Today’s Demon

Posted: June 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

‘Today’s Demon’

 Our text from Luke today is a story of an exorcism that Luke has taken from Mark (5:1-20).  In Luke’s gospel, this is the only incident where Jesus ministers outside of Jewish territory.  There is confusion, however, on account of the textual variations as to the exact name of the place: “the country of the Gerasenes” or “Gadarenes” or “Gergesenes.”  The common understanding is that it can be said to be “opposite Galilee” (v. 26), that is, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

In the Synoptic gospels, Mathew Mark and Luke Jesus is repeatedly portrayed as engaging in exorcisms as a regular part of his ministry.  We today might have trouble with the notion of “demonic possession” but it was a standard feature of ancient belief.  Probably the closest modern analogue we have to such a phenomenon is severe mental and emotional illness.  In whatever way we understand it today, our text presents Jesus as restoring a tormented person to his right mind (v. 35). In this respect, exorcisms served the overall purpose of Jesus’ healing ministry.

The demon-possessed man is depicted as living outside the pale of civilized society: he wore no clothes and lived among the tombs (v. 27).  This means that the man suffering from demonic possession is also marginalized and in need of reintegration into ordinary society.  We are informed that the man is possessed of many demons.  Indeed, their name is “legion,” meaning “a multitude” or ‘great in number.”  Andrew King’s poem, ‘I Am Legion” gives us a personal picture of what this means for the individual.

I AM LEGION
I am the lost one trapped in depression;
I am the broken one trapped in my rage;
I am the hurting soul chained to addiction;
I am self-harmer abused at young age –

I am the many-name victim of madness,
my humanness naked, nowhere to hide;
drowning like flotsam in cold seas of sadness,
wracked by despair until bits of me die;

haunted by fear, or strange inner voices;
tortured by dark thoughts in pitiless tide . . .
Blame me? Shame me? And what other choices –
fear me? Ignore me and let my needs slide?

Gerasene brother, when you met the Christ
who banished the illness into the swine,
your healing came without judgment or price;
mercy itself helped bring rightness of mind.

But note still the fear of those who kept score,
finding you clothed, sitting calm and at peace.
Madness is feared, but is mercy feared more?
It’s Christ, not Legion, who’s asked there to leave.

The New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan has made a very provocative suggestion for how we are to interpret the motif of Jesus sending the demons into the herd of swine (vv. 32-33).  First, he finds it to be telling that the demons give their name as “legion” which is the name of a Roman military unit.  He also thinks it is noteworthy that pigs are considered “unclean” animals according to Jewish food laws.  He reminds us, moreover, that the broader political context of the New Testament is that Palestine (the Land of Israel) was under Roman political and military occupation at the time of Jesus.  Hence, Crossan asks whether we might not discern “a connection between colonial oppression and forms of mental illness easily interpreted as demonic possession?”  This is a very insightful way of considering things in this passage of scripture.  Crossan explains: “An occupied country has, as it were, a multiple-personality disorder.  One part of it must hate and despise the oppressor, but the other must envy and admire its superior power.  And…if body is to society as microcosm to macrocosm, certain individuals may experience exactly the same split within themselves.”  With respect to our specific text, then, Crossan writes: “An individual is, of course, being healed, but the symbolism is also hard to miss or ignore.  The demon is both one and many; is named Legion, that fact and sign of Roman power; is consigned to swine, that most impure of Judaism’s impure animals; and is cast into the sea, that dream of every Jewish resister.”  Crossan admits that he does not take this story to reflect an actual incident in the life of the historical Jesus; still, he does think that this story “openly characterizes Roman imperialism as demonic possession.”[  It’s hard not to be impressed with Crossan’s brilliance in seeing this connection in our text.  Accordingly, Jesus’ ministry, including his exorcisms, had a political dimension which we should not underestimate.

Whatever sense we make of the phenomenon that was interpreted by ancient people as demonic possession, the fact remains that many people, today as then, live under the domination of evil forces and are trapped by them.  Salvation for them thus requires liberation from evil.  In an earlier comment on another passage of scripture, I spoke of the prevalence of addiction in our society.  People under the power of an addiction feel that they have lost the freedom they once had to control their lives.  This experience of addiction can be likened to that of possession by an external demonic power.  We also speak today of “systemic evils” such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.  These are structural or collective evils from which individuals suffer.  So, however we name the evil in our midst, it is part of the church’s mission to exorcise it from the lives of people, just as Jesus once did.

I want to play you a video now that I think alerts us to a demonic possession today. Not is the sense of creating an image of a devil or a particular identity of evil but in terms of that which we create for ourselves as system, culture, through unquestioned progress or what at many levels seems good for us but might have hidden implications that we can name as insidiously evil because they fool us into complacency and comfort. The video is an introduction to a day seminar that we do not have on video but the introduction I think alerts us to ask questions about why things like Brexit has been so fraught, Why Donald Trump got elected and why we seem to roll from conflict into conflict or that we opt for legalism and revenge rather than seek grace, forgiveness and peace.

Show Video                 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy8aY_-JLBA&t=323s

Discussion

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John 16:12-15

In Relationship, Not Through Formula…

Last week Glenys asked where Pluralism had come from as a day of celebration in the church calendar and my reply was that I thought it had grown in the Progressive church movement in the USA in an attempt to both raise questions about the place of church festivals and to recognise that those festivals may no-longer be enough when it comes to expressing our faith. I have to admit that when I started parish ministry Trinity Sunday was the dreaded Sunday when one had to avoid explaining because it was too complicated. Today its not too much different in that the only thing one can say about Trinity with any credibility is to focus of relationship. Trinity is no longer about the three

That make up the one and more about the way in which the three relate as a unity.

Having said that there are a number of ways of looking at this. Gordon D Kaufman in his book “Jesus and Creativity” has some different comments on ‘trinity’.  He says it is very much tied to the traditional or orthodox ministry/death/resurrection/ascension-to-heaven story about Jesus… he says; “… the traditional trinitarian claim is that the three persons of the trinity all co-inhere in each other… and are all equally involved in everything in which any one of them is involved – and thus equally involved in everything throughout the cosmos.  He also says that; The doctrine of the trinity may be faulted here on two counts: (i) in its lifting a human being (Jesus) up into full deity, it makes the creativity throughout the universe fundamentally anthropomorphic andanthropocentric; and (ii) this sort of move seems to re-suppose some version of the old two-worlds cosmology (Pg:55).

“… Most of the vast universe, as we think of it today, is in no way at all affected by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; it is only the human project and its evils, on planet Earth, to which the Jesus-story – because of the healing and new life that it has brought – is pertinent… (Pg:55).

He says: “We need to recognize that from the very beginning of specifically Christian thinking about God, all the major issues that needed addressing involved human choices… It was through choices made by various followers of Jesus that the affirmations and claims that eventually developed into ministry/death/resurrection/ascension-to-heaven story about Jesus]…; it was the choices of councils of bishops that eventuated in the understanding of what would be regarded as ‘orthodox’ in the churches – including the doctrine of the trinity – and what would be regarded as ‘heresy’; and it has been repeated choices over the centuries – by bishops and popes, by congregations, by reformers of various sorts as well as other individual women and men – that have determined in every new present whether those earlier choices should still be regarded as of central importance in orienting and ordering life” (Pg:55-56).

He says that: “We in the twenty-first century are the heirs of many different ways of understanding and interpreting Jesus: Which (if any) should we commit ourselves to and seek to develop further?  Which should we ignore or discard?…  When the churches in the early centuries of Christianity accepted or consented to the notion of orthodoxy, the range of options for Christians was significantly narrowed… (Pg:56).

“[Contemporary Jesus study] actually brings us a number of significantly different Jesuses to which should we… commit ourselves?  Here again we are confronted with a matter of choice or at least consent: Which Jesus, if any, really ‘grabs’ us?  Which makes sense to us?  Which will help us grow in import new directions?  Whatever we regard as of unique significance in the complex of events ‘surrounding and including and following upon the man Jesus’ will largely determine the version of the Jesus-story that we choose as we seek to discern what light that story might throw on human life and death today” (Pg:57).

All of that sounds pretty good to my mind. It seems to have logic and make sense intellectually but I wonder if there is something else going on here as well. Maybe Trinity Sunday does symbolize all the failures of institutionalized Christianity. Maybe Trinity Sunday has become an ‘empty cocoon’ -empty, because the life which shaped it has long since departed.

Indeed, we are reliably informed that the great 20th century Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner, claimed that if the Trinity were to quietly disappear from Christian theology, never to be mentioned again, most of Christendom would not even notice its absence!

Rex Hunt suggests that for him, the Doctrine of the Trinity has become a mathematical formula, much like and as arid as, E=MC2 that Einstein told us was the clue to the physical universe. Today however we read that some of the more creative biblical scholars of our day, think that the doctrine was ‘created’ to describe, define and safe-guard an experience. But in the process of time, the ‘experience’ seems to have been drained right out, and what we have left is just the formula – as if this was what being a Christian is. Believe in the Trinity or you cannot be Christian. There is still a hint of that around even today but when pressed that idea falls down.

But when we stop and look back for a moment we see the originating events of our faith and we see what these events suggest to us. A man by the name of Jesus or Jeshua, who was landless and probably worked as an ‘odd-jobs’ man for some years, changed jobs in mid-stream, and became an itinerant teacher, healer and storyteller – respected as a sage. And during one to three years (depending on which storyteller is in charge of the story), he seemed to attract a mixed group of people, usually from the fringes of his society.

With these people he was able to share himself so completely that over time and after a lot of struggle they became new people – gripped with a new creative imagination. In this becoming, the thoughts and feelings and stories of each other, resonated with the thoughts and feelings and stories of others. But here’s the catch; this was not something which Jesus himself did. It was something that happened when he was present, like a catalytic agent. One theologian has put it like this: “…something about this man Jesus broke the atomic exclusiveness of those individuals so that they were deeply and freely receptive and responsive each to the other…  Notice the challenges here. It was an atomic exclusiveness. It was an exclusiveness that had huge power. And the breaking of it transformed their minds, their personalities. They no longer saw things in the way of the popular, accepted norms.  Their appreciable world was forever changed, as was their community with one another and with all people. Their experience was such that when he died, despair gripped this group of people so much so that they could not see any good in him. He was not the messiah they had expected or hoped for. He could not have been the messiah at all.

However, this is not the end of the story. After a while, when the numbness and the shock
began to wear away, something happened… They began to see the effects of that transforming creativity previously known only in fellowship with Jesus, as reaching beyond his death. It began to work again. It had risen from the dead. The enthusiasm began to spread like wildfire and to empower those who experienced community as a means to self-worth, and organizations developed and the various communities began to express and value their diversity of culture, language and ideas. Then when the church around the 4th century created the doctrine of the Trinity, it was in a climate of dissension and so-called heresy, the Trinity idea it was to safe-guard an experience… It was a way of placating the differences in thinking with an experience as ideal. An experience, not too dissimilar with the resurrection experience. An experience of calm among the dissention, replacing the focus on the battle of words with an experience. An experience of life over death, of making new and alive, that which was dead in their lives… An experience which pointed to Creativity God in the world, and in the human being Jesus of Nazareth. And Creativity God is not limited to only one form or style of self-revelation because it is always relational and not rational.

What makes us truly human, and thus truly Christian, is not accepting superstition or what can or can’t be believed, nor accepting what can only be presented in some kind of arid formula. The positive about the Trinity is not in its doctrinal form but rather in its invitation to value experience as what makes us truly human. With or without God, to be truly human is being able to live in relationship to the other. Not, to alienate or objectify the other but to live in relationship with another. The relationship is what constitutes our existence and our wholeness, not the efforts to formulate and analyse and rationalize a belief. We are all webs and we are part of a web to use the internet analogy or an orbital spectrum perhaps to use a New Copernican idea. We are in relation to everyone and everything as part of the spectrum.

I wonder if we can be a little practical here. I want to ask you a question and then invite you to ponder it for a moment – The question is ‘what are your best moments?  Your really best moments?’ Think about it for a moment. I am not asking you to answer out loud but you can if you want to.

As an example; I think my best moments were when I was in relationship. When a member of my family hugged me. An example of this is when I visit my wife in the care home, her smile and her desire to hug me reach across her struggle with Alzheimer’s and we are in relationship that is more than anything going on in the day. After attending a colleague’s funeral last week I was standing outside when the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church gave me a hug and said thanks Doug you guys held our church together. He was referring to the role David Grant played as a mission consultant and when I was a co-director of the Mission Board of our church. I was in relation with him, with the colleague and with my church.

Best Trinitarian moment, relational moments are when friendship is valuable and touchable and strong…I remember those moments when I was and am in relation as my best moments. Don’t you?

But what’s really going on here? What’s the so-called ‘point’ of all this?  Well! The fact is that these experiences are universal experiences that tell us about ourselves. They tell us that not only do we exist (a web exists) but that we exist in relationship (we are the webs). Relationship is what makes us what we truly are. And the trinity as experience reminds us that what makes G-o-d God, is relationship. Using anthropocentric language, relationship is what God is about, and therefore it is no wonder that we, who are made in God’s image and likeness, are also essentially about creative relationship.

So those are my comments: Trinity Sunday is about me and you, and it’s about Creativity God and it’s about relationship. The Trinity is not a mathematical question. It’s not even a theological question. And any reference to it is only found once in the entire Bible and then scholars tell us, it was a very late addition. At best the Trinity is a relationship. Amen.

Notes:
Wieman, H. N. 1946.  The Source of Human Good. Carbondale. Southern Illinois University Press.

rexae74@gmail.com

Pluralism C, 2019
Luke 6: 20-21, 24-25

Going Beyond Exclusive Boundaries

Richard Dawkins says it is the root of all evil. Christopher Hitchens says it poisons everything. Both are talking about religion. And they are not alone in their ‘evangelical atheistic’ comments. Alongside this is another approach and that is one that I have argued for in John Seel’s book and the New Copernicans series we have just finished. That is that Atheistic argument is just one position amongst a bigger picture. That if one is to examine the history of Christian thought and practice one would see that at least over the last 2015 years there have been indications that thinking has evolved not in a linear fashion but in a more spherical, spiral or chaotic manner. Some traditional and ancient thinking has prevailed and been modified and others have been super-ceded and cast aside. Most scholars today will have a list of people they cite as resource for their thinking. There have been many popular books written preaching these positions. My attempt with the New Copernican series was to argue that the complexity of though is best addressed by accepting that experience has and is a major influence upon what we think. To choose one truth is to buy into an unhelpful extremism. As one Australian newspaper columnist said some time back now; “The swelling of atheist literature is a reaction to a worldwide rise in fundamentalist religion. But in kicking back at extremism, the bestselling atheists don’t discriminate between mainstream faith and the loony fringe.  It’s religion itself they object to”. Being in the so-called religion business we need to be aware of these author’s thoughts because reality is not that simple. It is not governed by pluralistic notions.  Thought is more complex in its nature and cannot be contained within boundaries.

Today, in the traditional lectionary of the church, is Pentecost Sunday. The so-called ‘birthday’ of the Christian church, even though scholars of any repute would claim the traditional story is the result of Luke’s own literary imagination, rather than an historical report. On the other hand, today in progressive church circles also carries another title: That of Pluralism Sunday. A day that is given over to being thankful for religious diversity.

We might note here that the secular world, the world of inclusive spirituality this is almost a non-event.

This brings me to the core challenge in this sermon, that of the exclusive boundaries we have established as children of our tradition, our past and some might say the exclusiveness of the closed transcendent position we spoke of in the series on the New Copernicans. I want to further challenge our thinking by introducing the science faith connection, the imagination verses real dilemma and lastly but not lest John D Caputo’s suggestion that God does not exist but God does insist and his work in developing what is know as a weak theology, or a God who is to be found in the weak and not the strong, perhaps in the foolishness of the cross or the folly of loving ones enemies, turning the other cheek and so forth. This is a big challenge because we find it hard to let go of the transcendent or more importantly to re-imagine it as less about over and above, and outside and more about a God in and through everything in and outside of reality. I do deviate from J D Caputo when he suggests we need to create a theology of perhaps in that I prefer the word ‘almost’ because it I want to express and claim for a somewhat positive hope filled stance. God is the ‘almost’ which to me means God exists but not in the traditional way we think and that God is found as the almost, the not yet but the sure to be, the weak, vulnerable God at the mercy of humanity and yet the God that is almost here. The hope of the God with us is to be found in the God who may not arrive but is almost here. Here I think also is the New Testament Kingdom of God that is yet to come and is also within you. Do you sense the exclusive boundaries I am asking you to examine and look beyond?

Last week I spoke a little about prayer and after the service one of you asked me “Then why do we pray?” My reply was that we pray because we are human and we need to. J D Caputo in answering a similar question suggested that his book could be thought of a faithful prayer to God so what if our God as almost. Our ‘almost is actually an element of prayer? I believe in prayer, I am a man of prayer. I am praying all the time and I am dead serious about this because while I don’t think prayer is a conversation with a theistic closed transcendent God, I do pray for the serendipitous chance of an event, I am praying for the possibility of the impossible, the perhaps as Caputo puts it and the almost as I prefer. Prayer is the precariousness and we invoke prayer and grace in the name of God and my language and vocabulary might challenge the pious because of the lack of religious jargon because it is always necessary to have an ‘almost’ when it comes to God. It has to have a cloud of unknowing and uncertainty over all divine matters if we are to move out of the closed transcendent limitedness. And to put it bluntly, there is no God except insofar there is a chance of an event, which we cannot see coming and I would add yet have the expectation of an almost. One could say that God is the unforeseeable come-what-may which may be the grace of a new beginning. Here we also have the insistence of God as the insistence of the event or the serendipitous chance of the event and the corresponding faith that God can happen anywhere at any-time.

As this is pluralism Sunday in many progressive churches it might be helpful to apply all of the above to the interfaith challenges, we face with the movement of people ll around the world. In recent years two American based groups have been at the forefront of the church’s attempt at keeping up with this change. One, the Institute for Progressive Christianity, and the other, The Centre for Progressive Christianity. In an interview back in 2006/7 the coordinator of the Project, Revd Jim Burklo, said there were three general ways in which religions relate to each other: The first is (i) Exclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is correct, and all other religions are wrong, at best, and evil, the worst… The second is (ii) Inclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is the only true one, but yours is interesting. So we should tolerate each other’s religions and find ways to cooperate and communicate… And the third is (ii) Pluralism, the idea that my religion is good for me and your religion may turn out to be as good for you as mine is for me. I quote Jim Burklo: “pluralism is the concept that there are multiple loci of truth and salvation among the religions. [It] does not imply that all religions are the same or that all religions are equal; but it does recognize the possibility that my way is not the only way and that my religion is not necessarily superior to your” (Burklo. TCPC web site, Pluralism Sunday, 2007).

In saying that I think it is almost redundant to say what was just quoted in that the focus on differences has been part of our culture for some years now already and I wonder if we have moved on because we are now asking if it is important to recognize the difference in order to reach harmony and just acceptance of the differences or is it time to recognize the things that hold us together, the things that are as far as we can tell intrinsically human.

We might ask what some churches have been doing on pluralism Sunday and we might see that some years back First Congregational Church, Long Beach: has had an Islamic leader as the preacher; Christ Community Church, Spring Lake: has studied the book ‘The faith club’ – a book by three women, a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian – who sought to find common ground on which to share their faiths; University Place Christian Church, Enid: has used multiple languages to express the wisdom of different world religions in worship; And Mizpah United Church of Christ and Beth Shalom (Reformed Jewish), Minneapolis:  has had a ‘pulpit’ exchange between faiths. Some of you might remember that we too had an Islamic scholar preach in St David’s but what has this dome for interfaith relations in our daily lives?

Some years back now His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetian Buddhists, visited Canberra and the people were told that the Dalai Lama advises his lamas who travel to different countries not to emphasize the teaching of Buddhism too much,
as trying to convert people may not only fail but could also weaken their faith in their own religion. He said that it’s better to encourage those who believe in something, to deepen their own faith. “The point isn’t to convert people, but to contribute to their well-being” (Ian Lawton. 3C/Christ Community Church web site, 2007).

The Dalai Lama said that he didn’t go to the West to make one or two more Buddhists, but simply to share his experiences of the wisdom that Buddhism has developed over the centuries.  He  said that if you find anything I’ve said useful, make use of it.  Otherwise just forget it” (Quoted in Ian Lawton, Christ Community Church, 2007).

In response, someone said: “Now there’s a balanced attitude to east/west dialogue.  I can just hear a new form of Christian evangelism – which states ‘This is our tradition.  This is what it has meant for us.  If you find it useful, use it.  If Christianity contributes to the well-being of people, and contributes to world peace by inter-faith relations, then take and apply it.  Otherwise, just forget it…” (Ian Lawton).

And then Ian Lawton who was vicar at St Matthews in the city some years back  concludes:, “This is the attitude which will give Christianity a bright future. It should come as no surprise to us.  This was also the way of Jesus” (Ian Lawton). While another wrote:
“In a time of religious tension, and in what I see as increasing tribalism, when Christians think the only way to peace is to convert Muslims to Christianity and when Muslims think the only way to peace is to convert Christians to Islam, I think Jesus would shout: ‘Enough!  Convert yourselves!  Listen and discover the better way’” (John Shuck. Shuck&Jive blog site, 2007)

And again that same cleric says; “I am a Christian.  Christianity is unique and it has much to offer our world.  But being unique does not necessarily mean being right or being the only way to be.  Hinduism is also unique, as is Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Wicca, Native [Aboriginal] religions, you name it.  We all have truths and shortcomings.  We all have something to offer.  We all have something to learn from one another.  Pentecost is a great day to listen to the Spirit’s voice present in other traditions as well as our own” (John Shuck)

So here we are on the day of Pentecost  saying that we need to break through exclusive boundaries and embracing not only other religions and honouring them at a deep level of respect and openness but also break through the exclusive boundaries that separate us from the secular and worldy world. Those boundaries do not exist as immovable unhealthy support systems unless we leave them unchallenged. Pluralism Sunday is about letting the world of newspaper columnists and TV producers and the neighbours with whom you chat over the back fence, know there are Christians who are unafraid of humility, of the hard questions and Christians who challenge the exclusive dogmatism of the fundamentalist churches who claim Christianity is religiously superior.

There is a way to be authentically and particularly religious, involved and immersed in a religious culture, and practice a specific religion and path, but…“if you go all the way with that, you will discover that we all end up on the top of the same mountain [with]… brothers and sisters of other faiths who have done the same sort of thing” (Burklo, TCPC).

So let us this Pentecost, commit ourselves to a deeper pluralism which both encourages and allows us to: enrich our own faith, as well as celebrate with those who think differently from us; our neighbours. Amen.

On Behalf of All of Us

Posted: June 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

On Behalf of All of Us

June 2, 2019

John 17:20-26

The Revised Common Lectionary reading from John this week gives us a portion of a prayer by Jesus. It is thought to be the culmination of his farewell discourse to his disciples In the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday.  Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet, foreseen Judas’s betrayal, predicted Peter’s denial, promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, and suggested that it might be that time is running out.

In the final moments before his arrest, he “looks toward heaven and prays.”  This prayer is commonly known as part of the high priestly prayer and by some as the other Lord’s Prayer — the one we haven’t memorized and recited on Sunday mornings.  It’s certainly not polished and poetic like the “Our Father.”  It doesn’t flow, or cover its bases efficiently.  It’s long, rambling, and rather hard to follow.  And though the disciples are meant to overhear the words, Jesus’s tone has an urgency and passion that is achingly private.  It seems that here Jesus isn’t engaging in a teaching moment with this Prayer; he’s rather rending his heart.

A Debie Thomas of a blog called Journey with Jesus writes that she sat with the words of this lectionary reading for a long time waiting to see what words and phrases would stand out. She says that she didn’t expect anything to come and was surprised when the words ‘I ask’ lept out at her. I was reminded as I read this that that is the way Jesus lived. He asked the questions, His answer to many requests was another question. He very seldom gave an answer and if he did it was always followed up with a question.

In Debie’s case the question she was encouraged to ask was “What does it mean that Jesus spends his final moments with his friends in humble, anxious supplication?”  We have the Jesus who healed the sick and fed the hungry and raised the dead, and we might ask; “What does it mean that that same Jesus ends his ministry by asking into uncertainty?  Hoping into doubt?  Trusting into danger?

It seems that in an outpouring of words and emotions, Jesus asks God to do for his followers what he himself cannot do.  To be for people in spirit what he can no longer be for us in body. “May they be in us,” he prays. May they all be one.  May they know the love that founded the world.  May they see the glory of God. This is less about calling for a supernatural God above, to do the magic Jesus can’t do and more about his acknowledgement that in and through the unity of humankind the more than, the Spirit and source of transformation is in the admitting of one’s limitations and accepting the life of uncertainty.

In his book entitled, Tokens of Trust, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, describes the strangeness and wonder of this Jesus who prays: “Yes, Jesus is a human being in whom God’s action is at work without interruption or impediment.  But wait a moment: the Jesus we meet in the Gospels is someone who prays, who speaks of putting his will and his decisions at the service of his Father.  He is someone who is in a relationship of dependence on the one he prays to as Father.  In him there is divine purpose, power, and action; but there is also humility, responsiveness, and receptivity.” Williams is acknowledging the importance of Jesus as revelation of divine purpose and power and action and he is a human being who lives with humility and uncertainty.

Do we know this Jesus, the one who pleads so earnestly?  We can very likely say that we know the Jesus who teaches, heals, resurrects, and feeds because our tradition has developed this, over hundreds of years.  But do we know this Jesus?  This vulnerable one who in this passage does the single hardest thing a friend, a lover, a spouse, a parent, a child, a teacher, a pastor ever does? It sounds harsh but in recognizing his limitations, his humanity this Jesus sends his cherished ones into a treacherous, divisive, broken world on nothing but a hope and a prayer?  Another way of saying this is to say that he entrusts the treasures of his heart to the vast mystery that is intercession?

Put yourself in Jesus place and you might be saying to your God, “I don’t know what you will do with my asking.  I don’t know how or when or if you will answer this prayer.  I can’t force your hand.  But I am staking my life and the lives of my loved ones on your goodness, because there’s literally nothing more I can do on my own. I have come to the end of what this aching love of mine can hold and guard and save.  I am asking”.

To me this seems to be asking us to ask what role prayer plays in our world, a world rife with tragedy, injustice, and oppression? Is this prayer of Jesus in his circumstances, the immanent arrival of his possible demise or imprisonment,  reminding us to ask the hardest questions we can think of about God — questions we don’t know how to answer. Does God intervene directly in human affairs? Does his intervention — or lack of it — depend in any way on our asking? Can prayer “change” God? Big questions yet questions that need to be asked if we are to be responsible human beings. But lets put those down for a bit and return to the place Jesus finds himself in.

We have in traditional words the immanence of Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles. This is the situation of our text meaning and as many of could perhaps say our beliefs about prayer have changed a lot over the years. Many of us were raised to believe that God intervenes very directly in human affairs, and that intercessory prayer has powerful and undeniable “real world” effects. As a child, we might have believed with all our heart that prayer heals diseases, prevents car accidents, feeds hungry children in far-away countries, fends off nightmares, prevents premature death, and “stops the bad guys.”

As a teen and young adult for many of us, much of that certainty collapsed under the weight of life experience — some diseases didn’t get better, car accidents happened, we have nightmares, babies starved, young people died, and “bad guys” won the day.  When we asked our elders to explain these discrepancies, some gave us two answers: The first is that we need to pray with more faith, and the second is that sometimes God’s answer is no. Both of those answers might have struck us then — and now — as too simple to be true or alternatively pretty lame.

Today, we live along the borders of a more complicated world. we have friends and family members who pray for parking spots, lost house keys, Rugby victories, and Grammar Zone admissions for our children. But we also have friends who avoid intercessory prayer on principle, convinced that the true purpose of prayer has nothing to do with asking God “for stuff.” In their words: “He’s God.  Not Santa Claus.” While not making that dualistic response, I can identify with the questions about intercessory prayer. I remember being challenged at Knox that intercessory prayer should not contain requests for what i think other people need. That made interceding for others very difficult.

It seems that the challenge of intercessory prayer is that it’s subjective. What looks like God’s “yes” in our eyes might easily look like God’s “no,” God’s silence, or even God’s non-existence in other eyes. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, “The meaning we give to what happens in our lives is our final, inviolable freedom.” When is an “answer to prayer” really an answer? When is it coincidence? Randomness? A trick of the light? The truth is that we can’t say for sure. Not in this lifetime at least. Not without losing our freedom.

So why do we pray?  One answer is that we pray because I am compelled to do so. Because something in me cries out for engagement, relationship, attentiveness, and worship. We pray because our soul yearns for connection with an, Other, whom we name God, and it seems that, that connection is best forged in prayer. With words, without words, through laughter, through tears, in hope, and in despair, prayer holds open the possibility that we are not alone, and that this broken, aching world isn’t alone, either. We pray, as C.S Lewis writes, “because I can’t help myself.” Because “the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping.”

Well, here we have a reasonable answer. But maybe this week’s Gospel reading offers us another one: Maybe we pray because Jesus did.  We ask because Jesus asked.  Asking is perhaps the last thing he did before his arrest.  The last tender memory he bequeathed to his friends.  He didn’t awe them with a grand finale of miracles.  Neither did he contemplate their futures and despair.  In traditional words we might say; He looked towards heaven with a trembling heart, and surrendered his cherished ones to God. He was as uncertain as the rest of us.

A final line this morning might be to say that he asked questions because he loved too much not to.  What better way to walk the Jesus Way than by honouring the minds ability to find the questions that matter, to live the questions because that acknowledges the uncertainty that is only recognised through the questioning and to explore the adventure of being human with humility and courage because that is what Jesus did. Amen.

 

Easter 6C, 2019
John 5:1-3, 5-9

Being Sustained by a Vision of what Could Be

Some years back now in recent history Sally McFague said that none of the world’s major religions has as its maxim: ‘Blessed are the greedy’. And she went on to say that “Given the many differences among religions on doctrines and practice, it is remarkable to find such widespread agreement at the level of economics”. Her comments I thought were 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 sustainable. 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 it is competing with visions of affordable housing, or the dilemma of the construction industry. Blessed are the greedy could be battling with blessed are the incompetent or maybe it’s the system that as fault. These are visions of a better world that seem to rule.

One of the things that has come to mind in the last few years here at St David’s is the need for a sustainable mission vision. Questions such as why does St David’s exist? What is St David’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-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 without a sustainable vision.

We become numbed to the call of Jesus to serve God and serve the hurting because we don’t have time. 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. So, we live life to the minimum. And we say we want change when we actually want to remain the same – but 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 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. 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 Christ and the embodiment of his Abundant Life.

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.

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 God beyond our feeble church structures.

And maybe we could say that such a God is always present in all our faith adventures.

But especially with those who, like the one we call Jesus, 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. 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 new St David’s congregation 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?

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 these buildings on this site as a congregation of the PCANZ and is that right thing about the wellbeing of people or the organisation? 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.

Is our vision sustainable in the face of systems that would have it go away because it is dangerous in its ability to change things? Amen.

Notes:
Scott, B. B. 2001. Re-imagine the World. An introduction to the parables of Jesus. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press.

Courage to be Whole by Kyle Childress http://www.ekklesiaproject.org

rexae74@gmail.com

 

Easter Day C, 2019
Luke 24:1-12

Resurrection as Healing and Humour

Easter Day – today – is regarded as the most important day in the liturgical life of the church. Theologically speaking, Christmas doesn’t hold a candle to Easter. It 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).

My recent reading of the world views of millennials and people of the future suggests, we modern folks like facts. 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 (JShuck. Shuck&Jive blog, 2007).

So; this day, as part of the ‘mystery’ of resurrection, we celebrate life over death. This day we 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.

“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)

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?
  • How is the well-being of our neighbour pursued in the complex problem of global hunger and international war?
  • How are communities developed positively around respect and care for each person, rather than around a common enemy?
  • How are the systemic causes of non-love eliminated? All human issues to be viewed in the light of the resurrection stories… 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?

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

rexae74@gmail.com

A Credible Jesus…

Posted: April 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

A Credible Jesus…

Many people who watched Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ (some years ago) were torn between the identification with the suffering that was portrayed by the film of the treatment Jesus received and a deep sense of the horror of brutality and violence. It was a film that divided Christians and non-Christians alike  Some said they were “offended by the violence”  One of the major outcomes of such a film is that we begin to wonder if too much violence, full in the face of the viewer, desensitizes them to the greater violence in the community. Does it normalize revenge, or aggressive and violent response?  Will wise political leaders be encouraged to deprive people of their human rights or their democratic freedoms ‘in the name of God’…  An interesting debate is ensuing presently over biblical language, Is the propositional nature of scripture and the brutality of the particular vocabulary hate speech or not.  Can Israel Filau quote biblical text that discriminates and incites brutal response against people? As Doug Purnell has said; “The truth is that we have put too many people violently on crosses in our world, isn’t it time we found ways to bring them down” (Doug Purnell. Letters… Insights March 2004/2).

At the time of the film, people shaped and nurtured by a fundamentalist, pentecostal theology, declared the film is a ‘faithful’ and ‘accurate’ account of what happened, supporting the theology that the death of Jesus was a sacrifice for sin and all part of God’s plan. People shaped and nurtured by a progressive liberal theology, declared the film mediaeval, confusing liturgy for history, anti-Jewish (rather than anti-Semitic), and where ignorance and prejudice have scored again over scholarship and integrity.

Of all the reviews at the time one written by John Carroll, professor of sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne (Vic) in the Sydney Morning Herald, was interesting.

John Carroll wrote: “The Passion fails, crucially, at what in the Jewish tradition is called midrash. That is the method of retelling fundamental stories and their classical themes in ways that speak to the new times. Every new generation has to midrash its stories. This film reverts to the Middle Ages; it lacks spiritual force; it does not uplift; and it leaves little sense of who this extraordinary man was, and why he changed Western history” (Carroll 2004. SMH 3 April/Spectrum 4-5).

So, here we are once again at Good Friday morning, and we might well ask again “why did Jesus die? I think we can say that Jesus died because he was publicly and brutally executed. I think we can say that he did not want to die. He died as a result of his passionate, imaginative living. His vision for his people. He died as a result of a decision not to deviate from the God-Self-Neighbour relationship he continually lived. As we said when last week we looked at the Palm Sunday Passover events; what Jesus said and did and stood for…  collided with all that was heartless and oppressive in a social religion that had forgotten its real meaning. His healings on the Sabbath. His acts of forgiveness. His stories which turned conventional social wisdom upside down. His association with that society’s outcasts. His speaking in the name of the God of compassion… all tore open the social political economic and religious fabric of his time.

Either that social, political, economic and religious order, or Jesus, had to go. I liked what biblical scholar Brandon Scott said: when he said “… one can see in Jesus’ language-activity the seeds of a conflict that could easily escalate to a confrontation and to death… Rome’s rule is built on the premise that the local population is divided and distrustful of each other.”  (Scott 2002:35) Their methods of control through elites and then through the Temple maintained ferment and distrust among the people. Sounds a bit like a community not too far from here as a result of the activity of a certain organisation. Create embarrassment or dissention and create chaos and this weaken the ability to respond.

And again… some telling comments from John Shuck:  “Jesus was about making changes in this world. That is what got him killed. He talked about compassion. He talked about moving beyond ethnic boundaries and divisions. He talked about forgiveness. Not something you go to the priest for or even to God for, but your neighbour. That is the one we hurt. That is the one from whom we need forgiveness. We get it as we give it. He worked to bring people together: Samaritan and Jew, Greek and Roman. Makes one wonder why we were surprised with Christchurch people’s response to the shooting.

Jesus practiced an open table, rich and poor, male and female. He challenged unjust boundaries and rules. That is what got him killed. Dying was not his reason for living. Living was his reason for dying. For life, he died. For integrity, he died. For compassion, he died. For justice, he died.  For change, he died…  John Shuck says: “I think it is a sham and a shame that the religious establishment distorted his story.” (‘No More Crosses’  3/2010)

And to complete my list of quotes, this from Rita Nakashima Brock, author of Saving Paradise: “One of the great controversies to emerge from Re-Imagining was our rejection of the atonement, the idea that the torture and execution of Jesus Christ saved the world. My theological career says Rita; has been spent dismantling that doctrine. I want to tell you that I am convinced that atonement theology is the deepest betrayal of Christianity ever perpetrated. It is not just one way to understand salvation, but a betrayal of salvation, a doctrine that abandoned the life and ministry of Jesus Christ for loyalty to Caesar and his legions.” (Brock 2009)

So a response to Mel Gibson’s film  and more importantly to all the fundamentalist hype that surrounds Good Friday and films like the Gibson film:

  • The cross is about Jesus’ integrity, not sacrificial atonement;
  • God’s love is not about supernatural payment or rescue, but, to quote the process theologians, divine sharing in human suffering;
  • Jesus did not invite the cross but accepted it rather than abandon his vision or glimpse of what the world can really be like when you look at it with God’s eyes.

And with one additional personal comment from Robert Funk: “Jesus attempted to pass his vision or glimpse along, as he told about it in stories and sayings and conversations. He did not write a definitive essay or the complete book. And more often than not the ‘book’ we have hides more of Jesus than reveals him.  Instead, his efforts were more like that of a painter who uses broad strokes. And those strokes were ones which enlarged God to include humankind and enlarged the self to include the neighbour.

Why did Jesus die? Integrity to a vision rather than a sacrifice for sins… I Think that’s what I and many others of the progressive theological spirit want to claim the ‘cross’ is a symbol of. Integrity to a vision of what could be and not a dramatic sacrifice for a moral code. And sadly, that is a hundred miles away from both the empty heart of the Apostle’s Creed, and Mel Gibson’s film and his fundamentalist medieval Catholic theology.

It is also, I think, a far more appropriate and suitable vision with which to shape a 21st century faith. As Marcus Borg sums up his ‘Lent and the Cross’ article: “Imagine: what if Lent and Holy Week are not about Jesus as a divinely-ordained payment for sin but about protest against a world that makes martyrs of the prophets? What if it is not about dying for a cause and more about claiming an world without violence and rules for normalisation.

“And imagine: what if Easter is about God saying “yes” to Jesus and what he stood for and “no” to the powers that killed him? “Imagine that Christianity is not about an afterlife for those whose sins are forgiven. Imagine that it’s not about constructing a future we can control and more about transforming the now of our living. “Imagine that it’s about participating in Jesus’s passion for the transformation of “this world” this now, into a world of justice and peace. “Imagine that it’s about passion commitment and intention to change “this world.” That we know. What difference might that make for what it means to be Christian…”

Notes:
Brock, R. N. & R. A. Parker. Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of this World for Crucifixion and Empire. Boston. Beacon Press, 2009

Funk, R. W. Honest to Jesus. Jesus for a New Millennium. New York. HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.
Scott, B. B. Re-imagine the World. An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2002.
Shea, J. The Challenge of Jesus. Chicago. The Thomas More Press, 1975.

rexae74@gmail.com