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Jesus in the Garden: An Alternative Reading of Maundy Thursday

We understand Jesus’ expression of “Father, take this cup from me” as an  expression of his desire to not suffer and to not die “if possible.” But consider that Jesus was then, and is now, a “people person” – he’s all about relationships with other people. Sure, he understood the theology behind what lay in store for him, and he understood the reality of physical abuse, injury and agony that awaited.

So what really pained him, caused him anguish in his soul, was the impending loss of relationship with his friends. The betrayal, denial and abandonment at the hands of his closest friends was humiliating; anticipation of this brought about the deepest of suffering. But Christ the Reconciliator, who came into this world for the purpose of creating relationship, knew the power of forgiveness, that damaged personal relationships can be repaired and restored.

So, why the intense distress in the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus knew he would never have the occasion to experience life’s activities and blessings, challenges and opportunities with his friends, acquaintances, and yes, strangers whom he had yet to meet. He came into this world to create new relationships between God and humanity, and he was abundantly and intimately successful. To leave these relationships grieved him; he suffered this loss with such intensity of emotion that his “sweat became like great drops of blood.”

Knowing it has to be this way does not really make it any easier to accept. No matter how we reinterpret it, spin it or contextualize it, this kind of loss is devastating. And we understand that.

“We Have A Hostage Situation”

April 1, 2012 1 comment

All day I have been pondering one line from my pastor’s sermon this morning: “humanity is held hostage by sin and death.” It sounds stereotypically Christian; traditional language about being in bondage to sin, our need to repent, the looming punishment if we don’t.

But that’s not what I heard this morning. Instead I heard the lead – in from a cable news broadcast, or saw the headline from a blog post, “Humanity Held Hostage by Sin!”

First thought was of the groups we separate from the “rest of us,” the ones we segregate because the people who fall into our constructed categories are not what we want them to be. We have taken them hostage, deprived them of their freedom, grabbed control of their lives! Then I thought about how imprisoning it is to “the captors” to live day in and day out in pursuit of the power and purity in denial of their own differences and uniqueness.

Both examples speak truth to the proclamation. We, human beings, persons of all types are held hostage when other persons seek to control our beliefs, our religions, our relationships. Yet those persons attempting to control other persons are the ones truly held captive.

Categories: Christianity, relationship

Clattering Bones

When I first came to seminary two years ago I had two mentors, ordained pastors, whom I loved then and love now. One was an advocate, an ally for sexual minorities, the other believed homosexuality to be a sin. I felt the pressure, however unintended, for me to “choose a side.” To which camp was I going to align myself on the issue of people’s sexual orientation and their inclusion in the Kingdom of God?

I resisted choosing. I recall clearly stating that I did not, before ever entering the ordination process of my denomination, want my ministry to be defined by this one item. I did not want to be labeled; I did not want to be put into a group where I was ostracized by others – or exclusively welcomed; I did not want my ministerial career derailed because of my identification “for or against homosexuality” obscuring God’s work in me for the beloved children.

Recently, I was discussing this with my daughter. She had heard my rationalization before, but this time she weighed in: “so, you do not want your entire identity as a person defined exclusively by sexual orientation?” (She then made some sort of grunting sound and rolled her eyes a bit.) Point taken.

There’s lots I still don’t understand, so I try to ask questions, and listen. I am pretty clear though that honoring the two Great Commandments leaves no room for me to interpret the scriptures in justification of ostracizing, condemning, or rejecting any one. When I read the Good News of Jesus Christ, I see reference after reference to loving, protecting and accepting those that society – including at times institutional religion – elects to exclude.

So, today I am adding to my resources list the blog “Clattering Bones”.

Painting by Dalana Castrell (Emilia Cleopas)   I would encourage you to take the time to read two of the first posts:

  “Here We Go”   and “Where Are We Going…” for a thorough personal and theological treatment of why this conversation is important. Thanks, Jess. Thanks, Court; I love you. D.

Oh! So there’s no confusion: I do not believe homosexuality is a sin, but like heterosexuality, a God granted gift. Praise be to God for divine mercy for us all. 

 

 

Radical Hospitality as Evangelism

Here’s the best thing I have read this week and I encourage you to read it as well:

Ben Gosden writing in “Covered in the Master’s Dust” poses the following in his post How Radical Hospitality Can Become a Recipe for Colonial Evangelism:

“Radical Hospitality is one of the distinctive marks that identifies us as Christian–we accept and love people without pretense. It is a practice marked by humility and generosity. But what happens when we abuse the practice of radical hospitality?”

Ben goes on to raise concerns about a distorted view of radical hospitality being used by the church as a means for increasing attendance and participation in the church, that the church may be losing the vision of practicing Christ-like hospitality for its own sake.

You can read the full article here.

The Summer of My Enlightenment – Part Two

The ministry of compassionate anonymity sits in stark contrast to “selfism.”

Serving this summer as a hospital chaplain, I was often anonymous. I was known by my role, my title, “Chaplain,” not by my name. I was present with another human being in their moment of crisis, their moment of pain, their time of fear, their overwhelming grief. When their experience defied understanding because of their lack of faith, or because of their faith’s rigidity, I was present. When they were without hope, I was present. Regardless of whom they were, their tradition, orientation, ethnicity, or age, I was present.

Among the revelations of this summer experience was recognition of the gifts of the Creator: that what I have described and will describe herein are events and attributes, and most notably opportunities, given by God.

There were moments when I prayed great prayers. There were times when I was speechless. There were occasions when words were not needed.

There were experiences of spiritual connectivity, moments when I was a conduit between patient and God, because I was present. And there were more times than I can count when I was profoundly blessed, fortunate to be in that particular place at that specific time. Yet in each of those special moments, it was not about me. This is the meaning of Mark 8:35 – I experienced the presence of God in relationship with another person, when I was fully present to that other person to hear their expressed need, disengaged from my own wants and needs.

My relationship with other people, be it my wife, family, colleagues, friends, patients or parishioners, must be grounded in my relationship with God. This, too, became profoundly evident this summer. I had little strength from The Source to minister to the needs of others if I did not care for and cultivate that spiritual relationship each day. I had few resources to be present and listen to people if I was not taking the time to be still and listen to God. In the hospital environment, “self care” was a mantra, repeated frequently. Yes, we half – joked that it was “self care” because no one else would take care of you. But the reality is that we do need to take care of our spiritual selves, nurturing our relationship and understanding of the Divine Presence in our lives, in order to be effective ministers to others, for that is our purpose for being.

This ministry of compassionate anonymity resonates with me. It reflects my understanding of Christ’s call to feed, clothe and care for those among us who are in need.  It embraces social justice issues and ministries, just as it does local programs and services. Yet, one does not need a program or a cause to compassionately and anonymously minister to others. And it definitely contrasts with the selfism of our culture and cautiously, our church. For we do not compassionately care for those who need us in order to get a reward; we don’t do it for ourselves, our benefit, but rather because our neighbor needs us, and we can respond.

Most significantly, the ministry of compassionate anonymity captures the essence of a 21st century life transformed. It’s not about me.

“Neither Death, Nor Life….Nor any Other Creature…”

Thank you to Susan Stabile… writing on her blog, “Creo en Dios! “, she eloquently comments on her powerful personal revelation of Paul’s claim in the 8th chapter of Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God:

“As I was sitting in prayer, I became overwhelmed with a sense of God’s love and realized in that moment in a way far more profound than I had before that when we say God is love we literally mean it.  That is, I was struck with the reality that love is not a choice on God’s part.  It is not that God can love me or not love me.  God ONLY loves, and my very creation and continued existence is an act of God’s love. There is no me separate from God’s love; without God’s love there would not be me.”

Read her entire post here:  “Neither Death, Nor Life….Nor any Other Creature…”.

God’s Vulnerability

July 9, 2011 1 comment

There is an article in Time magazine this week entitled “The Pessimism Index.” The writer reports on a recent poll of Americans in which we noted just how gloomy our future appears. One sentence caught my eye: that we are feeling a “sense of inevitable vulnerability.”

Inevitable vulnerability. Unavoidable helplessness. Certainty of exposure.

In our interpersonal relationships we speak of vulnerability Read more…