The kingdom of heaven is like a bottle of fine Champaign

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.


The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the Russia from the Tzaddic.”

Many run to this passage with the great Eureka moment. They found it; they found the pearl of great price in the person of Jesus Christ. They do not have a clue who Jesus is, and would not want to sit next to him on a jet airliner, but they find in him the pearl of great price. There is something else wrong with this interpretation of this passage. The kingdom of heaven is not like a pearl of great price. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for that pearl.

The kingdom of heaven is like a fine glass of Champagne. It cannot help but to boil over. In the same way, in the parable of the sower, just before this passage, the sower sows seed at will.

The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Teshuvah, for the kingdom of heaven is near you, touching you.” Matthew 4: 16-17

I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45

Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 10:6-7

This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart. Deuteronomy 30:11-14

This is the merchant Jesus speaks of. The pearl is not the word of God, at least in this parable. You, the reader, are the pearl. Every person made in the image of God, that means everyone, is the pearl. The merchant is the Word of God, searching for everyone to return. The Hebrew word “חֵטְא” does not necessarily mean “moral failure,” “sin,” but failure in general. In the great fall, we found we failed. God does not so much care about that. He only seeks our return. We, you are the pearl of great price and Jesus gave his only son, he sold all, so his pearl might return. Will you?

The Second chapter of John tells the story of the wedding at Cana.

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”

They filled them to the brim.

He told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the head waiter.”

They took it, and when the head waiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

The secret to understanding this passage is that the average person is about the same size as twenty to thirty gallons. When we receive penance, we become like Champagne that cannot help but to bubble over. That is the point to today’s readings. We need to be the type of person who cannot help but to bubble over.

The kingdom of heaven is like a great waterfall with water constantly falling over the edge. To understand this parable, we need to read the first parable in this series. “A sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.” If the Word of God is within us, if we are the sower, and the merchant, the word of God will flow from us, much like a geyser, not caring upon whom it falls. Through us, the word of God falls upon all kinds of fish/people.

Jesus proposed another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

The workers of the householder came to him and said, ‘Adonis, did you not sow satisfying seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves told him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

Lolium_temulentum H. Zell authorDarnels

If the kingdom of heaven is the merchant, the question is about how we are to sow our seed, and spread the word. As our congregations prosper and grow, how are we to clean out the weeds that grow among our wheat? People of all kinds. Fish of all kinds will come to our congregation, looking for our pearl. Some will have honest intentions, and some not. Jesus answer is not to worry about that. God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. The kingdom is all around us. The Champagne pours out of the bottle and falls on everybody.

As the people in the congregation grow, the dishonest ones will show themselves for who they are. At the time of the harvest, the messengers, us, will be called to separate the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25-31-Matthew 26:1

The angels/messengers/kings/Molechim, will go out and separate the Russia from the Tzaddic.” The Hebrew word, Russia, generally translates as “wicked.” It comes from the same root as “Rosh Hashanah.” This means ‘the first’ of the year.” “Russia” in this context, does not refer to the nation, but to an attitude, those who think themselves first. “Tzaddic,” in Hebrew, means both “just,” and “Charitable.” If fine Champagne, the word of God, is within us, we will not think ourselves first and in a position to judge others in the congregation, whether they are wheat or darnels.

Young_Wheat_crop_in_a_field_near_Solapur,_Maharashtra,_India Akshay.paramatmuni1987Wheat

The word within us is the Champagne, which falls upon everyone. The word within us is the uncontrollable geyser, which pours its joy upon everyone. That is the message of today’s Gospel. If the word is within us, people will see that Champagne pour from us and want to join the great post game party.

Again, similar is the Kingdom of Heaven to a commercial merchant seeking beautiful margaritas. When he finds a margarita of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

What does he do after this? The Kingdom of Heaven to a commercial merchant seeking beautiful margaritas… The cycle repeats itself…

The  kingdom is not in the finding, it is in the seeking. It seeks us and asks us to seek it in return. One of the seven rules of Hillel is “Kayotze bo mimekom akhar.” Two passages may seem to conflict until compared with a third, which has points of general though not necessarily verbal similarity. The Kingdom of Heaven is not in finding the pearl, but in the searching through Torah to find it.

“We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, but not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. We speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our importance, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Kyrie of weight.”

“I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power. To me, the very least of all the dedicated ones, this grace was given, to preach to the ethnics the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.”


The Gospel is not known, it is mystery. Our idea of sacrament comes from this word, “Mysterion,” Mystery. Matthew and Mark write in a way implying Jesus was forty when he died. Luke says he was thirty. John writes he was forty seven. Matthew implies Jesus was born in the fall. Luke implies it was at Christmas. We do not know which is true. The truth is not known; the truth is in the fog, and God likes it that way. If someone says they completely understand Torah or Gospel, they say they can see clearly in the fog. We know what to think of people who say they can see clearly in the fog.

One old rabbi once wrote how the Torah was written by men three thousand years and eight thousand miles distant from us. It should seem strange and distant from us. If it does not, we understand it wrongly. The truth is not in the finding; the truth is in the seeking. It seeks us, and if we are to be thirty, sixty, a hundred fold, we will seek it as well.


Born on the Forth of July and Tommy point our way to understanding the Book of Job

The scene is Arthur’s Bar in 1970, the Movie is “Born on the Fourth of July,” psychedelic lights present Montezuma’s Revenge, a Credence Clearwater “Suzy Q” type sound, amplified bass beat, a young local group, along with long hair, sullen demeanors…their gals dancing in strapless tops, chewing gum; working class mama with short hair in green t-shirts (“Sure I raise Hell, So what?”) and black shiny slacks; the papas in jeans, a hint of Presley in their hip rolls as they dance; college boys swilling beer in sweat shirts with signs on them, ‘Olympic Dining Team’, sockless loafers, long sideburns, the hair getting longer…

The Back Room – A Girl, Jenny, in jeans playing pool, cigarette to lips, lining up a shot. Ron is in his chair on the outside of a corner booth with Timmy, several beer pitchers in front of them. With them are two Guys in their 40’s, crew-cuts, windbreakers with ‘Brigadier Factory Renegades Baseball Team’ written across the back. A sign on the wall over them: ‘If you’re Drinking to Forget, Pay before you Start…’

Man#2, “Why don’t you shove it up your ass pal… okay? Just ‘cause you’re in a fuckin’ wheelchair you think everybody’s gotta feel sorry for you?

Ron, “What”

Man #2, “You ain’t the only Marine here. I was on Iwo Jima. We lost six thousand the first day. Se don’t go crying in your fucking beer to me. You served, you lost, and now you gotta live with it. You’re a Marine, Semper Fi, they didn’t pick you. You… you picked them so stop moaning and pissing about it.”

When we read the book of Job, we see much the same thing. Job says, “יְהוָה נָתַןוַיהוָה לָקָחיְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָהמְבֹרָךְ.” “The Personal Name gives and the Personal Name takes; the name of the Personal Name is Blessed.”

Job’s wife told him: ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Bless God, and die.’

Job told her, “You speak as one of the disgraced women speaks. What? Will we receive what is satisfying at the hand of God, and shall we not receive rot?’ For all this did not Job sin with his  בִּשְׂפָתָיו lips/judgments. Job next gives his first speech.

Eliphaz the Temanite begins his first speech, “You have instructed many, and made firm their feeble hands. Your words have upheld those who stumble; you have strengthened faltering knees. Now that it comes to you, you are impatient; when it touches you, you are dismayed. Is not your piety a source of confidence, and your integrity of life your hope? Reflect now, what innocent person perishes Where are the upright destroyed?

  Lion and lambAs I see it, those who plow mischief and sow trouble will reap them. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his wrath they are consumed. Though the lion roars, though the king of beasts cries out, yet the teeth of the young lions are twisted; The old lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.

Some jump upon the words, “Those who plow mischief and sow trouble will reap them.” They compare this with Deuteronomy and the Law of Retribution. The problem is that Eliphaz speaks in the abstract. He does not accuse Job of anything.

Eliphaz says of Job, “You have instructed many, and made firm their feeble hands. Your words have upheld those who stumble; you have strengthened faltering knees. Now that it comes to you, you are impatient; when it touches you, you are dismayed. Is not your looking to God a source of confidence, and your hope “Hatikvah” (Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה,”) “the וְתֹם דְּרָכֶיךָ”?”, the simplicity of your ways

There is no deviation, no sin mentioned here. He instructed many who suffered in the past. He made firm their feeble hands. He did all the right things. Now he suffers. No! Job is not guilty of anything in the mind of Eliphaz. Rather, Eliphaz stands in much the same position as the World War II Marine of Born on the Fourth of July. Though the lion roars, though the king of beasts cries out, yet the teeth of the young lions are twisted; the old lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered. Here is Eliphaz’s charge against Job. Job is the old lion who has seen his better day. Now the young lions twist their necks around Job’s throat and the old lion roars in pain. Eliphaz’s charge against Job is simply that he is past his prime and he should get over it and let the next generation take over.

To the degree Eliphaz does accuse Job, we need to look at his words. Job is the violent one who received what he has by being the old lion, the dominant one. Eliphaz speaks to a man who lies in sackcloth and ashes and who recently lost all his children in several accidents.

Notice what Eliphaz says of his children, here and in the next chapter. “The cubs of the lioness (by implication, his wife) are scattered.” “May his children be far from safety; may they be crushed at the gate without someone to rescue.” If Job attributes these words to himself, Eliphaz’ words are biting to the core. This is the same man who sat with Job for a week, seven days and seven nights, in the biting cold and blistering heat of a Mid-east, desert day.

Davis Creek Park Jeff ThompsonJob says cold things of himself when he speaks of God giving and God taking away. The time for God’s giving seems to have come and gone, and now it simply God’s to take away,

Gustavo Gutierrez, in his book, “On Job, God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent,” misses a key play on words in Job that supports his position. In the Heavenly Court, and when Job talks to his wife there is a gross mistranslation of words that calls attention to the point Gustavo tries to make.

מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו בֵּרַכְתָּ וּמִקְנֵהוּ פָּרַץ בָּאָרֶץ”

“The work of his hands you bless, and his possessions are increased in the land.”

Now comes the key part:

וְאוּלָם שְׁלַח נָא יָדְךָ וְגַע בְּכָל אֲשֶׁר לוֹ–אִם לֹא עַל פָּנֶיךָ, יְבָרְכֶךָּ”

“Only send your hand out now and also that which is to him, if he will not to your face bless, “Barack” you. `

וְעָרֹם אָשׁוּב שָׁמָּה–יְהוָה נָתַן וַיהוָה לָקָח יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה מְבֹרָךְ”

“Naked/Clever I will return. The Personal Name gives and the Personal Name takes. The Name of the Personal Name is blessed.”

In chapter 2:

וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִשְׁתּוֹ, עֹדְךָ מַחֲזִיק בְּתֻמָּתֶךָ בָּרֵךְ אֱלֹהִים וָמֻת”

Job’s wife told him, “Do you still hold to your תֻמָּתֶךָ your innocence, your simplicity?” “Barack,” bless God and die.

Davis Creek Park 2 Jeff Thompson

Are the words for blessing a cursing the same word? Just a few verses later, at the start of chapter 3:

אַחֲרֵי כֵן פָּתַח אִיּוֹב אֶת פִּיהוּ וַיְקַלֵּל אֶת יוֹמוֹ”

The Hebrew word for cursing is “וַיְקַלֵּל” It is not Barack.” Gustavo Gutierrez argues forcefully that one of the main points of the book of Job is that we need to talk properly about God in the face of human suffering. Here is the main point in favor of his position and he misses it. When we are suffering, the writer of Job argues, God wants us to be honest with God about our suffering, and not praise him, but give meaningful lament.

Eliphaz hits on the same points:

“הֵן בַּעֲבָדָיו לֹא יַאֲמִין וּבְמַלְאָכָיו יָשִׂים תָּהֳלָה

Only in his servants he does not amen/trust. In his messengers/angels he charges with Tehillim. Tehillim is the Hebrew Psalter, or Psalms of Praise,” not “Folly” as is most generally translated. Eliphaz, like Job’s wife, wants Job to fall back on empty praise, and that is something the honest Job is not willing to do.

Job’s response to all of this comes from the Rock Opera, “Tommy,” another anti-Vietnam War song. In his book, “On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent,” Gustavo Gutierrez makes the key point that Eliphaz and his friends are not mean. They, like the pre-disaster Job, as simply hopeless academics. In Job 16, and in his Chapter on “Sorry Comforters” in the section on “Two Theological Methods” Gustavo Gutierrez tells us, “The Speeches of Eliphaz and his companions take certain doctrinal principals as their starting point and try to apply them to Job’s case.” “Job likewise feels sure, not of a doctrine but of his own experience in life.”

Incorrectly, Gustavo Gutierrez tries to pin the problem on the Law of Retribution he finds in Deuteronomy.

This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

I today set before you life and good, death and evil. If you listen to the Mitzvah of the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, I give you today, loving the Personal Name your Almighty Judge God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his Mitzvah, customs and Correct Judicial Precedents, you will live and grow numerous. The Personal name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:  I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life!”

The Law or Retribution is here. Look at what also is here. The Law/Torah/teaching is not in a rule book, carved in stone. The Torah is written in the human heart. It is written in experience, as Job tries to tell us. Another place to look is the Ten Commandments.

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and judicial precedents which I proclaim in your hearing, this day, that you may learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name our Almighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day… I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Oppression, out of the house of menial labor.

The addition in the gloss adds, “You will remember what it was like to be there, and you will remember your rescue. “Choose life,” as chapter 30 states. Make life at its fullest for all people. That is the Mitzvah, not some Law of Retribution. That is what Job comes to understand. That is what all those who have suffered come to understand. That is what Eliphaz and his friends who have not suffered cannot understand. Suffering brings transformation.

Part of the Jewish Passover liturgy includes the words of chapter 6:20-23:

Later on, when your son asks you, “What do these witnesses, customs and correct judicial precedents mean, which the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, enjoined on you, you will tell your son, “We were once servants of Pharaoh in Oppression/Egypt, but the Personal Name brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house. He brought us from there to bring us in and give us the land he had promised on oath to our ancestors.

Our Eucharist comes directly from the Jewish Passover. The Passion occurred during Passover and the Last Supper was the Jewish Passover meal. The two are linked. In our Eucharist, we die with Christ and we rise with Christ. In the Passover the Jewish community relives the Exodus experience for the first time, each time, the celebrate Passover. This brings Torah, teaching into the present. This allows Deuteronomy 30 to apply. We see the suffering of others in our suffering at Passover/Eucharist. That calls us to act, and that is the whole point of the book of Job.

Investigate the great sin of Sodom and see if we can find it in America

The Personal Name said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, their deviation so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.”

What is the crime that was so great, and the deviation so grave that God felt compelled to investigate it?

Entering RenoLook at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy. Instead, they became arrogant and did things which made me nauseous and they did them before my face. As you have seen, I removed them. Ezekiel 16:49-50

Sherry's home at the ranchWhen the Personal Name saw how great the rot of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but rot, the Personal Name regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved.

The Personal Name said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them. Genesis 6:5-6

The earth was mutilated before God, and the earth was filled with violence. God saw the earth, and, it was mutilated; for all flesh had mutilated their way upon the earth. Genesis 6:11-12

Hear the word of the Personal Name, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah! What do I care for the multitude of your sacrifices/Liturgies? says the Personal Name. I have had enough of holocausts and fat of fatlings. In the blood of calves, lambs, and goats I find no pleasure. Appearing before me, who asks these things of you?

Trample my courts no more! Bringing offerings is useless; incense is nauseating to me. New moon and Sabbath Services, calling assemblies, festive convocations with oppression, these I cannot bear. Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load…I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing rot; learn to do what satisfied me. Make correct judicial precedent your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Isaiah 1:10-17

This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. Deuteronomy 30:11

The deviation of Sodom and Gomorrah is not hard to find, in the valley of the Dead Sea, or in the United States, Nevada, or Reno. Sorry, conservatives, but Torah has far better quotes against homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah have nothing to do with it. Legalism has everything to do with Sodom and Gomorrah, not sexual behavior. Basic civility has everything to do with the place, not what goes on in the bedroom.

Compare last week’s reading with this reading. Abraham serves non-kosher food to angels and they are satisfied. The dietary laws of the nation are less important than civility to strangers. Now compare this to this week’s readings:

Before they bedded themselves, the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may וְנֵדְעָה אֹתָם be crushed by them.” The נֵ in front of דְעָה makes it passive.

Lot went out to meet them at the entrance.

He shut the door behind him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not do this rotten thing! I have two daughters who have never יָדְעוּ אִישׁ known men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. Do not do anything to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

They replied, “Stand back! This man, came here as a resident alien, and now he dares to give orders! We will treat you worse than them!”

Notice the importance of “The shelter of my roof.” We have the civility of Lot and his dealings with his neighbors, men who view him as a resident alien, much as we view Hispanics and Muslims today, Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, and others a century ago. Lot would treat guests in his home better than he would treat his own daughters. As a punishment of a kind, his daughters will know him, in the biblical way. His neighbors will not know his guests.

Like so many in our nation today, we see an extreme paranoia. These people do not like strangers coming into their city/nation. Lot brings three more, and this is the issue. “Sodom and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy.

Instead, they became arrogant and did things which made me nauseous and they did them before my face.” This nation has plenty for all, if only we can learn to share. This lack of civility, of Sodom, of our rich and powerful in every time and place is the great deviation of Sodom, and no more.Cheeseburger

What some Bidoun fed strangers three millennium ago relates to how we read Torah

In our Cathedral in Reno Nevada we read the first reading and the Gospel reading and find one very powerful thing in common.

Abraham rushed into the tent and told Sarah, “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.”

He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.

Abraham got some curds and milk, as well as the steer that had been prepared, and set these before the three men. He waited on them under the tree while they ate.

Sarah is much like Mary in this story and Abraham is so much like Martha. Abraham has to push Sarah to kneed the flour, as she is more interested in what the men, the messengers of God have to say. There is something more going on here, and it is in what Abraham chooses to serve his guests. After all, why should we care what a Bidoun Arab served guests three millennium ago? Bidoun is Arabic for homeless, and Abraham was at that point a wondering, stateless, Arab, from what is now Basra Iraq.


You will not boil a young animal (Gadi) in its mother’s milk.

You will not slaughter an ox or a sheep on one and the same day with its young.

If, while walking along, you come across a bird’s nest with young birds or eggs in it, in any tree or on the ground, and the mother bird is sitting on them, you will not take away the mother bird along with her brood.

Jews do not serve meat and milk products together to this day, and this is the reason. Also, it teaches us to be humane, and not serve mother and child together. The problem with the rule as doctrine is that it tends to replace the meaning for the rule.

As related in the article, “Its over so eat your chickenfeed forget Travyon Martin and the Zimmerman Trial,” Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Dogma may be in the head of the legal scholar, but the truth is in his heart, and Jesus is about to put it in his mouth. Over time, dogma comes to trump reality, what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and feel with our own skin. A teaching designed to teach kindness even to animals has become a stale, cold dietary law. The writer of this story about the birth of Isaac, confronts this.

Abraham serves the three messengers of God, a non-Kosher meal and they do not object. As Christians, we like to speak of the Gospel truth. We quote the Bible chapter and verse like it is a law book. We refer to Torah, as law. “Torah,” in Hebrew, does not mean “Law,” but “Teaching.” There is an important difference.

We quote Deuteronomy 5: Moses told unto them: Hear, Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them.”

This is a bad translation, The Hebrew, הַחֻקִּים, does not translate as “Statute,” a legal term, but as custom. “הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים,” does not translate as “Ordinance,” but as “Judicial Precedent.” Think of Ruth, chapter four. Boaz goes to the gate with the other elders in the community and, as a community; they decide the case of Ruth. This is “הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים,” not the US Supreme Court.

This brings us to the first reading. Most scholars now agree that one of the twists of fate, Deuteronomy, which means “Second Giving of the Law,” was probably the first one given. Torah, the Five Books of Moses, is generally divided into three parts, Halacha, or “Walk,” Haggadah, or story, and Midrash, or interpretation. Deuteronomy, or “Walk,” probably came first. Then came the story to back up, and in the case of our first reading, contradict, the “Walk” of cold dietary law.

Israel does not mean, Ish are, El, or “Upright of God,” but “Ishar, El,” “Struggles with God.” Torah is the history of that struggle, as a community. It is full of contradictions; several different groups are engaged in debate in Torah, as to who God is and what he wants. It is a dynamic text, relating the dynamics of that struggle, and we need to read it that way.

Abraham’s feeding a non-kosher meal to angels relates part of the dynamics of that struggle. The writers of Torah as we have it were in dialectic/dialogue. To truly understand Torah we must enter that dialogue.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Adonis, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

Adonis replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

One important hint, “Martha,” in Hebrew is the perfect tense of the verb, “Mary,” or “Teacher.” Both women have the same name. Martha is that part of us that wants statutes and the ordinances.

Mary is that part of us who wants Torah, teachings, things to meditate upon, narratives that teach things, and not required walks down some straight, “Iashar,” path. Mary desires to enter into the dialogue, and that means spending time with the text and the 120 writers who wrote it.

food laws

Statutes and ordinances are easy. Learning from Hagaddah and Aesop’s Fables, the customs and traditions of a people two to four thousand years and seven thousand miles distance from us takes time. Mary chose the better path, and it will not be taken from her. We err in not taking her path ourselves.

Its over so eat your chicken feed and forget Travyon Martin

When this writer was growing up he would often travel the 318 some odd miles from Levittown, PA to Vandgergrift, in the same state. When we would arrive, we would visit Aunt Bess, Uncle Dean, Margie, Sherlie, Robin and across the street, Aunt Betty, Uncle Sai, Debbie, Diane, Doris, and Danny. The hike across the street and up the hill on Uncle Sai’s property was well worth the trip. Aunt Betty made the best chicken. The spices were just right, not too hot, and not too bland.

Red hens courtesy Examiner Cheryl Hanna

Today, for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Father Matthew related a similar story of his growing up, from the standpoint of the chickens Aunt Betty and Uncle Sai were raising in their back yard, as my grandfather, Uncle Sai’s dad raised before him. Every Sunday, and every time we came to visit, Uncle Sai would go into the backyard, grab one of the chickens, and snap its neck. As Father Matthew related, the other chickens would understand the horror of losing one of their own. After some time, they would then go about eating their chicken feed. After all, Aunt Betty and Uncle Sai did take good care of them, only buying the best chickenfeed, building the best roosts, and the like. It is the same in our world.

Every once in a while we do lose one of our own, whether it be Rodney King, Yoshihiro Hattori, Timothy Thomas, Lt. William Calley and My Lai, the students at UC Davis, the students at Kent State University, those killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, the Bangladesh factory collapse, the Hamlet fire, Katrina, the Deep Water Horizon, where ten died, and many, many more. Sadly, we sometimes lose one of our own who is unarmed at the hands of establishment folk, who get away with it. We see this in the case of the first three cases above and in the case of Travyon Martin. Father Matthew asked why we choose to go back to eating our chicken feed. It is a good question.

APTOPIX ICELAND VOLCANOSometimes, we find the system just too big and powerful to take on. That may be one of the reasons the Pharisees and the Sadducees in our Gospel reading, the story of the scholar of the law, choose not to confront Imperial Rome. Those of us in the American Middle Class find it easier to live our middle-class lifestyle than to confront injustice when we see it. It was Gertrude this week, not me, why bother. We forget that the generous people who give us those nice jobs this week, might just be fattening us up for next week.

There is another, more important reason, that brings us to the first reading for this Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary time. That is the importance of Dogma, Doctrine, in Hebrew, Halakha, or walk, Torah or teaching. It is the code, written and unwritten by which we live our lives, sometimes conservative, and sometimes liberal. We love to live by this, and not what we see around us. Our first reading tells us:

This Mitzvah which I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

declaration-of-independenceThe scholar tries to make excuses for what he is doing. He tries to hide behind the very legal code written to protect us, to protect himself what is right and wrong. Jewish tradition told the young scholar that he was not to go next to a corps. The priests and the levites were therefore liturgically correct in not approaching the man on the road. Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Dogma may be in his head, but the truth is in his heart, and Jesus is about to put it in his mouth.

I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live. The command, the Mitzvah, is to always choose life. It is just that simple. The Mitzvah is to choose life from conception to the grave. This is what the evil Samaritan does. He is not so evil after all. He knows to choose life, and this is the essence of the true Torah.

We see the same in the Travyon Martin story and in all the other tragedies mentioned above, and not mentioned. When we strip away the excuses and look at the incident with our own eyes, and our hearts instead of our dogma and our heads, we learn the correct answer, “choose life!” If we let this one go, Uncle Sai will be back next Sunday, or the next Sunday those strange people in that Rambler American station wagon show up.

Father Matthew also mentioned Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1, the Address to the Nations. “As you do to the least of these, you did it to me.” We see the same excuse making, in this story, as with the young scholar, “Adonoi, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”

“We chose to hole ourselves up in our suburban neighborhoods and not see you hungry, thirsty, or in prison.” The minorities are not like us. We choose not to see them. They live over there. They are not my problem. We choose not to see that Matthew 26:1 begins the Passion. As we do to the least of our brothers, we do it to Jesus himself.

Father Matthew was mistaken on one key point. He chose the standard “dogma” which says none of us are worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is standard Pauline dogma. The truth is that we are all worthy, but not because of something we did or did not do. In this point he is correct.

We know that what the law/Torah/teaching says is addressed to those under Torah, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God, since no human being will be a Tzaddic/charitable/just in his sight by observing Torah; for through Torah comes consciousness of deviation. The Tzaddicim/charity of God has been manifested apart from the Torah, though testified to by Torah and prophets. Romans 3:19

Dogma, Torah, the Law, does not save us. Teddy Kennedy, quoted below, explained what does. Justification, becoming a Tzaddic, just, righteous, charitable before God, does not come from dogma, doctrine, right wing or left wing. Tzaddic comes from Deuteronomy 30. It comes from looking with our eyes and seeing wrong and trying to right it, seeing suffering and trying to heal it, seeing war and trying to stop it.

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  Jordon RiverOur future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. This is being content with our chickenfeed. But that is not the road history has marked out for us.

Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.

“What it really all adds up to is love — not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.”

When Jesus says, “Take courage,” this is what he means

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. People brought a paralytic lying on a stretcher to him.

When Jesus saw their faith, he told the paralytic, “Courage, child, your deviations are forgiven.”

69717_470024576383223_55557459_nScribes told themselves, “This man is slandering.”

Jesus knew what they were thinking, said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your deviations are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive deviations he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and spoke well of God who had given such authority to men.

While he was saying these things, a leader came forward, knelt down before him, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak.

She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

Jesus turned around and saw her, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.”

From that hour the woman was cured.

voiceDuring the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.

“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.

Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Personal Name, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.

Sockeye, aren't they just gorgeous fish  Christina CookHebrew has a rhetorical rule, “G’zerah Shavah,” “An analogy is made between two separate texts on the basis of a similar phrase, word or root – i.e., where the same words are applied to two separate cases, it follows that the same considerations apply to both.”

The key word is “Courage,” and St. Matthew uses the word only three times, all listed above. One other point needs to be noted in interpreting these passages and this is where our passages for the Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, the Fourth of July, 2013, apply for today.

Speak to the Israelites (those who quarrel with God) and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, fastening a violet cord to each corner. When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the Mitzvah of the Mitzvah and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes. Thus you will remember to do all my Mitzvah and you will be dedicated to your Almighty Judge.

We must remember there are two women in the second story. The first is twelve years old, and the second has an ailment for twelve years. There are twelve tribes of Israel, a nation ill because wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few.

When the woman in the second story reaches out to the cloak, she does not reach out to a piece of cloth hanging from Jesus’ clothing. She reaches out to a tradition and all it represents, and has represented for two thousand years. It is now two thousand years since this woman reached out to that cloak. This is a tradition about how to make the perfect society.

We can be sure that St. Matthew puts the two stories together, and ties them with the key words, “Take Courage,” for a reason. God calls us to reach out for that cord, a cord commanding us not to reach out with our hearts and our eyes, following the ways of the world, but to strike out and strive to make the perfect community.

Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Personal Name, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.

After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

The wind, all too often seems to be against us. The wealthiest 20% of the population control 80% of the wealth. That means they also contribute 80% of all donations into the church coffers. They sit on all the boards, write the budgets, and are the main voices Father hears when he asks what needs to be in his homilies. We strike against them to our peril. Nothing is worse than spitting into the wind, as the old saying goes, yet that is what we must do.

Jesus commands us to get into the water with him. The next stop is Gennesaret, where Jesus healed the Legion.

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.G’zerah Shavah applies again. There is the emphasis of the touching of cloaks, the symbol of what it means to be a nation, following God and not the ways of the nations, after the hearts and the eyes. There is the emphasis of healing other people. Our nation has similar traditions:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In a sense we have come to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

If America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

Not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

When Jesus says, “Take courage,” this is what he means. He commands us to create a society where all people can say, “Free at last;” free from illness, free from poverty, free to be people made in the image of God. Are we this free people?

The conversion of St. Paul points the way to understanding Jesus’ baptism

In his book, “Into the Abyss of Suffering,” Kenneth Overberg quotes Mark 1:40-42:

Sockeye, aren't they just gorgeous fish  Christina CookA leper came to him and kneeling down begged him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

 Kenneth Overberg then states, “With a simple but profound touch, Jesus breaks down barriers, challenges customs, and laws that alienate, and embodies his convictions about the inclusive meaning of the reign of God.” [i]

On page 79, Kenneth Overberg mentions the Hymn of Colossians 1:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.

Lake TahoeHe is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. In him all the fullness was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile all things for him.”

The point of discussion in the book is whether the Jewish concept of redemption is central to Gospel and/or Epistle. In the Gospel, at least in the New American Translation, “Redemption occurs 11 times, Ransom, 9 times, and Expiation 4 times.

As a point of comparison, in the first sentence of Romans, the words Christ, Jesus, and God, occurs 4 times each. It is clear from reading this first sentence of Romans, that when St. Paul desires to emphasis an idea, he repeats the label/word of that idea.

Seder plate smallTherefore, we must conclude that the almost total absence of the words for redemption, ransom, and expiation in the Gospels and Epistles means that although the writers were aware of these ideas, they were not central to their Christology.

We notice that in his letter to the Colossians, which has the hymn in question, we also find mention of Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, the son of the prophet, the writer of the Gospel of St. Mark. St. Mark had in his earlier days traveled with St. Paul. Still, the vocabulary of the Gospel of St. Mark makes clear, how his greatest influence was St. Matthew, not St. Paul. St. Luke, in his writing makes his influence by St. Paul clear.

With this in mind, it is important to compare the baptism of Jesus with the conversion experience of St. Paul. The baptism of Jesus is particularly important because immediately after comes the thesis statement for the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, although St. Luke’s thesis statement is fundamentally different. In Matthew and Mark, the thesis statements are:

At once, the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, (in Aramaic Chai, or living things) and the angels (In Aramaic Melechim, which means messengers) ministered to him. Forty days could be interpreted as forty years, one day for each year of Jesus’ life. The star of St. Matthew’s nativity, is thought be a constellation of planets which occurred around 7 B.C.

If Jesus’ crucifixion was April 1, 33, when there was a lunar eclipse, and which was Passover and Good Friday, Jesus was 40 years old. The messengers would then refer to the twelve apostles. Their ministry was walking with him during his travels of healing. St. Luke states Jesus was 30 during the Passion, so he has a different thesis statement.

With this in mind, a close reading is important to find out how the temptation leads up to the thesis statement for the work. St. Mark relates, “On coming up out of the water Jesus saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.” “A voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Here, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all present. Jesus is being baptized. The Spirit is present as the dove, and God is present as the voice. Some would argue that the reference to the heavens being torn open is not to be taken literally. With this in mind, we look at St. Paul’s conversion.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ He told me, ‘I am Jesus from Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.” Acts 22:6-9

We notice how the sky fundamentally changes in both stories. Only Jesus and St. Paul see the light, the change in the sky, and only Jesus and St. Paul here the voice, as a voice. St. Mark relates, “You are my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.” Compare this with the temptation scene which states, “Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen of him.” God speaks to Jesus, and not to the crowd with him, including John the Baptist, at Jesus’ baptism.

St. Paul, when read in Aramaic, shows a rather dramatic similarity with near death experiences. A near-death experience is a very unique and powerful experience that people sometimes report after a near-death episode. In such an episode a person is either clinically dead, near death. People experiencing this reported two types of experiences. Most reports are pleasurable, involving feelings of love, joy, peace, and bliss.

The “classic” experience includes four phases. However, each is unique. In the naturalistic phase, they became aware of the “natural” surroundings. They experience their bodies and the surrounding area from a perspective outside their bodies. In the supernatural phase, they experience meeting beings and environments that they do not consider part of the “natural” world. They experience a “life review.” The final phase is a return to the physical body.

Most say their experience changed them. Some changes happened right away, others more gradually over time. Many people who experience this need time to integrate the experience. Some people need months; others need years. We can see this in the experience of St. Paul. Before his encounter with Jesus, he persecutes the church. Afterward, he is one of the major forces promoting Christianity.

St. Paul tells us among other things, “We, who are Jews by nature and not deviants from among the ethnics, who know that a person is not justified Tzaddic, by works of Torah but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified Tzaddic by faith in Christ and not by works of Torah, because by works of Torah no one will be justified Tzaddic.” Galatians 2:16

It is important to note that the Hebrew word “Tzaddic,” also means charitable, and is used in the Middle Greek, and Aramaic reflexive tenses. “We, who are Jews by nature and not deviants from among the ethnics, who know that a person is not made charitable, by works of Torah but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may made charitable by faith in Christ and not by works of Torah, because by works of Torah no one will be made charitable.” Galatians 2:16

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in importance. You have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Colossians 3:9-10

St. Paul speaks of a literal death. He speaks as one who has seen a physical, literal death. He also speaks of each person undergoing this death. We go back to that hymn of Colossians.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.

This person, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, is the person who undergoes baptism at the hands of John the baptist, and in the process faces real death. He is both part of the Trinity, coming before all of creation, and truly man, able to experience real death. Jesus is the leader, undergoing the test first, himself, so that we might follow, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, Psalm 23, Luke 1:79 He does not lead us to death, but through death and into new life, a life where, having experienced death itself, we are able to see the suffering of others.

This is why the short ending of St. Mark is the original ending.

The young man told them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” They went out and fled the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


Of course, if they told nobody and this is the end of the story, how do we know the story? We died with Christ and rose with Christ. We were physically present when Christ died. That is how we know. Now we put on the new person, having undergone the near death experience ourselves. Now, we know what it is like to die, to suffer, as others suffer. Knowing that suffering, God charges us, as individuals, and as a Christian community, to bring our rising to others. That is what St. Paul is all about, and that is what the Gospels are all about.


[i] Into the Abyss of Suffering, Kenneth R. Overberg, p 37


It is important to define church in light of Exodus Part 2

View of the Sea of GalileeWe come to Mt. Sinai, the shattered remnant of ex-slaves from the Deep South, from Egypt, from Ireland, from the wars of 19th century Europe, from 20th century Europe, from the poverty of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We come to the synagogue, or the syn-with, Ago, leading, leading together, coming together, to participate in the great dance, perichoreo, χορεύω of life in the spirit of God. We come with our ethnic heritage and our WWII heritage, our boomer heritage and generation X heritage. We come to God as Americans, and most important as human beings.

As to the rules and how strongly we are to listen to them:

Amram married his aunt Jochebed, who bore him Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. Amram lived one hundred and thirty-seven years. Exodus 6:20

None of you shall approach a close relative to have sexual intercourse. I am the Personal Name. Leviticus 18:6

You shall not have intercourse with your father’s sister, since she is your father’s relative. You shall not have intercourse with your mother’s sister, since she is your mother’s relative. Leviticus 18:12

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is nauseating. Leviticus 18:22

The Jewish community was opposed to marrying outside of the Jewish community. Nehemiah 10:31 Exodus 2:16-21 relates how Moses married Zipporah, a Midianite, not a Jew.

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the Personal Name your Almighty Judge gives you. Exodus 20:12

Moses passes a law against his father marrying his mother. Hold as important your father and your mother. He marries an outsider.

Remember Sabbath; dedicate it. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day Sabbath of the Personal Name your Almighty Judge. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. Exodus 20:8 I

Maccabees relates the interesting story. “Mattathias and his friends heard of it, they mourned deeply for them. They said to one another, “If we all do as our kindred have done, and do not fight against the Gentiles for our lives and our laws, they will soon destroy us from the earth.” So on that day they came to this decision: “Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the Sabbath, so that we may not all die as our kindred died in their secret refuges.”

What makes this story interesting is that the Jewish nation had survived as a nation, from Moses, through the judges, the kings and the prophets, and never had to address the issue of foreign people attacking on Sabbath before. The injunction could not have been interpreted strictly before.

We also must relate the story of Acts 6:15-29. The question was on listening to the Jewish dietary laws. The decision was, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.”

To understand this ruling we must read Genesis 9, the code of Noah. It reads the same. To require non-Jews to listen to Jewish law would constitute a change in the laws. The 613 laws of the Torah are designed to make one Jewish, not Christian. That is the decision of Acts 15.

It is important to define church in light of Exodus Part 1

The article, “These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” makes an interesting point about the Ten Commandments, as translated directly from the Hebrew. The Prologue to the Ten Commandments states:

Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, חֻקִּים and correct judicial precedents,מִּשְׁפָּטִים I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.

The article then goes on to discuss the difference between customs, correct judicial precedents and how they relate to our lives. Another interesting question comes to mind; “How does this relate to ecclesiology? Does this relate to ecclesiology? After all, it was Jewish people on that mountain; the synagogue was not even around yet.

The first thing we notice is that Moses did not receive the Ten Commandments for himself. Nor did he receive them for himself and his offspring. He received them for all the Hebrew People. “Hebrew,” is Hebrew for homeless. It refers to all people who search for a homeland, a nation,  to be a people born together, by heritage if not by proximity of birth or blood. More specifically, it refers to the twelve tribes of Israel, those who struggle with God, who struggle to understand God.

Meadow in IsraelJudges 12 tells an interesting tale, the Shibboleth Incident. This story is important for understanding ecclesiology, and for that matter, understanding the correct pronunciation of Hebrew, because it relates how the tribe of Ephraim, as early as the judges, could be distinguished because they had no “SH” sound in their dialect. This means the tribes could distinguish themselves; they were different one from another. It also means there was not one correct pronunciation of Hebrew. Different tribes at different times had different correct ways to pronounce the terms.

What met at Mt. Sinai was not one tribe, but twelve. Cardinal Walter Kasper speaks of his perichoretic formula. This comes from χορεύω, which means to dance. Exodus 32:19 presents the penchant of the Jewish people for merriment and dance. On a more positive side, Karl Rahner speaks of the remnant, as in the remnant of the Jewish people who returned from Babylonian exile, the synagogue, which formed during the Babylonian exile, and the altar community.

As Americans, we need to think in terms of E Pluribus Unum. We might also think of a candle. Just as the flames of twelve candles dance around each other to form one large flame above the candles, the twelve tribes, who often fought one another, came to Mt. Sinai to form one large flame, one large community at Sinai. They never gave up being the twelve tribes; they never gave up being authentic about who they were, but still they joined together to become one large community, Israel.

Likewise, as Americans we are E Pluribus Unum; from the many, one. We never cease to be German, Jewish, Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic, Haitian, and more. We never cease being baby boomers, the WWII generation, or generation X. Still we are all Americans. Likewise, as Catholics, we join the grand dance as the altar community.

horse and carriage at south lake tahoeExodus 20-32 presents us with an imperfect community of twelve discernible ethnic groups with different customs and ways of speaking their words. Karl Rahner also speaks of the altar community, and at Mt. Sinai, with all of their difference, and with all of their faults, they still manage to say, if only for a moment, “All of this we will do.” Likewise, as Christians, we are not one community.

As a Christian community, “We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” Acts 2:9-11

In the twenty-first century, we are all German and Jew, Irish and Ango-Saxon, Polish and Russian, Hispanic and Native American. If we come to Mt. Sinai as anything else, we come to Mt. Sinai as inauthentic. We lived through World War II, as German and as Jew. We came through Vietnam as the soldier who served and as the student who served by protesting. We came through the Iraq wars as the soldiers who served, and as the students who protested.

We remember what it was like when the only means of electronic communication in the home were the radio and the telephone. We remember when TV was the next big thing. We remember when color TV was the next big thing. We remember when MTV was the next big thing. We remember when stereo was in, and the transistor.

We remember when computers small enough to do our math homework filled a room. We remember when they talked about a mouse meant that nasty thing in the trap in the kitchen. Some of us can remember none of these things. Some can remember only some. We are all of these people. We are all different, and we are all one.

We all dance around the altar community of Sinai. If we come to Sinai pretending to be those who remember, or do not remember these things, we come to Mt. Sinai inauthentic. We come to Mt. Sinai, just as we are, without one plea.

We come to Mt. Sinai, the shattered remnant of ex-slaves from the Deep South, from Egypt, from Ireland, from the wars of 19th century Europe, from 20th century Europe, from the poverty of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We come to the synagogue, or the syn-with, Ago, leading, leading together, coming together, to participate in the great dance, perichoreo, χορεύω of life in the spirit of God. We come with our ethnic heritage and our WWII heritage, our boomer heritage and generation X heritage. We come to God as Americans, and most important as human beings.

These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod

Some approaches to ecclesiology suffer from a clearly inadequate awareness of the Church as a mystery of communion, especially insofar as they have not sufficiently integrated the concept of communion with the concepts of People of God and of the Body of Christ, and have not given due importance to the relationship between the Church as communion and the Church as sacrament.[i]Lake Tahoe

Sometimes, however, the idea of a “communion of particular Churches” is presented in such a way as to weaken the concept of the unity of the Church at the visible and institutional level. Thus it is asserted that every particular Church is a subject complete in itself, and that the universal Church is the result of a reciprocal recognition on the part of the particular Churches. This ecclesiological unilateralism, which impoverishes not only the concept of the universal Church but also that of the particular Church, betrays an insufficient understanding of the concept of communion.[ii]

Bernard Lonergan writes:

With Einstein, Newton’s absolute time vanished, and there emerged as many standard times as there are inertial reference frames that are in relative motion.[1]

Our mural in Reno Nevada
Our mural in Reno Nevada

Deuteronomy 5 writes:

Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, חֻקִּים and correct judicial precedents,מִּשְׁפָּטִים I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.

The interesting thing about customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים is that they develop over time. By definition, they could not have come directly to Moses at Horeb. How does Torah say this? All the customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים, which came over time, came at Horeb. This is because, as the Jewish people relive their salvation at Passover, and we relive ours in the Eucharist, we relive the Passover, the Passion event, again, for the first time, each time.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage Galillee

William Graham Sumner discusses customs in his book, “Folkways.” He tells us, “I also took up again the Latin word “mores” as the best I could find for my purpose. I mean by it the popular usages and traditions, when they include a judgment that they are conducive to societal welfare, and when they exert a coercion on the individual to conform to them, although they are not coordinated by any authority.”

Customs חֻקִּים come from below. “Social Theory and Social Structure” discusses the Robert Merton’s idea of manifest and latent functions. The latent functions come from below and are the mores which we often do not even think about. The manifest norms are the rules coming from external sources, employers, the Vatican, and the state. They are the laws of William Graham Sumner.

In society, the norms and folkways, the latent rules which rule our lives, do not always agree with the manifest rules. Employers often write rule books for their organizations only to find employees place these rule books on a shelf and do things the way they have always been done. In his article, “On the Church,” Cardinal Walter Kasper discusses this in reference to a discussion by then Cardinal Ratzinger, “On some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion.” By definition, correct judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים come from above.

Baron de Montequieu gave us the tripartite division of government, executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Moses and the Semitic people had something very similar. They had the executive branch, the king, and they had the judicial branch, the judges and the rabbis who interpreted the sacred writings in light of their times. They had no need of a legislative branch. All laws came from Moses at Sinai.

Cardinal Kasper correctly relates how he is in the middle of a great debate, not between the from the masses, but from the manifest and latent norms, between the folkways and the laws. If there is a debate between the norms and the laws, between how the masses interpret Sinai, and how the judges, the Vatican interprets Sinai, it means one or the other, or more than likely, both, is not properly influenced by the spirit of Sinai.

For judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים to be correct, they must spring from Mt. Sinai, which we relive in concrete form, for the first time, each time we celebrate the Eucharist. The customs חֻקִּים and the laws must spring from the same source. Leaders must come from the masses. Deuteronomy 17:14-17 explains the rules for picking leaders. It tells us the leadership must come from the masses.

Further, they must be like the masses, without much wealth. They must come from the same folk as the masses, so the share the same folkways.They must share the same near death experience as the masses. For Jews, that is Passover. For Christians, it is dying and rising with Christ.

For those who experience the Near Death Experience of Passover, receiving the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and the cross of Christ, no proof of the authenticity of the judicial precedents is necessary. For those who do not experience this Near Death Experience, no proof is sufficient.

Yes, we must have judges to make those correct judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים. Correct judicial precedents come from above. The Ten Commandments tell us that from the beginning, there are rules which guide our behavior, both from higher authority, correct judicial precedent, מִּשְׁפָּטִים and from below, חֻקִּים custom.

Einstein was Jewish and his understanding of time was Jewish. It is like a big wormhole that connects each time we celebrate Passover and Eucharist. It makes no sense to discuss if the universal church is prior to the particular churches. Through Passover and Eucharist, we leave time. When there is no time, there is no before and after.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage Mary's well Ein Kerem Jerusalem

Ontologically, the Church-mystery, the Church that is one and unique, precedes creation, and gives birth to the particular Churches as her daughters.[iii] From of old I was formed, at the first, before the earth. Proverbs 8:23. This is the claim Pope Benedict claims for Holy Mother Church; she is Wisdom incarnate. She is the formal cause of the world. She is apart from time.

Most of us misunderstand what is going on in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we depart from time and we relive the exodus from Egypt, again, for the first time, each time. That is why we have the incense, to remind us that we are at Mt. Sinai, in the 120 degree dry heat, on a volcano, again, for the first time. We are on the cross, with Jesus, hearing the taunts and the jeers of the crowd.

We die with him, and we rise with him. That means we have to be Jesus on the cross, suffering with him. That means we must understand who the Semitic Jesus is. Do we? Do we understand what it would mean to be a Semitic Jesus? Do we understand his time and his place?

The difference between corporeal and spiritual food lies in this, that the former is changed into the substance of the person nourished. It cannot avail for supporting life except it be partaken of. Spiritual food changes man into itself, according to that saying of Augustine (Confessions 7.  Third Part of the Summa Question 73 Article 3

I found myself to be far from You, in the region of dissimilarity: I am the food of strong men; grow, and you will feed upon me; nor will you convert me, like the food of your flesh, into you, but you shall be converted into me. Confessions, Book 7, Chapter 10

How can the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ transform us into himself if we neither know or care who he is? What are we transforming into? Are we transforming into the first century Semitic Rabbi who healed people without cost, who hung around tax collectors and deviants, who had a preference for the poor, who had a mother who recited the Magnificat condemning the rich to a rich relative, and who died rather than engage in violence?

Are the claims of a conservative Jesus who favored the rich and supported owning guns true? Would we be willing to sit next to Jesus, a long haired homeless man of Near Eastern/Palestinian origin, who spoke a strange language, at the bus station, on an airplane, on a bench at the mall or a local park?

Our Lady

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the model of ecclesial communion in faith, in charity and in union with Christ. “Eternally present in the mystery of Christ.” She is, in the midst of the Apostles, at the very heart of the Church at its birth and of the Church of all ages. Indeed, “the Church was congregated in the upper room with Mary, who was the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. We cannot therefore speak of the Church unless Mary, the mother of the Lord, is present there, with the Lord’s brethren.”[iv]

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  Sea of Galillee 2

Revelations 12:17 tells us, “The Sea Monster became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” As Catholics, we believe the child of Revelations 12:5 is Jesus, and therefore the woman is Our Blessed Virgin.

If we experience the time warp, the wormhole, the Passover, and the Passion of Christ, and rise with Christ, we do put on the new person, as St. Paul says, and this causes us to keep God’s commandments and in the process, bear witness to Jesus. No proof of the authenticity of magisterial pronouncements is required. If not, no proof is sufficient.

We are the bride of Christ. Jesus is the groom. I Corinthians 12:12-26 speaks of us being one body with many parts. Our Blessed Virgin is our mother. Galatians is right in telling us we are all one in Christ Jesus, Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise. This being the case, we should all at least know each other’s names.

Do we notice the flowers and the candles, the dimmed room, and all the elements that make for a romantic dinner? This meeting is supposed to be personal and intimate. Is it? Do we know the Semitic Jesus, Our Blessed Virgin, a first century Jew? Do we know each other? Why is it that everyone loves a lover, but nobody loves the proper people who leave Mass on Sunday morning? If people love lovers and we are lovers of God and each other, should they not love us and want to be like us too?


Quoting Galatians 3:28-9, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise,” Pope Benedict tells us that we are not strangers.

When we attend Mass, do we know the name of the person sitting next to us? When we go to coffee and donuts after Mass, do we know the name of the person we are sitting next to? Does Father come down to join us? Are we really strangers in the same room? These are the things we need to consider as we undergo the Reno Diocese Diocesan Synod.

[1] Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church On Some Aspects Of The Church Understood As Communion

 [ii] ibib

[iii] ibib

[iv] ibib