The Cross

Mosaic."Transfiguration Cross" in St Apolinare in Ravenna, ItalyIn the last two days Marcus Borg, teacher and scholar, posted a two-part essay on the Meaning of the Cross for Christians. Part 1 described the understanding of the cross held by many (most?) 21st century Christians in the United States (Jesus “paid” for our sins). Part 2 described ancient understandings of the Cross (understandings lost when the currently dominant theme of payment ascended in the 12th century). How is the Spirit speaking to the Church through this scholar? How is the meaning of the Cross (and Resurrection)  expanded or narrowed for you? I commend the two essays to you:

Part 1. Christianity Divided by the Cross

For Christianity from its beginning, the cross has always mattered. The crucial question is: what does it mean? Why does it matter? What is its significance?

Part 2. The Real Meanings of the Cross

In earliest Christianity, the cross of Jesus (always also including his resurrection) was utterly central. Central as revelation of God’s passion and Jesus’s passion for the transformation of this world; and as revelation of the way, the path, of personal transformation.

I invite your comments as we continue the conversation.

An archeological find to share

Magdala Bimah

As we seek to “keep learning” here is a report to note. Please notice that the scholars quoted do not always agree about how to interpret what they are seeing. With that in mind, let’s, as a group, see what else we can discover about this dig in (ancient and buried Magdala) current day Migdal.

In a city where Jesus’ companion Mary Magdalene lived and perhaps even met with Jesus, the discovery and excavation of a first-century synagogue is shedding new light on Judeo-Christian worship 2,000 years ago.

In 2009 a team of researchers in the town of Migdal on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel discovered an ancient synagogue, one of only a handful dating back to the time of Jesus, when the town was a small fishing village known as Magdala. An ongoing excavation at the Magdala synagogue has since turned up valuable artifacts including a rosette mosaic and a special table that may once have displayed Torah scrolls with a stone relief of a seven-branched candelabrum, according to Haaretz.

What archaeologists know about the synagogue’s construction also suggests to some scholars that Jews and the earliest Judeo-Christians may have worshipped together at the holy site, per Haaretz.

Read the entire post (on Huffington Post Religion), and see more photos, too.

Wind Chimes: 3 September 2013

candle001

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I light my prayer candle today for those who seek to ‘wage peace.’ Join me in helping the peacemakers in this and every nation, especially in Syria, have the “courage to will and persevere” in their efforts and be acclaimed “blessed” by God and by their neighbors (you and me). ~daniel rondeau

DivLine360x12“Blessed are the peacemakers,” “they are children of God,”
this is the song of the chimes today.
What do you hear?

The prayer, “Attributed to St. Francis,” may be found in the (Episcopal) Book of Common Prayer on page 833.

Continuing Sunday’s Conversation

In light of our study of Hebrews, words spoken to persecuted and demoralized followers of the Way in the early years of Christianity, comes this 20th century assessment:

Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak. This is a matter of tremendous significance, for it reveals to what extent a religion that was born of a people acquainted with persecution and suffering has become the cornerstone of a civilization and of nations whose very position in modern life too often has been secured by a ruthless use of power applied to defenseless peoples.

—Howard Thurman quoted in Verse & Voice for 9/2/13 (Sojourners online)

Wind Chimes: 29 August 2013

divergent-paths

“It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path,
but it’s another to think yours is the only path.”

A Facebook Post by
Spirituality & Practice

This quote reminded me to re-read a post made by a new desert friend, Paul Kowalewski, who posts regularly on The Desert Retreat House. Paul’s post Buddha Christ spoke about his journey on ‘the way.’ He tells people now that he is a “Christian Buddhist.”

“The disciple is to walk on a path leading to the discovery of one’s own ‘Buddha nature,’ one’s own ‘Christ nature'” according to Paul (and I agree).

And what does this “way” look like?

Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (Jesus)
Consider others as yourself. (Buddha)

If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. (Jesus)
If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words. (Buddha)

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. (Jesus)
Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love. (Buddha)

Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me. (Jesus)
Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick. (Buddha)

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own. (Jesus)
The faults of others are easier to see than your own. (Buddha)

Go. Read Paul’s post, Buddha Christ. On your journey: who has walked with you? Who has taught you? Who has enkindled faith, hope, and love as you make your way home?

DivLine360x12No one owns the sounds of the chimes, they simply dance with the wind and play, delighting those who pause to listen.
What do you hear?

Wind Chimes: 27 August 2013

For us Christians, healing and liberation are inexorably tied together. For Jesus, healing is always an act of liberation. For his followers, liberation for some involves healing for all.

Gary Hall
Dean of the National Cathedral

In his sermon on Sunday, August 25, 2013, (The Very Rev.) Gary Hall addressed his congregation and everyone of goodwill who has ears to hear. Anticipating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by those involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Gary not only asked us to take a closer look at our lukewarm response to civil rights but promised, as Dean of the Cathedral, to lead the way to more liberating/healing actions by and with the staff and people of the National Cathedral

…let us not delude ourselves. The Episcopal Church, as a denomination, participated in both overt and tacit segregation. Today 86.7% of American Episcopalians are white. The Washington National Cathedral staff, congregation, and chapter are overwhelmingly white. We are at once the cathedral church for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and the most visible faith community in the nation’s capital. Yet we have a largely non-existent record of involvement or investment in the other three quadrants of the District of Columbia. How can we, with integrity, presume to “speak truth to power” about racial justice when we are, in fact, implicated in the very structures of injustice? How can we call others into righteousness when we are ourselves caught in a web of sin?.

Weaving together the text from Jeremiah 1:4-10, the text from Luke 13:10-17, a text from Matthew (Mt 7:1-5) about judging, eyes, and specks, and logs, and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1963, Gary summarized and then made a pledge:

Friends, what we have here is a very big log in our eyes. Our problem is not the racism of any one individual, because racism is not only personal. It is also interpersonal, institutional, and social. This fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech and the march that occasioned it demands that we take an inventory of ourselves yes personally, but also interpersonally, institutionally, and socially. What does it mean to belong to an 86% white denomination when, by 2040, there will be no one majority race or ethnic group in America? What does it mean to call ourselves the “National” Cathedral when we confine our ministry to the whitest and most privileged quadrant of the District of Columbia? How can we live into the dream articulated by Dr. King when the evils we face in 2013 are so much more insidious than they were in 1963? The enemy back then looked and acted like Lester Maddox and Bull Connor. The enemy today looks and acts very much like you and me.

We here can do little to nothing about the Supreme Court, the Florida legislature, our own Congress. We can, however, together look to ourselves. On behalf of Washington National Cathedral, I pledge today to initiate a process of cathedral self-examination, renewal, and reform, seeking to explore the racism inherent in our worship, ministry, staffing, and governance. Read Gary Hall’s Sermon of August 25, 2013

I invite you to read his sermon. Listen carefully for the Spirit, the same Spirit involved in the call of Jeremiah, the healing moment in the life of the unnamed woman healed by Jesus long ago, and the words and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Spirit is not done speaking and not done working with folks like you and me.

DivLine360x12“Healing, freedom, liberation” are the sounds ringing from the chimes today.
What do you hear?

Wind Chimes: 19 August 2013

Brothers, I ask you to bear with this message of encouragement … .

Hebrews 13:22
New American Bible Revised Edition

We have been reading in the Letter to the Hebrews the past few Sundays (in August 2013). The author calls his work a “message of encouragement” (other translations use “my word of exhortation”). Whether a message of encouragement or a word of exhortation the author clearly wants to support and affirm and challenge his hearers to keep their focus on Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-2) and move forward into an uncertain and uncontrollable future as did our ancestors in the faith: with trust in God who over time has proven to be trustworthy.

Of course, this encouragement, or exhortation, is also a word worth hearing in our day. Highlighting the seriousness of this ancient encouragement and our modern situation is this word from the former Archbishop of Canterbury:

‘Persecuted’ British Christians need to ‘grow up’, says former Archbishop Rowan Williams. Christians complaining of persecution in Britain need to “grow up”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has said, as he argues feeling “mildly uncomfortable” is not comparable to real suffering elsewhere.

Read the entire post in The Telegraph (Aug. 15, 2013)

Further illuminating his words are reports and stories of the burning of churches in Egypt, Christians living in caves and fear on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, the difficult lives of Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip, the very uncertain future of Christians in Syria, and the tenuous circumstances of Christians in China. These are life and death situations and the response of faith may indeed be difficult and the discouragement that anything can change for the better must be overwhelming at times. To these Christians the words of the author of Hebrews must come like a balm to heal and make strong and give hope.

So, to be verbally abused in England or in the United States for being Christian; even to be ridiculed for trust in God (when evil and painful situations abound) or to receive the vehement incredulity and head-shaking dismissal from those who conclude that there is no God is minor by comparison (just ask Rowan Williams, or me). Yet, such is our situation and the author of Hebrews speaks to our situation, too (seen in its proper global perspective, of course).

What are your struggles and how is the ancient word in the Letters to the Hebrews a word of encouragement? How might we “be with” our brothers and sisters in Christ whose persecution, whose situation, is far more pressing, and even life-threatening? Leave a comment and continue the conversation.

DivLine360x12“Stay with it, stay with it” is the song of the chimes today.
What do you hear?