Archive | September, 2014

Sabbath

29 Sep

Trying to find Sabbath rest as a clergy person is always a bit of a challenge.  I usually took Monday as a day of no appointments – of course, for me there was always laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping.  Yet, if I didn’t have to go to work and I could spend extra devotional time, I counted it as Sabbath.  The most precious Sabbath rest for me was time spent at Mount Saviour Monastery.  It is a beautiful place and retreat time there was sacred.

So, the reason I am talking about Sabbath is because of a new study I am doing in my churches [OK really just Garfield people showed up, but I have people and that is the important thing.]  The study uses a DVD from the Great Lecture series.  The presenter is Amy Jill Levine from Vanderbilt University; she is incredible.  The study is the entire Old Testament, but we are just studying Genesis for now.

As you might guess, the first lesson was on the first creation story.  I have been around a long time, so I have heard a lot on commentary on this study, but this time I really had an “ahha’ moment.  The first creation story was most likely written during the Babylonian exile.  The first line of the Babylonian creation story, The Enuma Elish, is, “When on high the heavens had not been named.”  The first line of the Genesis creation story in Hebrew sentence structure is, “When God began to created the heavens and the earth,”

Dr. Levine posits that the Babylonian story is about place and the Hebrew story is essentially about time.  Think about it, if you are in exile is a place that will not let you worship your God, and they say their gods are “bigger” than yours, then you take their creation story and turn it to your advantage.  Your God created out of nothing and your God made time sacred so that your God can be worshiped anywhere.  So, even in exile, you rest on the Sabbath day and proclaim the power of your God.

Genesis 2:1-4 says:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

So, let us say that the great thing about our God is that the Divine make time sacred.  We can worship our universal God anywhere because God created all that is, but it is the Sabbath that is redeemed and made sacred.

So, how do we spend our Sabbath. Do, we have one anymore?  The rest of primitive people was imperative because of the physical nature of their work.  Yet, according to the morning show, we still need rest.  We need rest to restore our health, to manage our stress, to be fully human.  I wonder what the world would look like if we all took a day of rest?  Would we be kinder to one another, would we be more patient, would we find creative alternatives that we didn’t see before???  I know that all of these things have happened to be after I have spent time at Mount Saviour.

So, think about Sabbath rest today.  Think about the idea that our fore-bearers in the faith, as they lived in exile in a foreign  land, claimed God’s power to transform time.  Can God transform the time in your day?

Just wondering, always thinking.  Peace, Mary

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Being Human

26 Sep

I’m back again to say ‘Hello’ and write down a few thoughts.

The scripture designated for this Sunday’s worship service has been flowing around in my head, as usual.

The gospel reading, Matthew 21:23-32, recalls Jesus walking into the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of religious power and questions of power are asked.  The chief priest and elder asks what gives Jesus the authority to preach and heal and forgive and speak of God’s kingdom.  In essence, “where are your credentials Jesus?”, with the implication that if Jesus can show the credentials, they will respect his authority.  Jesus, who would make a get politician, never gets trapped in a question.  He turns the tables and challenges the men who claim themselves to have the power to decide if he has “proper authority” to continue preaching and healing and teaching as he wanders around.

23 Then he was back in the Temple, teaching. The high priests and leaders of the people came up and demanded, “Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to teach here?”

24-25 Jesus responded, “First let me ask you a question. You answer my question and I’ll answer yours. About the baptism of John—who authorized it: heaven or humans?”

25-27 They were on the spot and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, “If we say ‘heaven,’ he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe him; if we say ‘humans,’ we’re up against it with the people because they all hold John up as a prophet.” They decided to concede that round to Jesus. “We don’t know,” they answered.

Jesus said, “Then neither will I answer your question.

Jesus knew the source of his power and never felt the need to prove it to anyone.  It was his connection to God that provided strength, and power, and grace to respond to the needs of those with whom he traveled and those who came to hear him preach and those who came to him for healing.  I like the juxtaposition of this gospel lesson with the reading from the epistle.  We have finished reading through Romans and have begun reading through Philippians.  The passage for this Sunday is thought to contain one of the first affirmations of faith regarding Jesus.

In verses 1-4, the writer is personal and trying to talk the Christian community into acting like Christ!  So, in verses 5-8, the writer gives details as to what that exactly looks like.

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

I don’t think this kind of humility means letting people walk over us, or never making a disagreeable statement. I think it means being clear about who we are – Children of the Divine – and who’s we are – God’s – and what are purpose is – to continue the work of Christ.  We are to continue to preach and teach and heal and care and listen as Christ representatives in the world.  To be fully convinced of who we are and what guides our lives gives us the power to live transformed lives.  It is not a power that bullies anyone, or dominates the other; it is power that offers choices and lures us into a whole and holy life.

Alicia Keys wrote a new song that asks the question of what we are doing here – like on the planet or with our lives.  I wonder how many answers have God in the midst of them?    I wonder if we can truly give any answer to that question that does not involve the Divine?

I always have questions that lead to questions and then lead onto more questions.  But, I enjoy the journey.  Thanks for reading, I hope some of it made sense.     Peace

It seems like a long time

6 Sep

Hello Friends, 

I have thought often of putting up a new blog, but I have let the details of the day distract me.  My niece’s wedding dress is done and now church work is coming to the fore. It is charge conference season and now I have two churches to work on the details.  

Alfred North Whitehead wrote in Adventure of Ideas, “The essence of Christianity is the appeal to the life of Christ as a revelation of the nature of God and of his agency in the world.  The record is fragmentary, inconsistent and uncertain. . [but] elements in the record have evoked a response from all that is best in human nature.”

I think about my Christian faith.  I love God and what to live in the journey of faith that God’s grace and Christ’s example reveal.  Yet, it seems sometimes that the institutional church as long since bury this love of God and the journey of faith under piles of debris.  There are buildings and traditions and budgets and egos and . . .  

I think it takes a lot of energy to draw close to the heart of God.  I think it takes even more energy to bend our will to the divine; to lose our lives, so we can find them.  

Please pray for my little churches.  I pray they find the joy of joining in the divine dance and continuing the work of Jesus of Nazareth.