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Tell It Slant – The End of Pretending

Luke 14:1, 7-14, NRSV

Reflections

Ignore the pecking order — or worse — upend it? Don’t network, don’t schmooze, don’t brown nose? Open my heart and home to people who can do nothing for me? People I have no affinity for? People I can’t impress, earn favors from, or show off to my competition? Why on earth should I do that? Because Jesus insists on it. Because this is who God is, the Great Reverser of our priorities, our hierarchies, and our values. Because there is no end to the game of who is “in” and who is “out,” and God in his wisdom knows that our anxious scramble for greatness will lead to nothing but more anxiety, more suspicion, more loneliness, more hatred, and more devastation. Because God’s kingdom is not a kingdom of scarcity; it is one of abundance, where all are already welcome, already loved, already cherished. Because the currency of that kingdom is humility, not arrogance; generosity, not stinginess; hospitality, not fear.

— Debie Thomas, director of children’s and family ministries St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto blogger at Journey with Jesus

  • Pretending is exhausting
  • God emphatically does not promise to meet only the odd winner of the self-improvement lottery; God meets us all in our endless and inescapable losing. — Robert Farrar Capon The Astonished Heart: Reclaiming the Good News from the Lost-and-found of Church History
  • While the outside world rushes to move on, the experience of the pandemic has yet to fully leave my body. Parts of my body, my mind, my spirit are still trapped in the limbo of pandemic despair, pandemic depression, pandemic numbness, pandemic survival. I will not be pressured to move at the breakneck speed of capitalism that wants to forget everything. I will remind myself as often as I can to move at the pace of my own healing, and be attuned to my own slow and tender needs. –@yumisakugawa
  • Our culture is almost entirely prepared to not just help you create your false self, but to get very identified with it and attached to it. So, without some form of God experience, which teaches you who you are apart from that – we would say in the religious world, who you are “in” God, in the mind and heart of God – there’s almost no way to get out of it. — Richard Rohr

 

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Tell It Slant – Conduits of Mercy

Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV

Reflections

Maybe retaliation or holding onto anger about the harm done to me doesn’t actually combat evil. Maybe it feeds it. Because in the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy, and at some level, start to become them. So what if forgiveness, rather than being a pansy way to say, ‘It’s okay,’ is actually a way of wielding bolt-cutters, and snapping the chains that link us? What if it’s saying, ‘What you did was so not okay, I refuse to be connected to it anymore.’? Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter. And free people are dangerous people. Free people aren’t controlled by the past. Free people laugh more than others. Free people see beauty where others do not. Free people are not easily offended. Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid. Free people are not chained to resentments. And that’s worth fighting for.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber

  • forgiveness is essential, for the good of the soul
  • we keep those we don’t forgive as prisoner in our “dungeon”
  • There comes a point at which you have to let go and forgive. You can start your prayer with, “Help me to forgive because I don’t want to forgive. I feel entitled to be angry even though the anger is killing me, not them. And no one really cares that I’m angry. It’s destroying my life, not theirs. I want to punish some-one,. I punish my kids or I punish other innocent people who have never harmed me because it is my way of punishing them. So I really don’t want to forgive because then I think all my hurt will be forgotten and that feels so unfair. But who is fair? No one’s hurt is fair. I just think that justice should revolve around me. So, help me to forgive, one person at a time, beginning with-.. That’s your beginning. You take it from there until you have emptied your dungeon. Whenever you add new prisoners, you will have to revisit your dungeon. — Caroline M. Myss, Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul
  • forgiveness requires fuel
  • A lifetime of received forgiveness allows us to become mercy: That’s the Beatitude. We become what we receive, what we allow into our hearts. Mercy becomes our energy and purpose. Perhaps we are finally enlightened and free when we can both receive it and give it away—without payment or punishment. — Richard Rohr CAC Daily Meditations 2018-02-04

 

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Tell It Slant – Catastrophes and Fig Trees

Luke 13:1-9, NRSV

Reflections

We live in a finite world where everything is dying, shedding its strength. This is hard to accept, and all our lives we look for exceptions to it. We look for something strong, undying, infinite. Religion tells us that something is God. Great, we say, we’ll attach ourselves to this strong God. Then this God comes along and says, “Even I suffer. Even I participate in the finiteness of this world.” [This] image of God is not an ‘almighty’ and overpowering God, but in fact a poor, vulnerable, and humble one like Jesus. …
The enfleshment and suffering of Jesus is saying that God is not apart from the trials of humanity. God is not aloof. God is not a mere spectator. God is not merely tolerating or even healing all human suffering. Rather, God is participating with us—in all of it—the good and the bad! I wonder if people can avoid becoming sad and cynical about the tragedies of history if they do not know this.

— Richard Rohr, Job and the Mystery of Suffering

  • Human’s urge to find someone to blame, to scapegoat others
  • typical application of the parable is to see which role do we see ourselves in, which role we see Jesus in, but alternate approach is to see ourselves in all roles
  • we commonly see ourselves as fig trees, producing fruits or not
  • but we could also see ourselves as the gardener, giving ourselves another chance of one more year, whether for others or for ourselves

 

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Love is God’s Name

Exodus 3:1-15; 20:1-2, 7, NRSV

Reflections

We of the churches often gather our robes away from contamination, and thank God that we are not as other men. We don’t despise God’s name; in fact, we call upon it constantly to justify ourselves…. If we object to meat-eating, we declare that God is vegetarian; if we abhor war, we proclaim a pacifist Deity. He who turned water into wine to gladden a wedding is now accused by many of favouring that abominable fluid grape juice. There can hardly be a more evil way of taking God’s name in vain than this way of presuming to speak in it. For here is spiritual pride, the ultimate sin, in action—the sin of believing in one’s own righteousness. The true prophet says humbly, “To me, a sinful man, God spoke.” But the scribes and Pharisees declare, “When we speak, God agrees.” They feel no need of a special revelation, for they are always, in their own view, infallible. It is this self-righteousness of the pious that most breeds atheism, by inspiring all decent, ordinary men with loathing of the enormous lie.

— Joy Davidman Smoke on the Mountain

  • If it doesn’t look like love, if it’s not beautiful, if it doesn’t promote peace, let it go, it doesn’t flow from God –Brian Zahnd
  • To counter self-righteousness, we have to know ourselves, examine our biases, and realize we pick only certain characteristics of God

 

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A Divine Symphony

Acts 2:1-13, NRSV

Reflections

God speaks people, fluently.

— Willie James Jennings

  • This act (Baptism of the Holy Spirit) by the Holy Spirit challenged the idea that holiness was determined by proximity to a more pure and dominant expression of faith. It challenged the idea that God would only speak to or be heard by the most devout teachers and religious leaders who spoke the purest form of their language. It challenged the idea that everyone needed to be fluent in a universal language and conform to one culture to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

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The New Normal: Jesus is Now Everywhere

Acts 1:1-11, NRSV

Reflections

Watching Jesus and watching for Jesus was and is a significant temptation for his disciples. Such watching can easily undermine the priority of the journey.

— Willie James Jennings

 

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The New Normal: The Spirit Surprises

Acts 10:44-48, NRSV,
John 15:9-17, NRSV

Reflections

When you’re lying on the beach something is happening, something that has nothing to do with how you feel or how hard you’re trying. You’re not going to get a better tan by screwing up your eyes and concentrating. You give the time, and that’s it. All you have to do is turn up. And then things change, at their own pace. You simply have to be there where the light can get at you

— from a sermon by Rowan Williams

 

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The New Normal: The Welcome is Wide

Acts 8:26-39, NRSV

Reflections

In my deepest wound I saw Your glory, and it dazzled me.

— St. Augustine

  • The Ethiopian eunuch was most interested to know who was the person described in the passage
  • He was probably most identified that person in the passage, given his own experience of physically harm
  • This Ethiopian has found his body in Jesus. He is in Christ and Christ is in him. — Willie James Jennings
  • Our wounds allow us to see God, it is where we meet Jesus at the cross, it’s also our doorway to bless the world

 

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The New Normal: A Radical Community is Created

Acts 2:32-47, NRSV

Reflections

The deepest reality of life in the Spirit depicted in the book of Acts is that the disciples of Jesus rarely, if ever, go where they want to go or to whom they would want to go. Indeed the Spirit seems to always be pressing the disciples to go to those to whom they would in fact strongly prefer never to share space or a meal, and definitely not life together. Yet it is precisely this prodding to be boundary-crossing and border-transgressing that marks the presence of the Spirit of God.
Acts is the story of a God who desires us and all of creation and will not release us to isolations, social, economic, cultural, religious, gendered, and geographic.

— Willie James Jennings, Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible

  • The earliest believers’ shared life of following Jesus together was called the Way, not because it was the way to heaven (the afterlife was never the emphasis), but because they had come to believe that following Jesus was the new and true way to be human. And because the lifestyle of the Way was such a radical departure from the way of the Roman Empire, it’s no surprise that people viewed the Way with great suspicion and often derided it as a cult.— Brian Zahnd, Postcards from Babylon: The Church In American Exile
  • never done it alone, always in a community
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    The New Normal: Doubts and Questions are Expected

    John 20:19-31, NRSV

    Reflections

    Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way—once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you have lost your way.

    — Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

    • For those who do not have doubts, be available for others who doubt and provide support, offer a word of peace

     

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