Tag Archives: Acts

Gazing heavenward is missing the point

I was allowed to preach again. It gave me great joy and some measure of struggle. These were the readings (I used an inclusive language version prepared by the liturgists for the week and the Ephesians option for second reading) and here is the reflection I ended up coming up with…

Men of Galilee! Why do you stand there looking up toward heaven? A valid question for them but also I would suggest for the women and men of the church in Adelaide in 2016. For us.

Why do we stand looking up toward heaven? Is it that we want to catch Jesus by the ankles and pull him back down to earth, to make him a king by force as was tried at one point in the gospels?

Let’s remember that the human person we call Jesus, was an embodiment of a person of the Trinity that existed in the beginning creating all things with God. In the Old Testament this same character is often called Sophia. In the person of Jesus we see the courage and the strength of will, the utter commitment to liberation that characterises Sophia, Wisdom.  In Jesus, also called “the Word” or Logos in John’s gospel we see a good news that cannot be stopped, cannot be suppressed, can be killed but springs up again and continues to love and liberate beyond what for a human would be possible.

This essence of who Jesus always was, and continues to be; becomes accessible to us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus has finished the embodied ministry, which was confined to one place and one time. He can no longer walk on the earth, can no longer sit and eat with one small group of friends. Now the meaning and power of Jesus needs to be diffused to all creation. We can no longer look inward solely to those we belong with, to feel the cosiness of a Jesus clique or a church, we can no longer gaze to an escapist heaven as though the ministry of Sophia were finished and Jesus left us nothing to do but act religiously happy.

Even in the Old Testament Sophia always avoided being caught, controlled or domesticated. She goes out everywhere at all hours. In the same way, if we want Jesus we stop gazing upward, wishing the ascending Jesus would pluck us out of the dilemmas and headaches of everyday life and human politics and drag us into the clouds.

We still find Jesus where the disciples always found him, on the road, in their homes, sending them out, breaking their bread, receiving their hospitality and modelling foot washing. We still find Sophia speaking loudly on street corners and opening up her home to all sorts of people for hospitality; always causing an upset of the ordinary and a broadening out of the exclusive ways of being church. We look forward to Pentecost, to being infused within our own bodies and lives with the same Spirit that emanates from God, from Jesus/Sophia.

Church often gets re-imagined as a sort of posse of Jesus’ home-boys who are the clergy and can tell the rest of us what to do. Or even if we have a broader idea of grace and vocation, we still in some way might think of insiders and outsiders and who has “met Christ” and who hasn’t and we might feel superior to others who do not understand or follow Christian values. But that is not our true vocation- to feel superior or comfy within our faith, nor to draw a line between earth and heaven and allow faith to be nothing more than a once a week or few minutes a day gazing upward.

The “glorious inheritance” that we are promised in the second reading will include work and pain and struggle if we look at the realities of Holy Week that we celebrated so recently, or the lives of the saints that (within that inheritance) we aspire to. The hopes that we have are hopes for a world infused with the Spirit of God, guided by Wisdom and honouring its creation and recreation in the image of God. The good news is not a news of escapism upward, it is that Jesus, having ascended, is also still the eternal God that is constantly with us giving meaning to our lives, to the joys and loves as well as the struggles and feelings of inadequacy. This life here is what has meaning and importance. The Spirit is always coming to us to reignite our vocation. The kingdom of God is where we are, wherever we choose to bring it about together with others.

We don’t control Sophia, we cannot chain Jesus to our small section of earth.  In the Spirit of wisdom and perception we come to know her, we come to sense the good news in the possibilities of our own life and relationships. To paraphrase the conclusion of the gospel reading:

And they loved her and returned into ordinary life with great joy and hope, and they were constantly in amongst God’s beloved- healing, working, bringing love to all they met.

Please take a few minutes of silence, knowing Jesus/Sophia in these readings and in your own life and then you may like to talk them over with the people sitting near you.

 

Free to collaborate in love

“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Can this suggestion by Jesus undercut the overall tenor of the way these readings have been combined seemingly to try to argue for an authoritarian and patriarchal (based on the 12 patriarchs of the 12 tribes) view of church authority? What then if we refused to let our hearts be troubled or afraid but stoutly look for a transgressive reading that will liberate us from the more oppressively traditional interpretations?

In the first reading, some unnamed people have decided that they can speak with authority of the church and preach a rules-based slavish adherence to one part of the cultural heritage of the church. They say that you can’t follow Christ unless you are circumscised. Rather than reading this in an anti-semitic way, let us consider other church teachings over the years that have been needlessly prescriptive, oppressive or misguidedly heaped on the shoulders of the laity?

Unless you eat fish on Fridays you cannot be saved

Unless you go to church every single week you cannot be saved

Unless you are heterosexual you cannot be saved

If you use contraception you cannot be saved

If you disobey the clergy you cannot be saved

If you read and interpret the bible for yourself instead of trusting the church hierarchy you cannot be saved.

Some of these seem ludicrous to us today, but would have been the church’s common sense not so long ago. Some sadly there are still many people within the church who would subscribe. This is the prescriptive and narrow-minded side of church teaching, all of that which is dogmatic but not liberative and ignores the autonomy of the person to respond to God in free relationship rather than only through trembling obedience to the church. This compares to the circumcision argument in the first reading.

Along come Paul and Barnabbas from the apostles and elders and tell them they have no mandate to be so bossy. The wording is unfortunate “you have no mandate from us” as if Paul and Barnabbas et al run the church. The real point is “you have no mandate from God to be needlessly prescriptive and bind people into rigid, lifeless traditions”. The traditional reading here of course is that the “apostles and elders” are the proper authorities and the way we are church needs to always be guided by their authority. They are shown to be a liberative and wise authority that prevents abuses of power. OH IF ONLY!!!!

The fact is as women we know that the “apostles and elders”, or at least the officially sanctioned ones are all too often the ones doing the opressing, repressing and abusing. There are voices of abuse victims reverbating from several generations of having the courage to speak out and I think we risk a very serious sin indeed if we ignore these voices (like the blood of Abel calling for vengeance at the dawn-times of our tradition). There is also the present, ongoing prevention of women from having full participation and fair representation in how the church makes decisions about things that frankly men have amply demonstrated they neither understand nor are capable of understanding.

So the call to obey the “right authority” of the church is one that makes the hairs on my neck stand up. There is danger here, engage hermeneutic of suspicion! But the overarching agenda to reduce unnecessary burden on the believer, yes this is an important point. To do this well, I think we understand in the 21st century, needs a degree of democratic engagement (time for the catholic church to come out of its medieval cave and realise this) and a respect for boundaries and for the autonomy of the individual. That is I can have a rational discussion with you about whether contraception is good, bad or indifferent but if my life experiences are very different than yours, and I in no way (or in minimal ways) am able to support the consequences of what you decide, then I don’t really get to make that decision for you. This is called respect, it’s a side-effect of character traits like peace, gentleness and self-control which are supposed to be  fruits of the Holy Spirit. But the spirit of slavery that Paul warns about is rife in the church, in the way authority cracks down on people but also in us, in the way we accept unwise authority and do not take responsibility to think for ourselves.

Even though there is this picture in the second reading of a dazzling construction that is the “city of God” and perhaps a metaphor of the church, and it has inscibed on it the names of the Twelve, again appearing to lend credibility to patriarchal authority. There are significantly no temples or lights in the city. The lamb is enough. We do not need other rituals or lights shedding light for us, each one who comes to the city can directly look upon “the lamb” for light and for inspiration, each of us can personally worship not through the mediating influence of a temple. The Twelve are mere gates or foundations of tradition, but who says there may not be other ways to come to the lamb, to the only light.

Once again there has been enough in the reading to engage my hermeneutic of suspicion but I can respect that tradition has at times a richness without being bogged down in the tradition, I can pass on through to Godself. It would be easier and safer if tradition was reliable and if church authorities were infallible but there is light more than sun or moon for us. There is the lamb.

And so we pass onto the gospel and see what this “lamb” has to say.

Jesus here once again like last week shows that his words and deeds are identical to the words and deeds of God (here called the father). The Spirit is also brought into the discussion and we see the identical interests and work of the Spirit as one with the “father” and with Jesus. So in a sense there is grounding for trinitarian understanding here, but it is also about an alignment of interests and trusting collaboration as discussed last week. Love of Jesus is shown by keeping Jesus’ word. It sounds as if Jesus has made promises about the reign of God and if we love him we will try to keep those promises. But it is a mistake to see the vocation here as merely words, preaching in the narrow sense. The word of God is elsewhere called “alive and active” it actualises what it preaches. And that is what we do to keep the word of Jesus. So then we are brought into trinitarian action through love. I don’t say we become God, as I am not attempting idolatry here but we ARE CALLED to move toward becoming one with God in interests, intention and action. So that if our response to our vocation was perfect we WOULD be drawn into God’s identity but at least through our love for Jesus we achieve this partially (and more when the Spirit teaches us).

Lastly as a look forward to next week’s attention, if we loved Jesus we would rejoice that he was going to the “Father”. So if we selfishly hand onto the feet of Jesus and try to keep him here as a rigid idol or a fossilised token of assurance then we are not loving Jesus. Jesus asks for the same freedom and autonomy he is offering us. We become unified through the Holy Spirit’s movement and out love-response not through obedient or co-dependent toxic relationships.

And if that is Jesus’ desire then it really needs to become the church’s desire too. We the church will resemble our beloved Christ when we stop trying to control people, when we trust people’s free love-responses and movement toward the beloved. In a flawed and hurtful world that is very hard to believe of course. But this is what it measn to love God. Challenge accepted.

Agreeing with apostles and bishops (for once)

Let me start by agreeing with a bunch of bishops on something (for a change). The US Catholic bishops quote themselves as saying:

Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. This commitment arises from our experiences of Christ in the Eucharist.

-U.S. Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions

My instinct is to wholeheartedly agree, because they are telling us to put the poor at the centre of our faith-life. I want to consider the quote more in the light of this week’s readings (and will resist the temptation to hold up the quote against the ACTUAL track-record of the clergy’s work and teachings to see if there is any consistency.

In the first reading, Peter is refusing to be silenced because he takes his orders from “God not men”. Go Pete! In the gospels and other writings Peter comes across as very relatable- flawed, passionate, impulsive, stubborn, honest, over-emotional and courageous (but also at times cowardly). He doesn’t come across as a great stuffed shirt of a patriarch, he comes across as a hot-blooded activist that Jesus often has to pull back into line but that is willing to stop and face his flaws and take responsibility for his mistakes. Peter rants and raves, promises and weeps, always comes back and gives it all another crack. Peter requires a lot of calling from Jesus, a lot of refocusing, a lot of forgiveness. I relate to this Peter who listens to Jesus and repents every time but who tells other authorities something along the lines of “#$%^ off”!

Are we really supposed to see in this Peter the grim-faced fun police, first pope who made a centralised and controlling institution out of Jesus’ words of subversive justice? I think the church fathers along the way (aided and abetted by that anti-hero Constantine) have reworked Peter in their sour-faced misogynist image.  I could imagine working-class, awkward Peter coming into a pub and I would drink with him. I would drink with the fisherman-turned agitator who loved the street-preacher, Jesus recklessly but sometimes failed to deliver. “Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor.” Yes because from the first it was the fishermen not the pharisees that Jesus’ message touched and when pushed they simply refused to shut up. They were imprisoned, tortured, killed for their beliefs. Their adventures to me strike a parallel with the events retold by Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette, her autobiography.

The Spirit of God was in fiery Peter, in the suffragettes. She moves people to commit all and risk all for justice. Do we hear her? Perhaps not always but the heroic stories around people who ask for, struggle for and achieve social change, those stories burn within us; echoes of the story of Christ.We experience Christ in the Eucharist then (if the bishops are to be believed) as broken, powerless, committed to justice, poured out for others, unable to stand by and allow injustice to prevail. Christ would not be silenced, Peter would not be silence, throughout history there have been people who will not be silenced. Will we?

But Peter was like us. He denied Jesus and knew his own flawedness and was alone and saw the one he loved die. He returned to the mundane world of surviving and went fishing. His old occupation was empty, there was no success until Jesus spoke to him and his heart fired with love he had to leave it again and reclaim his broken call. Oh how I relate to Peter in this reading. Jesus blesses and gives fruitfulness to their work even as he calls them away from it. Peter is in “sin”, if he was Catholic he would be excommunicated for his radical sin of denying Christ but Jesus feeds him. The bread of life is what brings us back to Christ, not a reward AFTER we purify ourselves. His will to return is enough.

Jesus knows that Peter loves him, but he asks for words and deeds to support the strong feelings. Jesus’ call to Peter is stronger than work, stronger than possessions, stronger than the security of the boat. I often wonder if I cling to the church as a sort of boat, ensuring I don’t drown in the overwhelming world. But when Jesus calls dare I jump over the side of the rules and traditions and all I know and swim only toward the one who knows and loves me? Peter has overcome cowardice, the fear of walking on water, the terror of being persecuted, the lure of the safe and ordinary life. Peter’s whole heart has always leapt with passion into Jesus’ mission and in response to the person, Jesus in his life; but sometimes Peter has turned back at the final leap, has kept back some rational part of himself from wholehearted commitment to the struggle of the reign of God. Jesus must understand that reluctance. Jesus persists.

Likewise with the women called to ministry. The church has forbidden us to talk about this issue or think about it. This call has always fired our hearts with elation and tears and made us feel we would dare big things as we run to the side of the one who loves and calls us. When the chips are down we are afraid of our flawedness, of our powerlessness and again and again we crumble before the church who tells us we are mistaken, we are not called, that it is water we are attempting to walk on, that we will be judged if we don’t learn to deny our call and we suffer in silence and bury all our hopes in the tomb like the obedient wives and daughters we have been raised to be.

But when Jesus rises and comes to us in our mundane work and calls us again and again. what can we say? Do not we wish to leave it all behind and be in that light? Is not the call so strong that we want it even if we don’t know what it is, we want to plunge in and swim and….and then what? How do we unsilence ourselves, for after taking Jesus’ bread we are left with the grumpy humans who do not appreciate our message or our audacity? Can we claim Peter as a male “sister in the struggle”.

We can’t stop teaching. We can’t stop preaching. We can no longer collaborate with the suppression of our vocations. Any pope or bishop who tells us we may not speak our truth is only a man, but like Peter we answer only to God, not to men.2016 might well be high time to renew pressure on church authorities to ORDAIN women. We might need to boycott church events, to go on strike with the unpaid work we do, to write letters and to attend vigils and protests. Can we do any of that? (are there even enough women left in the church to do it?) Instead of putting out $10 in the plate “for the support of priests” what if we each put a card saying “ordain women” EVERY WEEK!! And then give the $10 to St Vinnies, or Oxfam or something so we are not profitting from our protest.

What resurrection?

So we have had a week of the “Easter” season and we are all transformed. Our hope is refreshed and we see everything anew. All the angst, all our sinfulness and lack of way forward is transformed and we work with renewed favour to build the just and wise reign of God!

That would be a nice scenario wouldn’t it? In actually fact the heartbreak caused by the double threat of my own inadequacy and an uncaring and unjust world, the struggle not to thrive but merely to survive with some semblance of dignity continues (and I say this realising I am more privileged and have it easier than many). After Easter I have to go back to work, open mail that adds to my pressures and deal with the explosion of an already leaky tap. I am TIRED of the real world and I would like a space to be happy and refresh hope.

“Jesus is risen” so they say. Resurrection is not real unless I experience it. Relationship is a purely theoretical thing, useful for nothing until I touch it. What does it mean to merely “believe”? Truths that have no transformative power might as well be fairytales. With Thomas I find it hard to summon up the effort to “believe” in anything, to hope anything to endure what must be endured (1Corinthians 13:1-13…. has nothing to do with this week’s readings but I really think it ought to and it would be a darn sight more relevant than the first and second reading we have been given).

Then of course there is the question of double standard. If we are going to posit Thomas’ lack of faith as a deficit (he should have trusted in the word of the other apostles who were chosen by Christ for revelation) then surely we should ask equal questions about the “Twelve’s” initial scepticism in the face of a bunch of over-emotional, perhaps hysterical women flying from the tomb on the excitement of a risen Jesus. If Christ gets to decide who is allowed to receive the touch of personal revelation then surely they(we) were chosen first. So if we have a mandate to believe everyone God chooses (and think about how irrational and impossible such a claim actually is) then they ought to have believed the women to begin with! But somehow the 12 are rehabilitated with their flawed thinking (doubt) not even mentioned by the risen Jesus.

Either Jesus here is complicit on the boy’s club mentality of the ancient and modern church (but then why appear to the women at all) or maybe the way this reading is often used breaks down. Thomas is not being reproved for lack of faith. The idea that people are “still more blessed” for blindly believing the word of others (others as flawed as the twelve constantly showed themselves to be) is a strange one, so I am not sure why Jesus is quoted as saying something like that and how reliable we can consider it theologically. There’s my doubt again, right there. I doubt very much that in this story Thomas is in the wrong. Blind faith is dangerous and often lacking in love. Thomas’ inability to believe the impossible (the continuation of the mission of Christ, the presence of the one he loved) is grounded in a deep love. Love is never a theory, it is always an experience. Even when you believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. Even when you break from your inability to believe, hope, endure.

But as for mere spiritual “gifts” they will come to the end. As for organised religion, ordained priesthood, structures and hierarchies of human origin we see them fail and crumble and short-sightedly we often shore them up instead of trusting in what is eternal. We accept the ordained “twelve” who expect us to take their word as “truth”. But when we cannot do this, when they are untrustworthy or inaccessible and we flounder in faith, I pray that Jesus will turn to us and say “touch, know, believe” without the mediation of the “someone elses” who do not speak our language.

Then as church we can maybe stop squabbling over “you believe this and I believe that” and we can stop calling people naive for what they believe or godless for what they can;t or won’t believe. We gather in a room to share friendship, support, be together despite differences (big theological differences maybe like Thomas). We gather in the name of the Risen one whatever we believe or don’t believe about it all. And the grace is that we are touched, accepted, called.

Doubt no longer but believe? I don’t know about that. But I will seek and long for and be touched by. The resurrection comes to those who love.

 

 

 

God is everywhere, even in the church

It is difficult for me to find a path into this week’s readings. They seem patriarchal and colonising (God will give other countries as hostages to ransom you chosen privileged ones) and alienating. I can see the modern-day fundamentalists standing and cheering at this week’s images of powers that seem almost magical, charismatic male leaders and the chosenness and power of baptism. Because the readings can and have been read like this, it is very important to come back with a more liberative reading of a tradition we dare not ignore.

I myself was brought up with the idea of baptism as sacred but I remember my son at age five asking me what God’s attitude was to one of his friends who wasn’t bapitsed. I didn’t know what to say, but I couldn’t imagine that god throws out the unbaptised like rubbish, nor that we should desperately pray that they can be “saved” by a priest throwing water on them. I floundered.

“God is everywhere”, I told my son, “Every shower of rain is a baptism if you love the earth and love all people, every swim with friends is baptism, every bath or shower. We don’t know at which point a person goes under the water and comes out into God but it isn’t just for church people, God loves everyone.” It must be obvious where the flaws in my oversimplified answer are and I don’t offer it as an adult understanding of baptism, but simply a starting point. How do we take the recent epiphany on board as we return into more formalistic, ritualistic ideas of church? How do we broaden and deepen ideas of “church” and “sacrament” to be as large as the all catching, all nurturing grace of the real God (as opposed to some stiff church icon).

John in the gospel today is speaking with much better humility than the priests and leaders of our church usually manage. He offers a baptism in water, a symbol of repentance and a door into a greater and more mysterious reality. But John knows that he is not the Messiah and that his ritual of baptism is not the real or only baptism. John’s celebration of what we have later come to understand as “sacrament” is merely an entry point into something deeper and uncontrolled by him. He is not a gatekeeper for Christ who may also act on his own behalf.

Jesus also comes into the scene with humility. If we wish to find in here an individualistic and wholly independent model of faith we can be disappointed. Noone more so that Jesus could see beyong the limits of the church or could criticise the flaws of the church. And yet Jesus does not reject John’s baptism. Jesus finds within church, within his connections and following of imperfect people and their imperfect rituals a place of encounter with God and here God acts to seal and proclaim Jesus’ unique ministry. Maybe here is part of the answer why I so strongly feel called and tricked back into the church by a compassionate yet persistently nagging God. When we allow ourselves the pride of “giving up” on the church what good do we really achieve? Do we run off and start a dazzling ministry of our own? Generally no, in my atheist and anti-church phases I have turned to hedonism and escapism and individualism. Imperfect though our families are we cling to them in a difficult mixture of love, loyalty, duty and exasperation. The church also is one such family and we are called to transform it through struggle not to drop out and disengage.

Having said that, I feel that I have done the right thing by finding the most resisting and least oppressive pocket of the church that I can and hiding within that. Within the mainstream church I am supposed to act as if I have no vocation beyond the capacity to bear children (and not even that since my marriage ended)…the mainstream church is like a bushel placed over the light of many woman, to stop their vocation shining for the world. I regularly watch how one of my friends whose call is apparent to anyone comes up against the repressive and hurtfully silencing might of the church and I feel no envy for someone still battling that after all these years.

I would rather lurk on the margins and minister to people like me who are also marginal and somewhat bitter. I am at the point where it is easier for me to see sacrament in a three year old passing me a bowl of rice than in any ritual involving an ordained “father”. This Sunday is a challenge to people like me poised on the margins of the church like stray cats ready to fell back into the shadows beyond the margins. It is also a challenge to the church not to take the easy path of seeing this week’s readings as rubber-stamping the privilege and authority of the church elites but to be like John and avoid that narcissm and humbly refrain from even claiming to undo the strap of the sandal of the real reality.

The Christian life done properly is ALWAYS ministry. Will we ever see a church that looks at the priesthood of every single believer and says: “you are my daughter, my beloved; in you I am well pleased.” God asks us to accept and affirm them all, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Dry bones and yearning for wisdom

Readings here

How on earth do I (the mortal) prophesy in such a way that dry bones live? Is there really such a power in God’s words, even filtered through me, to change reality? We do know that discourses do actually change reality – it’s how people like Rupert Murdoch gain so much influence. But how to circulate a counter discourse in these (neoliberal) times?

The living, and life-inbreathing Word of God- the discourse that is justice. How to access its power and heed its mission? A vast multitude of the people of God is (once again) cut off from grace and hope. Completely cut off, it would seem. Ironically I am among them, I the prophet, the mortal also nothing more than a dry and despairing pile of bones. God’s call is also to me, against the odds to live and to “know” that God will speak and act. God calls me to be the prophet also, to give the call to others for life and hope and knowing also.

God what are you asking? This is worse than an alarm going off at 4am. This is JUST NOT POSSIBLE. This is #justnotpossible. !!! Unlike the prophet in the first reading, who quietly and simply obeys God (quiet, simple obedience does not seem to be in my nature) I rant and rave. Why? How? What exactly are you expecting me to say and do God? Why me? Oh this is just too hard! I conclude that I am mistaken, God doesn’t mean me, I am overhearing someone else’s call and because of my “crush” on god am thinking it pertains to little old me.

In my life, in my person it is not possible for these dry bones to live.

Sorry God.

Sorry.

Onto the psalm. Oh here we are praising an all-powerful God who can offer food and renewal to all her beloved creatures. Well go on God, feed your creatures. Starting with the refugees, the Rohingga, who no country is prepared to take in. Bugger watching Leviathan, these are your people!

I cannot hear a reply from my God. My dry bones remain still.

What hope is there? What knowing toward a powerful and life-giving divine? I have no such knowledge, I fail to even brush at the hem of the robe of eternally desirable Wisdom. I gather with “them”, in one place. I like that “they” are anonymous, not necessarily the patriarchal leaders, or not only. I am there too.

I wait for the rushing wind, for the sound of something happening, something changing, being transformed.  I wait for the Holy Spirit to inspire us to be understandable and understood to the “other”. We are only Galileans (well actually I am a Taperoo bogan which is even worse). And I sit here, this pile of dry bones and wait and reread the story to see what will happen next.

And as I read, I stop identifying with “them” because “they” are really not the othered “them” but are at the cultural centre of the story as the authoritative “us”. They are after all the “Apostles” they speak, export their truth from the centre and the marginalised “all nations” simply receive it passively and with the naïve wonder any colonised nations get depicted as possessing. We export our white, privileged, wealthy capitalist truths and standardised tests too as well as our bullshit about “border protection”. But we do not let “them” speak back to “us”!

“Us” of the hardened hearts, the stopped ears…the dried bones. Was it stubbornness and privilege that dried the bones then?

“They” call on the name of the Lord, because don’t kid yourselves Muslims (in boats or otherwise) follow (as imperfectly as we do) the same God as “we” Christians do! And how can God save them when “we” deny them salvation? The dryness of our bones is the raw material our society is based upon, we cannot afford to hear God’s word and live. We cannot afford to change the discourse.

I turn finally to that “gospel” reading. Gospel means “good news” and by now I am desperate for hope.

The ruler of this world has been condemned. The ruling class and our own investment in privilege cannot stand in the face of the Advocate for God’s righteousness (justice) and remembering that other gospel where Christ clearly identifies with the hungry we refused to feed and the thirsty we refused to give water to the stranger we refused to embrace. And the other one about the Samaritan. Our Spiritual heritage abounds in precedents for the Advocate to cite against us when advocating for the hungry, dispossessed Christ.

Can we really not bear to hear these things yet? Can we really not yet bear the command to live and to give life? The Spirit speaks to us. May she also speak through us, to create life where there is none, to be radically creation affirming, truth finding and accessible (and open) to every othered soul in creation.

Spirit I acknowledge I am lost, I tried to follow you into Good Friday but it was so dark there I missed the glint of Easter I was looking for. Spirit find me and hold my hand because what can one lone voice do against the hordes of life-denying, rational, border-protecting hell? I want them to be fed. I want to believe in you again; if I knew how, I would follow you anywhere.

Can these dry bones live?

Please God, can they?

God plays a trick on me (ie it’s Pentecost). Here are the readings my reflection will follow

Funny God. Funny, funny God. With my lack of awareness of the church calendar passing these days, you turn to me and whisper suggestions of preaching just in time for me to come back for my favourite feast of Pentecost and with the reading about dry bones which I have been meditating on recently and which I see myself in (as the cynical prophet, as the bones)

So given that it has turned out that way, I will preach from my heart and my gut. I believe sound scholarship is a good thing (and please if you find me too non-intellectual for your tastes go and read a real theologian by all means and check into all the historical-critical stuff). But I feel called by this crazy enflaming God to write my own truth (with due acknowledgement that it is not the whole truth). So first off, I will post the readings themselves. I want to just give the reference but I will make it easy for you and post the whole readings. Then in a separate post I will nut out some sort of “preaching”.

Even though I am choosing this way of doing the readings I am sad to miss out on the alternative second reading and almost want to skip over Acts which we have all done to death…but I understand that is not the done thing at Pentecost. Or skip the gospel because at the moment John leaves me cold (I used to feel differently)

Ezekiel 37:1-14 37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 37:2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 37:3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 37:7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 37:8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 37:10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 37:11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 37:12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b 104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 104:25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 104:26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 104:27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 104:28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 104:29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 104:30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. 104:31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– 104:32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. 104:33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 104:34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. 104:35b Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!

Acts 2:1-21 2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 15:27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 16:4b “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 16:6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 16:8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 16:9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 16:10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 16:11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Please note the alternative reading

Romans 8:22-27 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 8:27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Creation groaning with labour pains as we do. The Spirit as an advocate/teacher. God needing to search for the Spirit to know what it in her heart. Oh yes I do like this reading too