About shepsewell

I am a retired Episcopal priest. . Now I move into ACT3, a new venture, where I work with individuals, families and the City from the perspective of Bowen Theory and Family Systems Theory.

Quote

duck in flight

When I rise up

Let me rise up with joy

like a bird

fallen leaf

When I fall

Let me fall

Without regret

Like a leaf

Wendell Berry

This short prayer, one of the Sayings and Prayers of the Mad Farmer, by Wendell Berry is a favorite of mine.  I have quoted it at many funerals in the past thirty-eight years of my priesthood.  It re-framed walking through the dead and dying leaves of fall.

Quote

Over-the-horizon

Among all my patients in the second half of life – that is to say over thirty-five – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort that was that of finding a religious outlook on life.  Carl Jung – Psychotherapist of the Clergy (1923)

WEDNESDAY OF EASTER IV

May 15, 2019

commodities-sheep-meat.html_PHOTO

 

JOHN 10 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

 

The Feast of the Dedication (Hanukah) commemorated national deliverance from the pagan Syrians. The Feast and buildings filled with meaning by prophecy would be a great place to launch the revolution. Some of his detractors could have become supporters if he played to their fears and ego inflation. He turned his back on variety of revolution when the Devil first suggested it back in the Wilderness.

Jesus passed on starting the popular revolution. Those who longed for violent revolution never understood what Jesus was about. These are the Sheep deaf to the Shepherd’s voice. There were sheep who did learn the language of the Kingdom. These Jesus knew and cherished. Granted many sheep did not clearly hear the Shepherd’s voice until after the resurrection. But they that did hear his voice followed (and do so today). What we do know for sure is that our self-absorbed egos do need to die. When we die to self-absorption it is amazing how clearly we can hear the voice of the Shepherd.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

 

TUESDAY OF EASTER IV

May 14, 2019

jesus-and-the-pharisees

The Pharisees Confront Jesus – James Tissot

JOHN 10:22-30 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe.

Why are you keeping us in suspense? What they should have said was, “Ok, we didn’t buy what you told us. That was ridiculous! Try again.” “Actually, I did tell you,” Jesus said.  Your problem is that you do not believe.”

Not believing is a problem. I’m concerned by what is meant in our own day. To believe is to assent to the truth of some fact about someone, something or an event.

Washington exhibit

George Washington Madame Tussauds

For example,
I believe in George Washington.
I believe that George Washington lived from 1732-1799.
I believe that George was a pretty good man.
I believe that George was the “Father of his country.”
If I am in Virginia, I might go to Mt. Vernon and see where he lived and is buried.
I might go to the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
I even carry a few copies of his picture around in my wallet.
I can take George’s name in vain and say “By George” in conversation but such talk is cheap.

 

BUT, that doesn’t have too much to do with how I live my life in 2019 or any other year.. My point is that I can be culturally Christian in much the same way. I can believe all sorts of things about Jesus without being transformed, without living in the Resurrection. No wonder people do not take us seriously. We believe the doctrine of faith, while people seek a way of life. I’m hungry for that myself. Let’s have the manners to pass the bread, having eaten some first.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

MONDAY OF EASTER IV

May 13, 20

 

JOHN 10:22-30 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe.

Temple model

Temple of Herod is in the middle. The columned porticoes run the perimeter of the Temple Mount.   

Pardon me for going on about location but in this case it is part of the message. Jesus walked in the Portico of Solomon. Back story is required here.  The Portico of Solomon is on the Eastern side of the Temple Mount, opposite the Mount of Olives. It is here that Messiah was to return to Jerusalem.

Zachariah 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward.

Jesus certainly knew his scripture.  So did his opponents. Is Jesus making a subtle point here? It wouldn’t be the first time. After Pentecost, the followers of “The Way” as we were known in those days, gathered, where? The Portico of Solomon of course. Why? They wanted to be the first to greet Messiah at his appearing so they looked to find a great seat.

When Muslims walled up the two portals of the eastern gate in the ninth century, Christians took note of the prophecy in Ezekiel 44:1-2: “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” Torahclub.ffoz.org

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

EASTER IV

May 12, 2019

JOHN 10:22-30 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe.

The Temple proper was not as big as one might think.  Surrounded by vast courtyards, the outer perimeter was anchored by enormous columned porticoes. While silence was deep, full and complete in innermost Holy of Holies, everywhere else there was bedlam.

Multitudes of animals were slaughtered.  Huge pipes drained the blood away. Burning carcasses gave off clouds of smoke. At the same time choirs sang psalms and canticles, while in the porticoes classes gathered. Famous Rabbis held forth. The Temple only accepted a unique currency minted in house. Foreign coins had rulers or gods engraved on them and thus were unacceptable.  The exchange rate was very lucrative as people exchanged profane money for kosher money which they promptly donated.   Jesus cleaned that out one time.  There is really nothing like it in our time. Imagine a huge barbeque, choir festival and graduate school housed at an historical site drawing tourists by the myriads of thousands: all at the same time.

Jesus walked the portico accompanied by his disciples, as did many Rabbis, lecturing as they walked. I doubt Jesus was particularly notable, among the multitude the avoiding the rain and the cold.  His opponents had no trouble finding him, demanding a straight, unambiguous answer.  Yes or no, are you Messiah or not?

Simeon

Over thirty years earlier, the ancient Simeon recognized Jesus in Mary’s arms for who he was.

Malachi 1:14b “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

 

The massive complex existed to worship the Holy One of Israel.  No one noticed Simeon greeting Messiah and no one is prepared to accept him almost thirty years later.  Why?  It didn’t fit the Messiah of their understanding.  They wanted something else, refusing in their certainty to entertain the idea that perhaps Jesus was who he said he was.

The Gospels tell us that we will meet Jesus somehow in the faces of the poor.  Not what we have in mind, but that does not change the text (Matthew 25:40).  I invite you to join Saint John’s Servants of Christ at Manna House some Thursday morning.  There you will, when you least expect it, encounter the Lord of resurrection in what Saint Teresa of Calcutta called, “one of his distressing disguises.”

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

SATURDAY OF EASTER III

May 11, 2019

LUKE 24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Laughing Jesus barry moser
Jesus Rabboni – Barry Moser KJV Bible 1999

For several days we have mediated on the four ritual movements of the Eucharist. Today, let’s look at the fifth.  He took, blessed, broke and gave bread to them. They ate and they went.  The last words of a Eucharist is the dismissal by the waiter (deacon), “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” “Thanks be to God,” we say as we head for the exits.  As I often say, “We are to be for others what we have received at the table.  In other words,

“If you have been fed, be bread!”

 

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John Sewell

FRIDAY OF EASTER III

May 10, 2019

LUKE 24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

road-to-emmaus-michael-torevell

He took, blessed, broke and gave the bread.  There is no implication that we should bring a credit card or folding money.  This is free.  It’s on the house. Come on down and bring a buddy; there’s plenty.

Isaiah 55:1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Many years ago I came across this story. It’s like in an evacuation of a town, the beggars (read street people) are left behind. Everything is locked.  However, two men risk body and limb, going out to find food. They jimmied the lock on the back of the convenience store down the street, helping themselves to the food left behind. Satisfied, they loaded up food, drink and first-aid supplies, braving the conditions and return to the group. Why did they do that?  Later, one of them said, “We’re just beggar telling other beggars where to find food. We should have the manners to pass the bread.” It is so.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John