Showing posts with label Sermon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sermon. Show all posts

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Don't Take the Mysticism Out of Christianity

6 Pentecost, C p 11, July 21, 2019  
Gen. 18:1-14    Ps.15  
Col. 1:21-29  Luke 10:38-42 
Lectionary Link

Modern Christians have been intimidated by the true success of modern science, even to the point off developing a way to integrate modern science into their understanding and presentation of the Bible.  And what does one call the scientification of biblical stories?  Fundamentalism.

Since science has been so successful, giving us an impressive system of statistical approximations in understanding our world resulting in the best way to do probability theory rendering actuarial wisdom for living in the material world, such greatness has forced many to discount the proper value of discourses of faith in favor of presenting them in the mode of science.

What is the mode of science?  Empirical verification.  Something is really only true if it can be empirically verified.  So how did empirical verification result in fundamentalism?

Fundamentalists are those who are so impressed with the veracity of empirical verification, they feel that the Bible can only be meaningful true, if and only if all of the storied events of the Bible are events that could be empirically verified using the impressive scientific method.  So they have to present the Bible using the same criteria of veracity which scientists use for their theories.  But scientists are much more humble than fundamentalists; they only state that their laws and theories are tentative.  They are open to falsification of their theories; they are open to their theories being superseded by better theories or more comprehensive laws to explain why things happen in the way in which they happen.

Why did fundamentalists copy the scientific method?  They were envious of what they perceived to be the certitude of science.  Scientists seemed confident and proud of their discoveries and theories and they have been celebrated in popular culture particularly in how their discoveries have had massive collateral effects in our societies in the inventions of all of the devices of modern convenience.  But scientific certitude is in the mode of exploration, not any individual outcome, since an individual outcome in terms of a law can still be open to future falsification.

Fundamentalists craved the certitude which they thought science offered and the glory of the pragmatic results of science.  So they committed contortionist hermeneutics in trying to conform their presentation of biblical stories in a way that proclaimed the certitude that all events in the Bible could be empirically verified.  That has become their truth and they have been sticking to it.

And they have been able to comprise communities of ignorance to falsely apply empirical verification as relevant to all biblical events.  They have claimed to have God's active Spirit in their inaptly appropriation of empirical verification to all events in the Bible.  And in such misguided use of empirical verification regarding all biblical events, they have also become susceptible to political movements which offered their views a manipulated affirmation, even while trading their souls to follow political princes of lies and truly anti-to-Christlikeness in matters of love and justice for all.  An emotional sentiment of religion can easily be morphed to express the disapproval for people who are made to feel to be the "other" and the one to be "excluded."  Such religious and emotional sentiment does not have the depth of Spirit and it does not reach the standard of the deep mysticism which is truly trans-formative of all of life, including our lives for the common good of all in love and justice.

People who have adopted the tacit epistemology of their culture and in their conscious lives practice the underpinning of a scientific worldview, have been scornful of the fundamentalists' misappropriation of science. Many scientists and modernists have committed a logical fallacy in their scorn by seeming to say, "all people of faith are fundamentalists."  Or all people of faith resort to a misconstrued empirically verification for the interpretation of biblical events and religious experience.  At the same time, scientific skeptics can be those who wear the same unwashed T-shirt so that their college football team will not be jinxed.  A scientific skeptic can weep at a concert, cry at a movie or in the replay of a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech.  My point: the sublime can arise in many ways and it can surprise, evoke joy, tears, awe, and mystery.  People can understand the discourses of the sublime which we find in many of the artifacts of our cultures.  We know that the sublime occurs even as we know that its occasions of "in-breaking" are so intermittent and seemingly random, that the sublime is not reducible to controlled replication which is so important to the scientific method.

St. Paul was at his best as a mystic, one who had completely been bowled over by a mystical event.  It was such a pronounced event,  that it resulted in him stopping his murderous efforts to hunt down and have the followers of Jesus killed.  The mystical experience is trans-formative; it is empirical in the sense that it happens.  It is empirical in the sense that it changes one's life to become better.  It is empirical in that it results in poetic language of love and faith and fascinating entertaining imagery.  And one does not reduce poetry to language and logic of empirical verification; to do so is a violation of the mystical experience.  With sharing of the event of the mystical experience, one hopes that one creates the awareness that the mystical is happening and can happen at all times.   The sharing of the mystical experience of the sublime, as was the experience of the Risen Christ for Paul, is the invitation for others to be expectant to be "surprised by joy."  It is the invitation to live "anticipatingly."

The Pauline hymns to Christ, just like the prologue to John's Gospel, are the attempts in words to express personal meanings of the mystical event.  To try to reduce these to parallel meanings of empirical experiences as is done in science is a violation of mystical discourse and the meaning of faith and the experience of beauty.

How did the mystical get expressed in the Gospels?  How was the mystical re-configured in a narrative re-presentation of Jesus of Nazareth?

One example:  Mary and Martha invited Jesus to their home.  Martha was the epitome of hospitality in wanting to have everything perfect for Jesus as she entertained Jesus in their home, their physical house.  Her sister Mary sat in contemplation of Jesus as his words entered her inward home and mystically re-ordered her interior environment.  Martha has come to symbolize the exterior home, which is the very important home for the occasion of the mystical encounter.  Mary is the symbol of our interior home which needs the mystical encounter with the Risen Christ as the Eternal Word to enter our interior homes and rearrange all of the interior furniture so as to be a place of perfect hospitality for the presence of God, Eternal Word, whose words are Spirit and Life.  

Friends, do not take the mysticism out of Christianity and do not misunderstand mystical discourse as the equivalent discourse of E=MC squared.  Amen.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Neighbor: Being the One Who Gets to Love

5 Pentecost, Cp10, July 14, 2019 
Deut. 30:9-14   Ps.25:3-9  
Col. 10:25-37  Luke 10:25-37 

Lectionary Link
The parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke has the sublime elements that one could call brilliant, wise genius, for those who really seek creative advancement in the best of recommended behaviors for persons who are on a path of seeking to surpass themselves in future states of excellence.

The set up for the parable has elements which could be compared with some of the Socratic dialogues penned by Plato.

What is the set up?  A lawyer in the time of Jesus within the communities of Judaism would be practitioners of the laws which governed behaviors of observant Jews.  It would have been a different legal practice to deal with interaction with the outsiders who lived under the laws of the Roman Empire.

A religious law expert asked the question regarding the link between one's life and one's afterlife.  "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"  There is, of course, a basic contradiction in the question itself.  People who inherit are called heirs.  How do heirs inherit?  By being born into a family as a child.  A child is an automatic heir.  So why does a child heir have to do something to receive the inheritance?

What this contradiction exposes was how the lawyer regarded the divine law.  He regarded the Torah to be a collection of recommended behaviors that if one could follow, it would allow the inheritance of a continued personal life in the afterlife.  Jesus asked the lawyer what the written law said about his question.  The lawyer gave the summary of the law, "Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself."

But then the lawyer revealed his misunderstanding of the law of God.  He understood human limitation and sought to allow such a limitation to be put on the law of love.  In the Christian community, the law of love was said to be the fulfillment of the law.

The lawyer was thinking if I counted up all of the loving deeds that I did for my neighbor, would there be neighbors who I would not have to love.  What about my natural enemies, like the Roman soldiers or what about the Samaritans whom we occasionally had to confront?

The parable of the Good Samaritan is penetrating in many ways.

First, it presents a Samaritan, the lawyer's natural enemy as the one who is the loving neighbor.

Second, it presents the obvious observers of the law, a priest and a Levite as those who did not want to get involved in the plight of the victim of the attack.  Their laws of ritual purity prevented them from being good neighbors.  How?  If the victim was dead, then they would pollute themselves by coming in contact with a "dead" body.  There lives would be inconvenienced by having to go through ritual purification  to cleanse themselves of their unclean act of touching a dead person.  If they didn't know the victim and if he might be dead, why bother?

Third, a Samaritan had their own version of Torah religion.  They were not any less religious than observant Jews.  But this Samaritan who would not be considered a candidate for eternal life for the lawyer, is presented as the one who fulfills the love of God.  And being a loving person of all is what fulfills God's law of love and that loving behavior is what expresses eternal life, or that which truly lasts forever.

In short, Jesus taught that eternal life, is the love of God flowing through us as God's children who have inherited this privilege to be lovers of God and each other.

Who is my neighbor?  Jesus  said that is the wrong question.  The question is when and where and to whom do I get the privilege to be neighborly.

Jesus affirmed the active definition of the word "neighbor."  Neighbor is the subject, the verb and the object.

A neighbor, neighors other neighbors, and so neighbor as a verb is conjugated, "I neighbor other neighbors.  You neighbor other neighbors.  We all neighbor other neighers."  And this is how we prove that the eternal life of God's Spirit is in and through us.

Let us go forth to be active neighbors today and so fulfill the eternal life of God.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Gospel Needs Strategies

4 Pentecost, C p 9, July 7, 2019
2 Kings 5:1-14  Psalm 30
Gal. 6:1-18    Luke 10:1-12,16-20 
The church history professor with tongue in cheek asked the seminarians, "Why was the Episcopal Church so late to arrive on the frontier?"  Answer:  "They were waiting for the invention of the Pullman Car."  Obviously, they would leave evangelical poverty to others.  The laborer is worthy of his hire meant something different for those Pullman Car Episcopalians.

When we read the Gospels, we are used to the "big 12" getting all of the attention.  It could be that 12 was more symbolic as the early church tried to reinterpret the church as the new 12 tribes of Israel with 12 corresponding leaders.  We know that there were women who were considered close associates of Jesus and we read today about the seventy who were sent in pairs to get the message out about the kingdom of God being near.

We know that some religious groups still are very literal about going two by two in their mission, as we all know when we see two young men in white shirts and ties and riding mountain bikes on the streets.

Rather than being literal about how mission work should be done, whether from the comfort of a Pullman car or with evangelical poverty, the big point being made is that the Gospel needs strategies.  In legal theory it is said that a law that is not promulgated is invalid; meaning if no one knows about the law, how can they know be held responsible for keeping the law.  The Gospel which is not promulgated is a Gospel that is not given the opportunity to be responded to.

The Gospel always needs strategies of promulgation.  I would like to share some insights from our biblical readings today about potential strategies for the spreading of the Gospel.

First, everyone one needs good news.  And what does good news mean for someone who is sick and afflicted?  It means health.  The fullest meaning of salvation is holistic health.  Health, salvation and good news is not just for us; it's for everyone.  Foreigners outside of Israel got sick too.  Even a foreign general like Naaman needed good news of possible recovery.  He was even willing to go into foreign territory and submit himself to their strange folk remedy to seek health. The prophet Elisha had to be big hearted enough to represent a God who offered health and salvation to all.  What is the insight for us?  We need to know that God wants us to reach outside of our familiar crowd to offer the best news that we have.

The second insight that I'd like to share is St. Paul's law of karma.  "You reap what you sow."  This has nothing to do with whether God forgives us our sins; it has to do with the unavoidable outcomes of what we do in our lives.  Our deeds are always affecting future outcomes.  If we keep our good news locked up in insider arcane theology and liturgies, we may find ourselves like the spiritual equivalent of the Shakers.  They died out because they didn't propagate; if we don't sow the seeds of the Gospel in inspired ways, we too can be responsible for our own diminishing numbers.

The Gospel evangelical mission commissioned by Jesus offers us several insights.  Jesus said that he had a message that everyone needed.  There is a harvest because the knowledge of the nearness of God's kingdom or realm is something which everyone needs to know.  As much as our nationalities are important to us, everyone needs to know citizenship in a larger realm, the realm of God.  We are God-ites first before we are Americans.  We live and move and have our being in God; that is our primary identity and it is really good news if we can come to experience this God-identity.  In a Roman occupied country, what value did their national heritage do for Jews and for their spiritual freedom?  Jesus was inviting everyone to the nationality of God; there was no greater citizenship identity to have than to accept one's citizenship in the realm of God. 

What were the strategies for the evangelical mission?  Get the message out quickly.  Travel light; don't get bogged down in over administrated logistics.  Live off the land.  Don't worry about rejection; just move on to the next opportunity.  Go in pairs so you have fellowship and encouragement and someone to consult with on the mission.  Finally, don't make success or failure the issue; the message of being a citizen in God's realm is its own reward.  Your name is written in heaven, whether you have the metrics of success or failure.

So, what insights might we ponder today for Trinity Cathedral?  What are our strategies for the Gospel future here?  Lots of people want to know the way to San Jose.  We are in the middle of great wealth, great intellectual property, and great technological information revolution.  How can we let it be known that God's realm is very near?  How can we let it be known that we live and move and have our being, not in San Jose, not in the Silicon Valley but, first in God?  How can we make relevant the basic identity with God's realm in this temporal realm and location?

Certainly, you continue in your ministry to those who speak Spanish.  We can seek to provide a welcome to an incredibly diverse crowd in our neighborhood.  God's love is able to be translated into every language.  You work to have a voice to deal with the great and looming housing crisis.  Trinity has a moral voice to offer at the table for those deciding the provision of housing for everyone who needs to live and work in this city.  Trinity has the mission to offer the complementing experience of the sublime experienced in music, art, and poetry.  Trinity has the big chair, the cathedra, the seat of our bishop.  While the geographical center of our diocese is further south, Trinity Cathedral is at the heart of the population center of our diocese.  The call for Trinity is to be a center that befits a cathedral at the population center of our diocese.  Perhaps Trinity has a role to be a satellite learning center for our Episcopal seminary in Berkeley.  Wise learning needs to go forth from this place.  Trinity Cathedral has a mission to the largest religious group in society today, those whom the pollsters call the "nones."  Those who say they are not religious but spiritual.  Trinity Cathedral, in a university city with plenty of religious skeptics can create the intellectual forum for a new hearing of the Gospel in Episcopal overtones, and give people a reason not to reject Christ because of really bad behaviors and really bad thinking by the people who often misrepresent the Gospel in the loudest way.  Trinity Cathedral can offer a graceful aesthetic liturgical presentation of good thinking attaining corporate prayer.  And Trinity has the mission to represent good stewardship of the earth and of human resources.    In one of the wealthiest places, one is seeing a failure in philanthropy, a failure in the stewardship of wealth being applied in creative ways.  If Trinity Cathedral lives in an environment which boasts a commitment to a free market;  then this parish needs to influence participants in this free market to make the best use of freedom by including the creative care of the common good of the many as the very best function of the free market.

Friends, I presume too much as an outsider,  so forgive me as a one-shot preacher, but I believe the Gospel would provoke us all to develop strategies, tactics and actions plans for letting the people in this city know that God's realm is very near to them.

And so I commend you here at Trinity to rejoice in all that you've done to make God's realm evident here, but now in your current transition to seek Jesus as the Lord of the harvest to inspire some new strategies for the future harvest to be known here through your ministry.  Amen.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Call of Christ and Living Excessively

3 Pentecost, C p 8, June 30, 2019 
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14  Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Gal. 5:1, 13-25   Luke 9:51-62  

Lectionary Link

Today's lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures is a story about the departure of Elijah and the changing of the guard; the passing on of the prophetic mantle to his disciple Elisha.

Elijah had been tempted to become a pouting, doubting old prophet.  He ran in fear from the forces of Ahab and Jezebel even after he won an incredible showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.

Elijah ran away in ministerial despair, presuming that he alone was left as the only faithful person in all of Israel.  Elijah, like any minister, might have felt obsolete when not enough of the faithful didn't throng around him proving that his ministry was a success and not in vain.  And God told Elijah, "You are not alone, there are more than 7,000 who have remained faithful....don't pout, just because you can't see them."

Obviously, God wasn't angry with Elijah; why would he get to avoid death and take a chariot of fire to heaven?  His disciple Elisha did not want him to leave and so he demanded to see Elijah leave as a sign that the prophetic spirit would remain alive and active in his ministry after his teacher prophet Elijah was gone.

And sure enough, the spirit which worked for Elijah was going to work in and through Elisha too.  And maybe Elijah should have shared some of the load with Elisha earlier and with others in the company of the prophets so he didn't feel so alone.

The God of Elijah was the God of Elisha, but God did different things through Elisha because Elisha lived in a different time and a different place than Elijah did.  Ahab and Jezebel died; Elisha had other challenges to prove the faithfulness of God.  God is the same in different times but how God works through different people in different time changes.  God is equal in all time; how God gets funneled into actual outcomes depends mainly on the "funnel shape" of the people involved.  The prophetic mantle gets passed on to another generation and how ministry is done will be different but God's grace remains the same.

In agriculture, there is the repetition of cycles; prepare the soil, fertilize, plant, prune, cultivate, and deal with the weather and the harvest is sometimes extra bountiful and sometimes sparse.  But every phase has to be faithfully executed even when we cannot know the exact success of the harvest.  As one looks at the ministerial cycles of parish life, one can observe going through many cycles.  It may be easier to be faithful when there is a very bountiful harvest, but we need to remember that faithfulness has to be the same and consistent during any phase of the cycles of ministry.

I would like to challenge us with insights from the Gospel reading for today and from the Epistle.

First, let us appreciate how infinitely flexible and adaptable the call of Jesus Christ is to each one of us today.  Second, one of the secrets in life is to discover where we can be completely excessive without addiction, guilt,  or regret.

We, in the church, have often limited the call of Christ to the specific ordained ministry.  When the church required the standard of poverty, chastity and obedience for the clergy, there was this notion that the call of Christ was something heroic and therefore only for a few people who could leave the ordinary life to live such a life of "heroic" sacrifice.

The Gospel reading for today provides us inappropriate responses to the call of Jesus based upon some wrong understandings of the call of Jesus.

The first misunderstanding is that the call of Jesus is necessarily a call to the heroic abandonment of one's everyday life.  One bold person said, "Jesus I will follow you wherever you go."  If I might paraphrase the response of Jesus,  "Hold on buddy....I don't know where I'm going to sleep tonight and I travel fairly light.  Perhaps you want to come with me as a way of escaping some important situations in your life.  Start first with finding my call within the particulars of your life as it is now.  Being faithful and obedient doesn't mean being heroic and leaving everything."

You and I might associate the call of Christ as something too heroic and so we excuse ourselves from activating our full response to the call of Christ in situations of our normal everyday lives.  We might view the call of Christ as something entirely negative, as having to give up too much.  Imagine this view of Jesus.  "Jesus, I can't follow you because you are not going to be good for my life and the life of my family."  Imagine Jesus thinking, "Tell me what you really think of me?"  The call of Christ is not the false choice between heroic obedience or nothing at all.  The call of Jesus is precisely adjustable to exactly where you are right now.  So you don't need to be heroic to respond and obey exactly where you are.  You remember the Gospel reading last week?  The man who was freed from the many demons in his life, wanted to follow Jesus.  What did Jesus say, "No, go home and tell everyone what God did for you.  Imagine what kind of witness you will be to the people who knew you in your former state."

The second misunderstanding regarding the call of Jesus is this:  The call is so heroic that it will interfere with all of the family loyalties which I must honor.  "Jesus let me wait until I have been able to bury all of my grandparents and parents.  Jesus, let me wait until I have honored and kept all of the farewell events with the people who are close to me."  What did Jesus say?  He said, "Don't let the normal rites of passage which occur in your life or the lives of your family and friends be an excuse not to respond to my call."  The call of Christ is within and adjustable to birth events, maturation events, sickness, vocational change, failure, success, marriage, divorce, graduations, aging and finally death itself."  Don't limit the call of Christ to that which is not inclusive of all of the events which can occur in anyone's life.  The call of Christ is totally integrated and totally accessible to us within everything that can possibly happen to us.  In my last 18 years of ministry, both of our parents have died and I've lost two younger siblings, and the call of Christ to me never diminished because of these losses.  Let us remember not to use any life excuse to refuse to respond to the call of Christ.  Accept the fact that the call of Jesus Christ is adjustable to you in your current circumstances.  And accept the fact the call of Christ to you in service in your parish church is adjustable to you in your life as it is now constituted.  Christ is not asking you to give heroically; Christ is only asking that you give exactly how you are currently constituted.  Do not say that the call of Christ is incompatible with your life.  That would be a lie.

Finally, I would like to end with the secret of life as written about by St. Paul.  St. Paul tells the secret of where we can be completely excessive in life.  Manifesting the fruits of God's Spirit is where we can live our lives completely open throttle and completely excessive.  "There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit."  Where we have been successful in the past, it has been a manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is given without measure; the Spirit is an inexhaustible reservoir of continuous gifts.  In parish ministry, we have have experienced the outcomes of love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, patience, self-control, kindness, generosity and faithfulness.  I believe in all of these.  I believe that these can never be exhausted.  I believe in the Holy Spirit who will continue to manifest these wonderful fruits of the Holy Spirit here and there will be dynamic and actual outcomes of blessing.

My charge to each of you:  Accept, receive, respond to the call of Christ even now as it is precisely adjusted to everything in your life.  Don't make the call of Christ into something that is inaccessible and then excuse yourself for not responding.  And finally, live in the excess of God's Holy Spirit who endlessly provides the wonderful fruits, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, generosity, self control and faithfulness.  With the call of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit you have a wonderful future.

The call of Christ is adjustable to your life even now.  Respond and follow right where you are.  Do you want to live excessively?  There is no limit to what the fruits of the Holy Spirit can produce in us.  Let us ever access these inexhaustible fruits of the Holy Spirit of God. Amen.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Jezebel, Legion and People Whispering

2 Pentecost, Cp7, June  23, 2019 
1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a  Psalm 22:18-27
Gal. 3:23-29   Luke 8:26-39
Why don't parents name their daughters Jezebel?  If you say about a woman, "She's a real Jezebel," it's a supreme insult.  Who was Jezebel? Jezebel was the daughter of a Phoenician King who married, Ahab, king of the northern kingdom of Israel.  Jezebel brought her religion with her to Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom.  King Ahab built temples for Jezebel's gods, Baal and Astarte and she perhaps was a royal priestess in one of the temples.  In this political marriage, Ahab perhaps was too drawn to his wife's religious leanings and Jezebel managed to support lots of false prophets who served her gods.  Against this compromise with the foreign gods, the prophet Elijah made a heroic stand; he called down fire from heaven in a showdown with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and he killed the false prophets with a sword but then he fled in fear of the bounty that Jezebel put on his head.  Jezebel is the patroness for harlots as she is known for dressing up in finery and putting on facial make up.  Jezebel was all painted up, perhaps as a seductress, when Jehu saw her on a balcony and had her thrown down and trampled and left her corpse for the dogs to eat.  (Do you see why we censure portions of the Bible as being X-rated for children?) Elijah, in fear, retreated to a most holy place, Horeb, the Mountain of God, formerly known as Mount Sinai.  Elijah perhaps thought that if he ran away to the Mountain of God, then he could meet God in the same place that Moses did.  Moses had a cloud and light show and shaking and thundering on Mount Sinai, but alas when these happened to Elijah, he could not find God.  He found God in sheer silence when God spoke to the pouting prophet who was so consumed about the persecution and he did not know what God knew the faithful of other people in Israel.  And this is all a prelude to his departure and the finish of his prophetic ministry on earth.
  Jesus of Nazareth did not confront Jezebel; he confronted a configuration of fallen angels or gods who went by the name Legion and who possessed a man. 
  Fallen angels and gods of ancient days had morphed into inward beings who tormented and possessed people and caused them to harm themselves and others.
  The earliest writer of the New Testament, Paul, wrote that we don't fight against flesh and blood; rather we fight against principalities and powers of darkness in heavenly places.  In Paul's spiritual psychology, the heavenly world is an inner world of battle against unseen cosmic forces of darkness.
  The spiritual warfare of St. Paul is instantiated in the ghost busting and people whispering ministry of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  John does not present Jesus as an exorcist as the other Gospels do.
  When illness of the physical and mental sort occurs, the ancient world had their own public health systems and systems of classification.  The unseen cause of people having unclean spirits within them was an all-embracing diagnosis for all manner of maladies particularly those that show the signs of some severe mental health disorders.
  I have come to favor Jesus as a People Whisperer to best explain the phenomenon of exorcism.  Jesus was such a person of extraordinary internal strength of peace and calm; that the interior lives of other reached out in various ways to him.
   The early church believed Jesus was the name above all other names and that he had authority, inward authority over unseen inner forces, the forces which compelled harmful acting out behaviors.  
  In ancient time as today, people are afraid of the public displays of extremely erratic behaviors, one that can be seen as dangerous to other people.  Today, one of the biggest social issues in our country is that there is not enough treatment for mental health disorders and the panorama of drug and opioid addictions, resulting in unseen inner forces becoming harmful behaviors.  In the ancient system of medical diagnosis, a person's interior force of motivation could be declared as "unclean."  In the Purity Code, something or some state of being was either "clean" or "unclean."  If it was designated as "unclean" it was to be shunned and quarantined so others would not be made unclean through contact with such an agent of defilement.  It was a system of infectious disease control.
  Jesus, the people whisperer, saw the pain and the isolation that such designation brought to the suffering persons and their families.  He had the inner strength to confront the inner forces of other people.  The Gospel narrative the exorcism that we've read today is highly symbolic.  Where were the "unclean" spirits sent?  Into the poor animals designated in Jewish society as being unclean, the swine.  So the unclean spirits enter the unclean swine causing them to kill themselves by drowning.  They jumped into the abyss of the water.  The unclean spirits were sent back to the chaos of the abyss and this indicated how Jesus was the Messiah in the heavenly realms.  Jesus was not yet a king on earth; but he was the king of heavenly and inner forces.
  The church has bishops, priests and deacons, preachers and prophets and all sorts of ministries.  What the church needs and what this world needs are more people whisperers.
Think of all of the times when you and I have needed people whisperers?  When we we infants and children worried about the "boogie men" in our rooms at night.  The horrifying images of a nightmare.  And mom or dad was there to be a people whisperer for us.  And many times, our unseen inner worlds have seemed to be threatened by the forces of accusation, addiction, victimization, fear, anxiety, illnesses of all sorts and we have needed an authoritative people whisperer to say, "now, now, everything is going to be well.  just hold my hand, I'm here with you and for you."
  When you and I don't think that we have any ministry at all, we do have the ministry to be people whisperers to the ones to whom God puts in our way to be present to as those who are willing to be acquainted with the grief and sorrows of others.
  The forces like that  of Ahab and Jezebel are always threatening.  People of power can incite others to do things that an individual would not do on one's own.  Outward events can instill inward fears and disorders.  Who ya' gonna call?  Jesus the ghost buster and people whisperer.
  And if you and I have received the gift of being whispered through some difficult times in our lives; then we too are called to make ourselves available to allow God's Holy Spirit to whisper other people through us.
  May Jesus, the great people whisperer, whisper us; and may we go forth to whisper the people who need to know the inward calm and peace of Christ.  Amen.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Trinity and the Baptismal Formula

Trinity Sunday  June 16, 2019
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8/Canticle 13
Romans 5:1-5  John 16:12-15

Lectionary LinkPerhaps you remember the apocryphal story of Isaac Newton and the law of gravity.  Newton was sitting under an apple tree and an apple fell and hit him on the head, thus inspiring his famous theory and law of gravity.  And he got credit for the law law of gravity even though Aristotle and Hindu philosophers wrote in other ways about this obvious force of Nature long before Newton.

Did gravity exist before the Newton wrote his law of gravity?  Of course it did.  And Einstein and the Quantum Physicists have come to write theories of gravity different from Isaac Newton's theory.

Today, on Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Christian understanding of God as One God, in Trinity of Persons.  And the events of understanding God as Trinity; did these events make the Trinity exists or did the Trinity always exists?   And the Trinity would not be God, if the Trinity did not always exist so such a question is obviously, rhetorical.

Did Jesus create the Trinity?  Before Jesus how could we have known that God had a Son?  The only direct son of God before Jesus would have been first son, Adam.   We can say that the Trinity became revealed in time and space history in a particular way with the appearance of Jesus, but the New Testament writers wondered if the Nature of Jesus had existence before the conception of Jesus in the Virgin Mary.

Probably, the most Trinitarian Gospel is the Gospel of John, the last Gospel and one with clear evidence of the oracle of Jesus alive and well in the early church.

John's Gospel, rewrote the beginning in a way different than the book of Genesis.  The Book of Genesis begins: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The Gospel of John begins, "In the beginning was the Word, the word was with God and the world was God.  All things came into being through the Word.

Why do you think the writer of John's Gospel seems to rewrite the beginning?  Was God in the beginning or was Word in the beginning?  Or both?

Could it be that the writer of John's Gospel was trying to indicate how the eternal Christ was One with God from the Beginning?

How does the Genesis writing explain creation?  God spoke and said, let there be light and there was light.  The Genesis writer also wrote that along with God speaking and ordering creation, the divine wind or breath or spirit of God moved over the chaos and brought what was created into being.  God the Father spoke, what he spoke was Christ the creating word and the Spirit executed the Word which made creation, in all of its array.

Even as we can understand that gravity existed long before Newton wrote his law of gravity; so too the nature of God as Trinity  was retroactively shown to be long before it became to be revealed in the way it was revealed in the life of Jesus Christ.

Christians have been disagreeing about the Trinity for many years.  When disagreements threatened the unity of the church and the Empire, the Emperor got the bishops of the church to meet in council to try to standardize a teaching and a doctrine about the Trinity and place it in a Creed so that it could be promulgated and taught in a singular way throughout the known Christian world.  But it took more than a century for the teachings of the Nicaean Council to gain general acceptance, and those who were declared to be heretics were not insincere people of faith.  There are insights to be found in heresies, even as they could not become the general doctrine of the church.

You and I may not identify with all of the politics of the theological disagreements in the church.  In fact there is good statistical evidence today that lots of people are staying from church attendance because of how all of the church disagreements get publicly aired.

You and I probably want something more than the politics of the Trinity.  How do we get beyond the politics of the Trinity?

First, we acknowledge that the Trinity, like God and like lots of things, is a mystery.  We live and move and have our being in the Triune God who is much bigger than we are.  God, who is much bigger than we are, is a mystery.  We can come to honest humility to be able to say "I don't really know the intricate details of how God is a Trinity of Equal Persons, because anything that is truly great is never finished in being further revealed and understood."  The Trinity has been revealed but the understanding of it has not been exhausted; therefore the Trinity still has future Epiphany events for you and me and for this world.  The Trinity is open to a future because being everlasting, means always being open to a further future.

Another way to get beyond the politics of the Trinity is to return to the clearest insight given to us about the Trinity.  The Trinity is essentially the relationship that Jesus had with his Father and the Holy Spirit, and he shared his dynamic relationship with his friends.  

And what did he shared?  He shared that each of us could be born of the Spirit of God and that we can know ourselves to be sons and daughters of God.  Jesus understood himself as God's Son, and he became the chief sibling who taught us how we can be his brothers and sisters with God as our Father.

Perhaps we can see now the importance of the baptismal formula.  "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."  This is the ultimate invitation to each of us.  At the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon him and the heavenly voice of God the Father, said, this is my beloved Son; with him I am well pleased.

The best way for us to understand the Trinity is to understand the meaning of our baptism.  The Holy Spirit has become known inside of us and given birth within us of the life of Christ.  And in this event we experience our adoption as God's children, children with whom God is well pleased.  We have become God's children with rights to be downright familiar with God and call God, "Daddy, or Abba."

Today, let us not complicate the Trinity; let us return to our baptism and remember that we are born by water and the Holy Spirit, the life of Christ is born within us and we are in the family of God, with God as our intimate heavenly parent.

And so I remind you again today, you are baptized in the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Pentecost: Unity As Harmony in Difference

Day of Pentecost C   June 9, 2019
Gen. 11:1-9 Ps. 104: 25-32
Acts 2:1-11      John 14:8-17, 25-17 
  Imagine a young girl in ancient times who had a new experience which needed an explanation.  What new experience?  She was traveling with her nomadic tribe and they arrived at an oasis with a watering hole and it was a place where people gathered to set up to sell items.  And as this young girl went through the market, she heard people speaking languages different from her own and she was baffled and surprised.  To her, the people seemed strange and they seem to be making some very strange sounds and noises.
  So at night around the campfire, this little girl asked her grandmother, "Why were those people making those strange sounds in the market?  They sounded like chattering monkeys.  I could not understand the meaning of their sounds.  It sounded like gobbledygook or babble,babble, babble."
  And what would grandmother say?  "Dear, I'm not sure but this is the story that my grandmother told me.  Long time ago people only spoke one and the same language.  Everyone could understand that one language.  And their king was so proud that he organized his people to build a great city and a great tower, a ziggarat, like a pyramid but it was a building with squared shaped stories built on top of each other until the top floor was the smallest square and in that top floor was a temple for sacrifices and perhaps on the ceiling there was a picture of the sky with the stars.  The king thought that he was so great and that he knew the stars that he could be like god and control the world.  But the one true Great God did not approve, so the Great God suddenly said, "Let all of the people begin to speak different languages."  And that is what happened.  People began to speak different language and so they couldn't understand each other.  They couldn't live together in the city because they just heard each other Babbling at each other.  The people had to move away from each other and live with just the people who spoke their own language.  But sometimes we have to meet other people when we go to the market at the oasis.  So God sent all of the languages as a curse upon people who wanted to use the one language as a way of trying to think that they were greater than God."
  The story of the tower of Babel, an onamatopoetic word, has a very simple causal answer to the diversity of languages among the people of the earth.  Diversity of language was a curse by God to keep people from arrogant pride.
  So the Hebrew Scriptures record how the Hebrew people became distinct speaking Hebrew, both a sacred and liturgical language, as a way of being different from the other people in the world where other people spoke other languages and had other gods.
  But is this an expression of a universal fairness of God toward all of the other people of the earth who did not speak Hebrew?  The prophets did not think so.  Elisha healed the foreign General Naaman.  Jonah proclaimed the message of God to the foreign Ninevites.  The Psalmist proclaimed, "let all of the people of the earth praise God."  The prophet Isaiah said that God's house was to be a house of prayer for all people.
  When people fear for their survival and existence, they clamp down and try to shield themselves from diversity.  Outsiders become regarded as a threat.  Only Hebrew speakers allowed.  Or as some in our country think, "Only English speakers allowed," even as we know that we took over our land from people who did not speak English and in our history we have received many non-English speakers to be integrated into our country, most of whom have come to learn English.
  Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.  This feast highlights the great dilemma of life.  How do we honor diversity and still live in a unity of relationship?  This dilemma has been the great American experience, expressed in our "non-English motto," "e pluribus unum," or from the many, One.  We could also reverse the Latin and say, "ab Uno, in plures," or from the One, many.
  The feast of Pentecost is a feast to celebrate the healing of the ancient perceived curse of diverse languages and diverse cultures.  Finally, God as the great conductor of the symphony said, "It's too limited to make music with just an orchestra of harps; we are now going to admit violins, violas, tubas, horns and reeds of many kinds and percussion and we are going to the blend the many different sounds into the beauty of the unity, called harmony."
  Pentecost is the feast of the unity of harmony.  To limit God and the message of the Gospel to a forced unity ends up in totalitarian tyranny; it ends up excommunicating and persecuting the vast majority of people.
  In the feast of Pentecost, we have the calling of the Jesus Movement to a different mission than the Jews who remained in the synagogue.  The message of the love of God was to be made accessible to the people of all language.  When people speak a language, embedded in their language are also lots of cultural habits, like their dress and eating habits.
  The Jesus Movement made the love of God in Christ accessible to many people who spoke different languages.  The New Testament is written in  the lingua franca of the time, koine Greek,  a language that was accessible to the widest possible audience of those who lived in the Roman Empire.  The message of the Gospel was not limited to people who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, the language of Jesus.  
  The Feast of Pentecost is statement that the life of the Risen Christ can be translated into every language and culture of humanity, because of the Holy Spirit of God.  God's Holy Spirit is the great translator of the Risen Christ into the life of everyone.  Do not be afraid of diversity; let all who are different embrace Christ and translate the meaning of Christ into their own lives.
  Pentecost is not about the unity of language; it is about the unity of Spirit.  Perhaps you heard the George Bernard Shaw phrase also quoted by Oscar Wilde, "The English people and Americans are people divided by having a common language."
  Christianity has different communions, denominations and churches; one could say that Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, Catholics, Amish and Presbyterians are people divided by having a common Savior.  And it may sound painfully funny, but the division of differences mean that we each have different missions and callings in our world.  We as a parish family have a calling that other Christians do not have.  We do not have to regard difference as a threat; it is the experience of the equality of difference that on the universal level can be known as harmony.
  On the level of our parish family, you and I can be people who are divided by having a common parish, St. John the Divine.  Each of us is different, but each of us have a different ministry to be harmonized with the unified mission our parish here in Morgan Hill.
  In the days ahead, do not forget the meaning of Pentecost, locally applied in our parish mission.  God has called each of us with different ministries for the building up of our parish here.  And what is the role of the Spirit?  One of the symbols of the Spirit is fire.  The fire of the Holy Spirit helps us to melt our egos so that we do not magnify our individual differences as being more important than the harmony of unity in our mission here.
  Let us embrace today harmony in our ministries as the divine work of God's Holy Spirit in blending the differences which contribute to the beauty of holiness.  May God the Holy Spirit bless us today as a Pentecostal parish, knowing the blending of differences of callings into the beautiful mission of harmony.  Amen.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Prayer as Language Laundering

7 Easter         May 8, 2016
Acts 16:16-34   Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21    John 17:20-26            

  We are told that money laundering is a crime, though we in the church encourage the laundering of money by giving a tithe portion of it to the church as a way of sanctifying all of the money of our lives.  I would like to introduce another kind of laundering today.
   "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.... and the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us."
  The Gospel of John indicates that God is most accessible to us as human beings because God is Word.  And we are caught up within and without in a totally worded existence in active and passive ways; passive ways because our entire existence is structured because we have language ability.  In our seeing, tasting, feeling, touching, intuiting, and hearing we have all this experience funneled through our word ability and we are always reading and interpreting our experience because we cannot help but do so.
  What would God as Word look like if completely manifested in a person?  God as Word would look like Jesus.  Jesus is the flesh and blood person that God as Word came to us.
  Why is word important?  We live and move and have our being in a vast field of words.  And there is lots bad use of words and bad use our language.  We  speak, feel, see, touch, taste and hear in some ways that are unhealthy to our lives and the life of our world.  Our bad use of words shows itself in our sin, the sin of failed stewardship in the gift of words into which we have been born.
  If God is the Word from the Beginning and Jesus is the Word made flesh as exemplary life of our worded existence, how do we look to Jesus to launder or clean up our language?
  In the good ol' days when I was a child my parents had a very literal way of cleansing one of the organs of language.  "Phil, I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap, if you keep saying those bad words."  Back then, I didn't know that I could have a lawyer on retainer to report such extreme threats from my parents.  And it was no threat; I have had my mouth washed out with soap more times than I want to remember.  Did any of you ever have your speech organ laundered with soap?  "I'm sorry mom and dad, such external washing of my mouth with soap did not go deep enough; the real organs of speech are the mind and heart which needed a much deeper cleansing."  And that is no lie, even though the soap was made with lye.  (bad pun groan here).
  So how can Jesus who is the living representative of Word of God help us to launder or clean up our lives of words?
  When the church quit seeing Jesus, where did they believe that he was?  They believed that he had ascended to be seated next to his Father.  And what  is Jesus doing next to his Father in that place of highest elevation?  The early church believed that the Risen Ascended Christ lived with his Father in order to make intercession for us.  Jesus prays for us and as the Risen and Ascended Christ, Christ has the manifold ability to be universally involved with everyone because he has returned from being the particular word made flesh in Jesus Christ to re-assume his association with being the eternal Word as God.
  So what example does Jesus provide for laundering or cleaning up our language?  Jesus gives us the example of prayer.  Jesus, in his life of prayer, invites us to clean up our language by joining him in the life of prayer.  Prayer is the way that you and I can launder the words of our lives, the words of language events, speech and writing; but also the words that are poignantly evident in our body language of deeds and actions.
  We can let prayer take over our lives and launder our language use if we accept that Christ is the Word of God who has given us the worded existence.  Since God has given us the worded existence with manifold language use and abilities, we need to practice the best stewardship our language ability.  How do we launder our language use?
  We do so by emulating Jesus Christ in being committed to the continual life of prayer.  The main task of life is to be at the laundering of our life of words.  And we can do this through the practice of prayer.  Prayer is accepting that our particular words have derived from God who is Word, and as such, we have the obligation to perform our words worthy of God who is the Eternal Word from the beginning?
  How did Jesus show a holy and pure life of words.  He did it in action.  He healed, he comforted, he fed, he encouraged, he taught, he confronted oppressors, he confronted lying with truth, he prayed, and he taught his followers to pray.  If life is relational, then we need to clean up the main way of relating, namely our life of words.  Prayer is the way in which we can launder our words.  In our unhealthy word environments we have learned unhealthy habits of word and we have soiled and stained results in how we use language and how our body language is trapped in some unhealthy repetitions.
  Words, themselves are neutral.  Clothes are neutral but they can be dirty and soiled or they can be laundered.  The example of Jesus praying for us while he lived on earth and the presentation of the Risen and Ascended Christ as one who still prays for us, is an example for us to adopt the life of prayer as a way of living, as the best way to launder our words..
  Today, we believe the Risen and Ascended Christ prays for us.  We accept the dispatch of the Holy Spirit to help us fulfill what Christ desires for us. Jesus desires that we should pray.  And if we believe that Christ prays, we too should commit ourselves to the practice of prayer as the best possible way to work at the endless task of laundering our language:  Our total language repertoire, of words and deeds. You and I are called to life of prayer and our prayer chain spiritual director is always happy to have new intercessors join our prayer chain.  Let us never grow weary in the task of endlessly laundering the language of our lives toward words and deeds which reflect the very best of the love and justice of God.  Amen.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

6 Easter   C       May 26, 2019            
Acts 14:8-18      Ps. 67
Rev. 21:22-22:5      John 14:23-29
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."

The Gospel of John could include a study of the word, "world," or cosmos" in Greek.  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.  Cosmos in earlier times referred to the physical world and the universe as we know it, but in the writings of John it is used primarily to refer to the lives of humanity with attitudes and values which stand in opposition to God.

The writer of John believed that Jesus came to teach us how to live in the world but not be "of" the world.  How indeed can we live in our American world and not be "of" our American world?  The Amish are in America but they don't really see themselves as being "of" America.

The Christians of the community of John's Gospel lived in the Roman world and since the power and the authority of the Emperor was so pervasive, it was impossible for Christians not to live in the Roman world.  Christians actually  enjoyed some of the privileges of the Roman World, the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, the peace that came because the Caesar's armies defeated all opposition so that Roman law and order could be promulgated throughout the world.  The practice of external law and order is a kind of peace and a very valuable peace.  Such peace allows for everyday commerce to transpire without conflict.

Jesus was not a Messiah like a Caesar; he did not bring his angels to control the nations of the world and establish a theocracy with Christian laws for the entire world.

Jesus brought a different kind of law and order, a law of the interior world, a law and practice of the Spirit.  How did this spiritual realm of Jesus come to be?  He came and he taught words and life actions; he preached and he healed.  He modeled what love and justice and peace would look like in human behaviors.  And doing such in a profound way, he attracted followers.  His words became interior to the lives of his followers.  His words were spirit and life for his followers.  They were like interior motivating engines of actions and behaviors of love and justice.  They were dynamic; so much so that they were able to be replicated and passed on to new followers who passed this spirit of living, this way of love and peace on to others.

When the Gospel of John was written, it was written partly because the writers were amazed at the success of what Jesus had started and instituted in this world.  Why are we still alive and well as a gathering community?  Why are we writing a Gospel about Jesus of Nazareth?  How are the words and deeds and practices of our community related to the life of Jesus?  We must write the connection of our community experience with the life of Jesus as we remember him, as the memories of Jesus was shared by those who knew him.

How are the words and acts of the apostles and early Christians connected with the life of Jesus of Nazareth?  This question is the question which is answered and explained by the writings of the New Testament.

And today, we ask, "How are the words and the acts of the people of St. John the Divine connected with the words and acts of Jesus of Nazareth?"  How has the life of Jesus Christ been kept alive for you and me?

Well what have we done today?  We've gathered.  We've read Scriptures.  We are listening to the feeble attempt of a preacher to explain to why Jesus is relevant to us.  We are convening again the Christian meals as commanded by Jesus and as practiced continuously in our tradition.  We've come to confess our sins; and hear the declaration of forgiveness.  We've come to pass the peace to each other.  We've come to worship in the silence of contemplation, in the singing of hymns with poetic words of inspiration.  We've chanted the Psalms.  And if we do not think that we are connected with Christ, it is because Christ in not out there, Christ is in here, Christ is through us doing Christly things through us.

I think we may often be childish and uninterested in church because we're still looking for Jesus as an idol out "there" to entertain us.  We are supposed to be Christ doing the gathered church together.  Christ is here because Christ is in us being and doing Christ through us.  Jesus said that God would make the divine home within us.

Jesus said, "I am going away and I am coming to you."  Each of your bodies is going to be a home dwelling for the abiding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Friends, we come to church not to find Christ, but to be Christ.  That is to let Christ by the Spirit pass through our lives as living conductors of the energy of the Risen Christ.

Let us accept the peace of Christ as a peace that is not out there; it comes when we cease to look for Christ as a sacred object of worship and when we become Christ being and doing the church when we gather together and when we disperse to take Christ in us to all of the places and people of our lives.

Please don't doubt that Christ is in and through you.  If we as the people of St. John's will continue to gather, accepting that Christ is in and through us, then we will perpetuate the words and deeds of Christ to this community, for many years to come.  Today we are gathered because we've said to God, "Mi casa es su casa," My house is your house.  O God in your fullness abide in us always.  Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Peter, You Can Now Eat Alligator Meat

5 Easter   C      May 19, 2019
Acts 11:1-18     Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6 John 13:31-35

What if you woke up from a Trance Dream and suddenly realized:  God has given me permission to eat alligator meat or at least accept people into my fellowship who do?  How would that make you feel?

It has taken the church many years to accept that the Christian mission in the world became much different than the mission of Judaism in the world.  When the followers of Jesus were trying to co-exist in the same community as those who lived in the Temple and synagogue traditions, significant disagreements arose.

The disagreements became pronounced.  People who disagreed with each other began to persecute and excommunicate and separate from each other.

In a significant way, the entire New Testament is a book of writings about how Christians left the house of Judaism, or were asked to leave.  But when Christians left, they took with them the Hebrew Scriptures and they understood them and interpreted them in new ways, ways that were foreign and unacceptable to those who remained within the synagogue.

What were the issues of separation?

The issues were issues of belief and practice in ritual and personal behaviors.  A big issue was evangelism.

Christians and Jews separated over the feasibility of Jesus being the Messiah.  Jesus was not a Messiah expressing the kingly and military strength like King David, the chief proto-type for the Messiah for members of the synagogue.  Jesus was the suffering servant Messiah, seeming to be an apparent loser when he died upon the cross.

Another issue was the meaning of being an observant person of faith.  For members of the synagogue, faith meant that one separated oneself from the world by important Jewish identity features, like the dietary rules and the requirement of circumcision.  The dietary habits, circumcision and other ritual purity habits were completely foreign to the Gentiles who surrounded the Jews in the Roman Empire.

So, how was the evangelism of the synagogue different from the evangelism of the Jesus Movement?  Could a Gentile person become a member of the synagogue?  Yes, indeed.  They could undergo a proselyte mikveh or baptism and if needed, be circumcised and then observe all of the ritual purity rules.   How many Gentiles in the Roman Empire were likely to become observant members of the synagogue?  Very few.

The leaders of the Jesus Movement believed that they received divine permission to admit Gentiles into their faith community without being ritually observant in all practices of the synagogue.

This made the message of the Gospel more accessible to more people.  Why did Peter and Paul made these compromises in not requiring these very traditional requirements that were central to Jewish ritual practice.  Why did they do this?  Was Jesus not quoted in the Gospels as saying, not even an accent mark of the Law should be changed until the Law was fulfilled?  

The age of the time of Jesus on earth was different from the age of the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The age of the Holy Spirit was a different spiritual age than those which preceded it.  Why did Peter and Paul and others let the Gentiles into the fellowship of the church?  They saw evidence of moral behavioral changes in the lives of Gentiles who had this experience of God's Holy Spirit.  What was this behavioral change that was evident?  It was that new commandment behavior which Jesus gave to his disciple at the Last Supper.  "A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you."  There is something really winsome about love and kindness.

Being on the receiving end of love has really changed my life and my previous legalism.  I was raised in a rather narrow Christian community and we thought we knew who was going to heaven and hell.  But when I went to places far from home, I encountered people who were different and yet who were kind to me and who loved me.  How could these people really be valid people of faith?  Why were they kind and loving even when I doubted their valid faith?  

By this you will know that you are my disciples; if you have love for one another.

The age of the Risen Christ, the age of the Holy Spirit is the age of the new commandment.  It is the age of love.  You and I know love and kindness when we experience it and we know that friendship and community are really special when love is expressed with comfortable mutual reciprocity.

What will change our traditions and our theology?  When we experience the reality of the new commandment.  Peter and Paul and John the Divine knew that the New Jerusalem was not the old Jerusalem.  The residence, the home of God on earth among us is the omni-presence of Love, because God is Love.  And that is what Jesus came to declare.  And what is the main ritual requirement of Jesus?  The practice of love.  Or as Paul wrote, "Love fulfills the Law."  Today as we might worry about Christian success in our parish, let us ask the most relevant question.  Have we found the practice of love in our midst?  If so, God in Christ has been here.  Amen.

Aphorism of the Day, July 2019

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