Sunday, March 27, 2016

Christ IS Risen . . .

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

  The events of Holy Week happened a couple of thousand years ago in Jerusalem.  The triumphal entry amid the waving palms, the cleansing of the temple of the money changers, the preaching of Jesus in the temple court, the dialogue of Jesus with the Pharisees, Jesus' last supper with the disciples, the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, and all of the rest of that amazing week leading up to Sunday, are history.  We still talk about it. We study it.  We even re-live it in our spiritual lives at the close of every Lenten season.  But even as we can almost see, hear and feel the familiar stories of Jesus' last week, it is still history.  An important part of the past from which we learn.  

But Jesus Christ is risen. 

It will always be that way.  

The resurrection will always be now.  Christ is risen to and for all generations.

The resurrection of Jesus is not a historical event to commemorate.  The resurrection of Jesus is the continuing act of a loving God to offer transforming grace, restoration, and Love to every generation, even to the end of the age. 

And for that surely we must humbly worship and be thankful.  Not only for what happened in the past, but on this day,  for what is happening right now because Christ is risen.  

But even more important we must act, we must respond as if we believe the resurrection of Jesus is now, that it continues with its power in the present.  We must locate our present day Galilee to meet Jesus, not for salvation, not to save ourselves, but for instruction and empowerment of the Spirit, so that through love and service, the Body of Christ can do God's work and will in today's world.

It was a wonderful moment when Mary Magdalene told the disciples that she had seen the Lord.

But Christ is risen.

Where will we see Jesus today?



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday: Holy and Fearful

Holy Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It seems like everything is falling apart.  The foundations that hold up our lives are crumbling, leaving us precariously hanging, dangling at the edge of an uncertain future.  Even our past is in question.

The crumbling away creates open space for those who take advantage of the fear, grabbing for the power that seems to have no master.  We falsely place blame on a convenient, powerless other, wrongly giving names and faces to the causes of the destruction, the source of our fears. We declare war on the fictitious enemy, this powerless other, who has been losing these same wars for generations, as if by making them lower, we can be raised up.

And out of fear, we believe.

The crumbling away causes some to scramble for safety, wildly latching onto anything that seems to offer something different.  In groping and grasping for whatever we can reach, we let go of all that we have held onto before, even that which continues to hold our hand tightly amidst the chaos. But it feels good to feel good for the moment. And the moment is all that matters. 

And out of fear, we believe.

The crumbling away causes some of us to retreat, to seek nothing, not power nor distraction; just a place to hide.  We become numb in the darkness. Motionless. Thoughtless. Hopeless.  Prayerless.  Alone.  Convinced that all we had once held as dear is over, if it ever really existed anyway.

And out of fear, we believe.

But there are some who hold on.  Fearful and uncertain they lovingly made preparation yesterday, and spend today, this moment, this Sabbath,  in faithful waiting for tomorrow, as they have been taught from centuries of teaching, and from three short years of living, learning and loving.  Fear does not drive them to hate, or to seek other answers, or to retreat.  They spend today amid the chaos and crumbling in waiting, fully prepared to go and see tomorrow what will come of all of this.

And amidst the fear, we believe.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . ."
                                                                   1 John 4:18


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lenten thought: What is truth?

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Cold drizzle and clouds on the hillside, delaying daylight, create an appropriate outer climate for my inner mindset this morning.  It is a little foggy in there all the time, but there can be a happy oblivion in the safe cocoon of a fog. But cold drizzle just wakes me up for no apparent reason.  At least it seems so. 

Each year, during Lent, a particular moment of Jesus' final week in Jerusalem sticks in my head.  The moment is generally defined by a short passage of scripture.  It is different each year.  For instance, a couple of years ago it was "Give us Barabbas" .  

This year the simple thought that sticks in my head is:

 "What is truth?"

 Pontius Pilate famously asked "What is truth?" on the final day of Jesus' earthly life.  Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect, or governor, who ruled over the province of Judaea, where Jerusalem was located, during the ministry of Jesus. Pilate posed the question "What is truth?"  as he was involuntarily cast in an unforgettable supporting role in a complicated drama. Even before his big scene was finished it was clear that Pilate desperately wished for his part to be washed away.  But it could not be.

Pilate was the Roman authority before whom Jesus was brought by the Jewish religious leaders who wanted to get rid of Jesus for good.  The religious leaders claimed that Jesus had broken laws for which he should be executed.  

 Pilate, the secular Roman official, told the religious leaders to "judge him yourself by your own laws".   The religious leaders said they could not because their religious laws would not allow execution for the charges, but the Roman law would. 

Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar?  Even if it's Jesus?

How awful were these religious leaders?  They knew better. They said so. The religious law they had been given, which they took so much pride in following, which they espoused to be God-given to His chosen people, did not allow the execution of Jesus, even if He were actually guilty of the charges they brought.

But if Caesar killed Jesus, the religious leaders hands were tied, they were clean. Nothing they could do about it.

Sounds a bit too familiar to me somehow.

 Jesus said not to lie, and yet we defend, even repeat and promote with apparent glee the lies of our favorite candidates for political office, and most of all the lies about those that we oppose. Our enemy, if you will.  And we know how we are supposed to treat our enemy, don't we?  

Jesus said if we love Him we are to care for the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick,  the alien, the children, the widow and orphan and the oppressed, and yet we cheer and applaud those candidates, repeating their lies and loathsome rhetoric, who diminish the humanity of and deny responsibility for the least of us that Jesus loves so much.

Jesus said to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and yet, we roar with approval the horrific practice of indiscriminate carpet bombing, no matter who may be living, sitting or playing on that carpet.  

As Christians we act as if the teachings of Jesus do not apply to politics, as if the political arena is a free zone where anything goes.  This is a pretty silly notion when you consider that Jesus' whole ministry was conducted in the center of a political arena that would make this year's election look like a tea party. It was in that environment that he gave us His profound teaching of how to live and love.

Government is not the answer to all things. It can be the best or partial solution to some things.  Our politics at its finest should be a healthy debate about finding the optimum role of government in making all of our lives better.  And like Jesus, Christians should not remove themselves from the discussion.

But for a Christian, politics and government must never be places to go to hide from the teachings of Jesus.  It is not a free zone in which to achieve a result or promote opinions or say things that are contrary to the life and love of Christ. 

It is not a place to go to once again crucify Jesus.

The crowd outside that cried "Give us Barabbas" was angry because Jesus seemed to be less than what they had been waiting and longing for.  

The religious leaders inside that wanted Jesus dead were terrified because he seemed to be so much more. 

And Jesus gave no wordy defense of himself, merely saying he came to "testify to the truth."

It is no wonder, on that awful morning, Pilate asked the famous question.

"What is truth?"

Not so much different from this morning, it seems.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pin the tail . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

When I was a child there was a game that we played at birthday parties. There was a large poster of a tail-less donkey on a wall.  The contestant was blindfolded, handed a donkey-tail with a pin on the end of it, and given the opportunity to attempt to properly attach the tail to the donkey without having the benefit of sight, but listening to the reaction of the onlookers for guidance, or misguidance.  I think this ubiquitous game is so common we all played it, or at least knew of it, despite the now ridiculous notion of turning a five year old loose swinging a straight pin in a crowd of other five year olds. I suppose they use velcro now. A lot safer for those who play or observe the game.

Some observers took delight in cheering on the contestant, guiding the sightless player with cheers of encouragement and yelling direction.  Others who wanted to claim the chocolate bunny prize for themselves would yell out misdirections, hoping to confuse the player, hoping that the tail would end up far from its proper place.

All who played, and all who watched, knew the object of the game. Be the first to pin the tail in its God-intended location and win the prize for yourself.

But nobody ever addressed the real problem.

That poor donkey's tail fell off.  He's got no tail. Most of the time the donkey suffers a stab wound in some unexpected part of his body.  Even if a blindfolded player pins the tail perfectly it is only a temporary fix.  The tail will be taken off so that the game can start all over again for a different player and a different prize. Without the tail-less donkey there can be no game at all.

Yeah I know, it's a silly thought about a fun children's game.  But it's Saturday morning.  Silly is okay.

We should be doing better than we are.  After all, we know who is to blame. We spend countless hours pinning the blame on the asses who are causing all our problems. The rich, the poor, the Christians, the Muslims, the liberals, the conservatives, the politicians, the big corporations, the immigrants, the bigots, the southerners, the northerners, the gays, the straights, the Democrats, the Republicans, Obama, Congress, judges, lawyers,referees who call ridiculous fouls against Retin Obasohan (yeah, it still stings).  Blind-folded we stab in the dark, listening to voices yelling direction, telling us where the blame should be pinned.

Meanwhile, the donkey still has no tail. 

And that's the way it will stay until we quit playing that other favorite childish game.  We all know it well.

The blame-game.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Grin and bear it

There was an interesting, possibly award-winning article on today which moved me.  A brief summary:.

In 1996 the Democratic  controlled Alabama Legislature outlawed bear wrestling in the State of Alabama. 

.Nina Beal, founder and director of the Ark, a no-kill animal shelter  in Huntsville, advocated for the legislation:

"Other states have outlawed bear wrestling; we need to be as advanced."

 Joe Ford (Dem. Etowah County), co-sponsored the bill and said:

''I don't mind anybody who wants to fight a bear if they just go out in the woods and fight the bear on his own terms."

Thankfully the legislature came to its senses last year and repealed the law outlawing bear wrestling.  Apparently it was a result of negotiations with groups representing bears. The Legislature allowed the bears to wrestle again on the condition that the bears would not insist on pushing to exercise their second amendment rights . . .

You know. . .

The right to arm bears.

Come on. We need to laugh. It's okay if it's at me.

For the real article, which is far more interesting  and funnier than this post even though they avoided the second amendment aspects, click on ."bear wresting" article on


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Freeze Frame (No politics, I promise)

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

The sights and sounds of Spring springing to life would not let me sleep this morning.  The sun rose over the ridge of Straight Mountain, throwing its first gentle rays through my bedroom window, gently tapping my shoulders and then my head, like a cat who is ready to get up and play, but needs a playmate. I pulled the covers over my head.   But like the cat's persistence, the rays of the sun became more insistent, and somehow seemed to get beneath the covers, getting right in my face, pawing it, until I agreed that it was time to get up and join in welcoming the day.

It was just as well, because by then birds on the hillside were tuning up, singing louder and louder as the sun rose higher above the eastern horizon.  I love that sound, even though they never seem to be finished tuning up and performing anything as written. 

Finally in motion I moved to the coffee machine, poured in the water and beans, and braced myself for the not so pretty sound of the grinder cranking up and doing its work.  It too is a sound that I love, even though if made by a different appliance I would be highly annoyed.  Like Pavlov's dog, who probably fell in love with the otherwise annoying sound of bells ringing when it meant food, the sound of the grinder has become a sacrament to me,  as it portends the arrival of God's unmerited flavor.

While I was in the process of my morning coffee bean grinding, I looked up and out the window into the trees just behind the house, lit up brilliantly by the morning sun..  There was something moving.  At first I thought I was imagining things, probably a left over from a fitful night of sleep punctuated by the bumps and shuffles in the dark that happen when one lives at the edge of the woods.

I poured my coffee and moved toward the sofa. There it was again, something moving, as I looked up and out the den window. I squinted, trying to increase the power of the lens of my eyes like the Bionic Man used to do.  That did not work.  No grid appeared in my viewfinder and nothing was magnified, nor was there that cheesy sound effect that went along with the Bionic Man's capabilities.  But then, as I began to sit, I saw it. 

There was a beautiful doe about 30 feet behind the house, grazing on anything green she could find.  I sat down with my coffee and again looked out the window. She was gone. Where did she go so quickly?  It was only a second before that she had been standing right there.

But then I saw a movement.  I squinted again.  There she was, in the same place she had been before, never having moved from that spot.  I just could not see her as she perfectly blended with the late winter, early spring forest.  I could only find her when she moved.  If I took my eyes off of her for a second, she seemed to disappear.

I grabbed my phone for a pic.  I must have tried ten times, aiming right where I knew she was.  But she never showed up in the photo.  I took my eyes away from the phone and looked up.  She was there.  

But I was not going to get a picture to share with y'all.

I love the photos I take with my phone.  But I am afraid that sometimes I miss the moment for trying to capture it. You would think I would learn.  How much basketball have I missed trying to take a photo of basketball?  How much fun have I missed trying to capture the perfect picture of a child having fun?  How much enjoyment have I missed trying to capture the talent of my favorite performers in concert?  How much of the majesty of God's creation have I missed trying to reduce it to so many two dimensional pixels?  How much peace have I missed fretting over trying to photograph a deer who wasn't interested in being seen by anyone, except maybe me.

How much life have I missed?

Sometimes the moment is meant just for those present. That is the nature of moments.  They are just still shots of the constantly-moving forward motion of time.  A moment moves on, like waters of the river flowing around the bend.  It really cannot be captured.  And when I try, I become a mere observer of the moment,  not a full participant. 

Sometimes, I guess, you just have to be there.

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