Monday, December 12, 2011

Via Stillpoint as shared by Judith Favor

A journey continues until it stops

A journey that stops is no longer a journey

A journey loses thing on its way

A journey passes through things, thing pass through it

When a journey is over, it loses itself to a place

When a journey remembers, it begins a journal

Which is a new journey about an old journey

A journey over time is different from a journey into time

An actual journey is into the future

A reflective journey is into the past


A journey always begins in a place called Here

Pack your bags and imagine your journey

Unpack your bags and imagine your journey is done


If you're afraid of a journey, don't buy shoes

~ Mark Strand ~

(Chicken, Shadow, Moon & More)

John’s Liberating Humility

John’s Liberating Humility

“The spirit of the Exalted YWHW is upon me,

for YWHW has anointed me:

God has sent me to bring good news to those who

Are poor;

To heal broken hearts;

To proclaim release to those held captive

And liberation to those in prison;

To announce a year of Favor from YHWH,

And the day of God’s vindication;

To comfort those who mourn,

To provide for those who grieve in Zion-

To give them a wreath of flowers instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of tears,

A cloak of praise instead of despair.

They will restore the ancient ruins,

And rebuild sites long devastated;

They will repair the ruined cities,

Neglected for generations.

These are the Prophet Isaiah’s words…Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 to be exact this is the Old Testament reading for today yet I wonder if these words could not have come from John himself. I imagine John as a scruffy little man, a bit haggard from living in the wilderness and surviving on wild honey and locusts, quoting this text very loudly at the river’s edge.

John was described as; “a voice crying out in the wilderness!” Today we are told he comes “as an envoy from God, who came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through his testimony everyone might believe.”

John was an envoy, a messenger sent as a witness to the light.

The Apostle John, author of the Gospel of John, seems to have previously been a disciple of John the Baptist. It must have been with great affection and regard for the Baptist that the Apostle writes of him in the first chapter of his Gospel. We find the ministries and messages of John the Baptist and Jesus interspersed and inter-twined in this first chapter. John sought to identify himself with Jesus, and Jesus surely sought to identify with John and his message. There is, however, a great difference between these two individuals, as the Apostle John makes clear in this chapter.

Verse 6: A man came, sent from God, whose name was John. Verse 7: He came as a witness, to testify about the light, so that everyone might believe through him. Verse 8: He himself was not the light, but he came to testify about the light.

The Word was; John came. The Word was the Light; John came, sent from God as a witness to this Light. John was a witness, and the Lord Jesus was the One about whom John testified. John was not the light, but a witness sent to testify that the Light was coming. To us, these words may seem redundant—old news. But they were, and they are, revolutionary. Nothing like the coming of our Lord in human flesh has ever happened before—nor will it ever happen again. John’s role in this is important, yet definitely subordinate. No one knows this more than John. What the Apostle John writes in these verses 6-8, the Baptist reiterates and underscores in his own testimony. These verses give us the reality by which John the Baptist governed his life and ministry.

Now place yourself in the sandals and camel hair suit of John the Baptist. God commands you to go out and to begin calling the nation Israel to repentance, announcing that the Messiah is soon to be revealed. You are not even certain at the time just who the Messiah is—or how He is to be revealed. You are to preach in the wilderness, so that all who want to hear you must come out of the city and into the wilderness. You have never even performed so much as one miracle. Can you imagine faithfully preaching a message of repentance in preparation for the Messiah, as John the Baptist did, without even knowing the name of the one about whom you were preaching?

Truly John the Baptist is a remarkable man, and He is a prominent figure in Advent, showing up each year in at least a couple of the Gospel readings and reappearing in January when we remember the Baptism of the Lord. In listening closely to John the Baptist, one senses deep humility; "I am not the Messiah. I am not Elijah (the greatest of the prophets). I am not the main attraction. The main attraction is coming, and I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals.”

John’s humility comes to expression when he says that he is not worthy to untie the strap of Christ’s sandal. This takes us back into travel on the hot and dusty paths of Palestine. As one walked in the heat and the dust, one’s feet inevitably become dirty. When one came into a friend’s house, the first courtesy provided was water to wash the guest’s feet. But the host would not normally do this himself. To attend to the feet was a task fit for a slave, and it would be a slave who was expected to do the actual washing of the feet

This humility was not only John's perception of himself; it is also recorded in the Gospel writer's description of him: John the Baptist was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light. It is important that we claim John as a model for our lives, as human beings and as Christians. You are not the Messiah. I am not the Messiah. A messiah is someone who saves, rules, and fixes people. Many in Israel were waiting for a messiah in the first century. Life was difficult, harsh, and oppressive.

John's entrance into the drama of Advent each year might not seem relevant at first glance, but in fact his is a needed voice. Humility is a misunderstood concept' and it may be helpful to say what it is and what it is not. It is not low self-esteem. We are created in the image of God' and that is good. Humility is not false modesty. We have been endowed with gifts, and they are to be used for the Glory of God and the common good. One preacher put it this way: Humility is not thinking less of ourselves. Humility is thinking of ourselves less. Do you see the difference?

This can be liberating. I bet you know of folks who could be described as overachievers. You see their names in the newspaper, or you hear them being interviewed on television and radio, perhaps you have written letters of recommendation for them when they were getting ready to go to college. A day does not go by that someone is not being recognized in his or her Profession.

When congratulated they will say, "Oh, it's nothing", or, "It's not as special as it seems," or, "Yes, oh, but you should see what my brother or sister or neighbor or colleague is doing'" I am talking about other people, but if I am honest, myself as well. Kenneth carter points out that one of his seminary professors poked fun at the “I love me" walls that preachers love to have in their offices degrees, ordination certificates and I do have to wonder about how all of this helps us to preach better sermons about humility!

It is all mixed together with the drive to succeed and with ambition, performance, and goals. If we don't have these hopes for ourselves, we surely have them for our friends and loved ones. There is something constructive about all of this. Objectives are accomplished. Goals are met. Good is done. But there is also a dark side that can be a heavy burden. We begin to think that we are, in fact, the source of light. Sometimes, though, the bulb begins to dim. We might not use the precise language, but we begin to think that we are, in fact, the Messiah. We see other people as problems to be solved; we see daily lives as a series of messes to be cleaned up, dilemmas to be sorted through, and damages to be repaired. If you and I don’t take care of it, who will? The symptoms of this dark side are burnout cynicism, frustration with other people' and paradoxically' self rejection.

But remember, you and I are not the Messiah. We have limitations and boundaries. Advent comes along each year to give us this dose of humility, when once again we meet John, who helps us to get clear perspective.

Make no mistake. John the Baptist was a person of strength. He attracted people to his project'. "Among those born of women,” Jesus says, “no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist" (Matthew 1 1 :1 1 ). John was not weak. "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?" Jesus asks the disciples who had gone in search of John (Matthew 1i:7)' "A reed shaken by the wind?''(v.7).The literal meaning was a weathervane that bends with the currents of the wind. John was not weak; he was strong-he could withstand the forces of the winds and the storms-but he was humble. His humility is found precisely in his understanding of who he is and who he is not.

Humility is not weakness, but the awareness of the Source of our strength. John reminds us that we are human. Were you aware that there is a connection between the word s humanity, humility, and humor. Each word has a common origin, in our word humus. We have a humus pile in the plastic bin out back that includes soil and leaves and kitchen garbage and probably some things I would not want to mention. It is a mixture of the most organic matter, the compost pile, and it is very rich and fertile place. That says something about us: in our humanity we are always a mixture of many things and out of all of it come life and growth.

Humility and humor are connected in our ability to laugh at ourselves-and sometimes we do have to laugh at ourselves. This is related to our humanity. We have limitations, boundaries; we are finite. Humanity is a reminder of our need to be grounded-again the connection with the earth. It is not accidental that the most fundamental posture of humility is kneeling. This self-awareness prepares the way for something more, something greater: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day, which also includes dia de los muertos – the day of the dead. These Holidays have their origins as far back as ancient Egypt where they believed the spirits of the dead returned each fall to visit the living and they welcomed these spirits with lights and food. These traditions spread to Rome and eventually found their way into Christianity. Today we celebrate all saints Sunday.

This is the day we remember all those who have passed on from this life to the life eternal. On this day we are especially reminded that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

When someone mentions the word saint, what image comes to your mind? Perhaps you think about the saints you have read about in books. These are persons who have done great things for God and perhaps even performed some type of miracle. (todays saint)

Maybe you think about statues you have seen of saints, especially in Roman Catholic churches or in cemeteries. Maybe you think about necklaces and medallions made of the saints. I can remember a special gift I was given when I was growing up.

It was a silver necklace with a Saint Christopher’s medal. I think every good catholic boy and girl received one of these at some point. I was told that it would keep me safe and protect me as long as I wore it. I truly believed that, and the necklace became part of my everyday attire.

A saint can be defined as a holy person, a person who has been redeemed, or someone who has been declared righteous by God. By this definition, anyone who has acknowledged Jesus and attempts to follow his ways is a saint.

The book of Acts (9:32-41) tells of Peter going down to the saints, the followers of Jesus, who lived in Lydda and to a disciple named Tabitha (or Dorcas), whom Peter restored to life.

The Bible also tells us the importance of meeting the needs of the saints. In Romans 12:13, we read, “Contribute to the needs of the saints”; in 2 Corinthians 9:11-12, we find, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.” The words saint and Christian, or follower of Jesus, are used interchangeably.

Interestingly enough we have heard pastor Bob speak of Holy fools in the past referring to saints. Jim Forest in praying with Icons tells us that “few taunts are sharper than those that call into question someone’s sanity.” Yet often this was the case for those who are called saints. This is because their behavior flew in the face of conventional wisdom.

Think of Saint Francis who stripped of his clothes and stood naked before the bishop in Assisi’s main square, or his preaching to the birds, or taming the wolf and finally during the crusades he walked unarmed across Egyptian dessert into the sultan’s camp.

Jim Forest states further that “Perhaps there is a sense in which each and every saint, even those who were scholars, would be regarded as insane by many in the modern world because of their devotion to a way of life that was completely senseless apart from the gospel.” This reminds me of Saint Margery Kemp. . . As followers of Christ we are called to go against the grain.

Today’s passage from the First Letter of John reminds us that when we accept God’s love through Jesus Christ, we are called “children of God”—saints. A person becomes a saint through the love of God. Saints can be called children of God because of the great love God has poured out for us. As God’s children, we have worth beyond this world, but being a child of God is not some distant or future state; we are God’s children here and now. As God’s children we live differently, following the example of Jesus. It is as if the world does not even know us.

We live abundantly, filled with love, joy, hope, and peace. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the characteristics of a saint and a child of God.

Are these fruits evident in our lives? What are we doing to cultivate them? The passage also tells us that being a saint is a work in progress: “what we will be has not yet been revealed” (1 John 3:2). In other words we are a work in progress.

In this life, we strive to become more and more like Christ. We are becoming reflections of God. This process of becoming a perfect reflection of Christ will take us all of our days on this earth until one day when we see God face-to-face.

The Christian rock artist Chuck Girard has a song that I love it says : “People try to tell me that I can't live this way

That things have changed and life is not the same

And they try to tell me that I'm missing all the fun

But I know this peace I've found has only now begun

Some have tried to tell me to live and just be free

That we must seek life's pleasures while they last

And they try to tell me that these are modern days

And that I'm just a fool to go on living in the past

Someone's always tryin' to shake my faith and bring me down

But all I know is what I feel inside

People to try to tell me that I am just a fool

But I guess I'll be a fool for Jesus

If this is our hope and our destiny, then we will do all in our power to make ourselves ready: “All who have this hope in Christ purify themselves” (3:3), says Paul. He even talks about his own process of becoming all that God wants him to be: “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. “(Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul would later refer to this process as a race (2 Timothy 4:7). All Saints’ Sunday reminds us of the saints along that racecourse who encourage us and cheer us on. We are truly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

On this day I invite you to remember those who have entered “the Church Triumphant.” Perhaps they died during this past year or some time ago. Maybe they were a little crazy, or too foolish for this world, Remember that they are still with us. They surround us each and every day. I like to believe that anytime I stop to remember my grandmother, grandfather my friend Harvey or daddy Nick, they come close. I still talk to Nick now and then. As you travel this road of life, striving to become what God wants you to be, know that you are not alone. Standing along that path is a great cloud of witnesses, and they are cheering you on.

May we all persevere until the day when we see Jesus and our loved ones face-to face.

Today day we celebrate all souls day, the day of the dead, all saints day. We honor those who have honored us with their lives. By living with the Christed one we are called to live life to the fullest, to live life outside the norm, to be a fool, for when we transition from this life to the next we will be prepared to know love and life in the fullest of the covenant of the bread of life that is Jesus the Christ.

I read this poem last year and would like to conclude with it again;

I will not die an unlived life.

I will not live in fear

of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,

to allow my living to open me,

to make me less afraid,

more accessible,

to loosen my heart

until it becomes a wing,

a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance;

to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which came to me as blossom goes on as fruit.

Let this poem be a candle that your soul holds out to you, requesting that you find a way to remember what it is to live a life with passion, on purpose to take chances and risks perhaps even looking foolish to the world.

When you have the courage to shape your life from the essence of who you are, and who God is in you, through you, you ignite, becoming truly alive, alive in the Love and Life of Christ.

I pray these words today find their way to your heart and comfort your soul, amen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sunday Oct. 2nd The sending Forth

As you leave here go out and find what feeds you, Go out and discover what will keep your heart open; open to the beauty and the wonder that is God’s spiritual invitation to walk with Jesus daily.  Go out and act upon that invitation.  Go out and be the the fruit of the vineyard and allow God to bless you and others through you with an abundant life lived in Christ Amen.

October 2nd Mathew 21:33-46

This week we are examining what many consider to be a very complicated parable: the parable of the wicked tenants. This is a parable about Israel. It goes along with similar themes to the parable of the two sons and the parables of the wedding banquet and feast

A mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her seven-year-old son scream. She found his two-year-old sister pulling his hair. She gently released the little girl’s grip and said comfortingly to the boy, "There, there. She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know that hurts." He nodded his acknowledgement, and she left the room.

As she started down the hall the little girl screamed. Rushing back in, she asked, "What happened?"

The little boy replied, "She knows now."

The parable of the landowner and the wicked tenants continues the theme of Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man. “The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16) is a notion that challenged the general religious economy of Jesus’ era and continues to challenge that of our own time. The parable points a finger at the religious elite of Jerusalem. As the story unfolds, the Pharisees know that Jesus is speaking about the unfaithful history of Israel, Israel who refused the witness of prophets, Israel who killed God’s messengers, and now deny the witness of Jesus, whom some have called the Messiah. Now do not get me wrong this is not Israel the nation so much as Israel influenced by a corrupt leadership.

The heart of the parable is the wicked and violent way that stewards of the law and the temple have failed through the centuries to acknowledge God’s clear message of justice and righteousness. Now the Son has come to give a clear message, and the attitude is still the same. These men of power will not stand much longer for this kind of teaching.

As with many parables, Jesus uses symbols in his stories that give a deeper meaning. This is where we need to be careful because not all things have deeper meanings. Sometimes a field is really just a field. But here we can deduce some likely meanings.

Symbolic Indicators

• The vineyard is Jerusalem

I say likely here because sometimes these things are debated. Here some say that the vineyard is all of Israel. I do not believe that this represents all of Israel because it is narrative it is indicative of Jerusalem. Jesus paints the picture of a wall, a watch tower and a winepress. This combination most likely would have pointed to Jerusalem. The wall around Jerusalem, the watch tower would be the temple who was supposed to keep watch over the spiritual life of the people. The winepress would also point to the Temple but specifically the Temple authorities who were supposed to take care of the people especially the poor financially but Jesus is indicating that they had misappropriated the finances. No wonder the religious rulers were so upset.

Besides, the placement of this parable, in relation to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and arrival at the temple makes it very clear who Jesus is accusing.

• The servants are the prophets

These are the OT prophets many of whom were beaten and killed as God’s messengers. God sent them to all of Israel and to Jerusalem many, many times.

• The son is Jesus

In the parable the son is taken outside the vineyard then killed. Jesus would be very shortly taken outside the city walls and crucified. He was taken outside so that the city and the Temple would not be ritually defiled.

• The tenants are Israelite leaders

Not just one generation but in general all of Israelite leaders over the course of its history. I know that it can be especially tempting to continue allegorizing everything in this parable. However, other than these items, there is no clear indication that Jesus intended for his hearers to do so.

The inheritance is a deeper relationship with God the creator. The fruit is the abundance of a growing community here on earth.. Then there are more generalized interpretations as in the message of the kindom and the productive living that follows. Specifics are not given by Jesus here about what entails productive living nor does Jesus give details on what the judgment looks like other than the wicked tenants will meet their deserved end.

So what message is Jesus trying to give through this parable? It is really very simple for those who have ears to hear. The parable is a proclamation concerning the world to come, and Israel’s part in this present, but not yet realized world to come.


*The stewardship of this heavenly kindom will be taken away and given to a new people; taken away from the hypocritical judicial leaders of Israel’s history.

God’s intention all along is that God has a people who are God’s own. This new people will not be based on birth or race or religious standing or economic standing or even social standing. It is twofold.

• This new people are all those who respond to the fullness of God’s message for them and then bear fruit.

Both parts are essential: Responding to the message of the all loving God given by Jesus and by bearing fruit through productive living. This living is based on the ways of God and the teachings of Jesus. Productive living may not necessarily mean being a good citizen, being a good citizen is just enough but God and Christ has called us to more than that. It may not even mean being affluent economically. In fact, it probably means you will not be affluent.

• Blessings and gifts are not permanent possessions.

It is so easy to get caught in false sense of security. The only security is through the continuing love relationship with Jesus, walking humbly as is taught through the Gospels. Degrees, promotions, bible studies, number of worship services, number of prayers and prayer meetings, number of meals served to the homeless are all great things and often beneficial to our own spiritual growth. However, they do not provide security, the security; that I am what I need to be. They should flow out of where we are at but they also need to flow out of a sense of calling and spiritual walk with God.

The only assurance that God is with us is by intentionally setting our hearts on God. God’s favor and blessings are not permanent. Jesus is giving Israel and us the warning that fulfilling religious responsibilities is not enough. He warns us that we may get to the end and find that we are spiritually bankrupt because we have been denouncing, ridiculing, degrading, and ignoring the very messengers that God has been sending us.

There is no guarantee except what comes through the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit. That is your security deposit. And that is not something that you give but receive and continue to be filled with.

• God does the unexpected.

Probably of all the things that God may be saying to us today through this parable is that God does the unexpected, the unexpected grace and love that is shown by those that love God and God’s ways. The unexpected provision that God gives sometimes before we realized we even had a need, the unexpected lesson that Jesus teaches us when we are wrapped up in ourselves and so self-absorbed.

Jesus gives us a proverb or saying at the end of this parable. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. When we fall down in complete and utter abandonment to Jesus who is the cornerstone, we may be broken but we are never crushed. However, those who ignore the messenger or even persecute God’s agents will eventually be crushed no matter what ancestors that they may claim or how long one has been in church or who your parents are.

The amazing thing is that when we are broken before God, Jesus takes the broken pieces of our lives and unexpectedly transforms what many people in the world might cast out as trash and creates a thing of beauty that allows the light of the spirit to shine through. Let me say that again; Jesus takes the broken pieces of our lives and unexpectedly transforms what many people in the world might cast out as trash and creates a thing of beauty that allows the light of the spirit to shine through.

The message is plain but not easy. Are you certain of your walk with God? Are sure that you are walking with Jesus? Do you love God and God’s ways more than anything else? Have you responded by living a life of abundant fruit? If not, what blessings that you have will be given to others. There are no barriers here today. The only barrier is the one inside of you. Consecrate yourself to respond to the messenger, Jesus, and live his abundant life giving him the glory. Don’t let yourself be deceived as many in Israel were; deceived by pride and deceived by arrogance. Humble yourself before God or you will be humiliated. Take the time to strengthen yourself for your daily journey by stepping out with Christ.

This means seeking opportunity to enrich your spiritual life. You may try Journaling as prayer, walking meditation, the Jesus prayer, which is Lord Jesus Christ; have mercy on me repeated over and over till it is constant on your heart, or perhaps the daily offices or book of Christian prayer. You need to find what feeds you, what will keep your heart open to the beauty and the wonder that is God’s spiritual invitation to walk with Jesus daily. Then act upon it. Then the fruit of the vineyard will be abundant and when the Owner comes to collect you will rejoice as will God in the abundant life you have lived. Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Practicing forgiveness

The Practice of Forgiveness
Matthew 18:21-35
I once read a story in which two individuals, one who had been assaulted and raped and the other who had been wrongly accused and convicted of the crime, discussed the power of forgiveness in their lives. Both spoke of the horrible circumstances that brought them together and that had almost destroyed their lives. Both spoke of sleepless nights, anger, fear, depression, and shame; but each also spoke of the beauty and goodness they had found in being able to forgive. They talked about what it meant to not be defined by their pasts, to be set free from a burden they had not chosen, and how life-giving the practice of forgiveness had been.
I also want to share another story that I originally heard on NPR written by Dina Temple-Raston

For nearly three decades, Tim Zaal thought he had killed a man during his rage-filled youth. The idea haunted him, but he buried it with the rest of his skinhead past.
"This used to be my stomping grounds," says Zaal, standing on a street in West Hollywood, Calif., where he used to hang out in the early '80s. "Mostly punk rockers would hang out around here after concerts and we would be involved with violence on a regular basis. Violence for me, back in those days, was like breathing."
Zaal has a wrestler's physique These days he's a computer programmer, and most of the time it is clear that he has found a way to distance himself from his past — almost as if it were someone else's history.
But bring him to the streets of his past, and gradually, Zaal sweeps backward through rooms he has avoided for years.
When Zaal and his friends were itching to make trouble, they would stand out in front of a hot dog joint called Oakie Dogs.
Zaal recalls that particular night, when he thought he took another man's life. It began with listening to a band called Fear. During the show, a bouncer was stabbed and the police came. By the time he and his friends got to Oakie Dogs, they were juiced up on alcohol and testosterone and spoiling for a fight.
They found their victims across the street, a group of gay street kids. They were just hanging out when Zaal and his friends cornered one and started kicking and hitting him — 14 skinheads pummeling him all at once. But the small gay kid was still moving. For some reason, that enraged Zaal.
"I walked up and said, 'What is wrong with you guys, can't you do it right?' " Zaal recalls. The kid they were beating on looked up and made eye contact with Zaal. "I kicked him in the forehead with my boot and that was it," Zaal says, snapping his fingers. "He was out like a light."
Zaal says an uncomfortable silence descended on the group.
"I never talked about it because in the back of my mind I was thinking, we killed this person," he says. "So we jump in our cars and drove away."
The Man Who Didn't Die
Zaal thought that would be the end of it. He shoved the whole thing out of his mind, until 28 years later.
A few years ago, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles asked him to speak about his experience leaving the skinhead movement. Before the talk, he found himself chatting with his fellow presenter, Matthew Boger, the manager of operations.
"I asked Tim how he got out of the skinhead movement and what that was like," Boger recalls.
The pair reminisced about West Hollywood back in the '80s.
"And there was this moment in which I said that I lived on the streets," Boger says, "in which I said I hung out on this hamburger stand, and [Zaal] said, 'You know, we used to hang out there, but we stopped hanging out there after this one night that was so violent, I think I killed a kid.' "
In a flash they both knew without saying that Boger was that kid.
"It was the very first meeting that we had realized who we were to each other 20-something years ago," Boger says.
Zaal recalls the moment the way anyone in his position would.
"Of course I was ashamed," he says. "I didn't know how to handle the situation. And obviously he didn't how to handle the situation and he left as quickly as possible. It was about two weeks before I saw him again."
Reflecting On Violence
Now, in his 40s, with a son of his own, Zaal has come to understand what motivated him to be so violent, so angry, back then. When he was a teenager, his brother was shot in their neighborhood . Zaal says he became a skinhead a short time later. He thought preying on people like Boger would somehow provide protection. Instead, it has haunted him.
"You know I went through some turmoil," he says. "But at the end of the day the right thing to do was apologize. What was I supposed to do? Ignore him? Pretend it didn't happen, pretend we didn't have the conversation?"
So Zaal apologized.
Now Zaal and Boger present their story — and their unlikely friendship — to high school and middle school students around Southern California. They also do a tag-team presentation one Sunday every month at the Museum of Tolerance. It begins with a DVD film of their story and ends with a question and answer session.
Today’s text from Matthew moves us to consider one of the most difficult practices of Christian discipleship—forgiveness. Forgiveness is a hard road to walk, but it is the way to life and life abundant. Forgiveness is the way of Jesus, the way of the cross. While at first glance revenge may seem much easier and more desirable, in fact it leads to bondage and death.
From the place of death, vengeance, and coercive violence—from the cross—Jesus spoke words of forgiveness, pointing to the way that leads to life. At the heart of discipleship lies the painful and challenging practice of forgiveness.
Matthew tells us that Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?” (Matthew 18:21). Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy- times seven times” (v. 22). I cherish this answer. Jesus gives clear instructions about the importance of forgiveness as a way of life in the kingdom.
Perhaps sensing that Peter hasn’t quite gotten the point, he tells a story. In the parable Jesus deftly describes our propensity to seek vengeance, to demand a righting of the scales of justice in a manner that we believe balances our accounts with others. A man experiences undeserved mercy and compassion from one to whom he owes a significant debt. Instead of shaping and defining his dealings with others by the mercy he has undeservedly received, he immediately turns to one who owes him a much smaller debt and demands the account to be paid and the debt settled.
Upon hearing what he has done, his master, who had extended him mercy, now calls him to account and hands him over for punishment. The man is in bondage to his own greed, his misguided sense of justice. He, who had been set free for life, chose the way that leads to bondage and torture. He chose not to forgive. Sadly, so many of us do the same.
In relating this story Jesus holds up a mirror for us to see our tendency to withhold the very mercy and forgiveness we have received. The only righteous judge, Jesus, says from the cross, “Forgive them.” We, from our positions of self-righteousness, cry out, “Pay me what you owe.” What a tragedy that we forfeit the gift of freedom because we are unable to allow the spirit of love to form us into a people who practice the abundant economy of forgiveness rather than the bankrupt market of vengeance, getting even, and settling the score.
I know forgiveness is a hard road. It may take months, years, countless tears, and endless prayer to say, “I forgive you.” But Jesus was clear: grace is costly and forgiveness involves the way of the cross. True life is found only on the other side of Golgotha.
Let’s be very clear about what we are talking about. Forgiveness is a practice, a discipline made possible by the grace of God, not some heroic act of the will. It is something that we practice again and again, on a daily basis, until it becomes a part of who we are. Believe me just when you think you got it down something comes along and triggers old hurts or new pains and you find yourself angry, and vengeful all over again. – then we start praying all over again.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. One cannot forgive that which is forgotten. Forgiveness involves telling each other the painful truth, not to hold something over the other person but to find a way forward that breaks the cycle of eye-for-an-eye violence in which we so often find ourselves trapped. Forgiveness is not about becoming a doormat and relishing the role of victim. Forgiveness is about being victorious, freed from the horrible things others might have done to us. Likewise, forgiveness is not a strategy for turning our enemies into our friends; it is instead a grateful response to what God has done for us. We forgive others as a way of saying “thank you” to God, who in Christ has graciously forgiven us.
Finally, practicing forgiveness does not deny the possibility or the necessity of justice. Rather, it redefines justice, and ensures that it is God’s peculiar brand of justice we are practicing and not the retribution and retaliation that often masquerade as justice.
In calling us to forgive, Jesus offers us a different kind of justice that holds open the possibility of a new future, a way through the hurt and pain that can lead to resurrection and new life. Forgiveness is about having our lives defined by the justice of God’s kingdom rather than the justice of the kingdoms of this world.
Today is the anniversary of 9/11—a day when horrible atrocities were committed in the name of God. I remember being in my little studio in palm springs watching the news. I mean I turned on the tv and the events were in full on disaster mode. The news kept repeating the events over and over again.
At first we thought it was some kind of bizarre accident. I mean what else could it have been? Then the second plane struck. I just remember watching, crying, non-believing. I became numb as debris fell from the sky, as the news cameras caught the faces of the people running out and the firemen running in.
After watching repeatedly the plane crash into the building, hearing about the plane downed at the pentagon. Watching again the faces of people on the street and then the tower collapsed. Then the second tower collapsed and I could not watch any more. I had watched the events unfold over 4 or 5 hours. I had to get outside. I needed to find some people to be with.
I remember walking down palm canyon and there being hardly any traffic as I approached arenas there was no activity on the street. I went to the street bar for I knew most everyone there and sure enough there was a small click of my friends all sitting on the patio. As I got closer all I could hear was “let’s go bomb the hell out of them . . . yea we should kill ten of their s for each one of ours.”
I was hit with another mind numbing event. All I could think of was the families and their loved ones who needed care and help. Yet here was another side to that coin let’s get out and get revenge.
The better part of that day was the many of hundreds of heroes. Right here in our foyer there is the icon of Fr. Mychal Judge. Upon hearing the news that the World Trade Center had been hit, Father Judge rushed to the site. He was met by the Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, who asked him to pray for the city and its victims. Judge administered the Last Rites to some lying on the streets, then entered the lobby of the World Trade Center North Tower, where an emergency command post was organized. There he continued offering aid and prayers for the rescuers, the injured and dead.
When the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 AM, debris went flying through the North Tower lobby, killing many inside, including Judge. At the moment he was struck in the head and killed, Judge was repeatedly praying aloud, "Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!” according to Judge's biographer and New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly.
Shortly after his death, an NYPD lieutenant, who had also been buried in the collapse, found Judge's body and assisted by two firemen and two civilian bystanders carried it out of the North Tower lobby to nearby St Peter's Church.
Mychal Judge's body bag was labeled "Victim 0001," recognized as the first official victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks. September 11, 2001 resulted in a total of 2,996 deaths More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center,Former President Bill Clinton was among the 3,000 people who attended his funeral, held on September 15 at St Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan. It was presided over by Cardinal Edward Egan. President Clinton said that Judge's death was "a special loss. We should live his life as an example of what has to prevail".
Just this past Tuesday I was at an event at Claremont Lincoln university where the Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool from south Africa addressed a group of students, alumni, and faculty. In the audience were Christian, Jewish, Muslim, jain and humanist. He said;
“Ten years ago we saw the danger of teaching religion and loving faith in old ways, we saw the terror unleashed by religious fundamentalists upon innocent people through an act that was the apotheosis of suicide missions in the name of God. That moment unleashed a decade that reinforced victimhood, violence, and militarism as the default position of the world and banished peace, compassion, and dialogue as concepts denoting weakness.”
The events of 9/11 led to a violent response from our own nation as it pursued “justice,” also in the name of God. Thousands of men, women, and children on all sides have lost their lives. Whatever we think or feel about the events of the past several years, it might be good for us to ask, “How does one follow Jesus and practice forgiveness in such a time?”
I have to be perfectly honest and say that I’m not entirely certain how to answer that question except to say that maybe Jesus knew there would be times such as these. One day on a hill by a lake, he gathered his disciples and told them to pray like this: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. . . .” Perhaps that is where we begin. With all the hurt, pain, shame, guilt, anger, and betrayal, perhaps that is where we should begin today. Let us pray. “Our Father . . .” (David C. Hockett)
Just as a side not on Fr. Mychal Judge
Following his death a few of his friends and associates revealed that Father Mychal Judge was gay — as a matter of orientation rather than practice, as he was a celibate priest.[34][35] According to fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen: "I actually knew about his homosexuality when I was in the Uniformed Firefighters Association. I kept the secret, but then he told me when I became commissioner five years ago. He and I often laughed about it, because we knew how difficult it would have been for the other firemen to accept it as easily as I had. I just thought he was a phenomenal, warm, sincere man, and the fact that he was gay just had nothing to do with anything."

In conclusion I would like to recite a Muslim prayer of remembrance --Composed by Khadija Abdullah and Omar Ricci, Los Angeles, August 2002

Dear God, as our country remembers the heartbreaking events of September 11th, 2001, we humbly turn to You in prayer. At a time where our nation is facing unprecedented challenges, we need Your Spirit, Mercy, and Strength, now more than ever, to guide us down the right path.

Dear Lord, we pray that you have taken under Your Merciful wings those who innocently perished on that tragic day. We are grateful they were once a part of our lives. We thank You for the love and joy they gave their parents, spouses, children, friends, and co-workers. We thank You for the testimony of their faith in their churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. We thank you for the comfort and courage they extended to others in their last moments. Dear God, with Your compassion, please answer our prayer.

Dear Almighty, shower Your comfort upon the families of the victims. We pray for all who searched the streets and hospital rooms and rubble with fading hopes of finding a dear one alive. Replace the pain in their hearts with the knowledge that their loved ones are in an abode of peace. We pray their tears of grief are replaced with a tranquility of the soul that only You can bestow. Dear God, with Your compassion, please answer our prayer.

O' our Sustainer, bless the children of the victims. Bless them with bountiful lives, with direction and remembrance, with discipline and virtue. Bless them with all that is good, and protect them from all that is evil. May the loss of one or both parents be replaced by Your Merciful and Blessed guidance. For You are the best of all guides. May the country do what it must to ensure their future. Dear God, with Your compassion, please answer our prayer.

Dear God, we pray for the rescue workers and volunteers from across the nation, who worked faithfully and tirelessly to find survivors and cleared the debris. Sustain them all, dear God and please answer our prayer.

O' Lord strengthen our nation and protect us from evil. Guide our leaders, elevate our society, and enrich the fabric of the country. Dear God, with Your compassion, please answer our prayer.

O' Most Merciful, we have seen the very worst that we are capable of - vengeance, greed, and murder. But we have seen the very best that we are capable of - courage, compassion, service, faith, heroism, community, love. Strengthen us and make us better people who will choose the latter and better way.

Dear God, it is in You that we place our ultimate trust; it is to You that we pray; it is to you that we ask for guidance.

Dear Almighty, please bless the victims; Dear Sustainer, please bless the families; Dear God, please bless America.


--Composed by Khadija Abdullah and Omar Ricci, Los Angeles, August 2002

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adults behaving Badly

Things change, Churches grow, communities shift as people come and grow. Now and then something dies. We don’t like it. We appropriately mourn and we move on. So why should it be a surprise when a little church choir that has slowly been diminishing is discontinued.

The church has to grow and adapt this includes music. We have decided to allow the choir concept to rest awhile as the membership along with the standards have lessened over the past few years. We have initiated a praise band that everyone seems to enjoy.

Yet be deleting an outdated “Music department” Suddenly people are in an uproar. Well 3 to 6 people at the most. Yet these people they have the right to pull other people outside and discuss and push their point of view. They feel they should disrupt service in order to discuss what they don’t like.
What they don’t like. . .

Change and growth, Beware in some small communities these can be fighting words. People are threatened by change. I actually heard a congregant say out loud I do not want this church to grow I like it just the way it is.

Imagine if Jesus felt that way. Imagine if the spirit felt that way. Our hearts would not be open to welcoming new and loving people into our midst. There would only be one church and only twelve members. The music would still be Hebrew chants.
Okay yes we can grieve and mourn the loss of a beloved choir. We can even be saddened that we no longer have a paying position for the person who directed the choir. But to choose to disrupt service and then when asked to be quiet because someone was praying telling that person to “Shut up!” Where is the Christianity in that?

The rumor mills and the gossip will persist. The concept that one person knows better than another of what is good for our church will persist. Heck even believing that I should be removed will persist. However, disrespecting others during Sunday service or behaving as gossipy back biting mean people in front of visitors that will not be allowed to persist.

There are ways and appropriate means to address what is disliked or perceived to be unfair. Office doors are open every day. People are willing to discuss and even just listen to each other’s sadness and pain. Then it is time to work together in order to make the changes that are happening come together smoothly. We need to open our hearts to the joy and the love that is the Christ with in each of us so that we can grow stronger as a community of faith.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dangerous Dreamers

Today’s reading from Genesis is of Joseph and his dreams. It is hard for me to actually state it that way for one of my favorite cantatas slash musicals is “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dream coat”. Even before that cantata was written this was still my absolute favorite biblical story growing up.
I remember as a child going to the doctor’s office. It didn’t matter if it was the podiatrist, the family doctor or the dentist they all had Childrens books of Bible stories. I would eagerly page through the stories till I arrived at the story of Jacob and His sons. I mean for one it is a story about a dreamer. As a kid I was a big time dreamer. I could day dream into new worlds imagine myself off on distant shores of strange and foreign lands and I was always the hero.
My family actually could not pick on me for being a dreamer because I was armed with the bible story, the story of Joseph and Jacob and Levi and Naphtali and Benjamin. Joseph was a dreamer and his dreams . . . well they got him places. Not always great places but they got him places. I had Biblical Justification to be a dreamer.
The story of Jacob’s family would make a wonderful television miniseries. As we read the tale of the twelve sons of Jacob, we can see so many elements of the story that ring true to not only ancient times but our modern times as well. At the beginning of today’s text, we see clear signs of sibling rivalry and family dysfunction. We are told outright that Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob “loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves” (Genesis 37:3). Jacob demonstrates his favoritism, and it causes resentment among the brothers. Then, to make matters worse, Joseph is a tattletale. We are told that he was a helper to his brothers in their work and that he “brought a bad report of them to their father” (v. 2). All of these factors create animosity between the brothers, and “they hated [Joseph], and could not speak peaceably to him” (v. 4).
Yet I think the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused true division among the brothers was not simply the favoritism or the tattling, but Joseph’s dreams. Today’s text does not include verses 5-11, but these verses are crucial to understanding the rest of the story of Jacob’s children. Joseph dreams of sheaves bowing down to his sheaf, and the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him. It is in the sharing of these dreams that “they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words” (37:8). Joseph’s dreams place him in a position of honor and authority, and neither his brothers nor his father respond well to this vision of the future. Yet, we know that these dreams are from God, and speak to the future of not only Joseph but also his family for generations to come.
When I think on this story I often wonder about the hatred that Joseph’s brothers felt for him. Things come to a head rather quickly in the story after Joseph goes to find his brothers as they shepherd the flocks. “They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him’ ” (37:18-20). The dreams that Joseph articulates most threaten the brothers. When they hear Joseph share the vision of the future that God has given to him, they respond in violence and hatred. History proves that it is sometimes the dreamers in our world that we find most threatening.
I think about Martin Luther King, Jr., articulating a dream of unity. We remember his sermon on the Washington Mall, where he spoke of a day when people would be judged by their character and not the color of their skin. This was a dream from God about a future of hope and inclusiveness.
The dreamer was a threat to the status quo, and, ultimately, those who resisted his words and his dream silenced him.
I think of Archbishop Oscar Romero, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in San Salvador. Archbishop Romero was a pioneer in liberation theology, and he worked with the poor and oppressed. He spoke with a strong, clear voice about the need for basic human rights to be observed. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. As a result, Romero began to be noticed internationally. He lived his life among those who had the least in terms of material possessions. Romero was a dreamer, and he was assassinated as he presided over worship.
I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who, studied under Reinhold Niebuhr and met Frank Fisher, a black fellow seminarian who introduced him to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Bonhoeffer taught Sunday school and formed a life-long love for African-American spirituals — a collection of which he took back to Germany. He heard Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. preach the Gospel of Social Justice and became sensitive not only to social injustices experienced by minorities but also the ineptitude of the church to bring about integration. Bonhoeffer began to see things "from below" — from the perspective of those who suffer oppression. He observed, "Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God...the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer fought against Nazism in World War II. He was a leader in the Confessing Church and became involved in the anti-Hitler resistance movement. He was arrested, charged, and found guilty of sedition in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He was hanged for his resistance to Nazism, but he continues to speak to us through his writings, as he encourages the church to live out its prophetic calling within community. Bonhoeffer was a dreamer who bravely lived out what his conscience dictated, even when it meant going against the powerful structure of Nazism and public sentiment.
I think of Dorothy Day who established the Catholic Worker movement, a nonviolent, pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. She was also considered to be an anarchist, and did not hesitate to use the term.
The Catholic Worker attitude toward those who were welcomed wasn't always appreciated. These weren't the "deserving poor," it was sometimes objected, but drunkards and good-for-nothings. A visiting social worker asked Day how long the "clients" were permitted to stay. "We let them stay forever," Day answered with a fierce look in her eye. "They live with us, they die with us, and we give them a Christian burial. We pray for them after they are dead. Once they are taken in, they become members of the family. Or rather they always were members of the family. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ."
Some justified their objections with biblical quotations. Didn't Jesus say that the poor would be with us always? "Yes," Day once replied, "but we are not content that there should be so many of them.”
Another Catholic Worker stress was the civil rights movement. As usual Day wanted to visit people who were setting an example and therefore went to Koinonia, a Christian agricultural community in rural Georgia where blacks and whites lived peacefully together. The community was under attack when Day visited in 1957. One of the community houses had been hit by machine-gun fire and Ku Klux Klan members had burned crosses on community land. Day insisted on taking a turn at the sentry post. Noticing an approaching car had reduced its speed, she ducked just as a bullet struck the steering column in front of her face. This wouldn’t be the last bullet she dodged. Dorothy day was a dreamer and the Catholic worker movement continues to this day.
I think of Harvey Milk who, to quote time magazine, There was a time when it was impossible for people--straight or gay--even to imagine a Harvey Milk. The funny thing about Milk is that he didn't seem to care that he lived in such a time. After he defied the governing class of San Francisco in 1977 to become a member of its board of supervisors, many people--straight and gay--had to adjust to a new reality he embodied: that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed.”
The magazine goes on to say that “The few gays who had scratched their way into the city's establishment blanched when Milk announced his first run for supervisor in 1973, but Milk had a powerful idea: he would reach downward, not upward, for support. He convinced the growing gay masses of "Sodom by the Sea" that they could have a role in city leadership, and they turned out to form "human billboards" for him along major thoroughfares. In doing so, they outed themselves in a way once unthinkable. It was invigorating.” Harvey Milk was a dreamer, he dreamed of giving the gay community hope and living openly and honestly, for these beliefs he was assassinated.
These five individuals are just a few examples of those who have had dreams placed upon their hearts, and who showed great courage in living out their convictions. They had a dream of what a just world would look like, and they spoke the truth of God to all who would listen. Yes I include Harvey in that for anyone who speaks of freedom, Justice and equality for all is speaking Gods truth. Though these people spoke the truth, they were not always embraced and some paid the price with their lives. Dreamers like Joseph sometimes end up in the bottom of a dark, deep pit.
The interesting things about dreamers and their dreams, these stories seem to say to be a dreamer is dangerous, you can be beaten, left to die, shot at, assassinated and yet, and yet the dream manages to live. A dream that is good and true is like a spark in dry timber it ignites and grows till the light can be seen and carried by many.
Today I have here on the altar a Paperweight. I love paperweights and Glass. It is amazing what happens to individual grains of sand when they are heated up inspired by the fire they come together to make glass. Then the master glass blower shapes it and coxes the glass into a shape that takes on meaning and beauty.
I was actually at the factory when this was created. I was shown around and introduced to many of the master crafts people. This husband and wife team was working on their newest project and they just opened the doors to their cooling kiln. You have to let the heated glass cool slowly otherwise it may crack or break. They pulled out their newest creation and its name was “Joseph and the dream coat!” I tell you I was thrilled and amazed I wanted to get one there and then. Unfortunately the company keeps number one. I had to go home and wait to order mine and have it shipped. This is it number 60 out of 76. Sometimes it takes a while to see a dream come to fruition. Sometimes it is not even in one’s lifetime.
In Andrew Lloyd Webbers retelling of Joseph we see Joseph in his darkest hour, in his prison cell when all dreams should be shattered and yet he still keeps his dreams alive. “Close every door to me,
Keep those I love from me Children of Israel Are never alone For we know we shall find Our own peace of mind For we have been promised A land of our own” Even in despair the dreamer knows the dream is bigger than just one dreamer.
The church today continues to need those who are open to the movement of God in their lives, and who will dream divine dreams of what the world might become through the power and grace of God, and we must acknowledge, that to be a dreamer, is dangerous. Those around us are not always willing to hear words of challenge or confrontation. The community of faith is sometimes resistant to the very changes that are most needed. The world will not understand the way of Jesus Christ. Those around us may not embrace the ways of God.
Dreamers sound naive at best and crazy at worst. Dreamers proclaim that the meek are blessed. Dreamers proclaim that there should be equality among the races, the sexes and the genders. Dreamers demand that the outcasts be welcomed. Dreamers beat plowshares into pruning hooks. Dreamers believe all humanity should live as one and care for this earth. The world is in need of dreamers. Are we willing to risk our lives in proclaiming the truth? Are we willing to risk our lives to embrace the dreams of God? Are we willing to allow a dream of heaven on earth become a reality and allow the kindom of God to manifest here and now? Well we can dream can’t we! Amen!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Abundant Hospitality - June 26th 2011

Spend a little time with Matthew’s gospel, and this is what you will find Jesus telling his disciples as they are about to embark on their first evangelistic rally... Proclaim the good news, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, take no payment, no gold or silver, and don’t put any change in your pockets. Don’t carry a bag or take any extra clothing or shoes. Work for what you eat.

That’s what Jesus told his disciples. That’s all. That’s all.

And that seems like enough. But he’s not through. After giving them their marching orders, he tells them what they can expect for their troubles...

“I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves,” he says ominously, “so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves... Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his children, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name...”

It doesn’t sound much like the gospel, does it? Sounds more like the Civil War.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword...

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Wow, that’s all just in chapter ten – just in chapter ten – of Matthew’s gospel. One chapter. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult portions of scripture that we will find anywhere.

So what is Jesus saying? What is Matthew telling us by putting these words of Jesus together? They are saying it’s a fearful world out there, especially for the one who dares carry Jesus’ name as an I.D.

So it is with rejoicing – and not a little bit of relief – that we finally get through all these terrible warnings and dire messages, and find a hopeful word when Jesus says, “... whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – amen I tell you – none of these will lose their reward.”

Like the allusion itself, after hearing all the terrible things that can happen to one who dares follow Jesus, these words are like a cup of cold water to a dry and parched throat. After telling his disciples what they must do – which seems downright impossible to us – Jesus tells them the consequences of it all will be harsh. But then he says it is enough – it is quite enough – simply to be offered a cup of cold water in his name. Just a cup of water.

So, we offer a collective sigh of relief and think that this lets us off the hook.

Besides, a cup of cold water... why, that’s easy. Piece o’ cake.

Except, Craig Kocher, a Chaplain at a university, reminds us of something all too real. “In a world as broken and fragmented as ours,” he says, “a simple act of kindness, a welcome to a stranger, a little genuine hospitality can be downright dangerous.” And that’s especially true here in Los Angeles.

“In a world where people are attacked in their own homes,” he says, “answering the doorbell becomes an act of faithfulness. Offering directions to a lost traveler provokes second thoughts. Holding another’s hand involves body contact. Visiting the hospital or retirement home means an encounter with the sick, the dying, and the lonely... Mumbling hello to a stranger on a crowded street may seem odd. A little airplane flight to visit...friends can be nerve-racking; a bomb may be aboard... In this kind of world, a world of walls and barriers, violence and loneliness, Christian hospitality becomes a prophetic act.”

This is not an easy world for many of us, if for no other reason than we have memories of a simpler and more pleasant time with which to compare it. Many of us grew up in a safer, different world. At least, that’s the way we remember it.

Robert Browning, not the poet but a pastor in Georgia, puts it well and says it for a lot us who are here this morning... “I grew up in a time,” he says, “when houses had screen doors that let light, air, pollen and noise filter throughout each room. Company never surprised us because we could hear their car coming up the gravel driveway. Spring rains did not sneak up on us either, because we could smell them before they arrived.”

I, at one point, lived in a small town that was only accessible by a long drive down a two lane road about an hour and a half outside Detroit. We did not lock our doors, we knew all our neighbors, as kids we would play tackle foot ball in a muddy field without a care, and stranger danger was never a concern that was a problem for the city.

Do you remember what that was like?

Now, we have air-conditioning and blaring TVs that blot out all the outside noises while we have transformed our homes into cocoons of safety and retreat, Dead-bolts and security alarms, lights that come on automatically when there is a motion nearby. For some, the only way you can get into your neighborhood is to have an access code that guards the gate. We are more comfortable, it seems, to live this way, but underneath it all is an underlying sense of unease, that lurking just outside the walls of our homes is danger. So we do all we can to protect ourselves from that which would jeopardize our well-being. We don’t live in that open, screen-door world any more.

Truth be told, however, neither did Jesus.

The context for what Jesus says here is conflict. The world he describes sounds more like Nazi Germany, when neighbors spied on neighbors and turned them in if their loyalty was not orthodox to the existing regime. Jesus has warned his disciples that even family members would turn against one another because of one’s allegiance to him.

Jesus says plainly that following him can lead to struggle, not smooth sailing. It can create more havoc than it does peace of mind. He is sending out his messengers, and wherever they go they will run the risk of creating the same kind of situation he himself has found everywhere he has gone. In some places he was accepted, received with warm hospitality. In others, he was met with anything but that. He also understood why. For someone to offer Jesus and his disciples hospitality – even just a cup of cold water – that in itself could be considered an act of treason.

It was a difficult world in which Jesus lived, a world in which hospitality had a dangerous edge to it. To us, the word “hospitality” implies coffee and Terry’s pie before service, a polite reception in the other room with cake and coffee. To Jesus, it meant far more than that. It meant acceptance, even to those who, in his society and in his day, were deemed to be unacceptable. This is why he put his arms around lepers, ate with tax collectors and sinners, forgave adulterers, and broke Sabbath laws. Hospitality was not only important to Jesus; it was at the very heart of being like God. And it didn’t make any difference to him where such hospitality took place, or to whom, or on what day.

Hospitality can have a hard edge even today. I suppose it depends on where you are and whether you’re willing to put yourself in difficult places.

The power of hospitality is no better illustrated in our Lord’s teachings than in these three verses. The key words are welcomes and gives. The culture of the Middle East is seasoned with generous hospitality. People who visit Jerusalem today always comment on the warm hospitality extended by shopkeepers.

To have the honor of showing hospitality is rooted in his culture. Here, Jesus summons his disciples to be men and women who welcome others as if they were welcoming him. We Christians are called to be people who live with open arms, open minds, and open acceptance. To take this idea further, Jesus identifies giving a cup of cool water “to one of these little ones” (Matthew 10:42) as the ultimate expression of hospitality. Tempted though we are to show deference to the powerful and wealthy, Jesus calls us to express the same level of concern to “little ones”—the marginalized, voiceless, abused, and forgotten. Especially those beyond these walls.

Elizabeth Newman writes in Untamed Hospitality that “The Faithful practice of hospitality must begin (and also end) with what our society will tend to regard as of little consequence. Waiting for the earthshaking event or the cultural or even ecclesial revolution can paralyze us. We are rather, as the gospel reminds us, called to be faithful in the small things. Hospitality is a practice and discipline that asks us to do what in the world’s eyes might seem inconsequential but from the perspective of the gospel is a manifestation of God’s kingdom.”

Simply greeting someone at the door, introducing yourself, and inquiring of their journey to our church. This small building and community quickly becomes comfortable and home. Being sure our doors are large enough for wheel chairs to come through, providing listening devices, and interpreters are just small ways that we make known God’s hospitality.

If you think about it we are not really giving anything special or unique when we offer hospitality to all we encounter. We are simply mirroring the generous Hospitality that God has offered to all, That God has offered to us! A welcoming place of community where God’s love is expressed acknowledged and shared every day. Not just Sundays but everyday that you are out engaging people the hospitality we extend here should be extended out there!

Hospitality has nothing to do with show and ostentation; but that it has everything to do with the way in which the guest is welcomed and made to feel comfortable and at home. I wonder, if given a choice amongst many spiritual gifts, which of us would choose the gift of hospitality. Would we not rather in responding to the needs of our friends request the gift of healing; or in responding to the needs of our country request the gift of prophecy; or in responding to the needs of a community request the gift of pastoral care.
And yet...... and yet the cardinal virtue, the cardinal spiritual gift, in the biblical record is the gift of hospitality. The bible is the story of the welcoming table.

We catch a sight of this in the gospel reading when the twelve are sent out in the expectation that they will receive hospitality. So they are not to take money or baggage, but they are to be entirely dependent on the hospitality of unknown hosts. Those who show them hospitality will be given the gift of peace; and those who refuse hospitality will be accounted as worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. We know that the sin of Sodom had nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with in-hospitability.

Sodomy is the sin of locking the door, barring the windows, turning the pantry into a safe, and looking at the stranger with cold and fearful eyes through lovely lace curtains.

Hospitality is the ways in which God’s people do more for the stranger than they might do for their dearest friends. For God often comes to us in the guise of the stranger. Bob has the habit of keeping change around just in case a stranger asks for help for you never know when that stranger just may be Christ. Remember it is written On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto me!"

Even in the Old Testament we know the story of hospitality and the rewards of a simple welcome. Abraham is an old man of 99 and lives in the desert with his wife. One day he sees strangers in the distance he runs out to greet them offers them shade, water, and food. And in return he is granted a son. He was entertaining angels unawares.

As I truly believe that each and every one is created in the image of God then I must treat each and every one with the hospitality I would give to God. Imagine if the whole world were to practice this way, what kind of world this would be. Hospitality is not so much about extraordinary deeds as it is about allowing God to invade our very ordinary lives. There is holy significance in the ordinary small gesture.

We have heard it time and again from people who visit this community. They are touched by the number of people who come up and say hello and introduce themselves. This simple, small gesture of Hospitality becomes a grand gesture to the stranger who is feeling nervous, timid and perhaps alone as they arrive here for the first time. If that small gesture can make such a difference here, in this place . . . what effect would it have out there in the everyday place?

I hope and pray that as the spiritual communities grow and learn of Gods abundant Hospitality that they all, we all may become reflections of God’s Abundant Hospitality out in the world. Then perhaps, just perhaps I won’t have to lock my door any more. Perhaps I actually may walk down the street and hear Good afternoon. At least I know the world will be a better place if I choose to reflect God’s hospitality. Will you do the same? Can you meet that challenge that Christ has put before us today? I do hope so, I believe so and so In the name of Jesus Christ, I say welcome, good morning, have a cup of cool water and join us here at the table. Amen.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What is in a name

Who here has ever had a nick name?? C’mon growing up what did they call you don’t be shy let’s hear some...I had a few . . . my folks called me Charlie brown because whenever I flew a kite it would crash, get stuck in a tree or if I finally managed to get it in the air it would keep going the string would brake and i would never see that kite again. In high school my nick name just became sea no not the letter c but sea as in sea shore. Many of the disciples had nick names or descriptions to help keep them all straight
1. Simon Peter: Renamed by Jesus to Peter (meaning rock
2. Andrew: The brother of Simon/Peter, a Bethsaida fisherman, and a former disciple of John the Baptist.
3. James, son of Zebedee: The brother of John.
4. John: The brother of James. Jesus named both of them Bo-aner'ges, which means "sons of thunder'.'"[Mk 3:17]
5. Philip: From the Bethsaida of Galilee[Jn 1:44] [12:21]
6. Bartholomew, son of Talemai; usually identified with Nathanael, who is mentioned in Jn 1:45-51.[15]
7. Matthew: The tax collector.
8. James, son of Alphaeus: James the Less is a figure of early Christianity. He is also called "the minor", "the little", "the lesser", or "the younger", according to translation. He is often confused with James the Great and may or may not be James the JustGenerally identified with "James the Less",
9. Simon the Zealot: you might recall him in super star he wants jesus to get the romans out thus the name zealot for they were a group who wanted to expel rome from the judean area.[18]
10. Judas son of James, aka Thaddeus he is the "mystery" apostle because he's the one the synoptic gospels disagree on. Mark and some versions of Matthew list him as Thaddeus; some versions of Matthew list him as Lebbeus;.
11. Judas Iscariot: The disciple who later betrayed Jesus and his name became identical to betraying
12. Thomas: Judas Thomas Didymus - Aramaic T'oma' = twin, and Greek Didymos = twin. Doubting Thomas.
Wow doubting Thomas how would like to be stuck with that name and then have it mean something. I mean really mean something:" If you look up this phrase in the dictionary, you'll find something like: "one who habitually or instinctively doubts or questions." A "doubting Thomas" is somebody who always lags behind in matters of faith. A "doubting Thomas" always needs more proof, more time. A "doubting Thomas" has a hard time trusting others.

I honestly believe Thomas gets a bum rap here. I mean was he the first to doubt what others told him? I mean let me throw a quote at you and tell me who it is about “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him say; ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” What story is that from. . . .Mathew 14:31 Jesus walking on the water and who falters??? Peter “the rock! Yes he sank like one

Then again in Luke we hear how the women at the tomb learn of the resurrected Christ and told all they had seen to the Apostles then the book states “but these words seemed to them an idle tale.” It isn’t only Thomas who doubts but they all do. Peter even has to go see for himself the empty tomb.

In Luke when Jesus suddenly appears before the 11 he states “why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.” And even after that the bible states that “they were disbelieving and still wondering.” In John’s gospel when Jesus appears to the 10 he shows them his feet and hands in order that they may believe it just happens that Thomas wasn’t there with the crowd.

Interesting note if you remember the video Gospel of john from a couple of weeks ago. As Jesus is telling the apostles to get ready to head back to Judea to see Martha and Mary the 11 voice their fears for they barely made it out of there alive the last time but it is Thomas who states in“John 11:16
"Let us also go, that we may die with him."
It sounds like Thomas had a pretty good grasp on Jesus mission and what the outcome would be. So here is a man Nicked named the Twin. Why he is called the twin is not clear but by the comment above it sounds like wherever Christ went and whatever Christ was doing Thomas was right there ready to go right alongside him.
That is until The Garden of Gethsemane . . . After the arrest, trial and crucifixion all the men fled
They were heartbroken disillusioned and in despair.
But then, on Easter morning, some women claimed that the tomb where Jesus had been buried was empty, and that they had even seen him alive. "Nonsense," Thomas must have figured. "Nothing but delirium. Wishful thinking!" Yet that evening, while Thomas was away from the group, Jesus appeared to the other disciples. When he returned, they excitedly reported to him : "We've seen the Lord."
Doubting Thomas
But Thomas didn't share their joy or confidence. He said to his fellow disciples, "I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side." There you have it: doubting Thomas. And it stuck!
But do you blame him? Remember, he had been burned before, big time. He had gone way out on a limb for God, and the limb broke off. What had that got him? Discouragement. Defeat. Devastation! Thomas wasn't going to fall into that trap all over again. No way. This time he was going to be sure before he invested all that he was in some spiritual Ponzi scheme. (By the way, Charles Ponzi deserves to have his name associated with a fraudulent get-rich-quick scheme.)
We have just come through Lent and Holy Week, periods of serious spiritual labor. We had more intense reflections. . .reflections around the wreath focusing upon the poor, the hungry, Marriage equality, Peace, Healing of the ill, and the earth herself. We added the narratives of the passion to reflect upon before proclaiming absolution. The reflections focused on how we treat the public, how we serve as employers and work as employees, we looked at ourselves and pondered if we ever get caught up in a mob mentality going along with the crowd, We asked if we ever turn away from what we know is right, we looked to see if we were perhaps guilty or do we share our story and witness to God accordingly and finally last we proclaimed we are Guilty and, because of Christ we are free and forgiven! That was a lot of spiritual work and it would be easy to rest in the spirit of the risen Lord and just state ahh it is Easter.

Yet today’s reading calls to us to say: “Wait. There is work to be done. There is work
yet to do.” This point is driven home by the fact that this reading is the Gospel lesson for the Second Sunday of Easter in all three years of the lectionary cycle. Whereas the spiritual work of Lent could be conducted in a more private manner, the work of resurrection life is more communal, more public
Many readers of this passage have noted traces of early Christian liturgy or worship,

Liturgy is a rite or system of rites prescribed for public worship.
The first thing we notice is that the disciples are already in the habit
of assembling on the Lord’s Day (first day of the week). Despite their fear
and confusion, these earliest disciples find it necessary to gather as a community.
Even the decision to gather is part of our liturgy as the people of God, an act of worship. If we wish to probe the meaning and reality of the risen Lord, it is going to happen
most fully when we are gathered for the work of worship.
In this liturgy of resurrection, as the disciples are gathered, Christ
appears—bearing the marks of his passion. Don’t miss that. Jesus, from
the beginning, exposes his wounds for the sake of those present, effectively
allowing them to find their faith again. Christ knows that these men must see to believe. This liturgical appearance involves observing the body broken “the bread the bread of a new covenant broken for you” this event takes the symbolism of the last supper and makes it concrete and real for the apostles as for us. Of course for Thomas it happens eight days later.

When, after eight days, Jesus finally appeared to the disciples in Thomas's presence, he addressed the "doubter" directly: "Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Do not Doubt but believe." (v. 27).
Do you know what's missing here? The rebuke! The guilt! The lecture on not doubting! It's not here. Jesus doesn't chew Thomas out for his unbelief. Rather, he gently and mercifully offers Thomas exactly what he had wanted. Jesus met Thomas right where he was. And he offered himself to Thomas: "Here, touch me, and believe." The same offer he made to the other ten the week before. It is reversing the last supper. At the last supper “Seeing isn't believing... Believing is seeing” (to quote the little elf Judy from the Santa clause) here after the resurrection after being tested and tried and heartbroken the belief comes after seeing but what is the proclamation to us ”Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe.”

I want you to notice something else absolutely crucial here. Thomas said, "My Lord and my God!" This makes him the first person in the Gospels, perhaps even the first person in all of history, to confess Jesus not only as Lord, but also as God. Doubting Thomas, or better yet, honest Thomas became faithful Thomas, bold Thomas, believing Thomas.
This is where honesty with God leads. This is the outcome of an open confession of doubt. This is not pretend faith. This is not the sort of Christianity we wear as a costume to impress others. It's a 100% genuine faith that issues from the deepest recesses of our soul. It's a faith that transforms our lives. It's the sort of faith that I want. And I expect you do too.
The final thing I want to point out in this passage is the giving of a blessing: “Peace be with
you” (John 20:19, 21). Peace is the fulfillment of Jesus’ earlier promises.
Scholars point out that Jesus’ statement is not a wish or hopeful intention;
it functions grammatically as a statement of fact. The liturgy of resurrection requires that, as followers of Christ, we work for and proclaim peace. The peace the disciples receive at Christ’s first appearance, the peace given to Thomas so that all doubts are erased and he is granted to proclaim the Truth of Jesus is God and now “As the Creator has sent me so I send you” The great commissioning. After all doubts and fear s are assailed this can no longer remain a secret one must go out and proclaim to the world that Christ is God, risen, Alive, he understands the human condition for he has been through it all and so At the last supper “Seeing isn't believing... Believing is seeing” again I say here after the resurrection after being tested and tried and heartbroken the belief comes after seeing but what is the proclamation to us ”Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe.” A final thought from Carolyn Arends. She says, “The world offers promises full of emptiness – Easter offers emptiness full of promise.” She’s referring to the empty tomb, the empty cross and the empty grave clothes. Easter offers emptiness full of promise. My message today: embrace the promise. Believe where you have not seen. And know this: the God who gave life to Jesus will also give life to you. God asks your belief. God expects your trust. That’s where it starts. The proof will appear in your life. Then you must go out and proclaim it live it boldly and fully Amen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My sermon on Mary the magdalene (I was last in a series)

Over the past few weeks, We have been listening to the unfolding of the revelation of Mary Magdalene who she was and who she is or who she should be to us today. Mary of Magdela or the Magdalene has been reduced to the prostitute, the sinner, the unclean woman who followed Jesus, and yet, who she was truly. . .is being slowly revealed to us.
Rev. Bob has told us that. Magdela was a fishing community on the Sea of Galilee, three and half miles from the city that Herod Antipas founded—Tiberius. It was a small fishing community. Yet we know from Luke’s Gospel that. “Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources."

Imagine woman traveling the country side of Jerusalem freely with a group of fisherman proclaiming radical news.
Woman in those days had their freedoms severely limited by Jewish law and custom, as they were in essentially all other cultures in that time. Generally speaking: woman were restricted to roles of little or no authority, they were largely confined to their father's or husband's home, they were considered to be inferior to men, and under the authority of men –
either their father before marriage, or their husband afterwards.
Women were not allowed to testify in court trials. They could not go out in public,
or talk to strangers.
When outside of their homes, they were to be doubly veiled.
"They had become second-class Jews, excluded from the worship and teaching of God, with status scarcely above that of slaves."
Their position in society was defined in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the interpretation of those scriptures.
A woman could be arrested, beaten, raped and/or killed for the slightest display of impropriety
and yet, here with Jesus, the Magdalene walks freely as an equal and provides for the ministry of Jesus and the disciples.
I still wonder who this woman was. . . I mean to provide for twelve men on the open road in places where they were under suspicion. . . The men themselves were under suspicion for being associates of Jesus.
What does this make this woman, this woman who walks freely as a follower,
This woman who has the means and the wherewithal to listen and to learn from Jesus,
Who is this woman?
The first time we hear of Mary she is referred to as the woman who had seven demons cast out of her. You may recall that Pastor Bob stated “Whatever her trauma was, Jesus exorcized her of the pain and memories that traumatically scared her.
We don’t know the events that led Jesus and Mary to cross paths, but Jesus met with her in a ministry of exorcism and healings of unclean spirits.
Such afflictions of unclean spirits had to be dealt with in the inward, spiritual personality.
Jesus believed that God’s Spirit was far more vital than spiritual possession. He preaches, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the reign of God has come to you.”
There were very few quick fixed exorcisms. The description of Mary possessed with seven unclean spirits indicates that Jesus exorcism took place over a period of time, perhaps months or even up to a year.
It meant replacing each expelled demon or unclean spirit with the divine Spirit. He anointed her with oil as a symbol of installing the Spirit of God within her psyche and her soul.
He prayed over her many times, and it was a struggle for her to become emotionally and spiritually free.
As she grew in emotional and spiritual health, she finally became free and a committed disciple of Jesus.
In fact, Mary became the living embodiment of the power of the Spirit. “
I understand that seven is a magical number in the scriptures and it usually refers to something of god or in a perfect form.
In the Gospel of Mary she is asked to teach what she knows for peter, peter who later would be named the head of the church, says to her, a woman;
“Sister, we know that the savoir loved you more than all the other women. Tell us the words of the savoir that you remember, the thing s you know
The things we don’t know because we haven’t heard them.”
Mary begins to teach of the assent of the souls and when the soul reaches the fourth power she states speaking of the soul
“It had seven forms. . . “
She lists these forms as darkness,
a zeal for death,
the kingdom of the flesh (or earthly desires)
foolish wisdom
and the last is a wrathful or vengeful wisdom
she describes these as the seven powers of Wrath”
I believe these are the demons that Mary was exorcised of.
I believe she, somehow must be a rich widow and that her loss, perhaps it was loss of her children, loss of her husband, or just the brutality of the world around her had made her a dark, vengeful and hateful woman
and when her path crossed with that of Jesus’,
Jesus, as bob said, over time healed her of these things and taught her of the soul, taught her of love, and of blessed spirit and generosity.
She was brought in and taught things that no other man or woman was taught.
So now we have an image of a woman, who is somehow well- to- do and independent,
a woman who is not afraid to break with all tradition and understanding of her time and be taught, healed and anointed, by a man who is despised by the reigning Jewish powers and feared by Rome.
We really don’t know if she walked with him for three years or just the final year but, the point is, she walked with him.
She walked and stood with him at the cross when the others had fled.

As it was said, and as I can testify to, as can anyone here who has walked with a loved one on their path to the next life.
No matter how much she believed she was prepared for the death of Jesus. Jesus whom she loved, Jesus the one who has freed her from pain and suffering and handed her a new life, and lovingly taught her how to pray and become intimate with Abba God. No matter how prepared she thought she was,
She could not be fully prepared for the grim reality that awaited Jesus. Then, after being a witness to all he went through, to stand there, at his feet, and wait and watch for 3 hours as his life force slowly waned to be carried off and laid in a tomb before sunset.
I tell you with every bone in my body I know she walked away numb lost in total shock unprepared for the emotions that were running through her. She would play and replay the events over and over again in her mind right through to the morning that she started that long slow walk to the tomb to anoint and care for the body. (Play Video)
Now, imagine her heartache and fear at finding the tomb opened and empty. I
t was not uncommon for tombs to be vandalized but even more uncommon was for a criminal to be granted a tomb to begin with,
So you can understand her fear that the body may have been stolen and even destroyed, for even in death, by being granted a tomb, Christ broke with tradition.
Now imagine seeing what she supposed to be the gardener and asking him if he knows anything please tell her.
I am sure there was much fear and desperation in her voice,
She would do almost anything just to know where they had taken her beloved teacher,
Where they had put him, and yet,
all He has to do is say that one word with all the love and compassion that she had ever heard it,
Every heartache, all the memories of the past days,
all the pain,
just melted away,
her soul was washed anew with one word. . .
and she responded loud, joyous, practically Giddy, “Rabboni!”
and she lunged at him, wanting to hold him close, but Jesus says “Don’t hold on to me.”,
or “Don’t Cleave to me” which is the same word used in the second story of genesis when it is said; “that a man leaves his mother and cleaves to his wife.”
But it is also the same word used in Jewish mysticism which means
To have an experience of inseparable attachment in prayer and meditation, a link between the human and the divine.
Prayer is a powerful thing, is it possible that Mary, with her training and spiritual knowledge was holding Jesus back with her prayer?
That her love and their spiritual relationship was so strong that she could actually bind him to this plain?
I don’t know.
but what Jesus is saying is you have to let me go, and you must Go now proclaim my resurrection to the others and to the world.
In all four Gospels Mary the Magdalene is the first witness. In all four Gospels it is Mary who proclaims the news of the resurrection.
Without Mary Magdalene, without that witness,
the witness of a women hurt, a woman hurt that was made whole,
a woman who stood outside of all tradition ,
a woman who could do as she pleased in a society that frowned on women doing anything at all,
Mary the Magdalene was chosen by Jesus to be the first witness,
the very First to proclaim the good news.
The first to run to the 11 and the other men and woman and say;
Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen)!
Without Mary Magdalene’s proclamation there is no Easter Sunday.
Jesus who lived outside the norm,
Jesus who reached out to the marginalized and outcast of society, intentionally chose the least of all his followers.
Well the one who would be considered least by tradition, culture and society.
Yet it was Culture, society and the majority ruling class that chose to stigmatize, marginalize and exclude the one person who could embody
and carry on Christ’s message of salvation and redemption for all.
Yet, what is interesting, in other cultures Mary remained an important and pivotal preacher and teacher.
If it wasn’t for Mary’s unique position we would not have dyed eggs at Easter.
For centuries, it has been the custom of many Christians to share dyed and painted eggs, particularly on Easter Sunday.
The eggs represent new life, and Christ bursting forth from the tomb.
Among Eastern Orthodox Christians (including Bulgarian, Greek, Lebanese, Macedonian, Russian, Romanian, Serbian and Ukrainian) this sharing is accompanied by the proclamation
"Christ is raised!" (In Greek "Christos anesti") and it is followed by the response "Truly He is risen!"(In Greek - "Alithos anesti").
One tradition concerning Mary Magdalene says that following the death and resurrection of Jesus, she used her position, as a influential woman, to gain an invitation to a banquet given by Emperor Tiberius.
When she met Tiberius, she held a plain egg in her hand and exclaimed "Christ is raised!" Caesar laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red while she held it.
Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a bright red, and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house. [33]
The challenge before us today is to ask ourselves where have we perhaps judged, pigeon holed or even ignored the Gospel being proclaimed because of the source?
Could we have assumed someone to be something other than they are because society has proclaimed it?
Are we afraid or suspicious of other religions?
Perhaps we are afraid of other manifestations within our own community;
maybe we just choose to pay no attention to the needs of the young or the old.
Perhaps we discount someone because they are transgender or perhaps they live a leather lifestyle?
We as a community of believers are being called by the one who was excluded and pushed aside,
we as a community are being called by the one who made it possible for us to be here today.
We are being called by the Magdalene to look at ourselves and to listen to the good news that is being proclaimed from all corners of civilization,
The good news that is being proclaimed from all corners of our community
Christ is risen, all are forgiven and all are loved children of God!
Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) Alithos Anesti ("Truly He is Risen!" Or “He is raised indeed”)