Imaginative remembering


As I worked at an animal facility while being abused by a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the Name, I suffered the feeling that I was in a world that was surreal and the rules did not apply. It caused me to question my understanding of Basic Right and Wrong and to define the concept as what re-orients us in a time of crisis, when the world is surreal and the rules do not apply.

I attended a Lutheran Church studying the Documentary Hypothesis. I was doing my own re-evaluation of my values. That meant looking for the Ten Commandments, finding it in three places, and the Ten Commandments were different in all three places. As I counted I found fifteen commandments. The first rule of a counselor was to confuse the patient. Mission Accomplished!

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage GalilleeJesus, uses the Jewish count, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” If Jesus combines our last two, how does he get Ten Commandments?

Imaginative remembering is about how the Jewish community took the customs, judicial precedents, and folkways of the surrounding neighborhood and incorporated it into their legal code. For Jesus, the first commandment is, “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.

Deuteronomy adds, “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.” “An Unsettled God,” relates imaginative remembering includes the social contract. The second is that God creates his nation from the outcasts of society.

To remember what it was like to be there and your rescue, is to get that pit in your stomach when others suffer and do something. The Passover is our liturgical celebration of that rescue. The surrounding nations had precepts for helping the poor. Israel added the reason, and made in central to the Social Contract. If everyone remembers oppression, they become too engrossed with saving the oppressed to oppress him.

The Jewish Fritz Pearls and his Gestalt therapy emphasize talking in the present tense. This is an important part of imaginative remembering. Imaginative remembering is how the Jewish community distorts time. The Jewish community created the concept of the Physical Presence, their escape from Egypt.

Another part of imaginative remembering is, “Hear, you who struggle with God! The Personal Name is our Almighty Judge, the Personal Name is One! You shall love the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, with all your hearts, and with your whole anima, and with your whole measure.” The word for hearts,“ לְבָבְךָ” has a second “בָ” making it plural. The ending means “You,” and is singular. We each have more than one heart. “Ecclesiology for a Global Church,” mentions how Freud was also Jewish. We each have more than one heart, inclination. Our inclinations are by themselves neither good nor evil. It is how we use them that makes them good or evil.

The bully convinces his victim, he gets what he deserves. Exodus 1 quotes Exodus 1:10, “Starting in Genesis 47, and using the thinking of the modern bully, we can show how Pharaoh “Deal wisely with them.”

In his book, “A Theological Introduction into the Old Testament,” Walter Brueggemann, re-introduces the concepts of form and source criticism. In the process, he relates how scholars attribute Genesis 1 to a Priestly source. It begins:

בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים בְּרֵאשִׁית

Genesis 2:4 begins:

בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים–אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם

We notice אֱלֹהִים in both passages, but the second passage adds, יְהוָה indicating a second author. Walter Brueggemann relates how there is great debate about the various forms used in Torah. Ever watch Bob Ross and his “Joy of Painting?” The order of how he painted his landscapes is like how the Priestly source drew in his order for creation. Genesis 1 could simply be a verbal landscape to introduce us to Genesis.

Hebrews 4 speaks of Genesis 2’s Sabbath Rest as a type for a coming Sabbath Rest. II Peter 3:8 speaks of one day being a thousand years. From this comes the allegorical interpretation of creation being six thousand years old. The landscape hypothesis makes more sense.

Genesis 2 speaks of the four rivers. The first is Pishon; which winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. Some have noted how Troy, north of Israel, had bountiful amounts of gold. Others note a dried up river bed in Saudi Arabia, also famous for its gold.

The name of the second river is the Gihon, and winds all through the land of Cush. Cush is in Africa, south of Israel. The name of the third river is the Tigris; east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates. Geometry points to Israel as Eden.

Genesis 3 has the tree of knowledge of good and rot. Jeremiah 10 prohibits following the way of the nations. This is the apple from the tree of knowing good and evil. It knows other ways of doing things, other than the ways of Ha Shem. When we look at early depictions of the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the Garden of Eden, we note how very similar they are to the Assyrian soldiers, from the east. Likewise, Cain travels east, toward Babylonia, where God puts a mark on him so that those in the east, Babylonia and Assyria, not kill him.

Genesis 1-11 is an allegory to explain the Babylonian and Assyrian exiles. When we read the Song of Songs in Hebrew, we notice how much the Bride resembles the temple, in poetic language. Ruth, on the surface is about a farm girl from Edom. From the Jewish perspective, that she is not Jewish, with the story written at a time when Ezra commanded Jews not to marry non-Jews, speaks volumes.

Abraham, he feeds his three guests a non-kosher meal. If Halachic comes before Haggadic, if Ezra comes before this story, this part of the story at least, is an attack upon the dietary rule against eating meat and milk products together. Haggadah as a form is polemic, one group in dialectic against the other. Torah is dynamic debate, not statute, and ordinance.

I sat at a coffee table with several friends, including a fundamentalist, and a Jewish lady. As we discussed things, an atheist came up and asked if God could create a rock so big he could not pick it up. Schooled in Philosophy, the fundamentalist launched into the standard defenses, which the atheist quickly destroyed. Then he went after little Pam.

She simply said, “God threw horse and rider into the sea; then came Assyria, strong and mighty, then mighty Babylon, Greece, Rome, the inquisition and the Nazi régime. They are all gone now. If God is Almighty, All knowing, and All Present, I do not know. One thing I do know; I am picking no fights with him.” The atheist walked away.The Western God is Trinitarian, three in one, mystery. The Jew says:

Rabbi Eliezer said: If the law is as I say, let it be proven from Heaven. A Heavenly voice rang out: What do you want with Rabbi Eliezer. The law is in agreement with him in all areas. Rabbi Yehoshua got up on his feet and declared: ‘Torah is not in Heaven.’ What does ‘It is not in Heaven’ mean? Rabbi Yirmiyah said: Since the Torah was already given at Sinai, we pay no attention to Heavenly voices. It is written in Torah: ‘After the majority one must follow.’ Rabbi Nathan met Elijah the Prophet and asked him: What was God doing at that time when His Heavenly voice was disregarded? Elijah answered: He laughed: My children have triumphed over me. My children have triumphed over me.

Sholom Aleichem’s, Tevye the dairyman, had Job-like conversations with God: “O God, All-powerful and All-Merciful, great and good, kind and just, how does it happen that to some people you give everything and to others nothing?” Even in the middle of his prayer, Tevye would interject his own personal comments: “Thou sustainest the living with loving kindness, and, sometimes, with a little food.” Tevye could even be somewhat sarcastic at times: “With God’s help, I starved to death three times a day, not counting supper.”

In the Bible, we see God accepts and even welcomes criticism. Abraham told God: “Shall the Judge of the whole world not act justly?” God’s manifests his sense of irony by telling Abraham to name Isaac. Abraham laughed when he heard that he, and Sarah, his 90-year-old wife, would have a child. The Hebrew name Yitzchak means ‘he laughed,’ a name showing our God has a sense of humor.

The Israelites are able to cross safely. When the Egyptians follow they become stuck in the mud and as the waters come rolling back over them, they drown in the sea. The angels break out into song, relieved that the Israelites are finally safe. God sees the angel’s rejoicing, but God isn’t pleased. “My creatures are drowning in the sea and you sing songs.”

The angels were supposed to have a somewhat broader perspective. They should have kept their awareness of the spark of God that is in every person, even the Pharaoh himself. They should have remembered God’s teaching, “it is not the death of the Russia/wicked/those thinking themselves first, I seek, but only that he should turn from his evil ways and live.”

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The ancient Midrash is preserved in our Passover seder rituals even to this day. When we come to the retelling of the ten plagues, we pour some wine out of our cup, or some families take a little bit of wine with their finger at this point. We show God that we understand that our cup of joy cannot be filled to the brim, as long as others, even if they were our enemies, have lost their lives.

This is the Jewish God.

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.

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.

Champagne_uncorking_photographed_with_a_high_speed_air-gap_flash

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.”

Lolium_temulentum_002Darnels

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.

 

The Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time helps us define Christian


Put to death the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since 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.

voiceSt. Paul, in this passage talks about a physical death. In baptism, and in the Eucharist, we die with Christ, and in baptism and the Eucharist, we rise with Christ. Our Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Second Reading tell us, “If 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 died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Gustavo Gutierrez, in his Book “On Job: God Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent” translates Job 17:15-16 in this way: “Where then is my hope? Who can see any happiness for me? Unless they come down to Sheol with me, all of us sink into the dust together.” He says it well. Unless we die with Christ, we cannot understand the suffering of others. Happily, through baptism and the Eucharist, we die with Christ; we suffer with him.

8919_1243228163516_2601477_nIf we fully participate in the Eucharist, if we really feel the pains of Jesus’ death, we rise with him, and we come to understand the suffering of others. St. Paul speaks of the identity of Idolatry in our second reading. St. Paul describes it in this way, “greed that is idolatry.”

Our Blessed Pope Francis also speaks of Idolatry. Faith by its very nature demands renouncing the immediate possession which sight would appear to offer; it is an invitation to turn to the source of the light, while respecting the mystery of a face, which will unveil itself personally in its own good time. Martin Buber once cited a definition of idolatry proposed by the rabbi of Kock: idolatry is “when a face addresses a face which is not a face. In place of faith in God, it seems better to worship an idol, into whose face we can look directly and whose origin we know, because it is the work of our own hands.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  coin from 66-73 bce He goes on, “Before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security, for idols “have mouths, but they cannot speak” (Ps   115: 5). Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the center of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation, which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another.

Idols are the work of our own hands. They are not necessarily something we posit that is out there, or up there, or down there. They are anything we make with our hands. They cause us to put ourselves at the center of all reality, because we posit ourselves, and not God as the force who made them. As Pope Francis states, our orientation breaks down into the multiplicity of our desires. We fail to see the big story of God’s creation and we focus on the short term, the myriad of unconnected instants. We pass from one lord, possession, to another.

dollar-billThe Jewish Creed comes from three places in Torah. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41. The last is the most telling for our readings for Our Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Speak to those who struggle with God; 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 Personal Name and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes.

You will remember to do my Mitzvah and you will be dedicated to your Almighty Judge. I, the Personal Name, am your Almighty Judge who brought you out of the land of מִצְרַיִם/Oppression/Egypt to be your Almighty Judge: I, the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge.

Going after the heart and the eyes is juxtaposed with God. It is either one or the other. Greed, putting possessions first, is idolatry. When we die with Christ, we put that away. We put on a new focus, being Christ like. That is what Christian means. It comes from Christ, with a stem meaning to be like-ian. To find out what that means, we need to read the Gospels to find out who Jesus was/is and what he did. Then we need to copy that.

Later in Colossians 3, St. Paul describes the Christian life, “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, dedicated and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and long suffering, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Personal Name forgives you, so must you also do for others. Over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection/Shalom. Let the peace/Shalom of Christ control your hearts, the /Shalom/ peace into which you were also called in one body. Be thankful/Eucharistw/Eucharist. This is what being Christian means.

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

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.

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

 

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.