Sola Scriptura

“…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:15-17

Getting back to my faith roots.

Scripture was my first love.  In the concrete walled halls of a small Baptist church school I fell in love with story.  Bible was the first class of the day. Memory verses were important, but it was the flannel graph figures whose lives resurrected against a velvet gray each day who captivated my imagination: from the great patriarchs of the Hebrews to the socially disenfranchised who found both mercy and healing in Y’shua‘s words and touch.  Some heard the stories and came away angry or confused at the cruel, punishing deity on one side of the book and the Utopian idealism of the ragged rabbi of Galilee depicted in the other.  Not me.  I heard the epic in a different way.

Always being smaller, slower, and socially awkward John the Evangelist dialed straight into this introvert’s frequency.

What will we play?  My words dismissed by the group as if unspoken.

When the Alpha would speak, play began.

We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. – Luke 7:32

Say again, John, all after “He was in the world…but the world did not know Him.”

He came to His own…but His own… did not accept him. –John 1:11

The jealous protective fiery response of the deeply loving, ever rejected God begins with a deep wound which could not be reconciled; a bustling playground vacated at the sound of the approaching happy-excited running-steps.

 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: “Where are you?”    –Genesis 3:8-9

So my mind was attuned to the God of the Bible who gives in grandiose ways and protects by exaggerated means, just to convey affection to those who seem unreachable and unresponsive.  And yet I remain keenly aware of the unresponsive ones who likewise find God unreachable and non-responsive; repulsed by the over-the-top gestures which seem to erupt out of nowhere with little to no context.

No one understands the Autistic God of the Bible quite as I have.

So I did not find the extravagant act of God: being found in appearance as a man, self-humbled, self-limited, becoming obedient to the point of suffering humiliation, even death, on a cross, such a difficult thing to grasp.  The words of the cross echoing the same confused cry spoken through creation and prophet since the world began: Love me!

The God-breathed text of the old covenant whispers the same audacious promise God speaks from the cross. It is as much a promise for us as it is a promise God made to Himself: that one day God will no longer be rejected- no longer alone.

Loved, and Loving, in eternal reciprocity.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4

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Irritable Jesus isn’t someone we recognize. At least, we don’t readily envision Jesus as the short-tempered, fed-up, tired-of-people type.

The Gospels take us behind the scenes. Jesus, having a literal mountain top experience, is back home for a time.

The presence of the Divine, familiar souls..Jesus glows with exhilaration. Even the conversation sounds like party planning: his departure.  This is homecoming, right?

But once the lights are turned out and the old friends are headed home, Jesus sounds anything but thrilled. His tone is scolding; His words scalding.

If the Gospels were mere hagiography, the epic hero would remain unchanged. But in a real life, like the one we read about in Scripture, real people react to bad news.

Like the news that your best friend will betray you. That your closest friends will desert you. That your enemies will shame you: mock you, spit on you , beat you. They’ll hang you naked, stuck to a post by nails, where you’ll be suffocated to death while suffering from anemia and dehydration due to blood loss, in front of loved ones, racial haters, and curious creepy types who enjoy watching people tortured.

That’s the news. That’s how you’re going out. That’s the send off from the public you loved with healing, and forgiveness, and restorative wisdom given at times you were completely exhausted or grieving the death of a close cousin.

Someone should tell God to get out of this abusive relationship.

But they’ll say they’re sorry. Sure they will. Don’t all abusers? They don’t know why they did it. They love you so much.

Here are some gifts. Will that make it better?

Take some money for missionaries.

I’ll be at church 3 times next month instead of just 1.

See, I’m over here at the service project, on a Saturday.

All better?

But then it happens again.

The cheating on God with other obsessions . The lying about it. Covering up. The rage fights. The screaming.

It’s God’s fault and God knows it!

Just stay in your place, God!

Do what you’re told!

Stay outta my business!

I’ll do what I want!

You really need to get out of this relationship, God. Humans are not good to you. Have some self respect, Most High. You need to affirm the Divine You. You deserve better…

Jesus feels it. Deeply. The anger. The confusion.

Just before the Cross moment, it’s decision time.

Are you breaking up with us, God?

Are you giving up on the marriage? Is the long, ugly separation finally going to end in divorce?

Let this cup pass from me

Only natural that God, in flesh, wants out. Who needs co-dependent, destructive, hurting relationships?

But God, divine, knows something.

Your will be done

The difference between God in an abusive relationship and you and I in abusive relationships…

We can’t change the abusive broken deceiver-hurters  into new, whole, healed selves.

God says, from Calvary, “…but I can.”

LUKE

9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.

9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.

9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Your Package Has Arrived

Package-Delivery

Gracious God,

Today is a long awaited package that has just arrived.

The return address tells me this gift is from You.

That’s the thing about packages from far away.

When I open it, I find the sender is very near.

 

Inside this day will be

each person that I meet

every moment that decides what the next will look like.

 

Inside this day I will learn

when to speak

when to listen

when to linger with my thoughts

when to share my ideas and feelings

 

This package has challenges and decisions

carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and packing peanuts.

I’ll be cautious with those.

 

Inside this gift I also hear the whisperings of your Wisdom.

 

And I find beneath the packing paper ordinary and unnoticed tasks,

that were nearly overlooked.

 

I’m glad I didn’t miss those! They are the simple joys.

 

Inside this package I am also unwrapping

New possibilities

And

Sabbath moments

 

It’s very clear to me, gracious God,

That what you have sent is a care package

To restore my Peace and Harmony.

 

In this day you have given as a gift to me,

My long awaited package,

I find your Goodness.

Thank you.

 

Amen.

package delivery

Adapted from “Morning Prayer” by Pat Bergen, C.S.J. (Xavier University)

A Strange Dream

Last night I dreamed a dream.

In a cold room for general purpose  we were gathering.

Just a few.

No one was expecting much of  a crowd.

White clothed tables with pew-like seats began to give the room some character.

Purpose.

A small crowd appeared and sat; scattered

all across the room.

At my table was a young man with Italian dark hair.

I go to bring us the juice.

And now I know the reason we have gathered is Eucharist.

We  will break the Bread together at this table and I pray

O, I pray

Deep, pastoral, and full

I pray for him as he receives the communion juice.

But he slouches. Disinterested. Disconnected. Bored.

Now I am moving across the room to find the Bread.

But when I return he is gone.

Dejected, I go to where the Bread is.

Standing. Alone. I consecrate the Bread and receive its sacred power

nibble by nibble

and scanning the room which is emptying now.

I reach for the juice

but the juice is Wine now.

The trays of juice are being whisked away by the white waist coat type folks.

In its place platters of Wine in tulip shaped glasses.

It feels as if my time is up; my crowd has moved on.

A new party is moving in.

Quickly I take the Wine and complete this Eucharist.

And looking up I see more and more people at more and more white clothed tables with chairs like church pews.

And they love the Bread and drink deep the Wine.

And I know that I want to stay with them.

bread and wine

It Was the Singing

Muni-bus-packed-with-kids-by-Alie-Slavin

There is a poem by Ian Crichton Smith

TWO GIRLS SINGING

It neither was the words nor yet the tune

Any tune would have done and any words.

Any listener at all.

As nightingales in rocks or a child crooning

in its own world of strange awakening

or larks for no reason but themselves.

So on the bus through late November running

by yellow lights tormented, darkness falling,

the two girls sang for miles and miles together

and it wasn’t the words or the tune. It was the singing.

It was the human sweetness in that yellow,

the unpredicted voices of our kind.

Source: Scottish Poem Book

May you find yourself, this day, together with another – singing.

Singing with raucous voice released by darkness and adventure and the courage that comes with company,

In the human sweetness, with the unpredicted voices of shared struggle and shared hope.

Amen.

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Hospitality

Welcome Mat

In my tradition

wrong or right

we teach one another to

invite Jesus into your heart

or

into your life.

(Though it might be better said

that Jesus invites us all into His life

is a blog post for another time.)

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. ~Luke 10:38

Hospitality was the first virtue of Christendom.

It is really quite simple.

Make the stranger feel at home in your home.  Put the tired traveler at ease.

But today we are terrified. Paranoid. Worried over many things.

All the doors are bolted; even the ones to our heart.

Convinced that the stranger is only after what is ours we build motels and hotels for our peers

and with our imagination play “pretend like -” to create fairy tale make believe shelters big enough for all the homeless people where taxes and charities and 1 per centers dig deep to provide food, clothes, showers. Then sleep easy in our dreamland.

The art and practice of hospitality has been lost.

 the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. ~Luke 10:41 

The service of hospitality.

All that was needed was for one to welcome Jesus into their home: this is heart and life.

Welcomed into the vault where we lock up all our treasures.

A beautiful sentiment lost on a generation far away from all things hospitable.

Because, how do we tell ourselves: our friends and children

Invite Jesus into your heart!  Welcome Jesus into your life!

when we no longer know how to entertain a guest? what to do with the stranger?

They have no idea what inviting anyone into their life should look like.

So…

Would Jesus even feel comfortable in your life?

Does He feel “in the way”?  A bother?  “Asking too much?”

How often is this guest attended to, and what is not provided or offered because of the silent politeness of the visitor?

What would a heart and life look like if we actually tried to make Jesus “feel at home”.

I think we’ve left Jesus on the front porch.

Don’t worry. It’s screened-in. The mosquitos won’t get him.”

We’ll bring him some iced tea and a few magazines.”

Make yourself at home” isn’t hospitable. It’s neglect with a polite smile.

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying…”there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10:39,42

Hospitality

Flash Flood

Gracious God,

When Spring rains are soft and the grass grows green, change is celebrated.

But not all rains are light. Some are harsh and heavy and cold.

And though we hated the cold hands and arms of winter’s embrace it is hard to cheer for rushing waters that wash away the hard work and good soil and flood the homes and streets once safe and quiet beneath the snowy sleep.

For change, both expected and unexpected; change hoped for and change undesired

Give us strength to manage, hope for restoration, and the joy of new life and same life awakening fresh to warmer suns and brighter days.

May the sunlight and the rain be reminders that God is at work renewing the earth. As a God of renewal, You are ever working in our lives, too.

So, open our eyes and lives to the necessary, unwanted, overwhelming, beauty bringing changes in our lives.

We are wide awake, walking in the rain, ready for whatever will fall from heaven for us.

Amen.

spring rain