, God separated the waters above and below: "So be it." He called the moisture above "sky", and the sunset and dawn of the second day in this primeval atmosphere  created a global rainbow.

On the third day, God next separated the solid particles from water below to create land and sea.  "So be it" He said, and it was pleasing. But land needs roots to bind it together and make it alive, so God caused plants of all kinds to spring forth from the once sterile ground. Fertile soil was created. "So be it." He was pleased as another evening and morning brought an end to the third day.

On the fourth, God separated the nebulous glow of light by allowing celestial bodies to shine through the  clearing atmosphere. It was as it was willed. The cosmos danced across the heavens, and the sun and the moon raced. God was pleased.

The next day, He made the waters below and above alive with new life: leviathans; bugs; whales; bats; birds; and fish. They all pleased Him, and He blessed them with the fruitfulness of ongoing creation. Evening passed and then the dawn; fifth day done.

God continued populating the planet by introducing land animals into the green paradise; and it pleased Him. He said: "This next creature I will make in My own image with My own essence so that it may be able to rule over my earthly kingdom with wisdom and compassion." So He formed humanity in all its many visages in His image, in His image He made them all; He made them like Himself,  male and female. He blessed them too with fruitfulness, and gave them authority on behalf of their fellow creatures. "See," He said, "I've given you everything you need to thrive, and abundance to sustain you and give you joy."

God looked at the intricate relatedness of each of  the worlds He created. We too see the intricate intimacies of life on earth - the chains, webs and circles of mutualism and dependence. He was pleased with His work; it was bustling, teeming, complete and whole - perfect. So He finished and took the final day off. He blessed this seventh day and made it a holy day to enjoy creation and to remember the Creator.

These are the generations of God's creation of all.

(Retelling of Genesis 1:1-2:4a)


 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
 Your glory is higher than the heavens.
 You have taught children and infants
      to tell of your strength,
      silencing your enemies
      and all who oppose you.
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers -
      the moon and the stars you set in place -
      what are mere mortals that you should think about them, 
      human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned themwith glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
      putting all things under their authority -
      the flocks and the herds
      and all the wild animals,
      the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
      and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Psalm 8

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Open Letter to the People Called United Methodist

At a party many years ago, a gay man lightly touched my hand and told me that he liked my ring. I told him to get lost! But worse, I mentioned it to someone else. I later learned that a bunch of the guys on one of the teams took him out back and beat him up. That kind of thing gnaws at you. We live in a world that thinks it can beat the "queer" out of people. Where we kill, taunt and harass people to make the world "safe" for straight people. We're beautiful souls shrivel up in the dark and young people kill themselves. 

Lesbians used me. If they wanted to go dancing, they took me along so they could pretend to dance with me in a group. It was safer for them to not be themselves. They were trying to pass as "normal". A friend lost a job at a religiously affiliated charity because another friend inadvertently mentioned their same-sex partner to the wrong person. Not only was that job done for, but so was their friendship. Why do people have to hide and pretend? For many years, several Conferences of the United Methodist Church have lived in a Don't Ask, Don't Tell by default fantasy land; as long as gay pastors weren't open they'd be safe. They were expected to preach on the authenticity of the Living God and to bring people to expose their authentic selves before God - yet they were to lie to their own flocks.

I have never attended seminary. I can not win a theological debate on the issue. I certainly don't know what God wants. All I know is what little love I have in my heart. I find myself praying for forgiveness more and more for thinking someone a Pharisee - more interested in denominational law than in the love of Christ. People tell me that the Bible considers homosexuality a sin. Others tell me that the Bible says that slaves should return to their masters. On Ascension Sunday, I preached that Jesus sent the disciples out as witnesses - even to the outcast Samaritans. Do we serve those who society casts out, or do we too cast them out?

Our Annual Conferences gather this time of year in preparation for sending legislation and delegates to General Conference in 2012. Again this year, we will debate the ability of gays to serve us and our desire to serve them. I pray that in spite of all of our differences when we come together, the light will shine through us like a church window for all to see. 

And I pray that I make it through another Conference with out calling someone a Pharisee...

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Church is Born Afire

He Qi

On the day of Pentecost* all the Lord's followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak. Many religious Jews from every country in the world were living in Jerusalem. And when they heard this noise, a crowd gathered. But they were surprised, because they were hearing everything in their own languages. They were excited and amazed, and said:

"Don't all these who are speaking come from Galilee? Then why do we hear them speaking our very own languages? Some of us are from Parthia, Media, and Elam. Others are from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya near Cyrene, Rome, Crete, and Arabia. Some of us were born Jews, and others of us have chosen to be Jews. Yet we all hear them using our own languages to tell the wonderful things God has done."

Everyone was excited and confused. Some of them even kept asking each other, "What does all this mean?"Others made fun of the Lord's followers and said, "They are drunk."   

Peter stood with the eleven apostles and spoke in a loud and clear voice to the crowd: "Friends and everyone else living in Jerusalem, listen carefully to what I have to say! You are wrong to think that these people are drunk. After all, it is only nine o'clock in the morning. But this is what God had the prophet Joel say,

   'When the last days come,
        I will give my Spirit to everyone.
   Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
   Your young men will see visions,
        and your old men will have dreams.

   In those days I will give
        my Spirit to my servants,
   both men and women,
        and they will prophesy.

  I will work miracles in the sky above
        and wonders on the earth below.
  There will be blood and fire and clouds of smoke.

  The sun will turn dark, and the moon
        will be as red as blood
        before the great and wonderful day
        of the Lord appears.

   Then the Lord will save everyone
        who asks for his help.'"                                        

[* Footnote: Acts 2:1; Pentecost - A Jewish festival that came fifty days after Passover and celebrated the wheat harvest. Jews later celebrated Pentecost as the time when they were given the Law of Moses.]
(Acts 2:1-21; CEV)

Meditations:

  • How was their reaction to the Spirit different than "speaking in tongues"?
  • What is the significance to us that people from all over the world heard the Good News preached in their own language?
  • Do we still think of the Spirit-filled as high, delusional or psychotic?
  • How can we tell the difference?
  • In the context of the time, how revolutionary was Joel and Peter's "your sons and daughters shall prophesy"?
  • In our apocalyptic nightmares and our greedy neediness to feel chosen, do we forget that He will pour out His Spirit upon "all flesh"?
  • Do we sometimes get so caught up in the signs and portents of the day and fear of damnation that we forget the Good News of the final verse?
  • What does it imply that after the signs, on the last day, everyone who then calls on the Lord shall be saved?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Missing the Marshal

Book Two of the Jesus Series

James Jacques Tissot





In the first book of this series for Godphiles, I wrote about all the things that Jesus the Christ did and taught; birth, death and beyond.  As you'll recall, He showed Himself to His followers after His torture and death over a span of 40 days and fully satisfied them of His resurrection and teaching them about the kingdom. While He was with them, He directed them to stay put in Jerusalem to await the fulfillment of God's new covenant. "Hear this from me:  My cousin John baptized with water to purify the flesh, but you will soon be baptized with fire to purify much more."

One day when they had all gathered together, they asked him: "Lord, when will we finally see Israel restored?"

He responded: "Man is not to know God's timeline. What is important is that you will be filled with the Spirit's power and that you'll bear witness to my life, death and resurrection to your neighbors, your countrymen, and your enemies ! Every scared little boy and girl. Every fretful parent. Every shallow self-indulgent wonderful human. All are loved and precious." 

While the last word was reaching their ears, they saw Him lifted up into the sky. They watched until a cloud hid Him from sight. They were so intent, that they did not notice the two in white appear. "Why do you just stand there looking towards heaven? Your Rabbi, who has been taken away from you, is now ruling in heaven! Take comfort in knowing that He will someday return for you."

(Retelling of Acts 1:1-11)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Healing the Blind




Then he said, "Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled."

He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, "You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You're the first to hear and see it. You're the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you're equipped with power from on high."

He then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven.

And they were on their knees, worshiping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes.

(Luke 24:44-53; The Message)



Jesus' first followers were handicapped. Their ability to discern the meaning of scripture in context with His ministry had been taken from them. Each time a light dawned it was snuffed out by God. Yet, we see in the gospels a sense of Jesus' frustration that they weren't getting it.

Q: What is the relationship of experience and understanding? Did God want them to not depend upon their own experiential interpretation until they could analyze it? Why did God test Jesus' patience?

They will have to wait for the Spirit to descend upon them and empower them for ministry. But the healer in Jesus doesn't make them wait; he heals their spiritual blindness by removing the block that prevents understanding. They suddenly understand His kingship and praise God unceasingly out in the open.

Q: Is the inability to understand God's will an un-natural state, a curable disease? How does this time in the Temple compare to our image of them cowering in a locked room?