17 April 2009

This alone...

"God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself in so far as you are a created being made and let God be God in you." ~ Meister Eckhart

15 April 2009

Wood and Nails and Colored Eggs

by: Martin Bell

Something like an eternity ago, human beings got all caught up in the illusion that being human is a relatively unimportant sort of proposition. Here today – gone tomorrow. A vale of tears – that sort of foolishness.

What’s more tragic, of course, is that in the wake of this basic error there quickly followed that human beings are expendable, which easily degenerated into the proposition that some human beings are expendable. Really bad guys are expendable. Guys with low I.Q.’s are expendable. Anyone who disagrees with me is expendable. A long time ago, human beings got all caught up in the illusion that being human is a relatively unimportant sort of proposition.

Well, that’s not true. It’s wrong. All wrong. And it has always been wrong. From the creation of the heavens and the earth, it has been – wrong. There is nothing more important then being human. Our lives have eternal significance. And no one – absolutely no one – is expendable.

Jesus was dead. He was dead and buried. It was expedient that he should be dead and buried. Caiaphas had explained that to himself and to the others over and over again. It is expedient, he said, that one man should die for the sake of the people. Jesus is expendable. Caiaphas suffered from the illusion that being human is relatively unimportant. And so Jesus was dead.

What happened then wasn’t so remarkable, really. God simply raised Jesus from the dead. He merely walked into the tomb that we call insignificance and absurdity, and meaninglessness, and other such names as that – he merely walked into the tomb and raised Jesus from the dead.

There was nothing very spectacular or remarkable about this. God revealed himself to be the same God who created the heavens and the earth and called his creation good; the same God who led his people out of Egypt to be a light to the nations; the same God who affirmed David in his weakness; who called forth the prophets; who kindled the heart of John the Baptist; and who reached out to touch his tiny children in the person of Jesus Christ.

God raised Jesus from the dead to the end that we should be clear – once and for all – that there is nothing more important than being human. Our lives have eternal significance. And no one – absolutely no one – is expendable.

Some human beings are fortunate enough to be able to color eggs on Easter. If you have a pair of hands to hold the eggs, or if you are fortunate enough to be able to see the brilliant colors, then you are twice blessed.

This Easter some of us cannot hold the eggs, others of us cannot see the colors, many of us are unable to move at all – and so it will be necessary to color eggs in our hearts.

This Easter there is a hydrocephalic child lying very still in a hospital bed nearby with a head the size of a pillow and vacant, unmoving eyes, and he will not be able to color Easter eggs, and he will not be able to color Easter eggs in his heart, and so God will have to color eggs for him.

And God will color eggs for him. You can bet your life and the life of the created universe on that.

At the cross of Calvary God reconsecrated and sanctified wood and nails and absurdity and helplessness to be continuing vehicles of his love. And then he simply raised Jesus from the dead. And they both went home and colored eggs.


by: Martin Bell

There he is. In the temple again. Causing trouble. Speaking very differently from other preachers. Speaking with authority about sorrow, anxiety, sickness and death. Penetrating the darkest corners of human existence. Shattering illusion. Make no mistake about it; this is a dangerous man.

The Christ Event. Jesus of Nazareth. The man for others, whose words cut through our most stubborn defenses and expose the whole of humanity in its nakedness. The fugitive who confronts us with direct authority. The one in whose presence the lame rise up and walk. The poor are comforted. The eyes of the blind are opened. The diseased are healed. Who would dare even to speak his name for fear of consequences.

But now as he comes into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people approach him and say, “By what authority are you doing these things?” have they no fear at all? No sense of the mystery?

For a moment Jesus is silent. Only his eyes betray his impatience. Then suddenly a counter-question: “What do you think about John the Baptist? Was he the instrument of God in history or a charlatan?”

The question is disturbing and exceedingly difficult to answer. John the Baptist is considered by the general populace to have been a prophet. It would be easier to reply that John was the instrument of God in history – not a charlatan in any sense. The problem with this answer is that Jesus will immediately ask why they did not repent and believe what John has said. On the other hand, to say that John was a Charlatan would be to incur the wrath of the people.

The chief priests and the elders will not rick either answer. The compromise that they decide upon is to say, “Who knows? Who knows whether John was the instrument of God or a charlatan? We can’t say!”

Jesus doesn’t even look at them. Now he is ready to answer their question about authority. “Who knows?” he says. “Who knows by what authority I do these things? I can’t say!”

The chief priests deserve that. The elders should have known better than to ask the question in the first place. If they are not willing to risk themselves, what difference will it make what Jesus says?

Instead of answering the chief priests and the elders directly, Jesus asks a counter-question. If his assailants admit that John the Baptist acted and preached on divine authority, then they must be prepared to reorder their lives according to what John had called for. That is to say, they must commit themselves. If, on the other hand, they believe that John was a fanatic and a charlatan, they must be prepared to say so – no matter how unpopular such an opinion might be. Once again, to answer the question implies commitment.

For timid and cautious men who are unwilling to take the risk involved in either answer, the only possible response is, “Who knows?”

But then, what is there left for Jesus to say? We do not know the Christ and then commit ourselves to Him. Commitment is the one and only way by which we may know the Christ.

There he is. In the temple again. Causing trouble. Tearing away the shroud that surrounds careful and frightened men who have come to accept disillusionment as a way of life. Cutting to the heart of those who dare not trust anything or anyone until they are certain that this trust will not be violated. Holding up the absolute necessity of deciding before the lives of men who would prefer to remain on the sidelines as spectators and onlookers. Challenging the chief priests and the elders to adopt a responsible position, regardless of what it is! The Christ Event. Jesus of Nazareth. The man for others.

What do you think of John the Baptist? Was he God’s instrument in history, or a charlatan? They have just fifteen seconds to decide.

What the chief priests and the elders do not realize is that life itself in inextricably bound to decision making. To live is to decide, to risk being wring, to bet your life. Nothing could be more foreign to the ears of these analytical men who have come to observe the young man from Nazareth. Yet nothing could be more central to their understanding of what he is all about.

By what authority is he doing these things? That is the question. Good! But the deeper puzzle that must first be untangled is why they want to know anyway! What difference will it make? What risks are they prepared to take? Is this question really one of final seriousness for them? How ready are they to commit themselves before God?

And so, the counter-question. What about John the Baptist? Prophet or madman?

To live is to decide, to risk being wrong, to bet your life. Life itself is inextricable bound to decision making. Life itself is inextricably bound to decision making. It is not enough to be interested in this man, or fascinated by him or drawn to him. Either we stand ready to commit our deaths to him or we don’t. No one ever knows the Christ and then commits himself. Commitment is the one and only way by which we may know the Christ.

By what authority is he doing these things? What do you think? Is he the one to whom all power in heaven and on earth is given, or is he an invented dream of human longing?

Yes or no? To live is to decide, to risk being wrong. It is not enough to be interested in, or fascinated by Jesus of Nazareth. It is not enough to be frightened, cautious, and bewildered spectators. Curiosity about the Christ Event in history is not enough. Either we stand ready to commit our deaths or we don’t.

Actually, it shouldn’t be all that frightening. Everyone has to die anyway. It’s not as if there were some other option. Each of us must die. That’s a given. That’s just the way it is. What is not part of the given is the how, or the why, or the what for of your death. What you are going to die for is not a given. What your death is going to be about is up to you.

So what do you think? By what authority is he doing these things? The chief priests and the elders will not risk themselves. It is clear that they are not really serious about wanting to know. Although they are interested in Jesus, even fascinated by him, the ecclesiastical dignitaries are not ready to commit their deaths to anything or anyone.

But what about you? What is your answer? It’s all very well to say, “God knows!” But such an evasion cannot suffice. God never has to decide. Men do.

There he is, in the temple again. Causing trouble. The broken one who cuts through our most stubborn defenses and demands that we place our lives on the line. The fugitive who confronts us with direct authority. Make no mistake about it; this is a dangerous man.

12 April 2009

Love because you give

Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost, a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful... As a community, the Chuch must practice love.

The Church is God's family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life.

We contribute to a better world only by personally doing good now, with full commitment and wherever we have the oppertunity.

Pope Benedict XVI
"God is Love"

Seven Stanzas on Easter: John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Wait for it...

I don't have the right personality for Good Friday, for the Crucifixion: I'd like to skip ahead to the resurrection vision of one of the kids in our Sunday school, who drew a picture of the Easter Bunny outside the tomb: everlasting life and a basketful of chocolates. Now you're talking.

In Jesus' real life, the resurrection came two days later, but in our real lives, it can be weeks, years, and you never know for sure when it will come.

I don't have the right personality for the human condition, either. But I believe in the resurrection - In Jesus' and in ours. The trees so stark and gray last month, suddenly went up as if in flame, but instead, in blossoms and leaves - poof! Like someone opening an umbrella. It's hard to find similar dramatic evidence of rebirth and hope in our daily lives.

-Anne Lamott

10 April 2009

A.J. Muste Bio Excerpt

At the end of his life, Muste took a leadership role in the movement against the Viet Nam War. Fellow peace activist Andrea Ayvazian tells of Muste standing outside the White House every night during the Viet Nam War, holding a candle, regardless of whether it was raining or not.

One evening, a reporter approached him, and asked if he really thought that by standing outside the White House holding a candle night after night, he would change the policies of the country.

Muste replied: "Oh, you've got it all wrong. I'm not doing this to change the country. I do it so the country won't change me."

Today and every day...

"We are Easter people, living in a Good Friday world" - Barbara Johnson

GOOD Friday

"We celebrated Good Friday... It's a sad day, of loss and cruelty, and all you have to go on is faith that the light shines in the darkness, and nothing, not death, not disease, not even the government, can overcome it.

I hate that you cannot prove the beliefs of my faith. If I were God, I'd have the answers at the end of the workbook, so you could check as you went along, to see if you're on the right track. But nooooooooo. Darkness is our context, and Easter's context: without it you couldn't see the light. Hope is not about proving anything. It's about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us"

-Anne Lamott

05 April 2009

Prepare the homilist

"As you go forth in your preparation, you will spend much time preparing homilies. But even more important is the preparation of the homilist. That means, we are called to preach who we are and what we are.

We preach what we know...and what we know is that God loves us, and that is the message with which we must begin our ministry. God loves us for who we are, not because we are worthy, not because we earn it, not because of what we do. God has made a covenant with us, that he will love us no matter what.

-Bishop Thomas Curry, of Santa Barbara

via the dE-acon

Seven Churches

Seven Churches

02 April 2009

Unless you become like these...

"Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."

- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

And he was a smart guy...

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
Albert Einstein

In memoriam...

Mourn. Grieve. Let your soul ache the pain it feels.

But this is the chief thing: Be not perturbed.
There is a season for all things - the coming in and the going away.
And in a little time each one of us will be no-one and
no-where, blended back into the mystery.

As he once was, we still are.
As he is now, so we will be, all too soon.
Fear not. We have been there before.
It’s OK. It is the way of all things.
The coin of in-the-meantime is all we have to spend.
What will you do until your time comes?
What is, after all, really important?
What will you leave behind in the hearts and minds of others?

Because we don’t know when we will die,
we think of life as an inexhaustible well.
Yet everything happens only a certain number of times,
and a very small number, really.
How many more times will you remember a certain
afternoon of your childhood?
Perhaps four or five times more.
Perhaps not even that.
How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?
Perhaps twenty. It all seems limitless. But it’s not.

Don’t miss the good times.
Notice and hold on to the lovely things.
Don’t miss the chance to leave a memory behind you as
one who loved this sweet life,
and one who loved others.
Remember to be kind.

And always believe that love is stronger than death.
Live in peace, trying always to do unto others as you
would have others do unto you.


Watch me

"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." -Paul VI (1975)

All in!

"We live in a society that measures "maturity" by how well we have mastered the art of moderation. But our God is not moderate. In fact, he is wildly immoderate... both in what he gives us... and in what he asks of us..."

Two posts were returned to me....

... just at the right time.

"God does not abandon us...his love comes to us where we are, with our misery and our weakness, to offer us a new possibility of goodness."
Pope Benedict - Letter to Romans on Education

“Blessed are you when you when they insult you.”You do more good than you know. You are the ones in the trenches. You are the ones who love despite the odds. Please do not be discouraged. Be true to God and to yourself and may He bless you abundantly in return for the sacrificial love you show Him." - Fr. Valencheck

Let's get it on....

“When you are cleaning the bathroom and mowing the yard, you are making love. When your are taking care of your sick loved one, you are making love. When you are paying the bills, you are making love. When you are planning for the future and challenging each other, you are making love. What you do in the bedroom is celebrating.”

—Jesse Manibusan

O Priest...

O Priest, who are you? You are not yourself because you are God. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing.

What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!’” -St. Norbert

... and you better have an answer

Tell me, what is it you plan to do, With your one wild and precious life? --Mary Oliver


"When someone asks you 'think about what Jesus would do', remember that a valid option is to freak out and turn over tables" -- Unknown

Wisdom Borrowed

I used to live in the desert.

The barrenness was so jarring I would intentionally schedule my flights into Phoenix at night. The bird’s eye view of all that dirt and dryness made my heart ache. I missed the comfort of lush foliage, trees with leaves, fields of tall grass.

It took me a good 6 months before I saw any beauty there. Before I started to appreciate the strength of all that exists there.

In the desert, everything has a purpose. Nothing is wasted.

The sparseness eliminates distraction. Allows you to focus.

This kind of simplicity is what Lent is about.

We let go of a few comforts and maybe rediscover our own purpose.

via The Windshield Rosary

Not History, but Mystory

This is the goal of reading the Bible: not to learn about ancient Israelites or early Christians, not even to know what God said or Jesus did, but to embrace our own identity as the People of God. If we find our place in the great story of salvation history and can live that out with integrity in salvation present, then we have understood the Bible correctly.

-Alice Camille
"Listening to God's Word"