31 March 2011

Convenient Lie about Jesus Christ

The best lie is a half-truth. To negate it, is to negate the truth it contains, while to affirm it, bolsters the lie. The greatest lie in our culture is: “Jesus was a simply a great teacher.” I wish I had a nickel for every polite (but wrong) agnostic or atheist who has ever said this to me.
It’s wishful thinking because it’s not true. Read the gospel of Mark and select only the teachings of Jesus, you will find the gospel to be pitifully slim. Or read the gospel of John, which is known to be content-laden with conversation. If you read it wide awake, you will find a good deal of direct instruction to his followers--the apostles. You also find much of the conversation to be prayer to His Father. Yes, there is some teaching in the gospels--but there is a lot of simple exhortation. No one ever says, "Jesus was a great teacher, and he said the Son of God." Somehow the big points in his teachings go missing.

In fact, in the gospels Jesus more noteworthy as
 1) a rabble-rouser who also created problems with most religious leaders
 2) a miracle-worker – of all kinds of miracles
 3) a living fulfillment of many Jewish prophecies
 4) the only man in history who got up from a brutal death and ascended into heaven, as witnessed by more than 500 people. (Why doesn’t this make the Guinness book?) C. S. Lewis adds: “...He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects—Hatred—Terror—Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.”

24 March 2011

Compassion Universal

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
  • Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

19 March 2011

Wanted: passionate and intelligent lovers of God


Wilt thou love God, as he thee? Then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy breast.

The Father having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting, (for he ne'er be gone)
Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption,
Co-heir t' his glory, and Sabbath' endless rest.

And as a robbed man, which by search doth find
His stol'n stuff sold, must lose or buy 't again:
The Son of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom he'd made, and Satan stol'n, to unbind.

'Twas much that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

- John Donne  (1572-1631)
(I provided the spacing.)

Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." 
Matthew 22:37, The Message

10 March 2011

Single Letters, Syllables Uncomposed

Someone once said that knowledge can be threatening to people. If this conjecture has any truth, perhaps it explains why people are threatened by an omniscient God: His knowledge is unbiased truth about everything and everyone.
But let's talk about what we humans can know,  for there is so much to know, learn and do in this great universe--and none of it is without its own value.
Still, it seems every one has been given an additional personal task: that of theology--spiritual training of the mind and heart--seriously.  In this aspect, theology is not a specialized task of a priest, pastor or preacher. No, they are helpful, but they cannot live your life for you, any more than a doctor can give you suggestions on living healthily and diagnosis and prescribe for illnesses. Once you acknowlege what your job is, it's time to take it in hand. At this point sometimes a person will short circuit his learning by making a once-for-all decision. This is making a judgment about your spiritual condition  or state (whether or not it's correct) in a manner that resembles stashing something in a safety deposit box: once there, you don't need to think about it again.
Life has a way of disobeying our desires. If you short circuit your spritual life, you'll find that as your soul-life gets lived out, and it gets expressed in the world around you, and because what you carry inside affects our attitudes, choices, judgments and opinions, it's not long before (if you're honest) that old question of what's your theology comes back, nagging at us. Over and over, life plunges us headlong into our thelogy and holds our heads under it until we either acknowledge it or extinguish it.
Richard Baxter was so excerised about the importance of knowing God, that he bluntly states that we actually see things differently when we see things from God's point of view (rather than our own):
"Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well-managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense.
He who overlooks Him who is the 'Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,' and sees not Him in all who is the All of all, then does see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God.” - Richard Baxter

07 March 2011

Marked by Ashes

   Marked by Ashes

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
   halfway back to committees and memos,
   halfway back to calls and appointments,
   halfway on to next Sunday,
   halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
   half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
 but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
  we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
   of failed hope and broken promises,
   of forgotten children and frightened women,
  we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
  we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
  some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
  anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
  you Easter parade of newness.
  Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
   Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
   Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
 Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
  mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.
  • Walter Brueggemann

01 March 2011

Trash or Treasure?

What is true wealth? How is it defined?
Real estate? If you’ve been alive in the past four years, you have some idea of how difficult it is to hold on to what is defined as wealth. Since economic uncertainty hit the world in 2008, gold has been looking more precious to a great many people. And, as a result, its “value” has increased.
But, what is the real value of gold? It's only that which has been assigned to it--which begs the question, by whom or by what: there has to be an assigner--an agent who has the authority and ability to make that decison. 
In this case I am speakng of worldly (and necessary) exchanges; but that does not address spiritual and eternal exchanges. What is important there?
When we inventory that particular issue, we eventually realize we need to consider what value we assign to Christ. And, there are “real and objective” ways to do that, which we will do in another post. At the outset we need to address what obscures or clouds our thoughts regarding Christ. What does this are the norms: the social, the subjective ideas regarding the value of Christ to a society, to the world.
GK Chesterton puts it this way:
 “…the Church from its beginnings, and perhaps especially in its beginnings, was not so much a principality as a revolution against the prince of the world…
[At the time] Olympus still occupied the sky like a motionless cloud molded into many forms; philosophy still sat in the high places and even on the thrones of the kings,
when Christ was born in the cave and Christianity in the catacombs.
In both cases, [there is] the same paradox of revolution; …. of something despised; of something feared.
The cave in one aspect is only a hole or corner into which the outcasts are swept like rubbish; yet in the other aspect it is a hiding-place of something valuable which the tyrants are seeking like treasure."

  • GK Chesterton (I recommend reading: “The Man Who Was Thursday” with this idea in mind)