Why I Do This

brillant leaves

Someone recently asked me why I do this (i.e. write this blog). Well, it began as an exercise in reading the letters of St. Paul and putting down in writing for forty days of Lents a journey in Christ with St. Paul.

Why I’ve continued, however, is a rainbow of reasons. One is my need to share with others; especially when I find something I am passionate about. And I am passionate about the scriptures. And the person of Jesus Christ. If I could just convey to others what a difference he makes in our lives. And the absolute unswerving power of faith. And for me the center of this is in the scriptures, in the Word become flesh, in the person of Jesus as the Christ. Too, I search. And this is how I search. For what it means to be a Christian. How to live life in Christ.

Also, because at heart I’m a teacher (i.e. sharer). The bible is a great piece of literature. Every human experience is written there. As I watch the characters’ lives unfold, I am gain insights into the drama of my own life. I believe these stories help me understand life, help me grow and above all find God at the best and worst times of my life. I believe we are inherently oriented to grow, like living plants reaching for the sun. I know people are changed by hearing the stories of other people’s journeys. Yahweh and Yeshua of Nazareth live today in these pages. So you may see here too that I am fiercely committed to the importance of the story of Israel in understanding the story of Christianity; for the story of Israel is the story that Jesus carried with him as he entered the synagogue each Sabbath morning to read from the sacred scrolls.

This past summer a much loved professor, mentor and friend passed away. He was an ‘Old Testament’ scholar. I went to grad school enthusiastic about the Word. And Ben Asen fired my love for the Hebrew Scriptures permanently and forever. He was a great teacher, passionate about the bible, its poetry and its prophets. He gave me a great gift. I would like to pass that gift on if I am able.

The biblical characters in many real ways are still alive in us today. Alive in how we mature, or don’t, alive in the journeys we make in faith, the challenges we face from within and without, our heroism, our pluck and pint-size attempts to live more fully realized lives; alive as we wrestle with angels, cross barren deserts, succumb to our fears and doubts, try simply to survive in a foreign land, or set out from Egypt with Pharaoh on our heels; where we are often not led by the better angels of our nature but those that hobble us and leave us limping through life, when we feel or are marginalized, until upon the rough seas there appears one who will overcome the forces that toss us about and rage against a fuller life, where our sight is restored, our dis-ease becomes a better facility to navigate the shoals, where we stand taller and walk straighter, and fine we are led by the hand and heart onto that safe place, where the good news he brings prevails and no earthly force has been able to kill it.

 

 

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The Spirit Bears Christ to Us

Our dreams are written on the heart of God.

Our dreams are written on the heart of God.

When I write I don’t use what you might call ‘churchese’. All those words like atonement, salvation, redemption, repentance.  There is nothing wrong with those words, its just that they have lost their meaning. They have been so overused, we have turned a deaf ear to what they are pointing to. And if they are not pointing to living our lives in Christ, pointing to Jesus and his life, then they don’t mean anything to me any longer.

Even that word ‘sinner’ seems to be much to much in the vocabulary of preachers that, I don’t know about you, but it blocks out anything else anyone has to say. That’s not who I am. That is not to say that I haven’t made missteps in my life, I have and I am sure I will again. But I don’t focus on not being a sinner or even telling my ‘sins’ to anyone. That is between me and my Creator, the Creator who made me good. Like the psalm says ‘I am wonderful’. I trust you say that about yourself today.

But when we are seen as sinners, we aren’t seen at all. Perhaps that is why the churches are hemorrhaging people today. As a culture we have become more healthy. Psychologically, spiritually, socially and environmentally. My sense of it is the churches have not kept up in this regard. That’s why I always return to the scriptures to find my way through these things. To see what it was/is that being a believer, how to live a healthy faith-life is really about.

I find that Jesus did not see people as sinners. He never called anyone a  ‘sinner’. (His saying your sins are forgiven is not the same thing.) He saw them as human persons. People needing his teaching, his help, his healing, his hand to stand, a heart to love them. He gave everyone a sense of their own worth; a worth that the world often denied them. And those were the people who followed him. It wasn’t the priests or the Jewish leaders or the Roman authorities who followed him. They were secure in their worth (i.e. their power, status and standing). Those who were devalued, he valued. Those who were down trodden, he lifted up with hope and with real substance, the real substance of his very self. That’s what feeding the multitude means. We have a multitude within us. Conflicting needs, pulled in different directions, many voices calling out to us, asking for our time, our resources, our attention to others needs and problems. Balancing work, home, family, schools, churches. The list goes on and on.

Jesus walked right out into the midst of all this. Through the crowded market places, into the synagogues brimming with those who wanted to hear what he had to saw, hoping he would touch them both with his words and hands, so his words and his hands would heal them, transform them, renew their lives, their well being, their health, their worth.  And I believe that if we touch the Word that it still has that power to change our lives, bring us to health and spiritual maturity. For his Spirit, through the living Word, bears Christ to us yet. We can still follow him through the corn field, down to the turbulent sea shore, across still waters or up the steep hill side and even across the rocky landscapes of our lives and he will see us and touch us and let us know in one way or another that he is there.

And then we too can go off to that lonely place to pray.

 

 

I Am Joseph: Shepherd, Dreamer, Savior

I Am Joseph CVR Cover

On my Home Page for this site and in my Letter to Reads you will read not just what this blog is about, but also my sensibilities about the changing face of religion and spirituality today.

I wish to bring a renewed perspective, fresh language and way of speaking about our faith-life that might reach a broad audience of believers, seekers and sojourners. From here to chart a faith-life that is truer to the fingerprint of the Creator upon our lives and follow the footfall left for us in the journey of those entrusted to tell the story of the deity along with their own.

I see in the stories of the scriptures of all faiths, our humanity mirrored there, the why and wherefore of the journey through the symbols and images employed to convey, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and socially, a way to enrich and edify our lives and deepen our understanding of this journey to wholeness and well-being we are all on together.  To search the ancient texts and what we have come to know about the human person, psyche and spirit,  heart and soul, for what it really means to be a spiritual being no matter what faith you make your home in, no matter where you find yourself, worshipping in traditional or non-traditional ways.

With this approach to the bible in mind, I have written and just had published my first book.  It is entitled  I Am Joseph: Shepherd, Dreamer, Savior.

It follows the story of Joseph’s journey, told in the final chapters of Genesis, from one of twelve brothers to the great vizier of Egypt. This new reading introduces a way for contemporary readers of the bible to empower faith today and arrive at a healthy and balanced spirituality. Through trials of the heart and tests of endurance Joseph goes from shepherd boy lording his dreams over his family to a wise and compassionate man who will shepherd his family to safety and save a hungry world. As we read along we learn how to read our dreams, the language of the soul. In this tale of love and hate, betrayal and forgiveness, Joseph shows us how to navigate the challenges life throws up in our path and how to become wise and heroic.

You can purchase this ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google and ebooks2Go.

IAmJoseph CVR mobi back cover 

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All the writing, quotes, artwork and photography are the work of the author unless otherwise stated. Scripture readings are from the Jerusalem Bible.
This work, including its contents, may not be used, reproduced, duplicated, displayed or distributed without the express written permission of the author.

 

Imagine the Possibilities

Pentecost red ribbons  Pentecost redeems the Tower of Babel. Many languages were being spoken out there on the streets beneath the upper room on that Pentecost day where a great wind caught twelve plus anxious men and women in the grips of something that changed not only their lives but the way we view the world and mark history.

We are in the season of the Holy Spirit. And in all truth, since the day of that first Pentecost, when the world was lit by the fire and language of the Spirit, Pentecost is the ever-present reality of our lives each and every day, no matter what church or natural season in which we find ourselves.

This Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. St. Paul tells us that it is this Spirit that has come to make its home in us. In his letter to the Romans Paul characterizes the essence of the spirit as freedom.  He interchanges Spirit of Christ and Spirit of God in this letter. But they are one and the same Spirit. The נשימה that breathed over the waters at the creation, the ruach which in the Hebrew Scriptures can be variously translated wind or spirit or breath.

One of the Hebrew names for God is Ruach Elohim. The first impression of those assembled in the upper room was of a wind. A wind that overtook their sensibilities. A wind that brought the fire of the spirit. In that moment we became lit with the Spirit of Christ moving in our lives. In that upper room a window opened to eternity. To divinity. To the sacred possibility within us. Opens us to the Spirit of One made whole, human and sacred showing himself fully alive, alive to the Ruach Elohim and now fully alive in us.

When Jesus showed himself risen he carried the Ruach Elohim to us. In him Spirit and Body became one indivisible reality of the human person. He crushed the head of dualism. And in him the Ruach Elohim came to its fullest expression in the human person. The Word breathed over the waters at Creation became flesh. And when the Word became flesh, as St. Paul would say, we became a new creation.

Like Mary seeded by the Ruach Elohim at Jesus’ conception, we are now in Christ, seeded with the limitless possibilities of his Spirit. Each day is a little pentecost. We are his first-fruits. The bounty of his becoming in us. In his Spirit, in the emerging pentecost of each new day, we rise to a new harvest, a new way of being, which holds the limitless possibilities of our humanity, now in him, made whole. Human. Sacred. Meant.

Passover and Maundy Thursday

 Passover began this past Monday evening. During Passover, our Jewish brothers and sisters invite friends and family into their homes for a Seder supper, to celebrate Passover together. The Seder supper recalls  the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Pharaoh’s house of slavery. In preparation for their being led out, Yahweh gave instructions to the people as to how to prepare themselves for their flight from Egypt. It is also called the feast of Unleavened Bread because the people had no time for the bread they would take with them to rise. The name for Passover comes from the their sprinkling the blood of a lamb over their two doorposts and lintel so that the angel of death, one of the plagues set upon  Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to let the people go, would pass over the houses of the Hebrew people.

Jesus’ last supper was the Passover meal. Tonight Christians go to their respective churches to celebrate the Last Supper. It is called Maundy Thursday as it recalls Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples before  the Passover meal they shared together.  The meal together becomes a sign of his self-giving, his sense of service to his followers. The Last Supper recalls the Exodus and the Passover meal Jesus shared with his friends the night before he died. The words of the Eucharist celebration are the words St. Paul puts down in 1 Corinthians 11:23-27 that he received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you. They are the words that turned Jesus’s last supper, his final Passover feast, into the Eucharist, the Mass, as the Christian remembrance of Jesus’ Passover from death to life.

There is much speculation outside the gospels accounts of the Jesus’ last meal with his friends, as to what actually occurred there. The gospels tell us that Jesus knew one of his own would betray him. It would not have taken super powers for Jesus to know that there were those who were out to put an end to him and his teachings. He was surely aware that John, whose work he most likely took up after his cousin’s death, had been killed because he challenged the status quo both religiously and politically.

As a devout and faithful Hebrew, one very familiar with the sacred writings of Israel, he would have read, along with singing the Psalms, the story of the Exodus.  At the close of the reading he would have held the scroll up and said ‘this is the word of the Lord.’ Soon enough he would be raised up to the world as the living Word, the Word of G-d become flesh.

Part of the readings that night would recall Yahweh’s command to Israel in the Book of Exodus to perform Passover as a yearly ritual in remembrance of the day Yahweh brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. You will observe this ordinance each year at the appointed time. For St. Paul these words that Jesus’ disciples heard at the Passover meal with him would also be remembered as Jesus’ own instructions to remember what they did together that night on the final Passover he most likely knew would be his last to celebrate with them.

In the Passover meal Yeshua of Nazareth stands as the center point, at the heart, of the ongoing faith journey of G-d’s sacred people. The people chosen and meant, called to be his own. Part of the promise given to Israel was that she would bring the rest of the world to faith in the one G-d, the Lord of Life, the I Am Who Am.

Yeshua of Nazareth came to his own people. He came to a scattered and oppressed Israel.   His mission as he understood it was to the Hebrew people. We understand from St. Paul too, that being saved, saved from oppression, being set aside as a sacred people for G-d, would come to the Jews first and through them to the rest of the world.

Israel gave us Jesus. We believe Yeshua (which means Yahweh saves) of Nazareth to be the Christ. Our faith in Christ is also faith in the G-d of Israel.

As we all join this week in spirit if not in place to celebrate the Passover of the Lord let us remember together with gratitude the bitter tears and the suffering of our shared faith journey that transformed forever who we are, a people all, meant and sacred.  Let us remember as charged the G-d of Israel and of Jesus, who brought us from slavery to freedom, from death to life, giving us a way of being his, a way to  him.