Friday, July 03, 2020

Perspectives: Death amid Life

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1nFJZ93VgBMR1c7ar2BwD-cCAEb6qdnqx
We saw this tree as we were walking the other day. It was a harsh contrast with the green around it. 

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Context



As I've mentioned before, I am reading Short Stories by Jesus, written by Amy-Jill Levine.  I did read the entire Introduction, although I was impatientto get to the chapters.  I'm glad I did.  Here are three great quotes about context:
  • "...a text without a context is just a pretext for making it say anything one wants."
  • "In order better to hear the parables in their original contexts and so to determine what is normal and what is absurd, what is conventional and what is unexpected, we need to do the history."
  • "If we get the context wrong, we'll get Jesus wrong as well.  The parables are open-ended in that interpretation will take pace in every act of reading, but they are also historicallly specific.  When the historical context goes missing or we get it wrong, the parables become open to problematic and sometimes abusive readings."
Reading scripture carries responsibility with it, especially if we are teaching or preaching.  We have to take that seriously and do our homework.

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

 
A pastor in our Annual Conference posted on Facebook that she received an email the other day that said, "The *** Office is currently closed.  Happy Thanksgiving."  (I removed the name of the office intentionally to not point out someone else's error publicly).  It was a mistake, but it's a great one for June.

And then I started thinking.  And these verses from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 came to mind:   "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

What would it look like in our world if every day were a day of thanksgiving? Can you find something for which to be thankful today? Take a moment and think about it.  Send up a prayer of thanksgiving.  Hard to do? Then it might be even more important that you work harder at it today.  And then, find someone to thank for something.  Thank God and thank someone else.  

What would life be like if we did this every day?

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Friday, June 26, 2020

Perspectives: Quilted



Sometimes what shelters us is quilted together, and that is OK.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Initially Oblivious Owner

I'm working my way through the book Short Stories by Jesus, written by Amy-Jill Levine. In it, she takes parables of Jesus, and looks at them in ways we might not have considered before. She reviews each parable as it would have been heard by 1st century Jews, and then in a more modern context. Amy-Jill Levine is a professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and she is Jewish. I think her viewpoint is especially valuable. 

 Think about the parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15:4-7. "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?" Levine reminds us that for a person to have 100 sheep presupposes a person of some means. 100 is a lot of sheep. If you had 100 sheep, would you easily notice when one is missing? Levine says, "Perhaps it is those who have who are more likely to fail to notice what is missing." She goes on to say, "... he reminds listeners that perhaps they have lost something, or someone, as well, but have not noticed it. Before the search can begin, we need to notice what, or who, is not there." Levine proposes that perhaps, instead of calling the parable a story of a Lost Sheep, we should call it the parable of "The Initially Oblivious Owner." 

 To hear that, we have to let go of the idea that the one guarding the sheep is Jesus. We have to consider that we are the ones who are tasked with taking care of the sheep. And aren't we? Have we noticed who is missing? Are we willing to pay enough attention? And do we confess that the one who is missing is worth the time and effort to find? 

 To once again quote Levine, "When was the last time we took stock, or counted up who was present rather than simply counted on their presence? Will we take responsibility for the losing, and what effort will we make to find it - or him or her- again?"

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Inadequate Words


From The Luminous Web by Barbara Taylor Brown
No one has ever seen a quark, for instance. These particles within particles were invested by Murray Gell-Mann in 1961 because he needed them to make one of his theories work. The word itself alludes to a line from James Joyce ("Three quarks for Muster Mark") in Finnegan's Wake. According to Gell-Mann, quarks exhibit such things as "flavor" and "color," There are "up" and d"down" quarks. There were once "truth and "beauty" quarks as well, but according to my friends Louis Jensen, "this was a little much for the physics community, so they changed 'beauty' and 'truth to 'down' and 'up'". But a quark remains a theoretical construct, leading Niels Bohr to say that "we must be clear, when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry."
Behr's point is that our language is not adequate to describe things we cannot see, much less understand.

We cannot see God. We certainly cannot understand God, and yet do you think that we presume to be able to use our language to describe God? To not only describe God, but to arrogantly state that our descriptions are complete and error-free, To say, "This is how God is!" 

Even when we state that our faith is based on what we read in the Bible, can the language of the Bible accurately and completely describe God? And that our understanding of what we read would also be error free and complete? 

 I think we would be wrong if we did.

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Friday, June 19, 2020

Perspectives: Peaceful Experience


I posted this today because riding the lift at Snowshoe is a very peaceful experience.  Enjoy some peace today, friends, while you remember that peace does not equate to quiet.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Leadership

I just started reading a book called Short Stories by Jesus, written by Amy-Jill Levine.  I'm making myself read the (long) introduction, because it seems to be full of great information.  I almost skipped it today, and then started reading. 

She was telling the reader about parables in the Hebrew Scriptures, including one from the book of Judges.  It is told by Jotham, younger brother of Abimelech.  The older brother had just slaughtered all of his brothers, except the youngest one, Jotham, in order to rule over Shechem.  Jotham hides, and then goes to Mt. Gerizim (where, eventually, the Samaritan Temple will be built) and tells a story (from Judges 9:8-15):

The trees once went out
    to anoint a king over themselves.
So they said to the olive tree,
    ‘Reign over us.’
The olive tree answered them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my rich oil
        by which gods and mortals are honored,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
Then the trees said to the fig tree,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
But the fig tree answered them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my sweetness
        and my delicious fruit,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
Then the trees said to the vine,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
But the vine said to them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my wine
        that cheers gods and mortals,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
So all the trees said to the bramble,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
And the bramble said to the trees,
    ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you,
        then come and take refuge in my shade;
    but if not, let fire come out of the bramble
        and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

All of the "trees" who had something to contribute refused the role of leader.  The one who would take it on, who had nothing to offer, promised retribution on those who opposed him.

It reminds me of today.  Where are our leaders? Who among us, who has gifts and talents to offer, will step up, and lead effectively, with honor, sweetness, and cheer? And who have we to blame but ourselves when one who has no gifts of leadership steps into the role with anger and hatred?

It is up to us to choose wisely, and to use our own gifts willingly.

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Monday, June 15, 2020

Truth


I read book The Luminous Web by Barbara Brown Taylor.  It's a small book that she wrote to address the connections and disconnections (my words) between science and theology.  My kind of stuff. I'm sure I'll share more.  

But for today, I wanted to share a quote from the book.  This is the life-guiding principle of one of Taylor's friends:  "When truth and belief come into conflict, it is better to change on'es belief to fit the truth that to change the turht to fit one's belief."

That quote struck me as so "spot on" that I got up from my desk and walked into a co-worker's office to read it to her.  

I think we do sometimes try to change the truth to fit our beliefs.  Don't you think there is a futility in that?  We can't really change the truth - it is the truth.  So by trying to change it, we instead ignore it.

At the same time I was reading this quote, I had an article from the magazine Rotarian on my desk, open to an article called "How to tell fact from fiction and truth the news again."  I'll link the article here.   

It's an article about how professional fact checkers do their work.  Most of us aren't professionals, but in a world where so many lies are spread via social media, I think we have a responsilbity to check the facts of what we post.  We need to stop spreading memes and posts that support our beliefs without checking their veracity.

Here are the articles three easy stops to stop fake news:
  1. Gut-check.  Did the headline or image you just saw make you feel a strong emotion?  Misinformation is designed do to that.  I would add that we should ask ourselves if the "fact" presented really makes any logical sense.  Is it so designed to create in us a strong emotion that the "fact," when we think about, just couldn't be true.  
  2. Fact-check.  What is the original source of the information? Have you heard it from other, reputable sources? You can do a reverse image search to see if an image could have been created from other images - put together to tell a false story.  What do independent, nonpartisan fact-checking sources like Snopes, PolitFact, or FactCheck.org have to say?
  3. Read real news.  News institutions that reported on events like Watergate are still producing top-quality journalism.  Subscribe to a variety of reputable publications and get your information directly from those sources - not from social media.  We both know that certain cable news outlets broadcast opinion more than facts.  Don't rely on only them for your news. What are other people saying?
Those who connect with you on social media are your friends.  Don't spread what is untrue to your friends.  And if you are brave, fact-check their posts and share the truth. Let's not be used - let's be beacons of the truth so that we are not trying to ignore the truth to fit our beliefs.


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Friday, June 12, 2020

Perspectives: Time


This is the same path in two different seasons.  Perspective also involves time.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Hope is not a Strategy

I am working on completing a Certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.  The first course I completed (its a four course track) was in Strategic Planning. 

The professor repeated a phrase that many of the students appreciated: 'Hope is not a strategy."  It wasn't one of my favorite "take home" from the class, and it's hard for me to wrap my head around.  As I was writing this post, I found this article.   

One of my pet peeves is phrases that sound good, and as if they ought to be true, but under the light of examination, are full of holes.  At first, I thought this was one of those phrases.   As a Christian, hope isn't a wish.  Hope is an anchor. We have faith in the assurance of what we hope for.  

But then I read this from the page I linked above:
Hope will only get you so far. You cannot just wish away your (or the country's) problems. There needs to be a concentrated effort to reduce problems and to increase positive opportunities. Just sitting around thinking about how the current situation could be better is not going to change anything, you also have to act.
Hope is not a strategy.  Hope is the assurance we have that the goal we are trying to reach is possible.  Strategy is the description of the action to get there.

2020 has been quite a year so far.  So many have died from a novel virus.  And now, in the past few weeks, we are (once again) face to face with the inequality in our society.  We can hope things will change.  We can have faith change is possible.  But hope is not a strategy.  What will we do to be the change?

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Monday, June 08, 2020

A Prayer of Confession


A prayer of confession  from the words of Paul to the Church at Corinth
(words from 2 Corinthians 13-11-13 in bold)

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. 

Put things in order, 

Forgive us, creating God, for even though you created us out of chaos, and lifted us from the chaos of our sin, we still choose to turn from you instead of living into the world you have for us. We choose sin over love; we choose hate over love. Help us to put things in order.

listen to my appeal, 

Forgive us, listening God, for so often we do not open our minds enough to hear anyone else. We live in the selfishness of our own lives, and we fail to love others enough to ever listen to them; to ever understand them.  Open our hearts enough to listen.

agree with one another, 

Forgive us, ever-present God, for so often we hold on to our anger and divisions so tightly that we would never think to agree with others.  We argue without thought, we choose to believe the illogical rather than admit to error.  Open our minds enough to see our own errors.

live in peace; 

Forgive us, God of everlasting peace, when we define peace as the lack of conflict.  So often we don't want to be bothered by the idea that justice and peace have to walk hand in hand.  Open our lives enough so that we can stand up for justice at the price of calm.

and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Forgive us, sustaining God, for so often we turn away from you. You are here with us, but we close our eyes and our hearts to your Word.  Help us to open our lives to your will.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

Oh, God, our God, we fail to love. We fail to hear the love offered by the saints. And we fail to be your obedient church.  Forgive us, we pray, and may it be that 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of us.

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Friday, June 05, 2020

Perspective: Twisted Tree


What happened that cause the tree to grow like this?  What scars will our lives bear? How many will be visible?

And yet, the tree still grows.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The New "I Love You"


I've been nagging my husband, pretty much daily, to wash his hands and to not touch his face.  The nagging has no real connection to the fact that he is doing those things (or not doing them, as the case may be) with my reminders, but still I feel a need to remind.

One day, I texted him to "wash his hands and not touch his faced."  He is working in his office again, so I reminded him.  Then I said, "I say these things because I love you.  These are the new I Love you words.  So now, when we end a text, he might say, "Wash your hands" and I respond "Don't touch your face."  

I love you.

I've also noticed how I end emails differently than I used to.  Invariably, I will write, "Stay safe" or "Stay well."  That isn't usual for me, but it is the new "I love you."

And don't get me started about wearing masks.  For me, wearing a mask is one of the ways we love each other through this pandemic.  Wear a mask.  It says "I love you."  

We need love in this world.  Say it.  Show it.  Do it.

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