Every Day is Christ-mass!

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Ethiopian Icon of Epiphany

GIVING BIRTH TO THE DIVINE BEING IN YOURSELF

Unknown author

And when upon their way they came to Bethlehem the day was done, and they must tarry for the night. But Bethlehem was thronged with people going to Jerusalem; the inns and homes were filled with guests, and Joseph and his wife could find no place to rest but in a cave where animals were kept; and there they slept. 
At midnight came a cry, A child is born in yonder cave among the beasts. And lo, the promised son of man was born.

And strangers took the little one and wrapped him in the dainty robes that Mary had prepared and laid him in a trough from which the beasts of burden fed.
Three persons clad in snow-white robes came in and stood before the child and said, All strength, all wisdom and all love be yours, Immanuel.
Now, on the hills of Bethlehem were many flocks of sheep with shepherds guarding them.

The shepherds were devout, were men of prayer, and they were waiting for a strong deliverer to come.
And when the child of promise came, a man in snow-white robe appeared to them, and they fell back in fear. The man stood forth and said, Fear not! behold I bring you joyful news. At midnight in a cave in Bethlehem was born the prophet and the king that you have long been waiting for.
And then the shepherds all were glad; they felt that all the hills were filled with messengers of light.

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In a cave, among the animals, a child was born in the middle of the night. The other-one-within-us has broken loose from his bonds and breathes.

The first delicate signs of a completely new life, deep in the human heart, are immediately surrounded by the unknown forces of the new life, a life to which Mary-within-us had directed herself with unshakable certainty. And the child is “wrapped in the dainty robes that Mary had prepared”, which means that the child is immediately surrounded by light forces that protect him from harmful influences.

Then this newborn is carefully laid down in the manger of the animals; and immediately three men appear in snow-white garments. They bring three gifts: strength, wisdom and love. Those are the three fundamental forces that make everything possible, the invincible forces that require a completely new life. For no human being of this world would be able to endure perfect power, absolute wisdom and all-embracing love.

Opening up the new life within a human being is therefore like an all-encompassing love, like being irradiated by hitherto unknown forces that well up from an unfathomable source in the heart … The light birth, the birth of the light-in-man, has taken place.

Gnostic Christianity considers the birth of Jesus as the birth of the new soul in a person who became like John. John is the one who had the power to purify himself by following a new path. The new soul is the higher vehicle, ‘the new garment’ which will ultimately allow the human being to enter his original world once again.

The paradise myth in the Book of Genesis, at the beginning of the Old Testament, tells the story  of Adam and Eve; a man and a woman who left their birthplace (paradise) and obtained a new residence (outside of Paradise).

With the birth of Jesus at the beginning of the New Testament the return journey begins. There we read of a man and a woman, Joseph and Mary, traveling from their home to their place of birth. Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She is a virgin in the spiritual sense, pure d untainted, completely oriented towards the higher life.
Joseph is the free builder, he who has purified his thoughts and directs them towards the soul. He symbolizes the aspiring human being who deliberately and perseveringly works and builds while staying focused on the divine. That work brings about a continuous process of purification that is guided by the soul.

A HIGHER OCTAVE

We can describe the Joseph and Mary within ourselves as the new thinking activity and the new way of feeling which are caused by the touch from the domain of the soul. In this sense, Joseph and Mary can be seen as a higher octave of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
After all, Elizabeth symbolizes the longing that is oriented to the good of the world, while Mary represents the orientation toward the higher life. The two are therefore related to each other and both bring forth children with a special task: John, who has the task of adopting the outer life to the new inner life; and Jesus, the child in whom pure Love, the highest possible in this universe, assumes a physical form.

Jesus is born in the greatest darkness of the night in a cave in Bethlehem (meaning ‘bread house’) where ‘beasts of burden’ reside as well. Our inner ‘beasts of burden’ have done their job: the persevering, goal-oriented ox caused us to proceed ever onward and the donkey carried us on the most inaccessible roads of life. They brought us ‘home’. They belong to us and therefore they stay in the cave where the soul-being is born.

And what could this cave be other than our own human heart? The human heart is like a cave system with one special birthing room: the right ventricle. There is the manger where our ‘beasts of burden’, the ox and the donkey, found their food with which we were able to complete our journey so far.

But after all the preparation and purification, the same feeding place became a place where a completely different life-force could descend: Light itself. Food and energy for a whole new journey with which the entire personality will joyfully cooperate.
In many cultures, a cave is an ancient symbol of a shelter, an image of birth and rebirth. Ritual meetings were often held in caves. Caves were also shelters for cattle and refuges for people in times of danger.

THE OX AND THE DONKEY

Where do the legendary ox and donkey come from? In the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, verses 2 and 3, the following is said on behalf of God: I reared children and brought them up, but they havox asse rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. So the cattle know who feeds them and where they belong, but people have forgotten where they come from, who feeds them and who guides them.

In a certain tradition, the ox and the donkey represent the ‘Jews’ and the ‘Gentiles’. The donkey symbolizes the Gentiles, the heathen who are suffering under the burden of sin and idolatry. The ox is then a symbol for the Jews who live under the yoke of the law, like an ox wearing a yoke during ploughing. In this instance, the yoke refers to being fully connected with and guided by the divine. The word yoke is derived from the Latin word ‘iungere’ meaning ‘to connect’ and is still recognizable in the word yoga, for example. Thus, the ox and the donkey stand together at the manger of Jesus, which symbolizes the idea that the inner light birth is not restricted to one single race or country but that it is a calling for all humanity. Every human being is able to celebrate the inner light birth at the appropriate moment in his or her life, in his or her own year zero.

GOD IN MAN

The Light Messengers, the visible and invisible spiritual leaders of humanity, descend into the world of time and space to support and guide humanity at every step on the spiritual path.

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.

An inalienable right to a good time!

gratitude-and-entitlement

We were not put here to have a good time and that’s what throws most of us, that sense that we all have an inalienable right to a good time.

”A Conversation with the Real Woody Allen” Rolling Stone, 1976

The Incarnate Word Born in Us

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Christ Presented to the Nations – artist: John De Rosen – Lady Chapel at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Memphis. Tennessee

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

– Meister Eckhart, 1260-1328, German Dominican

The birth of the Divine Son in the human soul is the very center of Eckhart’s teaching.  After contemplating this notion for some years,  I find that at the end of the most challenging of my thirty-five years of ordained ministry,  this is the core of my affirmation of faith.  My collection of works by and on Eckhart has grown from a couple of books to several shelves in my library.  My discipline is to read Eckhart every day. I commend his work to you.  It is difficult reading, yet paradoxically very illuminating.

Merry Christmas Eve.  John Sewell+

The Feast of Saint Hubert

 

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Saint Hubertus, Bishop of Liege, Patron of Hunters, Fishers, Hunting dogs,  Rabies victiums

 

October 23, 2016
Saint John’s Episcopal Church
Memphis Tennessee

Hubert was the self-absorbed heir of the Duchy of Aquitaine in the 600’s. He was obsessed with hunting and went every day. Hubert could not restrain himself even in Lent continuing the chase during the forty days of (expected) self-denial. He crossed the line when he chased an enormous stag on Good Friday. With his dogs in full cry he pursued the deer – only to have the animal stop and turn. In the stags antlers was a crucifix – and the animal spoke & said essentially, “HUBERT IF YOU DON’T GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!”

This young man got more than he expected on that Good Friday hunt. He became a priest and then a bishop and followed Jesus as a hunter of souls all because the Holy One went hunting for Hubert’s soul on a Good Friday.

In the OT reading, Isaac and Rebecca had twin sons, Esau and Jacob:

Esau emerged first from the womb – 114. Redness thus suggests earthiness, capacity for reproduction and humanity. It is positive for a young man to be called ruddy. Ruddy and Hairy – Hairy is animal-like, thick, smelling of the fields.”[115] My Brother Esau is a Hairy Man

Esau was a hairy man’s man – a mighty hunter (if you will pardon me) a bubba – with gun-racks (or in this case bow-racks) on the side of his chariot.

Jacob was a momma’s boy – staying at home reading cook books, while there is nothing wrong with cooking and many of the great chefs are male, the little brother has not yet begun to move from the nurture of childhood into the journey toward man-hood. Esau and Jacob are the twin issues of men not leaving home and not growing up AND leavening home but not growing up either.

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Esau comes home down and very hungry from a hunt having bagged nothing. Jacob has cooked up a pot of red lentils which must have smelled better than I imagine, so he says he’s dying can he have some of the, literally, red-red stuff. Jacob says sure big brother, it’s yours if you will give me the birth-right making me the eldest of the two of us and the heir. So Bubba did it despising his birth-right.

Esau could read the signs in the field but he could not discern the signs in his own life, does not connect to the deepest issues of his heart. In this we, especially men, are the sons of Esau who sell our treasure without considering its value.

The twin’s grand-father, Abraham, was a great hunter. Although there is no mention of his hunting game – he stalked a greater prize – a country promised by God. Leaving everything hunting the place God promised. By faith he left home not knowing where he was going – and he went.

Faith is the evidence of things not seen – Abraham is the type of this for believers ever since – today the religions count him as their spiritual ancestor. Abraham is the grand-father of hunters and from him the lore and the art of spiritual hunting is our legacy and our inheritance.

What are we hunting when we go hunting and who is hunting us when we go hunting? Hunting is a metaphor for growing up and going on adventure – the goal being maturity and wholeness.

Jesus is God’s best and most complete attempt to come and hunt so that we and all who have ever lived and ever will live may be saved. After all, he said he came to seek and to save that which was lost. He of course tended to bring them back alive as he told the fishermen by the lake, “come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men;” of course he could just as easily told a party of hunters to follow him and he would make them hunters of men.

Hunting has a shadow:  The Shadow of Hunting, lies, however, in the fact that early in their evolution, humans, with their Hunting is embedded not only in the drive for survival and the killer instinct, but also in the lust for domination, the pleasure of blood sport and the desire for trophies.  Headhunt, bargain hunt, job hunt and house hunt, to detect disease and track down criminals, in search and destroy missions, gang wars, sexual predation, stalking and serial killing. The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images

The shadow is always present but also there the tradition of feeding families and doing it carefully, humanely and respectfully. Prayer and hunting have always go together because one dies on this planet to nourish the life of another. I have been taken to task about hunting by some who live by vegetables alone. My response, “Do you not realize that broccoli screams at being pulled up by the roots? Something always ends in order others to begin or continue.

In addition Hunting became a powerful metaphor in religion.
• This hunting metaphor becomes the metaphor of evangelism.
• While hunting and feeding on the animal becomes the language of sacrament, “behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” AND Jesus’ admonition, “eat my body and drink my blood” has been practiced by Christians ever since. In matters of faith as in nutrition you are what you eat.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is passing through Jericho, the oldest continuous human settlement on the planet. Here the trade routes from Africa, Asia and Europe intersect. And wherever the trade goes the tax-collector follows.

Rome said, “Come and follow me and I will make your taxers of men.” Tax-collecting was a franchise with a stated amount required by the state, whatever else the tax-man could squeeze out of the traffic was his to keep; and trust me they could squeeze quite a lot – Zacchaeus was the head-taxer and therefore filthy rich.

Somehow, Zac knew that Jesus was coming. So he went out hunting that morning. He didn’t have too far to go from his home in the gated community, the bombing incident had been some years back but any scalawag worth salt knows you have to keep your eyes open. Parking, he walked down into the crowds. Apparently, this Jesus draws a crowd.

zacchaeus

James Tissott

 

He goes out to see Jesus and he is a little man so the crowd no doubt made sure he couldn’t see (the sort of petty revenge taken by the weak on the powerful). But Zac didn’t get where he was because of his dignity or passivity so he shinnied up a sycamore tree. As Jesus came along he looked up and realized that he has treed something important or this case someone.

Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, come on down, I’m inviting myself and a bunch of my closest friends to lunch.” The text doesn’t record the reaction of Mrs. Zacchaeus when her husband showed up with all those strangers. After lunch, Zacchaeus – I will give half of all I have to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone [of course he had], I will pay them four times as much.

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Saint Hubertus – German Art Bronze

 

When you are hunted and treed by Jesus things change and they change for the better. In 1492 Columbus set sail to the west to find the orient only to run into the Americas, and in that case for the explorer, as the tax-collector in Jericho, what he found turned out to be better than what he was looking for. Saint Hubert heard the call of God and laid down his bow and took the hunt for souls, even as Jesus called the disciples. Let us seek God knowing that we find be found by Him and know that he sent his Son so that we might be Brought back alive – in fact more alive than we have ever been before – to have life and that life abundantly; may that be the ultimate concern of all hunting.

In the name of God… Amen

Memra (The Word)

via Memra (The Word) – THE BIBLE CHURCH ONLINE

Any Christian who wants to understand the Scripture will want to know this.  Good work Brother Mark Oaks.

 

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God is Wordtree (Logos Wordtree)

 

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Faith & Company

 

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Faith with Representation of the Arts (1885) Nicolo Barbino

 

Earlier today,  I received an email from a fellow priest in the Diocese of West Tennessee requesting a definition for the word, “Faith.”  I began to respond and suddenly the spirit of whimsey seized me (as it does) and this is what came off the keys.

Dear Margaret, bearing in mind that I hallucinate, these are my thoughts on a definition of Faith.

 Faith, the sister of Love and Hope, travels with their first cousin, Grace and also in the company is that scamp, Doubt.  Be not deceived, sister, Doubt is no friend or confederate of the evil one. He is, as the Romans put it the devil’s advocate, raising questions, requiring new insight and maturity as the womenfolk  consider their next step on the way to God.  He is the life of the party every time the Virtues gather, wherever they gather for respite.  So, let us be clear, for once please, Doubt is not the opposite of Faith (they are actually rather fond of each other).

No, the opposite of doubt is Certainty!  The pompous twit would rearrange a two car funeral procession. There no reasoning with him at all, because if it is worth having, he has it already.  He can barely stand the sight of Doubt; never been close.  It is funny to watch Pompous Uncle Certain, plug his ears with his thumbs, singing the Doxology at the top of his lungs as he dashes for his happy place.  If you didn’t know better, you might think that in a deep place, Old Certain may be afraid that the Good News is not true after all.

 Meanwhile, Faith, with her high tolerance for ambiguity, moves on her way, often joined by her sisters.  Grace shows up regularly with refreshments for the journey.   It’s more fun to move into the region of hoped for and not seen, when you don’t know the surprises the Holy One has planned for those that love him.  Having staked the whole wad of all that matters on the worthiness of God, Faith moves into the future toward God, remarkably serene.  Oh, she has her moments.  Hope is prone to wander off from time to time looking for prospects which is  anxiety producing for Faith.  Fortunately, love, ever loyal, is with her always.  Let us mention, Faith’s best buddy, Gratitude.  Everyone was ever so grateful to Grace, because, without her, The Virtue Sisters would never have gotten a hotel room that time in Billings, Montana. I digress.

When you preach, Sunday remind those good people, that Faith grows stronger with exercise.  I’m sure you can actually define any of the sisters, but faith is the most sturdy when her sisters support her. And don’t forget Grace, where would any of us be if she didn’t introduce to the most interesting people in the most unusual places.  You’d almost think it was all planned.  Some think so, others, you know just live by Faith.

 In hope, faith and love, entertained by doubt, in spite of the facts.  John+

 

 

Type: Peaceable Kingdom Antitype: Current Events

Video

Every so often,   I have a glimpse of what appears to be the movement of the kingdom.  Only the other day I read how an alcoholic mother abandoned her baby in the edge of the desert. When he was discovered, he was alive. While not in good shape, he was alive, the medical types said, because a pregnant dog nursed that little boy child and he lived.  I wept.

The type is  the peaceable kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-10)

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;

The Antitype of the peaceable kingdom appears in the person of an emaciated baby boy and a poor old hound dog. I trust someone was good to her. Jesus told us we would encounter him among the poor.

Here we encounter the holy one in a pitiful but holy nativity.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

JWS

 

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!

GOOD FRIDAY

March 25, 2016

View from the cross

View from the cross – James Tissot

Abraham always said, “Here am I”, when God called.  He had said yes when God called him to abandon all that he had known and to follow him into a land and a future and a promise.

Tennessee Williams, “The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future.  And the important thing is not to let that scare you.”

Abraham had to be terrified.  It had to be the worst nightmare any person could imagine.

God told him to go into the land promised to him:  And he went.

God promised to make him the Father of a great nation:  And he went.

God told him that after years of childlessness, Sarah would have a son: Isaac (laughter).  And he was born.

Naomi Rosenblatt:  “God has been building Abraham’s faith and trust over the course of his adult lifetime by giving him tangible tokens of their covenant:  the land, sons, a vision of his future.      . . . Armed only with his faith in the future and his trust in God, Abraham confronts his own worst nightmare — the death of his son, his clan at his own hand.”

RATNER, Phillip

Philip Radner

In the Christian tradition, the OT lesson is known as “The Sacrifice of Isaac.  It is known in Hebrew as the “Akedah”  “The Binding”.   In human terms, it is a better name.  Abraham is in a bind, more in a way than Isaac.  Abraham has three long days during his trek to Mount Moriah to consider his choices:

  1. Simply to reject God and His command which would mark the end of the covenant.
  2. To sacrifice his only remaining son to a God whose will he can no longer comprehend, would also negate the dream Abraham has journeyed toward for so long.

 

Thomas Ferguson writes, “As long as your dream (dream as fantasy) is alive you’re not living.  As soon as your dream dies you start living.  The dream keeps you from living.”

On the way to Moriah, the dream may not have died, but it was certainly not the same.  And then at the last minute, the angel of the Lord stopped his hand.

Rosenblatt continues, “When he is asked to give up what he loves most, and then has his hand stayed at the last moment, Abraham learns that God values human life above all else and does not require its sacrifice.” p. 200

We have just begun the yearly remembering that Good Friday (I read recently that originally it was called ‘God Friday”) which is certainly true and what God did that day was indeed good, in consequence if not in method.

That remembering must go outside the reality we understand, situated as we are in time and space.  The sacrifice of the Son, Second Person of the Trinity happened before the “foundation of the world” before Creation.   Then in time and space, the only Son of God was born among us, fully human and fully God, died on the Cross in time and space for our sake.

Alan Falk 2000

View from the cross – James Tissot

  Early,  I suspect within days if not hours of the resurrection,  someone said,  “I’ve been thinking,  “the story of Father Abraham, blessed be he,  binding Father Isaac, blessed be he,  is a type, a pre-figuring of  what just happened to Rabbi Jesus.  Someone else interrupted, “The Holy One, Our Lord called Father, allowed the sacrifice of his son.  God did that thing from which he prevented Father Abraham.

That is why this lesson is read on Good Friday.  Christians have come to see in the story of the old man and his son on the summit of Mount Moriah, the place where the temple stood, a prefiguring of the sacrifice of Jesus on a nearby hill.

The writer to the Hebrews sees the events of Good Friday to be the expression of God’s love for humanity. “Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.”

The mystery of faith is “How can this be?”   How can it be, that God could love humanity so much that He demanded of Himself what He will not demand of Abraham.

Some has said,  “It is Love, not the nails, kept Jesus on the cross.”

Soren Kierkegaard once said, “that if there is one thing that unites us as Christians it is our forgetting — our overlooking — how much we have been loved by God in Christ.”

 It is important on this day to simply be here to remember with power.  We are quick to say that Jesus has died and then move on to Easter, not stopping and being there where it happened.  So let us stop and be here, and reflect in silence on what God has done for us in His Son.

 In hope, in spite of the facts.

John+

 

Maundy Thursday

 

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Maundy Thursday – James Tissot

It is interesting that the Church followed the story line of Matthew, Mark & Luke + Paul in the reading from his first letter to the Corinthian Christians when they established the core act of worship for the Church.  So ever since the Church has gathered to break the bread and drink the wine as the principal metaphor of Christ’s continuing presence in the world. 

  Have you ever thought how things would have been different if instead the Church had cued on the Gospel reading from John? What if foot-washing had become our central Sacrament rather than communion.  Think of all the glaring questions we could be debating:

  1. How to wash feet?
  2. Should they be immersed?
  3. Should they be sprinkled?
  4. Should the right or left foot come first?
  5. Who is authorized to wash feet?
  6. Can women’s feet be washed?
  7. Perhaps most importantly could women wash feet?

 We laugh but are not similar arguments about Eucharist and Baptism in the same category? What is going on here?  What is Jesus telling us?

 During Supper, Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe and tied a towel around him. The word, “took off” or literally laid down is the same word the Jesus used when he spoke of laying down his life.  When he took up his clothing again it is the same word as taking up his life again. There seems to be a connection between the foot washing and the death/resurrection of the Lord.

mary-magdalene

Womn Washing Jesus’ Feet

  This is what Paul was speaking to in the Epistle to the Philippians last Sunday when he remarked that equality with God was not something that Jesus exploited but humbled himself taking the form of a servant.  I will not go into all the discussion of Greek thought which that represents but let me say that Paul is saying that servant-hood and glory are each genuine expressions of who God IS!  Taking the towel is taking the role of servant. 

People walked everywhere and so feet got dusty when you arrived at your destination. Each house had a pitcher of water and basin + towels provided for people to wash their own feet.  Mosaic Law provided that Jewish servants did not have to perform such menial tasks. Jesus makes the point that for God nothing is menial. The very core of our understanding our understanding of God is that He is self-giving.

 So Jesus did for his disciples what they were not willing to do for each other and to those beyond the group.  Not much has changed has it?  Jesus is still more willing to reach out to us than we are to reach out to him and each other.

004-jesus-washes-feet

 There is also an ancient tradition that the spirit enters and leaves us not through the head but through the “soles” (souls) of the feet.  The pattern of whorls is the path of the wind of life as it entered and left the body.  So there is a spiritual idea about feet — that we to which we pay little attention to may be of profound importance.

So tonight we hear the call of God.  By our baptism we are to be servants to all that we encounter in the world.  Servanthood begins in baptism and is acted out in worship tonight so that we may serve in the marketplace. There is really a profound connection between getting to know each other “hand to foot” that is terribly important.

 To put aside our embarrassment at WASHING feet and having OUR feet washed by someone else.  Being embarrassed is not fatal.  A South American priest has said, “Embarrassment is as close to suffering as most of us have ever been.

 Tonight we remember just how much we really need each other.  I am never more aware of that truth than when we bury our children. We need each other to be real.  We are not perfect.  We are not always wise. We are lonely – we are afraid – we long for people who will forgive us and love in spite of what we sometimes are and sometimes are not.

jesus washing peters feet by ford madox brown

Jesus washes the feet of Peter – Ford Peter Maddox

 

 There is something about the washing of feet that breaks through all of our cosmetic differences and barriers. No one must do this, but I encourage you to stretch a little.

 We are a blessed people.  Remember that one is not blessed at the expense of others but for the sake of others.  We bring food tonight for the hungry as Christians have been doing for hundreds of years.  We are called to remember that human beings are more alike than they are different.

 Parker Palmer defines grace as, “the constant availability of abundance with the question always being am I open to it or not?”

Tonight like our Lord, we also are called to lay aside our pride and our dignity, as he laid aside his life as a sign of our life in him.  He came among humanity as a servant.  Let us claim his name now act like him.  There is something about getting to know people hand to foot that is transforming and liberating. Let us do for each other what he did for those with him that night.                                                                                                

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.