Over-the-horizon

“All the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved, but only outgrown. This “outgrowing” proved on further investigation to require a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest appeared on the patient’s horizon, and through this broadening of his or her outlook the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.  – Carl Jung

 

 

The Holy Birth Cannot be Induced.

reliquary cross

The divine birth cannot be forced. You can only create the conditions for this birth to take place. How do you know if the new soul is born in you? The famous mystic Meister Eckhart wrote about this: Now you turn your face entirely to this birth. Yes, you will encounter this birth in everything you see and hear, whatever it is. You are like someone who looks for quite a while at the sun, and afterwards sees the image of the sun in whatever he looks at. As long as you do not seek and perceive God in everything, this birth has not yet occurred in you.

 

 

EASTER V

JOHN 12:30 – 13:31 …so, after receiving the piece of bread, he (Judas) immediately went out. And it was night. 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

tissot-judas-leaves

I begin with the last verse of Chapter 12…so, after receiving the piece of bread,   Judas immediately went out. And it was night.  Yes, night had fallen as the sun disappeared in the West. But… when they saw the back of Judas retreating down the stair, almost as if a switch was thrown, the mood quivered and flattened into silence. The company of disciples, mood dimming listened with the ears of their souls. And it was night.  It was night.

It was night, when Jesus squared his shoulders, cocking his head slightly to the right, appearing to hear.  This they knew.  He did it often, especially when one of them hunting him in the dim light of dawn, came upon him praying with a faraway stare, head turned listening.

Rising, he turned and as if returning from a distance and said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” They had followed him too far to mistake his words. “Glory,” was not the lockstep of Legions, Triumph in a chariot, the conquered trialing dejectedly along in the dust.   That was the Messiah of most Jews understanding. “David, now that was a King, I tell you. He would have driven the Romans straight through Caesarea into the sea.”

Are we different, beloved?  We have less excuse this side of the resurrection. We no less than they, want the God of our understanding or rather our ego’s understanding.   The gospel of prosperity, manifest destiny or Christendom, all fall short of the Glory of God revealed on that hill on that Friday.  Now, that was God-shaped glory.  We, who believe, are better for it.  God’s glory always first suffers first, them and only then resurrection.  Egos always hope for easier. Egos look for gain.  What egos never understand is that death always precedes resurrection.

I believe that Jesus was deeply moved by his love for these men. The expression, “Little children” is found nowhere else in the New Testament. I see it as a term of endearment, used privately.  “Boys”, he said, “this is the end of the road for our happy band.  Where I am going you cannot come.”  They were used to Jesus’ odd remarks, but this sounded terminal.”

I give you a new mandate (origin of Maundy) tonight.  “You know how much I love each of you.”  He paused, gathered himself and continued, “I need you to love each just the same. Through all our adventures, people have marveled at our relationships.  That is how they will know you are my disciples, when you love each other with a graceful, even reckless disregard for self for the sake of others.”

All too often, the line, “Behold those Christians, how they love one another,” is quoted ironically, given our propensity for emotional violence over any number of vain contentions.

That being said, turn to the Acts reading for today.  How does the Love mandate look in practice? This story is told three times in Acts.  Clearly it is an important story.

 Peter is wandering around and things began to happen.  Raised Dorcas from death to life. Last week’s lesson ends with Peter settling down for a long visit with a man who was known as Simon, the Tanner.  Leather works smell nasty.  I suppose the sea would be a good place to live given breezes.

The first crisis of those who followed the Way was the “kosher” wars.  How dare you go to dinner at a Gentile house?  You might as well as gone to The Rendezvous for pork ribs! What do you mean the Gentiles have accepted the Word! You can’t be serious!

For example, let us suppose that sentient humanoid folk show up on Earth.  H.G. Wells notwithstanding, we found them friendly, less warlike than we.  This would throw all sorts of wrenches into the cogs of creeds and screeds.  For the sake of conversation, let us call them, “the others.” 

The central issue for us is this, Did Jesus die for the sins of others, or just for us?  Actually the first question is, “Do others need salvation or not?”  Do they sin?  Was the Incarnation, passion and resurrection of Jesus felicitous for earth or for all planets?  

This is the very crisis that the Jews found on their doorstep.   It never occurred to them that Gentiles would be interested, let alone accept the word.  They didn’t want Gentiles meddling with a salvific system of the Jews, by the Jews and for the Jews.  Not only did they think Gentiles would hit hell wide open, they were glad and eager to buy tickets for the occasion. It would be nice if they were at least remorseful about it, but that’s a sin for another day.We do know that people are hungry to experience God directly, personally and in a way that reorders our very lives, beginning with the deepest longings of our hearts.

Peter's Vision - oil on panel - 8' X 12' - 2000 - $60,000

Peter’s Vision – Edward Knippers

Peter had a vision (dream while awake).

  • Sheet (filled with unclean animals. In many cases we would agree with Peter. But also in the sheet was Memphis’ all-time favorite PORK, lobster, clams, crabs, catfish, shrimp,)  The unclean animals are favorites of mine, like porkers, shrimp & Lobster, so much is good stuff; at least in my clan.
  • However, Peter did not see this as good news. I’ve never eaten any unclean thing in my life. Followed by a Righteous shiver and a mortally offended yuck.
  • To which God replied, “Nothing I have made is a yuck!”

This Happens a second and a third time.

CORNELIUS

About that time, God said to Peter, BYW, there are some Gentiles about to ring the bell downstairs.  I know it’s not kosher but you go with them. You hear? And Peter did just that.

He and the messengers went to Cornelius the Centurion.

What   do we   learn   from   Peter?

  • Pay attention to what is going on around.
  • Pay attention to what is going on in us.
  • Often the two spheres over-lap in interesting, even compelling ways.

Carl Jung called this overlap, Synchronicity:  Inner and outward life impact the other in a meaningful but acausal way.”

  • Often contradicts what we thought.
  • Broadens our horizons.
  • Calls us to transcend our limited perspectives.
  • Does an end run on our deeply held biases.

What would have happened if Peter refused to pay attention to the trance? He could have blamed it on being hungry at lunch time.

The Good News of God in Christ must be for any and all or it is not Good News for any.  Entrance into that company is a matter of grace.  They’ll let anyone in.  I don’t know about you but I’m real glad that is the case, given my background. At Saint John’s we have low standards, not no standards!

Christmass Eve 2015

Black hole warping space-time, computer artwork.

Black hole warping space-time, computer artwork.

We live inside a box formed by time & space. Standing at the edge of that reality, peering beyond, we see, as the Apostle wrote, through a glass darkly and our mind fills with haze and vapor. We just can’t go there as nothing inside compares with the outside (so far as we know). Carl Jung posits the need for a point of reference outside the conditions of present reality.

Carl Jung, “It is possible to have an attitude to the external conditions of life when there is a point of reference outside them.”

Andreas Wagner, “All we know and experience is mediated through matter. If we step on a sharp object, the material known to us as a foot, begins to phone home: pain, pain, puncture, puncture, what is it? Pull it out right now. The change in message from my foot requires a change in the matter of my foot. Wagner concludes by saying, “Matter impacts meaning.”

Andreas Wagner, “we overlook that there is no conversation without matter, and similarly, that any change in the meaning of a signal requires a change in matter. Matter impacts meaning.”

We need two things to make sense of anything and everything.

1. What we must have then, is a point of reference beyond the time & space container in which we live.
2. And that reference point will be experienced through matter which is the only way we know how to know anything.

Before the foundation of the world, The Holy Trinity promulgated the incarnation.  The Second Person of the Trinity, coming from eternity into time and space fully material to promulgate salvation.  Matter impacts meaning and Divine matter imparts ultimate meaning.

 

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Christ in the flesh is the reference point beyond time and space. image by Spalinka

Nativity story begins with an enrollment. The early enrollment that precedes the birth of Christ alludes to the “enrollment in heaven” that is his birth’s consequence. As he said to his disciples, “Rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you but rather rejoice, because you names are written in heaven.”

The Christ-child is born and laid in a manager because there was no room for them in the inn. Like the birth of this child the origin of this son of God is outside the inn of the world and laid in a MANGER.

Interesting word, MANGER The Greek Old Testament uses the same word Kibotos (kib-o-tos)

arkconstruct1

Noah’s Ark floated in the waters of the deep carrying the pioneers of the restored the world. Noah believed God, built the ark, filled it with beasts, went aboard and God, it says, Closed the day.

Princess plucks Moses from Nile

Moses, in his ark, floated out of the bulrushes into the life of Pharaoh’s daughter.

The Ark in the Jordon

The Ark of the Covenant – The box containing the Law – through the desert toward the promised land.

 The manger in the Bethlehem stable.

manger

The Ark/Manger: This Kigotos is a sign of Christ coming as servant as well as a king.

The manger signifies emptiness that is to be filled. The container available and waiting to be filled with the precious gift of God, the gift of the Son.

In this box, we live in time and space. To this ark, this Manger of time and space, is born a material reference point: Jesus the Christ.

Now, let me string together reflections by the Church Father on this great night.

In this manger Mary puts Jesus wrapped in swaddling bands (KJV). As Gregory of Nazianzus puts it, He was wrapped in swaddling bands, but at the resurrection he released the swaddling bands of grace. He was laid in a manger but was praised by angels, disclosed by a star and adored by magi.”

manger animals
Inmost crèches and art of the nativity you find animals around the manger, always an ox and always an ass, why because of the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s crib.”

 

manger-animals-christmas-coloring-pages-02

NO PIG!!!

On a humorous aside.  Last night (Christmas Eve) at the family service performed the traditional Christmas Pageant. Children were dressed as all the usual suspects. I  did have to intervene when one little girl announced she wanted to be a pig at the manager scene.  “No pigs,” I pronounced!  Even though Memphians revere all things porcine, especially in its myriad of eatable forms,  there was still no pig at the manager.

After the Church Fathers, the Venerable Bede, whose tomb lies at one end of Durham Cathedral, wrote in the 7th century,   “He who sits at the right hand of the Father goes without shelter from the inn, that he may for us prepare many mansions in the house of his heavenly Father. Hence we have ‘because there was no room for him in the inn.’ He was born not in the house of his parents but at the inn, by the wayside, because through the mystery of the incarnation be is become the Way by which he guides us to our home, where we shall also enjoy the Truth and the Life.”

The Angels and the Shepherds

James J.J. Tissot

Luke ends the nativity gospel in fields near Bethlehem where the angel of the Lord proclaims, this day is born to you a savior who is Christ, The Lord, Savior = God’s activity come to earth, Christ/Messiah/the anointed one, the Lord, the prince of peace.

So there you have it. The story that begins this night with this Mass in the mid-night, ends on Easter Eve after the fall of darkness, but in that darkness has come a great light.

manger & cross

A latter day Church Father, C.S. Lewis, once wrote, “What a terrible place the world would be if it were always winter and never Christmas.” Unfortunately there is not much winter (70 degrees but thank God for 30 ton air-conditioners) but it is Christmass!

We are not alone, the Christ Child, the only Son of God, has come to be born in us. To Him be honor and glory now and forever. Amen.

©John W. Sewell
The Feast of the Incarnation
December 25, 2015

Experience More Important than Credentials

“Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throughout the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, social meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.” -Carl Jung

The Archetype of the Shape-Changer…

magicians_work_1479

The magician is the archetype of the shape-changer, the protean power of men to move mountains, to adjust to changed conditions, to find a way to make things work. As Sophocles noted twenty-five hundreds ago, “How numberless are the world’s wonders/And none more wonderful than man.” He who tamed the salt-churned seas, who built roads across the mountains, who wrenched from the recesses of his soul the Fifth Symphony, is the wonder-worker in nature. His shadow side, though, is control, manipulation, sleight of hand and charlatanry. He is not to be trusted. He embodies the ethical edge along which all men walk, the fine line between working wonders and treating the world as a shell game.

Under Saturn’s Shadow: The wounding and Healing of Men – James Hollis [95]

Give Me an N!

You may have noticed in the last few days what appears to be an Arabic sign popping up all over the place.  I checked it out and immediately changed my profile picture on Facebook to this sign.  Why?

The sign is the letter N (nun)  in Arabic.  It is the first letter of the word Nazarene, the name by which Christians are known in the Middle East.  This letter has taken on sinister meaning as the forces of IS or ISIS mark people, property or chattel with an N meaning that the property or persons now belong to the ISIS.  Fellow Christians are given the ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a tax or die.  Many have taken a fourth option of fleeing for their lives.  The tax of Christians and Jews by Muslims is an ancient practice from the early days of Islam.  Check it out.  I am unaware that this is the practice of modern Islamic states but it has been a  teaching of the religion.

arabic nThis reflects the problem of fundamentalism. Fundamentalists of any variety have in common a desire to regain the golden age of their faith. For Muslims it is the seventh century for many Christians 1950, but be that as it may such golden ages never existed. These fanatics (check my posting from August 9th – The True Believer) are setting out to remake the Caliphate of the Seventh Century in the Twenty-first.  Pray God they fail. It will require someone stop them as they cannot be reasoned with by honorable men. .

I have learned in my long study of Family Systems Theory that what my teacher, Rabbi Friedman, said about such is painfully true. In systems thinking all living things composed of protoplasm organize themselves in the same ways.  What is true on a cellular level is metaphor for all other levels of living things. They will behave in predictable ways.  Ed Friedman labelled them pathogens.

  • Pathogens do not self-regulate
  • Since they do not self-regulate they ooze into their neighbors space
  • Also, since they do not self-regulate themselves they never learn from their experience
  • They do not have to be hostile in order to be malignant.  Oozing into others space is sufficient.
  • Pathogens achieve their conscious or unconscious effect because those around them allow them to ooze into the others space.  Remember Munich in 1939.

It really does not matter if we are talking about cancer cells,  packs of dogs or ISIS: they all function the same.  Something will have to be done about them for the cancer they represent in the body politic.

I invite you to wear, wave or affix the Arabic Letter N to Facebook, your lapel or the bill board down the street as a mark of solidarity with our fellow Christians.  If someone reading this is not a believer please do so because the weak and innocent should not be murdered, enslaved nor raped and tortured. Call on those who have power and the responsibility for leading nations to stop these fanatics before the region is in flames not only of churches but of everything in their path. For this is a Caliphate of Evil. Muslims who do not welcome them are destroyed as well. What I say is not about the content of their belief as it is a critique of their succumbing to ideology.  Succumbing always leads to trouble (Carl Jung).

The Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents

Please join me all of you of good will in praying for these Christians and othersr, indeed all in danger on account of their faith. I propose the collect for Holy Innocents as a place to begin.

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of  ISIS [Bethlehem by King Herod.] Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

God grant us and to his whole world peace and the knowledge of His love for the doing of His will. . JWS

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The True Believer

Those with a death wish have an advantage over those who have a life.

The term “True Believer” is a common expression in American speech.  What most people do not reaize is that the turm comes from a book of that titile.  Eric Hoffer published this study of the nature of mass movements in 1951 (the year of my birth).

t b 2Given the rise of increasingly violent groups fueled by pathological ideology, Hoffer tells us that the content of the ideology is less important than the process of fanaticism.  This is a distinction that we really must learn.  It is not really about Islam, though the ideology in this case is Islamic. ISIS’s fighters, having sucumbed to ideology do not fear death. Actually dying is martyrdom for these young men.  Their opponents fight to protect their families.  Those with a death wish have an advantage over those who have a life. Thus in the short run evil has an edge.  In time, God willing, the rest of us will rise up and put an end to this most recent eruption of a chronic infection of a will to power.

Fundamentalism longs for a golden age that in fact never existed. Deep belief in fantasy promotes delusian. Delusion demands not faith, but rather a kind of “sccumbing” that produces fanatics.  I also recommend Carl Jung’s insights in the last chapter of his book,  Memories, Dreams and Reflections, where he lays out the dangers of succumbing to or being addicted to anything.

I highly recomend Eric Hoffer’s classic and  the insights of Carl Jung on fanaticsim.