Who is with me?


Be a RippleI remember once, when in college, of a debate between an atheist liberal and a conservative fundamentalist. They argued, “Can God create a rock so big he cannot pick it up?” “Can God kill himself?” “It is against his nature. Imagine something of which nothing greater can be imagined. To be so great, it must exist. Therefore God exists.” “It is against his nature, is an evasion.” No, it is not…” Each one yelled at the other, “You are wrong…” They were like little kids yelling, “Yes it is!” “No it is not.”

384309_549304955086309_357628736_nThen they brought up the pro-life debate. All the arguments for and against are so hot and so debated, it is not advisable to mention them here. Faces became red with anger as each used the same arguments that have been thrown back and forth since before you the reader or I the writer were born. Each person many times in this debate also used the argument, “You are wrong…” only to be met by, “No, you are wrong.”

Finally, after much jostling, the atheist liberal asked someone named Pam, a nice Jewish girl who hated debate, what her answer was. She retorted, “Pharaoh and his army he threw into the sea; the Babylonians tried to destroy us, and they are no longer around. Then came the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Inquisition, and the Nazis of a few generations ago. They are all gone now and we are still here.”

PovertyAs the liberal atheist stood there with his mouth open, Pam added, “I don’t know if God could create such a rock, or do such a thing, and I don’t know if I can think God into existence, but he is the biggest guy on the block and I am picking no fights with him.” The fundamentalist stood there angry, being upstaged in this way.

The Great Catholic, Ludwig Wittgenstein.
The Great Catholic, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Pam pointed to the fundamentalist and stated, “Your God is too small. Our God is no intellectual abstraction. He is far grander than that. He is far too large for words.”

Pam gently added, “The problem with each of you is that if God is transcendent, he transcends logic; if he transcends logic, he transcends what we can say about him, including whether or not he exists. You use the wrong tool for the job. When you use words to describe the indescribable, you end up saying gibberish. You end up with meaningless mind games proving nothing, with self-contradictory, meaningless sentences. You both speak with your heads, not your hearts. If you looked into your hearts, you would have your answers. God both transcends everything, but is also in transcendentally imminent. If God is everywhere, he is imminent, for us to see him, now.”

The fundamentalist argued, “You are a Pantheist.” Pam retorted, “Not Pantheist, but Pan in Theist. I am not God and you are not God, but God is in each of us, guiding us, if we will but listen. If God is in everything, nothing is evil. Everything is a mix, good with evil. The world is good, though never perfect, at least in this cosmological time. You use your heads and not your hearts or your eyes. This means neither one of you experiences him.”

The atheist argued, “And what are you doing as you describe God this way?” Pam stated, “The difference between those of us who have experienced God and those who have not is that we describe our religious experience. We do not describe God. Instead, rather we describe our experience of him. We speak stories and poetry to describe an experience, not the person experienced. ”

Both fundamentalist and atheist shot back, “You are wrong.” Pam gently continued as she addressed her comments to the atheist, “There is only one proof for the existence of God, and that is when he comes down and touches you on the shoulder and says, “Hi!” One place he does this is curing Passover liturgy, when we commemorate our liberation from Egypt. For those, such as myself, whom he has touched, there is no room for doubt. For those of you he has not touched, no proof is sufficient. There is always an alternative explanation for our religious experience.”

Lion and lambThe atheist argued, “You have that last part right.”

Pam retorted, “You argue for the rights of the mother in the abortion case, and you are right in arguing this way. As Jews, we follow Deuteronomy 30 where it commands, “Choose life.” In our language, the verb is in the perfect case. This means it is completed action. Each time we see a person we choose life for that person. All life is life in potentiality and our job as Jews is to bring that life to its fullest potentiality. You fulfill this commandment when you argue for the fullness of life for the mother in relation to childbirth. You also do so for her spouse, arguing for a just wage, and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritually healthy working conditions.  You do the same in your love for animals, for quality education, and for care of the planet.”

The fundamentalist argued, “You are throwing us under the bus. The fetus is not potential life; it is life.” Pam continued as she looked at the atheist, “You argue that the fetus is only potential life. For the sake of argument, let us say you are correct. The fetus is only potential life, but as Jews we are still commanded to bring all potential life to its fruition. God still commands us to choose life.”

Seder plate smallThe atheist retorted, “You do not argue as fundamentalists do. Your arguments are reasoned, and show thoughts of being thought out. What is your solution?” Pam replied, “You are way ahead of yourself. Deuteronomy argues, the truth is not in our heads, and it is not out there for science to research and find. It is in our hearts. If we strip away all the concepts and simply look into our hearts, look at those dead baby pictures, and if our fundamentalist friend would just look at pictures of those in poverty, and drop the excuses, ‘But they did this, or will do that,’ and just look, we will find our answer.”

The atheist argued, “You are saying I have the Spirit of God within me, so should convert to your religion?” Pam gently replied, “No, that would be off topic. I simply argue that your eyes and ears pull at your emotions, telling you the picture is that of someone. I argue, the person pulling the strings is God, but as I said earlier, their are other interpretations. I simply argue that you listen to your heart.”

Pam continued, “The answer of when life begins is in your heart, and that is why you are offended by those pictures, and your fundamentalist friend who is offended by pictures of people in poverty. You are really so much alike you cannot stand each other.”

The fundamentalist blurted, “So you are religious and you are against capital punishment?” Pam stated, “If you look far enough behind the rough mask of the scrub cattle, the rough people who did really stupid things, you will find, first, a scared little kid trying to find his way. If you look even further, you will find the image of God.” The fundamentalist, thinking he could destroy this Jew, added, “So you would let him out on the street to do it again?” Pam shot back, “That would deny the image of God in himself, and in all his victims, past, present, and future. If he is a threat to himself and others, if he cannot restrain himself, we need to restrain him. God only asks that we see the humanity, the image of God in him as we do it.”

The fundamentalist blurted, “So, what is your answer!” Pam finished, “It is an act of hubris to come up with that answer. That is for God working through us as a community to answer. I challenge you, not to accept my answer; I do not have one, but to come with me, in love, as we look for the answer, ‘how do we create true life for everyone? Who all is with me?

Deuteronomy 30, John 4, and our Pro-Life Mass in Reno Nevada


“All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” Declaration of Independence.

declaration-of-independenceA woman of Samaria came to draw water… Jesus answered, If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:6-10

“I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I set before you life and death, blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

8919_1243228163516_2601477_nAs we have our pro-life Mass this Twenty-seventh Sunday, we notice how some would make the issue one of when life begins. Before we can ascertain when life begins, we must first understand what it is. The problem in our nation is that there is no clear definition.

In his definition of “Chai/life,” Rabbi Jastrow lists “Life,” then goes on to relate it to health. John 4, quoted above refers to “Living Water.” That is a Hebraism for moving/flowing. Life moves. The Greek, “Zoe,” also has the primary meaning of healthy. The Latin, “Vīvācĭtas,” means having a natural vigor, a vital force, and then lists an English word of the same root, “Vivacious.” This means to be alive/vibrant.

Pro-life is not from conception until natural birth. Pro-life is conception until natural death whre life means life lived in the image of GodDoes this mean that ill people are not alive? Deuteronomy 30 answers. “Choose life.” At every moment in life, in every breath, choose life. The Jerusalem Post a generation or so ago argued, All life is life in potential/in potentiality. “Choose life,” means bringing each person’s potential to fruition. One giving life, like Jesus, sees the sick and brings them back to life. The pre-born are potential life, if not life. The argument of when life begins becomes moot. If the pre-born are not alive, properly speaking, they are potential life, entitled to all the same privileges.

Similarly, Deuteronomy 30, “This Mitzvah, I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, for you to 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.”

PovertyWe need to stop looking with concepts, and start looking with our ears, and hearing with our eyes. The truth is not in the head but in the heart. Dead baby pictures work, and dead, and dying pictures of those in poverty is supposed to work because we see with the eyes of Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Concepts kill! Eyes and ears give life! Are we like Jesus, promoting life/health?

We need to read Torah as a text in constant tension with itself


What would happen if the US government collapsed? First Texas, and then the states of the South secede from the union because of the politics we see today. After a few years, the great fear of the conservatives came true; the ultra orthodox Muslims came and imposed Sharia Law.

courtesy Dor Smeltzer Beacon 3

This would cause chaos as Christian conservatives fought this. After another couple of decades, the Chinese came in with a more Buddhist understanding and decided to allow the Americans decide upon their own laws. Let us also allow that the liberals are correct in arguing that global warming is the case. After all this time expired, the main cities along the eastern seaboard are now under water. To correct the problem requires building walls around the cities and pumping out the water. After the radical Muslims, leave the country, exiles returning from all over the world decided to build these walls and impose a strong central government.

Conservatives would object to the strong central government to China, and China would ask the Americans to prove they are in fact a nation, a people. We are of course, not one people. We are westerners, New Englanders, Southerners, people of the Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic, among other places. We are African-American, Hispanic, German, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and more. We are rich, poor, conservative, and liberal. Not all of the people assembled would support building the city walls around Washington D.C. Still, they would want China out of America, so they could have their decentralized government.

declaration-of-independenceLiberals, and others with a bent for nostalgia, would want the walls rebuilt. Some would desire a strong centralized government headquartered in D.C. while others went with strong chieftains, governors, for the various states. Some would push for strong moral, Blue Laws, while others pushed for strong Social Justice Laws. The age old fights between these diverse groups would flare up again.

As the leadership meeting in Washington writes the statement of who we are as a people, they must first convince all these disparate groups that we are one nation. The second audience, China, or its officials looking over the process, would see the approval by the people of the document, agree that we are a nation, or the disapproval, and deny the request to rebuild the walls and historic places of the nation.

Of course, this could never happen. On the other hand, it did, when Persia conquered Babylonia in 538 BCE. Tradition states the men of the Great Assembly then reconstructed Torah as we have it today. They also created the shell of the Jewish Liturgy, which evolves into the Catholic Mass. If these men did reconstruct Torah as we know it, what would Torah have?

First, we would expect a work by committee, and it would look like the proverbial work by committee. Under pressure to create a document, these men would write one, but we would see them sniping at each other in the text. This explains much of the contradictions we now see in our text. Because these men could not agree before 587 BCE, when the Babylonians came, they would not likely be able to agree afterwards. Still, needing to develop a text, they would enmesh competing traditions into the text, so each could have their side in the final text.

Ezra is sometimes accused of having been a legalist who gave excessive attention to the letter of the law. This would imply Ezra used his influence to cause חלק Halacka, or the walk, to come first in our text. This would imply Ezra used his influence to cause חלק Halacka, or the walk, to come first in our text. הַגָּדָה‎, “telling,” or story to back up or dispute חלק Halacka.

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.

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.

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.

If חלק Halacka or the walk came first, the writer of this story gives the details for a reason. “Abraham did it; it must be OK to mix these products together for a kosher meal. Didn’t the angels eat it too?” We would expect different versions of the same folk tradition to be in our text, as in the story of the flood. Did the animals come in two by two, or seven pairs of Kosher, and only single pairs of non-kosher?

If you only put in one tradition, not only would you alienate the representatives present, but also the mothers with their children outside, expecting the text to relate their tradition.

Southern representatives would want to snip at their northern counterparts, but not too hard. Therefore, we see the story of the Golden Calf, Exodus 32, referring not to the time of Moses, but to the time of Jeroboam, in I Kings, 12:26-31.

We would also expect to find Brothers Grimm and Nursery Rhymes in our text. We would expect poetry and grand literature. We would expect real history, written at the eighth grade level, Paul Bunyan, George Washington and his dollar crossing the Potomac River, along with his cherry tree.

Walter Brueggeman writes in his book, Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition (p. 68). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition, “Second Isaiah presumably lived through and knew about the pathos of Lamentations and the rage of Job.8 Nevertheless, he goes beyond pathos and rage to speeches of hope and doxology. Second Isaiah has indispensable precursors in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, as Thomas Raitt has made clear.

Jeremiah of course wrote Lamentations. Second Isaiah presumably lived through and knew about the pathos of Lamentations. Second Isaiah and Jeremiah therefore presumably knew each other.

This has profound effects upon the correct way to read Torah.

Jeremiah and Second Isaiah together, poets of pathos and amazement, speak in laments and doxologies. They cannot be torn from each other. Reading Jeremiah alone leaves faith in death where God finally will not stay. And reading Second Isaiah alone leads us to imagine that we may receive comfort without tears and tearing. Clearly, only those who anguish will sing new songs. Without anguish the new song is likely to be strident and just more royal fakery.

Reading Torah chapter and verse, “This is the law; this we must do,” would be out. Instead, we need to read Torah as a dynamic text, a grand dialectic, of people struggling to find God and create a community in the face extreme adversity. It means we read the various parts of the text in extreme tension, one with the other. It means to ignore the tension is to misread the text.

The prologue to the Ten Commandments reads in most translations:

Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances which I proclaim in your hearing this day, that you may learn them and take care to observe them. The LORD, our God, made a covenant with us at Horeb; not with our ancestors did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, all of us who are alive here this day. Face to face, the LORD spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the LORD and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the LORD, since you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me.

This is usually cut to “You shall not have other gods beside me,” when listing the Ten Commandments. Properly translated from the original Hebrew, the text reads:

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and what comes from the lip of God, 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, all of us, alive here, this day. Face to face, the Personal Name spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the Personal Name and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the Personal Name, since you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain:

I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Oppression, out of the house of Menial Labor. You shall not have other saviors beside me.

A custom is by definition, not a written code. It comes from below, the masses. It is the accumulation of unspoken tradition passed on from generation to generation. “That which comes from the lips applies to what comes from above, the judicial precedents coming from the leadership. It is by definition an anachronism for these two words to be here. Custom and judicial precedent come into being over time, and cannot be given at any one point in time.

Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemia, the men of the Great Assembly, the Gospels, St. Paul, and the other prophets disagree with one another, as do most tenets of custom and judicial precedent. What comes to us is not statute and ordinance, but custom and tradition. Never having been debated or thought out fully, these often contradict one another. The truth is not in one custom, but in the tension between customs. It does not even sound right, speaking of one custom. It is in the debate between custom and judicial precedent. This is how God wants it.

To read only one side of the story, whether it is “J,” “P,” or “E,” is a grand mistake. Finally, it means we need to look for this historical anomalies in our text, so we might understand the text for what it is, a statement of culture, a culture far more advanced than ours, and not as history.

Put the academics aside and your heart will tell you what the command of God is


“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

So begins the Gospel reading for our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, this Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. How do we get ready? What does God ask us as Americans, and as Catholics to do?

courtesy Dor Smeltzer Beacon 3

I teach you the customs and correct judicial precedents as the Personal Name my Almighty Judge, commanded me, for you may guard them in the land you enter to possess. Guard them and do them, for this being the midwife of your mind and building up of your thoughts in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these customs and say, “What nation has mighty ones so close to it as the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great nation has customs and correct judicial precedents that are as charitable as this whole teaching I set before you, this day? Deuteronomy 4: 5-8

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 30:11-14

courtesy Dor Smeltzer Beacon 8The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you abundantly in the land The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will give you to possess as a heritage. There shall be no one of you in need, if you but listen to the voice of The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, and carefully observe this entire Mitzvah I enjoin on you today. The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you as he promised, you will lend to many nations, and borrow from none; you will rule over many nations, and none will rule over you.

If one of your kindred is in need in any community in the land which The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, is giving you, you will not harden your heart nor close your hand against your kin who is in need. Instead, you shall freely open your hand and generously lend what suffices to meet that need. When you give, give generously and not with a stingy heart; for that, The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you in all your works and undertakings. The land will never lack for needy persons; that is why I command you: “Open your hand freely to your poor and to your needy kin in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:4-11

Most scholars now agree how these words were not likely written by Moses, but by some unknown author at one of two dates.

The grammarian Shaphan informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book,” and then Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his garments. He then issued this command to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah, Shaphan the grammarian, and Asaiah the king’s servant: II Kings, 22:10-13

This comes from chapter 22 of a 25-chapter book. At the book’s end, the Babylonians come and the era of the kings was over. Most scholars view the book in question to be our book of Deuteronomy. Some scholars date Deuteronomy even later, during the exile. In either case, the book does not look forward to the ideal state, but backward, trying to find out what went wrong. How did the society founded by God himself, and with such high ideals, as related in Deuteronomy 4, so deviate from what was supposed to be?

“There shall be no one of you in need… if you but listen to the voice of The Personal Name… The land will never lack for needy persons,” as Deuteronomy 15 tells us. The key phrase is, “if you but listen to the voice of The Personal Name…” What does that voice say? “It is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life!…” Deuteronomy 30:19. God knows how we will not keep this Mitzvah. Therefore, there will be needy in the land. Therefore, we must strive to return to God by helping the needy. This is choosing life.

We often find it easier to live by the written law book than to follow the dictates of Deuteronomy 30, which is part of the written law book. Jesus meets a young scholar with this very problem.

A Torah scholar who stood up to test Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He replied, “Love the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, with all your hearts, with all your anima (that which animates you), with all your measure, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Because he wished to justify himself, he told Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

The scholar, even in the Greek, does not ask Jesus, but tells him the question. For the scholar, this is an academic question, demanding an academic response, not the serious answer to a question. Jesus chooses to avoid the academics, and force the scholar to answer his own question. We all know what the truth is; we simply need to put our mental concepts out of the way and listen to our hearts. Jesus loves to get his disputants to put their mental concepts to one side, and listen to their hearts. This is but one example of the effort.

Deuteronomy 30 tells us we already know the answer to the question. We must merely put the academics aside, the rulebook aside, and look into the rulebook of our hearts.

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You will not kill; you will not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear vain witness; you will not defraud; hold as important your father and your mother.”

This version is interesting because Jesus combines what St. Augustine calls the last two commandments in “On the Exodus,” into one commandment. This means, that for Jesus to have Ten Commandments, he must find one elsewhere in the passage. Where is it?

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, all of us, alive, here, this day. Face to face, the LORD spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the Personal Name and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the Personal Name, since you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain:

Remember, “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.” You will remember what it was like to be there, and you will remember your rescue. When you do this, when you see others suffering, it will bring back bad memories, and you will do something to stop that suffering.”

This is the essence of Deuteronomy 30; this is what makes Israel, the perfect society; this is what Jesus talks about in the story of the Samaritan. Put the academics aside and your heart will tell you what the command of God is, as individuals, as Americans, as Catholics, and as Christians.

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.

Cheeseburger

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.”

“Obedience or rebellion,” was the theme of Father’s homily


“Obedience or rebellion,” was the theme of Father’s homily today, this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time at our Cathedral in Reno. He took the side that the readings are all about obedience. This article takes the counter position.

Sunset in IsraelElijah set out and came upon Elisha, Ben Shaphat, of Abel-meholah as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth.

My God is Jah, set out and came upon My God is Shua, salvation, the Son of Judgment from the Untilled Land Surrounding The Vineyard, as he was tilling with twelve yoke of oxen, dumb animals. He was following the twelfth, the tribe of Manasseh.

Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?”

Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat.

The first act of Elisha is to kill the dumb animal in himself, use it for fuel, and give it to the people. His first act is not an act of obedience, the act of following the social norms, but of rebellion, against those norms. From now on, he will follow a different way.

Father commented about how the prior story in I Kings is about how Elijah killed the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table. It is interesting to note how God never told Elijah to do this.

As a direct result of the action, Elijah flees to the caves where he meets God, and God teaches him that he is not in the strong and violent winds rending the mountains, the earthquakes, or the violent fires. He is in the small quiet voice. He is not in the violence of killing the oxen as represented in the twelve tribes of Israel, those who struggle to understand God.

Elisha asks to go back to his family, and this is where Luke takes off with the telling of his New Testament story.

As they were proceeding on their journey, someone asked, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus answered, ““Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.”

He replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”

He answered, “Let the dead bury their dead. You, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said, “I will follow you, Personal Name, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”

To him Jesus replied, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Elisha is the one who sets his hand to the plow and looks behind. Jesus tells him he is not fit for the kingdom of God. He wants to engage in violence, the killing of the dumb oxen to feed his own family before he goes, and this is not good enough for Jesus. We must let the dead, the dumb oxen, to bury their own dead; we have a higher calling. This is not the calling to obedience, but to striking out in a new direction, the direction of non-violence.

On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Personal Name, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”

Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

James and John are the Sons of Thunder as St. Mark relates, as this relates to their personality. They had not yet learned the lesson of Elijah. If you go after the other guy, they do not rush to learn their lesson, but instead they rush to get even, and you, Sons of Thunder, are the target. Nothing causes people to be out to get you quite as well as paranoia. That is the lesson of Elijah.

St. Paul sums up the lesson for today well:

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. The flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. If the Spirit guides you, you are not under Torah.

St. Paul tells us not to eat the flesh of Elisha’s oxen. Live by the spirit of non-violence. Live by a different way. Do not be obedient to the old way. Strike out on a new one. Follow the spirit, not the earthly ways of violence we see in our world. Follow Jesus and not Elijah, and the sons of thunder.

We need to go back to tilling the land surrounding the vineyard. Jesus talks much of vineyards. He does so in Matthew 20, and 21. Our reading for today is from Luke and Luke takes the theme in the direction of Luke 20. We are the people in the vineyard who God charges with taking care of the place.

God will hold of accountable of how we do, and that means taking care of the vineyard, which is each other. That is real justice, not getting even, being the Sons of Justice like Elijah and Elisha, or the Sons of Thunder. That means rebellion from the ways of the world, and not obedience to them.

We are pro-life just so long as it is convenient


At our Cathedral in Reno Nevada there was an interesting debate between a person who identified with the Tea Party and a more progressive person. The Tea Party Person began by discussing with another teacher, what he perceives to be the virtues of vouchers for public education. Yes, the Tea Party folk, who opposed bussing in the ‘70s, now want to promote busing their children to the school of their choice, so their children don’t have to sit next to poor children in the public schools.

We go to school to learn how to read, much as people did 3300 years ago.
We go to school to learn how to read, much as people did 3300 years ago.

The progressive felt the urge to point out “Resource capital, including parent education, parent income, and educational items in the home, was most predictive of academic performance.” This according to Ronald L. Mullis Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA, Richard Rathge North Dakota State University, Fargo, USA, and Ann K. Mullis Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA. Which school the child attended was not a major variable.

The progressive also felt the urge to relate how his father was a wiz in mathematics, graduating from an Auto Mechanics tech school in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Summa Cum Laud. This gave the progressive an advantage when studying that class in school.

Should this voucher system come in, the effect would be, middle class and upper class students, those with parents knowing the material, would bus themselves to the better schools. Lower income students, those without parents knowing the material, would not be accepted into these schools, so would remain in the inner city schools. The nation would become more racially and economically paralyzed, which is the true goal of the Tea Party movement, not pro-life.

This being the metropolitan area of Reno/Sparks, the progressive pointed out how McQueen High School is the regional powerhouse in football. All the quality players would want to attend McQueen High. The other players would have to settle for the rest. The decidedly second string and lower players would have to settle for Sparks High where they would have no chance of receiving the high quality coaching necessary to become quality players, have a winning season, or more important, receive a football scholarship.

The question our tea party representative could not answer, was how this disadvantage relates to the three “R”s” literature, language arts, and the logic of mathematics. The best students would attend Washoe High School and the rest would attend the rest.

The discussion then switched as the progressive noted how he just donated a hundred dollars in groceries recently purchased at Wal-Mart by a member of how family. In his home there is a family feud as the progressive opposes purchasing items at that store because of Wal-Mart’s human rights record. The progressive noted the 1,239 who died in the building collapse and the 112 who died in a fire this past year, and how Wal-Mart blocked safety provisions in its factories. He also noted there are other cases where Wal-Mart factories in Bangladesh have had fires and other catastrophes.

The Tea Party representative argued that he did value human rights, but sometimes it is inconvenient to do so.Elie Wiesel had the opportunity to interview the distinguished French Catholic author Francois Mauriac. In the course of the interview Mauriac spoke about his love for Jesus and his saving  death on the cross, the standard Christian verbiage about Catholic faith. Wiesel explains what happened next.

Giving in to an angry impulse, he closed his notebook and rose. “Sir, you speak of Christ. Christians love to speak of him. The passion of Christ, the agony of Christ, the death of Christ. In your religion, that is all you speak of. Well, I want you to know that ten years ago, not very far from here, I knew Jewish children every one of whom suffered a thousand times more, six six million times more, than Christ on the cross. Can you understand that, sir? We don’t speak about them.”

Of evil he said, “I think that evil has many faces, but I would say that all of these haves have masks, and beneath the mask there is indifference. That is what all the faces of evil have in common: indifference.”

Bonhoeffer wrote:

All people go to God in need, for help and calm and foot they plead.

That sickness, guilt and death may cease, all, Christians and Pagans pray for peace.

Some turn to God in God’s need and dread, a God poor, despised, without roof or bread.

By sin’s harm weakened and by death distressed, Christians stand steadfast by their God oppressed.

Other factors apply. The Tea Party representative argued that Wal-Mart did not kill all these thousands of people. Their supplier did, and they were just letting the market decide where they purchased their goods. They were not responsible. The Progressive pointed out that the market is not a thing, and properly speaking does not exist.

He related how the Tea Party representative was positing a super natural force capable of thought, it decides things, “Divine,” is the Latin word, who is in charge, who dominates the economy, (the Latin word is Dominus and is a name for God), and who cares about its decisions, “Theos,” is the Greek word. He was positing idolatry and in a Catholic Church.

The progressive also related that Wall-Mart is accountable for holding its suppliers accountable for their actions. If they do not, and they did not, people who shop at Wall-Mart are accountable to God for holding Wall-Mart accountable. Not doing so is a grave matter. If they have alternatives, it is willingly agreed to. If they know about Wall-Mart’s decision, it is with full knowledge.

The Tea Party representative changed the conversation, arguing that progressives do not like Wal-Mart because they are against unions. The Progressive countered how interesting it is that he, as a Tea Party Representative claims to be pro-life, but how the Union, who has no pro-life stand is standing up for workers in third world countries, who will not be unionized, so they can have dignified lives, but the Tea Party is making excuses for not doing so. The unions hold Costco out as an example about how to do it right, but they are only 15% union. Average pay for a cashier, Walmart, $8.53, COSTCO, $15.60. We need look no longer for the issue.

The Progressive also related how One Walmart’s Low Wages Could Cost Taxpayers $900,000 Per Year. There are four Wall-Mart stores in the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, which means the Tea Party representative s paying part of the $3.6 million dollars Wall-Mart costs the tax payers in Reno Sparks alone.

The Tea Party representative argued that other stores also pay law wages. To this the progressive argued how the Unions fight hard to promote life for workers who are not members and likely will never be members. He, a person who claims to be staunchly pro-life comes up with nothing but excuses for corporate bad behavior. He also related that we should not allow abortion because we might not catch all the women choosing to have one.

We should not allow rape, burglary, and other crimes because we might not catch all the people engaging in these crimes. He concluded by relating how the Union fights for human rights, while the Tea Party fights to find excuses.

The labor unions, which do not claim to be pro-life travel thousands of miles to promote the lives of people who cannot help them in return. Pro-life people cannot travel an extra four miles, ten minutes, to shop at a store with ethics. For pro-life people, saving lives means two leisurely walks each year, carrying multi -ounce signs, around a Truckee Meadow. For Union people, it often means getting sprayed with tear-gas.

The conservatives accept Torah and Gospel except when it is inconvenient. Unions do not except Torah and Gospel as the law of the land, although they very much accept the Torah and Gospel law of love and solidarity as what the law of the land should be all about.The Tea Party and the pro-life movement are pro-life, so long as it is convenient, and that is just not good enough.

We need a faith that stands for God when it is inconvenient, when God suffers in the person of the people dying in Bangladesh, in the sweatshops of China and the third world, and in the chicken processing plants like in Hamlet North Carolina, or the Triangle Factory in New York. That clearly is not the conservative movement in America.