Tuesday, March 27, 2018
" My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" -- [Mark 14: 1-15:47].
Each year during Holy Week, I get depressed over the fact that Jesus was murdered. I ask myself if the Crucifixion could happen again?
Other Christians tell me that I am not personally responsible for Jesus' Crucifixion.
But I believe that we are all responsible. Jesus, God's only Son, died as a sacrifice for our sins. We ALL fall short of the Glory of God.
But there is more to this than that simple, central tenet of Christianity.
In Matthew 25: 31-46, Jesus tells His disciples, "Depart from me, you who are cursed. . For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. . I tell you the Truth, whatever you did NOT do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
Walking past a stranger who is hungry, cold, thirsty, or sick is doing these things TO Jesus. Complacency or outright selfishness have the effect of killing Jesus.
Or, how about the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane? The disciples are holy and devoted followers. But when Jesus asks them to keep watch for just one hour, the disciples fall asleep. "Falling asleep", not paying attention to the call of Jesus, has the effect of killing Jesus.
Then comes Judas Iscariot, who was the disciple entrusted with their money bag. Judas agrees to signal who Jesus is, to the arresting soldiers, in exchange for 30 silver coins. Greed, putting money over matters of the soul, certainly over Love, has the effect of killing Jesus.
"Many testified falsely against Jesus" -[Mark 14: 56]. Telling lies about Jesus and about who He is -- uttering blasphemy-- has the effect of killing Jesus.
Then, Peter denied Jesus three times - 1) "I don't know or understand what you are talking about." 2) A girl saying, ' This fellow is one of them', and "again [Peter] denied it. 3) "[Peter] swore to them, ' I don't know this man you're talking about.' " Denying Jesus has the effect of killing Jesus.
"The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do what he usually did. " -[Mark 15: 8]. Pilate "wanted to satisfy the crowd [and] released Barrabas, [in exchange for Jesus.] He had Jesus flogged and handed Him over to be crucified. -[Mark 15: 15]. Going along with the crowd, yielding to popular pressure, passively doing things the "usual way" without regard to Justice, has the effect of killing Jesus.
"They crucified Him. Dividing up His clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get." -[Mark 15: 24]. Coming to Jesus, only to see what can be selfishly gained from HIM has the effect of killing Jesus.
"They crucified two robbers with Him. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, saying, 'Come down from the cross and save yourself!' . . The chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked Him among themselves: 'He saved others, but He can't save himself!' " -[Mark 15: 29-31]. Mocking Jesus, manipulating Gospel truth to substantiate one's disbelief, have the effect of killing Jesus.
The Notes to my Study Bible say, "Who was guilty of Jesus' death? In reality, everyone was at fault. The disciples deserted Him in terror. Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus. Judas betrayed Him. The crowds who had followed Him stood by and did nothing. Pilate tried to blame the crowds. The religious leaders actively promoted Jesus' death. The Roman soldiers tortured Him."
Who is responsible for Jesus' death today? Anyone who mocks Him, denies Him, falls asleep despite His call, anyone who follows the mob mentality of the crowd. Anyone who becomes complacent to the face of Jesus who resides within the lonely, the marginalized, the hungry, the poor or the desperate. Anyone who puts greed and personal gain over the preciousness of the Soul. Anyone who lies or twists the Truth about who Jesus is.
Could Jesus be crucified all over again? I believe that He could . . .
[Related Postings: "Our Own Role in the Passion", 4/10/17; "Why Did Jesus Have to Die?", 8/31/14; "Who Killed Jesus", 5/7/14].
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
" Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life." -[John 12: 20-33].
A few years ago, I met someone who knew a classmate of mine, a girl who was in my fifth grade class. We are all adults now, or at least I thought so. I told this someone, "Tell her that I say hello." The message came back from this former classmate, to tell me that she was WAY more popular than I was in fifth grade.
At first I was annoyed. Why did this former classmate have to remind me of this somewhat painful time in my life? It was like a cosmic "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!" - from decades ago.
In fifth grade, I was ten years old. My beloved grandfather had died. I had largely stopped speaking, because I had given up on the capacity of any human to love me. I had numbed my emotions, telling myself, "I touch no one, no one touches me." I was trying to find food, and to stay safe from my brother's bullying. Being popular in class was the farthest thing from my mind.
Then, I actually had to chuckle . My former classmate was still caught up in being popular, a human construct of this World. Being "popular" was never something I had the energy to focus on. It was never my goal. It is still irrelevant to me.
What I wanted were the very things of survival. And most especially unconditional Love.
I had died to Self at such a young age, not thinking anything of myself, not wanting attention, worldly accolades, or acclaim.
As I began processing so much trauma from my childhood, I entered new territory. I gradually found myself becoming depressed. The very existence of Evil in our World brought me low, into a dark despair.
As I left my cocoon of trauma, all of the traumas from my childhood melded with all the evils of our world - the hunger of children, war, weapons of mass destruction, genocide, racism, sexism, greed, bitterness, egoism, the inhumanity of unbridled technology. I became depressed that these conditions even existed in our World.
And yet, at the same time, I was acutely aware that I am blessed to even be alive. I had come close to dying so many times - at birth almost not coming into this world alive, at four nearly drowning, at 18, at 22, at 42, at 44. . . facing down the prospect of death.
I almost wanted to say, "I HATE my Life", but my husband raised his voice at me: "How DARE you say that?!"
I know in my Heart that God does not want us to hate the Life that has been given to us. He wants us to recognize our Life as the precious Gift it is.
Attempting to reconcile this World with the Perfect is like trying to reconcile Evil with Heaven. I think that I almost cannot hold both Worlds in my head at the same time, they are so far apart.
One beginning step is for me to stop being so concerned with the trappings and reputation of this Life. Perhaps I have more expensive clothes than someone else, or a better car. It doesn't matter. Perhaps someone doesn't really like me. Finally, as a mature adult, I am okay with that. Maybe whatever that person believes is so dear is not important to me? Or maybe, that person does not even know my Heart?
I pray the Serenity Prayer daily, especially the part that says, "Taking, as Jesus did, this Sinful World as it is, not as I would have it." Accepting Evil does NOT mean I have to like it. It does mean, Evil simply IS. I cannot work against Evil, if I cannot admit that Evil is out there.
I live in the Present, but I also believe that I have the chance to go to a Perfect, Divine place in the next Life, all because Jesus died and rose there; He went to Heaven first, FOR us.
I finally believe that I am not SUPPOSED to love all that is wrong with our World. The fact that I hate the Evil of this Life means that I have a right(-eous) sense of what is Good, a firm grasp of what it means to reach for the Divine.
The notes to my Life Application Study Bible say, "We must disown the tyrannical rule of our own self-centeredness, [and] lay aside our striving for advantage, security and pleasure [at all costs]."
As I die to my own selfish striving, I have time, and room in my Heart, to fight against what is wrong in our world, to love others, and to make a difference in this Life, no matter how small.
[Related Posting: "Losing My Life", 9/3/17; "Hating This Life", 3/25/12].
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
" And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does evil things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might be exposed. But whoever lives the Truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." - [John 3: 19-21].
There is a popular "New Age" phrase that says, "Speak your Truth to the Power."
At first, I was puzzled at what that meant? It felt like this rather vague phrase came out of nowhere. It did not seem to refer to any specific religion or belief system. It spoke of Truth, but WHAT Truth? Where can I find this Truth ?
When I read this passage from the Gospel of John, I see the doctrinal underpinnings of shining the light on evil, and speaking the Truth. It comes from the Bible! But can I even utter that today?
We have become so prickly about what we say, that in some cases, I cannot even say, "Love and Light", in a wholly secular way, without someone being threatened by my religious beliefs. Even this watered-down version of John 3:19-21 - "Love and Light" - is anathema to many.
And so, today we have a "watered-down" version of the Truth. We have anyone and everyone claiming that they are the only ones who know the Truth. Truth has become squishy and relative.
We utter, "Judge not, lest ye be judged", even if we know nothing else in the Bible.
But "Judge not" means : ' Take not the sum of a man's Life; and despatch not- - as merely another frail human being- - a man to either Heaven or Hell." "Judge not" does not mean, "All moral choices here on Earth are relative."
I love the beginning of The Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . Through Him all things were made. . In Him was Life, and that Life was the Light of humankind. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not extinguished it." -[John 1: 1-4].
This Word IS God, and it Is His Son. And the Word is God's organizing principle of the Universe, which is Love. As 1 John 4: 7-8 explains, " Beloved, let us love one another, because Love comes from God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God IS Love."
And the Word is contained in the Ten Commandments, not to kill, lie, cheat, steal, covet, and so forth.
And the Word is summed up in Jesus' first Commandment to us, "To love one another as oneself."
When I speak Truth, I speak the power of Love. I tell my son, "If it isn't Love, it isn't the Truth."
I lived in a household growing up, where all the materialism, the greed, the hatred, the jealousy, the abuse, the bitterness, the entitlement, the despair, the violence, the drunkenness, were hidden behind closed doors. If anyone had known what was going on behind those closed doors, I would have been taken away from my family.
My parents threatened me, "What goes on behind these four walls, stays behind these four walls." As a young child, I had to weigh if my punishment would be greater by remaining silent and enduring the toxic environment, OR by speaking up and risking more punishment, if my family found out I had told?
My family took my childhood attempts at Christianity as a rebuke of their own toxic behavior. I was not allowed to go to church past the age of 13, not allowed to read a Bible or wear a cross.
Lies proliferated: I was told, "You are ugly. You cry uselessly, you are too sensitive. Pick yourself up, you are not hurt. I will to feed you. You are a failure."
Shining the Light on Evil is not a nicety, or a "movement", or a phrase for a plaque or a bumper sticker or a needlepoint pillow. Shining the Light on Evil is an act of survival. It is more than a protest, it is an act of rescuing others.
In our History, I see those who dared to speak up and call Slavery what it is - Evil. I see those who dared to work for women's right to vote, because yes, women ARE born with a brain.
I welcome the #MeToo Movement for shining a Light on predatory behavior.
There are those who will fight against the Truth, because they hate that a Light will expose their Evil.
We need all the voices and all the Love that we can get. I wish we could stop arguing over nomenclature, stop being so intimidated over Scripture, and agree on one thing: The Truth of Love is timeless. The Truth of Love is NOW.
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
" Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves, He said, 'Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's House a marketplace.' "- [John 2: 13-16.]
In this Scripture passage, it is Passover. People from far away would come to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. Every Jewish male was required to make this pilgrimage.
But what Jesus saw when He came to the temple resembled a marketplace bazaar, and not "simple worship". The visitors had to pay a Temple Tax in local currency. Moneychangers would set up tables and charge usurious rates of currency exchange. Other merchants sold animals for sacrifice, because travelers would not want to travel with their own animals, or their own animals would be deemed too "imperfect" an offering.
I cannot remember any other time in the Bible when Jesus is shown as so angry. In fact, when I think of a Christian, I think of their lifelong pursuit of the Fruits of the Spirit - joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. -[Galatians 5: 22]. None of these, obviously, is congruent with a daily sense of outrage.
And yet, we are all too human. I get angry if the supermarket runs out of my favorite flavor of yogurt. I get angry if someone cuts me off in traffic. I get angry if someone gives me "Captain Obvious" advice, when I asked for no advice - - whatsoever.
The Fruits of the Spirit are Ideals. Something to strive for. But we all fall short. . .
I like to think of Anger as a red warning light, when something is wrong or even dangerous. Anger alerts me to a serious injustice.
These days, I find that the national mood in America is a prolonged, and extreme, era of Outrage.
I remember in the house where I grew up, I witnessed a constant stream of anger, jealousy, bitterness and hate. An immigrant to this country was treated as an Affront, just for daring to walk the streets in our town. My dad spent his days feeling entitled to far more than he had received in life, instead of being expansively grateful for all that he had. At our dinner table, there was a lot of gossip about who had more or less than we did, and how did they get it, and how superior we were to anyone else who had less. If anyone ahead of us in their car was going too slowly for my dad's taste, he would yell ethnic epithets out the window, even though he had no idea if the driver was in fact Polish, Jewish, Italian or whatever.
I find this national zeitgeist of Anger to be exhausting and disturbing and very draining. Sometimes, I am afraid to compose a sentence for fear the Gotcha Police will excoriate me for saying something "The Wrong Way." I know folks who have lost "friends" of thirty years or more, over a politically charged conversation. Sometimes, I just want to renew my Vow of Silence and stay home.
It is enlightening to me that in this Scripture, Jesus gets very angry. He even gets quite physical about it. This teaches me that it is acceptable and even expected that I get angry -- Over corruption and injustice, abuse and crime, endemic poverty, sexism and racism . . . .
But to stay in a constant attitude of Outrage over every tiny moment of slight or unintended offense is not good for me, or for our society. I wish we could have a real conversation over issues, teach each other, and share concerns in a civil discourse; rather than excommunicating someone who expresses something differently.
We have turned on the Anger Button, and we don't know how to turn it off.
[Related Postings: "Where is Your Temple", 3/9/15; "Anger in the Temple", 3/10/12"].
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.