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‘Sustained by What Could Be’

In recent times it has been evident that some churches have succumbed to human greed and control once again. It would be fair to day that there is evidence that in some cases religion has been captured by the; ‘Blessed are the greedy’ distortion. And we are reminded of Sally McFague’s comment some years back when she said that “Given the many differences among religions on doctrines and practice, it is remarkable to find such widespread agreement at the level of economics”. The blind adherence to modern economic theory has been exposed by crashes and pandemics as fraught with manipulation and assumptions.  Her comments I thought were again an ideal intro into my topic for today which is that having a vision is important but sustaining it is the hard bit and probably the most important bit. It is also an acknowledgement that sustaining it is never easy because it has to battle against the visions that are already in place. Look at the slowness of the world to grasp that climate change is a human responsibility. Look at the recent governments attempt to implement a wellbeing culture. Already such visions are competing with visions of affordable housing, or the dilemma of the construction industry as well as printing money induced inflation. Blessed are the greedy could be battling with blessed are the incompetent or maybe it’s the system that is at fault. These are visions of a better world that seem to be competing.

One of the things that has come to mind in the last few years in the church is the need for a sustainable mission vision. Questions such as why does a congregation exist? What is the church’s purpose have been at the forefront or at the base of our thinking about our future but on the tip of our tongue has been the need for a sustainable vision of what we would like to aspire to. So, it seems to me that it is appropriate and timely that our gospel story this morning, is centered on the importance of being sustained by a vision of what might be. It is appropriate, because as someone once said; “in the absence of a vision there is nightmare; in the absence of compassion there is cancer. I will not say it but it could be said that we might know this well given our experience.

Our biblical storyteller says Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem, by the pool or mineral spring of Bethesda. Around the pool, in arcades, lay a variety of invalids. Jesus picked out one particular man who’d been siting there for 38 years or so. And the dialogue goes something like this:

  • What would need to happen for you to proclaim yourself well?
  • Hang on mate. It’s not my fault. There’s no one to help me into the water at the right time.
  • You’re right! Your sickness is not your fault. Pick up your mat and walk.

That’s our biblical story.

The invitation is to ponder the proposition that this is not a story about a so-called physical miracle, but rather a story about a political – economic – religious situation as well as a vision or world view on life. What part does religion play in politics, economics etc. might be questions being faced here?

Being content with, or trapped on, one’s ‘mat’ may seem, after 38 years or so, fairly fixed. fairly secure, authentic, settled and safe, but it is an extremely limited and limiting world view that one gets from that same mat.

The challenge or vision given the man by John’s Jesus was for him to want to move beyond those limits… To want to re-imagine the world from a different perspective, from a different experience, with a different vision. To become whole. And we all know that that was and is a bit of a challenge!

New insight or vision is always at odds with the old way of looking at things. All the more so when those old ways leave people, physically malnourished or hysterically disabled. It is pretty certain that each of you could name someone else for whom it might be beneficial to either hear this sermon or receive a printed or email copy of it. And, while that all may be very well and good, each of us needs to be encouraged to remember these stories are also for us – now. The challenge here is to resist projecting away on to others the challenge we find. How do we do this?

Well maybe we could start with Jesus’ words and his interaction with others. We might see that what he says and does bears witness to a re-imagined world. A new vision. A new consciousness. A new way of being in the world.

We might then see that by connection, we might be being asked to examine when the structures and dominant theology of our wider church helps keep people ‘sick’ or ‘stuck in their condition’ rather than offering new life, a re-imagined world. How might what the church expects of us to be and do removes the risk of re-imagining with Jesus that his world will work, and be a safe place. Brandon Scott put this as having Faith with Jesus rather than faith in Jesus. A traditional way of saying this might be to be about confessing our own sharing in that sickness at times…

Charles Campbell, in his book, The Word Before the Powers, wonders that if one of the ways the Principalities and Powers, the Systems of Domination, keep us under their thumb is by keeping us busy, tired, and diverted. I might add with a non- authentic, non-sustainable vision.

We become numbed to the call of Jesus to serve God and serve the hurting because we don’t have time. We slip into blaming the victim. he or she isn’t taking the opportunities, he or she is lazy, too easily led or can’t help themselves. We come home after work and collapse in front of the TV until it is time to go to bed and repeat the process all over again. Weekends are when we want to get out of town or do something else. They are our escape times. So, we live life to the minimum. And we say we want change when we actually want to remain the same – but the most difficult bit is that we want to feel better about it.

We know that to get up and follow Jesus will involve us in people’s lives in ways we’re not sure we want, because to be whole means to be re-membered, re-connected with the thing we name God and with God’s people and God’s creation. No more isolation. No more living my own private life where no one bothers me. It’s an either-or thing, simple and clear but the trouble is that it’s not based on anything sustainable theologically or spiritually. To be whole means to get off of the couch and get involved. It means to work our buts off, often doing behind the scenes work that is tedious and overlooked. We know that to walk out of the door and say, “Here, am I Jesus! Send me!” is an invitation to maybe getting crucified like Jesus.

As Dan Berrigan has said, “If you’re going to follow Jesus, you had better look good on wood, because that is where you’ll end up.” We know all of that, so maybe our couches and our pallets don’t look so bad.

It is no wonder then that so many churches are still on the pallet. No wonder so many of us are reticent about being made whole. And no wonder we have neither the courage nor the will nor the energy to say, “No!” to the many ways the systems grind us all down. No wonder we are reluctant to say “Yes!” to Jesus who was later seen as the Messiah and of course as the Christ when Greek culture became the basis and when the embodiment of his Abundant Life became the issue of sustainability.

In our story, this man has the guts to be whole. He takes a deep breath and nods to Jesus, “Yes, I want to be whole, healed and well. I know it will take time Jesus. I know it will take work and lots of unlearning old pain-filled habits accumulated over 38 years, and learning new habits. I know it is not going to be easy, but yes, Jesus, make me a whole person.”

And Jesus does. No questions asked. No stipulations. No checking to see if he is truly deserving or not. Jesus just heals him. Grace. And the man picks up his mat and walks out of the door to new life. To wholeness. Jesus gives him a personal vision of a new world, a new future filled with new possibilities.

A prayer for today might be let us likewise be empowered and blessed by the grace that we belong to a wider community of faith that is not static but dynamic; that is not set in concrete, but ever-changing. For such a community reflects the creative and ever-evolving nature of the one we name God4 beyond our feeble church structures, economic theories and strategically and logistically imprisoned visions.

And maybe we could say that such a God is always present in all our faith adventures. John D Caputo might say that that is the insistence that is God at work. But it seems clear that along with those who, with the one we call Jesus, we too can re-imagine the world in an outward embracing of all beings. Even the 38-year member who can’t see the wood for the trees, who can’t see the possibilities of a reimagined life. Can be changed and see a new vision to live by or with.

It is important to be sustained by a vision of what might be. It is also important to check out what shapes that vision. And if what shapes our vision tends to exclude some by benefiting others, or erect walls rather than include all, then maybe that ‘vision’ needs to be questioned. Does our vision for a sustainable church go far enough? Does it in include the poor or just the elite? Is our special character or what we bring, actually healing and supporting and changing the world or is it just about us gaining some benefit?

It has also been said stories can be ‘dangerous’. Whether this biblical story in our text today is of an actual event or the invention of the storyteller, it is a ‘dangerous’ story, because it challenges us at the chore of our being. Are we doing the right thing here in this place and is that right thing for the wellbeing of people or about keeping the organisation going? Is our mission vision sustainable not just in terms of monetary concern but also in terms of community, wellbeing? Will it change things for the better? And we remember, that that challenge also goes for our country’s budget economics, is our wellbeing budget big enough, sustainable enough, does it include as well the possibility of a just and sustainable planet, which incidentally is being hailed as the ‘great’ work of the 21st century to which all human endeavour is called. Or is it going to succumb to the economic theories that are under pressure. Is Pilate here again? Is our vision sustainable in the face of systems that would have it go away because it is dangerous? Dangerous because it will deprive the elite or the ones who have the power and control. Dangerous because it has the ability to change things? Amen.

‘Unexplored Tomorrows’

Posted: May 11, 2022 in Uncategorized

‘Unexplored Tomorrows’

When the progressive Christian movement began to pick up a following there was an attempt to define its goals. To their credit they did come up with 8 points of identification that a global organization of Progressives might claim.

I guess by now you will also have gleaned that I have spent some time in my last parish ministry searching for something a progressive congregation might say about itself today. I hope that you have been able to recognise this struggle in the services I take. I am not claiming anything like perfection but I do try to be consistent theologically and to apply the thinking to the fact that while words are transitional in nature the conceptual change and challenge is there.

Despite a loathing for labels, I have said that what makes a Progressive Christian, a PC as opposed to a traditional or mainstream or liberal of conservative or any other definition is that in following Jesus a progressive Christian is able to discern one of many ways in which the sacred might be understood and he or she can see the oneness and unity of all life. A PC can see that while the bible is essential as the story of Jesus, they can draw from many other sources in their spiritual journey. They can see that all people regardless of their differences are to be included in community because they believe that actions toward others are the fullest expression of what we believe.

I wrote a poem that speaks of this that I will share it in the hope that you might feel the essence of this sense of oneness I am talking about.

The truth is that I need you as the other

I need you to ask me why I care for you this way.

I need you to wonder how I could smile every day.

The truth is that I need you as the other

The truth is that you make my life worthy

Having you around makes my day smooth and easy.

Without you it is hard for me to end a day fulfilled.

The truth is that you make my life worthy

The truth is that you give me reason to love

Without you I cannot say “I’ve loved you since the day I met you.”

I cannot stare at you from afar and know the deep feelings that rend me silent.

The truth is that you give me reason to love

The truth is that without you I cannot love

In you I see the stories of the one you meet

You share the love you have known that stops my heart from beating.

You speak of happiness with a smile that makes me weep with joy

The truth is that without you I cannot love.


The truth is that I need you as the other

I need to be able to say, “I could be the one that loves you like you love me.

There’s nothing I would do better than to be able to keep it this way,

Wishing that you would know all the secrets I’ve kept,

Especially those that have kept our friendship sure and true.

The truth is that I need you as the other.

PC people are also people who place more value in asking questions than accepting absolutes not as a denial of absolutes but rather as a recognition of their limited nature, and they are people who strive for a peace created by justice as opposed to victory. Winning and getting revenge are not part of a healthy progressive nature. PCs are a people who seek to restore the integrity of our planet and commit to a life long journey of learning, of acting compassionately and of a selfless loving. Of course these are goals or aspirations that will never be complete, or as my title suggests a people who see life as the experience of unexplored tomorrows.

To that end then, I want to talk about being a progressive, healthy congregation, and I want to do this from what I think is most likely to have come from Jesus of Nazareth.
The reading I have chosen to speak from is a saying from Thomas about ‘new wine’ and old wineskins’, that appears in every gospel – except John.  What is significant is that this is a saying and that it is found in the Gospel of Thomas, a gospel most likely to have been earlier as a selection of sayings of Jesus. Biblical scholars of the Jesus Seminar, suggest that it is probably the most authentic version of these sayings.

“Nobody drinks aged wine and immediately wants to drink young wine.  Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil…”

We could embark on a short course in winemaking or wine appreciation but as I have said I want to explore briefly, a metaphorical image about being a congregation. And, I want to claim that saying this raises a very important question: can we leave our communal religious life in old vessels, or do we can embrace new theological understandings and new church practice, as we continue to evolve as a Congregation.

I don’t know about you but I have heard stories that affirm an emerging expression of what we might call church in its first stages of development. It might even be said that it comes out of the work being done by PC people to find the earliest expression of church and begin again but it might also be a quest to find an ecclesiology and a hermeneutical framework for today. What seems to be universal is essentially people gathering to journey together in the search for an understanding of human spirituality and how that is to be expressed in real places where real people co-exist. With the ethnic, religious faith and cultural differences, the world is a place like no other has seen or been before. So much so that it seems absolutely arrogant, insensitive and downright ludicrous to assume that we know what our world needs by way of response. For the church as we know it to say that if only people would join us we could help is a benign statement at best and an alienating pompous arrogance at worst.

I poked my computer nose at the general assembly on line recently and heard a little of our church’s attempt to train leaders for this new world where all the old ideas of what Church is and how to do church are no longer considered helpful. The writing on the wall is clear. The way we do things, the way we do church is not working. The time spent and the struggle of the PCANZ to find a way forward is very sad. The decline is no longer just the result of looking at statistics it has become our way of life, so what is the point of continuing to do it the way we have always done it. The difficulties loom large here also, not least is the question; can we, who are the church make and resource the changes that are needed. Do we have too much invested in the way we are to make the changes required?  Again, in light of my title to this sermon “Unexplored tomorrows”, there are some huge challenges for us to consider.

Just some of those challenges are what do we mean by ‘membership, is the centrality of worship essential, do we need to own property? The assumption that we have a model of community that works, the assumption that the way we manage our lives is helpful but is it? And that’s just to name a few issues we need to consider. And let’s be clear it will not be easy to contribute to this new thing, this emerging church so to speak. I remembered the sermon David Clark gave at my induction to my last parish in 2001. He was eluding to this matter from an institutional aspect but what he was suggesting is unfolding further today. The church world has changed and the task to put it crudely is to change or die. The next question is of course the same as it was then. How? How do we change given that the way we engage with life, the way we value the important, isn’t the way we value our lives bound up in the fact that the way we do things now and where we do it is part of who we are.

Like many other congregations in the Church, many of us are part of a smaller congregation, membership-wise, than we were in the past. Things like ‘heritage’ and ‘nostalgia’, ‘honouring the past people, all come to the fore, but the reality remains. We are not what we were in terms of being a congregation and being involved in the community of our day. The word has changed around us. And like many other congregations we have not stood idle and given up on the future. Most of us are a future oriented people and I think courageous people who have given towards creating a better future. And I am not stroking any backs here, I genuinely believe that people are ready to give their all including their buildings, their hearts and souls into the future. And just like many others they want to do this well. I am encouraged when I hear young people talking about making the world a better place. I was a little saddened to be reminded of an attempt to plant a parish school being lamented by some. It was agreed that this was sadly a vision of the possible that the institution was unable to risk because the change would be too difficult to manage. I sensed a bit of this institutional fear on line at the General Assembly too.

I can remember from many years back meetings talking about innovative learning hubs where the future church could be explored, nurtured, tested and developed free from the rules, regulations and order that our current institution is bound to, shaped by and maintained with. This for me affirmed and encouraged my thinking. We spoke of learning centers and a school was and is seen as an expression of such. The mission statement I still adhere to today is that Mission is expressed as honouring the mind, in other words bringing neuroscience, psychology, biology and theology, together as all products of the human mind and our only way to grapple with questions of God. Living the questions, in other words accepting that life is a journey and not a destination, Eternal life is the state we live in and not something away out ahead that we need to capture for ourselves. Life is not black and white, it is not a collection of absolutes, nor is it from a faith perspective finite. Finite perhaps from a biological view but not theologically. Or finite within infinity. And the third part of the motto or mission statement , Explore the adventure of being human. This is a claim that with our minds and bodies we have a unique and valuable contribution to make to the reality as we see it. Being human is an invitation to evolve and it is an adventure like no other and it has a role to play in the picture we have of that which we name God. Our motto of Honour the Mind, Live the questions and explore the adventure of being human expresses the biblical hope of a promised land, a land shared with our God, It expresses the hope of a new world Jesus opened up with his life, and it expresses the confidence in a more complex and better future.

Progressive Christians, as a congregation has also intentionally decided to become a niche congregation, by making itself open to encouraging progressive religious thought,
and living out of its own space. And here I want to challenge some thinking also. Taking the energy sapping issues around buildings and demolitions and political machinations out of the equation, becoming a so-called progressive congregation has been and can be a successful thing to do. It is well documented in the church that building projects can cause decline, not because of the potential but because of the inevitable conflict that comes with such projects of change. When one takes that factor out of the equation it is probable that an arrest of the decline in membership might happen by attesting to an intellectual creditability and a more real engagement with community. Life is not black and white nor is all bad and in need of redemption. Yes, it is complex and yet it must be lived as it is, and yes, it is a wonderful participatory experience. I want to suggest that we might be able to arrest the decline, even though we will not recognize the outcome because it is hard to see the change and that is because we are subjectively measuring it from an older culture.

Yes, growth might seem small in terms of numbers attending but maybe our influence cannot be measured by old criteria. I can hear all the buts rising up in your minds now but I suggest we might ask those buts where they are coming from?

On the obvious matter of worship… which is a measuring criteria that we use and one that gets in the road of a new thinking we would have to say that the worship service on a Sunday morning is our celebration of Life, and traditionally is the hub of our faith community’s life. Community is when we express our togetherness and it is the place where our vital vibrant differences rub shoulders with the least friction. The essence of a faith community is that all the social, political and cultural differences take a back seat to the common inclusive faith setting. What we struggle with is that with the rise of social media, online everything, and electronic communication we have something that we like, something that makes much sense and something that is inevitable taking place that does not replace the human need for engagement with others and I suggest the all-important empathy creation that is vital for human community. The shape of the community might gather differently but it will gather. I think the quality of community depends on empathy building and this is what online or facebook and twitter type community seeks. The difficulty is an authenticity or a credibility as safe, common and resourceful. If there is one thing we do not do well yet it is the online presence and more importantly the online connections. I heard some years back already that the only growth in the business world was in many cases in the online sales. Something like 80% of sales are online in some cases.

My traditional fears were raised the other day when I heard of the world of avatars and a new economy based on NFTs (NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items and videos. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are generally encoded with the same underlying software as many cryptos.)

I want to make the claim that we can offer people an experience that it helpful by reminding ourselves why we are here. That at the core of this gathering is a progressive, inclusive, ‘familial model of what might be termed a faith journey. The challenge for us is to explore newer ways of inviting people to share our discoveries.

What are those discoveries? They are our ‘progressive’ theological underpinnings.
that we think there is more to know and that this is not easy. It doesn’t mean we all think alike.  We have agreed that we would search the idea of progressive religious thought. That single decision has had a huge effect on how a congregation is perceived. What it does is give others ‘permission’ to follow suit. There is a growing ‘progressive’ movement in New Zealand. Not the doing of any one congregation alone, but in partnership with others. The hub of this movement is already nationwide, and like the movement nationwide the progressive theology it is theological based in biblical scholarship, honesty, and integrity. The challenge is the environment where theology is seen as the domain of the academic elite and not of the common people. This says that thinking theologically is different now than in the past and it requires us to imagine what this new understanding implies for worship, for preaching, for prayer. And while not obvious many of us have personally become committed to that future.

The challenge is that like Christianity’s earliest theologian, Paul, we are standing at the intersection of two eras. We are aware of the difference between old and new wineskins, we recognize that we are old wine and that we would break the new skins if we try to put conditions on the new wine yet we know there is a need for new wine and new skins. This is what Progressive theology means. It means an appreciation that we are products of a past that we have to let go of the present if we hope to have a future of ‘unexplored tomorrows’. In this context congregations of faith are crucial for the future, if they do not exist, it will be necessary to invent them like NFTs because a congregations roll role today is not to teach or critique are to lead the way. It is to fill the imaginary hole between the old and the new, perhaps to hold the old wine in the old skins so that the new wine will be free to mature and the new skins to age. The idea of ‘Unexplored tomorrows’ invites us to approach change with confidence, courage and creativity as a congregation on the move.

As a community of people seeking to be inclusive by searching to discern together the transforming presence of God in the world and in our own lives, we Honour the mind, live the questions and explore the adventure of humanity and we discover what this journey is like through reforming and reformed worship, radical hospitality, and open and vulnerable conversation with care” PCs are a community of people open to unexplored possibilities! We have been focusing our resources both human and financial on the future and while we have a diminishing resource the most important is the investment of personal spirit.

If I was to give you a plea today it would be to ask you to realize your, and your gatherings full potential as an agent of change. We are talking the walk and we need to remember to walk the talk!

Everbody’s future is before them and it is filled with both challenge and possibilities.
Our need is to build upon the strengths of our long history, valuing “the richness of that mature wine.  But we must create new wineskins to hold the new wine” (Stinson 2007, FCC, Long Beach web site).

And let’s be clear about our motivation. “We move into that daunting but exhilarating challenge not because it is the expedient thing to do, but in response to a desire to follow the historical Jesus into [all] arenas of human need…” (Stinson 2007, FCC, Long Beach web site).

And at risk of going on too long I offer another you a poem about an ‘Almost God; that does not exist but rather insists.

Almost is about something that is not yet

It is about to be but not yet

Its promise is in it’s all but

And its approximately

Almost is around and as good as

It is bordering on and close to

Always close upon and essentially about

for all practical purposes it is

and for the greatest part too.

Almost is in effect

And in the neighbourhood of

Assured to be in the vicinity of

Yet also just about and mostly

It is much to consider as

near to, nigh and not far from

Almost is not quite yet

on the brink of and at the edge of

It teeters on the point of

on the verge of practically and pretty near

relatively speaking it roughly describes

It substantially and virtually reveals

The well-nigh and within sight of

Amen.

‘Life as an Evolutionary Me’

As you might have already guessed that in some communities this time is about recognizing the harvest time and about the abundance of nature. It is of course a topic of our everyday as we deal with climate change and its effect on harvests and as we wrestle with the fact of overpopulation of our planet or of blatant disregard for its ability to cope with exponential growth of the number of people on it and how resources are distributed in a fair and just way. Questions of equity and fairness abound in our everyday if we are a thinking person. When I was struggling around trying to find what to say about harvest alongside the reading for today the last time, I preached on these texts the issue became what is there about Shepherds and sheep that can be placed alongside the harvest of grain, produce and things of resource for human life. I played with the idea of metaphor and I thought about what there was in each of these a metaphor that could be universal. In the end I settled for what could be loosely called nature. In the raising and managing the herd and in planting and harvesting the produce there was a sense of a universal food source. And I though perhaps a sense of oneness might be found in this development. I came across an article by William Edelen entitled ‘Exploring the truth of nature’ that interested me, not in its affirmation of what I was thinking but rather as inadequate in the light of where we have already come as ‘Progressive thinkers’. Edelen quoted two writers with statements that I would question strongly. He quoted Thomas Paine as saying; “Men and books lie … only nature never lies.”  And Goethe who said “Nature is always true, only in nature can truth be found”. While I agree that men and books can lie I am not so sure anymore that nature is the only place where truth exists, not because of nature but rather my understanding of truth which I have mentioned before.

Over 100 years ago, Kierkegaard observed that maturity consists in the discovery that “there comes a critical moment where everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot ever be understood.” This “critical moment” of maturity appears in the journey of life when certainties of personal identity and self- worth based in an empirical literal truth evolves to the point where the so called “human wisdom” pales before the wisdom of the integrated scientific cosmic view of nature. In fact, Loren Eiseley, the distinguished Anthropologist and Chair of the Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania wrote that, “There is no such thing as wisdom.” The only “wisdom” there is can be found in nature where the spiritual and the material are one. One might read that as a claim that wisdom is found in the cyclical serendipitous cycle and not in its naming or nature is not a thing but rather a process or a living and dying eventing.

The challenge I think, here, is to wrestle with the idea that only the human (Homo sapien) is special, sacred and made in the image of God. In a conversation I had last week with one of you the issue of any supremacy of the human creature above any other creature was discussed. I suggested that it is only the idea of humans being conscious beings that sets us apart, not in the sense of any distinction, as we have come to understand that many so callen entities have what we call consciousness, even plants etc. Our concern is rather an exclusivity or a higher participatory role within the whole. Traditionally we humans have differentiated between the supernatural and the natural, the sacred and the profane. But if the progressive understanding is to make sense, then the entire cosmos is a revelation and everything, sum total, is natural, sacred and spiritual and reflects the image of that same mystery.

Again, this discussion is not new. Albert Schweitzer wrote “How we delude ourselves, if we think otherwise. When we consider the immensity of the universe, we must confess that man is insignificant. Man’s life can hardly be considered the goal of the universe. Its margin of existence is always so precarious. A man is ethical only when he considers every living cell, whether plant or animal, sacred and divine.”

And Dr. Lewis Thomas, head of New York’s Sloan Kettering research centre said, “Every living thing is alive thanks to the living of everything else. Every form of life is connected. (I might say interconnected to recognise the fluidity of that which we name as ‘self’.) The planet Earth is like a single cell. Homo sapiens is really a very immature and ignorant species in the horrible way it has treated all other living organisms.”

I might want to disagree a little with Thomas in his caricature of humans as an ignorant species and perhaps as an arrogant species despite its record but I suggest that being ignorant or in need of knowing is the lot of an evolutionary participant and as a conscious being, or as it is now put, a co-creator with God in the very creation of the cosmos, we are all manifestations of the Mystery. We are all not that significant being made from the same elements, yet we are crucial for the life of the planet. From the same fund and the same material came every living organism that our consciousness invites us to know. The micro world and the macro world are of the same dust and they breathe the same wind and drink of the same water. Their days are warmed by the same sun and their little hearts or life pulses are just like ours and were created by the same evolutionary fountain. That is a very generalised statement but it makes a point.

This view of reality, of the oneness of everything, long held by native peoples and Eastern sages is today being debated and in many cases confirmed by physicists and astronomers, neuroscientists, anthropoligists, biologists and the like.. “The universe is everything, both living and inanimate things, both atoms and galaxies, and if the spiritual exists, the spiritual and material are one, for the universe is the totality of all things,” wrote Fred Hoyle in Frontiers of Astronomy.

For many thinkers today behind and beyond our senses lies a plane of consciousness in which all is related and all is one and all is now. Everything is united in the Mystery as one, the energy of the sun dancing in a wood-burning fire, a cucumber cucumbering, a flight of geese honking into a north wind, a rising tide crashing and breaking against a resisting beach, a wild stallion, with nostrils bulging the pride of the free racing to his mare, mist covering with affection hemlock and pine, a mountain lion stalking a fresh spore on a mountain trial. It is all one and all natural and all sacred and all divine, and all revealed images of the “great Mystery” behind it all and for some people it is known to us … as Nature and all truth.

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have in recent years seen photographed from the moon;” wrote Joseph Campbell. ”We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it. And the Earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula, and that nebula in turn from space, So that we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all, and with no horizons.”

One of the interesting links to harvest at this point is the recent development in our schools where gardens and harvest are renewing the interest of our young ones as they begin to understand the creative cycles and the particularities of nurture that produces bounty by way of coloured food stuffs that result in and from human endeavour. One might also suggests that the idea of ‘the commons’ is being raised as a means of dealing with a society that is defunct in terms of approaching diversity and difference. Conflict as normal discourse of a healthy doubting critique needs addressing and revenge as a manes of justice also, if we are to be responsible human beings with a society based on the creation of and sustaining of a loving nature.

In this broader way its possible to see that even life and death are one. Life, so called, is the seemingly short episode between two great mysteries which are yet one. Spring begins with winter, and death begins with birth. We all share the same breath together in this short episode, the trees, the birds, the animals and the humans. We dance to a common rhythm.

This interval we call Life is a Mystery between greater mysteries which are yet one in a universe where all is natural (nature) and sacred, an image of the Source, the evolutionary fountain, initiating consciousness, imagination becoming that we call in our tradition … maybe  naming as ‘God’.

What does this have to do with Hope and Real Life? Well for me the hope is in the idea of eternal life that is possible here and now. As co-creator, and co-participant this short phase of life is real in the context of the larger evolutionary reality I am a part of and this short span of conscious life has a huge, immense value in that I am a participant in the creation of reality and I can affirm with confidence that what I do and say matters, the value of what I do and say has a purpose which is the completion of the sacred or God, if you like, or the individuation of the God I spoke about earlier and I can in this understanding say categorically that love changes everything. This is how I contribute and participate most effectively. By loving.

The fascinating thing is that all this co-creating happens so quickly that we are unaware of the separate experiences, which are like the separate frames of a motion picture. This is where our despair finds its way in to this picture. Again it is a creative moment in that it poses the question. ‘Why am I here’ and again we find our purpose if we can put down the indulgence of despair long enough to notice. Similarly, we are unaware of the separate cells of our bodies, to say nothing of the molecules and atoms that constitute them. Each cell a life so to speak, yet we can’t know them all at once. And this is despite the fact that they are renewed every seven years or so. We are unaware of most of what is going on within and around us, let alone throughout the universe. We don’t need to know the subatomic structure of a kitchen table in order to put groceries onto it, but that doesn’t mean that there is no such structure. So it is with the evolutionary experiential nature of the world. Although we may not be able to focus on the individual frames of our lives, that which we call Mystery, or Nature, or God does.

What does this have to do with harvesting food produce? Well it says that the human relationship with this thing called nature is a complex one. It is one of substance and of management. It is a living, dynamic evolving thing if you like. We are in fact the creation and its creator so to speak. Our connection with the land and the harvest of its produce is a real vulnerable, serendipitous and relational one. When I value the process of the cosmos as a participant in its creation I am in harmony with the goodness of creation and I am responsible with and for its fragility and its serendipity. There is all that stuff about free will and choice and difference and compatibility and ultimately about the efficacy of loving. The choices I make are crucially valuable and important. I care for creation because I am of it and it is of me. Again, we might see this relationship as part of the individuation or completion of God and humanity. Again, we might see this relationship as a spiritual and material one of great and wonderful mystery and we might affirm that love is the way it evolves. Amen.

John 21: 1-19

‘Ambiguity Is the Dawning’ 

The story we have heard this morning is a story full of images and possibilities and there is a reasonable debate among scholars that this particular section of the book we call Gospel of John, is a later addition to the original collection. That somebody else added this section as a kind of epilogue. So it comes very late in our religious tradition and has lent itself to a whole series of speculative conclusions. Traditionally, the interpretations given to this section are often about the power and majesty of ‘Christ’ after the resurrection. And a call to discipleship – especially Peter’s leadership.

One traditional way of approaching this passage was to begin with the lake itself, the place where they were fishing. Lakes, in both fairy tales and sacred legends, are strange and symbolic places.  Because they are often deep and hold secrets that can’t be discerned from the surface, they are the residences of mystery. “In Jungian psychology, they often represent the unconscious, the realm of our dreams and fantasies. “There is something dreamlike about this scene…  Halfway between night and day, with the first hint of dawn spreading pencil-like along the horizon.  Patches of mist and fog rising from the water.  The gentle noise of waves slapping against the boat or dripping from the nets.  The deep sighs of the fishermen, whose muscles ache from the toil of the fruitless night. “And then the… stranger, standing on the shore and (calling) to them through the mist, telling them they will catch something if they will lower their nets on the other side of the boat…” (Killinger 1992, 30 Good Minutes web site).

John O’Donohue, the Irish theologian and poet, describes a morning experience like this: He writes: “Light is incredibly generous, but also gentle.  When you attend to the way dawn comes, you learn how light can coax the dark.  The first fingers of light appear on the horizon; ever so deftly and gradually, they pull the mantle of darkness away from the world.  Quietly, before you, is the mystery of a new dawn, the new day” (O’Donohue 1997:21.).

It is this idea of light from dark, hope from despair and good from bad that I want to play with again this morning. Dawn and dawning is about the arrival of light or the awareness of something new, or the possible from the impossible. Some time back I suggested that our purpose as human beings was to individuate God and Gods was to individuate us, in other words our task is to make real, to create and thus to co-create. At the root of this argument is the idea that the one-ness at the centre of it all is the intimate relationship we as humans have with God and God has with us, or as I now prefer to say the point at which we acknowledge God does not exist without us and that we do not exist without the insistence new name God. Today I want to have a go at something I have been struggling with in this intimacy with God. What are the differences if any and why do they exist?

One of the most interesting discussions going on today is the intersection of religion, politics, and culture and the subject can also be said to have the deepest and most wide-ranging impact on the world today. I want to explore again one of these conversations that are going on as a means of finding some clarity for myself and hopefully for you.    

Richard Kearney, is a Catholic Philosopher who wrote Anatheism: Returning to God After God takes a view that it is possible to retain a God after the loss of traditional theism (God as Supernatural or metaphysical being) and beyond the idea of atheism or there is no God or God is dead approach. He argues I think for a new kind of theism freed from the metaphysical God yet with many of the qualities of a theistic God. Catherine Keller the other member of this conversation was professor of constructive theology at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. She was a process theologian with wide-ranging theoretical interests, encompassing feminist theology, ecotheology, and poststructuralist and postcolonial theory.

I want to draw again on a conversation these two had about Richard’s book and specifically their discussion around the integration of disciplines; specifically Science and faith. Keller, in her highly original and influential theological works has sought to develop the relational potential of a theology of becoming. Her books reconfigure ancient symbols of divinity for the sake of a planetary conviviality—a life together, across vast webs of difference. Her book, Cloud of the Impossible (2014), explored the relation of mystical unknowing, material indeterminacy, and ontological interdependence. Keller’s work is claimed to be exemplary in combining theology and science. She apparently used the findings of quantum physics to move theology from a modernist, static view of the universe to one in which all things are interconnected. In this approach, science allows theology to speak once again with integrity about a mysterious cosmos, a world of relation, interdependence, or the “entanglement” of all things. Keller shares with Kearney a deeply sacramental view of life, an embodiment of God in the material that Keller finds in quantum physics and Kearney in sacramental poetics. Although they agree on most issues, Kearney challenges Keller to clarify her panentheism, for if God is in all things, and if nothing is outside of God, does not God then become responsible for evil?

It has been suggested that I am a socialist, politically at heart, and I was a bit challenged by that in that I don’t personally want to be labelled as either socialist or capitalist or any other sort of ist. Like Kearney I too would challenge the downplaying of human freedom and the uncompromising impervious nature of traditional approaches to divine love. I too have questions about the existence of actual evil acts, such as torture and rape, and find difficulty is assigning those to God. Its helpful here to remember that Kearney’s point is that evil is a deprivation of the good and Keller’s insists that “God has no boundaries outside of which begins the world, or even hell.” I prefer John D Caputo’s approach That claims that evil is irreparably ruined time, without the possibility of compensation and an excess of any event that is a disintegrating destabilisation and a diminished recontextualization. Wordy but if you follow it through evil is still not dependent upon a traditional interventionist God and rather within the insistence of a freely insistent Saredness.

Keller sees anatheism as operating on three main axis, each a kind of chiasmic or overlapping and inclusive interchange. First and most obviously, it oscillates between theism and atheism; second, it forms a crossover between Christianity and non-Christianity which includes, the Abrahamic faiths as well as Buddhism and Hinduism and thirdly it is that inclusive crossover between ethics and politics.

Kearney asks Keller the core question of darkness and light. He suggests that Keller invokes oxymora like “luminous darkness” in order to express the inextricable link between the knowable and the unknowable, the opaque and the diaphanous. And Kearney wonders how this particular chiasmus touches the question of the “dark side” of God. Is the dark side of the cloud always part of God? Is it always divine? Or is there a certain dark capacity for evil, which should not be included in the divine? But left outside or aside? In short, darkness as evil: what do we do with that?         

Keller responds by suggesting that there is a distinction between the dark as menace and destruction and the dark that frightens us because of our insecurity, fear, and vulnerability in the face of mystery and enigma. Kearney confirms that the evil he is concerned with is the evil act of Torture, holocaust, and rape.         

Keller suggests that the discussion on discernment that asks how we tell the difference between the stranger as, one, malicious psychopath and, the, unknowable other who is to be respected and hosted touches on this issue. She argues that as a process theologian it is almost a dogmatic assumption for her that God is not what makes what happens happen, but that it is we creatures who are actualizing the possible. Again seen in Caputo’s None existence but rather insistence. For Keller the evil in the world is not something that God is testing or teaching us with—willing or wanting or even “letting” happen. For here God does not stop evil nor for higher paternal reasons permits it. Evil, such as we know it, is a human activity. And here it gets a bit tricky. For Keller evil is a sort of available actualization. The possibility of evil may be understood, perhaps, as divinely inscribed—as a sort of pre-awareness of the unpredictable diversity and inevitale conflicts between creatures. An evolving world invites greater and greater ranges of complexity, and so, at the same time, of capacity for good—or evil. Therefor God may, rightly so, in Keller’s eyes, get the rap for our capacity for evil—not for any particular horror, but for the fact that there is evil in the world. She argues that if evil is not possible, then love is not possible either, except as performed by marionettes. In Keller’s world for the individual the darkness is of opacity, not evil; of an infinity of all things, indeed of each creature as a created god. But it must also remain in some sense ethically ambiguous because of the relationship with the collective, systemic level. In my view Caputo’s view authenticates the dualistic need for evil to authenticate love and vice versa but removes the need for God to be involved.         

Kearney in approaching this issue suggests that if God is love, and if “God is all he is able to be,” then surely this means: all that God is able to be is love, not non-love in other words, evil. Surely to be non-love would be precisely what God is not, what God is incapable of being. So if there is evil in the world it is our doing, something we do as creatures with freedom and choice. In this sense, Kearney is with the Augustinian view that evil is privatio boni, and that the Good is Love. Evil is not a possibility of God but only of humans. Evil is both a human possibility or actuality, but never a divine possibility or actuality.         

Keller concedes that while she understands the dilemma she still cannot help allowing for some ambiguity in God. For her Evil is not a possibility for God, but even the kindest of Gods can’t miss the possibility of evil entangled in advance in the good. The possibility, for example, that one’s affection will lead to disastrous consequences, or the possibility that followers of Jesus will launch crusades and inquisitions. God is the possibility of love that lures more love.

But this can engender anxiety, too, for as Whitehead’s “Eros of the universe”—a universe where “life feeds on life”—it takes the risks of creativity. Or provokes them. It is also the God of the nonhuman universe, where predation and suffering run through the fabric of biology. Which is not to say that suffering is God’s will for any creature, human or inhuman. But there is nonetheless an element of risk, insofar as divinity signifies the very complicatio of our complicated universe, which includes both the deeply nurturing and the deeply painful.

The greater our decision-making capacity—and our chance to wreak havoc—the greater also the potential for embodying. There is, in the process picture says Keller that erotic side of love: divine desire calling forth all kinds of possible’s. And then there is the agapeic love, which picks up the pieces, so to speak.

Kearney agrees that Eros is as central to the divine posse as agape. But he would not want to put Eros on the side of evil—even the risk of evil—if that is said to be an intrinsic dimension of the divine. Which does not mean he wants dualism, He does not want God as transcendent Good out there in some pure metaphysical realm of light with us humans here in some fallen world of darkness. Kearney agrees with Keller’s radical challenge of this whole transcendence versus immanence dichotomy, and he speaks frequently in Anatheism of transcendence in immanence, God in the world. He would want to complicate any kind of metaphysical dualism between divine light and human darkness by saying that the divine–human chiasmus is both in the cosmos (as “chaosmos”) and in each one of us creatures. The coincidence of opposites is in every relationship.

And here he rejoins Keller’s bracing notion of distributive difference—God is everywhere and in all things. Or, as Gerald Manley Hopkins puts it, “Christ plays in ten thousand places … To the Father through the features of men’s faces.” Kearney believes like Keller that the divine is potentially incarnate in all things, explicating, implicating, complicating, duplicating, multiplicating all over the place, in everyone and everything. But, in saying this, Kearney would still want to hold that the divine that dwells in the human, finite, immanent world is nonetheless always love and not non-love. Otherwise, there is no difference at all.

So, while Kearney agrees that every creature is an ambivalent mix of human and divine, he still wants to endorse the hermeneutic task of disambiguating certain situations into (a) love that brings life and (b) non-love that brings cruelty, violence, and destruction. Kearney suggests that Pain, death, and suffering are a very different matter, which can have both good and evil potentials. In other words, he cannot accept that what he calls God, is both good and evil, love and non-love. God, for him, is always good—both actually and potentially. And so, while he agrees totally with Keller’s deconstructive push against the tyranny of certainty be it epistemological certainty or moral certainty and acknowledges the ambivalence of all relations, he still wants to retain the capacity of “discerning between spirits,” of being able to distinguish between loving) and non-loving in a dramatic test case like the holocaust.         

While this topic can go on for much longer I want to round it off today by saying that the question of evil is and always will be ambiguous because that is its nature. And I leave you with a comment about hospitality from Richard Kearney. He says that when we open the door we cannot make a distinction between a psychopath and a messiah who might enter. Much as we would like it to be otherwise, it is often an incredibly difficult call.

There is a story of Dorothy Day saying that when she opened the door to someone at midnight in one of her downtown hospitality houses, she was often unsure whether it was Jesus or Jack the Ripper asking to get in. Or both! So is the ambiguity of such things. If it means God, as Absolute Other, is potentially in all things, he agrees. But if it means that God is actually in all things (including torture and rape), and that there is no difference at all between the divine other (as bringer of life and love) and any kind of other (as torturer, rapist, etcetera), he gives pause. All “others” are not the same.

Which is not to say that, in theological terms, he opposes the idea of universal salvation, going back to Origen. Even Himmler and Hitler may be saved—to take extreme examples—but only as complex agents, insofar as there may be some glint of light mixed up in their appalling darkness. Maybe. Difficult as it is to imagine. But he would never go so far as to say that their evil acts are part of some secret plan of salvation. Here he remains utterly opposed to theodicy of any kind. And  agrees, rather, with Arendt’s Augustinian option to separate the agent from the act. Namely, we can forgive agents (releasing them into the possibility of an alternative future, but we can never forgive their evil acts. So if, at the limit, he might admit that there is no human agent that is irredeemable, he would have to insist that there are certain irredeemable acts. Every act is not divine.         

Keller concedes Of course: But no act is simply divine. Divine action happens in synergy with the creativity of creatures. Every act might be an invitation to the divine, every relationship might invite us to love—as in the hard (almost impossible) imperative to love the enemy—but this does not mean we let the enemy kill our children. It might actually involve killing the enemy, because of deep apophatic entanglements and ambiguities in intensified encounters where we have both love and enmity; unless it passes over into indifference, which is another matter. Original sin means that to love is also to be mixed up in a chaos that involves hostility, pain, and darkness. We are all mixed up and mixed up in all. And at some time, the love of the enemy suggests that the infinite is here, as non fini, nonfinished redemption. There is always work to be done. So she thinks we too, can be quite Augustinian here and say God is the love that is there, but it can be deformed into hideousness by us—into a misguided love of power and possession. Loving the enemy requires some sense of the divine love being actually everywhere, albeit hideously actualized at times.         

What this suggests to me is that we need to be alert for the arrival of evil as it comes in many guises. It also says that even the best minds are engaged continually in interpretation; and that understanding and truth is a dynamic changing thing. It also says that ambiguity, serendipity, and mystery are of life as we know it.

The debatable story about the risen Jesus appearing to the hapless fishermen has him saying “Try your nets on the other side,” and their world changed. Amen.

Afraid of What?

Posted: April 19, 2022 in Uncategorized

Afraid of What?

The story says it is the evening of the first day of the week, Sunday, and the doors of the room are closed. Locked. Anxious and fearful disciples are shut tightly inside. The suspicious world which in this case is the very people Jesus is challenging within his own religious faith are shut out with the door shut tightly against them. Then, all of a sudden, defying locked doors and locked hearts, a dead faith is re-created. A dead hope is born again. We are left with the question; what were they afraid of? Was it being caught by the religious authorities’ as dissidents, as rebels against the faith? As people of political threat? Or was it because they were afraid of being left without any faith, having chosen to walk the Jesus Way and now being faced with having to explain a faith they were still novices of.

Were they afraid of death as a life without certainty? Without their leader? Perhaps they are afraid of having to feel about like a blind man trying to find a certain faith that runs deeper than any doctrinal belief when they know deep down that such a faith is impossible to find. There is no room for doubt in this search otherwise it becomes pointless. Certainty says that if you can’t find it there is something wrong and someone must be getting it wrong. Doubt says that there must be another way of looking at this. It is less about being wrong and more about being unaware of other possibilities. Doubt says there is another truth here. Doubt says that we stand in the truth when we stand exposed to something else, open to what we cannot see coming, putting ourselves in question and making ready for something for which we cannot be ready. Sounds a bit like being afraid of life to me as life is like that. We never know what is around the corner, and we can never fully anticipate what it is that is coming. Ife is serendipitous, unexpected and ‘Almost”. It may not exist but it seems to insist. It is not yet but it surely will.

This week we continue to journey into the season of Easter. And all we have of what is called the ‘resurrection’, are the stories. There is no logical, scientific proof of a ‘bodily’ resurrection yet there is an insistence that it is embodied. There is no videotape of an empty tomb. No seismograph of an Easter earthquake. Just the stories. Faith or trust in the future is not to be an avoidance of reality, it is rather the response to it, engagement with it and a living of it that is required, the embodiment of it if you will. While Jesus’ death mattered to all those early storytellers, his life mattered more. So they spoke of his death in ways that affirmed his life. And to be embraced by life, not scared of it. Today’s biblical story from John, probably written towards the end of the 1st century, and certainly well after both Mark and Matthew, but maybe not Luke’s second book, Acts (the ‘date’ debate continues), presents us with a post-resurrection ‘appearance’ of Jesus.

And much of the interpretation around this story by John has been to do with a bloke called Thomas—sometimes called ‘doubting’ Thomas. Here John says Thomas does not understand. But in the Gospel of Thomas, Thomas is the hero, while the other disciples “play the role of buffoons” (Scott 2010:195).

This suggests that we might take a break here and put aside the idea that Thomas is the example of what a follower of Jesus should be like, and that doubt is an unhelpful response especially if it is about not believing and we might remember that there is no word meaning ‘doubt’ in the story. And that ‘doubt’ is not the opposite of ‘belief’ and we might also remember that the ‘doubt’ translation panders to a much later tradition.

Val Webb in her book, In Defence of Doubt, writes: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith or belief.  The opposite of ‘faith’ is to be without the experience of ‘faith’; the opposite of ‘belief’ is ‘unbelief’… Doubts appear in religion… where there is a difference between what we are told to believe-taught as ‘truth’-and what we experience or intuit.  Doubts occur when the belief system does not line up with our experience” (Webb 1995:4). Brandon Scott suggests also that; “John’s sense is more ‘Be not faithless, but faithful’” (Scott 2010:196). So instead of swallowing all the traditional stuff about Easter, we need to try and understand the mind of the storyteller, John, and why only he tells this story.

First, John claims, that our understanding and experience of God- has been forever changed, “by the sheer force of Jesus’ being” (Wink 1994. Look Smart web site). Second, the experience called ‘resurrection’ did not happen in the temple or church, but in the world, away from religious authorities. And we remember that it was resurrection of all not the individual. Third, our storyteller seems to be making it fairly clear that faith depends on accepting the witness of others, not in securing a so-called ‘personal miracle’ (Jenks FFF web site, 2007). And fourth, something happened to the disciples. “What mattered was that his life continued through them, and through them his mission was advanced.  The disciples extended the domination-free order of God that Jesus had inaugurated” (Wink 1994).

In support of these four suggestions is the important witness and work of the ‘Q’ Collection. The ‘Q’ Collection (from the German ‘Quelle’ meaning ‘source’) is a very early collection of ‘sayings’ of Jesus, used in common by Matthew and Luke. Spong has questioned the existence of Q as a separate collection but what is important is that the collection does have certain things said to be important about being a follower of Jesus. “…the focus of these sayings was not on the person of Jesus or his life and destiny.  They were rather, engrossed with the social program that was called for by his teachings.  Again this brings in the collective resurrection, the systemic power and the power of empire-ism.

Thus their book or collection was not a gospel of the Christian kind, namely a narrative of the life of Jesus as the Christ.  Rather it was a gospel of Jesus’ sayings, a ‘sayings gospel’” (Mack 1993: 1). Or if you like: they lived with Jesus’ teachings ringing in their ears (Mack 1993:1) Then their ‘voice’ was lost.  This is crucial to grasp. That the focus of the Q sayings was not on Jesus as the Christ, but on his mission, his sayings, his doing. It was the church that made the mythical ‘Christ’, the second person of the Trinity, rather than Jesus’ teachings, and the message. This was largely an abandoning of the human Jesus. The gospel writers to a certain extent, but especially the early Church Councils, took the imperial garments of Caesar “and inadvertently, if not intentionally, slipped them over Jesus” (Galston 2012:14). So instead of a wandering peasant wisdom teacher who spoke street-language, what we have is the person and language of Caesar Augustus: Almighty Lord, Saviour of the World, Son of God, King. Christianity ended up with Jesus Caesar, and in need of a demotion!

Jesus’ death mattered to those early storytellers, that is true. But his life mattered more. So they spoke of his death in ways that affirmed his life. And to be embraced by life, not scared of it. “The resurrection is not a fact to be believed”, suggests Walter Wink, “but an experience to be shared… [It] is not a contract for a time-share apartment in heaven.  It is the spirit of Jesus present in people who continue his struggle against domination in all its forms, here, now, on this good earth” (Wink 1994).

John tells us a story of anxious and fearful disciples, shut tightly inside. The suspicious world is shut tightly outside. And we continue to wonder: Are Jesus’ followers afraid of death or terrified of life? We could argue that death is certain and thus without question or doubt whereas life is filled with ambiguity, serendipity and the unknowability. So, Whatever conclusion one might come to about Jesus, that conclusion must offer a possible Jesus and not an incredible one.

Rex Hunt suggests something to ponder about this. He says that (a) The resurrection stories, begun with the story of when the stone is removed from the tomb, are not complete until they are echoed and re-echoed in the lives of everyday people, today (Nancarrow. P&F web site, 2007).

Living in community is about practicing; practicing belonging, hospitality, respect, humility, conversation and disagreement (Bessler-Northcutt 2004). Like truth living in community is not a state of being, it is a dynamic in which relatively stable structures are always de-stabilized by a series of shocks. Like truth, community is always becoming and it is becoming something that it will never achieve. Doubt maintains the dynamic and truth manages the transitions toward knowing more.

He also says (b) that the point of ‘wisdom’ is lifestyle, not veneration. Wisdom is a lifestyle consistent with a vision of the world, this world, as it could be in the present, rather than the future. “The trouble with resurrection”, writes Brandon Scott, “is that we have literalized it, narrowed and constricted it, turned it into a creedal belief and in the process have forfeited its great claim and hope” (Scott 2010:243).

Rex Hunt also suggests that the call for us is tocheck out things for ourselves. Make sure we interpret things correctly, and learn for ourselves. After all the study and all the talk such study usually invokes, we might ask ‘how might living in our contemporary situation be shaped?  Canadian David Galston’s comments are helpful here also. He says; “Once this credible ‘authentic Jesus tradition’ is identified, the point will be to carry forward into the contemporary world the momentum of the Jesus movement: grasping the style of the teacher, capturing the spirit of his words, and living out the implications of these words in our own time with our own creativity” (Galston 2012:53).

What does this credible, authentic Jesus Tradition look like? It looks like truthfulness in action. It is not about doctrine, creed and unassailable words. It is about Style, spirit and the implications of Jesus teaching. Truth is more about truthfulness than any fact, proposition and concreteness can attest to. Nietzsche said that truth is truth-telling, being true, being trustworthy and doing truth. We might say ‘walking the Jesus Way’ or following Jesus is about being aware of the destructive fiction that lurks in the name of truth. Nothing is certain thus the task of certainty is to hide the reality of what it means to be fully human. Truthfulness is the Jesus Way and it demands that we take life on its own terms in other words honour the wonderful rich and challenging mind, live the questions as though life depends on the next question and explore the adventure of humanity truthfully, accepting its limitations and its responsibilities and pushing the boundaries of its imagination, reveling in its lovemaking. Amen.

Notes:

Bessler-Northcutt, J. 2004. “Learning to See God: Prayer and Practice in the wake of the Jesus Seminar” in R. W. Hoover. (ed). The Historical Jesus Goes to Church. Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press.

Galston, D. 2012. Embracing the Human Jesus. A Wisdom Path for Contemporary Christianity. Salem: Polebridge Press.

Mack, B. 1993. The Lost Gospel. The Book of Q and Christian Origins. New York: HarperCollins.

Scott, B. B. 2010. The Trouble with Resurrection. From Paul to the Fourth Gospel. Salem: Polebridge Perss.

Webb, V. 1995. In Defence of Doubt. An Invitation to Adventure. St. Louis: Chalice Press.

Caputo John D Truth Philosophy in Transit Penguin Books

Resurrection and Healing

Posted: April 13, 2022 in Uncategorized

Luke 24:1-12

Resurrection and Healing

Easter Day – today – is regarded as the most important day in the liturgical life of the church. Theologically speaking, Christmas which in my view is more important, doesn’t hold a candle to Easter. “Easter Day is the day in which we celebrate the mystery of resurrection. Notice that.  I said ‘mystery’ of resurrection, not the ‘fact’ of resurrection” (JShuck. Shuck&Jive blog, 2007).

Three years ago I preached this sermon, of which this is a derivative and I recalled some reading of the world views of millennials and people of the future. I also suggested that we modern folks prefer facts. We as things like ‘did this happen? Did this not happen? What are the facts? But as the reading has pointed out, correctly I think, the problem with religious symbols such as resurrection is, they are not fact-friendly. This is not to say that facts are not important but rather that they do not always lead to understanding meaning. There seems to be a need for something more than literalism and facts when one is searching for meaning. Sadly also the church has let us down in that it has been caught up in the need to banish mystery and it has in many cases opted for supernaturalism as a means of explaining the mystery. But what if there is another way?

This day, as part of the ‘mystery’ of resurrection is the day we metaphorically celebrate life over death. This day we also celebrate the moments of life that make up the span of our lives. This day we celebrate changed possibilities. The serendipitous moments, the creative moments. And we give thanks for the Spirit of Life visible in Jesus, visible in each one of us, visible in people in all walks of life… As we celebrate, we also acknowledge that all we have, are the stories, shaped and reshaped and told orally, by people of faith from generation to generation. No logical, scientific proof of a ‘bodily’ resurrection. No videotape of an empty tomb. No seismograph of an Easter earthquake.  Just the stories. But significant stories of life, hope, promise and revelation.

The stories tell us that in the midst of brokenness, healing stirs. That in the midst of darkness, a light shines. That in the midst of death, life is breaking forth. That when all seems gone, hope springs eternal. We are convinced that, Jesus’ death mattered to all those early storytellers. But only because his life mattered more. So, they spoke of his death in ways that affirmed his life. And to be embraced by life, not scared of it. This is the invitation to us all today. The ‘resurrection’ invitation today is similar: be embraced by life, not scared of it? Then there is this suggestion that talks about what this might look like. These stories have a touch of humour.

David Henson writes: “[Jesus] is no longer doing miracles for the masses. He’s no longer directly confronting the Powers that Be. He’s no longer teaching in synagogues, or leading a movement, or marching on Jerusalem. He’s just doing a few simple things, slowly: gardening, walking, eating, laundry, and cooking.

“The first thing he does is to fold up the shroud neatly and to take care with his linen grave clothes… And then, in the final verses of the final chapter in [John’s] gospel we realize that Jesus, for all his talk of feeding, for all his multiplication of loaves and fish, for all the times he feasted with sinners, tax collectors, and Pharisees, has apparently never cooked a meal of his own, at least not one worth remembering, until he’s resurrected. Do you think Mary Magdalene might have been there with him, in this patriarchal world he lived in? If she was perhaps that explains his resurrection?

“Meals feature so heavily throughout the gospels. Jesus presided over many feasts and meals. But he apparently didn’t take the time to cook them himself. He certainly took the time to criticize those like Martha who did spend so much time cooking, but we never see him actually cooking a meal in the gospels.

“But here, the last thing Jesus does on earth is cook a meal, his first recorded one, and then he commands Peter to feed his sheep. In the resurrection, it seems, Jesus institutes the sacrament of housework and everyday chores”.  (pathos.com/blog) Sounds a bit like fining the gospel in the everyday to me?

It is good to be reminded of these very human activities. Especially in the midst of so much super-natural stuff! So, says Rex Hunt, “let me offer some other suggestions (religious sounding perhaps) you might like to ponder sometime:”

• How do we care for each other interpersonally in ways which do not suffocate and oppress? Easter Day everyday perhaps?

• How is the well-being of our neighbour pursued in the complex problem of global hunger and international war? Easter Day everywhere perhaps?

• How are communities developed positively around respect and care for each person, rather than around a common enemy? Easter Day in everything perhaps?

• How are the systemic causes of non-love eliminated? All human issues to be viewed in the light of the resurrection stories… Easter Day as awareness provoking perhaps?

Bishop John Shelby Spong has offered a comment which is also worth pondering:

• Loving God… means that people do not treat the legitimacy of their own spiritual path as a sign that every other spiritual path is somehow illegitimate.

• Loving your neighbour… means treating all people – regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, nationality, ethnicity or economic class – as holy, as having been made in God’s image.

• Loving ourselves… means basing our lives on the faith that in Jesus as the Christ all things are made new and all people are loved by God (Spong Newsletter, 23/3/06).

All of the above has implications for us here in NZ with the horrific execution of people of faith in Christchurch. How do we be a Jesus follower in the light of what has taken place? And also with the recent horrific evil of warfare in the Ukraine. How do we as walkers of the Jesus Way respond?

To live with these questions and their implications coursing in our veins, is to live in the spirit of the sage we call Jesus, it is to embrace life, not be scared of it. Because ‘resurrection’ can and does happen every day!  Love says so, Love demands it, Love resources it.

Peter Rollins, author of The Orthodox Heretic, puts it another way. He has this to say about ‘the’ resurrection: “Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ…  I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.  However, there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are.  I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed” (Rollins 2009).

According to Irish-born Rollins, you can believe all the things you want. You can even be as religious as the Pope (Francis i) or your favourite TV evangelist. But unless you can “cry for those who have no more tears left to shed”, the resurrection means little to nothing.  Amen.

Notes: 
Rollins, P. 2009.  The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales. Orleans. Paraclete Press

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Posted: April 4, 2022 in Uncategorized

‘Which Procession?’

Our title is where Palm Sunday begins and ends. The hermeneutic concern or the message for us is clearly ‘which procession are we in?’ Is it one of empire or one of sacred realm? Is it blind faith in the faith of the systems of power and control or is it a n alternative approach? Which procession will we choose? The one of power, control, correctness, and certainty or one of humility, ambiguity, mystery and novel? One of rights and regulation or one of love and grace and inclusion? Is it blind acceptance of a system of adversarial reality or one of hopeful peace? Is it Roman theology that God favours the mighty or one where God is within the fragile, the weak and the poor? Which procession do we choose?

We perhaps need to acknowledge here that the conflict that brought about the crucifixion of Jesus was not a conflict between Jews, Christian Jews and other Jews, nor was it a conflict between Jesus and Judaism, Jesus was a devout Jew and this conflict was a conflict between Jesus and a dominant system that was in conflict with what the dream of God was and could be. It is an alternative social political and military governed world hidden behind the need to protect the populace from the minority by means of power over and control of. Jesus claimed that there was another way and it was so plausible that he was executed by those who would lose the most.

It takes place at the beginning of the most sacred week in the Jewish calendar, the week of Passover and it is the event of two processions, one peasant and one imperial, Both processions about the understanding of the kingdom of God but one a God of the poor, of compassion and love and one a kingdom of power over, control of and empire. These two processions do more than demonstrate the difference, they embody it. Last week I shared David Galston’s take on the war in Ukraine. His view is that Putin has erred in that he has been seduced by the power of empire and he wants to recreate it whereas the Ukraine is similar to the middle east and there is no historically justifyable nationhood. Its history has always been a melting pot of difference and never been a nation controllable by an empirical order.

Another significant thing to note is the place of Jerusalem in this conflict. It begins with the fact that on almost every occasion of a Jewish festival, Roman imperialism was present and participated, not out of reverence for Judaism but as a threat of imposition. Make trouble and we will crush you. We are in control here. Why was this important? Well it was important because Passover was a festival that Celebrated the Jewish people’s liberation from an earlier empire. An anathema to those who depended upon empirical power.

The Roman garrison was permanently stationed overlooking the Jewish Temple and its courts and it was seen as a chore to be stationed there. He mission there was a no win situation because of its resistance to empire-ism. So much so that it was always a stationing that needed adding to at festival times. Pilate and the main cohorts were stationed at Caearea on the Sea, a far better stationing some sixty miles to the West. It was a new and splendid city and far more pleasant that Jerusalem which had become insular, provincial and partisan and often hostile. It was somewhat of a chore to go to Jerusalem and this inevitably led to the imperial nature being flaunted with a very visual panoply of power, cavalry with war horses, soldiers, armour, weapons along with banners and eagles mounted on poles glinting in the sun. One can imagine the sounds of leather, clinking of bridles and the beating of drums all in the face of people with dust swirling around their eyes some awed by the spectacle of power and others resentful of the assumed power. Many silenced by the show of power.

But let’s also be clear here. This was not only a display of imperial power. It was also a show of imperial theology. The emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome but the Son of God. This idea had begun in 31BCE, 0nly 60 years before this day with Augustus whose Father was the god Apollo and Augustus was the saviour, the one who had brought peace on earth. The continuance of this was that he was seen ascending into heaven to take his permanent place among the gods. His successors continued to bear divine titles including Tiberius who was emperor during Jesus time. Palm Sunday then is a political, military and theological confrontation of epic proportion for a small portion of the Roman Empire. However small it was in the scheme of world domination by Rome it was not only a time of rival social order but also a rival theology.

We note here that the gospels differ a bit. Mark tells it as a prearranged ‘counter-procession’ and Jesus planned it in advance. The colt story makes this look like a planned political demonstration and this is reinforced with the link to Zechariah story where the king riding a donkey will banish war from the land, The king will be a king of peace. Implicit almost is the importance of Jerusalem as the place of the sacred temple. We remember here that Jerusalem has been central to the sacred imagination for a millennium. It is the City of God like Rome in the time of Augustin and it was the faithless city, a city of hope and a city of oppression, a city of joy and a city of pain. Sounds familiar does it not? It began its journey around 1000bce when under David all twelve tribes were under one king. We recall also that under David Jerusalem was not only a time of power and glory but also of justice and righteousness. He was associated with goodness, power, protection and justice. This is why the hoped-for deliverer was expected to be the Son of David, a new David indeed a greater David.

We remember here also that Jerusalem was not new to the domination matrix. In the half century after David Jerusalem become the center of a domination system, in this case the organization of a society marked by three features. By Political oppression, the many ruled by the few, the powerful and wealthy elites. Ordinary people had no voice in the shaping of society. By economic exploitation where the greatest percentage of a society’s wealth came from agricultural production, in this case in a preindustrial society where the wealth went to the Roman economy to feed R0me and the elites within Palestinian society in support of that. The gospel’s highlighting of tax collectors and collaborators indicated their influence within the society structures of ownership and commerce. The third aspect was the religious legitimation. These systems were legitimated or justified with religious language. The king or emperor ruled by divine right, the king or emperor was the Son of God the social order reflected the will of God and the powers that be were ordained by God. Of course, religion can also become the source of protests against these claims but in most cases, religion has been used to legitimate the place of the wealthy and powerful in the social order over which they preside.

We remind ourselves about now that none of this is unusual. Most human civilizations operate this way in the case of a non-religious society it is the way things are and the religious society is one where God has set it as that way. Again the empirical power of fear becomes the mainstay of religious thought and practice, believe or die, abbey the call or be the lost sheep. For our story then of Jesus’ last week Jerusalem it is a very significant setting that had come about through the centralization and the building of the single Southern Kingdom of Judah with Jerusalem at its core. We are also aware of its persistence in that for several centuries Jerusalem had been ruled by foreign empires and under them Jerusalem was the center of local government falling in 63BCE under the control of Rome. Here the significant change was that Rome abolished the Jewish monarchy and installed the high priest, in other words the temple as the primary place of collaboration. The Palm Sunday story is a challenge to this systemic power. The primary qualification for inclusion was wealth. Rome trusted the wealthy families as local collaborators with a free hand except for the collecting and paying of the annual tribute owed to Rome.

Of course, we can guess how this went as we are aware of what greed and power over, do, to us and so we hear of Herod executing his own class in the interests of power and control. His goal was to centralize power and control and he made Jerusalem the most magnificent in the Roman Empire. The trouble was that when he too overstepped the mark and spent too much money, he was forced to put pressure on his own sources losing their support to the point that when he died revolts erupted throughout the kingdom. Again, this meant a change for the Temple as Rome having burnt its bridges with local politicians e.g. Herod, it transferred control to the temple. It was of course very likely that the elite families created by Herod had provided the Priests and so the domination system continued this time under the umbrella of the Temple. Here the economics of society became intertwined with the economics of religion and local taxes became tithes paid to the priesthood amounting to over 20% of production. Another plus was the festivals when the 40 thousand Jerusalem inhabitants would become hundreds of thousands during festivals. All this meant that the temple authorities had a balancing act on their hands. How to make sure the annual tribute to Rome was paid while maintaining the domestic peace and order. Rome did not want rebellions. It was better that one man die than the whole nation be destroyed.

This was the Jerusalem that Jesus entered on Palm Sunday. His message was deeply critical of the temple and its role in the domination system. Alongside this is the Essenes who rejected the legitimacy of the present temple and priesthood and who looked forward to the day when they would be restored to power. Here we have the environment for the 66CE revolt that was directed as much against the temple collaborators as it was against Rome itself.

Again, this is the Jerusalem that the two processions enter into on Palm Sunday. The City of God is in trouble and we know it did not survive the first century. One of those processions was about the empire of Rome and the other was about the empire of God.

Borg and Crossan write: “Jesus’ procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city.  Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that rules the world.  Jesus’ procession embodied an alternative vision, the [empire] of God…  The confrontation between these two kingdoms [or empires] continues through the last week of Jesus’ life” (Borg & Crossan 2006:4-5).

Well, all that is about way back then.  What about now? What can we resonate with in 2022? There continues to be two visions of how we are to be human, religiously politically and socially. However the reality is that the current generation is a now generation with no interest in what was and no energy for what might be. They understand change and they now that it is beyond current systems of order and hope.  I asked an eighteen year-old what he saw as hopeful in his world and his response was I don’t know I just get on doing the now. Sometimes the vision from both the empire and the church seem very similar. As in the prosperity theology of such places as Destiny Church and the like.- the mega-church models that we hear have got it right and from such people as those of the “hysterically religious” (Spong 2007:9), such as those who preach a violent God. They say that “Some day we may blow ourselves up with the bombs… But God’s going to be in control… If God chooses to use nuclear war, then who are we to argue with that” (Jones, Quoted in Crossan 2007:199).

Sometimes the church has just got it wrong about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, which has resulted in a racist theology and overt racism. Sometimes the church has got it wrong socially and Priests and powerful religious exploit the vulnerable and the gentle. Sometmes churches get it wrong and become overwhelmed by economic greed and wealth. Again the downside of empire-ism. Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was not against Judaism, not against the Temple as such, not against the priesthood or Temple leaders. It was, suggests biblical scholar Dom Crossan, a protest by one within Jewish society “against Jewish religious co-operation with Roman imperial control” (Crossan 2007:132).

And there have been many within the Global society who have protested against imperial control which has led nations to detain refugees in prison-like conditions. To wage war on countries through the spectacles of terrorism, but really through the hip pocket of ‘oil’ 
and to abandon citizens overseas, for political expediency. Most times the church has misunderstood Jesus’ journey, calling it ‘the triumphal entry into Jerusalem’. It was not triumphal.  Actually it was an anti-triumphal entry in its core expression. It was metaphorical. But regardless, sections of the church decide to take to the city streets to ‘march… demonstrating the power of Easter’ in gatherings of piety and triumphalism! But… and you will probably suggest I often have a ‘but’. But this is all very serious. 

I want to finish with a flourish by asking what if there is just a touch of humour in all this. Jesus’ stories – we call them parables – often had a humorous side to them. So, what if his particular  ‘Palm Sunday’ procession also had a touch of humour to it? Was the peasant procession taking the mickey’ out of the other, pompous procession? Maybe the emperor is not wearing any clothes after all!

What if Palm Sunday, if it is anything, draws us into the reality of this world. It is an invitation to continue to view the world differently. Barbara Brown Taylor in an article in The Christian Century, wrote: “When I listen to the most devoted followers of Jesus, they tell me what it costs to love unconditionally, to forgive 70-times-seven, to offer hospitality to strangers, and to show compassion for the poor.  These are essential hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry, which no followers of his can ignore…  What I hear less about from Jesus’ followers is what it costs to oppose the traditions of the elders, to upset pious expectations of what a child of God should say or do, to subvert religious certainty, and to make people responsible for their own lives. Yet all of these are present in his example too” (Taylor 2007). And, sometimes that can take some real doing! Amen.

Notes:
Borg, M; J. D. Crossan. 2006. The Last Week: A day-by-day account of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem. New York. HarperSanFrancisco.
Cox, H. 1969. The Feast of Fools. A Theological Essay on Festivity and Fantasy. Cambridge. Harvard University Press.
Crossan, J. D. 2007. God and Empire. Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. New York. HarperSanFrancisco.
Patterson, S. J. 2004. Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus. Minneapolis. Fortress Press.
Spong, J. S. 2007. Jesus for the Non-religious. New York. HarperSanFrancisco.
Taylor, B. B. 2007. “Something about Jesus” in The Christian Century, 3 April. Web site.

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‘The Gospel is about Extravagance Not Sacrifice’

This morning’s theological storyteller we call John, has told a very old story and this story seems to have been reworked several times as it appears in various guises in at least three other gospels. In John, it is a good woman. In Luke, a sinful woman. In Mark, the woman anoints Jesus’ head. In Luke and John, she anoints his feet. Later generations have imagined the woman was Mary Magdalene. And the differences go on.

In John, Judas objects. In Matthew, the disciples object. In Mark, it was some of those present who objected. In Luke, it was Simon, the pharisee who objects. In Matthew and Mark, all this took place in the house of Simon, the leper. In Luke, it happened in the house of Simon, the pharisee. In John, it took place in the home of Lazarus. About now one might be excused for being confused. This is quite a story!

So, amid all the changes to this story, where do we go? Where is the story’s focus? Maybe it’s on the response of the woman. But we need to be careful if we go down that road because we know the woman’s response is not always welcomed by those of the culture of the compilers and of a time of patriarchal history. Looking at the wider context of the story we see that the protests in many of the stories surrounding this one seem to focus on the waste of resources, with those resources going to assist the poor.

So as a guide, Uniting Church theologian Bill Loader offers this comment: He says:
“It is not that we should see [her response] as stroking the ego of Jesus, but rather as indicative of her response…  A person is responding to love and acceptance.  It is not the time to talk budgets, but to value the person” (WLoader Web site 2004).

A Girardian note on this story suggests that we find ourselves in Lent and the cross looms large ahead of us, bringing us closer to the revelation of God’s extravagant love – reflected in Mary’s scandalous generosity – juxtaposed against humanity’s imposition of blame and cruelty.

This passage contains layers upon layers of scapegoating and misappropriated blame, but cutting through it is truth, beauty and compassion.

A frequent misinterpretation of this passage is that Jesus is acquiescing to the inevitability of impoverishment, as if poverty is a natural phenomenon to which some are necessarily doomed. But if God is Love – if Love fashioned the universe and all that is in it and formed humanity to reflect Love – then the suffering that comes with cultural, economic and social concern; destitution is not divine design. No, there is abundance for all, so why does Jesus say, “You always have the poor with you?”

Well! what if poverty is a way that the consequences of negative mimesis have become entrenched over time? As people live over and against one another and exclude and marginalize or exploit and manipulate others for their own benefit, the abundance of creation is horded by some and denied to others? The current economic questions around equity seem to signal tis poverty as acceptable.

Furthermore, the escalation of human conflict, as desires for wealth, power, and influence clash against each other, erupts into war that further impoverishes those who already have little. No one will benefit from the Russian invasion of the Ukraine other than those who have the power and the resources already. The poor are often those conscripted into battle or sent to the front lines to fight for profits claimed by others under the guise of patriotism and ‘the empire’ remains the hidden reason. Spilled blood poisons the soil, and today tools of modern warfare destroy homes and livelihoods and wreak havoc on the land and water, rendering them unable to provide for the people as intended. I don’t think Jesus foresaw bombs and missiles, per se, but I do think he understood the escalation of violence and the advancement of weaponry over time which would be put to use in the service of fear and greed and deepen the poverty of the people. He knew the results of “Empire building”.

Jesus saw how God’s commands to welcome and love strangers and foreigners have been neglected. He saw instructions on forgiveness of debts ignored and the further entrenchment of poverty through the generations. He saw how people and nations defined themselves over and against others and how claiming the exclusive raises the question of an exclusive God who has pushed out scapegoats within communities and fostered enmities between them. Thus the Poverty that results and metastasizes from these patterns of human behaviour is something Jesus intimately understood precisely because he placed himself at the center of it. The same forces that impoverish ultimately kill Jesus.

So, when Jesus says, “You always have the poor with you,” he is lamenting, not acquiescing to, human sinfulness – which can be summed up as the brokenness of human relationships that compels us to find our identities over and against, rather than with and for, one another. We become unbalanced, left brain prioritized, in other words he saw how we can be conscripted by function and effective and efficient over meaning and understanding and the resultant adversarial responsive. And then Jesus says, “You do not always have me.” He is affirming that his challenge is to see the need to challenge our assumptions that are not balanced.

Yes, he is very likely foreshadowing his death, because he knows the results of having power and control. We will always have the poor. But he is not contrasting himself with the poor but rather standing in solidarity with them. He is not seeking any focus on himself but rather highlighting the need for constant vigilance in the face of responses that are not tested against reality as we know it. And he is saying, “Unless you can see the unique and beautiful face of each person right in front of you, you will never truly care for the poor.” Poverty comes from dehumanization and exclusion, from casting people aside from the human community, from violence that violates and destroys bodies and souls, and from a lack of adequate critique pof meaning and understanding. What are we doing this? If you want to help those who are poor, see them! Welcome and befriend them, Jesus tells us. “And do not begrudge an act of extraordinary kindness and generosity toward them, as Mary is doing for me.” And if this Mary is in fact Mary Magdalene then here he includes a rich loving relationship as the example of how to combat poverty, by love. The issue of debate between The Friends and ourselves about what is the better way to deal with homeless who use our doorways as shelter is a perfect example of this challenge. Ban and police them or work with them in the needs. The poor, disaffected, unable to work with the system are always with us.

Yes, there is so much more in this action, in this anointing for burial as both preparation for death and metaphorically the beginning of death’s undoing itself – the undoing of the victimization and ritualization that grafts sacrifice into the lifecycle of communities and destroys them from the inside out is another half dozen sermon.

What I think is important here is the idea that poverty as a consequence of the dehumanization that is pinpointed against a single individual or group in the scapegoating mechanism, as the widespread result of scapegoating from the foundation of the world. Because in an age and a society where the poor are still scapegoated, and violence – in the form of destruction of social programs and the diversion of funding to wars that further entrench poverty – violence that harms the poor is whitewashed and cloaked in pseudo-righteousness.

The Girardian approach to this suggests that we must see the social and political dimension of Jesus’s words, as well as the personal. At the core of it all, to say “You always have the poor with you,” is to say that the fullness of humanity is always denied.  I would prefer to say unfinished. In our story Jesus draws the focus back to himself; ultimately to affirm the dignity of everyone and to show us that dignity that we may see it in ourselves and others, and not to offer us a supernatural escape clause.

If we follow the Girardian approach and see poverty itself through the lens of scapegoating, we can see how this passage presents further layers of scapegoating as well. These are layers that can lead to marginalization and poverty. Judas (the mythical bad guy) scapegoats Mary. He chastises her for her extravagant generosity as she spreads the perfume over Jesus’s feet. The evangelist (the cultural collaborator) scapegoats Judas. He says that Judas has no concern for the poor, but wanted to steal from the treasury.

Commentaries say other scholars are more sympathetic to Judas. And, yes, the story has Judas betraying Jesus, but so do we all. To give in to and turn to the ways of violence for self-protection or enrichment is to betray Jesus. To build ourselves up over and against others is to betray Jesus. Entrenched biases and prejudices are betrayals of Jesus that permeate our world and infect our souls.

For the evangelist to hone in on Judas’s faults and judge his motives is to detract from the deeper truth that everyone witnessing such extravagance on Mary’s part was very likely scandalized by it. And today, while giving to the poor is considered a virtue, programs that uplift the poor and attempt to restructure society so that poverty is reduced are often maligned as “hand-outs.” “Do away with foodbanks because all they do is perpetuate people who cheat the system”. Ban the homeless from our CBD because we are damaging out tourism potential. We must ask, to what extent are we scandalized by our extravagant abundance, and how much more must we open our own hearts to acts of extraordinary generosity and kindness?” Maybe we should build rooms in our church buildings and give them to the homeless.

The chief priests scapegoat not only Jesus, but Lazarus as well, “since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting their Judaism and were believing in Jesus.” And let’s remember that this was Jews moving between their own faith expressions. They were not becoming pagan or any other form of religion but rather within a world of diverse practice. Fearing loss of authority and power, and fearing destruction of their particular community by Rome, they conspire to put Lazarus to death… again.

The challenge to us in this text is to acknowledge that generations of Christians have scapegoated Jews because of an anti-Semitic reading of this text. We have scapegoated many who can’t keep up or fit in to our norms of society and we have set Jesus apart from every other victim by making him carry the burden of being supernatural and we see his execution as something unique and more offensive than that of anyone else, we miss his solidarity with the victims of violence in all times and places, and we mistake the violence done against him as worse than our own. We push to the background the fact that many in his world were crucified. How is it different from the men women and children killed in the Ukraine?

But what do we do about this?  Well maybe look again at Mary who, being herself, marginalized, models the generosity and vulnerability that Jesus later displays when he washes the feet of his disciples. In our Hebrew Scripture for today God declares “I am about to do a new thing,” foreshadowing perhaps the forgiveness and undoing of the ways of blame and violence that lead to death that spring from the cross and resurrection…

So, what do we do about this? What is our response to this reality? How do we interpret Jesus’ words about the poor, Mary’s extravagant generosity, or Judas’s chastisement, or the reaction of the chief priests? And if “we always have poor among us,” what does that mean? What does Jesus have to say to today’s social and political and economic systems? What does he have to say to the ways we see, or don’t see, those who are poor among us? What hope does he offer the poor themselves, who comprise the majority of the world?

Well, let’s go back to the story again, in fact let’s see if we can put this story into context. Stories such as: The man who had two sons; A man with a hundred sheep, and A woman with ten coins. In the parable of the man who had two sons we meet the younger son who, after collecting his share of the family’s estate, leaves home and spends it all on extravagant living. When he returns home, broke, he is welcomed back by his father, who bankrolls, out of the other brother’s inheritance, an extravagant homecoming party. In the parable of the one sheep missing from a flock of 100, the fellow goes off searching for the lost one until it is found. And when he finds that one sheep, throws a party in an act of extravagance and maybe even offering the sheep as part of the party food!

Likewise, in the parable of the woman who loses a coin. With a sense of urgency she lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and goes searching. She is in charge of the household finances.  Indeed: “her power and status derive from maintaining orderly household management” (Reid 2000:187) So she doesn’t give up until she has found that coin. Then she throws an extravagant party, probably spending that coin and several others, in honour of the recovered coin and her selfhood.

Extravagance and joy characterize these Lukan stories. As it does, I suggest, in this morning’s story by John. But what of John’s added comment: ‘There will always be poor around, but I won’t always be around.’ Well, again if we go back and ‘hear’ that again, checking the passage from Deuteronomy which many scholars feel John has been inspired by. this is what we hear: Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land’ (NRSV). Open your hand…  Be compassionate to others! Com- passion.  Feeling with. From the very depths of your person.

So, with the broader Deuteronomy text ringing in my ears, I think along with others that this story from John implies that it was: Mary – with her love, the lotion and the touch, and not
Judas – with the speech and the pious-sounding advice, whose response was genuinely compassionate. The speech by Judas sets up a competitive situation and a closed hand. The action of Mary sets up common likenesses and an open hand. Matthew Fox of ‘creation spirituality’ fame, and who we had as one of the Ferguson Lecturer  2019 he had some interesting comments on compassion which I think could be helpful: “Competition isolates, separates and estranges.  Compassion unites, makes one and embraces…  If we can move from competition to compassion, we will have moved from dull and moralistic and ungrateful and legalistic (thinking)… to celebrative thanking… Celebration leads to fuller and fuller compassion” (Fox 1979:72, 89). This is perhaps our challenge in trying to work with those who hold power and control.

Extravagance and celebration and joy! For of such are the images of the ‘glimpsed alternative’, and ‘revelation of potential’ called the realm of God. It seems here that Jack Spong got it right when he said: love wastefully!

Notes:
Fox, M 1979.  A spirituality named compassion and the healing of the global village, Humpty Dumpty and us. NM: Santa Fe. Bear & Company.
Reid, B. E. 2000.  Parables for preachers. Year C. MN: Collegeville. Liturgical Press.
Scott, B. B. 2001.  Re-Imagine the world. An introduction to the parables of Jesus. CA: Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press.
Scott, B. B. 1989.  Hear then the parable. A commentary on the parables of Jesus. MN: Minneapolis. Fortress Press.

rexae74@gmail.com

‘Jesus and the Deception of ‘Empire’

‘Give me my inheritance now instead of when you drop dead. Because I can’t wait that long. I need to move on. I need to leave home, now’. Another way of saying this is about the purpose of Lent It is that: “We enter into the desert to discover life.”

We know that feeling do we not? It comes from a deep sense of knowing that something about this world is not right, an innate sense of being unsettled, incomplete and it seems to come as the primary desire. We need to move on, to find a better Way. This just might be what it is like to be a fear driven society and it just might come from ourselves.

An example of how subtle and complex this fear driven situation drives us is likened to the feelings of the Father waiting for his wayward son. We try to concentrate on saying what needs to be said in this present moment. There may not be another time we tell ourselves, so what is to be said must be said now. Like the We love you. We will miss you. The door will always be open. We will be waiting for you to come home. We will be praying, always praying. We try to imagine what the next few months will be like because we know we cannot say goodbye forever, since we know our heart will not let us do that. Whatever we tell ourselves about getting on with life, we know we will be waiting. Holding our breath every time the phone rings. Listening for the steps upon the porch.

The Jesus Seminar voted the Prodigal Son parable, ‘pink’: and pink means that Jesus may have said something like this. So, we can probably say that this story is an important story. The story of the so-called Prodigal Son… so-called because it really is a story about three characters: the father, the elder son, and the younger son, is one of the best known of all the biblical stories.

We have heard it… maybe a zillion times! But have we really heard it?  Really listened to it?

A younger son wants to leave home.  He insultingly asks his father for his share of what may become his inheritance. Knowing there was no point in trying to hold on,
the father agrees, and shares out his livelihood to both sons. The younger son leaves home and lives a life of extravagance. We know his story.

We also know how the father, always watching and waiting and loving, sees his son coming home. And. Ignoring the teachings of the Hebrew scriptures, he runs out to meet him and protect him, in case any member of the village should recognise him as someone who has dishonoured both his family and his village, and attempt to kill him. So, the father welcomes the son back with an extravagant homecoming party.

Likewise, we know the story around the elder son. When he arrives home, he notices a party is in progress, and is told it is for the younger son, who has also come home. In true sibling rivalry he takes offence, yells abuse about his father, and refuses to ‘go in’ to the party. We also know how the father, lovingly, goes out to meet him.

What’s the hermeneutic response for us now? How can we hear this story anew?  We go back to the story. First, this is a story about a father who had two sons.  Indeed, not only had two sons but loved two sons, went out to two sons, and was generous to two sons.

Second, the father does not reject either son, under any circumstance.  His love is given to both, not to one at the expense of the other.  Yet this same love does not resolve the conflict. It accepts conflicts as the arena in which the work of love is to be done.

Third, there is a missing third act in this parable (Scott 2001). The conflict between the brothers is left unresolved.  So, we are left with a real question: what happens next?

New Testament scholar Brandon Scott is helpful in shaping up this question with a suggestion: “Soon the father will die.  Then what? He asks. If the sons continue on with their established scripts, they are headed for a collision.  One will kill the other. Or they can follow the father’s script and surrender their male honour and keep on welcoming, accepting, and being with the other.  They have a choice between being lost or found, dead or alive” (Scott 2001:82-83). What is this alternative?

I suggest that it is an alternative to the Roman Empire and in fact an alternative to ‘Empire’ as a societal institution.

In this parable the storyteller has Jesus offering a simple suggestion: but in practice it doesn’t seem that simple. This new world is a re-imagined world, the hoped-for world Jesus continually talks about, and it pictures co-operation, not contest, as the basis for the realm of God. Loving one’s enemies, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, collaboration not contest. The message is that one is loved not according to pre-set conditions, not by more rules and regulations, not by doing but by being.  Making love is less about what one does and more about who one is, living love perhaps, depending upon love not because of what it does but rather because it is a way of being. Maybe that’s the message and maybe it’s that simple. Be God like, be love, live it.  But do we have ears to hear that?

An Exercise to Balance Your Brain’s Two Hemispheres

Jesus told parables so that, as with any good story, they could weave their way into the fabric of our lives in different ways. In the light of last week’s discovery, stories seem to take us straight to the hippocampus. They seem to speak to the whole brain and not just to a hemisphere. They invite us to experience as well as engage cognitively with. They pull the poetics and the practical together. Stories invite us to listen, to hear, and to draw our own conclusions. But be careful.  Stories can also be dangerous. Especially stories told by a certain Jesus of Nazareth.

The following is an article written by David Galston of Westar Institute. For me it highlights the imbalanced brain and a fear driven approach to the world. Its claim in my view is that it is a Fear driven philosophy. An approach that avoids the right hemispheres insistence on meaning for one’s actions. And thus a disdain for communal nature of humanity.

It begins…. On Monday February 22, two days before Russia invaded Ukraine, the Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Kimani, addressed the Security Council. He reminded the Council of his country’s history with empire. The borders of his country, like the borders of other African countries, were not drawn by the people of Kenya today. Their borders were drawn up at the Berlin Conference in 1885 where no African representatives were present. Decisions about their fate were made in the far away metropoles of London, Paris, and Lisbon.

Despite this background of colonial violence, Ambassador Kimani stated that “at independence” had these new artificially created African nations “chosen to pursue states on the basis of ethnic, racial, or religious homogeneity, we would still be waging bloody wars.” He then added, “We chose to follow the rules of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations Charter not because our borders satisfied us but because we wanted something greater forged in peace.”

Ambassador Kimani made the clear and powerful point that while we cannot change imperial history, we do not have to continue forward on the basis of imperial values. Instead, there can be a post-imperial future.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia is all about “’empire,” particularly, it seems, the ninth- to thirteenth-century Kievan Rus empire that encompassed Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. Both modern day Russia and Ukraine root their history in the Kievan Rus empire once ruled by another Vladimir called the Great (980–1015). It was this Vladimir who led Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus into the Eastern confession of Christianity.

Putin knows his history, and it is not a coincidence that he fills his rhetoric with notions of Ukraine not being a real country but belonging spiritually to Russia. Indeed, he goes as far as denying that Ukraine ever existed.

Russia with Putin compares to Rome with its emperors, but the difference is that Rome never denied the existence of the nations it controlled. As an empire, though, and like any empire, Rome propagated some of the same rhetoric: the nations were not civilized, they were conquered to be liberated, they needed peace to prosper, and they should thank Rome for newfound blessings.

Ambassador Kimani called Russia out on its imperial mindset and its inability to consider that real liberation for humanity lies in a post-imperial world. The history of nations living under other nations’ self-mythology has to end.

Ambassador Kimani has been both praised and criticized, but the spirit of his words is significant. What does a post-imperial world look like both in the relationship of nations and the mindset of individuals? This question invokes the world of ideas that inspire but, unfortunately, do not yet describe reality. Three exemplars of a post-imperial world come from philosophy and religion, the two homes of human vision. The exemplars are inter-subjectivity, intrinsicality, and dialectic. These are all philosophical words that have expressions in religion.

Inter-subjectivity means that no one can be a “subject,” an individual, without a relationship to someone else. The condition of being human is inter-subjective. In other words, we are all in this together. To abuse inter-subjectivity is to place yourself in control of another subject (another person). This abuse backfires because it is a breaking apart of relationship. It means suffering for others and a loss of humanity for the self. A post-imperial world will be an inter-subjective world where becoming human happens with others, not against others. The parable of the Good Samaritan is an example from religion of this lesson. It is a lesson empires never learn.

Intrinsicality is a word from process philosophy. It means that all forms of life and all matter in the universe have value. Things are valuable because of their inside or intrinsic worth. When you think about this lesson, it relates to inter-subjectivity: nothing can become what it is without the other. The other is of great value because it is other. The other holds dignity. Sharing dignity with the other is the act of becoming who you are. Nature has dignity as much as people do, and so do inanimate objects. The parable of the women putting leaven in bread is an example of intrinsicality because she values what is normally considered unclean. Empires have a habit of ignoring intrinsicality, and they create sorrow accordingly.

Dialectic is a difficult but common word in philosophy. It refers to struggle. It is often coupled with the word “negative.” A famous book in philosophy is Theodor Adorno’s Negative Dialectics. In simple terms, it means that no one can stand out from a background without being distinct from the background.

The act of being distinct is to be negatively related to the background: I am not that. To be swallowed up in the background is to be lost, and this lostness is called “bad faith” or, sometimes, “the unhappy consciousness.” Being unhappy in philosophy means that there is no dialectical relationship to your background. No questions about how you think. No bother with your family history. No doubts about your culture. No concern about your political views, and so forth. To be unhappy is to be undialectical, which is the elaborate way philosophy defines being a fundamentalist. To struggle is to be dialectical, and this is the honesty of being human.

An example from religion of dialectical honesty is the poor woman who pesters the powerful judge. The judge can’t ignore her and finally gives in to her; she is the dialectical negative who stands out from the background to awaken an otherwise corrupt figure. Empires rely on undialectical thinking. Empires do not like to be questioned. It takes the courageous and the powerless to wake up empires.

The political leaders of Russia think that re-establishing their imperial status is good news. That has never been true for any empire. It is really bad news for the world and ultimately for the empire itself. It leads us away from a post-imperial world and from some of the greatest lessons in life found in philosophy and religion.

I want to finish this with a comment about what I suspect the fear is that the likes of Putin and many others are afraid of. It may be a hang over from the excesses of Communism that Putin could remember but is is also a result of a Left Hemisphere drive World. A fear of togetherness. A togetherness where there is a positive alternative to separateness in a world, aimlessly hurtling through space.

McKnight and Cormac wrote in their book due to come out this September that:  Our real health, wealth and power are found together, in local places; not in rugged individualism and the consumer society. That means we, in our role as neighbours, are the critical actors and our neighbourhoods are the bedrock on which an alternative future must be built.  They were careful to point out that institutions and technology play important roles in modern life. They don’t try to suggests that older, privileged, white guys shake their fists at the sky, bemoaning modernity. However, they do argue that communities have been dislocated from their central role in democracy and that getting back into the driving seat is essential to our shared planetary futures, and to better address the central issues of our time. To that end, we place institutions and technology in service of, and to, communities. I would suggest  that this is not in the in the interest of ‘Empire building’ but rather in the interest of extendin our community capacities; not to harm them or control them or somehow improve their efficiency or impact but rather to just do them. Institutions and technology make great servants, but woeful masters because they become empires of power and control and generate fear in order to do that. Amen.

‘An Affirming Faith in The Face of Covid’             

Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day, it seems, believed in a God who punished the bad people and rewarded the good. They went so far as to say:

• if you live in poverty or have a bad accident or disease, you are revealed by God as a sinner;

• if you are healthy and prosper you are revealed by God as a righteous person. We no longer think that sin is that simple or able to be relieved by an interventionist God.

There is a story that gives us a bit of a modern version of that old way of thinking; it goes like this….

A minister… let’s call her Diana, rushed around to the home of friends where a small child has suddenly died. She was met at the door by the distraught father, a senior lecturer in mathematics at the local university, who usually was most composed. “O Diana, thanks for coming.  It’s a nightmare. You know, I have not been reading my Bible much these days.” At first Diana was confused by her friend’s opening remark. What had reading the Bible to do with a little child’s death? Later, after she had thought the issue through, Diana was able to help untangle the poor father’s anguish.

The father’s first reaction had been to feel guilty. Years before, when he had been confirmed, he had promised to ‘diligently study the scriptures.’ In the anguish of the new grief, the ancient fear that the death was a punishment from God, had broken loose. Some one was at fault. It must be him. His mind came up with a broken vow. Normally, that man would have logically dismissed the idea of a child’s death as divine retribution, as rubbish. But in the grief crisis, the ancient superstition had got the jump on him. In all of us, primitive stuff like that lies semi-hidden. It’s like the ghosts of old gods that refuse to completely go away.

In all of us, hidden away in the murkier parts of our psyche, are irrational fears and superstitions. These are a hangover from the not so ancient, primitive past of homo sapiens. And by not so ancient I mean that they may only be 500 or so years old. One of these superstitions is that we may be the guilty cause of accidents and disease to ourselves or those whom we love dearly. There are of course some religious people in New Zealand today who are still committed to that concept of God. Some of us may still slip into that thinking as it has been so strong in our lives. The God of this thinking when held up against the whole picture is one of anger and retribution for the unrighteous, and of the reward of good health and prosperity for the righteous. It is a simple view but one under huge challenge today.

Rex Hunt quotes from a sermon delivered by Bruce Prewer, a retired Uniting Church minister and author of many books which help shape an Australian spirituality, and he says that; “One of the most recent statements of this unhappy dogma, was exhibited recently by an evangelist (so called!).  It was offering time at a big gathering and the announcement was made before the offering. The leader said: ‘We all know bad economic times are coming.  There will be a great collapse of the markets and people will lose everything they own. But those who give well to God this day will be among the few who will do well and prosper in the bad times that must come.’” Bruce Prewer’s response was: “Yuk!” (Prewer web site 2004)

Others, such as John Shelby Spong and John Dominic Crossan and Sallie McFague, are also at the forefront of putting old theological superstitions to bed. The challenge is for us to do the same. Happiness or misery cannot be simply equated with goodness and badness. That old superstition is a lie. The old gods of retribution and reward who lurk in the dark corners of our minds, are false gods. Dismiss the superstition.  We have Jesus’ word on it. But…

And sometimes there always seems to be a ‘but’, doesn’t there! We also have the claim that Jesus’ word says: ‘Do not pretend that the good or evil that we do does not matter’. Of course, many of us believe that accidents, massacres, disease, are not God’s punishments. But if we don’t watch our step, if we don’t hedge our bets on this, we can all end up with another kind of disaster…we will likewise perish. Not as bodies that die, but as persons who can decay and perish while living. This is the loss of hope issue, the sense that with the liberalization of theology and faith we might lose control and end up with a horrible life. Better the current belief than the more complex one.

This is also part of the current ‘climate change’ debate. The war in Ukraine discussion, the legitimacy of the recent vaccination protest and its debate Whatever side you might choose to be as to its authenticity you will have to deal with it. Theologian, Sallie McFague, writes: “Global warming is not just another important issue that human beings need to deal with; rather, it is the demand that we live differently.  While I prefer to understand that global warming requires a slightly different approach than climate change, I agree that we cannot solve it, deal with it, given our current approach to conflict. It is not simply an issue of management; sure, it does require us to take seriously the amount of plastic in our oceans and the amount of waste that our economic system produces, and the assault on freedoms rights and outcomes but that is a management issue and it is not enough, rather, I thing it demands a paradigm shift in who we think we are.  Sally reminds us that the challenge is that without a shift in paradigm we cannot expect ourselves or others to undertake the radical behavioural change that is necessary to address our planetary crisis.” (McFague 2008:44). As individuals, as a world, we are all capable of perishing… not as a species limited by biology because we all die but rather disintegrating as persons. And none of us is exempt.

It is also not unlike the impact and response to the shooting in Christchurch three years ago. The ignorance of or naivety around the fact that we are surprised and shamed by what took place in our lovely country will not be addressed by management of behaviour. New rules and regulations about what a protest is and how it should be managed will not change the environment. We have discovered that we have less rules than other countries but their experience is that even more rules does not stop such atrocities. We have also discovered that we have ignored our own history in that atrocities of a greater nature have taken place in our nation’s past. Hundreds of people have been slaughtered in our own internal racial wars. For those of us who are of Jewish and Christian heritage violent atrocities are part of our heritage.

Rex Hunt suggests that this Lent might be a good time for us to do a couple of ‘life-affirming’ things. Maybe we can update the thinking which shapes our faith and beliefs.

Maybe we can change our minds and hearts by looking for the life-affirming clues all around us – the tender care rather than the axe! This requires us to accept that as a species we have instinctive and psychological traits that have generated social, political and religious paradigms that need challenging. The acceptance of an original sin, the obsession with self-deprecating repentance as the sole means of change, the rising acceptance of revenge as closure all need to be challenged if we are to rid ourselves of violence as a means of change. Our history as a species is riddled with it and we know it does not solve things. Maybe we can be the special people we are, but it requires more than just a cognitive awareness and a management process by which we prevent ourselves from continuing to act out in a simple fight or flight response to difference and challenge. But before we do this, I want to show a video that I think might help us think before we act. It is a video about the human brain that asks us to think differently about how we come to our decisions and it challenges old assumptions about how we do this. My hope is that if we are better informed about our own processing of life, we might ask ourselves the important questions before we respond to the unknown or the challenging with violence and control and more legislation.

Notes:
McFague, S. A New Climate for Theology. God, the world, and global warming. Minneapolis. Fortress Press, 2008.

rexae74@gmail.com

Video: The Path of Wisdom