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.