A Wedding and A Passover

Passover with Jesus and disciples

Have you noticed that Jesus spends a good deal of his time in the gospels at meals with others? Meals have a significant meaning in Jesus’s life. The wedding feast at Cana, according to John’s gospel, is a prelude to his public life. Jesus story begins then and we know ends with a meal. One a wedding celebration where Jesus and his mother are present; the last where Jesus is at table with his disciples, sharing with them the Passover meal. These two meals, one where Jesus has gone to celebrate a wedding with his disciples, friends and family, and the last meal of his life, where he celebrates another transformative moment in the lives of himself and his friends. The wedding at Cana has become famous for Jesus turning water into wine. His first (recorded) miracle. One he seems reluctant to perform – when told by his mother (a not so subtle hint) that they have no wine – he replies with that enigmatic statement it is not yet my time.  But apparently his mother had every confidence he was a capable of because she then addresses the wine steward and tells him to do whatever Jesus says.

The Passover meal that Jesus celebrate with his disciples is a celebration of another sort. It is the remembrance of the time when the angel of death passed over the home first born Hebrew child, a prelude to the Exodus. So two meals, preludes to pivotal moments in Jesus’ life. For at the Passover meal Jesus will shortly become the Passover himself. He will be the first-born of the Father, who is raised back to life, effecting the greatest transformation one can make. From death to life is the preeminent Passover. One that is perhaps previewed in the wedding feast at Cana.

The water that Jesus changes into wine will become the water and blood that will flow from Jesus’ punctured side as he hangs on the cross. The soldier’s spear was meant to verify that Jesus was  indeed dead, and yet as it did show that in human terms Jesus had expired, the water and life-blood that drained from him, gave witness to the transformation that would take place in three days, with the ultimate wedding of human and sacred life when Jesus came forth from the tomb where he had been buried. In three days time the life-blood of Jesus would flow in him, the union of body and spirit now a living person, and thereby change the way a small cultic group of  his followers would grow into a world-wide movement, the Jesus movement, watered if you will, with his own life-spirit, which is now available to all of us in abundance.

Advertisements

Getting the Story Right – Mary Magdalene was Not a Prostitute

daffodils  Most of Lent I’ve spent finishing the manuscript for a book I have written. It is finally finished. As anyone who writes, or undertakes a project that consumes much of your days and nights, a kind of void ensues. There does come a sense of loss along with a sense of job well done. What once filled your days, your thoughts, your every waking hour, is now no longer yours in many respects. It’s for those who will read it. But because of the subject matter I suspect I will never entirely be finished with it. Because it has become important to me that we get the story (of Christianity) right. And we haven’t yet.

So this week I have been doing things that have gone undone during the writing. Like cleaning house. Cleaning out closets, throwing things away that I no longer need or can use. Or that fit! I’ve started thinking about what annuals I’ll plant in the garden this year.

We are one week away from Good Friday. And I woke up this morning thinking about other things that needed to be discarded, things we have outgrown in a spiritual context. Outdated ideas that no longer speak to us, no longer serve our journeys to new life. No longer fit the life we live today.

This thought conincided with something that has been sticking my craw for some time. Its been gaining purchase in my thoughts for a while now.

During a bible study class there was a woman who said she has read the bible through three times. Great. One of the points I make in my writing is that we need to actually read the biblical text in context and see what it is saying, rather than taking bits and pieces, a sentence here or there, the way we have with St. Paul, and misreading them. Later in the discussion this same woman referred to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. Whoa! No she wasn’t. And I said so. Really? Was the woman’s incredulous reply. No where in the scriptures does it say Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. No where.

This idea came from Pope Gregory I, aka Gregory the Great in the 6th century. He was wrong. But this notion has persisted throughout Christendom and beyond for centuries. I have never heard one person from the pulpit discredit this error. This sin done to women and to the gospel in the churches. A few weeks later a man made the same observation. Again, I tried to right this misunderstanding of a woman who was one of the most devoted followers of Jesus and to whom he first appeared at the Resurrection.

My point: How much more have we believed of the gospels that is not true. In spite of the fact that the woman had ‘read’ the bible, evidently she, like many of us, has been reading it with the overlay of church teachings that considerably miss the mark. How much more have we gotten wrong about our faith?

We need to right this wrong because it represents the great injustice that has done been done to women and to reading the stories of the scriptures more carefully.

So while you do your spring cleaning, you can throw this one out.

I for one am going to follow this woman through Holy Week, to the Cross, and to the Garden because this was one woman who got it right, while all the men ran away.

 

 

 

The Journey of the Human Heart

 Pentecost red ribbons I’ve been facilitating a bible study in the past few months on Acts of the Apostles. In Acts Luke chronicles the early church grappling with what it means to follow Jesus as the Christ. We get a different look at St. Paul in Acts. We see him traveling around the Mediterranean, going from place to place in order to establish belief in Jesus and set up churches in his name. Even though Luke paints Paul in a favorable light (he was his traveling companion for a while) it becomes clear from the outset that their were many challenges Paul faced and difficulties the first apostles faced after Jesus’ resurrection.

But they were not alone as they began to proclaim the triumph of the human Jesus as the messiah, the Christ, as evidenced by his resurrection. His resurrection had a powerful effect on them. Suddenly the things Jesus said and did made sense. They finally got it. They understood. And at Pentecost it became the Spirit of Christ coming upon them, coming into them, that empowered them to go out and proclaim that this holy man from Galilee, who was their friend and teacher, was also the Christ of God.

Each of us over the course of our lives enacts the journey that we see in the first followers of Jesus trying to become ‘church’. The ecclesia –a gathering of believers who would now try to recreate/to tell Jesus’ life, his words, what he taught and what he believed. Their goal to form their identity based on the life of Jesus.

For us too today it is a matter of forming an identity. An identity we need to form and formulate anew as we grow in knowledge and awareness of our spirits as they join with the deepest God-centered self, which is Christ. We are Spirit led. Our creative spirituality is an incarnate spirituality. It is enfleshed in our bodies as we embody the Spirit of Christ.(1 Cor. 15:45) As we make our final march to Holy Week and to Easter, we embody his Spirit, left as legacy and identity.

He made his journey from the green hills of Galilee to the teeming metropolis of Jerusalem, to the shores of the Jordan, from the Kidron Valley, along with his those who loved him, committed to a journey they had no idea where it would lead them. It was enough to be with him. For us too, it is enough to be with him.

His life was a journey. He continues to journey with us as we make our unique identities in the world.  It is a promise kept. It is the promise of the coming to be of God in the human heart because he was the human heart of Jesus. A human and sacred heart that is enough.

God’s Work of Art

Ephesians in its brevity encapsulates the best of Paul’s message. It is a message of peace, grace and as always encouragement in the Christ life. Paul’s passages in Ephesians are the phrases I want to keep in my head and heart, mindful that as we move to the new day of Easter, we might also think of moving to the new day when the positive message of the gospels and of St. Paul find renewal in our churches, academies and our lives. As we make our way to the renewal of Spring, I want to look at Paul with fresh eyes and be mindful of the changes and challenges inherent in his valuation of the people of God then and today.

Unfortunately, when Christianity became Roman, it also adapted (corrupted) the message of (especially) St. Paul to its own need to rule, dominate, setting the Church on a course that was legalistic, devalued the ‘flesh’ and women. Apparently the early church ‘fathers’ overlooked and/or discarded the message of Ephesians and Philippian. This is what Paul does not want for his converts. Not to live by rules and decrees. But to live in Christ.

Although, by now it should be evident that the totality of Paul’s message needs to be read in a new light, a more critical light, read and understood in its totality so we too can experience true resurrection, liberation from anachronistic readings that promote not the actual gospels themselves but a status quo we are still at pains to free ourselves.  So that we might once again not think of ourselves as sinners, but see ourselves as sacred and meant and know God the Father in the Christ Jesus who asks only one thing: to put our faith in him. To live our lives according to the Christ we have received. To have a new life in Christ through the great love with which he loves us.

We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to have life in abundance from the beginning as he meant us to live. (Ephesians 2:9-10)

To have life in abundance. When people query God’s will, this is what he wills for us. Life. Life in abundance. Our well-being, the grace and gift of God. Partakers in Christ of the God-life that we are meant to be. A sacred people. We are original and uniquely created, with the hand of God shaping us from within and without. He breathes his life in us and sustains us in the Spirit of Christ. We are meant to live a good life, in the God who turns everything to the good. In the beginning he saw that what he had made was good. We continue to be good. And when we fall short of the God-life within us we can be assured that we are still loved, the mystery of the Christ life is abundantly within us and available to us.

We are God’s work of art. Our abundance, the infinite treasure of Christ.