30 April 2010

Quote

Love has nothing to do with order.  ~ St Columba

29 April 2010

Happy Lucid Lynx Day!

Today, as can be seen by the little widget to the right, Ubuntu 10.04, the Lucid Lynx, has arrived.  For those of you who don't know (and if not, where have you been spending your time?), Ubuntu is a free Operating System (OS).  Similar to Windows and Mac but it is based on the Linux kernel (the brain that runs the OS) and is malware and virus free.  That's right.  Free means it doesn't cost you a dime and it doesn't get infections!

Ubuntu has many different applications already installed - OpenOffice for office production, F-Spot for all your picture needs, Rhythmbox for listening to music (with an integration in the new Ubuntu One Music Store), and the list goes on and on.  Plus, it has a new Software Center which houses tens of thousands of applications that allows you to search and install them with just a couple of mouse clicks.

Another great feature about Ubuntu 10.04 is that it is a Long Term Support (LTS) release.  This means that, while Ubuntu has a new release every six months, an LTS is released every two years and is supported for three years.  This means that you can install 10.04 and be assured of support for three years with updates and security fixes.

Additionally, one of the coolest things to come about is the ability to try Ubuntu out before you install it.  This is accomplished through something called a 'Live CD'.  What this means is that you can take the Ubuntu 10.04 CD, put it in your CD-ROM drive, reboot your computer, and run your computer from the Ubuntu 10.04 CD.  This allows the whole OS to run from the disc and you can see how it works with your computer's hardware before you install it.  Once you see that it will work with your hardware (and I'm most certain that it will), you can just click in the 'Install' icon and install it on your computer's hard drive, just like Windows.

And speaking of Windows and installing Ubuntu 10.04, you can choose to install Ubuntu right next to Windows in what is called a 'dual-boot'.  That is, when you turn your computer on, you can then choose which OS you want to run - Ubuntu or Windows.  I would recommend this for a couple of weeks until you become comfortable with Ubuntu.

One last thing.  Ubuntu is a very 'light' OS.  That is, there is not a lot of bloat running in it.  You can easily install and use it on much older hardware.  This means that you wouldn't have to purchase a new computer every few years.  I have tried it out on several laptops and have not had any issues.  Heck, my old laptop was roughly 5 - 7 years old and it ran Ubuntu without any issues at all.  And it was fast.


If your needing some more in-depth information, I recommend the manual for Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx.  You can get that here.  And, yes, it too is free.


So, Happy Lucid Lynx Day!  Go get your own copy of Ubuntu 10.04 and take it for a spin.  You can thank me later.


~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack

26 April 2010

Reflection: 04-10

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.  Besides living in Oklahoma, this has a rather deep effect on me and my family.  On April 19th, the day of the bombing, my wife and three-year-old daughter were to go to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to obtain a new Social Security card for my wife.  They were going to be going first thing in the morning.  That would be roughly nine o’clock.  However, as I was off work the day before, we all went on April 18th at roughly nine o’clock in the morning.  As one might imagine, watching the events unfold the following day, the 19th, we were a little more than shaken.  And a lot grateful.  That could have been my wife and daughter.  We could have been in the middle of that horror.  But we weren’t.  But that didn’t stop us from being moved deeply by what we were witnessing.  Perhaps it moved us all the more.  My wife quickly found a baby sitter and went to ground zero and volunteered.  I was working at a local hospital and we were preparing for the influx of our injured families, friends, and neighbors.

~~~

In October of 2007, my Mother, Kaye, passed through the Valley of the Shadow from some strange, unknown illness.  She was only 60.  I assumed that I would have plenty of time with my Mother.  My maternal Grandmother, Stella, was well into her 90’s and still living while my Mother was in the hospital.  She passed through the Valley a few short months after my Mother.  My Mother’s journey was very hard on our family, as can be imagined when one is loved as much as my Mother is loved.   It was especially hard on my wife.  In some ways, it was harder on her than on me.  My Mom was the glue that held the family together.  I now know that it was because of her that we were always together as a family.

My Mother and I had some wonderful conversations, mostly around our very different spiritual paths.  Well, they weren’t that different, really.  We were just at different places on the same path.  Those conversations are some of my fondest memories of her.

I have some regrets about my Mom.  Especially as she got close to starting her journey.  I remember visiting her in the hospital once and asking her if she was scared.  She said she was.  I didn’t offer prayers or words of comfort or even read a Psalm.  I didn’t really know what to say.  Sadly, I was more concerned about what the others in her room would think than I was about her.  So I just nodded.  At the time, I wasn’t in a place to offer the Eucharist.  I really wish I could have been able to serve her in that way before she started her journey.

~~~

I share these stories because this month’s reflection is on the little book, A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis.  I think, like most people who have lived to a certain age, we have all experienced the type of loss and grief that Lewis describes in this book, though we might not have put the words so eloquently as he did.  I remember as I first read those pages that I was intruding on a sacred moment.  I did not know ‘Jack’ Lewis and those words were of the most personal kind.  As one goes along with Lewis, one gets the sense of scattered-ness at the beginning and a progression of thought and order as one goes farther that is familiar territory with most of his other work.

I am so thankful that Lewis and his family decided to publish this little book for the simple reason that it shows that all of us struggle with the same type of questions and doubts when faced with such things.  I remember when Mother Teresa’s journals were published there was such an uproar about her doubts.  Doubting is normal and healthy, I believe.  It shows that we are growing into God in ways that our former understanding can’t take us.  Gone are the simple understandings of youth.  As we grow older we find out that life is more complex and harder than when we were younger.  And, a lot of the time, our faith has to change with our experiences.

In Lewis’ book, I can see this growth, even though watching him grow is painful in its own right.  Gone are the ‘simple’ and neat categories and packages of the academic (as seen in his other book, The Problem of Pain).  If we are not struggling with the responses to our questions, then we are not wrestling with them long enough.  The widower can no longer be sustained by the simple answers he used to give out.  When those same answers are giving to Lewis, they make him angry and nauseated.

One thing that I have learned from this book, or perhaps remembered is a better word, is that my experiences are not the same as someone else’s.  I can’t ‘know’ what they are going through.  I know what I go through.  But I can’t know what they go through.  And it is an injustice to pretend that I do.  When my Mom was sick, my struggles were my own and not hers.  Her pain and fear and struggles were her own.  We must always remember this when listening to others who are in pain and fear and struggling.  It is of no comfort to quote chapter and verse assuming that all one needs is a healthy does of Scripture.

Another thing I learned (or, again, perhaps remembered) from the book is that of listening.  There was a song from Charlie Peacock a number of years ago that had as a lyric, ‘Cry with me, don’t try to fix me friend, and that’s how you’ll comfort me’.  Too often, we try to get to the ‘answer’ instead of just being present with someone.  We hurry past the moment mostly because it’s uncomfortable and we really don’t know what to say.  We’ll almost brush off the person with a very spiritual sounding, ‘I’ll be praying for you’ instead of just being there.    A lot of the time, people don’t want answers.  They just want someone to listen and cry with them.  This is just what St Paul said – when one of us hurts, we all hurt.  Or we should.  We should be like Christ and take the pain of the other upon ourselves all the while realizing that we can’t ‘know what they’re feeling’, like I noted above.  Just be present.  Just be.

Of course, this is really challenging when it comes to my own family.  As I hinted at earlier, when my Mom was starting her journey through the Valley of the Shadow, I was more concerned about others than about her.  Similarly, when my Daughter is going through something, I seem to say and do and respond in all of the wrong ways.  At least with my Wife I seem to get it right more times than not.  Although, she may have a different take on it.  But, with Lewis’ book, all I could do was sit there.  Listening.  Reflecting.  Praying.  Perhaps that is all we are to do anyway.  I would bet that it is.  Why do we feel we have to defend God or try to explain things?  Why can’t we seem to say, ‘I don’t know’?  Or, perhaps better still, why don’t we say nothing at all and just be with the one who is hurting?

So, while I felt like I shouldn’t be reading this little book from Lewis, at the same time, I felt honored that I was allowed to share the experience.  And the fact that it was in written form made it all the easier to just be in those moments with Lewis.  I know that he didn’t share all of what he was going through (he noted that he only wrote down ‘one thought in a hundred’), but I’m thankful for what he did share.  It helped me see things a little differently about my own experiences with grief.  I think it will also help me with helping others with their grief.

Again, I admire his doubts.  In asking ‘Where is God?’ he wrote, ‘ . . . [When] your need is desperate, when all other help is vain . . . what do you find?  A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.  After that, silence.  You may as well turn away.  The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become’ (pg 6).  Isn’t this the question that we always get asked and ask ourselves?  ‘Why did God let this happen?’  Or ‘Where was God when [fill in the blank]?’  Or, ‘How can I believe in God after this?’  All of these questions show a couple of things.  First, that we are not in control like we pretend that we are.  So often I hear that people don’t like religion because they want to be in control of their lives.  And all it takes is a common cold or a traffic jam to show us, rather quickly, that we are anything but in control.

Second, it shows that deep inside us is a ‘knowing’, a remembrance, an ‘echo of a voice’ as Bishop Tom calls it, that there is a God and that God is ‘good’ (by our understanding of what ‘good’ is, of course).  That’s what makes the difficult times even more troubling.  There is this deep knowing that God is good and in ‘charge’ of the world but when bad things happen, it just makes us question that belief.  Now, as I stated above, questioning is a good and healthy thing.  But not when times are tough.  At those time, one wants an anchor, a rock, for support.  Just like a child who looses a toy or scrapes a knee, it is most helpful knowing that Mom or Dad is there to take care of us.  But, more often than not, we end up like Lewis with deafening silence.  And, to top it off, we have good and meaningful friends who try and say all of the ‘right’ things.  Or, even worse, they don’t even call at all.  The avoid us and leave us in our misery.  And then their distance become an abyss.

But, once in a lifetime, we may find some true friends that just be with us.  I had an experience once that was so devastating that I could not find my way forward.  The two friends ‘kidnapped’ me from work and took me to a park where we just sat in the car and cried and cussed and snotted and, yes, prayed.  Some of the most honest prayers I have ever heard I heard in that car.  ‘God, I f***ing hate sin!’  One friend exclaimed.  I remember laughing.  I didn’t realize it until just this moment, but those two men showed me how to be in the moment when someone is hurting.  And how to love those in pain.  And that’s where Lewis ends up in his book.  Love.

He recognizes that the love of God is what sustains us through our times of pain and suffering.  The love of God is not shut behind some door.  It has burst the door open and is surrounding us at those most important times.  It suffocates us to the point that it is us who no longer understand.  Christ, through others around us, comes flooding in with Love so strong that we can’t take it anymore.  We just want to be left alone.  But that is what we can’t be because every where we turn, even at our lowest points of grief, the Love of Christ is there.  In the very midst of the pain is where Love is.  That is why it hurts so badly.  ‘Only love, only love can leave such a mark.  But only love, only love can heal such a scar’ sings Bono in the U2 song ‘Magnificent’.  It’s so true.  Why do we try and make it any different?  Why don’t we just leave it be?  Why don’t we just accept the Love of God when it’s presented to us, however it comes to us?  Because it’s the same Love that hurt us so badly in the first place.  If we can’t trust Love, what else is there?  Love is the One who brought Helen to Jack.  And Love was there when she started her own journey through the Valley of the Shadow.  Oh, it doesn’t matter that they both knew that this was coming.  They met, fell in love, and married knowing full well that she had cancer and that her time was short.  But you can’t stop Love.  And this is where Lewis finds himself in the last chapter of the book.  He realizes that grief is a process, not a thing.  And that, like a lot of processes, it leads one to a deeper love that was unknown before the grief.  But, even here, he is cautious.  ‘Not my idea of God, but God.  Not my my idea of H., but H.  Yes, and also not my idea of my neighbor, but my neighbor.’  He wants the real thing and not an idol.  An idol will not do.

But, the reality is often difficult for us to comprehend.  He wrote:
When I lay these questions before God I get no answer.  But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’  It is not the locked door.  It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze.  As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question.  Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand’ (pg 69).
No, we don’t understand.  ‘We cannot understand,’ Lewis wrote.  And in such deep grief, we come out the other side understanding a little bit less.  And perhaps that’s part of the point.  Perhaps it leads us to lean on the Love of Christ all the more.

‘Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.’ ~ St Paul



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack

25 April 2010

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

O God, whose Child Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear Christ's voice we may know the One who calls us each by name, and follow where you lead; through Christ who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

22 April 2010

Earth Day 2010

Romans 8:18-21.  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse.  But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

19 April 2010

Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter

O God, whose blessed Child was made known to the disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold Christ in all your redeeming work; through the One who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

17 April 2010

Q & A - Part 2

This is Part 2 to some questions a dear friend of mine sent me.  Part 1 is here.
Do you believe that God sent [Jesus] for [the] purpose [of dying for our sins], so you might believe and join Him in heaven one day?
Again, yes and no (I know.  It’s the Irish in me.).  I know that Jesus came from God, that God sent him, that the will of God is to believe in Jesus, but I’m not sure that God sent Jesus to die for our sins.  Again, I think that is one way of looking at it.  But I’m convinced it’s not the only way.  It’s the language of a people immersed in a sacrificial system.  That’s how they would understand the imagery.  It would be like Joseph going to Egypt.  His brothers sold him into slavery but Joseph understood it as God sending him there.  I completely believe that Jesus knew that he would die for what he was doing and saying.  But I think it’s more than just ‘dying for our sins’.  I think it was to completely destroy evil.  Paul wrote that through the cross and resurrection Jesus defeated evil.  That is another way of looking at God’s purpose in sending Jesus.  Evil emptied itself upon Jesus and Jesus rose victorious on the third day, thereby defeating evil at it’s core.

Another purpose of God sending Jesus is that of restoring all of creation to the way it was ‘in the beginning’.  This leads me to the next point.

Concerning ‘joining Him in heaven one day’: This I do not believe.  It is a falseness that has been proposed upon the church but is lacking biblical support.  The ‘goal’ is not ‘going to heaven when you die’.  The goal is being resurrected in God’s New Creation.  According to Scripture (Isaiah 40-55, 64, 65; Revelation 21-22; etc.) the goal of all creation is a time when heaven and earth are joined together.  Notice, for example, in Revelation 21, when the ‘New Jerusalem’ (i.e., which would point to the realm of God) comes down to earth.  The imagery is that of ‘heaven’ (meaning God’s realm of existence) and ‘earth’ (our realm of existence) becoming one.  All of history is moving to that goal.  Our vocation as people of faith is to try and find ways of implementing that ultimate future now.  For me, that was why I became a vegetarian.  In the beginning, all created things ate only vegetables (Genesis 1.29-30).  The symbols that we have in Isaiah, for example, point to a restoration of that very thing.

A follow up question, to the concept of ‘believing’ in Jesus, would be: ‘What about Gandhi’?  Do we honestly believe that the God who is love, would look at Gandhi with a list of his accomplishments, and say, ‘Well, let’s see.  Helping the outcast, good.  Helping the oppressed, good.  Living a peaceful life, good.  Oops.  I don’t see where you believe that Jesus died for your sins.  Sorry Gandhi.  You can’t come in.  You have a one way ticket to hell.’  That man has done more for the Kingdom of Peace than most people I know.  He saw that the here and now is just as sacred as the ‘there and then’.  The justice he proposed was exactly the same that Christ proposed.  In fact, Gandhi said, ‘I like your Christ.  I don’t like your Christians.  They are so unlike your Christ.’  This quote should shake us to our knees.  It reiterates all of the teaching of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament.  That is, that the whole life will be examined in the end and we will be held accountable for our actions.  Look at every judgment scene in Scripture (Matthew 25, for example, or Romans 2).  Every one of them is about what we have done, not about what we believe.  The two should go hand in hand.  Our belief should empower us to work (see James 2).  If not, we should question our belief for belief alone will not save us (again, James 2).

So the question then is what is meant by ‘believing’?  I think the biblical support is that belief means something like trustful action.  That is, trusting in the promises and then doing what those promises tell us to do.  But the promises are not just for the souls of people.  The promises of God are for all creation.  This, again, is alluded to in the prophets I mentioned above and throughout the New Testament.

I hope that these answers will speak to you deeply and help you see things a little differently.  To be specific, I trust in Christ as my Lord and my God.  He truly is Lord of all creation.



~~~

In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack

Q & A

A dear friend of mine sent me some questions and I followed up with some responses.  I thought I would post the conversation here for the benefit of others with similar questions (you know who you are).

~~~
Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, rose from the grave and is now at the right hand of God?
Yes and no.  I believe that ‘Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said’ (1Cor 15.3-4).  But what I am exploring is what we mean by ‘for our sins’.  What was the meaning behind his death?  Was it a ‘ransom’?  If so, to whom was the ransom paid?  If we say ‘God’, then my next question is, ‘Does the love and forgiveness and mercy of God have to be bought?’  That is, we would never have our children buy our love and forgiveness and yet, we think that God ‘demands’ such a thing.  To take Jesus out of context, ‘[If we] sinful people know how to give good gifts to [our] children, how much more will [our] heavenly [Father-Mother] give good gifts to those who ask’ (Matt 7.11).  The point is, we would never demand such a thing from our children, why do we think God would demand such a thing from us, God's children?

The follow up question would be, then, is there another way of seeing the death of Jesus, that is true to the biblical story but is relevant for today?  In other words, are the images and symbols of the ‘lamb of God’ for that culture who lived in a sacrificial world?  Look at what Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17).  He never once mentions that Jesus died as a payment to God for our sins.  He states that he died, yes, but his emphasis was on Christ’s resurrection.  That is to say, when faced with people from a different cultural understanding, Paul didn’t use the Jewish understanding of the sacrificial system.

Am I saying that the death of Jesus didn’t mean something?  God forbid.  I’m saying that we should not limit our understanding of his death to a first century Jewish understanding.  I believe that the death of Jesus goes deeper than that.  What I think we need to do, as the Christian household, is see how the story of the death of Jesus could be retold for our culture.  I think this is what every generation of the Christian family should do.  Martin Luther said (and I’m paraphrasing), ‘If the gospel is not relevant to our culture, then we have not done justice with the gospel’.

Now, does any of this mean that I don’t believe in the sinfulness of people?  Or, more to the point, do I not believe in my own sinfulness?  Again, God forbid!  I know that falseness runs deep within me.  But, I believe that deeper than my sinfulness is the Light of God, the Goodness of God.  To mimic Paul, the sin I commit is not who I am at the deepest level.  At the deepest level, I am a child of God, a mirror of God reflecting God’s image in creation.  But, like an addict, I am addicted to sin.  I am enslaved to it.  Or, I was.  Again, Paul wrote that if a person has been baptized then she is no longer enslaved to sin, therefore she should not act like it.

In the Celtic tradition, Jesus is referred to as ‘our remembrance’.  That is, when we look at Jesus, we see what true humanity really looks like–what we really are at our deepest level.  But, because of sin, because of our addiction and enslavement to sin, we have forgotten who we are.  The further and further we move away from the garden, the more we forget.  Jesus comes and calls us back to who we really are.  But, we can’t get there on our own.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that brought forth all creation, breaks the chains of our bondage and addiction and releases us to be the people we were intended to be.

Part 2 is here.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack

15 April 2010

Christians and Violence

At our men's group on Monday, we had a somewhat heated conversation about Christians and violence.  There were good points on all sides. And I mean that honestly. As I stated, these issues are secondary. That is, this is an issue that should not divide us. We can debate this issue, but it shouldn't divide us.

I think, also, that we are talking about two different things - war and violence against individuals. These are important distinctions (however, in war, violence is done to individuals but the context is different). Some great questions have been raised regarding soldiers within the military in the first century. Basically, the position is that since neither Jesus nor the apostles ever told someone in the military to get out of the military, that must mean that it is alright to continue in that duty. But, and I'm sure we all see this, this is an argument from silence. As has been pointed out, there is (supposedly) nothing within the Scriptures that state owning slaves is wrong. However, it was because of the biblical texts, because of his trying to be an honest follower of Jesus, that William Wilberforce 'fought' for the disbanding of the slave trade in England. Would any of us today have been on the other side of that issue? Would we have stated, 'Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever told a slave owner to stop owning slaves'? This is an important point. And something else we need to keep in mind - context. That is, the people of the Bible were living in different times than we are today. We have to be as faithful as we can to what has gone on before us on issues that are not addressed in the Bible. I will use slavery to illustrate this.

Essentially, slavery was a necessary (evil) part of society for a long, long time. It is what kept society going. Without slaves, society would have fallen apart. So, we can see why there would be no instructions about getting rid of slaves. They didn't know what would happen to society if they were removed. But, the question to ask is, would the future consummated Reign of God have slaves? In looking at uncharted waters (and that is what a world without slaves was) you have to keep in your minds eye some crucial passages of Scripture, mostly, the prophecies in the Old Testament that speak of that ultimate future. And with that, the image of God's grace through the blood of Christ who 'reconciled the world to himself'. That is what Wilberforce did. He looked at the ultimate future of God's 'very good' creation and sought ways of implementing that future now. And you know what happened? Society, for a long time, did fall apart. But that was okay. The world is a better place because of it.

My position on war (and violence) is the same. I am looking at those passages that speak of God's ultimate future for creation. In that future, there will be 'no more war', there will be 'no more death', there, the people will take their weapons of war and transform them into farming tools. We have to look at all people and see them, whether we want to or not, as brothers and sisters in Christ now or realize that they will be in the future. As an Episcopalian, I am asked a number of questions during Baptism and Confirmation. These are (obviously) based on our understanding of Scripture. Three questions that are critical in this conversation are:
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
That question about 'seek[ing] Christ in all persons reminds me of what Paul wrote about his conversion.  He stated that 'God revealed Christ in me' (Galatians 1.15-17). Not 'to me' but 'in me'. That is quite a difference. Furthermore, Paul wrote that God 'reconciled (past tense) the world to himself' through the blood of Jesus and this included all of the enemies of God and his people, both seen and unseen. Do we look at our 'enemies' in that way? Can we see that this is why Jesus told us to 'love our enemies'? He knew that through his death and resurrection they - the enemy - would be reconciled to God.

Furthermore, the leadership of the church is supposed to be gentle and not violent (1Timothy 3). I believe that this also refers to the support of violence. And why is this important? We, the people, the ministers of the Gospel, are to look to our leaders for guidance, for examples on how to live and conduct our lives (Philippians 3.17; Hebrews 6.12, 13.7; etc.). And we are all to follow Jesus and he was not a violent person. He taught us over and over again not to be violent. Now think about this. The leaders of the church are to follow Christ. They are to be gentle and not violent. We are to follow them as they follow Christ. Therefore, it stands to reason that we too are to be gentle and not violent. Further, we are also to be followers of Christ. So, it seems clear that we are not to be violent or support violence.

When we look at the life of Jesus and his followers in the Gospels, we must realize that violent revolt was an option to bring about the kingdom or rule or 'nation' of God. But again and again, Jesus did and said things that sometimes hinted and sometimes stated plainly that his 'kingdom', his 'rule', his 'nation' would not be like the kingdoms of the world - and the inference there was that it would not be a kingdom or rule or nation that used violence either militarily or otherwise. This is crucial to my understanding of the issue.
Luke 19.41-44.  But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 'How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.'
Let's look at the context of this passage. Israel was an occupied country. They were occupied by the Romans - the 'pagans'. As I stated above, one of the ways of resistance was that of violence. Some people saw no choice but to use violence. I'm sure that this was not the first option. I'm sure that, like so many of us, it was a last ditch effort to end the oppression of an occupying nation. After all, the Israelites just wanted to be left alone and live their lives. But some saw no option other than violence. It was the only thing that would bring about relief from the pagans. And let's be clear - the Romans were not a nice bunch of guys. They were brutal. They used whatever means they deemed necessary to force allegiance. Rape, murder, extortion, whatever, to terrorize the people into 'following' Caesar. Now, if we were in the same situation today, I'm sure that many Christians would be just like the 'zealots' of Jesus' day. But what was Jesus' response to the situation? He wept. He wept because the people of YHWH had become the people of the 'world'. That is, they had decided to use the means of the world to 'fight' the world. And because of that, they would be crushed. The 'salvation' mentioned here is not eternal life. It is salvation from the Romans. It is deliverance from the occupying forces. And his fellow Hebrews would not hear of it. They didn't want to do it God's way. They wanted blood. Jesus was saying that they did not 'understand the way to peace.' Do we 'understand the way of peace'?

Also, someone has brought up the idea of 'God' using (or sanctioning) the use of military violence in the Old Testament. 'God' also sanctioned a lot of things that changed when Jesus rose from the dead. Something happened cosmically. The world changed. Do we go back to those times? Do we go back to 'putting the women' outside society when they are menstruating? I hope not. And I hope you see my point here. The world is moving toward a fixed goal. That fixed goal is a world redeemed! A world that is at peace with all things. The question we must ask ourselves is does war move us toward that goal or away from it?

Violence gives birth to more violence. In the immediate context, the people involved know what is going on. But what about those who come after the war is over? Or those who are effected personally because of it? Will the 'enemies' children see that their fathers were part of the 'axis of evil' and 'deserved' to be punished? Or will they just see the blood of their ancestors being slaughtered at the hand of the 'infidels'? I can guarantee that it will be the latter. This shows us that even in times of war, violence has individual casualties. And we must never forget those who are abused, raped, and murdered during war. We are kidding ourselves if we think that this does not go on. 'We don't do those things.' Well, as a nation, we might not approve of them, but we are being represented by others that have no problem in doing those things. And the nation will suffer for it.

And with that, I must ask with trembling, where does our fidelity lie -- to the nation or with the King of kings and Lord of lords (and I could add, the President of presidents or the Monarch of monarchs)? We are members of a different nation. We are not Americans or Brits or whatever. Sure, we reside in those countries but we are ambassadors of another country, another nation. And another way of living. Our lives should reflect, not the position of our respected countries in which we reside. Our lives should reflect our true home. We must look at that country, at our God and reflect that self-giving love to the country in which we reside.

Now, switching to 'personal' violence. There was a scene in the movie 'Daredevil' that paints my position clearly.

Daredevil, a costumed super hero, hears a 'thug', an enforcer, for the Kingpin (a crime boss) beating up someone. He springs to action. As the thug stands up from beating the man into unconsciousness, he sees that shadow of Daredevil on the wall. He takes off running! Daredevil pursues. After a long chase, the thug believes to have given Daredevil the slip. He goes to his apartment building and walks down the hall toward his apartment. Just then Daredevil comes crashing through the window! A fight breaks out. The thud keeps swearing at Daredevil and taunting him, 'You don't own this town. It belongs to the Kingpin'. Daredevil beats the man unconscious. As Daredevil stands over the thug, he hears a small cry coming from the corner. It is a small child huddled up crying. 'Don't hurt me', the child cries. 'Please don't hurt me.' 'I'm not the bad guy kid', Daredevil responded.
Now, I know this is kind of silly but it is germane to my point. In the eyes of the audience, we know that Daredevil is a 'good guy'. That he has sworn to protect the 'innocent' and 'punish' the guilty with 'justice' (he states a lot that 'justice has been / will be served'). But what about in the eyes of the child? What does the child see? He sees one guy beating the snot out of another guy. Period. For all practical purposes, Daredevil was the 'bad guy' to that child. And that is my point. We might have 'righteous indignation' and feel that it is our 'duty' to bring 'justice' to the 'bad guys' but in the eyes of their children and grandchildren, we will be monsters. Jesus said the exact same thing in Matthew 7:
Matthew 7.15-20.  Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Jesus is crystal clear.  People will identify us as his followers by our actions.  And if our actions mimic that of 'the world', what will they think?  Or, maybe a harder question, what should we think of ourselves?

Jesus showed us a better way:
Luke 6.32-36.  'If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate'.
In other words, we are to be different. We are to be 'acting as children of the Most High'. We are to be 'kind to those who are unthankful and wicked' because Christ is. If we follow the way the world does things, how are we any different than they?

As an aside, but an important aside, I must say something about 'justice'. We use that term so loosely. What we mean by justice is vengeance, plain and simple. Would we discipline our children with that type of 'justice'? I hope not. And so does the world. That would fall under child abuse laws and we would be punished. How is it any different when we do the same thing to adults? It is still abuse. We must use our imaginations and come up with better ways of dealing with the bullies both locally and globally.

I understand that these are tough issues. I also understand that they are personal issues. These things are to be struggled through - to be wrestled with. I also know that my decision to be a pacifist was and is a very difficult one. It has cost me personally. But I want it to go on record - I do not think people who hold to an opposing view are any less Christian. I fully understand that my brothers and sisters can have differing opinions about these issues. I am fully aware of how we can take different passages and use them to support our views. But we must ask ourselves, does our position help bring about the ultimate goal for the cosmos - of a world renewed? Or does it move us in the other direction? Jesus said, 'God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.' In another place, Jesus said, 'So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.' And again, 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.' Do our lives reflect a 'work[ing] for peace'? Do our actions 'prove to the world' that we are the disciples of Jesus? Do our lives reflect Christ's peace?

For those so inclined, here are a couple of articles for further reading:

A Practical Christian Pacifism

Biblical Pacifism


Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of One Father-Mother; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Almighty God our heavenly Father-Mother, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the Reign of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
O God, the Father-Mother of all, whose Child commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.




~~~

In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack

11 April 2010

Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter

All loving and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

08 April 2010

Didache - Chapter 3

3 My Child, Flee Evil

3:1 My child, flee evil of all kinds, and everything like it.

3:2 Don’t be prone to anger, for anger leads to murder. Don’t be jealous or quarrelsome or hot-tempered, for all these things lead to murder.

3:3 My child, don’t be lustful, for lust leads to illicit sex. Don’t be a filthy talker or allow your eyes a free reign, for these lead to adultery.

3:4 My child, don’t observe omens, since it leads to idolatry. Don’t be an enchanter, or an astrologer, or a purifier, or be willing to see or hear about these things, for these all lead to idolatry.

3:5 My child, don’t be a liar, since a lie leads to theft. Don’t love money or seek glory, for these things lead to thievery.

3:6 My child, don’t grumble, since it leads to blasphemy, and don’t be self-willed or evil-minded, for all these things lead to blasphemy.

3:7 On the contrary, be gentle, since the gentle will inherit the earth.

3:8 Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless and gentle and good, and with trembling, treasure the words you have received.

3:9 Don’t exalt yourself or open your heart to overconfidence. Don’t be on intimate terms with mighty people, but with just and lowly ones.

3:10 Accept whatever happens to you as a blessing, knowing that nothing comes to pass apart from God.

02 April 2010

Bait & Switch

Hybrid cars.

Every where one turns, some car company is coming out with a new hybrid vehicle.  And that's fine.  But what about the airline industry?  I'm not suggesting that they switch to a hybrid plane but just be conscious of their fuel consumption.  I mean, I recently went to Orlando, Florida for a conference (it was really cool) but I had to fly to Chicago first!  And I live in Oklahoma!  Talk about a waste of fuel.  Now, I understand that this was during Spring Break and a lot of people where heading to Florida, but come on.  Chicago?!  Really?

But that is not what this post is about.  I want to talk about the leading cause of greenhouse gases in the world - the meat industry.  That's right.  While Washington and other groups are pushing for hybrid vehicles and stating that we need to come up with alternative fuel sources (with which I agree), not once do we hear about the real culprit behind greenhouse gases.

It is stated that the greenhouse gases caused by the meat industry makes up more than all planes, trains, and automobiles combined.  Let that sink in. 


Note what I wrote above.  My out of the way flight makes up less than a third of the problem created by the meat industry.  And yet, we don't see a single ad or public announcement or legislation or rally of any kind promoting a safer, healthier planet through the eating of a vegetarian diet.  It's good for the planet, it's good for humanity, and it's good for the animals.  No torture and slaughter.  No ending the life of a mother or father or sister or brother just so we can have steak or bacon or a drumstick.

That was one of the obvious missing pieces in the whole Inconvenient Truth lectures (and DVD) by Al Gore.  His family is in the cattle industry.  Not once did we hear about the woes of the greenhouse gases caused by the family business.  Oh, we don't have a problem pointing out the 'sins' of others just as long as no one looks too closely at our sins.  'Buy florescent light bulbs for your home.  Buy a hybrid - or better yet, an electric - car.  Recycle your glass, paper, and plastic.  Walk, ride a bicycle, or take a bus instead of your car.'  All of which are good ideas.  But, that's part of the problem.  We bought it without doing the research.  When will we realize that the best solution for our planet is a vegetarian diet?  When will we stop getting sucked into the ol' bait and switch?

If we are really concerned about the planet and the lasting effects that humanity has on it, we will stop eating meat.  It's that simple.

For more information, see the Christian Vegitarian Association, Vegetarian Society, and the Vegetarian Resource Group.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack

Collect for Good Friday

Loving God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Savior Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

01 April 2010

Quote

One afternoon Bishop Duracin showed us his lovely home, totally collapsed with all his possessions destroyed, and his car flattened. ‘It is gone, all gone’ he said. He wept, and I wept too, as he showed where his wife had been trapped (she was later flown to Florida for medical treatment and for weeks he was denied a visa to visit her). Then this brave man pointed to all he had lost and said ‘We still have to sing alleluia, for in the midst of this, Christ is risen.’


A story about visiting Haiti from the Easter message of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba.