09 December 2008

The Gospel

Blessed are you, gracious God, creator of the universe and giver of life.  You formed us in you own image and called us to dwell in your infinite love.  You gave the world into our care that we might be your faithful stewards and show forth your bountiful grace.

But we failed to honor your image in one another and in ourselves; we would not see your goodness in the world around us; and so we violated your creation, abused one another, and rejected your love.  Yet you never ceased to care for us, and prepared the way of salvation for all people.

Through Abraham and Sarah you called us into covenant with you.  You delivered us from slavery, sustained us in the wilderness, and raised up prophets to renew your promise of salvation.  Then, in the fullness of time, you sent your eternal Word, made mortal flesh in Jesus.  Born into the human family, and dwelling among us, he revealed your glory.  Giving himself freely to death on the cross, he triumphed over evil by his resurrection from the dead, opening the way of freedom and life.

Blessings of God be with you.

OD

04 December 2008

The Endless Knot

Although the title of this post is the same as the last book in a great trilogy, I couldn't think of a better one because it fit so gosh-darn well.

Yesterday morning, my roommate and I were discussing different issues of the same thing.  Namely, why don't people help out each other all the time, not just during the holiday season.  I emphasized the need for the church to be at the forefront of this.  This prompted him to relay a story about when he was younger and on the streets.  He said he had been walking for a number of days and was smelly and hungry and tired.  He walked into a church and found a couple.  While he was asking them about catching some sleep in one of the class rooms and maybe getting a sandwich from the kitchen later, they called the police.  Can you imagine?  He was arrested.  That couple had him arrested for wanting to get some sleep and a bite to eat!

That story just kills me!  I mean, I can't imagine Jesus ever doing anything like that.  And yet, here these people were, people who were supposed to be his word made flesh, his body on the earth, and they didn't act like Jesus.  They took some one who was looking for a little kindness and mercy and had him arrested.  If you knew my roommate, you could understand that going into that church was a huge deal.  And that couple failed the test miserably.

We talked about how crappy that was and how people shouldn't treat each other that way.

Anyway, he took the car and ran some errands.  He was gone most of the afternoon.  When he got back, I took the car and went to church (I had left my Book of Common Prayer there when I served on Sunday).  I didn't see him.  He went in the back door and I went out the front door.

I got to St John's and retrieved my prayer book and was about to leave when I was asked if I could take a man to a local homeless shelter.  'Sure,' I replied.  So, the man and I took off for the shelter and we had a good conversation along the way.  Apparently this man had been walking for a while in the cold and was trying to get back down to some property he inherited a long way south of here.  When we got to the shelter, I went in with him to make certain that they had a room available.  He thanked me and I left and returned home.

Upon arriving at home, my roommate told me an interesting story about picking up a hitchhiker on his way back from the city.  He said the guy had been walking for a while in the cold and was trying to get back down to some property he inherited south of here.  The man asked him if he knew of a homeless shelter around.  My roommate said he didn't but he knew of a church that would help him.  'If any church can help you out, it's St John's,' he said.  After buying the man a meal and some smokes, he dropped him off at St John's.  The he returned home and came in the back door as I was walking out the front door.

I said, 'I dropped by St John's and picked up a man and took him to a homeless shelter.'

We both just looked at each other a little bit stunned.  'There is something bigger going on here' he said.  'It's like someone was saying "Put your money where your mouth is".'

'Yeah,' I said.

'That was just too cool,' he said.

Yeah.  Cool.

It looks like we passed the test.  This time, anyway.  I hope we continue to serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being.  Furthermore, I pray that we see that light in all of creation, not just humanity.

Blessings from God be with you.

OD

27 November 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP, pg. 246)

20 November 2008

Another thought...

To go along with the previous post...

Since God has already reconciled people to Godself, and is 'not counting [people's] sins against them' (2Cor. 5), it seems to me that, again, the idea would be to show that you believe that by your actions, since, you will be held accountable for you actions at the 'end'.

Wow...

Think about the impact of that statement in regard to mission. If 2Corinthians 5 is 'true', then we have got it all wrong. We are telling people that they are 'sinners in the hands of an angry god' when, in light of 2Corinthians 5, God has already reconciled with them. They just need to reconcile themselves back to God. It seems to me that we need to rethink this whole thing.

Blessings of God be with you.

OD

Another thought...

To go along with the previous post...

Since God has already reconciled people to Godself, and is 'not counting [people's] sins against them' (2Cor. 5), it seems to me that, again, the idea would be to show that you believe that by your actions, since, you will be held accountable for you actions at the 'end'.

Wow...

Think about the impact of that statement in regard to mission. If 2Corinthians 5 is 'true', then we have got it all wrong. We are telling people that they are 'sinners in the hands of an angry god' when, in light of 2Corinthians 5, God has already reconciled with them. They just need to reconcile themselves back to God. It seems to me that we need to rethink this whole thing.

Blessings of God be with you.

OD

Just a thought or two...

Here is a question that seems to have escaped notice from quite a lot of people. Have you ever noticed that all of the judgment scenes in the Bible have nothing to do with what one believes? Every one of them has to do with what one has done for the poor, widowed, naked, hungry/thirsty, imprisoned, sick, etc. What should we make of this? My thoughts are just now forming, but here is my take on it.

The gospel (i.e., 'Jesus is Lord') is a statement of fact. It doesn't matter if one believes it or not. One can choose to believe that gravity doesn't exist but that doesn't change the fact that it does. So, the 'belief' part of the modern gospel might not mean anything. Jesus is creations rightful High King. Period. So, the most obvious question would be, since all of creation is living under his rule, 'What are the requirements for living within this kingdom?' Ah... that is the right question. That question makes the biblical judgment scenes make sense.

But what does this say about mission? To me, it says that we need to rethink how we do mission. We need to retool how we do mission. The focus must shift from ones acceptance of certain belief statements to how one treats other people (whether neighbor or enemy) and the rest of creation. Most certainly we need to tell people that 'Jesus is Lord'. That this 'very good' creation is under his rule. But the idea of an individual salvific experience separated from the rest of creation can miss the point. Likewise, the idea of just doing 'good works' would miss the point as well. Both of these things, belief (acknowledgment) and actions ('good deeds') are needed. Nay, are expected. That is what living within the kingdom means. It means acting like one believes the 'good news' that Jesus of Nazareth is Master of the creation and being about what Jesus deems worthy. For a good look at what that would be, all one would need do is look at the 'gosples' found in the New Testament. Specifically, one could read the 'Sermon on the Mount' or the 'Sermon on the Plain' to get a very good idea of what is expected of the people living withing the 'very good' creation of Jesus.

Blessings of God be with you.

OD

16 October 2008

It happened!

As you may recall, I recently bought a Gateway laptop from Best Buy.  And, I did not configure Windows Vista.  Instead, I changed the boot order and installed Ubuntu 8.04.1.  About a week later, I saw a blog about a guy who received a refund from HP because he didn't want Windows either.  So, that inspired me to try and get a refund from Gateway.  This blog is just to give you a quick recap of what happened.


At first, I contacted Gateway through their Customer Support page.  I emailed them and told them that, according to the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) with Windows, I should contact the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for a refund if I decided I didn't want to use Windows.  I even sent them copies of the EULA.  They, of course, stated that I was not entitled to a refund because I purchased the laptop with Vista already installed.  I explained that, yes, the laptop had Vista installed, but I didn't have to accept to use it, according to the EULA.  This back-and-forth conversation went on for a couple of weeks.  I was finally invited to call them at Customer Support to see if we could work something out.  So I did.  I must say that the whole time, the email conversation was very respectful.  Customer Service is such a lost art these days.


So, I called the Customer Support number and told them my story.  They pulled up my reference number and things changed a little.  And not in a good way.  The first guy I spoke with just flat out stated that I would not be getting a refund from Gateway.  'They won't issue you a refund'.  I reminded him what the EULA stated.  He said that I bought the laptop fully knowing that Vista was installed and therefore I won't get a refund from Gateway.  This happend for about half an hour--he telling me I won't get a refund, me telling him that Gateway is in contract with Microsoft to do so.  Finally, I asked to speak to someone else.  'That won't change anything.  He'll just tell you the same thing.'  But he put me through another guy just the same.


This guy was just shocked that I would even want such a thing.  'I've worked here for over 10 years and I've never heard of anyone asking for this.'  He went on to say that they aren't authorized to make a decision on this (funny that the previous dude didn't know this) and advised me to write a letter to Corporate Customer Support (What?  Don't those people have an email address or phone?  I guess they want to see how tenacious one is.).  So I did just that.


A number of weeks had gone by and I was just about to contact them, when my phone rang. It was Gateway.  The woman's name was Diane.  She said that she had gotten the letter and couldn't believe that this hadn't been handled already.  'You are right, Mr. Gillespie.  You are entitled to a refund.'  But, to get this refund, I would have to send my laptop to Gateway and they would have to determine that I actually did not install Vista; that there wasn't any Microsoft products on my laptop.  I would also have to send in the OS media.  They would remove the Microsoft Windows Vista license sticker from the bottom of my laptop and the 'Powered by Windows Vista' from the inside of the laptop.  She said the refund check would be for a total of $65.13.  After explaining all of that she asked if I would still be interested.  'Most certainly', I replied.


So, I shipped off my laptop (I know a guy who owns a box store where they sell and ship boxes).  After about a week, my laptop was returned and the hard drive was empty (I figured as much and had good backups waiting).  I re-installed Ubuntu; updated it; and restored my data.


And then yesterday, I had two great things show up in the mail--one, my check from Gateway:



...and two, my 'Powered by Ubuntu' stickers!



Now, my system is completely free from Microsoft.  I hope this post inspires others like that one inspired me.  You don't have to be forced to use Windows!  There are plenty of alternatives out there that will work just as well, if not better, on your existing hardware.  If you don't know what to do about getting your hands on one of those great Linux distros, just ask around.  I'm sure there's a geek around that knows how to install it properly so that you won't lose all of your data.


Peace be with you.


OD

14 October 2008

A Sore Spot

Matthew 22.1-14. Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son.  When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!

“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’  But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business.  Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.

“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town.  And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor.  Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’  So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding.  ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply.  Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This was the Gospel reading appointed for Sunday, 12 October.  And no one even mentioned it during the sermon.  While talking afterwards, it was stated that, while a lot of commentaries and sermons and lectures have been given on this passage, none of them seemed to 'fit'.  And by that, I think we mean, none of them seemed to fit 'our understanding of the ways or character or nature of God'.  In other words, we don't like to talk about God's justice.  It's a sore spot.

And while I don't feel I am adequately trained to offer any type of instruction on this passage, I'm going to do it anyway.

This story (parable) Jesus told is in reference to the previous one.  In Matthew 21, Jesus told a story to the religious leaders of his day.  The story was about a land owner who planted a vineyard and then lent it out to some farmers.  At harvest time, the owner sent people to the farmers to collect the harvest.  The farmers, however, beat up the people and even killed some of them.  The owner then decided to send his son, thinking the farmers would respect the son.  Well, they didn't.  They were very greedy and thought that if they killed the son, they would get the land.  When Jesus asked the religious leaders what should happen to the farmers, they said that the owner should slaughter them!  So, Jesus said that God's kingdom would be taken from the religious people and given to another nation who would produce the proper fruit.  And then, the Bible states something that it rarely does when talking about Jesus' stories.  It stated that the religious leaders understood that the story was about them.  They got it.  Then we come to this story.

To me, this story illustrates a little bit more about the 'other nation' that would produce the proper fruit of God's kingdom.  The main point is still there from the previous story, the leaders and the people who followed them would be destroyed, but Jesus explains a little bit more about what happens with the other nation.

A little background on this.  The first part of these stories was fulfilled with the (so-called) Roman/Jewish war of 66-70CE.  The second part of the story finds its fulfillment in the church, which is made up of 'everyone', i.e., God's kingdom is not just limited to one nation.  It's for all nations.

'But what about the part about the king finding someone in attendance who isn't dressed properly?  What about the part where Jesus said, "Many are called but few are chosen"?'  Good question.  This is part of the problem.  People don't like the idea of God not accepting everyone.  But this goes right along with the rest of the teaching found in the Bible.  Jesus said, 'Not everyone who calls out to me, "Lord! Lord!" will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter' (Matthew 7.21).  He told another story that gives us more of a clue.  This story was the story of a farmer sowing seed.  Some of the seed landed on a path.  Some of the seed landed on rocky soil.  Some landed on shallow soil.  Some of the seed landed on good soil.  The seed represents the 'word of God'.  The soil represents the hearts of people.  The first three-fourths of the seed don't produce anything.  In each case, the person finds some reason or excuse or is tempted and pulled away from actually doing any work for God.  Only the last fourth do anything for God.  This, to me, is the meaning of the story in Matthew 22.  The person who comes to the banquet realizes what is required and doesn't want to do it.  Oh, she likes to make a show, put up a front, act 'spiritual'.  But, when the rubber meets the road, when the sick need a visit, when the hungry need food, when the prisoner needs a friend, she doesn't have time.  She has faith.  But her faith doesn't produce any work.  She likes to say she's a Christian but her life doesn't have any proof that she is one.

This is just what James wrote about in James 2.  One person states that he believes in God but doesn't have any works to prove it.  James counters that the demons believe in God but that doesn't mean anything.  His point is that we need to have more than lip service.  We must have service... (awkward pause) service to prove our faith.

One other thing that someone pointed out was the fact that the others at the banquet new to be properly dressed but no one told the guy that he should change his clothes.  'To each his own', I suppose.  But that attitude is part of the problem.  Apparently there was an expectation about what one wears to a wedding reception.  But no one told this dude that expectation.  Too often we don't tell people what's expected of them when they decide to follow Christ.  It reminds me of the story Jesus told about a guy constructing a building.  He said it would be foolish if they guy didn't figure out how much it would cost him before he starting building.  People would laugh at him if he got the foundation finished but ran out of money.  The same is true about the farmer sowing seed.  The problem was that the majority of the soil wasn't prepared.  We, as the followers of Christ, need to know what is expected of us.  God expects us to care about the things God care about -- the poor, the homeless, the widowed, the orphaned, the sick, the imprisoned.  The followers of Christ are expected to be about those things.  We should tell people that up front.  People should know up front what is expected of them if they decide to be Christ's followers.  When the trouble comes, when temptations come, when the care of this life out-weigh the care of God's kingdom, if anything else comes before the Kingdom, then, according to Jesus, those people aren't worthy to be called his disciples (Luke 14.25-35).  That is what the story in Matthew 22 is all about.  Someone showed up and they were found wanting.  They were like the person who was given the money and buried it instead of making a profit.  In all of these stories, the point is the same -- faith alone is not enough.  We must put that faith to work.  We must be about our father's business.

I completely get it that we don't want to talk about the justice of God.  But there is a lot at stake here.  The church needs to do the hard work of telling the 'whole truth'.  The followers of God are expected to act like Jesus.  They are expected to be the words of Jesus made flesh.  The church is to be the eyes and ears and hands and feet of Christ.  We are to be his body.  And being his body means doing what his body did -- sacrifice everything for everyone.  If we don't do that, we might find ourselves outside.

Peace be with you.

OD

13 October 2008

Test...

I am just testing this new blog site. I have used it in the past but didn't like it too much because it was rather slow in editing and uploading changes. It seems a bit quicker now.

26 August 2008

A Couple of Quotes

Both from the same source.  Can you guess who it is?
You will realize that doctrines are inventions of the human mind, as it tries to penetrate the mystery of God.  You will realize that Scripture itself is the work of human minds, recording the example and teaching of Jesus.  Thus it is not what you believe that matters; it is how you respond with your heart and your actions.  It is not believing in Christ that matters; it is becoming like him.

~~~~~~~~

There are some who call themselves Christian, and who attend worship regularly, yet perform no Christian actions in their daily lives.  There are others who do not call themselves Christian, and who never attend worship, yet perform many Christian actions in their daily lives.  Which of these two groups are the better disciples of Christ?  Some would say that believing in Christ and worshiping him is what matters for salvation.  But this is not what Jesus himself said.  His teaching was almost entirely concerned with action, and with the motives which inspire action.  He affirmed goodness of behavior in whoever he found, whether the person was Jew or Roman, male or female.  And he condemned those who kept all the religious requirements, yet were greedy and cruel.  Jesus does not invite people to become his disciples for his own benefit, but to teach and guide them in the ways of goodness.  And if a person can walk along that way without ever knowing the earthly Jesus, then we may say that he is following the spirit of Christ in his heart.

Blessings of God be with you.

OD

20 August 2008

Quote

'God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone but also on the trees and in the flowers clouds and stars.'

Martin Luther

A Glimpse of the Ultimate Future

Isaiah 11.1-9. Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.  And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  He will delight in obeying the Lord.  He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.  He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited.  The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.  He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.  The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.  The cow will graze near the bear.  The cub and the calf will lie down together.  The lion will eat hay like a cow.  The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.  Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.  Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.

In the first paragraph, this passage seems to be pointing to the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  Yet, vv 6-9 didn't take place then and don't seem to be happening today.  What are we to make of this?  I see vv 6-9 as starting with the incarnation (at the very least) or the resurrection (at the very most).  Therefore, to me, it seems to be the vocation of the mystical body of Jesus.  That is, we should be the ones who are trying to implement those things.  As, perhaps, sign posts to the rest of creation.

We must try to create new ways of dealing with conflict (represented by the prey and predator in vv 6-9).  We must be creative.  We can't resort to violence.  That is the way of falseness.  We must look deeper than our falseness to the light, love, and wisdom of God to find new ways, new beginnings, to handle the extreme falseness within ourselves, our enemies, and all of creation.

Maybe we haven't tried hard enough?  Maybe we know that, in the back of our minds, we always have violence.  The problem comes with the fact that, oftentimes, violence works in the short run.  It answers quickly and (seemingly) solves the problem.  But for us to move forward, we have to be people of non-violence.  We have to be the people of Isaiah 11.6-9.  We, above all others, should be leading the charge for non-violence, under the banner of the Prince of Peace, to come up with new, non violent ways of dealing with conflict within ourselves, our families, our communities, our nations, and our world.

Peace be with you.

OD

12 August 2008

Are we hungry?

John 6.35. 'I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.  Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'

But...

But what about those who are hungry?  What about those who are thirsty?  Aren't all of us who follow Jesus in a constant state of being hungry and thirsty?  Don't we (always) long for more?  Or, is that the problem?  Are we the product of our culture?  Perhaps, we aren't content with what we have?  Maybe we have been so deluged with materialism (the concept that we need more, better, etc.) that we can't seem to find satisfaction with what Christ has fed us?

Peace be with you.

OD

28 July 2008

The OS Problem

I recently purchased a new laptop.  It's a Gateway M-6843.  It's wonderful!  The very first thing I did, of course, was install Ubuntu 8.04.1.  I plugged in the laptop and booted from the Ubuntu CD and clicked the install icon.  After about a week, I saw this blog detailing how this person got a refund from HP because he didn't want to use Windows Vista.  So, I started the process with Gateway.  It's been about a week and it's going to be a long process.  Customer Support at Gateway gave me the run-around so I am in the process of writing a letter to the Corporate Office.

The reason for all of this is because of the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) from Microsoft.  According to the EULA, if I choose not to use Vista, I should contact the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM, in my case this would be Gateway) for a refund or credit.  But this begs the question: Why don't people get this option before buying the system?  That is, instead of having the customer pay for the OS, why not show them the EULA first?  That way, the customer is not out any money if the customer doesn't want to accept the EULA.  Or, have Windows installed like trial software 'bundled' with the hardware.  Then, after the trial period has expired, the customer has to purchase a license from Microsoft if they want to continue using Windows.  This is how trial software works.  This way, the customer is in charge of their purchase and not Microsoft.  And that's why it might not ever happen.

Right now, the customer is forced to purchase the software first and then fight the battle of getting the money back.  This will be a long, tedious process and most people won't even try.  The ones who do try will probably give up.  The current process is not about the customer.

This is why I'm such an advocate of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).  Most of the FOSS operating systems come on a live CD.  You can boot your computer from the CD and play with the OS for a while -- put it through the paces, make sure it works with your hardware, see all the applications available, etc.  Then, if everything works (or if there are easy to follow instructions to get the hardware working) you could install it on your system.  I believe that if most people had the choice, if they saw what they could get with FOSS, they would choose it almost every time.

At the same time, however, this is also why Linux won't ever get a big slice of the computing pie.  If the masses of people aren't given a choice, heck, if they don't even know a choice exists, they will be locked into Microsoft forever.  It will take more and more people demanding fair treatment before anything ever gets done.

But what about Apple and Mac OS X?  You used to be a big supporter of that platform.

Good question and comment.  It's true, I used to be a huge Apple fan.  My wife and daughter still use an Apple laptop.  Plus, we all have iPods.  However, I am beginning to see that Apple might be worse than Microsoft.  That is, not only are you locked into an OS (it comes pre-installed on your computer), but you are also locked into the hardware (the only way to get the OS is to purchase the hardware).  The difference is a person knows what she is getting with this deal.  She specifically sough out this hardware and the software (or for the software).  That is, she is tired of Windows and want something else.  However, she believes that her only alternative is to switch to Apple and Mac OS X.  But what if she knew she could keep her existing hardware a lot longer than she is told and could upgrade to an OS that is at least as secure (if not more so) than OS X and it wouldn't cost her a thing?  That sounds pretty good to me and most people I know.

But for Linux to get any type of respect and public attention, it must be show cased.  Right now, most of the plug for Linux is from it's user base, i.e., word of mouth.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But when people go to the store, most of the time, all they see are Windows PCs.  If they turn on their TV's they see Microsoft and Apple commercials touting their products.  Even in the print ads, it usually a Window's system that is shown.  Heck, even the companies that sell Linux powered systems have '<company name> recommends Windows Vista'.  You have to go digging in their web sites to even find Linux.  In other words, Linux, on a large scale isn't being promoted.  Granted, there are some PC magazines that are running ads for it or have articles about it.  But, these are specialty mags.  Only the people who like looking at those mags will see the ads/articles about Linux.  But what about the average person?  What about the parents that are trying to find a reasonably priced system for their child?  Or the grandparent that would like a system to email their grandchildren?  Or the college student that needs an inexpensive system for school?

Like it or not (and I don't) the average person will have to settle for Windows and continue to put up with the crap that Microsoft spews out.  For Linux to become the viable alternative I believe it is, it needs to be thrust into the public eye so people can see it in all it's glory.  It has to have it's time in the spotlight.  It needs print ads and TV commercials.  People need to see the great features and security and the applications that they can have.  They need to be able to walk into a store and see the hardware they like running Linux.  They need to have knowledgeable sales staff that can show off Linux.  Then and only then will people really have a choice in their computing needs.  Right now, they are still at the mercy of Microsoft.  And that's a problem.

Peace be with you.

OD

25 July 2008

Quote

[For] every act of evil there are a dozen acts of goodness in our world that go unnoticed.  It is only because the evil deeds are less common that they are 'news'.  It is only because we believe that people should be good that we despair when they are not.  Indeed, if people condoned the evil, we would be justified in losing hope.  But most of the world does not.  We know that we are meant for better.

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu

23 July 2008

Political Signposts

I've been trying lately to describe why I like the Democratic party better than the Republican party and it's been difficult.  I just don't seem to have the right words.  But, I'm going to try.  Also, I have to emphasize that I do not believe that the answers to the questions I raise lie within any political party.  I am fully aware that the grace of God is the hope of creation (Romans 8).  My struggles are about which party best points to that hope.

I guess it all starts with a way of seeing.  In a very broad brush stroke, I have come to see things as 'very good'.  I see all created things, at the deepest possible level, filled with the Life and Light of God.  As St John wrote, 'God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it' (1.3-5).

In our place in history, this view is the only way forward.  It sees the goodness of God even within our enemies who may have deep falseness within them (and who doesn't).  It also sees that we can't do this by ourselves.  We have been 'existing' long enough.  But to live, grow and love we need all of creation.  One group should not be getting better and better at the expense of other groups.  We need people who are willing to passionately, unshakably live the 'Sermon on the Mount' (or the Plain, whichever you prefer).  Creation needs people to live unquestionably thinking of others more than themselves; of going the extra mile; of not returning violence with violence; of self-sacrificial living and giving for others.  That is the only way forward for the cosmos.

It is through this way of seeing that I am looking at the two main political parties in the US.  And only one comes to close to those ideals.  The Democratic party.  Yes, I know.  There are plenty of Republicans who would answer yes to (most of) what I wrote above just like there are plenty of Democrats that would answer no to (most of) what I wrote above.  But, party wise, the Democratic party seems more inline with my way of seeing.  They seem to be are more concerned about community as a whole (be it the local community or the global community).

The Republican party, or perhaps the conservative branch of it, doesn't quite see things this way.  They seem to look more grimly on society (and creation).  They seem to believe that only the individual matters.  They seem to believe that the individual must take matters into his or her own hands.  That 'you gotta look out for number one, 'cause no one else is'.  That the resources of creation are there for the taking and let the 'best man win'.  This way of seeing doesn't seem to go past the present generation to our children or grandchildren.  It seems that some are only concerned about themselves.

Not only is the focus on the individual, but the 'right' individual.  Our enemies are seen as inherently 'evil' instead of being 'very good' at the foundational level.  And those 'enemies' can range from homosexuals to illegal immigrants to 'Muslim extremists'.  All of these groups (and more) are said to be the worst problems for our 'national security'.  And by the way, 'national security' seems to be a collective way of saying 'my way of living'.  Some of the Republican party think what's best for 'nation security' is to wall us in on all sides and keep everyone else out while we tell the rest of the world how to behave.  This 'us versus them' mentality will no longer work.

I know not all Republicans are like this.  I get it.  But, again, I'm not looking at individuals.  I'm looking at communities; at groups.  The whole 'guilty by association' thing.  This is both good and bad.  When things are going well, it's nice to be part of a group.  But when things are going poorly, well, it's not so good.  This is true of both parties.  But this idea of community is something I have been seeing a lot lately.

Biblically speaking, there is a lot more emphasis on community than on individuality.  For example, when Israel (the community) committed 'adultery' by worshiping other gods, they were sent into exile.  Now, individually, there were obviously 'faithful' people within Israel who did not go after other gods (e.g. Daniel and Jeremiah).  But that didn't change the fact that God looked at the nation as a whole and the entire community was sent into exile.

Likewise, St Paul wrote that the 'church' is the mystical body of Christ, a collection of different 'members' making up one body.  'When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer', he wrote.

But, for a lot of Republicans, the idea of community sounds too communistic, too socialistic.  And that scares them.  And rightly so.  There have been some horrible things done in the name of socialism.  But the same can be said about democracy -- colonialism comes to mind.  Injustice is injustice no matter if it's community based or individually based.

The way of individualism as the answer is dying.  A person who is sick goes to the hospital.  It takes the whole hospital staff to aid that person's recovery.  If I removed a finger, it doesn't survive on it's own.  It must be reattached to my body for me to be whole.  The same goes with the future of the world.  It takes all of us, working together, to make the changes we need.

So, for me, the Democratic party points more to the Gospel than the Republican party.  It wants to believe in the good and wisdom and light within all things, especially people.  It seems to understand that it takes all of us, collectively, to succeed.  And not only succeed but to live and grow and love.  It recognizes that it takes all of us working for the good of others; to help set the captives free from darkness and releasing the light within; that makes the future bright.

Peace be with you.

OD

22 July 2008

Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is the ancient Celtic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season.  It is a festival filled with community gatherings, horse races, reunions with distant family and friends, the blessing of fields, fairs, trading, bonfires, dancing and celebration.

Now, when the days grow visibly shorter and the sun seems to decline, the crops ripen.  So too, when we work for justice, when we have expended huge energies to bring about change, the results often come only when the tides of enthusiasm and urgency seem to be ebbing.  When the marching and the shouting die away, public opinion quietly shifts.

Some traditions call this festival Lammas (meaning 'loaf-mass'), a time when we honor and celebrate the grain and the food that sustains our life.  In a just world, no one would go hungry.  All people would have access to good quality food - organic, fresh, local and truly nourishing.

The grain stands golden in the fields, but has not yet been gathered in.  We stand poised between hope and fear.  Lughnasadh is a time of consequence, when we reap what we have sown.  Globally, we are now reaping the consequences of decades of injustice, of the neglect and exploitation of the earth.   Will we make the change, in time to avert disaster?   Will we reap destruction, or harvest a new world based on harmony, balance, justice and love?

Our choices and actions will tip the scales.

Just a bit of info on Lughnasadh coming up on 1 August.

Peace be with you.

OD

A New Expression of the Lord's Prayer

Ground of all being, Mother of life, Father of the universe,
Your name is sacred, beyond speaking.

May we know your presence,
may your longings be our longings
in heart and in action.

May there be food for the human family today
and for the whole earth community.

Forgive us the falseness of what we have done
as we forgive those who are untrue to us.

Do not forsake us in our time of conflict
but lead us into new beginnings.

For the light of life, the vitality of life, and the glory of life
are yours now and for ever.


Amen.

07 July 2008

'It is I, be not afraid.'

I had the great pleasure of attending a two day teaching/meditation seminar with John Philip Newell.  As you recall, I have made some brief comments about his latest book, Christ of the Celts.  In one of the sessions, John Philip told a story about a 20th century Celtic teacher from France named Teilhard de Chardin who became a Christian during the first World War.  While caring for the wounded, Chardin heard deep within himself, 'Ego sum, noli timere' ( 'It is I, be not afraid' ).  He knew that it was Christ and his life changed because of the encounter.

Later, during the meditation time, we were to meditate on Isaiah 58.11 'You shall be like a garden, like a deep spring where waters never fail'.  While meditating, I saw light cascading over water.  The water appeared amber in color and the light reflecting on the many waves and ripples were every color imaginable.  As I breathed upward, I kept seeing the image and hearing 'It is I, be not afraid'.

This was significant for me because for the past several years I have inherited a phobia regarding local water -- ponds, rivers. lakes, and streams -- to the point that I would have a panic attack.  The fear -- from what I do not know -- would overtake me and I would become petrified.

This 4th of July weekend we went to visit my Dad in Eufaula.  Eufaula has a huge lake and my Dad has a boat.  Now, I normally don't have a problem with being in the boat so seeing my dad hasn't been an issue.  It's when we beach somewhere and my wife wants to walk along the shore or it's time to shove off again that problems arise.

This year, my plan was to find a secluded spot and slowly make my way into the water all the while repeating Christ's words to me, 'It is I, be not afraid'.  But I didn't get the opportunity.  And furthermore, I didn't have to.  I went out more than waste deep in the water without and issue.  My wife and I were pulled behind the boat in a huge inner-tube with water splashing us and I put my arms in the water as we were being pulled along.  We took our walks and had to wade out into the water to pass from one part of the beach to another.  All without a hint of anxiety.

The vision I saw wasn't something I needed to create in order for it to 'work'.  Christ had removed my anxiety through the vision.

I must be honest.  As I write this, the falseness is right here ready to pounce.  The apprehension is there to make me 'second guess' what I feel.  So, which feeling is true?  The feeling of apprehension?  Or, the feeling that Christ has removed my anxiety?  To quote M. Basilea Schlink from my meditation this morning:

I praise the blood of the Lamb
that has power to free me
from all my bondages...

I praise the blood of the Lamb
that is victorious
over all powers that seek to
oppress me...

I praise the blood of the Lamb
that makes all things new.
Hallelujah! Amen
.

Peace be with you.

OD

06 July 2008

Thin Places

I have written before about thin places.  One of my longings has been to find ways of creating thin places else where.  Thin places, as you know, are those places where 'heaven' and 'earth' meet.  The place where the 'thin veil' between the two is very, very thin.

However, through my recent studies in the Celtic Christian tradition of my heritage, my vision has been changing.  The Celtic tradition is about a way of seeing.  It holds the 'everlasting pattern' in both hands -- the 'mystery of Christ' and the 'mystery of creation'.  In this tradition, there are two books -- the 'small book' (Bible) and the 'big book' (creation).  The Western Church (some would say the 'Empirical Church'), has taught us well about the Small Book but has been negligent about the Big Book.  Because of the awakening I'm experiencing within my study of Celtic Christianity, I am beginning to see that I (we) don't need to 'make' thin places.  We need to 'see' that all of creation is a thin place.  God, the Life of all living, permeates all creation.  We just don't see it.  We have become blind.  May God, the One in Whom 'we live and move and exist' (Acts 17.28), restore our sight.  May Christ heal us of our blindness and help us see 'all things new' -- to see the Sacred, the Named-nameless-One, in all creation.

Peace be with you.

OD

Quote

The prosperity and security of one nation should not depend on the poverty and insecurity of other nations.  ~ Buddha

03 July 2008

Songbird

When I purchased an iPod, I found that it revolutionized my music experience.  The idea of having thousands of songs in your pocket is an amazing thing.  This isn't new, of course, but Apple has done it better than anyone else.  They dominate the market of portable music players.  The iPod has a very simple interface that makes it easy to use, even if your 'technologically challenged'.

But for a number of years I have been wanting to use my iPod with Linux, my OS of choice.  The problem comes because Apple doesn't make iTunes for Linux.  I can understand their reasoning.  There are different distributions out there and several of them have different ways of installing software.  You can't just use one type of package for all distributions (but that is something that I believe the community is working toward).  So I get it.  But that doesn't change the fact that I want to be able to listen to my music with my computer running Linux Mint 5.

There are a number of apps that will work with an iPod.  However, none of them does all that the iTunes app does.  Some work better than others but I haven't found any one of them that does it all.  But I was determined to find the best one.  In my quest, I stumbled across a web site that lists '10 Alternatives to iTunes'.  While the article is a year old, the links still work and the instructions are very easy to follow.  The app that had me the most intrigued is called 'Songbird'.  Now, I have played around with Songbird before but I found it too unstable to give it much thought.  Even though Songbird is still in development, I gave the latest version a try.  To my surprise, it was a lot more stable than the previous versions.

Songbird is based on the Mozilla project (the same group that does Firefox and Thunderbird).  It's an open source application that manages your music, videos, allows you to browse the web, and has a MediaFlow browser(similar to Cover Flow in iTunes). And just like the other Mozilla projects, it works with Linux, Mac, or Windows.

As you can see from the screen shots, it looks very similar to iTunes.



Here is a shot of my iPod mounted to it...


And here is a shot of Songbird syncing with my iPod.


Like I stated, Songbird is still in the development stages, but it is very promising.  If you are looking for an alternative for iTunes, I recommend giving Songbird a try.

Peace be with you.

OD

A Celtic Prayer

O Christ, there is no plant in the ground
but it is full of your virtue.

There is not form in the strand
but it is full of your blessing.

There is no life in the sea,
there is no creature in the ocean,
there is nothing in the heavens
but proclaim your goodness.

There is no bird on the wing,
there is no star in the sky,
there is nothing beneath the sun
but proclaims your goodness.

Amen.

29 June 2008

Reflections -- 29 June 2008

'The sun rises on the just and the unjust'.  So then, does not the grace of God also shine upon the 'just and the unjust'?  Are we to limit upon whom God bestows grace?  God forbid.  God's gift of grace can not be less than God's gift of nature.  It must be more.

'The very rising of the sun each morning is a gift of God, given for the whole of creation, no less than the gift of redemption, given to restore creation to it's essential well-being'.


J Philip Newell, The Book of Creation, pg. 42


New Theme

What do you think about the new theme?  I really like it.  The sole reason for the last theme was the font.  I like the dark and the nice green header.  What I like about dark themes, if not too dark, is that they seem easier to read.  A light text on a dark background seems easier on my eyes.

Anyway, I hope you like it.

Peace be with you.

OD

28 June 2008

Linux Mint 5



It's been a while since I did a technological (read: geek) blog, so I thought I would update you on what's going on.

As you are aware, I am a full-fledged geek by trade and passion and I have gone from Windows to Mac to Linux.  My Linux evolution went from Linspire to Mepis to PCLinuxOS to Ubuntu.  I stayed with PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu for the longest.  However, I have always read good things about another distribution called Linux Mint.  It's based on the latest Ubuntu release but with a lot of add-ons.  The latest version is called Linux Mint 5, Elyssa.  So, at the office, I downloaded the latest iso and tried it out to see how it all worked.

First of all, there are always some things I keep in mind when trying any new Linux distro, the primary thing being, 'How would the average user feel about using this OS?'  'Is it (very) simple to install?  Is it easy to use?  Is it easy to get help?  Is it easy to add or remove applications?  Is the terminal (command line) used a lot?'  In my opinion, all of these are valid questions, especially if I am looking to recommend an open source alternative to proprietary software or hardware.  Which I am always looking for.  Some of my clients are non-profit companies that don't have a lot of extra funds or could use existing funds in a different way instead of spending it on software licensing.

So, how does Mint answer those questions?  Extremely well, actually.  I don't have a lot of knowledge with Mint, so I read through the release notes and downloaded the User Manual.  From what I have gathered, Linux Mint started a couple of years ago as mainly a way of getting multimedia codecs in Ubuntu.  However, it quickly became a thing of it's own and has been a favorite distro for many people and winning new fans every day (including me).

One of the things that sets Mint apart from other distros is it's mintMenu.  Upon first glance, I thought this was just the same slider menu found in Suse and in the new KDE4.  But upon further investigation, I found that it's something altogether different.  Something that I enjoy about the mintMenu is a new feature this release, something I have not seen in any other OS, whether it's another Linux distro or Mac or Windows.  Let's say you found an app that you really don't need or want.  How does one uninstall it?  It's very easy with mintMenu.  Just click on the menu like normal and find the app.



Then, right click on the app and select 'Uninstall' from the pop-up menu.



Mint then opens a window showing the application (and dependencies, if any) to be removed.  To remove it/them, just click 'Remove'.



And that's it.  Simple, right?  Right.  And that is a major thing I look for in a distro, simplicity.  And to me, Linux Mint comes through with flying colors.

[SUGGESTIONS: I would like to see the application that is selected highlighted.  As can be seen in the second screen shot, we aren't really sure which app is to be removed.  Keeping the app highlighted would be nice.  Also, I would like to see the wording the same.  That is, have both places say either 'uninstall' or 'remove'.  Consistency is a big deal for a new person wading into the uncharted waters of Linux and anything that is worded different (even if it means the same thing) makes some people uneasy.]

Since I'm trying this at the office, I need a different email client to interact with the Microsoft Exchange server.  This application is called 'Evolution'.  It works very well with Exchange and has all the features I need on a daily basis.  To install this app (and any other one you might need) you would launch the 'Software Portal' from the menu.  This opens an app called mintInstall.



Just type in the app you are looking for and it will then open Firefox to the Software Portal page.  Select the app from the portal and click 'Install now'.



You will be asked what to do with the file and you just accept the default (open with mintInstall).  MintInstall then asks you if you are certain you want to install the app and where to install it.  Keep everything as is and click the 'Install' button.



After a few minutes, it will install and appear in the menu.

Another thing I like is mintUpdate.  This is an application that keeps your system minty fresh!  First of all, it runs in the background and checks (as often or as few times as you want) to see if there are any updates to your system.  And not only the OS, but all the apps installed through the proper channels.  Here again is where Mint shines.



As can be seen, the menu is very well thought out and non-geek language is used which, again, makes it better for the end user.  As Mr Rogers said, 'Simple is better.'  MintUpdate does that very well.



One of the things I want to touch on is the 'Level' column.  There are five different levels of an update.  To quote the release notes:

  • Prefer level 1 and 2 upgrades to be safe and only apply level 3, 4 and 5 upgrades selectively and after you made sure they fixed a bug you needed fixed.

  • Always use mintUpdate to perform package upgrades, avoid to do so with APT or Synaptic; these tools are not aware of the stability level related to package upgrades.


I will state, however, that I have used level 3 upgrades without issue.

[SUGGESTION: Just another wording consistency issue.  I would prefer if they either used 'update' or 'upgrade'.  Since the app is called 'mintUpdate', I would like to see 'update' used throughout the app.]

I could go on and on.  Most of what people do when they review a new distro is talk about how to install it, how to update it, how to install/remove applications, etc.  All of this can be found in the Users Manual.  It is a great resource that is very easy to follow.

Personally, I have found Mint to be the best distro I've used.  It makes the switch from Windows very easy.  Which is the whole point, especially for my line of work.  Mint comes with all of the features of the other distros I've used: Firefox, OpenOffice, etc. so you can use it with other systems in a network settings, be that a home network or an enterprise.  I was so impressed by this distro, I installed on my home system.  It has replaced Ubuntu and I haven't been happier.

My only hesitation is the same one I had with PCLinuxOS -- it seems that there is only one lead developer of Mint ('Clem').  This gives me concern for the future of the distro.  What happens if Clem 'moves on'?  What if he won't or can't continue to work on Mint?  What becomes of this most excellent OS?  I am not certain but in the meantime, I will continue to use Mint and recommend it to all of my clients.

Peace be with you.

OD

[EDIT: I should point out that I have tweaked the look of Mint for my tastes.  The default look is different.  It uses different icons, window borders, color scheme, etc.  This ability to change the look is one of the things I like most about Linux.]

18 June 2008

Christ of the Celts - Book Review

Do not read this book.  It will challenge you at such a deep level that you may not even consider yourself a follower of Jesus afterward.

I just finished it and I'm speechless (but yet I am trying to speak).  This book was written by J Philip Newell, the author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God. This is a small book, less than 150 pages.  But don't let the size full you.  It is extremely powerful.  As I have said before, 'Simple is better', to quote Mr Rogers.  That is what Newell does in this book.  He doesn't waste pages or time with complicated thoughts or words.  He is clear and straightfoward.  That in itself can be unnerving, especially for me.  I like big books that I have to ponder.  Well, let me tell you, there is plenty here to ponder!  Newell, an authority of the Celtic Christian tradition, calls us back to a time when Christ was embraced through various means, namely nature.  He refers to the sacredness of creation.  All creation.

At one point, close the end of the book, he talks about how the Celtic Christians met at the great high crosses scattered throughout the Celtic region.  Instead of coming together inside a 'church', the 'church' met outside at the place where, in Celtic tradition, heaven and earth met.  It was at this point, at the high cross, that we see Christ and earth together.  And they both came from the same center, from the Divine, the Sacred, the More.  It was at these places that people felt closest to the Source of Life.  It also illustrated that it is only within community that we are truly 'saved', 'healed', 'set free'.  To use a phrase from South Africa, at the high cross there was 'Ubuntu' - the 'I am because of who we are'.  Both see that it is together that we are made whole.  We do not find healing in isolation.  We find healing in the whole, in the heart of others, in the very core of all creation.

Newell tackles many 'sacred cows' within the Christian West and I'm sure he will upset many a person.  But, for me, he speaks of such truth that we can't deny it.  Time and again he points to the truth that we are all connected.  That all of creation is connected to humanity and we to all of creation.  Over and over he points to the truth that Christ did not come to give us a foreign humanity, a foreign creation, but a true humanity, one that is birthed from a true creation.

If you are feeling a struggle deep within regarding the way Western Christianity speaks to today's world, then I highly recommend this book.  Newell challenges us to hear the voice of God in nature and each other; to see how we address and respond and react to each other and the earth.

Peace be with you.

OD

16 June 2008

An Incredible Find




What you are looking at is my latest pipe.  This is a limited edition Peterson's Mark Twain in almost perfect condition.  Peterson made almost 3000 of these in the very early 80's and then stopped manufacturing them.  It's a replica of the original Peterson pipe Twain smoked from the late 1800's until his death in 1910.  The original can be seen in the Twain Museum in Hannibal Missouri.  I have wanted one of these pipes for years.  And today, I found one at a very, very reasonable price.

From time to time, we venture into antique stores looking for bargains.  I always look for pipes but I usually only find cheap dime store pipes.  I had always hoped that I would run across an old Peterson that no one really understood what they had.  For years I searched this way and always came up short.  But not today!  At the spur of the moment, we decided to go to an antique store a little further away than normal.  They had some wrought iron fencing my wife wanted for the garden.  While she was looking at the iron outside, my daughter and I went inside to look around.  And there, in the middle of the front case was this Peterson' Mark Twain pipe, still in its orginal box and with all of its papers.  I couldn't contain my excitement and told the lady behind the counter to put it back for me.  We looked around a bit more and added a couple more things to our purchase, including some nice fencing for the garden.  I got home and immediately started polishing the sterling silver cap of my new pipe.  It looks to have hardly been used.  No teeth marks on the bit and hardly any discoloration in the bowl or reseviour.  No tobacco smell either.  It is almost brand new!  And what a price!  I am so thrilled!  I can't wait to light it up this evening at the park listening to one of my favorite bands, Mingo Fishtrap.

~~~~~~~~

EDIT: Well, the night was fantastic!  Mingo Fistrap knocked one out of the park!  Again!  And my pipe smoked very smoothly.  If you are in the mood for some good funk, R&B, Motown, Tower of Power type of groove, then I highly recommend Mingo Fishtrap.  You can purchase their music through CD Baby or iTunes.

Peace be with you.

OD

15 June 2008

Who are we?

Who are we according to the Church, or the Bible, or tradition, or reason?  Who are we?

Some would say that we are people.  Human beings.  In the Christian tradition, most of us would probably jump to the idea that people are sinners and some are 'sinners saved by grace'.  I am starting to believe that this is only one aspect of who we have become.  But, we also become blind, deaf, enslaved, exiled, dead, etc.  All of these words describe the human condition.  Well, they describe the human condition after 'the fall'.  The problem here is at least two fold.  First, to just use one term as a catch-all for the human condition distorts our plight.  A blind person needs to be able to see, not to be freed from slavery.  Perhaps if the blind person could see she could find her own way out of the prison.  Perhaps not.  In the Western Church, we have usually stated the human condition on at least one of these words, 'sin' (some would even say 'dead').  I think this misses the point.  As I stated, the Bible uses a rich tapestry of words to describe our needs.  To reduce them to just one all encompassing term doesn't see the bigger picture and distorts the issue.

The opposite of sin, or its remedy, is forgiveness.  But that's not the remedy for exile.  The remedy for exile is return.  The remedy for deafness is hearing.  The remedy for enslavement is freedom.  The remedy for death is life.  When we pray for people who are enslaved to addiction, whether it be alcohol or pornography or whatever, we don't ask God to forgive them for their addiction.  We ask God to deliver them from bondage.  That is what they need.  We need to use the colorful palette that the Bible provides to address the hurts of people today all the while recognizing that they aren't sinners at the deepest level.

I know, that was sort of shocking.  But it's nevertheless true.  The Bible is extremely clear on this point.  All people, not just believers, but all people are made in the image of God.  Period.  We must start there.  See, most of our Western traditions don't start there.  They start in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve are sent into exile.  But that is not the beginning of the story.  The beginning states that they (we) are made in God's image.  We never lose that.  Every person that we see is an image bearer of the Divine.  Even our enemies are made in God's image.  At their deepest core that is who they are.

Now think about this from a different angle.  If we continue to tell people, say, our children while they are growing up, that they are 'stupid' or 'worthless', what happens to them?  They start acting like and believing that they are those things.  Most of us would never dream of telling our children such things.  And yet, we tell them something diabolically worse.  We tell them that they are 'sinners in the hands of an angry God'.  We tell them, by no actions on their part, they have broken God's laws and have no good thing in them.  That they 'enemies of God', hideous, rebellious, little monsters that deserve 'hell'.  Seriously.  Some people, most people that I know, do that.  Do we see the mixed message here?

This happens to us adults, too.  How many times have we seen advertisements for products because we are not good enough?  We are constantly bombarded with ads telling us that we are worthless, ugly, inferior, ad nauseam.  And don't for one minute think that this doesn't have some impact on how we perceive ourselves.  My wife was a S.A.N.E (sexual assault nurse examiner) for a number of years.  Day after day I would listen to stories about how 'men' abused women.  After a couple of years of this I started to feel horrible.  I started to see myself as one of those 'people'.  She would try to reassure me that this wasn't the case.  'But if you keep saying "men" are such-and-such, and I'm a man...how am I supposed to separated the two?  How can you not look at me and question if I might act that way?'  It was a valid question.  What made this worse was that it was coming from my wife.  The person I love the deepest in the entire world.  If my deepest love thought men were animals then that would make a huge impact on how I started to see myself and how she would start seeing me.

We do the same thing when we see people as nothing more than 'dead' beings that have 'no good in them'.  That they are nothing more than 'enemies of God' and 'deserve' death and 'hell'.  When we believe that, we shouldn't be surprised when they act that way.  In fact, we aren't.  But that is not who we are at the deepest level of our beings.  We are bearers of the Sacred.  When people act like something they are not, we should be grieved as Jesus was when entering Jerusalem.  Our hearts should be breaking when we see people dehumanizing themselves and others.  At the deepest level of each person, at their sacred core, is the imprint of the Divine.  That is the foundation of who they are.  But they have become lost.  They are in exile.  Somewhere in them is a memory of the 'garden'.  There is an echo of a voice calling to them in the cool of the day.  There is a longing to return to the garden to the place where heaven and earth meet.  At the base level, people aren't sinners.  They are 'children of God' that have sinned, and become blind and deaf, who have become lost and enslaved.  People, at their very foundation, are 'children of God' in exile.  But the good news is that they can be forgiven.  They can be made to see and to hear.  They can be found and released from bondage.  People can return home.

So, yes.  I am questioning the doctrine of original sin.  I'm not questioning that people are sinners.  I'm questioning the view that that is who we are at our deepest level.  It's not.  People, at the very core of their being, are the image of God.
'God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.'

Peace be with you.

OD

What are you thoughts?

02 June 2008

The Way

Several years ago, I had an epiphany (no, not the web browser). While talking with a couple of my best friends, I said, 'What if John 14.6 is referring to a journey?' And (basically) from then on, I have been seeing it that way. For those who aren't familiar with the passage, Jesus stated, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me'. The way I explained it was (roughly), 'What I'm beginning to see is that 'the way' is a 'path', 'the way' is a lifestyle, 'the way' is the way of being truly human. Now, along 'the way' we will discover some 'truth'. And as we continue on 'the way', with 'the truth', we will come into life.'

That was the basis for my understanding. I think I can simplify it more now. When Jesus said, 'I am the way', I think he was speaking about the 'way' of being 'truly human'. If we want to follow Jesus, we must follow his 'way'. What is his way? Why, read the Gospel of John and we will see that the 'way' that Jesus was referring to was the way of self-sacrificing love. A way of emptying ourselves. A way of changing our way of being human (which is mostly self-centered) into his way of being human. It is this path, this way, that leads to God.

I'm not the only one who thinks this. What follows are quotes from Marcus J. Borg from his book, The Heart of Christianity:
Indeed, this theme (of dying and rising) is the key to understanding the well-known verse in John often used as the basis of Christian exclusivism: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No once comes to the Father except through me." To set this verse in the context of John's incarnational theology: just as Jesus is the "Word made flesh," so he is "the way" made flesh, the path embodied in a life. The key question then becomes: What is "the way" that Jesus incarnates? What is "the way" that Jesus is? For John, as for the New Testament generally, "the way" embodied in Jesus is the way of death and resurrection. Dying and rising is the only way to God.

...["The way"] that John speaks of is not about believing doctrines about Jesus. Rather, "the way" is what we see incarnate in Jesus: the path of death and resurrection as the way to rebirth in God. According to John, this is the only way--and...it is "the way" spoken by all the major religions of the world. Dying and rising is the way. Thus Jesus is "the Way"--the way become flesh. Rather than being the unique revelation of a way known only in him, his life and death are the incarnation of a universal way known in all of the enduring religions.

Borg continues his discussion of 'born again' (which he sees as a metaphor for dying and rising) by stating:
This process of personal spiritual transformation--what we as Christians call being born again...is thus central to the world's religions...[The] way that Jesus incarnates is a universal way, not an exclusive way. Jesus is the embodiment, the incarnation, of the path of transformation known in the religions that have stood the test of time.

...[This] commonality is cause for celebration...Not only does it mean, to echo an exclamation in the book of Acts, the Spirit has gone out to Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and so forth, but it also adds credibility to Christianity...[When] Jesus is seen as the incarnation of a path universally spoken about elsewhere, the path we see in him has great credibility.

I could go on but you get the idea. I have found that this understanding is more palatable for a lot of people today. I know that there will be some people who will reject this view off the cuff. Those same people might read the Bible in a literal way and reject this type of 'seeing' the Bible. However, I think one of the best statements I have heard lately is also from Borg, 'Believe whatever you want about whether the story happened this way; but now let's talk about what the story means.' If we approach the Bible from that angle, it has a depth that I have not seen in quite a long time.

I have to let you all in on a little secret...This post is in response to a conversation that I had with one of the great friends I mentioned earlier. I found it 'ironic' that we have this conversation and then, just this week, I hear from some Tibetan Monks who are traveling the US. The first night they spoke of this same thing, albeit in some different terms. But for the most part, they talked about 'dying to self' and a 'new human being'. They talked about 'the way' which seemed to me echoed what I stated above and what I told my friend. However, the one thing that seemed to be missing from the conversation with the Monks but what Borg emphasized in the book was the 'truth' that people can't do this themselves. This is where reliance on the Holy Spirit takes center stage. Perhaps the Monks recognize this and call her something else, but it is crucial to Christianity. It is the Spirit that empowers people to actually follow Jesus on 'the way'. Maybe part of God pouring out the Spirit 'on all flesh' (thus the Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, etc. that Borg commented on) is this idea of the Spirit enabling people to actually to walk in 'the way'.

What thoughts do you have about this?

Peace be with you.

OD

21 May 2008

EfM -- Year One

Well, it's official.  The first year of Education for Ministry (EfM) is behind me.  I must say, in all honesty, that this was a great experience.  It wasn't without pain, but great nonetheless.

Why pain?

Each person that takes EfM, in his or her own way, has a theological shift.  Some of those shifts are huge and others are small.  But, at least in our group, there was some kind of theological shift.  And whether great or small, a change in one's theology almost always has some kind of pain involved.  That is, there is some cherished idea that is challenged (at least) or shattered into dust (at worst).  And a cherished belief that changes is painful.

My shift was more of a conscious decision on my part.  I remember distinctly about changing my approach to the support material.  I was sitting in our seminar and listening to the way others presented the material to the group.  (A seminar is just the local group representing all four years coming together for discussion and theological reflection about that weeks lessons.)  In year one, we had some major problems with the support material and we let people know about it.  I, especially, kept bringing up what I have 'always thought' or had 'always been taught' or something along those lines.  You can image how old that gets after a while.

But in the other years, when they talked about their material, they hardly ever talked about those 'problems'.  Now, granted, this could have been because they already had Year One and dealt with all of those issues.  But they focused on the material in a different way.  They brought up new insights or information.  They might make a passing comment about something with which they didn't agree, but, overall, they focused on 'nuggets' that stood out to them.

So, after hearing this for a time, I realized that I was not really trying to grow but was trying to 'change' the support material (and that would not happen).  I decided that I would model myself after the 'upper classmates' and focus on the 'nuggets'.  Oh, I still have plenty to rale against, believe me.  But my focus is not on the differences but the new challenges and the great insights that I have received.  And that has been the greatest insight of all.

I remember talking to an associate of mine and he asked me if I ever thought I would learn all there is to know about the Bible.  I said that I would not and when pressed further I told him that it's like looking at one facet of a large gem stone.  Sure, perhaps I might know all I can about that one facet, but then someone comes and turns the stone and I discover a new facet.  And, perhaps, I might learn all I can about that facet but the gem gets turned again.  Now, this may continue until I learn everything I can about the whole gem.  But then, someone shines a light on it!  And the whole process starts over again.

EfM is like someone turning the gem.  I can't wait until next year when it gets turned some more.

Peace be with you.

OD

18 April 2008

I Repent

I repent, I repent of my pursuit of America’s dream
I repent, I repent of living like I deserve anything
Of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
In our suburb where we’re safe and white
I am wrong and of these things I repent

I repent, I repent of parading my liberty
I repent, I repent of paying for what I get for free
And for the way I believe that I am living right
By trading sins for others that are easier to hide
I am wrong and of these things I repent

[Bridge]
I repent of judging by a law that even I can’t keep
Of wearing righteousness like a disguise
To see through the planks of my own eyes

I repent, I repent of trading truth for false unity
I repent, I repent of confusing peace and idolatry
By caring more of what they think than what I know of what we need
By domesticating you until you look just like me
I am wrong and of these things
I am wrong and of these things
Oh I am wrong and of these things I repent

Derek Webb; I See Things Upside Down

07 April 2008

Grace Garden 2008

It's that time of year again. Spring is in the air, birds are singing, temperatures are warming, and gardens are being planted. Grace Garden is in full swing (or is that Spring?). We have potatoes, peas, lettuces, spinach, onions, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and flowers. Below you will find the pictures of this years beginnings. I will post an update later in the season.

[gallery]

Life-giver
Bring buds to flower
Bring rain to the earth
Bring songs to our hearts.

Renewer
May gardens become green
May beauty emerge
May dreams come to pass.

Amen

02 April 2008

Cursillo 116

There are places in our world where heaven and earth intersect and interlock. Where the gap between the two ‘realms’ of God’s very good creation are particularly thin. In these places we can sense God’s realm, God’s dimension, God’s space, while on this earth. In these places we can touch, taste, smell, and yes, even see God’s grace in very real ways. These intersecting and interlocking places are known as ‘thin places’.

Cursillo is a thin place. Don’t let the surroundings fool you. It is a beautiful place where we can see God’s hand in very ‘ordinary’ ways. Where architects and artists, electricians and plumbers, builders and contractors, et al, have very skillfully erected a place of solace. A place where we can come together and...

...and...

...and...what?

For a lot of us, Cursillo was hardly explained. On another side, every detail was revealed. And on another side again, some of us were told something in between.

But everyone got it wrong.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me. For those of us who were told great details about Cursillo, all of that was true. But no one, not a single person, told us of the thin place. There is no way that can be revealed. A thin place can only be experienced. Sure, someone could have said that Cursillo is a thin place, but that still wouldn’t have meant anything. No, thin places take us beyond our words. Thin places take us to the very fringe of human communication. And we know it. I am reminded of another time where the experience of a thin place was explained. Sort of. St Paul wrote:
This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell (2Corinthians 12.1-4).

I heard of another thin place while at Cursillo. We were told that every time there is a Eucharist, every time we go to the rail, and we place our hand on the other side, our hands are passing from this realm into that realm, from our space into God’s space. The alter rail becomes a thin place. And we receive in our hands a piece of God’s dimension and bring it back to our dimension. We bring a piece of God back into ourselves.

So the question comes rushes forward to meet us: Are thin places only at certain places in the world? I really don’t think so. I think thin places are all around us. The problem is that we have become desensitized to them. At Cursillo we become sensitive to thin places but can we experience them when we leave?

One of the things that was talked about on Sunday was the ‘Fourth Day’. That is, the day(s) after Cursillo. There will be times when the Cursillo experience seems so far away; the thin place has become ‘thick’. So, to help maintain that experience, that openness to the Sacred, there are small groups with fellow Cursillistas that meet weekly called Reunion Groups. As we gather and move in concert through the liturgy, the question is asked, ‘What was the moment in which I felt closest to Christ?’ To me, this question helps us be aware of God’s grace. With this in the forefront of our minds, we are given ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear’ what Christ is doing in our world. With these Reunion Groups we continue to train ourselves to recognize the thin places our gracious Father has put all around us. We are on the look out for the manifestation of Christ in our daily lives. And because we are expecting Christ to be there, we start to recognize other thin places. Perhaps in places we have never even imagined before.

But we aren’t just to recognize thin places. Part of the Christian vocation is to help bring thin places to this world. Like the rest of God’s very good creation, we long for the whole cosmos to become a thin place. And we aren’t alone. God’s dream is to one day put the world to rights, to finally bring justice and peace to this world. With that final act of God’s grace, heaven and earth will be forever married in an eternal thin place.
I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever’ (Revelation 21.2-4).

The ultimate thin place. Heaven and earth will one day become one. With that dream of God in our minds, the love of Jesus in our hearts, and the Holy Spirit enabling us to be the ‘word made flesh’, we are to look for ways that we can implement those thin places, that dream, more and more.

Thin places. Places that are ‘so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words’. That is Cursillo. That is my Cursillo. Cursillo 116.

Peace be with you.

OD

25 March 2008

New Testament Eschatology -- New Testament Letters

This series has sought to provide a different view to some of the opinions some people raise regarding the Apostolic belief and teaching about the return of Jesus. Some hold that the Apostles believed and taught the early church to expect the 'end of the world' within their lifetime. 'And they were obviously wrong', is the common remark. But, I don't think that those people who hold to this view follow it all the way through. If the New Testament writers were 'obviously mistaken' in their belief and teaching, then that would mean the whole Christian church, since it's very beginning was mistaken. I find this position lamentable. Sure, I get it. The writers of the Bible were human beings and prone to error. But what if we are the ones who are wrong? I never seem to hear that as a possibility. Therefore, what we have set out to do is to see if the Apostles got it wrong or perhaps we have misunderstood them.

Our journey in this series has taken us through some Old Testament passages that used poetic language that depicts 'the coming of the Lord' and the destruction of creation to refer to the overthrow of a nation. We saw that even though poetic imagery was used, sometimes a 'human timetable' was used to predict when the event(s) would take place. However, we also observed that, at times, a cryptic phrase was used ('the Day of the Lord') to keep people watching and waiting. Next we looked at a passage that bridged the Old Testament promises with the New Testament story. In that passage, YHWH promised to send Elijah to prepare the people for the coming Messiah before the 'great and dreadful day of the Lord'. We saw that this Old Testament passage was pointing to John the Baptist (Elijah) and Jesus of Nazareth (Messiah). Then, we looked at the conversation that Jesus had with the disciples regarding the fall of Jerusalem (Matthew 24-25). We observed that, while some people see the 'end of the world' in that conversation, Jesus was actually telling those first disciples about the destruction Jerusalem and the Temple. He told them that this would be something they and their contemporaries, their 'generation', would experience. With this as our foundation, we now turn to some of the letters in the New Testament and see if the Apostles continued with this idea of the coming judgment on Jerusalem or did they start looking for the end of the world. Our first stop will be the first letter to the Thessalonians.

1Thessalonians was (probably) written in the early 50s by St Paul and is one of the uncontested letters. Our first passage is found in the first chapter.
1Thessalonians 1.8-10.  'And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.'

The idea here, it seems, is not one of perpetual anticipation. Paul is referring to the hope that the Thessalonians would witness the coming of Jesus.  This 'coming of God's Son from heaven' would bring 'judgment'. This judgment is something that (at least) Paul thought he would experience as well for he wrote that God would 'rescue us'--meaning, at least, him and the Thessalonians.

This 'coming judgment' should remind us of things we read earlier. John the Baptist used this phrase when talking with the religious leaders of his day. We would go too far to suppose that Paul actually meant a completely different judgment when the one John predicted hadn't come yet. Since Paul does not give us any ideas of a different judgment, the safest view is that he was referring to the same one as John the Baptist.

The judgment (or 'justice') of God is the point of our next passage.
1Thessalonians 2.14-17.  'And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews. For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.'

Some people suppose that Paul here (as elsewhere) refers to all Jews for all ages. That is not the case. He had a specific group in mind, the Jews of the first century who did not trust in the Messiah Jesus. It was upon those people that God's anger had 'caught up with them at last'. Again, the idea here is the coming judgment of Israel at the hands of the Romans. That judgment had yet to take place when Paul wrote this letter and it would be over stepping our place to suppose that Paul meant a different judgment.  A judgment that some people would say 'failed to come'. The only failure that I see is to not recognize the judgment that did take place within that generation--the fall of Jerusalem. That was the judgment that John the Baptizer talked about. That was the judgment that Jesus talked about. Paul, our earliest Christian witness, was referring to the same one. If we keep that judgment in mind then Paul wasn't 'obviously mistaken' but completely accurate.  If we can keep that judgment in mind, then there is a great continuity with the teachings of Jesus.  It is what we would expect to find.  Only when we leave 70 CE off the table as a possibility do we come up with the 'they were mistaken' position.  If we leave it as a possibility, everything seems to fall into place.

I think we'll stop here before we continue on with some of the most troublesome passages in 1Thessalonians. Until next time...

Peace be with you.

OD

23 February 2008

New Testamanet Eschatology -- Background Question

I have received some comments and emails regarding my understanding of the 'coming' of Jesus in Matthew 24. Since this, to me, is foundational to the rest of this series, I thought I would address it now before we move on.

Basically, the question is, 'I have always been taught (or believed) that the 'coming' Jesus talked about in Matthew 24 was his 'Second Coming' at the end of time. So, I'm not so sure if I agree with your view. Can you give me some passages to help support your view?'

That's a fair question. I have not always held this view and, like so many others, have always seen the 'coming' of Jesus as the 'Second Coming' at the end of history. But, once I started looking into eschatology, I realized that there were other views out there and some were better at addressing some of my concerns. To sharpen the point, I saw other 'comings' in the Bible. Please, consider the following.
Genesis 18.13-14. 'Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Did you notice that? YHWH promised Abraham and Sarah the YHWH would 'return' to them the following year. But, when we read the passage, YHWH is nowhere to be 'seen'.
Genesis 21.1-3. 'The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac.'

What is fascinating about this passage is manifold. First, in Genesis 18, YHWH appeared to be a man. YHWH came in the guise of a human being. Then YHWH told Abraham that YHWH would return to them. Now, we would expect this to be a 'physical' return, wouldn't we? That's what we think of in the New Testament. But that is not what the passage is telling us. YHWH's 'return' was the birth of Isaac. YHWH fulfilled the promise. So, the fulfilling of a promise can be seen as a 'coming' of YHWH.

Another passage that we don't often think of when we think of the 'coming' of YHWH is 1Samual 24. I'm sure we remember the story. King Saul has heard that David and his men are hiding in the wilderness near Engedi. So he gathers 3,000 of his best warriors and goes after David. At some point, Saul goes into a cave at Wild Goat Rock to relieve himself and David and his men are further back in that very cave! 'Now's your chance', they tell David. 'YHWH has delivered your enemy right into your hand.' David sneaks up on Saul. However, instead of killing him, David just cuts off part of Saul's robe and creeps away. Once Saul has left the cave and ventured a little ways away, David comes out and tells him what happened. Now, what is interesting about all of this is the song David wrote about this scene. He wrote:
Psalm 18.6-11. [In] my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger. Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.

Now, did any of that take place in 1Samuel 24? Nope. But that doesn't mean it's not real. David saw his rescue from Saul as YHWH 'coming' to his aid and used poetic language to describe it. So, deliverance from an enemy can be seen as a 'coming' of YHWH.

There are a lot of other passage that contain similar poetic language but we will only give a couple of examples. In Isaiah 13 we read:
Isaiah 13.6-13. 'Scream in terror, for the day of the Lord has arrived—the time for the Almighty to destroy. Every arm is paralyzed with fear. Every heart melts, and people are terrified. Pangs of anguish grip them, like those of a woman in labor. They look helplessly at one another, their faces aflame with fear. For see, the day of the Lord is coming—the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it. The heavens will be black above them; the stars will give no light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will provide no light. “I, the Lord, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty. I will make people scarcer than gold—more rare than the fine gold of Ophir. For I will shake the heavens. The earth will move from its place when the Lord of Heaven’s Armies displays his wrath in the day of his fierce anger.”

In this passage we have several things: the day of the Lord, desolate land, destruction of sinners, the heavens turned black, extinguished stars, darkened sun and moon. On this day the Lord will 'punish the world for its evil' and 'shake the heavens' and move the earth from its place. This was a message Isaiah received concerning the destruction of Babylon and it was fulfilled in roughly 539 BCE. One of the questions that comes in here is, if this type of thing literally took place, then where is the passage that talks about YHWH creating a new heavens and new earth? A literal reading of this passage would lead one to believe that the entire planet was destroyed. 'The earth will move from its place' would completely destroy all life here and perhaps even the planet itself. This is poetic language used to describe the judgment of YHWH on Babylon.

Another example is found in Micah 1. There we read:
Micah 1.1-5. The Lord gave this message to Micah of Moresheth during the years when Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah. The visions he saw concerned both Samaria and Jerusalem. Attention! Let all the people of the world listen! Let the earth and everything in it hear. The Sovereign Lord is making accusations against you; the Lord speaks from his holy Temple. Look! The Lord is coming! He leaves his throne in heaven and tramples the heights of the earth. The mountains melt beneath his feet and flow into the valleys like wax in a fire, like water pouring down a hill. And why is this happening? Because of the rebellion of Israel—yes, the sins of the whole nation. Who is to blame for Israel’s rebellion? Samaria, its capital city! Where is the center of idolatry in Judah? In Jerusalem, its capital!'

There are a couple of things here. There is the 'coming' of the Lord resulting in the trampling of the 'heights of earth' and 'melting' the mountains. This passage was fulfilled in roughly 722 BCE by the Assyrians. Again, none of this actually or literally happened. The poetic language is used to show that the fall of a nation is the work of YHWH. So, the destruction of a nation is seen as a 'coming' of YHWH.

In this post we have looked at different 'comings' of YHWH. YHWH 'came' at the fulfillment of a promise, the deliverance from an enemy, and the destruction of a nation. It is with the last one that the New Testament is most concerned. It is used throughout the entire New Testament. I believe it is the basis for Jesus' conversation with the disciples in Matthew 24 (parallel passages are Mark 13 and Luke 21) and their use of the 'coming of the Lord' throughout the rest of the New Testament. Next time we will start looking at some of the New Testament passages. Until then...

Peace be with you.

OD