God is all without being any thing, while being the all in every thing.read more
The miracles in the New Testament are called “signs.” They are metaphors for the Kingdom. In John 5, Jesus heals a man who has been looking at his source of healing, a pool that this sermon titles “the hospital” but the rules are such that he cannot get in to be healed. Jesus breaks through that injustice to bring healing to the one who needs it the most, without an insurance card, without proof of employment or citizenship. And that is what the faith community is called to do: to break the rules that bar the sick from health care, that favors banks over homeowners and corporate profits over the interests of those who need air and water that has not been polluted.read more
Avowed atheist Susan Jacoby recently created a dust up with a recent article in the New York Times Sunday Review entitled, “The Blessings of Atheism.” She wrote in response to all the god-talk that appeared in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown massacre; with all those unanswerable questions or inadequate answers to human suffering and death so often peddled in popular religious belief.
So too, not long ago author and “non-believer,” Christopher Hitchen’s posthumously published his little book Mortality; recounting his rambling thoughts on his own imminent demise; after a terminal diagnosis left him a sufficient number of days to find himself “deported from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.”
But what, or where to, after that? What if this really is all there is?
It seems there has always been the human hankering to imagine all kinds of fanciful notions, in our attempts to recapitulate our mortal existence into something more than it is. Many religious traditions, including centuries of “mainline” orthodox Christianity, employ great mythic stories to describe a life subsumed into something greater than we can either know, or grasp, except by “faith.” Heaven knows, some folks try to better themselves, merely in the hope of a remote possibility there something more, after our death, which is a certainty. But in the end, is it all dust and ashes? And is that OK?
This is the liturgical time of year when many in the Christian tradition undergo a seasonal pilgrimage in which the faithful are reminded at the onset we mortals are nothing more than dust. And so we will one day return to that from whence we came. Then the traditional forty days end with the perennial re-enactment of a passion play commemorating the mortal demise of the one whom Christians even these many centuries later would profess to follow.
Many do so in the hope of some kind of immortality for themselves in some indecipherable form or other; attributing to Jesus a “resurrection” that means the same thing to them as god-like immortality; while others of us may find such imaginings to be not only reasonably implausible, but of less importance than what we take to be of greater significance and meaning in this faith tradition.
Otherwise, the vainglorious hope of immortality can become so enshrouded in our mortal fears that we become – like Lazarus in his early grave – so wrapped up in death that we fail to truly acknowledge and appreciate the gift of our mortality for what it is; nothing more, nor less.
With the certain assurance then that we are but dust and ash, we can ask ourselves if the gift of our mortality is not only enough, but more than enough? And if so, as the psalmist says, how then shall we “number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom?” (Psalm 90:12)read more
(This poem, which I wrote during Lent in 1981, appears in my book, BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS – it is based on Numbers 21: 4-9, John 3: 13-15) THE GIFT No one’s raised who did not fall No …read more
Traditionally this is a time to learn from our mistakes and commit ourselves to do differently in the new year. I wonder what resolutions Jesus would have made? For some, it may seem shocking to suggest that …read more
But the loss of their key center and probably the main leadership and overall strength of the movement opened the way for Pauline Christian influence which is clear particularly in Luke (both his Gospel and Acts).read more
When one comes in a never-uttered name
God wins the glory for all that is done:
It’s in hoping for what cannot be claimed
That every inch of justice is won.
The great dividing line for two religions and the relationship between them is the period of 66-70 CE, which ended in the destruction of both Jerusalem and the great “Second Temple”. For Jews of the time this destroyed the political, economic and religious organization of Israel….read more
Now there are at least two major types of people who do take seriously what is said in the New Testament (NT), which I’m summarizing here as “the Gospel.” Here are the two types, for our purposes in this very brief summary of NT understanding as it relates to who wrote the books…read more
As an Episcopalian I regularly recite the Apostles’ Creed and pray the Lord’s Prayer. In doing so, I stand with Jesus’ early followers as they struggled to find words that could frame how their lives were being renewed beyond comprehension. My life also is being renewed beyond comprehension, or so I’m convinced, as I try to live out the self-giving embodied in the common life Jesus began. But I live in a vastly different time and place from those of Jesus’ early followers. My everyday assumptions about the world and how it works are vastly different, not final truths, mind you, but still different, and just as inescapable as people’s everyday assumptions back then.read more
Why would a Jewish American doctor risk serving the medical needs of Palestinian children in the occupied territories of the West Bank?read more
The ancient Olympic games were a series of athletic competitions between city-states. The results determined who were the winners, and who were the losers. But during the games, any conflict between the warring states was forbidden. If ever there was a time when that Olympic torch should be lit and never be extinguished, perhaps this is it. But how? It seems international good sportsmanship inside the stadium can only be assured by heavy security on the outside; where unruly competing self-interests would seek to turn winning at all cost into a blood sport. The previous Words & Ways commentary explored a foolish kind of wisdom once espoused by a Galilean sage through his teaching, the parables he told, and even the seeming absurdity found in his miracles (see “The Foolishness of Jesus”). It is this same Jesus tradition that also proposes such counter-cultural notions that one can “win by losing,” and “the last shall be first.” Here’s John Bennison’s latest commentary from Words & Ways.read more
I’ve titled this as about the Resurrection, which is just one part of a complex of beliefs… but let’s return and end there… What similarities or differences do you see in Paul’s Resurrection statements and beliefs and those of the early Jerusalem Jesus-followers?read more
Basically, the Church was developing within a strongly partiarchal and heirarchical society…. Despite the freshness and hopefulness we see in Jesus and Paul, it is not surprising that male domination would soon assert itself and claim exclusive leadership privileges. Maybe women could lead among women, of course… no real complication or threat there.read more
2) The Hebrew scriptures, or the Old Testament, represent a religious tradition that is independent of the later Christian faith. The Hebrew scriptures aren’t about Jesus, although the Christian scriptures include many references to the Hebrew scriptures. To honor the fundamental differences between the two sets of scriptures doubles the spiritual significance of the entire Bible.read more
I simply do not believe that at this point in time the distinctiveness of our different churches is more important than the values and common understandings of Scripture that unite us.read more
The Complete Gospels is the first publication ever to collect the canonical gospels and their extracanonical counterpoints under one cover. The selected extracanonical gospels date from the first and second centuries, are independent of the canonical gospels, and significantly contribute to our understanding of the developments in the Jesus tradition leading up to and surrounding the New Testament gospels.read more