Saturday, March 30, 2024

Cruelty Meets Holy Saturday - Reflection Meets Politics VI

 And the silence of the dawn arose after "It is finished."

For years, Holy Saturday felt weird to me. There was all the intensity of the prior week's ministrations—meals, solemn readings, funeral-esk music, sanctuary stripping, communion—and then this dead space of Holy Saturday. In my childhood church experience, the only thing that happened on Holy Saturday was my mother did her routine flower arranging for Easter morning and placed it on the altar at church for the next morning's anticipated celebration.   In my kid's understanding, Holy Saturday was a boring letdown.  My mom said that was the way it was supposed to feel.

"This is how it is supposed to feel"—when conscience and faith need to be consulted on the unfolding events in which one is involved. Holy Saturday is a pause. In one's conscience, what is happening? World events, even local events, can have disturbing impacts on our emotional life flow.  It is somewhat easy to push them aside with the brain's self-protection of, "It can't happen to me."  It feels as though that is our only means of coping. But the blows to one's sense of safety and protection feel the punch just the same.

  • A friend's cancer diagnosis or fatal heart attack.  
  • A mom and three children's lives are snuffed out by the flash of a teen's car speeding over 100 mph in a 40.
  • An innocent random woman minding her own business driving to work is hit & killed by a bullet from a shooter in the woods. 
  • A bridge collapses, and six construction workers are gone.
  • Miniscule parachute drops are falling to feed thousands of starving Palestinians ironically while the intentional counteraction of killing them continues its relentless climb toward a million dead.
  • The earth's "carrying capacity" is well beyond sustainable, yet voracious consumption of her resources continues, while in the halls of power, stuffed shirts quibble about the significance and validity of individual data points.

It is overwhelming to absorb all of the "it is finished" happenings.  We need a daily "Holy Saturday" to find a pause button and soak in the redeeming and calming silence—a day apart from the torrent—to reconnect with the Holy. 

Jesus' closing discourses were all about this life circumstance. Terror, destruction, and the end of life are not time-limited. They have always been and are a part of human existence—wars and rumors of wars, death, hatred, persecution—"yet not a hair of your head will perish.  By your endurance you will gain your lives" (Luke 21:18)  . Some Pollyanna language is put in Jesus' mouth, but Jesus' life example was not rooted in Pollyanna. Rather, he was pragmatic and hands-on.  As we endure and hold tight to faith in eternal existence, "the former will pass away, and all things will become new." (Rev 21)

We have Holy Saturday(s) to bathe in silent reflection on how our very DNA is entwined with the eternal love of God.  In love, we were born.  By love, we live. Through love, we return.  Regardless of the horrors of daily "crucifixions," we cannot succumb to the oceans of tears. We continue the mission to serve with kindness and empathy.  We arise again day after day, even after being beaten down, to walk the Good Road, to be living witnesses to the Eternal Love that cannot be extinguished.  Ever. 


Monday, March 18, 2024

Reflection on Faith and Politics - V -What Do You Want?

At the end of Chapter 10 in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is passing through Jericho when a blind man, Bartimaeus, yells out to him.  Bartimaeus causes such a ruckus that, in spite of the crowd trying to hush him up, Jesus turns and asks him, "What do you want from me?" 

Indeed, what do the masses of people clamoring to claim the Christian faith want from him today?  Many people claim to follow him yet hold a stubborn, obtuse belief in their own privileged position with Jesus.  They claim special rights for themselves as though Jesus commissioned them, in particular, to gather in only their own close friends and family -- that they determine what act Jesus will perform for the downcast - the hungry, the immigrant, the poor.  They are no different than the crowd then - scolding the needy and pushing them to the back of the line.  Perhaps this selfish grasping to hold Jesus only to themselves is why there are so many different churches across the United States landscape?  Perhaps the social toxicity of white privilege bought worldly political power so they could demand that Jesus bless them in their blindness rather than heal them? 

Greed, fear, and hardness of heart are not acts of Jesus. Greed and self-protection are not bedrocks of the Christian faith. They do not permit lovingkindness to thrive or other virtues to lift a society's care for the infinite number of ways trouble and hardship can strike any one of us without warning. In fact, the hardness of heart and the clutching pearls of privilege fuel desperation, which in turn leads to responses of violence, crime, and war.  There is no better example of this escalation in war and violence than the Hamas v. Israeli conflict. Healing this kind of human blindness will take far more than the retreat into silos of vengeful self-justification or hiding in hopes it won't breach our doors.

What we all want is a true pathway to peace and healing of all ills—social, physical, and emotional.  We won't get there if we are the noisy crowd shoving the needy to the rear or only watching out for Number 1.  Jesus' response to need was to notice it and do what he could to help.  This should be the faith model we could all adopt, remembering that frequently, all another person needs is a smile and to be seen.     

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Reflection on Faith and Politics - IV: False v True Prophets

 "Stay alert or you may be led down a false path!" he told them.  "Many will come representing me, 'I am the Chosen One,' they will claim, and many will listen to their lies."  -- Mark 13:5-6 (First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament)

History is littered with false prophets and saviors  In each of their times and places, they have garnered their set of devout followers. To be a successful false prophet/savior the main ingredients have been personal charisma and the illusion of wealth or success.  Oftentimes, the ruse was most often aided by having a small cadre of conspirators to mingle in the crowd and "attest" to the miracles claimed by the prophet.  They are all in on the fleecing. Gallons of snake oil have been hawked on legions of gullible, unsuspecting souls. 

So what sets Jesus (or any truly helpful prophet/teacher) apart from the riff-raff?  How can we discern authentic wisdom, action, or advice?  I'd offer these suggestions.  

One is that the teacher/prophet does not gain financially from their followers. Authentic wisdom is not for sale. The corollary is also true—the more one has to pay to acquire the "wisdom" (or "secret"), the more worthless it is.

Two, if the profit motive is removed, then one's intuition or internal spirit voice can more accurately discern the truth or value of the advice.  If the person hearing can apply or incorporate the teaching into their life with positive net results, one can more readily trust the truth.

Third, most validly wise teaching/advice is grounded in furthering positive virtues such that not only is an individual aided by the teaching, but the larger community benefits as well.  Examples include virtues such as love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, restoration/healing, and sharing.  Obviously, if the advice fosters more fear, greed, xenophobia, or violence, beware of the lies and do not follow (or aid) that false prophet. 

It is vividly apparent in our present-day political field whether candidates or individuals for public office meet the criteria above or not.  Let those with ears hear.