Wednesday, May 10, 2017

no matter

Bit blurry but no matter so is my thinking and the fog below, full or nearly so moon rising over StAndrewsBay and downtown Panama City, Florida. Off to the right, light from Tyndall Air Force Base and, in the Bay, my green light.

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Above is our Collect - - at my Lutheran seminary I learned to call it the Prayer of the Day, which seemed better than having to explain that in our archaic tongue of Anglicanism a collect is not passing the offering plate again but a short prayer consisting of address to God, petition, and closing - - for the upcoming Sunday, Easter 5. Composed for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, the collect reflects the theology of its vintage, which was for those Christians, and for most may yet be, that Christianity is about getting into heaven for eternal life when we die. I do not believe or accept that. 
All my life I’ve remembered and appreciated my father’s response to the question “Are you saved?” He liked to counter about the Episcopal Church, “We do not have a religion to die by, we have a religion to live by.” It goes in stark contrast to the religion of terror I used to hear from Jerry Falwell that, lest you die on the way home from church this morning and unsaved be bound for hell, accept Christ right now and be “as sure for heaven as if you were already there.” And yet our Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter seems so much in that boat. As archaic as what Longfellow in his poem “The Rainy Day” says “the vine still clings to the mouldering wall” and in the next verse, “my thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,” just so with some of our praying in a church whose slogan is lex orandi lex credendi, where our theology is found in what we pray. Contemplating our prayers, perhaps we get swept away by their history and beauty more than with what they say.
Not to run it into the ground unless that’s what it takes to get it across like preaching the same sermon over and over and over again until they get it, once again I am grateful for a meditation from Richard Rohr that was part of his message last week, that Jesus did not come as a transaction to get us into heaven but as a message for transformation wherein, as a final prayer in our marriage liturgy says, “the way of the cross is the way of life.”
Though I seldom do this, I’ve copied and pasted that, Father Rohr’s meditation, below. He seems to be about where I am theologically, spiritually, religiously. For any reader who reads it this morning, pick out what you like, that’s what I’ve done.


Forgiving Victim
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In terms of the soul, no one else is your problem. You are invariably your primary problem. You are always the locus of conversion and transformation. I believe the message of the crucified Jesus is a statement about what to do with your pain. It’s primarily a message of transformation, and not a transaction to “open the gates of heaven,” unless you are talking about being drawn into heaven right now. For some unfortunate reason, Christians have usually “used” Jesus as a mere problem solver, one who would protect us personally from pain later. That kept us in a very small, self-centered world. The big loss was that we missed Jesus’ message of how to let God transform us and our world here and now.

The book of Revelation presents the paradoxical image of a Lamb who is simultaneously slaughtered and standing, victim and victorious at the same time (see Revelation 5:6 and throughout). This is the transformative mystery in iconic form. We must put together these two seeming opposites in our own life.

Was God trying to solve a problem through what looked like the necessary death of Jesus? Or was God trying to reveal something central about the nature of God? Christians have historically taught that God was saving us from our sins. Maybe an even better way to say it is that Jesus was saving us through our sins. As Paul says with great subtlety, Jesus “became sin that we might become the very goodness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, Jesus becomes the problem to show us how to resolve the problem.

We are generally inclined to either create victims of others or play the victim ourselves, both of which are no solution but only perpetuate the problem. Jesus instead holds the pain—even becomes the pain—until it transforms him into a higher state, which we rightly call the risen life.

The crucified and resurrected Jesus shows us how to do this without denying, blaming, or projecting pain elsewhere. In fact, there is no “elsewhere.” Jesus is the victim in an entirely new way because he receives our hatred and does not return it, nor does he play the victim for his own empowerment. We find no self-pity or resentment in Jesus. He never asks his followers to avenge his murder. He suffers and does not make others suffer because of it. He does not use his suffering and death as power over others to punish them, but as power for others to transform them.

Jesus is the forgiving victim, which really is the only hope of our world, because most of us sooner or later will be victimized on some level. It is the familiar story line of an unjust and often cruel humanity. The cross is a healing message about the violence of humanity, and we tragically turned it into the violence of God, who we thought needed "a sacrifice" to love us.

An utterly new attitude (Spirit) has been released in history; it’s a spirit of love, compassion, and forgiveness. As Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

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