Category: Spirituality

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – When terribly sad things happen to faithful and devoted believers

“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (Hebrews 11:29 – 34)
There are, beloved reader, more modern stories (ie. Stories of believers in Jesus Christ) of what the faithful had suffered. One of the books given to me during my teen years was a book about Christians who suffered for their faith. Some faith traditions are littered (in a good way) with stories of saints of the past who held firm to their faith. My own faith, Anabaptism is one such faith tradition that is so littered. All those stories are tragically sad, and a little disturbing. Not that Paul would have hesitated to disturb his readers. I don’t think the person who gave me the book of believers who suffered for their faith meant to disturb me either. But nonetheless, it gives one pain and pause.
“Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Verses 35 – 38)
Paul was very much like these believers – cast about, forsaking simple comforts, and allowing him/themselves to oppressed and disregarded. Not all of these stories that Paul refers to in passing can be found in the current canonical bible. But they are recorded for those who seek out their stories. And why did they endure this? What outcome might they have hoped for or expected?
“Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” (verses 39 – 40)
Here we have the last clue to what Paul is getting at; what was started by them in their time (the faithful devotion and adherence to belief) was/is completed in our time – or more precisely in the time period that Paul is writing in. Question – are we in our modern time included in this? Or we as believers in the 21st Century a part of different era?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1 – 2)
There are few things sadder than running a race that you were never destined to win. These early believers, ie those before Jesus Christ, knew what it was like to adhere to faith and be devoted. Their stories are testament to that. But the faith that was/is most perfect was not yet revealed, and would not be revealed until Jesus Christ came. The advantage is to us, who live in the light of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, however, blessed are those who have not seen but still believe. He was referring to at the time those who would believe in him and the Divine who sent him without having known him personally and first hand. I believe that can apply equally to those who lived and died in faith before Jesus Christ. Yes, Paul is probably sputtering at that!
Beloved reader, it is not enough to know . . . . about who Jesus Christ and the Divine is. It really is not enough either to believe in their existence. What is called for . . . . is to reconstruct with the help of the Holy Spirit one’s entire life and align it would the Divine who sent Jesus Christ. And once aligned, to never ever sway from it. Sad, terribly sad tragic things may happen to us – but not nearly as tragic as to miss living out a life of faith. Selah!

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Interview: Phileena Heuertz, Mindful Silence

Phileena Heuertz joins the podcast to discuss her book Mindful Silence with Steve Kimes. Their discussion includes:

Phileena’s experiences around the world (1:07)
How did contemplative prayer help in her life? (7:45)
Reconciling God’s love with the amazing amounts of suffering Phileena has seen (12:20)
How Gravity helps create a balance between contemplative spirituality and activism (16:02)
Teaching Steve some steps on doing contemplative prayer (21:00)

Check out Phileena’s resource video from Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/mindfulsilence
Watch the video embedded below from our YouTube, or download through our podcast feed in your favourite podcast directory or directly below.

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Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Preacher and Seeker consider their skills and talents

Preacher: “Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.”
Seeker: When I was young, I looked up to people who had physical strength, who played sports, who had glamorous careers, who held the spotlight of media attention. But I learned when I came to faith that these things are fleeting and not worthy of pursuit. The famous, the wealthy, the glamorous rise and fall – here today and gone tomorrow.
Preacher: “They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
Seeker: What is fame and fortune that I might seek it? Each person is gifted with talents and abilities. They can be used to build and create a legacy worth remembering; or they can be turned into futile efforts to garner attention. Blessed are they who find satisfaction in the doing and not in the praise of others.
Then I asked myself, with my skills and talents do I seek the accolades of others, or do I hone my skills for giving glory to God?
Preacher: “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Seeker: When I seek to honor the Lord with my talents and skills, I am like a tree that stretches out its roots, find nurture and sustenance in grounded faith in the Lord. The winds of change that rise up one person, and bring another – I will never have to fear them.
Preacher: “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it?”
Seeker: It is tempting to measure my self worth in the eyes of the public and the media. To judge my efforts by the approval of others. It is only when I measure myself against the example and the teachings of the Lord God Jesus Christ that I can know how well I have succeeded or failed.
Preacher: “I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.” ( Jeremiah 17:5-10)
Seeker: May the Lord search me, and discern what good I have done and what evil I have committed. Then I will seek forgiveness and mercy from the Lord for my wrongdoings, and praise the Lord for the blessings the Divine has given. Then I will use my talents and skills to further the mission of the Lord! Selah!

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Saying thank you to the Lord God

“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalm 138:1 – 2)
On the day you read this, beloved reader, I will have completed all of my radiation therapy, and will be focusing on healing and waiting to find out if the radiation therapy worked. Through this time I have depended on the Lord for a great deal, and I give thanks to the Divine for seeing me throughout. Much of my strength has come from writing these commentaries, wrestling with the themes and messages, and yes, wrestling with praising the Lord God when I have been under great strain, stress, and illness.
“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth. They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 3 – 6)
It occurred to me some time back (maybe I have said this before) that I did not use imaging that many cancer patients do, imaging and imaging that the treatment is targeting the cancer cells and destroying them. But what I did do was focusing on doing self care – using creams that would heal my skin and prescriptions that would heal my mouth. I was gentle with myself, as gentle as I imaged and imagined the Lord God would be with me. And I prayed – oh how I prayed! And the Divine heard me! At each step one I did not feel I could go on, the Lord provided encouragement through the people around me, through encounters with music and scripture, and through medications that eased my pain and helped to heal my body. I will be forever grateful that the Lord blessed me in these ways.
After treatment is completed will come a time of waiting to see if the treatment was successful. And during that time I will continue praying and placing my faith in the Lord God the Divine.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.” (Verse 7)
On of the ironies of this disease, this cancer, is that it is my own body that has grown these cancerous cells that have endangered my life. They must be killed off, at the risk of also killing off healthy cells which has caused radiation burns both on my outer skin and in my mouth. Such a paradox to kill off part of myself in order to save myself. And yet isn’t that what we do when we embark on the Christian life? Kill off our misguided and sinful human impulses to save our life?
“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verse 8)
We, humanity, were made in the image of the Lord God. But we are flawed and imperfect. That flaw and imperfection must be taken out, irradiated if you will, so that I better selves under the Divine can grow and flourish. The teaching and guidance of the Lord have been spoken of as a refinery’s fire. Radiation, then, is not such an unusual metaphor.
Whether or not this treatment works, I do know that through the course of this past month and a half I have learned a great deal about myself; and I have come to see even more clearly that the Lord has not ever forsaken me. Praise the Lord! Selah!

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – “Growing up” to be a Christian

“Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (I Corinthians 15:1 – 7)
One has to wonder about the Corinthians. They remind me of newly converted Christians who want to espouse a new faith but keep getting muddled and caught up in previous beliefs and ways of life. In other chapters of Corinthians Paul sets down rules of living and living with each other. In this chapter he seems to be reminding of the basic tenets of faith and what he had preached to them previously.
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” (Verses 8 – 11)
Paul would seem almost a little too “preachy” if it were not for his self-disclaimer that he is the “least of the apostles” and that it is only because of the grace of God that he is who he is. Perhaps that is why he has so much patience with the Corinthians, because he knows what it is like to come to new faith and try to learn how to conform his life to it. We forget (maybe) that what we are reading is a Paul who has been steeped in faith. Maybe at his early beginnings he too had to figure out what is correct and good to do. That gives the rest of us a measure Divine grace and forbearance that we often may need. Selah!

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Being called to challenging tasks, and remaining faithful

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1 – 4)
Isaiah realized he was in holy space, or his vision was touched by the Divine. One has to wonder if/how his vision was influenced by the understanding of the Divine at that time, and the art and architecture of the time. But that does not, and should not, lessen the impact it had on Isaiah.
“And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” (Verses 5 – 7)
It makes me wonder just a little bit about how we prepared ourselves when we sit down to read the bible, do spiritual meditations, or worship the Lord. Do we ask or prepare ourselves to interact with the Divine? We may hold some minor in credulousness the Isaiah actually really saw this, seraph with tongs and live coal ectetera. But we cannot deny the the writer of the book of Isaiah went on to do and write some mighty stuff.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Of course one wonders why the outcome of Isaiah’s mission and ministry was that the people remained dull and did not understand. It was apparently not the fault and intention of Isaiah. It was that the called and chosen people has wandered so far from faithful worship of God that no words reached them or broke through.
“Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.” (Verses 10 – 13)
For all that, Isaiah could be talking about our modern times. I know that may surprise you, especially beloved reader if you consider yourself a faithful follower of the Divine. But I remind you that by the time we get down to the coming of Jesus there were still those who were faithful. The “burning” refers not necessarily to every man, woman, and child – but to the bulk of the nation. Or more precisely the identity of the nation. And so we may consider our world and the general nature of humanity. Are you one of the “pockets” of faithful believers. Might you be part of the “holy seed”? Selah!

Presentation of the Lord Day Year C 2019

“When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22 – 24)
I started to write on this passage several days ago but I was becoming I’ll from the side effects of radiation and just couldn’t focus and think what to say. Some days later I am starting to recover and feel more myself. However, I am not at my computer keyboard but still in the hospital and am pecking this out on my iPad tablet. It took some thinking and logistics to get to this point of copying and pasting the text and then doing a hunt and peck to write with a pen stylus. So please forgive any spelling and grammar errors. The human spirit will not be subdued or stopped by adversity or challenge.
But enough of me. Let’s look to Mary and Joseph, and infant Jesus who, according to customs, are journeying to Jerusalem. It is probably a journey many young couples made, but for Mary and Joseph it was of special significance because of who Jesus was destined to become. There were also people already in place for this event. Consider that beloved reader, that it was fore ordained that at this day and time those who would inform and influence this young couple are in place and waiting to play their part.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,”Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Verses 25 – 32)
It is hard for me, beloved reader, to separate out the posts/commentaries on scripture and what is going in my own life. It is the lens through which I understand how the scripture impacts me. You also, beloved reader, bring your life circumstances to the understanding and discernment of scripture.
Have you brought something or someone to the attention of the Divine? Are you seeking prayer or guidance in your life or on behalf of someone else? Does it seem like the waiting goes on forever? Consider how long the Jewish people had to wait for the Messiah. But then consider how long we have been waiting for the return of the Divine. As long or perhaps longer than the Jewish people, who once were the Hebrews and then the Israelites/Judahites, waited. Jesus came at the proper time, just as Mary and Joseph came to the temple at the proper time, and Simeon came at the proper time.
“And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Verses 32 – 35)
It also happens in the course of things that what we receive after waiting is not what we expected. It may not fulfill our expectations the way we thought it would. Not long enough or strong enough; or not gentle and mild enough. Like Goldilocks in the Three Bears, what we search and wait for it not “just right.” And it hurts when our expectations are not meet and fulfilled. The Jews expected a Messiah that would be like the king that the Israelites sought. A king that would rule on/from earth and bring victory to the Jewish people. But Jesus was not that type of king. It is a sign of faith, beloved reader, to wait and not be held to any one outcome.
“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Verses 36 – 38)
We are expected to go about our Christian lives, doing what it correct and good, living out an authentic Christian life no matter what befalls us.
“When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Verses 39 – 40)
In the midst of the day I wrote this post, I was released from the hospital and returned home. I was glad to do so. But very quickly it became apparent that I would be plunged back into the daily tasks of home life. My almost two day of away time was, despite the ill health, a good reprieve. But as so many reprieves go, just when it gets to be therapeutic it comes to an end. I was deemed well enough to go home.
I thought of just commenting on the passage from the Gospel. But being a celebration day I wanted it to resonate a little more.
“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight–indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4)
However, beloved reader, I am leaving it to you to discern for yourself how my post title may apply to this passage as well. Think of what the Messiah was supposed to be like according the called and chosen people of God during Malachi’s time. Think of how the life Jesus prescribes for us winnows out those who cannot commit to such a life. And think of how we must live from now until the Divine comes again to winnow out the believers who have held firm. Selah!
 
 

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Being dependent on the Divine

If you were surprised by my “appearing” yesterday, do not be. You did not miss a day, and I did not slip a cog (although I was dealing with some mighty pain issues). This Saturday is the Day of the Presentation of the Lord, and I wanted to write a commentary on those passages, so I decided to add an extra day on Thursday and shuffle things around. So here it is Friday, and I am settling down to “praise” the Lord!
“In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.” (Psalm 74:1)
One of the prayers and pleas that I raised up to the Lord early in my seminary training was that I would not be “put to shame” in my classes. It was for me a bold step to say that I wanted to go to seminary and train for ministry. I honestly did not know if I had the intellect to be successful at a graduate level, and was not sure which direction I should go. Hence my prayer.
“In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.” (Verse 2)
Since that time I have received affirmation from many places, and have not once been “put to shame.” The Lord has been faithful in the promises that were given to me. And when I had dark times, as any and many people do, I was rescued. Once again during the “season” of my treatment of cancer (it is still hard for me to believe this is happening) I am reaching out and depending on the Lord to see me through this.
“Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (Verse 3)
It only recently occurred to me that during treatment I could use an established meditation technique to envision/image the radiation treatment shrinking the tumor. So dependent on the Divine, I did not think of using anything other than gathering up and applying the faith I have in the Lord to this situation. With the psalmist I also said . . . . .
“Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (Verses 4 – 6)

Interview: Christopher Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram

Christopher Heuertz joins Steve on the podcast to discuss his book The Sacred Enneagram. The book is described as (via the Gravity Center page):

Move beyond type as mere caricature and learn how to work with the Enneagram for spiritual growth.
Christopher L. Heuertz was first introduced to the Enneagram in the slums of Cambodia. Since then he has trained under some of the great living Enneagram masters including Father Richard Rohr, Russ Hudson, Marion Gilbert, and Helen Palmer, and now teaches the Enneagram in workshops and retreats around the world. Chris is an International Enneagram Association Accredited Professional. He and his wife Phileena live in Omaha with their puppy Basil, and you can join him on Facebook and Twitter in his intentions to love on the margins.
Topics covered in this episode include:

Richard Rohr’s impact on Chris (1:17)
Introducing the theme of the book: finding your true self (5:00)
Introducing the Enneagram itself, not just another personality test to put you in a box (13:49)
Steve’s Enneagram type, Chris’ Enneagram type, and the centers of the Enneagram (24:17)
How to best find out your type, the dangers of typing others, and the ease of being mistyped (33:14)
Contemplative prayer and how that works together with the Enneagram (50:46)

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Vlog 31: God in Creation

The MennoNerds vloggers discuss seeing God in creation. Steve opens with the question and shares about how he most sees God in other people, God’s image-bearers. Micael responds by discussing why Christians need to care about creation, and Deborah responds with the idea of finding that special place in nature where you can meet God.
https://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/archive.org/download/Vlog31GodInCreation/Vlog31-GodInCreation.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

Vlog 29: Lent

The vloggers discuss the season of Lent. After Ryan introduces the question with some inspiration from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Steve responds with why he is fasting from Lent (not fasting for Lent) this year. Deborah concludes by talking about the 40 Acts practice she took part in last year, learning from and participating alongside activists.
https://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/archive.org/download/Vlog29Lent_20170328/Vlog29-Lent.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

Interview: Carrie Newcomer, The Beautiful Not Yet

Carrie Newcomer joins Paul Walker to discuss her life and work. Carrie is a Christian singer-songwriter and poet, with her most recent work being The Beautiful Not Yet. In this interview, she shares some of her life story, some wisdom, some music, and some poetry.
Links:
Carrie Newcomer (website)
Carrie Newcomer (Twitter)
Carrie Newcomer (Facebook)
https://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/archive.org/download/InterviewCarrieNewcomerTheBeautifulNotYet/Interview-CarrieNewcomer-TheBeautifulNotYet.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

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