An’t No Trying Going On Here

Wordsmith Anu Garg, in A Word a Day: “Why is it that to ‘doctor’ a document is to falsify it, but to ‘vet’ it is to check it for its accuracy?” The range and use of language is rich with possibility and precise in communication. The words we choose say a great deal about us.

i-literally-want-you-to-follow-meFor several years now I have been death on the poor little word, “try.” Granted there are several definitions before the 5th one that I am after, however, “to make an attempt at” is the culprit. I am asked most years what I have given up for Lent. The truth is nothing in particular, but this year I gave up using the word, “try.” Actually I have proclaimed my office a “try-free” zone.

If asked to do something I can answer, “I will try” which means I am not going to do that but I don’t want to tell you that right out. So to try is not to try at all. To try is leave a loophole, while saying it is my intention to get this done says a lot more about my resolve than “trying” ever will.

I can’t imagine that Jesus, if he were interviewed by a Jerusalem Post reporter on Palm Sunday about his date with a cross on Friday, when asked if he really intended to go through with this would have said, “I’m going to try to make it.” No he set his face to Jerusalem to face his passion. Jesus didn’t “try” to do anything, he either did it or not but he left himself no loopholes.

When Jesus said to his disciples (including us) that if we wanted follow him we should deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. He didn’t say, “It would be nice if you would try to follow me.” Nor will he accept, “Lord, we will try to show up but a cross seems a bit extreme!” No we either follow or we do not. There is no try.

In a culture infected with trying at least in our faith let our yes be yes and our no be no for our souls sake and the sake of the Kingdom.

© John W. Sewell

Study to Show Thyself Approved…

lyons-martyrs

One of the best practices in RenewalWorks is to embed scripture in everything. The vesting room has a sign on the door about robing priests with righteousness, but the true embedding is in the heart. I find passages that I memorized back in Sunday School at The Anderson Baptist Church serve well and it comes back to from the recesses of my mind.

A passage that haunts my mind are the words of our Lord found in the…

Gospel of John 9:4,“I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

Those words give my work a sense of urgency, not anxiety, but a focused energy. A year ago, I rose early to walk in my neighborhood. At four a.m. there are few folk around as I moved through the pools of light cast by the street lamps. I listened to the entire Church History and Martyrs of Palestine by Eusebius, some 35 hours or so. Several sections comprise long lists of Christians martyred via the most hideous tortures. One section lodged in my psyche.  The authorities devised unique and awful punishments for belief in Jesus. For a time Christians suffered one eye gouged out, the foot opposite mangled, and a sentence to the copper mines. Soon a host of Christians was gathered there.

The presence of so many Christians, including several bishops, led to the growth of a Christian community with “houses for church assemblies,” 63 appointing its own bishop, 64 and, because they were denied written scriptures, listening to recitation by a blind Egyptian who knew them by heart. 65 It appears that those who became too old or infirm to work in the mines were allowed to live on, fasting and praying, in a separate settlement near the mines and this evidently became a special focus of the Christian community, led by the Bishop Silvanus and the blind “reader” John. 66 Despite a presumably high mortality rate, the community was periodically reinforced as new batches of Christians were sent there; in 306– 7, most arrivals appear to have been from Palestine and Gaza; in 308– 9 we hear of two groups from Egypt, one comprising 97 men, women, and children,,, —

Mattingly, David J. Imperialism, Power, and Identity:
Experiencing the Roman Empire – (Miriam S. Balmuth,
Lectures in Ancient History and Archaeology) (p. 189).
Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.


One story, a note in one of the ancient manuscripts has caught in my imagination,

“Many of them were Egyptians. The Greek adds in this place the account of one John, who had learned the Scriptures so thoroughly by heart, that Eusebius states, that when he saw him standing up and repeating portions of the Scripture to the congregation, he supposed he had been reading till he drew near, and discovered that he was quite blind.

Can you see it?  A crowd of cripples, surrounding an old man with a ring of snow white hair round his bald head. Listening as if their very life depends on it, (cause it does) the company of the walking wounded hear the depths of the words”Let not your heart be trouble, believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms”  or “Be not afraid, I have overcome the world.”  Blind eyes shut he sees the Good News of God in Christ.  Seeing eyes look beyond the damaged present to the world to come.

Screen-shot-2012-02-03-at-9.16.27-AMI join that gathering from time to time in my mind.  At the edge I stand, unobserved,  listening to the words of life from one who knows the price of faith. What if he had not embedded the Bible in his soul?  What about me?  If all I had was my memory how much scripture would I have?

Constance & Her Companions: Martyrs of Memphis

Van Gough

Van Gogh – Crows and Field

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone. John 12:24 KJV

THE PART OF US THAT CALLS US – “I” VALUES SAFETY ABOVE ALL THINGS.

As a child it is a shock to learn that things end. For example a pet dies and we learn a couple of things:
• One is that parents are not as omnipotent as we had thought they were AND
• Some things can’t be fixed!

No amount of yelling, weeping, begging, threatening, hoping or screaming at the heavens with our fist shaking with rage phases the smooth impenetrable walk of reality.

Having bounced off that wall, we propose not to let that happen again. You want to know from whence control- freaks come? Right then, right there, reality shall not come nigh me again, thank you very much.

Through careful planning and enough money; you do realize that is really why money is so important. Money will keep many wolves away from the door and keep them at bay for a long long time. But the longer we live and the safer we become — shielded by the investment of the CORPUS (interesting expression that) of our assets we find ourselves strangely alone.How we get out of this solitary confinement of ego safety?

David Richio says that there are five universal truths we must KNOW AND EMBRACE in order to live healthy and productive lives.
1. THINGS CHANGE AND END.
This is not fun. My hair is a victim of change and ending. You may not know it but today is international RedHead Day. My hair was copper red as a child. Do you think anyone will wish me a happy Redhead Day? No, my hair faded and then let go.

You our ego we can retreat into the past, the good ole days of our memory. Of course these days never existed except in our selective memory. Sam Keen calls selective memory, nostalgia. Nostalgia, he calls, “diseased memory.” Our beloved South has been trapped in that flytrap for pushing two centuries and you see what that has gotten us. As native Memphian, Alan Lichtman puts it, “IF YOU GET STUCK IN THE PAST YOU ARE STUCK ALONE.”

2. LIFE IS NOT FAIR
The most unfair that American parents teach their children is that Life IS far! You sign up for soccer and at the registration there is a fee for a trophy! What? You know that children aren’t stupid. When everybody gets a trophy it doesn’t mean anything! Life is not fair.
The Rain falls on the just and the unjust.

3. THINGS DO NOT GO ACCORDING TO PLAN.
If you want to make God laugh just tell him your plans. Expectations – it has to be just this way.
• Psychosis – 2 +2 = 6
• Neurosis is 2 + 2 = 4 But I won’t have it!
Psychosis will get you medicated
For Neurosis there is no cure.

4. PEOPLE WILL LOVE YOU BUT ALSO LET YOU DOWN.
People don’t have to want to let us down – it’s just inevitable – The Church is a laboratory of relationships. Here we learn the discipline of forgiving each other and ourselves. It’s messy but like democracy better than any alternative. This is why people get married, you know. Not, because you won’t get let down, cause you will. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” Marriage is a container for love.

5. GROWTH COMES THROUGH SUFFERING.
Suffering is the promise life always keeps. If you don’t know that yet you will. No one gets out of this life alive!

Today we celebrate the feast day of Constance and her companions the martyrs of Memphis. During the yellow fever epidemic of 1878, Constance, the other Episcopal sisters and priests remained in the stricken Tennessee city nursing the sick and burying the dead until one by one they too sickened and died. Charles Carroll Parsons is a good example of what I’m getting at.

  • Things Change and End
    He was in the West Point Class of 1861 – Those cadets studied together in the Fall Semester and tried to kill each other in the Spring.
  • Life is not Fair: He watched friends, comrades die – He almost died himself. Battle of Perryville
  • Things do not go according to plan
    He left the army and became a priest,  He embraced the vocation of peace only to become with the violence of plague.
  • People will love you but will also let you down
    His wife died.
  • Growth comes through Suffering
    Yellow Fever in 1878

The Reverend Charles Carroll Parsons He got sick. All the priests were sick – knowing that he was dying (he had seen that enough times) he prayed the prayers for the dying for himself

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Charles. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringth forth much fruit. John 12:24

We do not die just once, you know, death comes to us many many times before the hour of our personal demise. Every time we bump up against things changing and ending. Whenever we realize yet again that life is not fair; When our plans go awry, when people let us down and when we suffer – When by grace we know and embrace these truths, the words of Jesus describes us “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” We get lots of practice laying down our lives IF we will embrace the truth of our Lord’s words.

That sounds like bad news doesn’t it. The good news is that if we embrace our many little deaths a different, new kind of life, sprouts in us. It is a kind of life based not on our merit or achievement. It’s a kind of life that is free of the competition that so rules our ordinary existence. It is a life of grace — where the energy for our being begins at the end of our striving. Our Lord promised us that if we believe in him he will not let us go.

Frederick Buechner said it best, I think, when he wrote, “The worst thing that ever happens to us will not be the last thing that happens to us.”

Three crucial aspects of spiritual growth in Episcopal* Congregations

September 8, 2013 484

Baptism of Chinese converts at Saint Martin’s, York, UK September 8, 2013

  • A more transformative encounter with God, especially in our common prayer, our worship, and our engagement with Scripture.
  •  A deeper life of discipleship, marked by personal spiritual practices that infuse all of life, not just time spent in a church building.
  •  A more compelling orientation toward putting faith into action, specifically in service to those in need for justice & peace, with clear articulation of opportunities to do that.

 

*Insert any denomination

From Lessons from Unlikely Sources: What a Market Research a Megachurch are teaching a few Episcopalians about Growing the Church – Jay Sidebotham The Anglican Digest 94.3 [496]

Trudging Through the Middle

Pie in the Sky - Mark Bryan

Pie in the Sky – Mark Bryan

The journey is easier at the beginning and the end than the middle when we are far from home and home. As I approach old age I find it hard to remember a time when ministry did not inhabit a large space in my inner life. I was baptized at eight scared into the Kingdom at a Baptist revival. But that was only the outer thing, the thing that hooked my fear and plunged me into the fishpond at the White place over fifty years ago. It was at the same farm that as a three year old I sat in great-aunt Myrtie’s lap on the bank of Anderson creek as my parents were baptized down in the pool formed by a gravel bank.

Thought some might doubt it, I remember it clearly. Like a scene from a movie people were standing and sitting by the water. The grass was green in the way it is in the South Titus-Baptized-021before being scorched by the August Sun. Folk went down into the water lost and came up found. I’ve learned since then that found takes a long time. The pilgrimage to God is rarely dramatic it is mostly as an old timer in AA spoke to the wisdom he had gained as he learned “the inevitability of gradualness.”

This was before the Baptist got “baptisteries” those walk-in bathtub artificial kind of “improvements” that keep us from nature and perhaps [they are un-natural which mates poorly with the] super-natural as well. However well intended these innovations, what is gained in convenience is lost in affect. There is something about inconvenience that is comforting in its discomfort. Coming to God is not convenient.

I read once in Anglicans on line that a group of clergy, God help us, were bringing a resolution before the Synod of the Church of England that Easter be fixed on the same Sunday every year. This is about as foolish a proposition as I’ve heard. We will convenience ourselves into nothing at all. C. S. Lewis once said that “the Gospel can be of no concern. The Gospel can be of ultimate concern. The Gospel can never be of moderate concern.” The convenience of moderation has the affect of warm water it is wet but not refreshing.

water We are at the midpoint of Lent.  It is time to prepare for the Paschal Feast as the Book of Common Prayer states in the second proper preface for Lent. Gradualness will give way to the acute phase we call Holy Week followed by the consequences of resurrection.  It happens every year and still I am ill prepared.  But then the middle is the most difficult part of the journey,  is it not, beloved.  JWS

THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE

Presentation of Christ in the Temple - Rembrandt

Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Rembrandt

The Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple is not one we know well.  So, let’s talk Theology:  The Presentation marked on February 2nd is the other half of the Annunciation marked on March 25th  (9 months from Christmas

Gabriel – Annunciation of great joy – He is Messiah   & Virgin born
[Contradiction]
Anna & Simeon – Presentation of great suffering – He will redeem his people at great cost.
Equals Paradox

The reading from Hebrew Scripture is from Malachi, the last of the prophets.  He writes,  “. . . and 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 prophet tells the House of Israel and us two things:  1. The Lord is coming   and   2. He is coming to the temple.

In the 1st Century the longing for Messiah was keenly felt in the era of Roman occupation. The temple of that period, the third temple was built by King Herod, the Roman puppet king. In 19 BC he began work on a new temple at Jerusalem.  He did this to win favour with his subjects and to impress the Roman world with his splendid building.  The main building was finished in ten years but work continued for the next fifty.

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The temple itself was covered with so much gold that it was a blinding sight in the bright sun.  The temple platform was extended beyond the hill to enclose an area of 35 acres. I have read that 24 or so football fields would fit on that vast platform.  It could be seen from outer space.   At its southern end, it stood 100-150 feet above ground level.  A covered cloister ran right around the outer courtyards.

 The Temple was laid out in concentric courtyards.

  • The main entrance was from the south, and led to the Court of the Gentiles.  Anyone could enter this part of the temple.  [Notices in Greek and Latin forbade non-Jews to enter the inner court of the temple.]
  • The next court was the Court of the Women.  This was as far women were allowed to go into the temple itself.   It was here where Mary and Joseph stopped.
  • Men could go further, into the court of Israel.
  • The inner court was limited to priests only.
  • In the center of the complex was the Holy of Holies where only the High priest went once a year on the Day of Atonement.

The point I want to make here about Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the Temple, is that it is nothing like anything we have ever seen.  You may think this is sort of like a baptism since we tend to view the Scriptural setting as identical to our own.

Not so, put that right out of your head.

Going to the Temple was less like going to Church than going to the Fair!

model_36

Model of Temple

The centerpiece of temple worship was the ritual slaughter of animals: sheep, goats, bulls, and if you couldn’t afford four-legged animals a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. By this time the Jews were no longer a nomadic people, each family with their own flocks.  But you still needed animals for sacrifice. A thriving business grew up supplying animals for sacrifice. [You recall that Jesus did something about that but that is 33 years in the future.]  So:

  1. You bought your animal, got in line and when your time came you presented your beast to the priests.
  2. They killed the animal and it’s blood poured down a special drainage system designed to drain away the vast amounts of blood spilled every day.
  3. The outdoors altar was a slaughter assembly line  with the Sun shining and the animals bellowing.
  4. Some of the meat went to the priests;
  5. Some of it was used for your family ritual meal, while the remaining parts were burned.
  6. It was a bloody, smoky, smelly place.
  7. At the same time worshipers were praying out loud,
  8. Choirs were singing psalms
  9. Religious scholars were holding forth to their students in the porches around the courtyards.

Going to the temple and going to church have little in common unless we open a stock yard at the Cathedral and hold graduate classes in theology and choir rehearsal at a continuous Pentecostal revival and barbecue!

 “ . . . And the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple!”  Certainly Simeon knew the words of the Malachi.  And then it happened one day, not perhaps the way he had imagined but nevertheless it happened.  A couple came into the temple to make sacrifice, as required by the law, for their first-born son.  Most families sacrificed a sheep or a calf.  The law made provision for people of less means.  They could get by with a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

4.The_17

The irony is that all the crowds that thronged the temple that day did not discern the presence of Messiah, the very one that they desired. They were so busy doing what was required that they missed the great day, when the Son of God had his coming out, presented to all the world and only two eccentrics whose eyes were fixed, looking for God, saw him.

Presentation_of_the_LordThe Spirit gave Simeon the gift of recognition.  So Simeon spied them and his heart, long trained to look for Messiah, discerned in the face of the little one, the face he had longed to see: the face of the holy one.  Taking the babe in his arms, he blessed God in the words we sing at evening prayer or often at the burial of a Christian, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”

Anna, eighty-four years old, who lived in the temple and worshiping there fasting and praying day and night came in. She too recognized the child as the promised one, and began to tell the news to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel.

This Day is also called Pro Orantibus [For those who pray]   These two old people, Simeon who prayed and dreamed, Anna who prayed and fasted  may have been half blind with age but the eyes of their imagination were clearly and sharply focused.

Mark Twain once said, “

“You cannot trust your eyes, if your IMAGINATION is out of focus.”

If Renewal Works has taught us anything it is that while everyone owes God One soul, the care and feeding of your soul cannot be delegated, hired out or left to force feeding by the clergy.  It can however be neglected, starved and abused.

RenewalWorks is a process we are using to get our imaginations in focus! How?

  1. We are reading some scripture from day to day or at least regularly; not enough we believe but more scripture than we have in the past. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly! It doesn’t take much Bible to affect us!  Embedding our lives in Scripture focuses our imagination!
  2. In the breaking of bread: To discern the presence of our Lord in the bread and wine.    We believe that in this place we encounter the risen Jesus in bread and wine just as he promised.  If this is true do you see it is the most important thing we do all week!
  3. In our own inner life I believe that God is speaking to us constantly in our prayers, dreams, visions, and hunches.  But we are to busy doing our daily sacrifices of time, talent and ambition to even notice.  It is only when we are willing to slow down and focus our imaginations that we can trust our eyes.
  4. In each other:  God often seems to speak to me through the people in my life. Parker Palmer once wrote that, “Community is that place where the person you cannot stand always live.” It takes a work of imagination to see that we are all gifts of God to each other, especially those who irritate and scare us the most.
  5. In the faces of the poor and stranger: The Blessed Teresa of Calcutta spoke of Jesus in his disturbing disguises.  She said that when she encountered him in the breaking of bread that she could encounter him in his most distressing disguises.  Eyes with focused imagination see him and hear him, “If you have done to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters you have done it unto me.”
Icon of the Presentation

Icon of the Presentation

I ask you to take better care of your souls.  Please call on us. The clergy are not paid to be Christians for you.  The clergy are here as player-coaches.  We are in ministry of equipped and coaches ministers.  Please, Please, by the mercies of God come and join in this movement.

In our baptism we are given the gift of the Spirit, who penetrates history and existence in order to focus our imaginations will come into focus. With clear eyes it is easy to discern the Holy One in us, between us and to holy hands for the care those in need.

I see you.  I see him in you. Look around you will see him too. To him be glory now and forever.  Amen

For Matt and Brittany Legg on Their Wedding Day

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

We are gathered here in the presence of God and of this company of the friends of your souls.  We come to do a couple of things before nightfall.

We come to Celebrate and Bless

I.  We Come to Celebrate!

To Interpret, to make sense of … So we come to figure out,  make sense of what the two of you have gotten yourselves into…Now as Christians we interpret with Christ in mind.  So we make sense of your relationship, the promises you are about to make, because of the paradoxical mystery of Jesus the Christ, what he has done and what that means continually and forever. We come here to witness your vows because Jesus is present among us as he said, if 2  or 3 are gathered in his name – he will be revealed, discovered in their midst. Saint Thomas Aquinas once said that Jesus is principally experienced by a heightened awareness of mutual love and concern.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German pastor, patriot and martyr to the Nazi terror, wrote a letter to his twin-sister on the day of her wedding. In it he said, “The love between her and husband was theirs and theirs alone, but their marriage belonged to the whole church, to the whole community.  How you live into the vows you make this day affects us all for better, for worse…  Also Bonhoeffer said in his letter, “That the love between her and her husband is does not keep their marriage going. No, the marriage is to keep their love going.”

With that in mind, today we come to make a container for your love.  The reading from The Song of Solomon proclaims a peculiar and mysterious truth, “that love is a strong as death.”  That of course is true – our love has a singular and spare beauty – but like a glass that when dropped often bounces – but if that same glass lands just so it shatters, and in that moment  death is stronger than love. So we come to make a container for your love so that regardless of circumstance it will continue of service to your love.  What are these circumstances that your love faces?

In the vows is embedded an ancient notion called the Wheel of Fortune. The notion being that life is lived on a wheel that moves up and down and around as life moves inexorably into the future.  For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health: what?  To love and cherish until you are parted by death!  Now your marriage is to be lived not on the outside of the wheel to be crushed by the wheel as it moves inexorably into the future and beyond; no live your marriage at hub of the wheel so it turns in your center, the holy place where Jesus is discovered:  for he is the lynch-pin in the hub.

Now here we are all dressed up in our finest clothes and also our impeccable denial, and we will key on the words better, richer and health – and ignore all those other words. But anyone who is married more than 15 minutes knows that plenty of all it will come upon you. We come to celebrate.

II. We also come to bless you.

Sacrament: outward sign of inner and spiritual grace; Water/Baptism; Bread and Wine/Communion and for marriage holding hands (right hands in this case). These very material and human scaled things are filled with divine content – bread/wine – bread of heaven – cup of salvation = filled with divine content. Holding hands and giving receiving of rings – filled with holy energy to get out bed day after day to be married.

ImageAnd we come to make our prayer that for better, for worse…in this world to be adorned with all Spiritual Grace and in the world to come, life and that life Everlasting.

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

THE TWENTY FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Proper 25A

Today’s Gospel lesson continues the confrontations between various Jewish groups and Jesus.   In last week’s reading, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it were lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?  They hoped his answer would arouse the Roman government who collected the taxes or alienate the people who despised paying the taxes.  He said,  “Give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and give to God what belongs to God.”

Woe unto you...  James Tissot

Woe unto you Pharisees – James Tissot

In today’s reading they try their luck again, “perhaps he was just lucky last time.”  They send an expert in the law, a lawyer, to ask a simple question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment of the law?”  This was a point much debated by the religious leadership.  You notice that Jesus does not enter the debate but goes right to the point.  He said, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There was an old woman that loved to dip snuff.

  • When the preacher preached against adultery,
    • she said, “Amen, preach it.”
  • When he preached against drunkenness,
    • she said, “Amen, preach it.”
  • When he preached against stealing,
    • she said, “Amen preach it.”
  • When he preached against the evils of tobacco,
    • she said, “Huh! he’s quit preaching and done gone to meddling!”

So long as Jesus talks about loving God, that’s preaching.  But when he talks about our relationships with others, he’s meddling.  When Jesus says, “on these two commandments depend or hang all the law and the prophets,” the sense of it is that these two commandments are the two hinges on which the door of faith hang.  With only one hinge the door doesn’t quite work right.  The door never quite operates smoothly.   If one loves God, then one in turn works out that love for God in the marketplace of daily life.

Thomas Moore says that:

  • the mind thinks,
  • the body does
  • and the soul Imagines.

Paul Ricoeur in a sermon preached at the University of Chicago in 1980 speaks to the language of imagination that Jesus uses.  “ … The use by Jesus of an extreme language, such as the extravagance of a parable, or the hyperbole of the proverb: a log in the eye or a camel through the eye of a needle. Parable, paradoxes, hyperbolas, and extreme commandments all disorient only to reorient us.  But what is reoriented in us? – And in what direction? I would say that what is reoriented by these extreme sayings is less our will than our imagination. Our will is our capacity to follow without hesitation the once-chosen way, to obey without resistance the once-known law.  Our imagination opens us to new possibilities, another way of seeing, or acceding to a new rule in receiving the instruction of the exception.

As Ray Hart suggests in Unfinished Man and the Imagination, while the will is the intention to a specific project, the imagination is the intention of dominant direction.  It is at the level of dominant direction that we are overtaken by the disorienting logic of Jesus.”

Jesus answers Pharisees - James Tissot

Jesus answers Pharisees – James Tissot

Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Since you are all here, let me ask you a question, “What do you think of the Messiah?  Whose son is he?”  They said, “The son of David.”  He said, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?   “If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”  Jesus seems to be deliberately disorienting us to reorient us.  This work is done not in the will as I have often thought.  If I just tried harder, if I just worked harder.  If I just held my mouth just so and wished real hard.”   But what has to be reoriented first is not our will but our imagination.

What goes on us in this process of reorientation?

Disorientation: We realize that the way we thought things were is not the way they are. There are other possibilities some of, which are scary to us.  We are threatened. We then have a choice to make: will we continue in this new way of imagination or will we decide to turn and willfully go in the other direction?  This is the dilemma facing the Pharisees.   Jesus has just showed them that Messiah is superior to David. But what does that mean?

Reorientation:  We put ourselves in the place of others. We can see the possibilities and visions of God’s call to us. We will to move in the direction that the vision beckons.

·        We put ourselves in the place of others.

Many of the ethical problems that confront us are born from a failure of imagination.

·     We can see the possibilities and visions of God’s call to us.  The Kingdom of God is the chief message that the rule of God is breaking out in the world, one heart at a time.  We are called to live as authentic human beings.  We are free to choose.  And we can choose to turn to God and be energized by the Holy Spirit into a new creation.

·        We begin to make choices and will that we move in the direction that the vision beckons. This is not easy or convenient

At  10:39 we baptize the Higley twins  into the Body of Christ – the Church in this place.  These brothers are born with imagination.  Children often see  clearly the foolishness of adult systems and say so.  Our culture will work that out of these boys, as they grow older.  We make some promises to God on their  behalf.  We promise to bring them  up in the Christian faith and life.   We promise to immerse or marinate these brothers in the Christian faith and life. To do this we must re-orient our imagination – and allow the Spirit to guide us that we continue in the way that leads to our and their loving God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves.

Amen.

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