Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meditations After Robin Williams' Death

Robin Williams' death has brought many hard realities to surface. A very wise social worker once said to me that the line between "can't" and "won't" is indiscernible with some people when it comes to healthy behavior or reasoning. Sometimes in people there is an internal mechanism which cannot ask for help; it's like that part of the brain is frozen and no matter how much you know you should ask for help, you just can't.  That's what all the good intention-ed people who say "ask for help" don't get. It's not that we're bad or lazy, or careless. It's not that we don't know to ask, or that we should ask, it's that we can't. It's like a diabetic being unable to process sugar, they want to, but they can't.  That's what is so fucking hard and so very fucking dangerous about this disease. That, and there is no cure. There are ways to manage it, but there is no cure for depression.

I heard a sermon recently that started really strong about the trouble with walking on water and sinking but then it dissolved into platitude, that "Jesus always finds you." It isn't that simple. It ain't so for everybody and it has nothing to do with all "you got" or "don't got" going for you and that's when it gets hard. It gets hard to experience and it's hard to witness. It's hard that not everyone is found by Jesus. For most who are sinking, Jesus doesn't show up unless we do, unless others are working to bring him into the world of the suffering. 

This is the hard sermon to preach but it needs to be preached. It's hard to preach about the times where God is missing and how to keep going on. Read the Psalms for more on that, "My God! MY GOD! Why have you forsaken me?"

It's hard to impress upon people that they really are needed to help those who suffer. It's really hard to preach that we need to be searching out those who are suffering. Often they are right there drinking coffee after the service in the parish hall. It requires great effort to notice and more so to exert the emotional effort, but we are needed. We are called. It's a sermon needing to be preached. Platitudes don't float in the place of abject suffering. Are we Christ in the world or not?

It's true. There are times of absolute powerlessness. There are times when you have no control over it, even while medicated, the thought pops into your head, "Just do it" and not in the Nike way, but the  go ahead and "check out" way. It's exhausting at times, deep down, deeper than bone deep, six feet under your feet deep exhausting, fencing with depression and suicide thoughts, and for some like me add to it, staying clean and sober. Sometimes you feel like you could just die for some deep sweet rest. 

I am blessed that there are people of grace in my life who have always loved me and been there reaching out, living God into me. When God's gone missing, it is relationships which are the holy connection and the only chance we have. If you know or love someone with depression, keep reaching out. Just call, say hi, offer to listen, just say I love you, you may just be the miracle of the day. When in times of great post-breakdown depression, everyday my brother Chris would check in and see how I was doing, the same with my societal Brother Mark, just checking in everyday. I had no pressure to say or do anything, they just checked-in and it meant the world to me. Don't underestimate the power of a simple, "You OK?" to break the deathly silence. It's kinda like speaking to someone in a coma, we may not respond, but it helps to hear your voice. Deeply. Thank God for them,  being windows of God's graces.

I suppose anyone reading this has someone in their life who loves them. I think at some level, beyond our bodies in this world, beyond the sub-atomic, beyond the quantum possibilities, everyone is loved by God- sometimes I wonder if I think this to make myself feel better and to let myself off the hook, placing responsibility for suffering squarely on the back of God who created all this possibility. 

There are so many people who are alone. Some will be reached. Far too many will not. It is for these that our fervent prayers should flow. Pray too for ourselves that we have strength to reach as many as we can. I have been blessed to have been touched and pulled back from the utter despair. I know there is a love and compassion which passes all understanding, that the greatest thing we can do to testify to God's love is too pour it out from ourselves, as freely as we receive it. It can be in volunteering at a shelter. It can be giving alms to someone on the corner as you wait for the light to change. It can simply be giving an open-hearted smile and glance, from the holy place within where there is no judgement but only compassion which doesn't fear the brokenness we all experience but shares it as reality communion, one broken heart to another. Maybe too the splendid miracle of a little mutual healing will occur.

I used to be around horses. I love them, riding them and relating to them. I can honestly say too that I loved mucking the stalls. I loved the earthy smell of horse crap. I loved shoveling it up into the wheel-barrow, then taking it out to the pile and spreading it out under the sunlight. Here's the thing, if I'd left the crap in the dark barn it becomes a source for disease and other bad stuff, but take it out and spread it in to the air and sunlight, something amazing happens, it becomes great food for the garden, spread it around the garden as fertilizer or with mulch, and man, will your garden ever grow! If you are like me, suffering with the great silent disease of depression, or just having the normal occasional bout, don't hide it in the dark to fester. For me and for others, and with some work, the muck of depression has grown the garden of compassion. Take it out expose it to the air and light.  If you can get help, or just find someone you can say to, "I think I may need some help."  Try and get things moving again. The sooner the better. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Through Your Sacred Wounds, a Lenten pilgrimage to the Prodigal Feast

Part Five: Come Into The Feast

We have journeyed together, companions through Lent. We have seen Jesus coming into the world not to judge us but to heal us, not to condemn us as sinners but to embrace us as brothers and sisters in need of healing. We have come to witness the erroneous teachings which have persisted in the Church, about a vengeful God seeking to punish us with eternal torment. We have seen these teachings have no basis in either the language of Jewish Scripture, nor in the Aramaic, Jesus’ language, or in the Greek of Jesus’s generation. We know again that the loving Father could never intentionally harm his creation as he is loving toward everyone and his compassion covers all his works. In his own compassion and mercy, Jesus offers us this also, we know the Father’s love because we know his. We know too that our wounds are made holy and sacred in his wounds, as his healing wounds heal ours and teach us to heal others from the experience of our wounds.

Remember the prodigal son. He recognizes his wounds and with this humility returns to his father. His father embraces him as returned from the dead and prepares a feast for his prodigal and all in the district to celebrate the finding of what was lost, his son and his son’s capacity to return in humility and honesty, ready to work for his father. Remember too, the older brother who storms out of the party full of resentment, though he has always had his father’s promise and love and a place in his house. He still resents the attention given his wondering brother. Worse, he has no appreciation of his own true worth, in spite of the good life he has with his father and his promised inheritance as the eldest son. He judges and scorns his brother and father and in doing so, only casts himself out from the prodigal feast and out into the shadows beyond the celebration and party lights. The prodigal son ran from his father because he lacked humility and self-dignity.  His brother ran from the feast because he lacked humility in his self-importance.

Tomorrow we come to the great Easter Feast, which is none other than the great prodigal feast, to which we are all called, regardless of our circumstance. At times we are prodigals. At times we are resentful brothers. Regardless, our father is always waiting for us, the confused mixture of simultaneous saint and sinner, all embraced in God’s compassion, in the healing power of Jesus our brother. So come to the table and rub elbows with our brothers and sisters, whatever their condition. Come with wounds exposed to be healed by Jesus, your wounds to be transformed into God’s healing openings for each other. The Lord’s feast is the prodigal feast.

Rejoice! Be fed and go feed!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Through Your Sacred Wounds, a Lenten pilgrimage to the Prodigal Feast

Part Four: How Misinterpreting Hell, Leads to Misunderstanding God

The history of the Church's misinterpretation of the Old and New Testament words for what we think of as "hell" have had a monumental and disastrous impact upon our understanding of God and God's nature. In short, the words which we interpret as "hell" have no basis in the ancient languages in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, or the Aramaic language of Jesus, or in the Greek in which the New Testament was written. What is so disastrous about these misinterpretations is that they invoke a fear of God as condemning, judgmental and as a deity which would punish people harshly and eternally. These presentations of God as vengeful have no basis in the teachings of Jesus or in the epistles in their original context or languages (for a detailed explanation of these historic interpretations and misinterpretations please see (

When we study the real words behind the interpretive ones we find that the intentional use of words in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek share no real shared meaning with our modern misinterpretations. Very briefly (and please use the link above for greater details) the concept of "hell" in ancient days didn't exist as a place of individual eternal judgement and suffering for souls after death. The ancients considered after death to be either nothing, simply where souls reside after death or a paradise, none of which reflected upon the earthly life of people but as predetermined as the "resting place" as cultural expressions. When the Hebrews of old spoke of judgement it was of the nation and it's kings and leaders. It was the same with Jesus as well. The other sense of judgement was in how a person affects himself by his mistreatment of others as being diminished of one's own self, or "eating one's self". I think this would have been Jesus' view as well, to treat others badly does more harm to the antagonist and is self inflicted. So it makes sense too that to live Christ's teachings would then bring "abundance". As well, the notion of a punishing God develops when states and religions become inter-tangled, as reported by Augustine,

"This seems to have been done on no other account, but as it was the business of princes, out of their wisdom and civil prudence, to deceive the people in their religion; princes, under the name of religion, persuaded the people to believe those things true, which they themselves knew to be idle fables; by this means, for their own ease in government, tying them the more closely to civil society. (Augustine, City of God, Book IV, p. 32, cited by Thayer, Origin & History, p. 37.)
Contriving doctrines to control people? Who would have believed it? Well, the Greek world did, the Roman world did, and evidently between the testaments, the Jews got involved, as well, as the concept of endless torment began appearing in the apocryphal books written by Egyptian Jews."  (Jesus' Teachings On Hell,,)

It seems that the Church has suffered the same after Nicaea. Of course then the concept of afterlife as hellish judgement or or heavenly paradise, at God's hand, paints the perspective in which we then judge God's nature. Unfortunately our culture has transformed Jesus' God of mercy into a platonic imperial state projection of tyranny, a god no better than the nobles, wealthy and powerful.

So finally I had to decide which God I would believe in and honor, the God of mercy or the God of vengeance. Day after day, I choose to believe and honor the God of mercy. There is no perfection in vengeance, only in love. So to be in relationship with the perfect love which is God, is to be fearless in God's love and to love more perfectly, without fear and vengeance.This is for me divine logic of the highest order. For me this is the key which unlocks the doors of liberation, compassion and peace in the presence of Christ all around me. I think this was the goal of the Original Church which found itself splintered after Nicaea and forever after being constantly battered about in struggle between the unholy alliance of Church and state. The time for Christ's peace is with us now, in which the journey begins with choosing the Church of Christ's compassion and to bring this community of compassion and Christ's spirit to your church.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Through Your Sacred Wounds, a Lenten pilgrimage to the Prodigal Feast

Part Three: From a Wounded People to a Community of Compassion

So if I take the Gospel seriously, I have to acknowledge that indeed Jesus did not come to judge the world but to heal it, save it (Yeshuah- Hebrew, to make safe or be rescued. Salvare- Latin, to secure to heal). I read the Gospels and see Jesus teaching, healing and feeding. I don't see Jesus condemning. In fact when Jesus is called upon by the religious leaders to judge "sinners" and the "impure" as they do, he refuses, he instead defends the "accused"  from the condemnation of religion, instead Jesus forgives them the requirements of religious pretense and offers his healing words and touch. I think he does this as a way of stripping the religious of their presumptuous authority. Yes, he does chastise the religious leaders though and condemns them as moralizing hypocrites. Later these religious leaders would send Jesus to the cross. Here on the cross Jesus remains true, he forgives them and all of us for ages to come. When, for the sake of their morality and controlling power, religious leaders today seek to condemn the compassionate faithful, Jesus, still from the cross, defends the faithful from their attacks. In doing so, if nothing else, Jesus reminds us to not confuse religion for God. God did not require Jesus to be sacrificed, religion did. In the resurrection God establishes that God's loving power transcends religion's presumptions of power.

In the wounds Jesus receives innocently, at the hands of the immorality of power at work in the state and in religion, Jesus shares with us and suffers with us the wounds we innocently bear, the wounds of betrayal which begin soon after birth and continue through life. We are wounded by those who love us and those who we love. Jesus shares those wounds too. Jesus is betrayed to death by one so close to him, betrayed by abandonment of those he loved, except Mary Magdalene, betrayed by his people and the religion of his heritage, and betrayed by state's justice. These are wounds we all know and share with Jesus, our sacred wounds of betrayal. In the compassion of Jesus we can come to healing, healing found in sharing Christ's spirit in healing with each other. Jesus shows us that we can have courage to accept the hard truth of betrayal and its suffering in our lives. By his example, of his coming from the sorrow of his cousin John's execution, and his finding there compassion in the shared suffering of himself with humanity, to find a communion of compassion, to be moved to heal, teach and feed the multitudes (Mark 6:29-39). The nature of Christ's compassion can transform our defensive nature. We can be in Jesus' community of compassion, we can share and extend Christ's healing power. This is the great key to God's loving power for us and through us, by sharing as Jesus does, in the sharing of the communion of compassion in our vulnerability, rather than by our instinctive retreat into defensive reaction and condemnation.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Through Your Sacred Wounds, a Lenten pilgrimage to the Prodigal Feast

The Old Tired Confused Gesture 

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.  Isaiah 58:9-10, Reading for the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday.

The pointing of the finger. I remember as a child hearing, "for every finger you point at someone, three point back at you."  Throughout The Bible the accusatory finger has haunted humanity and has set the distance of space between ourselves and God. In Revelation the evil one is given the name "The Accuser". In the Genesis story, the first sin committed in the garden is when the serpent accuses God, before Eve, of withholding from her and Adam, the full goodness they were due, by forbidding her and Adam from partaking in the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge between good and evil. She and Adam buy into the serpent's seductive words of accusation and eat the fruit. God then comes looking for them and finds them with fruit juice still on their faces, and asks them what happened. What's the first thing they do with the knowledge of good and evil? Adam accuses Eve of leading him astray, while also blaming God because she was given to him from God. Eve then blames the serpent. It is at this point God decides to evict them from the garden, not for eating the forbidden fruit, but for playing the blame game, speaking evil of another. 

Whole Christian theologies have developed which employ the blame game. Crusades, inquisitions, reformations, counter-reformations, witch trials in 17th century Salem, and even still today, as some ministers still teach a message which seeks to hang the blame of our disasters and troubles, on some particular folk, of some particular sin.  

Of course with the theological blame game, there can be found no justification for it in the teachings of Jesus. There is no where to be found in the Gospel where Jesus ultimately gives us permission to accuse one or another as the basis of our holiness, or with who, or who we are not, to be in fellowship with. To accuse someone of being less than worthy of God's love and fellowship, with God and each other, actually defies the teachings of our Lord, "Judge not." The Gospel of John proclaims that Jesus came not into the world to judge it but to be its healing salvation and calls us to follow his lead. To blame another, to speak evil, ultimately is to shirk one's own responsibilities to care for the hungry and afflicted. As with the serpent distracting Eve by his accusation of God, so it remains today as a tool to distract us from serving each other in humility and grace, and with God's compassion, to care for and mend the sufferings of the world. Jesus doesn't call us to blame and speak evil of the poor, sick and suffering for their lot, nor does he call us to speak evil of our "enemies"(!), but to instead discover God's joy in serving them, to testify to Christ's presence in the world, we in him and him in us. By serving Christ in the afflicted we point to Christ in them and each other. By loving those with whom we are in conflict, we point to Christ in them and each other. So when we point fingers at people, instead of it being an expression of accusation, let it be an expression of encouragement pointing to Christ in everyone.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Through Your Sacred Wounds, a Lenten pilgrimage to the Prodigal Feast

Tardree Forrest, Northern Ireland
This Lent I invite you to give up something different than in years past. I invite you to give up sin for Lent, or rather give up everything you think you know about sin. This Lent I ask you give up all your preconceived notions about what sin is, how it works, what its causes and consequences are. I also ask that you take a different approach to the season of Lent. Instead of approaching Lent as a penitential journey of guilt, instead consider doing something different and approach it as a pilgrimage to healing and restoration. I ask you to explore, to take a bold vision of your transgressions and mine, to see beyond the transgressions, to instead see what lies behind them. 

When we think of healthy people, do we think of healthy happy people being the kind who would bring intentional suffering onto another person? How about healthy communities, or religions, or countries for that matter? No? What does it say then about people, communities, religions or nations which bring about intentional suffering onto others? What is the cause of transgression-- fear, envy, greed, or anger? Or is it something else entirely? Can we really believe that God, in certain circumstances, condones the sufferings we cause each other? What are the consequences of our transgressions-- is it the eternal suffering of hell fire and damnation, something else, or nothing at all?

This Lent I'm exploring these questions, and others, and ask that you join me with open hearts and open minds, and explore the possibility that we wound others because of our own wounds left to fester or be picked at. I suggest that your wounds are wounds which are made sacred with the sacred wounds we share with Jesus, the wounds of betrayal and of innocence lost. I suggest that our journey through these wounds lead us to healing, restoration and to the table of the Prodigal Feast. 

We will explore the parable of the Prodigal Son, which I think is the greatest explanation ever of the human condition, our brokenness, and the way through it, not just as a survivor, but as people who live life in the feast of gratitude, nourished by, and nourishing others, with God's love. We will also use the Lenten readings from the Daily Office Book (DOB), Year Two. This brings me to one last offering, if you don't pray The Office, I invite you this Lent to try to do it every day, at very least commit to saying one of them daily, like Morning Prayer or Compline for example. There are five offices to choose from and any one of them can fit into any time schedules. There is a great deal of comfort found in the constancy of the prayers of The Office which are also contained in the Book of Common Prayer.

Please be open to any questions which arise from these meditations and I suggest journaling or note keeping. I invite you to share any questions or observations which arise in the reading of these meditations. Thank you for reading and have a most blessed Lent.