01 July 2009

The Joy of Unanswered Prayer

Samuel said to all Israel, "I have listened to you in all that you have said to me, and have set a king over you. See, it is the king who leads you now; I am old and gray, but my sons are with you. I have led you from my
youth until this day. (1 Samuel 12:1-2)

The people clamoured to God for a king. Here is an example of people praying against their own interest. God finally relents and gives them a king. Sometimes God grants our prayers even when they are not in our best interest. Other times, God has mercy on us and denies our requests when they are against our best interest. It is only years later, sometimes many years later, that we may be able to see how God has blessed us by not answering our prayer. God is like a loving parent who knows us better than we know ourselves and seeks what is best for us even when that is not what we want.

This text also points to the historical phenomenon of the movement from leadership by priests to leadership by kings. I am reading a fascinating book that documents this movement along with many other historical developments in the history of magic and religion. The Illustrated Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (Hardcover) by James George Frazer at amazon.com >

"Born in Arizonya, move to Babylonya, King Tut."

26 June 2009

Is the Seer Here? -Yes, he is here.

If you were a trillionaire, would you have a business plan? Would you have employees who would figure every single possible angle in order to maintain your wealth for the next 100 years? Of course you would or else you wouldn't be a trillionaire for long. If you were a trillionaire you would hire entire foundations to develop and implement a business plan that would benefit you and help bring to pass your vision for the future of humanity. Perhaps you would join with trillionaires and combine your resources for maximum benefit both of you.

What you would not do if you were a trillionaire is to sit around hoping things would work out well. You don't get to BE a billionaire doing that and you certainly don't get to be a trillionaire by being a "go with the flow" kind of person. No, trillionaires employ GET ER DONE people to take care of their business. They are very well paid and they don't make mistakes. They have hundred year business plans and they implement them with precision. The amazing thing is that these trillionaires foundations publish their business plans. Of course they are boring to read and who has time what with American Idol on TV tonight or the baseball game on ESPN?

As they went up the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and said to them, "Is the seer here?" (1 Samuel 9:11)

Here is a modern day seer, the late Aldous Huxley, in an interview with Mike Wallace in 1958. Aldous Huxley wrote BRAVE NEW WORLD, which I highly recommend, as this is the future that some of the trillionaires have in mind for humanity. This is their business plan in print. Here is a video of the conversation with Aldous Huxley. He sounds as if he is talking today as what he says seems to apply to well to these very days.

25 June 2009

The Waiter

Funny the way we size one another up visually upon first encounter: Clothes? check. Hygiene? check. Car? check. We subconciously look for clues and markers that make a real difference in whether and how we communicate with another person. The media (the middle agents between the govt and the people) specialize in scientifically altering the public and shaping us in the way the elite want us to go in accordance with their business plan for the world.

So women are shown on magazine covers by the check out counters in stores in bikinis before and after they have a child. The implication is that women are only worthy when they are thin and YOUNG and before they bear children. This works well when your goal is to take out half the population from the fight by making them super focused on the size of their belly and other body parts.

How odd it seems, in such a culture, to hear someone considered to be a great leader compare himself to a waiter at a restaurant. This strikes me especially as yesterday I had lunch at a more upscale chain restaurant in which the waitresses were made to stand in a circle and clap their hands and do a disco dance for no apparent reason. It is sad and absurd what we will do and what we are made to do for money. I tried being a waiter once while in college and I couldn't do it. My hat is off to the waiters and servants of the world.

Jesus once said:
"For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22:27)

24 June 2009

Squirrel Huntin' Story

Daddy on Father's Day, 2009

On my way from the kitchen to my bedroom this morning I walked past my daddy in the den. Only, I didn't quite make it past him. He was sitting in a comfortable chair looking out through the French doors into the backyard like a sentinel. He said there was a squirrel out in the backyard and proceeded to describe in great detail his activities. I was standing there holding a glass of water trying to get back to my room to think great thoughts and ponder deep truths for this very note you are reading but I couldn't just walk away from my daddy in the middle of his story.

One story became three stories for he had seen three other squirrels in the backyard that morning. One he saw from his bedroom window playing on the powerline in the backyard. Another he saw drinking water from the fountain. And yet another walked right in front of the back doors by the patio - right in front of my ordinarily alert anti-squirrel dogs but the dogs were too sleepy eyed to notice them. He found this highly amusing.

When I was the age of my son, about 10 years old, we would go hunting in the big trees by the creek in my grandfather's pasture in Harrisville, Mississippi. There would be several of us tromping through the woods after a hearty Thanksgiving meal. When a squirrel was spotted - often by my daddy as I could rarely find them amongst the high branches - my uncles loved to let my dad make the seemingly impossible shot. He would pull up his ancient 22 rifle that shot one sing bullet. He would draw a bead on an object I could barely make out if it was there at all. He would pull the trigger and a sharp "pow" would crack the air. And then a squirrel would come floating down from heaven to the ground.

More often than not he hit the squirrel in the head so as not to damage any of the "meat." We would take the squirrels back to my grandmother and she would make a squirrel stew out of them. I rarely ate it because it seemed a bit too earthy for me. But this is the way my daddy grew up, shooting squirrels in the woods for meat. He didn't buy meat in the grocery store. He and his brothers got their meat from the bountiful forest. Yes, I do believe Daniel Boone is among my ancestors on my father's side. And I think he lives on in this man who observes more life in my backyard in one brief morning than I will likely see for the rest of the year.

The Psalmist sees this same attention to detail displayed in God the Father.
He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
Psalm 147:9

Eric Clapton wrote this song in memory of the death of his young son. "Tears in Heaven"

23 June 2009

Lord, I Have Cried

Union soldier during Civil War -photo by Life magaine.

With my own eyes I have seen some bad things happen to good people and this is not just something I noticed once when I was 8 years old. I still see it on an ongoing, regular basis. So do you if you have enough awareness to look beyond your own experience of the world. Then again, perhaps YOU are a person who is even now experiencing the seemingly absurd, cruel side of life.

In such situations, words do not suffice and in fact may often get in the way. We may hide behind words such as "Everything will be alright." Or, "Don't you cry about it, now." Or other such unhelpful barriers we put up between those who are suffering and ourselves.Lord, in our suffering, save us from triviality and sound bites.

Even so, is there not some word of encouragement or hope we may offer? Here is how the Psalmist put it and this is good enough for me and I hope it is good enough for you.

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5c

22 June 2009

Dagon the Fish God: Then and Now

Dagon was a Philistine fish god pictured above and below.

Note the way Dagon is holding his right hand. Look at that interesting fish hat and cape he wears. Just in case you've wondered why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day - here is why ...

When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod; then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and placed it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. (1 Samuel 5:1-5)

Note the mouth-shaped hat that Dagon wears. Compare it to the two-horned mitre worn by some church officials today.

Viewed from above, the mouth-shaped hat looks like this.

It is interesting how the trail may lead from an obscure Old Testament lectionary reading to an ancient Palestinian fish god to the CBS logo in a matter of minutes. There are some strange and ongoing connections in this world that are out in the open for those "with eyes to see" as Jesus put it.

Here is more about Dagon the Fish God in Wikipedia.

Below is a video of a high tech Dagon in action. A robotic fish developed by scientists from Essex University is put through its paces in a special tank at the London Aquarium. It works via sensors and has autonomous navigational control. Interesting how Dagon continues to live over the centuries. Now we worship him in the form of hi-tech. And you thought the Old Testament was irrelevant? You thought no one in the scientific Western cultures worships idols? Think again.

17 June 2009

Hit the Road, Jack!

This selection from Psalm 89:10-12 is not very nice. God is a crushing God who plows over Rahab (Egypt) like a car plows over a possum on a country road. As the possum becomes road kill, so did Egypt become road kill when God drowned the Pharaoh's mighty army in a suddenly flooded Red Sea. Perhaps you have heard of the story of how God sent Moses to rescue the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. After God sent terrible plagues on the Egyptians the Pharaoh finally relented and let Moses take the Israelites away. This event is still commenmorated by Jews in the Passover celebration. When they got to the Red Sea (in a scene made famous by the late Charlton Heston) the Israelites were trapped between a body of water and the Pharaoh's mighty army. Moses asked God if He had any suggestions? God told Moses to raise his rod and God would part the waters so the Israelites could cross over the water. Moses did, God did, the Israelites did. Pharaoh's army tried to follow them through the parted waters but the waters swallowed up the Egyptian army. The Israelites were finally safe and they danced and sang to celebrate. When we get to those places in life when we are stuck between a raging sea and a deadly army who wants us dead, that is when we remember to call out to God. According to the Psalmist, God responds in our moments of greatest need.

You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it - you have founded them.
The north and the south - you created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.

I wonder if this is the song Miriam and the Israelite women sang to the Pharaoh after the Red Sea incident?

16 June 2009

An altogether OTHER realm

When asked whether we should pay taxes, Jesus said: "Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?" They said, "The emperor's." He said to them, "Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." (Luke 20:24-25)

Notice Jesus does not say we are to pay taxes. He says more than that. He says, "My realm is not even on the same level as this money system." Keep that in mind next time you want to justify actions of the government with this saying of Jesus. Remember also that Jesus lack of support for the state is what eventually led to his crucifixion. The sign above his head read: "King of the Jews" which was a political statement not a religious statement. The Roman power structure interpreted his actions as a threat to the state and thus he was executed as a political prisoner. Yes, religion played a role in his death. But the stated reason for his execution, the sign over his head, read "KING of Jews." King is a political, not a religious, designation.

Jesus himself stated over and again that his realm was not of this world. He was not and did not seek to be a political leader. He was not a psychopath so he did not qualify for a high political post and he knew that and was interested in that king of manipulation of the population for personal gain. He was all about giving himself away - using people. Perhaps we may steer our own lives more in the direction of serving others rather than using others. That would be a positive change for us and for the wolrd.

15 June 2009

Are You Ready?

From ancient times to the present people have cried out to God. Sometimes we "feel heard" and sometimes we do not feel like God has heard us. Regardless of how we may feel, we are heard by God.

"Heard" sounds like "herd" but they are two different words with two different meanings. When we know we are heard by God we are less likely to mindlessly follow the herd but even faithful followers can get caught up in the latest stampede and driven from created crisis to created crisis. The psalmist suggests the way out of this endless cycle.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.-Psalm 5:5

Perhaps Jesus had this psalm in mind with he said, "Watch! Stay awake! For you know not the hour when the Son of Man will come." Christ may come to us today if we are spiritually attuned and keenly aware of our surroundings.

♪♫ Bob Dylan: "Are You Ready?

12 June 2009

Reflections Upon Falling in Love with God

The Bible is a library within a single book cover. You have within the covers of the Bible history, poetry, and letters. There is enough violence and sex therein to please the palate of a Hollywood producer.

Today's reading from Song of Solomon is taken by mystics to refer to the mystical spiritual relations between Christ and the church. I'm not sure that is what the author had in mind when these love poems were written.

However, they do convey some of what mystics such as Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross experienced in their relationship with God. In essence, they remind us of the possibility for a relationship with God that goes beyond intellectual consent down into the more irrational and connectional parts of our being. It is possible, they remind us, to actually fall in love with God.

The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."

-Song of Solomon 2:8-13, 4:1-4a, 5-7, 9-11

♪♫ "Angels Among us" By Sarah Dort

11 June 2009

God Alone Is Enough

We tend to built the Apostle Paul up as a sort of systematic theologian when in reality I wonder if he was not more of a mystic. He tells the story of how Jesus appeared to him in a vision on the road to Damascus and struck him down with blindness and called him to be an apostle. Then there is today's confession by Paul from his letter to the Corinthians in which he says about himself:

"I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows - was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat." (2 Corinthians 1:2)

Apparently, in order to keep him humble, God gave him a "thorn in the flesh." This thorn in the flesh has been envisioned in many different ways but Paul is not specific as to what it was. However, he does say it was "a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being elated." Again, Paul's pre-scientific world view becomes a "thorn in the flesh" to post modern readers. We do not like talk about messengers from Satan because Satan does not fit into our scientific view of the world. In any case, here is how Paul puts it.

"Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." (vs 7b-10)

Do you have a thorn in the flesh from God? Do you need one?

Why or why not?

10 June 2009

Poor is the New Rich

It's funny how fashions change so that if you hold onto something long enough it may come back into fashion. For instance, hold onto that pair of jeans from college and 20 years later (if you can still fit into them!) they may be full of holes. Hey, that's the style now. People pay $50 for a pair of jeans that look 20 years old and have holes in them.

Here's another one of those kinds of retro things that is coming back into style. When my parents were children it was way cool to hold onto everything single item you could because you never knew when you may be able to use it. My father grew up during the Great Depression and his generation know the value of thrift and how to make do with less.

Guess what? We are now living in the beginning of what futurist Gerald Celente calls "The Greatest Depression." Those values that my father's generation learned the hard are lessons that we will be learning first hand in coming years. I was reading an article a couple of days ago about how Wal*Mart sees the new emphasis on thrift (from which they have greatly profited) as not a fad but a new trend that will continue way into the future.

So perhaps some of us preacher types who have been trying to share the message of what Gustavo Gutierrez calls "God's preferential option of the poor" (God's POOP) may receive a better hearing now than we did in the greedy 80s and the boom boom 90s. So now when we preach a message such as this verse from the morning psalm, we may expect to receive a better hearing now that the United States is on the path toward Third World status.

Suddenly texts such as this one will come back into vogue:

The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground. Psalm 147:6

Welcome back to the future. What shall we then do? Seek first the kingdom of God ...

09 June 2009

Thank You for Being a Friend

When I was in Jr High and High School I belonged to a small, close knit religious group. In my mind we were the only ones who "got it." Some may have called us "Jesus Freaks" and I would have been satisfied with that moniker. In my way way of thinking, Jesus was coming back to rule the earth and this would occur before I graduated high school. Imagine my surprise when I awoke the day after my graduation to find everything essentially the same as the night before.

But things were not the same anymore. In fact, everything was different. For now I had only a few months left to decide what next step to take. As it turned out, I wound up at Belhaven College a few months later. That broadened my world considerably. There I found people who appeared to be faithful Christians but they did belong to my little group. They even called themselves by a strange name, "Presbyterians."

I thought of that when I read Psalm 12 this morning, particularly the first verse, which reads: "Help, O LORD, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind." I felt that to be true during my college years. I decided to stop trying to "be god" and concentrate on being a human being and "if God is God then let God keep up with me" because I'm worn out of trying to keep up with God.

Ever since then I have found God to be faithful. Wherever I wander and wherever I roam God keeps watch over me as a parent over a small child. God never lets me go. This is the Biblical narrative in a nutshell. In the Old Testament, God chooses a people called Israel who are prone to wander but God remains faithful to the covenant. In the New Testament, God calls all people into covenant in the form of the church but the church is prone to petty wrangling and infighting. Yet, God remains faithful, gently but firmly staying involved and leading us on. Thanks be to God for God's faithfulness in the midst of our wanderings. Like a mother who loves her only son, so we never go unnoticed or unaccounted for in God's economy.

If you are reading this post then you have played or are playing some part in the unfolding drama of my life, and for that I want to say thank you. This song is for you. "Thank You for Being a Friend" by Andrew Gold.

08 June 2009

the breath and the delusion

The breath and the delusion
mingle together in sweat and slime
struggling, grasping, pointing fingers
in disgust or dismay.

There in the mix is death
there is God
there is struggle
there is hope.

Not hope in the breath of those of low estate -
Not hope in the delusion of those of high estate -
but hope in the holy spark that ignites and illumines.

Hope in the faffification and funeral preparation
Hope in the joy that is stronger than happiness
More durable and more real.

Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
-Psalm 62:9

05 June 2009

Fist Fighting Pslamist

I love how the Psalms do not correspond to our current climate of political correctness. The Psalmist calls it as he (or she?) sees it. A spade is a spade. A friend is a friend. An enemy is an enemy. The Psalmist is not so much into the "love your enemy" motif that Jesus will later preach.

And I, for one, appreciate that. After all, it's not every day I can muster the humility and courage to pray for my enemies and wish them well as Jesus would have me to do. Some days, the best I can do is to hold back my hand from striking out in anger. During such times, I find a soul mate in the Psalmist.

With neither apology nor guilt, the psalmist mutters with glee:

All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror; they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame. -Psalm 6:10

I appreciate this sentiment on those days when I find myself muttering against my enemies. It is good to know that in such times I am not alone. I am not the first person who would be pleased to find my enemies ashamed and struck with terror, nor shall I be the last. This is the beauty and the power of the Bible. It is a library of books written over thousands of years that serves as a mirror for humanity. Read it with an open mind and open heart. You may find yourself in there.

Movie Trailer: "The Good Shepherd"

04 June 2009

Stretch Out Your Hands

One steady thing about the Judeo-Chrisitan faith is the stability it offers in times of trouble. For those who have never had any trouble in life, please skip these reflections and go enjoy another lovely day. The rest of us have something to talk about here and that is Psalm 143:4-6.

There are stages in life that are difficult to say the least. These are dry seasons that may last weeks, months, or years. There is no way out of these ditches by means of positive thinking, drugs, or exercise. They are spiritual stages of development that must be lived through and survived. The Psalmist is aware of this reality, saying, "Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled."

During such times when our hearts are "appalled within us" there is a practice that may help us to hang in an hang on. That practice is remembering (re-member-ing). The Psalmist knows this too and says: "I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands." So the Psalmist finds consolation in times of spiritual dryness through remembering concrete examples of God's faithfulness to him in specific circumstances in the past.

He also finds consolation through connecting with nature, "I meditate on the works of your hands." Memory and getting back in touch with trees, flowers, and the garden are steps in the right direction but they provide no immediate cure.

The Psalmist admits he's not there yet, "I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land." Come to savor the thirst: The feel of it and the taste of it and the desperation it entails. Stretch out your hands to God. Rain will come to your soul in due time.

03 June 2009

Ode to a Green Thumbed God

Psalm 65 is a whopper. Deists need not apply. For this God is not a clock winder who gets the machine going and flits off to another universe to take care of some unfinished business. Rather, this is a STAYING God, an ever present God, a green thumb God who delights in the detailed daily maintenance tasks. Listen up to the Psalmist.

Praise is due to you,
O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer!

-You forgive our transgressions ...

-By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance ...

-By your strength you established the mountains ...

-You silence the roaring of the seas ...

-You provide the people with grain...

-You crown the year with your bounty ...

Pastures, hills, meadows, and valley shout and sing together for joy delighting in an intimate connection with the loving God whose divine hands fashioned clod hoppers, crawfish, you and me, and yes, even the smarty pants who can't see beyond their own nose to get a sense of the unseen Seer who is still intimately involved in a love relationship with all earthly things.

♪♫ Eric Bibb - "Don't let nobody drag your spirit down"

02 June 2009

Open Wide Your Heart

Centering prayer is a spiritual discipline that I have found meaningful and rewarding. You may learn more about the practice here. The leader and guiding force of centering prayer is Father Thomas Keating. Here is how he describes the purpose of contemplative outreach.
The purpose of Contemplative Outreach is to . . .bring the experience of the love of God into the world . . . renew the contemplative dimension of life . . . renew the roots of the tradition . . . engender attitudes of respect, collaboration, and love among the world's religions . . . transform human consciousness for our time . . . support all sincere seekers.
The source text for centering prayer is a book by Father Keating called Open Minds, Open Hearts. The title of that book and its contents remind me of the Epistle reading today.
"We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return - I speak as to children - open wide your hearts also." -2 Corinthians 6:11-13
May we open wide our hearts to all of God's creation today.
Here is more about centering prayer from the contemplative outreach website.

In this 8 minute video Father Keating describes the method of centering prayer.

01 June 2009

What Is Compassion?

A praise of compassion by Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

"Live with compassion
Work with compassion
Die with compassion
Meditate with compassion
Enjoy with compassion
When problems come,
Experience them with compassion."

The definition of compassion is: wanting others to be free from suffering. So compassion is the definition of the highest scope of motivation. It is said that to generate genuine compassion, one needs to realise that oneself is suffering, that an end to suffering is possible, and that other beings similarly want to be free from suffering.
(Taken from http://tr.im/n2AU)

Sogyal Rinpoche, from Glimpse of the Day:

"The times when you are suffering can be those when you are open, and where you are extremely vulnerable can be where your greatest strength really lies.

Say to yourself: “I am not going to run away from this suffering. I want to use it in the best and richest way I can, so that I can become more compassionate and more helpful to others.” Suffering, after all, can teach us about compassion. If you suffer, you will know how it is when others suffer. And if you are in a position to help others, it is through your suffering that you will find the understanding and compassion to do so." (Taken from http://tr.im/n2AU)

The goodness of the Lord is sometimes hard to see. Yet, it is there whether we perceive it or not.
"The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made." -Psalm 145:9
Music video: "Great Compassion Mantra"

29 May 2009

Twist and Shout

One of the few Hebrew words I remember from seminary is the word "regalleme" which means "creeping things." In one of the Genesis creation accounts God is said to have created the "regalleme" - the "creeping things - think worms, caterpillars, spiders and such." SO, how creepy is that, eh? (That was a joke ;D)

The creeping things appear again in the Pslam this morning and they are praising God along with a wide variety of creatures.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!

Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and women alike,
old and young together!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
(Psalm 96:7-13)

Perhaps you and I may join the creeping things in praising God on this good Friday. For if a worm can praise God ... then so can I!

Here's one for all the regalleme out there twisting around in the dirt:
The Beatles, "Twist and Shout"

28 May 2009

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

"Your God doesn't seem to be very fair." I heard that statement once from someone whose child has suffered greatly. The Old Testament reading this morning responds to that provocative question with aplumb, as the LORD says, "You say, "The way of the Lord is unfair..." Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? (Ezekiel 18:25)

In the New Testament reading, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, the racial ethnic dude who unexpectantly came through for the victimized man in a lurch. The more likely heroes, the church staff member and the lawyer, disappointed everyone in their lack of concern for the man who had been robbed and beaten. Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" Jesus said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:36-37)

Mercy is in short supply these days. Perhaps we should show more of it to one another and to God.

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" Joe Zawinul's tune played by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Slideshow.

27 May 2009

Pleased to Meet You - Hope You Guess My Name

Let's look at the Gospel reading today from Luke 10:17-24 which comes in 3 acts.

Here is Act 1:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" Jesus said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20)

The difficult problem for Neo-Orthodox Biblical hermenutics (the way so-called Liberals interpret the scripture) is what to do with the devil. Jesus clearly mentions Satan in this text and the disciples are casting out demons. It's tough when science says there is no devil and no demons but Jesus and his disciples say there are devils and demons. I suppose at that point we have to make a choice between SCIENCE and Jesus and if that is the choice I will choose Jesus every time. I know this goes against the modern template whereby Scientists are the new priests and Darwinism is the new religion. I can live with that. (I welcome comments from more clever biblical scholars than me about how to manage the difficulty noted above.)

Here is Act 2:
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Luke 10:21-22)

This Act anticipates the argument that arises from Act 1. Jesus is calling those who do not acknowledge the reality of evil "the wise and the intelligent." Yet, it is not to the wise and intelligent that God reveals "these things" about the reality of evil forces beyond human comprehension. Jesus says God chooses to reveal a deeper reality about the world "to infants" - the innocent? - rather than to the wise and intelligent.

Finally, here is Act 3:
Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." (Luke 10:23-24)

This is usually translated to mean "You disciples sure are lucky because you get to see and hear Jesus while he is actually alive on this earth." Another translation may be, "There is a way of seeing the world that is not known or experienced by the so-called wise and intelligent and this is the journey that I invite you to take."