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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Transf-aggravation

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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.

Broken

Mary arrived early at the tomb to clean up the broken body;

wrap it with soft cloth and spice.

Jesus forbad it.

       Hands off.        Don’t touch.

Broken punctured twisted bloodied naked shredded skin

A glorified body

presented to God in all its brokenness

visible to friends: see my hands, my feet, my side

Don’t hold on to me, Mary.

The world must see me just like this.

You cannot clean him up, Mary.

Let’s all stop trying to wash away the blood

and spice up the body broken.

Lest we all start believing the lie that people are basically good…

That the arc of human nature bends toward justice…

It is the disfigured figure of innocence savagedly razed to life

that testifies against the human race: a depraved race.

Holy Love embodied walks on calloused heels searching out the concentration camps of the soul:

unblinded eyes see the self-haters forgiven who embrace the leprosy-free as they dance with the lame-no-more.

Only one punishment to fit this crime against humanity:

Crucify Him.

No, Mary, you cannot clean him up.

      We must see Him as he is

as we made him

         or we will never believe it is true –

                        in denial

that we are the darkness we fear

               disguised as angels of light.

BrokenBody

Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.*

*Revised Common Lectionary, Vanderbilt Divinity Library (online)

Source: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=87

Morning Walk

On this morning we wander off in search of the things all creatures need: kindness; a smile to reassure the one who doubts their worth. And encouragement: a word that rebuilds what has been torn down.berries in snow

If we are lucky, we find forgiveness like the scout stumbles upon berries in the woods. A soft quiet rain would be like the pardon we receive freeing us from guilt.

Let us hear when peace is spoken. It is transparent and moves silently. Give us ears to hear it. Give us hearts to sense it when it brushes by.

After all, what is salvation except two friends driven apart by broken trust: reconciled, bonded, and stronger together than before?

Where love and faithfulness meet; where righteousness and peace embrace

Trust will spring up from the ground like grass through the snow.

grass in snow

We wander off this morning in search of what is good; and the earth, and our neighbors, and our faiths will provide it exponentially; if you search.

Relationships made whole again are always just ahead of us, if we wander in search of them. It is only by our footsteps trails are made. We will make a path so their steps will lead them to us.

 

Amen.

Nine-Eleven

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Easy Sermon

by Mark Jarman

It must be easy to preach a sermon nowadays — A friend

 

Sermons are easy, Turgid or breezy,

When everything goes wrong

Every scripture Leads on to rapture,

When doom has struck its gong.

 

When towers are falling

And muezzins are calling,

It’s simple to kneel and pray.

A message will come

To the deaf and the dumb

In an easygoing way

 

When nothing is certain,

Up goes the curtain

Where the inner sanctum lurks

And everyone sees

The forest and trees,

The treason and the clerks.

 

And so every creature

Turns to the preacher

For the meaning of it all.

And a couple of cents

Can be sheer eloquence

When the highest powers fall.

 
twintowerlights

God of Hope and Peace:

Be near us.

Guard our hearts. Guard our minds. Guide our deeds.

Amen.

 

Transplant

NOW you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,  and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—  a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.  ~Colossians 3:8-11

Put aside?

What?  All my best weapons?  I keep those for personal defense.

It’s quite a collection.

I have them because I’ve been hurt.

I won’t be hurt again.

Hurt people hurt others.

I know just how to

Fire a warning shot.

Graze the skin.

Disable.

Shoot to kill.

Anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech… 

These are the energy sources for weapons of mass

keep-you-far-away-from-me-so-you-can-never-hurt-me-(again)

destruction

Do you think you will talk me into disarmament so easily?

The Grace of Growing Up

There is a good reason my past is located in my history.

God put all the hurt behind me:

in my thirty minutes ago

my yesterday

last week

past year

last decade

–back there with my  immaturity

So I could grow upand therefore out  of it.

The Grace of  a New Self

We never discourage the recipient of a new heart

or

a new liver

or

a new kidney

That is a courageous act of survival.

Necessary for life.

The lie we believed and passed on to our kids and closest friends:

“Time heals all wounds.”

Fine.

Keep your old heart — your old liver — your old kidney.

Time will heal it.

Nope. Some things just have to be discarded.

Some things simply must be replaced.

The wounds are too deep and debilitating;

rendering it incapable of good, proper function.

So, when the Bible teaches that the Self is like that

we shouldn’t gasp or grimace or guffaw.

Grin.

You’re at the top of the list for the next Self transplant.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and belovedput on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patiencebearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  ~Colossians 3:12-14

Revenge.

Retaliation.

Hard habits to break.

Impossible to break.  

Only a new Self is healthy enough to

pump, cleanse, filter,

respond 

to hurt

with

Kindness

Courtesy

Compassion

Humility

A new Self requires renewal — a re-shaping into the likeness — the attitude of Christ Jesus.

Immaturity set me up for deep emotional bruising.

I over thought my importance, my role, my authority.

Abusing the power of my right as a person to have personhood

to have dignity

to have a voice

I was easily, too easily, offended.

In maturity, I no longer use my Self as a collection point for all things

rewarding

affirming

Now, my Self is put to better use.

Bumper Car of Compassion and Service.

My Self gives its power to making other people’s dreams come true.

And when that is too lofty or too large for realism

I just take a cup of water to the thirsty who have none.

I just help the grumpy old woman with a ride to the grocery

and then stick around

to put groceries away

and

miss my gym class.

This is the functioning new self that gives authority and personhood and dignity to the wonderful, beautiful, anger-filled, wrathful, malicious, slanderous, abusive

people

who fill up the earth

covered with wounds

that time never healed

but let fester

into oozing infection that infected others into

mass epidemic.

Beyond this — Put on LOVE

Love

It’s the antibodies of the soul.

Impossible?

Is it impossible to love or receive love after being exposed to all the virus and cholesterol and bacteria and poison of this planet contaminated with humanism?

Would seem so.

Surrounded by

Deafened by

“You don’t know what they did to me!”

“You don’t know what I’ve been through!”

“I will never forgive them for what they did!”

The Grace of Impossible Suffering

Ravensbrück was a notorious women’s concentration camp during World War II, located in northern Germany, 90 km (56 mi) north of Berlin .

Between 1939 and 1945, over 130,000 female prisoners passed through the Ravensbrück camp system; around 40,000 were Polish and 26,000 were Jewish. Between 15,000 and 32,000 of the total survived. Although the inmates came from every country in German-occupied Europe, the largest single national group incarcerated in the camp consisted of Polish women.

Siemens & Halske employed many of the slave labor prisoners.

Margarete Buber: “At the end of each week, the reward was added together and the hours logged, so evident that it was what every worker earned in so many hours, but which they never received, which was taken away by Siemens per concentration camp slave. Through this system it was to determine immediately where a prisoner had his workload, which accounted for about 40 Pfennig per hour not achieved … my employment at Siemens consisted mainly in correspondence of the Director with concentration camp. … As I learned, the main directors were showing their zeal for following orders, for their career, and out of fear of being sent to the front.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravensbr%C3%BCck_concentration_camp

The following prayer was found at
Ravensbrück death camp where 92,000
women and children died.

It was scrawled on wrapping paper near a dead child.

Lord, remember not only the men
and women of good will also those of
ill will.
But do not only remember the
suffering they have inflicted on us.
Remember the fruits we have brought,
thanks to this suffering–our
comradeship, our loyalty, our humility,
the courage, the generosity, the
greatness of heart which has grown
out of all this.
And when they come to judgment, let
all the fruits we have borne be their
forgiveness. Amen

Source: http://restornews.blogspot.com/2012/03/ravensbruck-prayer.html

Only a new Self could love so well in hell

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Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.

More than heal us.  Save us with the grace of Self, brand new, molded in the image of You.