Category: Spirituality

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – How to live in response to the Divine: One lesson for Ordinary Time

“Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:23 – 24)
The Jewish faith, as practiced in Paul’s times and among his peers, seems like an unusual faith indeed. Ruled by laws that dictated one’s habits from rising in the morning to going to bed at night. Many of the rules outlined relationships between fellow believers and relationships with non-believers. Compassion and charity were highly praised attributes. There were also laws dictating what to eat, wear, how to spend one’s time. And if looked at objectively, seemed to be designed more for surviving one’s environment. There was a challenge to the two sets of laws. The first set, relationship guidelines, were hard to do because at times it seemed to run contrary to human will and impulse – being nice, kind, and generous. Not everyone was able to do that. The second set, dietary and daily tasks of living, were also difficult to do – but in a different way. Tedious and exacting at times. It took time and resources to follow them. Dietary laws keep the people safe from harmful foods. Daily tasks of living were probably to keep the people safe from germs etc. Disregarding them had consequences. So did, actually, the relationship laws – different consequences though. The prophets were more likely to chastise the people ofr violating the relationship laws.
Now as I said (and some of this is my own theory) some sects of Jewish believers did not strictly practice the dietary and daily tasks of living. And they lived unhealthy lives, or died, because of those consequences. Interestingly in our modern times some of these dietary laws are no longer needed but practiced to show faithfulness and adherence to the Jewish faith. But what I am intrigued with is this; the Pharisees and Sadducees adhered to the dietary laws with exacting precision, and based their faithfulness and piety on following them. But as for the relationship laws, they were too hard – too much personal cost – and so they chucked them out the window. And Jesus chastised them for that! When Paul was writing to the new area churches, the dietary laws were the ones that were left in the past and the law of love and compassion was put to the forefront – as Jesus exemplified. It was a result of faith in Jesus and the Divine, and the gift/blessing that Jesus was that prompted the response.
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Verses 25 – 29)
The dietary laws (and tasks for daily living laws) might have kept the called and chosen people of God safe for this life, but it was the relationship laws that made that life pleasant to live and carried lasting consequences. (As modern practices evolved some to the dietary and tasks fro daily living laws become outmoded or irrelevant, but as I said before adhered to for tradition’s sake.) And if was the relationship laws that formed the basis of the faith life that Paul speaks of. No longer “clean” or “unclean” but everyone united in love – love for the Divine and love from the Divine – for a common faith. The apex of relationship laws. And in relationship to the Divine and governed by those expectations now. Because of that intimate family relationship with the Divine, we who believe and have faith are heirs to all that the Divine has in mind for us. How then, beloved reader, will we live in response to that? Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Old Testament Passage – Starting the journey of Ordinary Time

The Sundays after Pentecost have numbers, and each successive Sunday brings us closer to Thanksgiving and the end of this lectionary year. That they span over summer and well into fall will tell you there are many of them. The number of the Sunday indicates only which passages are for that week. If I told you this was Proper 7(12) it would tell you a great deal. So I will not enumerate the Sundays. I could also tell you that now there are two sets of Old Testament and Psalm passages each week, and each matching of Old Testament and Psalm passage have a connection point – that may or may not make sense. I will try to illuminate that connection. So here we are, at the first Sunday of the long Ordinary Time.

“I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long.” (Isaiah 65:1 – 5)
As to why I may choose one Old Testament passage over another, I cannot tell you. If it is one that I have not spoken to before I am more likely to choose it. Or if one is more “unfathomable” I may (or may not actually) pass on it. If I feel a flame of intrigue and passion, I will most definitely choose it! (That is how I have gotten myself sucked into some Psalm passages that vex me!)
As to this passage, the Lord God the Divine is chastising the called and chosen people for being so much less than the Divine expects of them. Not, mind you, all of them but enough that they leave a foul stench in the Nose of the Divine. Some of the commentators say of this passage . . . it is sometimes people who have gone so far astray from the Lord God who perceive themselves to be the more holy and religious. Meaning, I guess, that they have fallen into such false worship that it is so unworldly as to be mysterious and mystical. The “holy” part is not the authentic belief in the Divine, but worldly/earthly spiritually imbued that could send shivers down one’s spine. Think deep and dark evil!
“See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the LORD; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions.” (Verses 6 – 7)
Now it is more than just a matter of worshiping in the wrong place, beloved reader. The Lord God the Divine is worshiped on flat open plains where one’s actions and attitudes are seen, and where one is amongst like minded believers. Up in the hills and mountains are the evil things, hidden dark things, idols that are not the true Yahweh. So abundant were they that it was more than just caution that would keep the true worshipper in the correct place. Giving heed to unholy (or perverted) deities was tantamount to damning one’s soul and spirit.
“Thus says the LORD: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there.” (Verses 8 – 9)
But, says the Divine, wandering off to wild places does not necessarily mean one’s spirit and soul is condemned. And there may be good and true worshipers who see their peril before it is too late, or succeeding generations who do not follow their ancestors. For their sake, says the Divine, I will not destroy all of them called and chosen people.
That is important to remember, beloved reader, at those times we have gone astray. As I said previously, Ordinary Time is a long time – many miles to travel. We could get temporarily lost, wander off the good path, or slip up somewhere. If there is still good in us – as verse 8 says, blessing in some of harvests of the fruits – the Divine give us opportunities to mend our ways. Perhaps, beloved reader, something you read here in the coming weeks and months will help. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker discuss our relationship to the Divine

Seeker: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Preacher: Back in the time of the psalmist not much was known about the that was above the tallest mountains. That was considered the space of the birds, and above even that was Yahweh the Divine lived. Know we now that above the clouds the sky/atmosphere thins out and life as humanity knows it does not exist. That does not mean the Divine does not live in a dimension in that space that is not visible to human eyes. Humanity considers that even the Divine must have some sort of physical/tangible existence some where.
Seeker: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.”
Preacher: It may very well seem like questioning such things is an antithesis of the Divine. But we do ourselves no favor if we insisting on understanding the Lord God according to human terms.
Seeker: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”
Preacher: And the Divine does care of humanity. In fact humanity is the focus of the Divine’s efforts and energy. Jesus came to earth because of humanity. The Spirit of Truth was sent because of humanity.
Seeker: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.”
Preacher: Creation was sent in motion to give humanity a place to live, a place to learn, and a place to grow in wisdom and understanding.
Seeker: “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”
Preacher: Sometimes, I think, we have not tended to creation as the Divine would have wanted us to. But that is a question to be discussed and debated amongst humanity. How we treat our fellow member of humanity, that is a question that Jesus’ life was to settle. And even with that, we debate and disagree as to what the proper answer it. We are encouraged to look to scripture for the answers. But studying and searching scripture without the inspiration of the Spirit of Truth has resulted in a large amount of conflicting information. But then who is to say who has the best understanding of what the Spirit of Truth has to say! So, we muddle along, trying to do the best we can, and hope that others are doing the same. We all live under the same Divine. And the same Divine looks over us. Let us hope and pray that we do not go too far astray and not do too much damage to ourselves, others, and creation. We have been given a wide latitude of freedom by a Divine who loves us unconditionally.
Seeker: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Old Testament Passage – Thinking about the diversity of the Divine

Trinity Sunday – the Sunday in the church calendar where we pay special heed to the Triune nature of the Divine. Appreciating the diversity of the Divine means that one is open to not just three aspects of the Divine but that one is aware that the Divine can have many facets. The personification of Wisdom is only one of them.
“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.” (Proverbs 8:1 – 4)
What one needs to remember when reading this passage, beloved reader, this is wisdom from one who is not necessarily speaking on behalf of the Lord God – but is most definitely inspired by the Lord God.
“The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth– when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” (Verses 22 – 31)
It reminds me somewhat of what the Holy Spirit might say. Jesus Christ said he was with the Creator at the time of creation. And that he and the Lord God are One. It is not to far to say the Spirit of Wisdom might also be known as the Spirit of Truth/the Advocate who would come? Or, the Presence of Yahweh that was said to dwell amongst the Lord’s called and chosen people?

Genesis 1: says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” [NIV; emphasis mine] Who is to say what the Divine was like then, and what multiplicities there might have been in the Divine.
Trinity Sunday – I really like the day! May you, beloved reader, find communion with the Divine – delighting in the way the Divine makes its God-self known to you! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Psalm Passage – The Divine in all of us

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.” (Psalm 104:24 – 26)

Any time the psalm passages talk about the sea or the ocean, or any type of collected bodies of water, I am enthralled. From little on up I adored frolicking dancing waters. Salty or fresh, it did not matter. And while I preferred to keep my distance, I was content to share those waters with the creators that called them “home.” In fact I have a fondness for such creatures as well.
It is said that biologically humanity came from the oceans; that over the millennia creatures that called the waters “home” adapted to an existence on land. Maybe I am a “throwback” in wanting to be in collected pools of water than on land. From little on up I have been able to float; my lungs need air though so actually living under water would not be possible. But I could float on the surface forever!

“These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” (Verses 27 – 29)

Whether on land or in the water, we are fleshly creatures that have limited existence. And we require sustenance to continue. Many decades ago I was awed and overwhelmed that I (or any human) could fleshly mortality and also be in the image of God, understanding at least something of the Divine. At look back on my days of dawning spirituality, and feel fortunate that opportunities were available to me to learn about spirituality. Thinking about it, being a spiritual contemplative and living in a human world is a lot like feeling at home on the water and on land. You choice, beloved reader, which existence is water or land.

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” (Verse 30)
I think too what existence must have been like when searching for the Divine and the Spirit of the Divine was more difficult. That is, before Jesus Christ who made things so clear and before the apostles who taught what was past on to them. I think that a large reason why I am drawn to writing these types of posts. To pass on what was and is made known to me.

“May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!”(Verses 31 – 34, 35b)
This writing, beloved reader, harks back to the type of writing I used to do. More personal, less exegetical and pedagogical. I would have used visuals (ie pictures) but those can be terrible to format for online posting.
May you contemplate your existence, dwelling both as a creature of earth and a child of the Divine. Selah!
 

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Epistle Passage – All of the Divine under the Divine

“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (John 14:8 – 11)
Creator and Redeemer – yes they are one. It really could not be presented any clearer. I do and can understand though, if Philip and has fellow disciples had in mind a Yahweh that was very much different then Jesus, then maybe it would not seem logical and streamline that Jesus and the Divine who sent Jesus were one and the same. After all we have so many passages in the Old Testament that talk about “the One to come” but only in hindsight can be it realized that Jesus is “the One.” And, as I have repeatedly said the passages that are predictive of Jesus were not necessarily written in the context of the Messiah. Or at least not the Messiah that they were expecting according to the Adonai who they knew, or thought they knew.
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Verse 12)
I admit I am not sure what that verse means, so I consulted Albert Barnes, and there found the answer I sought. It is not the depth or magnitude of “works” that the disciples will do, but the effect over time and geography. As Barnes said, Jesus was “confined” to one geographic area and a limited span of time on earth. The disciples/apostles will carry forth the word of God and the stories of the works of Jesus Christ across distances and down through time. Of course this happened (or will happen) because Jesus is returning to heaven and the Holy Spirit will be sent down to the disciples.
“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (Verses 13 – 17)
The flow of grace and power – the Creator who loved humanity so much that Jesus was sent, and Jesus taught in real-time ways what the Creator was like, and then the Holy Spirit was sent to be a reminder through time and generations of what the Creator and Jesus Christ the Redeemer were about. This is why I and others believe in a triune Divine.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (Verses 25 – 27)
I was thinking recently about the places that scripture said Jesus opened up the scriptures and helped the disciples to understand it. And I was reminded how my seminary professors did the same; and that their professors taught them. Stretching back generation upon generation there have been teachers and students. My hope is that that like stretches back to the original disciples/apostles. And it humbles me more than I can say or write that I might in some small way stand in the line of teachers and students. But let me tuck that thought away, and return to my theme – that under the title that I use “The Divine” dwells all the aspects of the Lord God as that God-self is understood by all believers. Shalom and Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Substituted Acts Passage – Trying to come together

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1 – 4)
We forget, beloved reader, that one of the aspects of Pentecost was gifting of languages that connected people. While the Holy Spirit come to rest upon them, it was to the discerning and divining of theologies and philosophies but a bringing together of languages. And it caught the attention of people who were gathered there.
“Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” (Verses 5 – 11)
The Genesis passage that is cited for this day talks about the possible dividing and diversifying of languages. While the reason that this was done by the Divine may be difficult to understand, here and now with the coming of the Holy Spirit the rift in languages is temporarily erased.
“And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:6 – 9)
If I was to champion the cause of the Divine in this event, I would say (and do say) that while the feat of building a tower that reached the skies would have been tremendous, it was only one building for one purpose and did not advance the lives and livelihoods of the people gathered there. But when the large group was divided and set off on various paths, they ultimately accomplished more and greater things than they would have as on group. And it set the stage for a more momentous event than those early builders could have ever imagined.

“All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts chapter 2, Verses 12 – 21)

That it was momentous does not mean it was clear and understandable. In fact, based on Peter’s oration to the crowd, there emerges some continuing confusion. That is, confusion to our modern understanding. We know from our own existence and hind sight that the days following Pentecost were not the last days. Yes, the Spirit was poured out over all people. Do not let statement be given a shred less importance, beloved reader – ALL PEOPLE! It is the timing and the portents that come under questioning. As I have said on other occasions, whatever has happened over the years that seems like signs . . . “in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood” . . . was not the sign of “the Lord’s great and glorious day.” We are still waiting for that. In fact (again), we may be at the “Babel” of our modern times. The factions and divisions we see in humanity, while breaking down compassion and caring as exemplified by Jesus Christ, are scattering us one from another and causing great confusion. Why? I do not know that beloved reader. What I do know is when we hear the common speech of authentic Christianity from people and places that we do not expect it from, we sit up and take notice.
After Pentecost we enter into “Ordinary Time” – a time where we live out ordinary days and hone our Christian living skills until the next Holy Days of the Church come along. May we in that time discern what the Lord God the Divine is doing in our lives, and may we listening with sensitive ears for the messages that come to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – The Diversity of the Divine [in scripture, comments & pictures]

“The LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him, and consumes his adversaries on every side.”

[The psalms contain paradoxes that are best understood when seeing visuals. These three pictures, I think, perfectly suit each verse. But as you can see, the images show different aspects of nature. Is this because nature and the attributes of nature are so diverse? Or because the Divine is so diverse? Perhaps, beloved reader it is both. ]
“His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.”
[I could find visuals for each of these verses; I am sure in your mind’s eye you can envision images too. The diversity of the Lord is found in nature. But, beloved reader, it is also within humanity. Not, however, the dark and wicked part of humanity. That comes from the evil one, and whose influence threatens our relationship with the Divine and each other. ]

“All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.”
 
 
“Zion hears and is glad, and the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
The LORD loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.”

 
 
“Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! (Psalm 97)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Year C 2019: The Gospel, Old Testament, and Psalm Passages – In Praise of Godly Women

“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:39 – 45)
It is a tenet of the New Testament that older women are to teach the younger women what is good and proper. Although I am not sure they (meaning the proponents of this type of teaching) had in mind blessing each other, giving forth praise for what is happening to them, and passing on teachings of theology! It is a type of revolutionary action that I like though!
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Verses 46 – 55)
And imagine what Elizabeth might have been teaching Mary while she was there. No not fret however, beloved reader – as if you were/would! The Lord God the Divine I am sure intended Mary to learn how to raise a Godly man from Elizabeth who herself was the wife of a high priest and raised John to the John the Baptist.
“And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.” (Verses 56 – 57)
And there is, beloved reader, precedent for Godly women to be the inspiration for Godly men – not only in raising them but in teaching them. Let us listen to Hannah.
“Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. “There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
So let us celebrate these women and their accomplishments. They have proved themselves worthy of the place in scripture. And let us praise the Lord also who has called people of all genders, times, and geographies to be in service of the Divine, moving forward the Lord God’s plan for humanity.
“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD; praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113)
 

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Death of a Convenient Narrative

I am learning that the jail is very often a place where convenient narratives go to die.
This morning’s lesson was ostensibly about learning how to stop blaming parents and take responsibility for our own actions but, as is usually the case, the conversation tends to meander off in all kinds of loosely-related or unrelated territory. There was a younger indigenous woman who was sitting quietly while the lesson was read. She had spiky jet black hair streaked with blond, a few tattoos on her face, one that looked like a tear drop of blood. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she sat in stony silence throughout our time together. She didn’t look like she had much to say.
Turns out, she did. Quite a lot, actually. And it wasn’t what you’d expect. It wasn’t what I expected, anyway. She talked about how she had miraculously forgiven her parents after attending a program which I won’t name but which sounded like (and probably was, I determined after a quick Google search later) one of those wild charismatic Christian programs that use phrases like, “capture back what the enemy has stolen” and “kill every satanic embargo” and “be victorious in your dreams at all times” a lot. She talked at length about demons and strongholds and spiritual warfare. She spoke about the importance of “being in the word” daily. She could recite bible verses better than many pastors I know. Certainly better than the one writing these words. God had turned her life around!
It got worse. Or better, I suppose, depending on your perspective. She triumphantly declared that she had destroyed all of her sweet grass and cultural regalia (she used to be a ceremonial dancer). Ditto for her all materials related to astrology and horoscopes. I half expected her to say that she had burned her secular rock and roll cassettes, as was the familiar ritual in the lives of so many evangelical teenagers when I was a kid. Listening to her felt like stepping into a weird combination of a Frank Peretti novel and a hyper-conservative charismaniac evangelical church from several decades ago.
Like I said, the jail is not a place for convenient narratives. And this one was about as inconvenient as you could hope to find in our post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission Canada and post-residential schools church. A young indigenous woman walking away from her culture and toward a rather extreme form of the religion that has historically done so much to wound and oppress her people. Was this a weird enactment of a kind of cultural-religious Stockholm Syndrome? Didn’t she realize that she had things exactly backward?!
I thought of what my progressive Christian, agnostic, or atheist friends would think if they were sitting around the circle this morning. I could almost hear them gasp with horror. There were times when I found it difficult to listen to! Surely this was an example of a vulnerable young woman being taken advantage of by opportunistic preachers and greedy religious snake oil salesmen. Surely this was another tragic example of the oppressed grabbing on to the categories of their oppressors in the absence of better narratives—another ugly tributary of the rivers of colonialism that had washed over her people. And she was, not to put too fine a point on it, back in jail. So, you know, how well was this brand of crazy Christianity actually working for her?
But there’s a fine line between compassionate understanding and condescending paternalism, isn’t there? Would we really want to find ourselves in the position of saying whatever this young indigenous woman thought was going on in her life, her experience, and her faith, that we (mostly white, mostly well-educated people) knew better? Would we really want to draw the boundaries for her with respect to what real indigenous expressions of spirituality, healing and wholeness look like? Would we want to deprive her of agency in this way? Would not this rather be yet another form of colonialism—non-indigenous people dictating the terms of what indigenous faith and practice ought to look like (or, more importantly, not look like)?
I noticed something else this morning, and most mornings I spend at the jail. When I start talking about God and faith in my usual highly nuanced, careful, non-supernatual, liberal-ish ways, the women usually smile politely, ask a few questions, offer a bit of qualified appreciation. But when one of their fellow inmates starts talking about angels and demons and punching the wall to get Satan out of their room and screaming the name of Jesus to chase the bad dreams away and tearing down strongholds and deliverance and victory, then the heads start nodding a lot more enthusiastically. They have little time for mushy, tolerant, understanding Jesus—they need Christ the victor who exorcises the demons and shatters the chains.
I resonated with very little of this woman’s experience and testimony this morning. I cringed throughout her (long) telling and could have picked it apart theologically in any number of ways. And, again, for all her talk of radical new beginnings in Jesus she was still sitting in a circle of plastic chairs in the prison chapel on a Monday morning, so… Well, so what? She claimed that Jesus had helped her to forgive her parents for abandoning her, that Jesus had set her free from addiction, and that Jesus had given her meaning and victory in her life. And for all my theological erudition (real or imagined), I haven’t walked a single step in her shoes. I have no idea what she has endured, no idea what she has left behind, no idea what she has already conquered or what roads she has yet to walk down. I have no idea the ways in which Jesus has come to her or the ways in which she has found him powerfully faithful.
So, not to put too fine a point on it, I should probably take my liberal-ish theological superiority and shove it. Or at the very least remain sensibly silent.
Convenient narratives die in the jail. Sometimes, it’s because they should.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Sixth Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – Praise Mode

Preacher: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah”
Seeker: The blessings of the Lord are not withheld from us. Although our circumstances may not be ideal according to this world, we are sustained by the Divine and we continue to testify to the Lord God’s love and compassion.
Preacher: “. . . that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.”
Seeker: If we were protected from every mishap and downfall that the earthly life is filled with, how would the Divine’s support and guidance be made known? It is in our weakness and our need that the Lord’s mighty hand is seen.
Preacher: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.”
Seeker: We raise up praise not for the times that we have failed but that our failure does not separate us from the Divine’s love. Whether we have brought about our own strife, or that the world has brought strife to our doorstep – the Lord God does not abandon us. We are able to move forward despite what comes up against because the Divine is on our side.
Preacher: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah”
Seeker: When I was young and untutored, I thought that when good happened in the world it was because the Lord’s favor was received. Now I know that the favor of the Lord does not ebb and flow with the seasons and circumstances; but that the Lord’s love is ever with us. I praise the Lord not because I am lucky; and when times are hard I do not curse the Lord. I praise the Lord God because the Divine has given me the power to endure, in good and in bad.
Preacher: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.”
Seeker: My voice of praise joins with other voices, spanning time and place. Those who have gone before me and those who are yet to come praise the Lord in their own way, and from their own lives. Many voices of praise become one. And all of us are blessed.
Preacher & Seeker: “May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.”

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday of Easter: The Epistle Passage – Going on a journey & touring heaven and the kingdom of the Divine

“And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. . . . I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:10, 22 – 27)
The book of Revelations . . . . you know already, beloved reader, it is not a book I am comfortable with. But as I read through the above verses it occurred to me that the reader must have a somewhat sophisticated understanding of metaphors and allusions to be able to understand what the writer of Revelations is implying. And that might be part of my struggle, to understand what is supposed to be metaphor and what is supposed to be literal. If it were a place I knew of, I could discern what it metaphor and what is reality. However, if one is looking for clues about heaven and the kingdom of God it is rather frustrating to try to figure out what is literal and what is poetic license.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Chapter 22, verses 1 – 5)
I think I was much happier with the book of Revelation when I assumed it was all of poetic fanciful tour of heaven by an imaginative dreamer. That is not to say that it is all make-believe or untruths. The truth is found in the intent of what the writer of Revelation sees – a utopia where the will of the Divine finds its completion. Imagine, if you will, the outline of a city or town where everything is drawn to scale and all the streets are labeled and each building has an assigned street number. It is a literal map of where everything is. With such map one could navigate from one end of the city or town to the other the first time they step foot in it. Then imagine the same city or town on a tourist map where spots of interest are depicted in fanciful caricature and buildings float free form on the map. Could you expect to successfully navigate through with such a map?
Some view the book of Revelation as an actual map, and others view it as a introduction to the type of place the Divine would rule over. I think with that understanding in mind I am much more amenable to read the book of Revelation. May you beloved reader allow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to inform your faith and your understanding of Heaven. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Proof that Prayer Works

Photo by Simon Simonsson
Article published in the Christian Post.
Can prayer be scientifically measured? In 1872, English intellectual Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, attempted to test the effects of prayer in a famous experiment. He hypothesized that the royal family, whose health the faithful prayed for every Sunday in Anglican parishes, would live much longer than the rest of the British population.
He found that the contrary was true, and concluded that prayer doesn’t work.
The royal diet and lifestyle did not factor into his equation, nor did Galton question the hierarchical theology of God favoring those privileged enough to command an entire nation to pray for them.
In more recent times, Richard Dawkins has hailed the “Great Prayer Experiment” as the definitive proof against prayer efficiency. The Experiment was a 2006 study conducted by Herbert Benson and team, showing that cardiac bypass patients who received prayer did not suffer from less complications after surgery than those who didn’t. In fact, the opposite was true!
What Dawkins doesn’t tell you in his book The God Delusion was that not all who prayed were Christians. A significant number of them belonged to Silent Unity, a New Thought group with unorthodox views on prayer. One of their leaders, James Dillet Freeman, has said that your purpose in praying “is to quicken into activity the creative processes that lie at the root of being and out of which the world takes shape.”
Mixing prayer methods like this when trying to measure prayer is a bad move. Other prayer studies that only included born-again Christians have received more positive results. But there’s a serious flaw with these kinds of prayer studies: they cannot guarantee that the control group they use don’t receive prayer. When you’re in a religious country, that’s impossible to guarantee. Thus, if weird or no differences emerge between patients who “receive prayer” and those who “don’t receive prayer”, it might be because all of them receive prayer!
I suggest another strategy. Over the last year, I’ve collected examples of people being cured after prayer in a way that medical science cannot explain. There are a lot of these cases. Some of them can be found in works like Testing Prayer by Candy Gunther Brown and Miracles by Craig Keener. They sometimes get published in scientific journals like this one. I’ve also spoken to people in my native country of Sweden, asking for their permission to confirm their stories with their medical records.
I’ve found blind people that see, deaf people that hear, cancer patients who were told that they were about to die that instantly got well, as well as allergies, brain damage, blood diseases and ulcers disappearing as people pray. I’ve also spoken to a man who was diagnosed with ALS, a fatal motor neuron disease, in 1987 but lives a healthy life today after a pastor prayed for him at the hospital. The doctors were sure that their diagnosis was correct, and could not explain his recovery.
These cures are too radical to be explained away by placebo or spontaneous remission. They are SICAPs: Scientifically Inexplicable Cures After Prayer. Such phenomena, I argue, are excellent candidates for miracles. Hypothetically, if God would heal someone in response to prayer, it will look exactly like a SICAP.
A naturalist (someone who does not believe in miracles) will argue that SICAPs are the result of unknown natural phenomena. Science is evolving, and what’s inexplicable today might be super obvious in the future. But here’s the problem. The naturalist cannot say that most SICAPs are the result of these unknown natural phenomena – that leaves room for some miracles to exist. No, all SICAPs must be natural phenomena. And that’s very unlikely. One could even call it miraculous.
The SICAPs we observe are simply too diverse to be easily dismissed as a scientific oversight. Furthermore, many of them occur at the very moment someone prays, and several have connections to prophetic visions or other spiritual experiences. Attributing both that and an inexplicable cure happening simultaneously is stretching naturalism to its limits.
On top of this, we generally view unknown explanations as quite unlikely. Why is the day generally hotter than the night? Is it because of the sun, or some other explanation we haven’t come up with yet? Both are theoretically possible, but I think we all know what’s more likely.
Thus, I conclude that affirming the existence of SICAPs logically leads us to affirming the existence of miracles. Miracles that happen in response to prayer. Who said that faith and science are opposed to each other?
Micael Grenholm is the editor-in-chief for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice and pastor of Mosaik Church in Uppsala, Sweden.

Syndicated from Charismactivism

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