A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius," in addition to articles on other related subjects and many new era Christian sermons.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Whom Say Ye That I Am?

Whom Say Ye That I Am?

Today we will think about simple things like the Messiah, Christ Consciousness, Higher Self, and the ultimate identity of Man. (Ha Ha). In all three synoptic gospels Jesus asks of the disciples the same question: "Whom say ye that I am?" I'll be honest: I am a self-centered spirit animal just like every other flawed and limited creature on this earth, and I admit that the question that is of most interest to me is, "Who am I?" Does the answer to the question Jesus asks inform the answer to my question? To answer this question, I have only more questions. I can only hope that the ultimate answer, like perfection, is something we can at least approach, even if we can never truly arrive.

Here are the texts:

Matthew 16:13-20

13  ¶ When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesare'a Phil'ippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?
14  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Eli'jah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

[Sidebar: Mainstream Christians tend to reject the whole idea of reincarnation. In this comment it does not say that Jesus admits of reincarnation, or that the disciples admit of reincarnation, but clearly SOMEBODY in this cultural milieu does. I merely mention it.]

15  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar–jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
20  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

Mark 8:27-30
King James Version (KJV)

27And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?
 28And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
 29And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
 30And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

Luke 9:18-22
18  ¶ And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him; and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
19  They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Eli'jah; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
20  He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
21  ¶ And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
22  saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.

So, from this we glean these few salient ideas:
1. Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One.
2. Jesus is confused with other famous historical figures in the pantheon of Jewish fame.
3. Jesus' coming is foretold in holy scripture.
4. He has a mission here on earth to establish a church--an organization whose purpose is provide Man with the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
5. At this point in His career, He is still concerned with keeping His true identity a secret. He does not want His idea of Who He is confused with the people's idea of Who He is.

Now, the established pattern of these sermons is that I present the scriptures, then read a bunch of quotes I get off the internet exposing various sides of the question before I give my personal slant on the subject. Today I want to jump right in with my two cents. However, I want to reiterate that on this subject I HAVE ONLY QUESTIONS; the subject is so vast I do not flatter my puny intelligence with the imposture that I have any definitive answers--I fear that faith is the only substitute that I can make for such a claim, and since faith is beyond anybody's power to articulate in words such an ultimate reality, I faint before such an overwhelming project. Nevertheless, here I offer my best effort.

When we contemplate the infinite, the omnipresent, omniscient, omni-conscious personality of the Creator we fail to embrace even the smallest particle of that vastness. Perhaps this is why the Christ consciousness exists in our dimension at all. My understanding (if you can call it that) of the Christ consciousness is that it is some kind of FOCUS on the material plane of this infinite intelligence. The anointed of God is some MAN Who has been chosen to possess a mind that CAN embrace the infinite. In the Christ, God has chosen to project His mind into a single point of material space and time, so that His tiny human creations can observe, in some sense, His infinite self.

In John 1:1-5 we read:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
 2The same was in the beginning with God.
 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Jesus is THE WORD, the expression of the inexpressible, the light that illuminates the mind of Man; MAN who, ejected from the Garden of inarticulate Being into the dualistic desert of Good and Evil, strives to regain the perfection of mindlessness by efforts of mind and will together. Out of all infinite possibilities, Jesus emerges on the scene as a CHOSEN SON OF GOD. The infinite personality of God is incarnated, and therefore LIMITED, for the purpose of shining a light (a limited light) into the world. We comprehend it not--but is there something we CAN get from it?

In the so-called science fiction novel, That Hideous Strength, C.S.Lewis says the following:

"To those high creatures whose activity builds what we call Nature, nothing is "natural". From their stations the essential arbitrariness (so to call it) of every actual creation is ceaselessly visible; for them there are no basic assumptions: all springs, with the willful beauty of a jest or a tune, from that miraculous moment of self-limitation wherein the Infinite, rejecting a myriad possibilities, throws out of Himself the positive elected invention."

It must be understood that the Christ Consciousness, though sprung from a Godhead of infinitude, must necessarily be limited to some extent--how other wise could it fit into a tiny human body? How otherwise could it speak the speech of men and make itself be understood even as much as it was? Is? There is magic in this, and also hope--for, if God can limit Himself in an incarnation such as the one Jesus supported, perhaps we may also bear something of this burden, and find in His love, His sympathy, the possibility of sharing in this infinite consciousness. Is such a thing possible? Can we, joined with God in His binding love, become, even a little, God ourselves? Or must we forever remain pieces of the puzzle, and not the whole puzzle, transformed in a cosmic flash into a divine certitude?

Let's backtrack a little and read what Wikipedia has to say about the terms "Messiah" and "Christ".

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"This article is about the concept of a Messiah in religion, especially in the Hinduism, Christian, Islamic, and Jewish traditions. . . .
A messiah (Hebrew: ‫מָשִׁיחַ‬, Modern Mashiaẖ Tiberian Māšîăḥ Arabic language مسيح Masih “anointed”) is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world. (Eschatology refers to the study of final or ultimate historical events.)
Messiahs appear in many religions including Hinduism,Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the Hebrew Bible messiahs are priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil as described in Exodus 30:22-25. In later Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, messiah refers to a leader anointed by God, and in some cases, a future King of Israel, physically descended from the Davidic line, who will rule the united tribes of Israel and herald the Messianic Age of global peace. In Judaism, the Messiah is not considered to be God or a Son of God.
The translation of the Hebrew word Mašíaḥ as Χριστός (Khristós) in the Greek Septuagint (the Hebrew Bible) became the accepted Christian designation and title of Jesus of Nazareth, indicative of the principal character and function of his ministry. Christians believe that prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (especially Isaiah) refer to a spiritual savior and believe Jesus to be that Messiah (Christ).
Islamic tradition holds the view that Jesus (Isa), son of Mary, was indeed the promised prophet and Messiah (Masih), sent to the Semitic Jewish tribes living in Israel. He will again return to Earth in the end times and descend from heaven to defeat the "great deceiver", the Dajjal (false messiah/antichrist)."

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Christ is the English term for the Greek Χριστός (Khristós) meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew ‫מָשִׁיחַ‬ (Māšîaḥ), usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach. In popular modern usage—even within secular circles—the term usually refers explicitly to Jesus of Nazareth.
The word is used as a title, hence its common reciprocal use Christ Jesus, meaning "The Messiah Jesus". Followers of Jesus became known as Christians (as in Acts 11:26) because they believed Jesus to be the Christ, or Christos, or Christian Messiah, prophesied in the Old Testament - therefore they often call him Jesus Christ, meaning Jesus is the Christos.
Since the Apostolic Age, Jesus was never accepted as the Jewish Messiah. Many Christians, however, await the Second Coming of Christ when they believe he will fulfill the major rest of the Christian Messianic prophecy. The area of Christian theology focusing on the identity, life, teachings and works of Jesus, is known as Christology."

Person of Christ
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"In Christology, the Person of Christ refers to the study of the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ as they co-exist within one person.
There are no direct discussion in the New Testament regarding the dual nature of the Person of Christ as both divine and human. Hence, since the early days of Christianity theologians have debated various approaches to the understanding of these natures.
Historically in the Alexandrian school of thought (fashioned on the Gospel of John) Jesus Christ is the eternal Logos (word, reason, intelligence) who already possesses unity with the Father before the act of Incarnation. In contrast, the Antiochian school views Christ as a single, unified human person apart from his relationship to the divine. However, after the First Council of Nicaea in 325 the Logos and the second person of the Trinity were being used interchangeably.

From the 2nd century onwards, the Christological approaches to defining the Person of Christ and how the human and divine elements interact and inter-relate resulted in debates among different Christian groups and produced schisms.

In the period immediately following the Apostolic Age, specific beliefs such as Arianism and Docetism (polar opposites of each other) were criticized and eventually abandoned. Arianism which viewed Jesus as primarily an ordinary mortal was considered at first heretical in 325, then exonerated in 335 and eventually re-condemned as heretical at the First Council of Constantinople of 381. On the other end of the spectrum, Docetism argued that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, and that he was only a spiritual being. Docetic teachings were attacked by St. Ignatius of Antioch and were eventually abandoned by mainstream Christians."

From The Great White Brotherhood webpage we read:
"Never place limitations on the Christ of God and He shall place none on you. That which is Infinite has no limits."

From the article Discussing the Bible with New Agers (Part One), by Elliot Miller, we read this provocative discussion:

"Any conscientious effort to present the gospel to a New Ager eventually leads to a discussion of the Bible. Although such a debate is engaged on Christian turf, it is often the New Ager, not the Christian, who afterwards feels satisfied with the discussion. For example:

Christian: Do you believe in Jesus?

New Ager: Yes, I believe in Jesus — and in Buddha, and Ramakrishna, and my own guru, too.

Christian: But Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me."

New Ager: That's right! I Am is the truth and the only way. 

Christian: What? 

New Ager: The I Am Presence or spark of divinity in each one of us!

Christian: Wait a minute. Jesus was speaking about Himself... 

New Ager: Yes, and only when each one of us can say with Jesus, I Am, will we realize God as Jesus did. 

Christian: But 1 Timothy 2:5 says the man Christ Jesus is the only mediator between God and men.

New Ager: Oh, that means the only mediator is our Christ Consciousness or Higher Self. 

Christian: You're taking the Bible out of context. 

New Ager: The problem with you fundamentalists is you hang on its every word. We're in a New Age and much of the Bible is obsolete! Yet there are also timeless truths within it, and only when you accept the Universal Wisdom in all religions will you recognize those truths.

Christian: Second Timothy 3:16 says all of Scripture is God's Word and profitable, so you can't prove what you're saying from the Bible.

New Ager: You quote the Bible to prove the Bible and then tell me I lack proof? Actually, my guru does prove her teachings from the Bible, because she can unlock its esoteric meaning. But you fundamentalists are so obsessed with literal meaning you don't understand your own book. [End of discussion.]"

The preceding "New Age" concept of Jesus as just one of many "anointed ones" who appear at various times in various places throughout history, offends a fundamental dogmatic principle of mainstream Christian belief, i.e. that Jesus was the ONLY Son of God ever commissioned to save the world from sin. We all like to have exclusive rights to divine knowledge--it somehow makes it more personal. Never mind that religions all over the world claim that their beliefs are the ONE TRUE FAITH, and most of them, including Christianity, have murdered millions who were unwilling to buy into that exclusivity.

Christians certainly hold the upper hand in this argument because no known religious leader has ever influenced and changed the flow of historical events half so much as Jesus' earthly visitation. Jesus set a standard that no other prophet has ever equalled. Clearly, Jesus was a culmination of some kind, even if we can't rationally put our finger on the PRECISE and FINAL nature of that culmination. Perhaps it is that Jesus was the first and only Messiah Who ever offered Himself as a sacrifice of redemption of original sin, and as a discarnate spiritual mediator between Man and God. No other savior (Buddha, Ramakrishna, Mohammed, or Pahdma) can make that claim. Nevertheless, if we even slightly entertain the possibility of an ultimate union with the Godhead for ourselves, the attitude that no other souls in history ever approached that state of consciousness on earth can only be described as presumptuous, short-sighted, and ego-centric. In the vast hierarchy of spiritual reality, I have no problem putting Jesus at the top of the pile, and it is to Him I pray, and to Him I give my ultimate allegiance. But to say that He was the only one who possessed the keys to the Kingdom seems too limiting to me. The most I'm willing to admit is that His keys are the biggest.

More on this topic appears in Walter Benjamin's Contemporary Shamanism:
Steiner and the Higher Self:

"Steiner describes a hierarchy of consciousness, from the lowest pebble to the highest spiritual being. On earth, a person who achieved truly rational consciousness (of course, for Steiner, rationality would include spiritual awareness) would be at the highest level of thought that we can imagine, while minerals exist at the lowest level of mental activity (for mystics, it seems that nothing, not even a pebble, is completely devoid of sentience). In the higher realms, you find beings whose lowest level of existence is rational thought: "Rational conclusions are the approximate equivalent of mineral effects on Earth. Beyond the domain of intuition lies the domain where the cosmic plan is fashioned out of spiritual causes." According to Steiner, along with the self that we perceive in daily life, the intractable "I," there is another self, a hidden spiritual being, which is the individual’s guide and guardian.

This higher self "does not make itself known through thoughts or inner words. It acts through deeds, processes, and events. It is this "other self" that leads the soul through the details of its life destiny and evokes its capacities, tendencies, and talents." The direction of our life is set out by that other self, a permanent being which continues from life to life. "This inspiration works in such a way that the destiny of one earthly life is the consequence of the previous lives."

In conclusion, I want to read from Friedrich Nietzsche's AntiChrist. I just got around to Nietzsche very recently, and I found him to be more of a poet than a philosopher, and a satirist more than a poet. He is a very angry dude. I've never read such an uninterrupted string of invective in my life--not even in Ambrose Bierce. His criticisms of the Christian church are relentlessly hostile, condemning, and unforgiving. And yet his comments about Jesus Himself are respectful, illuminating, and helpful:

In the whole psychology of the "Gospels" the concepts of guilt and punishment are lacking, and so is that of reward. "Sin," which means anything that puts a distance between God and man, is abolished--this is precisely the "glad tidings." Eternal bliss is not merely promised, nor is it bound up with conditions: it is conceived as the only reality--what remains consists merely of signs useful in speaking of it. . .

The life of the Saviour was simply a carrying out of this way of life--and so was his death.... He no longer needed any formula or ritual in his relations with God. . .

If I understand anything at all about this great symbolist, it is this: that he regarded only subjective realities as realities, as "truths"--that he saw everything else, everything natural, temporal, spatial and historical, merely as signs, as materials for parables. The concept of "the Son of God" does not connote a concrete person in history, an isolated and definite individual, but an "eternal" fact, a psychological symbol set free from the concept of time. . .

The "kingdom of heaven" is a state of the heart--not something to come "beyond the world" or "after death." The whole idea of natural death is absent from the Gospels: death is not a bridge, not a passing; it is absent because it belongs to a quite different, a merely apparent world, useful only as a symbol. The "hour of death" is not a Christian idea--"hours," time, the physical life and its crises have no existence for the bearer of "glad tidings."... The "kingdom of God" is not something that men wait for: it had no yesterday and no day after tomorrow, it is not going to come at a "millennium"--it is an experience of the heart, it is everywhere and it is nowhere…."

Thus, even such a critic of Christianity as Nietzsche is compelled to view Jesus as a personality OUTSIDE TIME--as a participant in a cosmic play in which he, as the primary spokesman of the Father, plays the leading role. Anointed of the Father, Jesus leads that way toward truth and life. I only hope that one glorious day, when I meet him face to face that I can merge with the Father through Him and discover who I really am.

The following quote from the Ascension Research Center proposes something that my heart tells me is true--I only hope my mind can get around it someday.

"The Light of God is all about you. The Light of God is who you are."

Let us pray: Jesus, You were chosen and sent for a purpose we can only vaguely understand. Indeed, vague is the only word that can describe our apprehension of the divine mysteries. Please send us your infinite intelligence to bolster our puny powers of comprehension, so that we may endure the rest of this earthly life, in preparation for the coming clarity waiting for us in heavenly light. Amen.

July 31, 2011
Glennallen, AK

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fish

The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fish

Today we will use the familiar story of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish as a springboard into a discussion of miracles and myths.

The tale of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish is distinguished by the fact that it is the only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels, but contrary to my usual custom I will not read all four versions today--they are more than usually identical. I find the version in Mark to be the most complete:

Mark 6:31-44
King James Version (KJV)
31And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
 32And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
 33And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.
 34And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
 35And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
 36Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
 37He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?
 38He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.
 39And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.
 40And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
 41And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.
 42And they did all eat, and were filled.
 43And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.
 44And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

Now this miracle, sometimes referred to as The Miracle of the 5000, is closely followed in the gospels of Matthew and Mark by a nearly identical story, The Miracle of the 4000. This is Mark's version:

Mark 8:1-9
King James Version (KJV)
1In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,
 2I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:
 3And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.
 4And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?
 5And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.
 6And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.
 7And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.
 8So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.
 9And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

Now for today's Wikipedia commentaries:

Feeding the multitude
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"These two miracles involve no healing and show the control Christians believe Jesus to have had over nature. In these two miracles Jesus multiplied food, in somewhat remote locations, while the Marriage at Cana miracle involved wine in a feast. Although these two miracles are often viewed as twin miracles, despite their similarities, each has its own distinct marks.

Jesus seems to have placed some significance on the number of baskets of leftovers from both miracles (the feeding of the 4000 and 5000): "'Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I break the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?' They said unto him, 'Twelve.' 'And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?' And they said, 'Seven.' 'And He said unto them, 'How is it that ye do not understand?'"(Mark 8:18-21) He never explicitly states the interpretation of the numbers, but it is clear from this passage that he attaches some importance to them."

Here I insert some comments about the difference between the miracles from Overview of Bible Study:
"Two nearly identical miracles performed under similar circumstances, probably only a few days apart, yet the disciples remained doubtful, and were surprised to find that the Lord could pull it off.

In both instances, Jesus drew crowds, who remained with him during long periods of teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. They were in a distant place and evening was approaching.

In the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples, out of concern for the people, urged Christ to dismiss them, so that they might return to their homes, or to neighboring villages, and get something to eat.
In the feeding of the four thousand, Christ was the one who initiated the concern, and supplied the remedy.

It is interesting to note that, although Christ had fed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes only a few days before, his disciples were doubtful as to how he would feed four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish."

Now back to Wikipedia:
"The Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha is the site where some Christians believe the miracle to have taken place.

In Mark chapter 8, in the passage that describes Jesus warning his disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod" (v.15), it is significant that in the course of the ensuing conversation, Jesus refers retrospectively to both the feeding of the 5000 (v.19) and the feeding of the 4000 (v.20). This creates a difficulty for those who interpret the two passages as if they described the same event twice.

The account of the miracle in John 6 is followed later in the same chapter by the conversation Jesus has with the crowds who had followed him to Capernaum. The main motif in the passage (v.26-59) centres on Jesus saying, "I am that bread of life" (v.48). Though there is no previous food miracle in John other than Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, this section of Jesus' teaching might allude to a much earlier food miracle, that of the manna that was provided as food to the children of Israel in the wilderness at the time of Moses. More strikingly this miracle echoes that of Elisha who fed 100 men with 20 loaves of bread in 2 Kings 4:42-44 saying "For this is what the LORD says: 'They will eat and have some left over." The feeding of the multitude therefore may be seen as a demonstrative prelude to Jesus words, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (v.35)."

Now let's talk about parables for a moment. Remember that we have discussed the idea that parables provide a mere veneer of truth on first hearing, and may only reveal their deeper meanings over time, after the significance, or resonance, of the story's symbols have had a chance to "sink in." Let's just pretend for a moment that the miracle of the fishes was not an historical event, but a parable, or, better yet, that it was an historical event with a metaphorical meaning just like a parable has. What is the metaphorical meaning?

Well, Jesus Himself provides us with one answer in John 6:35:

"I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."

"See? You followed me and I fed you! I fed your physical bodies with physical food. How much more, then, must your souls benefit from the spiritual food I have to offer?" What better way to impress a crowd with a spiritual truth than by sending it to straight to their stomachs? Do think they "digested this truth?"

I collected a few other slants on this idea:

From Shanda Renee's blog, A Journey for Christ, we read:
"Although the Miracle in the fishes and loaves was in feeding 5 thousand, I believe the story can be applied to our lives in so many ways. Believing that what ever little we have, is more than enough to do what ever it is God wants to be done."

from Overview of Bible Study:
"In the multitudes of hungry people, we have a representation of the spiritually famished state of mankind
In the compassion of Christ, we see hope for the perishing sinner

In the disciples bearing the food to the people, we see the design of Christian ministry

In the abundance, we see the fullness of the gospel

In the satisfaction of the multitude, we learn that personal partaking of Christ is essential to our happiness"

Hence, even in humanitarian acts of kindness on the mundane level, Jesus may be seen as a teacher--teaching, through example, that even our most ordinary everyday occupations resonate in eternity. To me, the magnificence of this miracle is not in the magic show, but in the lesson it teaches and the direction in which it points our attention--but we'll get back to that.

Now let's talk about miracles.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"A miracle is an event attributed to divine intervention. Sometimes an event is also attributed (in part) to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that God may work with the laws of nature to perform what people perceive as miracles. Theologians say that, with divine providence, God regularly works through created nature yet is free to work without, above, or against it as well."

It may surprise you (or not) to hear that there is some disagreement about the character of this miracle.

The following is from
Bread from Heaven: Loaves and Fishes: Natural Sharing or Supernatural Miracle?
"Today, I heard a homily that claimed what really happened about the five loaves and two fish, is that bystanders took out food they were hiding under their cloaks and shared it."

I myself thought of this interpretation years ago, and actually wrote a musical composition about it. The piece is a "klangfarbenmelodie" (German for sound-color-melody). Klangfarbenmelodie is a musical technique that involves distributing a musical line or melody to several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument. In the case of my piece, it was a single chord that evolved and grew through the manipulation of instrumental forces. I was trying to capture the idea of a single loaf of bread multiplying itself, kind of like the cells of an embryonic virgin birth.]

"Jesus’ preaching inspired the melting of selfishness, and this was the true miracle according to this preacher. He went on to justify his reading that this was a miracle of sharing rather than a miracle of multiplication, because:

How many of us would go on a trip away from home for a couple of days without our credit card to provide food and lodging?
If we wouldn’t leave home without making plans for food and lodging then what makes us think these people, in the crowd with Jesus, made no provisions?
Were they any different that us? Therefore, Jesus changed their hearts and they shared all they had with each other. This is the true miracle.
This is appealing to people these days because we lack FAITH. We lack the Faith to believe that Jesus/God can do ANYTHING. So, those who subscribe to this interpretation hope to make the Gospel more palatable to modern men. But the above appeal to reason does not ring true for the following reasons:

1) This passage does not say anywhere that the people had been away from home for more than a day. So the above pastor built his rationale on a false premise. Of course, people then, just like us, make plans to provide for themselves on journeys. But there is nothing in the passage that indicates this was anything other than a day trip. And the parallel passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke indicate that the people could have gone into nearby villages for food and lodging.
Luke 9:12 “and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.”
But Jesus had other plans.
2) There is NO mention that Jesus performed a miracle of convincing people to share. And we would have to believe that the disciples were so stupid and out of touch with their culture that they had no clue the crowd were all hiding food under their cloaks.
There is not the whiff of a hint that this is not a supernatural miracle of multiplication of the loaves. The Gospels say Jesus gave the food to the disciples who gave it and kept giving it to the people. Not a single word about the people giving food to each other.

Only one miracle of Jesus is recorded in all four gospels–the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Even the miracles of raising the dead are not recorded in every Gospel. While sharing is a wonderful virtue, it just is not a supernatural miracle. Why was this miracle so important that every Gospel writer included it?
Because this was a prefiguring, on a small scale, of the Eucharistic sacrifice. This is the supernatural miracle of the multiplication of the body and blood of Christ for the faithful at every mass, every day of the year, around the whole wide world; the Mass, the source and summit of our Faith. John, purposely locates this story right before Jesus’ discourse on the necessity of eating His Flesh and drinking His blood in order to have Eternal life."

As you can see, this author is mainly concerned with this miracle as an historical fact whose significance is that IT HAPPENED just like it is described in the text, as if the supernatural powers of Jesus were their own justification. Is this really the true significance? Is Jesus the legitimate SON OF GOD, the Messiah, anointed of the Father, merely because he can mass produce anchovy pizza?

The following is from a sermon by Unitarian minister Davidson Loehr, 15 September 2002, First UU Church of Austin; it takes an even more frankly materialistic perspective than the preceding referenced homily:

"This story about the loaves and fishes wasn’t an eyewitness account. It was written many decades after Jesus died. He was hardly known at all during his life, and never gathered large crowds, certainly nothing like hundreds or thousands of people.

If you take courses in the Bible, you’ll most likely learn that the story is understood as a story not about Jesus but about the church. It’s found in the gospel of Matthew, the “church gospel.” It’s a story saying the way a few words of wisdom, a few bits of spiritual nourishment, can feed thousands is because the church multiplies the loaves and fishes through the participation of its members.

Both with real food and with spiritual food, a church is a gathering of people who spread the nourishment to others. Over three hundred of you experienced some of this here last night, at that lovely church party where we fed hundreds of people. The same happens with spiritual food. Here’s a church with one minister and one ministerial intern, yet there are more than a half dozen adult classes, covenant groups, Tai Chi classes, men’s breakfasts, a whole host of offerings, plus e-mail chats and all sorts of discussions here and with your family and friends during the week.

Now just describing it that way, it doesn’t feel very miraculous; it just feels like potlucks and various kinds of classes. But there is something else going on . . .
Jesus died around the year 30. The gospel of Matthew, where these stories are found, was written more than fifty years later. What had happened during that half-century was that as the church began to grow, people came to hear its messages and they felt fed. They felt a kind of hole inside of them being filled, and it was a feeling they’d never had before. They found a community of people who were also asking questions about who they were, who they were meant to be, and how they were supposed to live. They felt their lives were being taken more seriously, and at a more significant and personal level, than ever before. And as they got fed and filled up, they wanted to feed others with the overflow.

And so they did. History says the early church had common meals like we had last night, that they fed the hungry and cared for the poor, both the economically poor and the poor of spirit, just as we try to do. In the version of Christianity that “won,” Paul’s sect, communion is a magical act involving eating the body and blood of a savior. But in most of the Christian communities even by the end of the first century, it wasn’t about that at all. The Christian communion was simply a common meal, much like what today we call a potluck. Early Christian documents (The Didache) never mention any association with the body or blood of a savior.
The miracle of the loaves and fishes was that the people who had been fed brought their own loaves and fishes to feed others, until the food that had first fed a few people began to feed a few thousand people. What does this mean in simple, down-to-earth ways?

I’ve heard some of our people here in their 20′s and 30′s talk about the small groups, or covenant groups, they have joined here. Some have said that after a month or two in such a small group they find that they’ve learned how to know and feel close to a half-dozen other people on a personal level, and they’ve never once talked about how much money they made or what they did for a living. They find their lives being measured by a new currency, a kind of personal or spiritual currency, and it feeds them.

If it ends there, they’ve just been fed. But when they start a new covenant group, or invite friends to come join them so that others are being fed, something miraculous is happening."

As you may remember from a letter of mine written to Anchorage Christian School, the question of miracles is of little concern to me. I'll remind you of that earlier comment:

"I have be honest--I don't really CARE about the whole evolution controversy: my whole life is a stream of little miracles, one after the other, such that it is no problem for me to accept the possibility of creation in a moment of time. In a supernatural world, created by a supernatural God, what DIFFERENCE does it make whether six days is an allegorical expression or a literal expression? The miracle is there regardless of how you think about it, and it defies us to achieve any rational apprehension of it. Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and yet it takes no faith to see the world right there in front of us--right now. Thank you God!"

So you see, once again, the miracle is not what happened but what it means as an expression of the personality and benevolence of Jesus as a teacher and an example. Sorry, I still DON'T CARE, if the miracle was in the supernatural multiplication of fish, or in the sharing of strangers united in a common good. Either or both is equally miraculous in terms of the level of perceptible divine intervention. The point here is that we can participate in miracles every day, if we give God the credit and the glory for every single article and aspect of our paltry existences.

Furthermore, the miraculous quality of this story leads us into myth:

The following is taken from a C.S. Lewis-Review of Lord of the Rings:
"The value of myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity’… If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves. By dipping our endless perils, our anguish, and our joys in myth we see them more clearly."

So you see, to C.S. Lewis, making a miracle into an historical event does not enrich it with materialistic legitimacy, it "veils it in familiarity", as though the fact that something materially HAPPENED is the only way to make it true.

From C.S. Lewis' autobiography, Surprised by Joy (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1955), 236, we read the following:

"I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion — those narrow, unattractive jews, too blind to the mystical wealth of the Pagan world around them — was precisely the matter of great myths. If ever a myth had become a fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another, but nothing was simply alike. And no person was like the Person it depicted; as real, as recognizable, through all that depth of time... yet also so luminous, lit by a light from beyond the world, a god. But if a god — we are no longer polytheists — then not a god, but God. Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not "a religion," nor "a philosophy." It is the summing up and actuality of them all."

The way I see it, the problem with miracles is not that they occur, but that modern scientific man (I mean man from about 1600) finds it difficult for them (the miracles) to co-exist side by side with the materialistic truths we have come to know as "science". Thousands upon thousands of hours of thought and reams of paper have been devoted to the thankless job of reconciling the two, science and spirituality, once again, as if reconciling the two could somehow make either of them more real.

On this subject, Louis A. Markus makes these remarks in his article,
Why C.S. Lewis's books remain models for Christian apologists in the 21st century:

"The scientific community joins forces with the academy and the media to ridicule us for our belief in God's creation of the world, and perhaps to sigh together in disbelief that modern, educated men and women could accept as literal events the miracles recorded in the Bible. Certainly we've gotten better at answering such critiques; we tend to be less insular than we were in the past, and we sometimes manage to move from defensiveness to shaping the debate. But we're still fighting our battles on "their" turf, on a scientific and philosophical groundwork that was defined during the Enlightenment and all but completed by the end of the Victorian Age. Scientists such as Michael Behe have done a remarkable job at countering modernists' data, and law professor Philip Johnson has exposed the flaws in their logic, but we've yet to shift the playing field from the theories to the competing assumptions that underlie those theories. We've yet to educate ourselves, much less the culture, that many of the "givens" we take for granted (most notably, that the foundation of all true knowledge is material, empirical, and quantifiable) are as recent as they are unproven."

In conclusion, I have one more quote, this time from Myth Matters:
Thoughts on myth, spirit, and our times an interview with Joseph Campbell, by Tom Collins

"[Myth] puts you in touch with a plane of reference that goes past your mind and into your very being, into your very gut. The ultimate mystery of being and nonbeing transcends all categories of knowledge and thought. Yet that which transcends all talk is the very essence of your own being, so you're resting on it and you know it. The function of mythological symbols is to give you a sense of "Aha! Yes. I know what it is, it's myself." This is what it's all about, and then you feel a kind of centering, centering, centering all the time. And whatever you do can be discussed in relationship to this ground of truth. Though to talk about it as truth is a little bit deceptive because when we think of truth we think of something that can be conceptualized. It goes past that. . . .

Because the imagery that has to be used in order to tell what can't be told, symbolic imagery, is then understood or interpreted not symbolically but factually, empirically. It's a natural thing, but that's the whole problem with Western religion. All of the symbols are interpreted as if they were historical references. They're not. And if they are, then so what?"

Yeah, so what? The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fish, is a story of Jesus, vibrant with life and significance even after two thousand years. It inspires us to have faith in the benevolent generosity of God who continually supplies our needs to overflowing if we only look and see what we have been given.

Let us pray: Jesus, we stand before you once again in grateful obeisance and marvel at the rich gifts you shower on us out of your boundless bounty. Remind us always to be grateful for these gifts and mindful of their source. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

No Prophet is Accepted in His Own Country

No Prophet is Accepted in His Own Country

Today's sermon gets its title from the sad fact that man is less good at recognizing truth for what it is, than for what he thinks it is. The story of Jesus' rejection in His own hometown appears in all four canonic gospels AND in Thomas. As usual, the scripture tells the tale as well as it can be told:

Matthew 13:54-58
And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?
Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Mark 6:2-6
And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

Luke 4:14-24
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?
And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.
24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.

John 4:43-44
Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.

The "Scholars' Translation" of the Gospel of Thomas
by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer
31 Jesus said, "No prophet is welcome on his home turf; doctors don't cure those who know them."

In Wikipedia we find this summary:
In an account recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 6:1-6, Matthew 4:13-16, Luke 4:16-30) Jesus is strongly rejected by the people of his hometown, which Luke specifies as Nazareth. This incident takes place after the Temptation of Jesus in the Judean desert.

According to the Synoptics, shortly after Jesus has given his first set of teachings (and before John the Baptist is killed), Jesus returns to his hometown. On the sabbath, he is described as entering a synagogue and teaching. Luke states that Jesus performed a public reading of scripture, then claimed he was the fulfillment of a prophecy at Isaiah 61:1-2,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

although the other synoptics do not provide this detail. All the synoptics describe the crowd as negatively questioning the origin of his teachings (see also Mark 3), and criticising him for being a lowly carpenter's son (Matthew) or himself a carpenter (Mark). . .

Matthew states that Jesus didn't do many miracles there because of "their lack of faith". In a similar passage Mark says that Jesus was not able to do any miracles there except for healing a few sick people. Luke adds that Jesus recounted stories about how, during the time of Elijah, only a Sidonian woman was saved, and how, during the time of Elisha, though there were many lepers in Isreal, only a Syrian was cleansed. This, according to Luke, caused the people to attack Jesus and chase him to the top of a hill in order to try to throw Jesus off, though Jesus slips away. Some scholars conclude that the historical accuracy of Luke's version is questionable, in this particular case citing that there is no "cliff face" in Nazareth,[1] but this seems to be inaccurate. On the outskirts of Nazareth is the now ruined Church of Our Lady of the Fright, supposedly marking the spot where Mary saw Jesus being taken to a cliff by the congregation of the synagogue and felt fear on his account.

Luke 24:28-30
And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way, . . .

When I first moved to Alaska, I was talking with the lady at the DMV about all the weird addresses you get in Alaska: "Mile 87, 1st Green House on the left after the tree stump" is a legitimate Alaska address. She told me that the house was always known by the name of the previous owner; "That's the Smiths' house, even after the Joneses have moved in. Then when the Joneses move out and the Thompsons have moved in, it is still the Jones' house for several years." This is to show how people identify with the people and places in their communities, and how slowly habits change. Thus, it should be no surprise that the qualities of exceptional people should remain invisible to people who have known them all their lives. People from out of town are always better than locals. Somebody born and raised in Glennallen might become famous somewhere else, but would always remain, to the locals, that guy who lives in the Thompsons' green house.

Remember the sermon on the significance of parables: the idea was that parables work because people only relate to the surface features of things--it takes them a long time to penetrate to the heart of a thing, and in the meantime, their weak minds are prey to misunderstandings, distortions, and perversions of meaning. Locals have an even tougher time getting their minds around a new thing, because they have the weight of past thought patterns standing in their way, i.e., it is a lot easier to form new habits than to break old ones. If somebody is in the habit of thinking of you in a certain shallow way, it takes a hefty, earthquake-sized miracle to make them see you in a new way. Familiarity almost ALWAYS breeds contempt.

Here is a quote from Aesop's Fable--The Fox and the Lion
When first Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The Third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family was and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.  Moral of the story?  Familiarity breeds contempt.

Mark Twain is reputed to have said: 
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

This startling quote appears in Khalil Gibran's The Prophet:
Death most resembles a prophet who is without honor in his own land or a poet who is a stranger among his people.

Thomas Heywood, the poet, once wrote:
. . .Considering what is near as commonplace is a very widespread phenomenon.

Anonymous Translation from Greek Antipater of Sidon:
Seven cities warr’d for Homer being dead,
Who living, had no roofe to shroud his head.

A sermon delivered by Batsell Barrett Baxter on March 9, 1969 at the Hillsboro Church of Christ, Nashville, Tennessee,
A Window Into Christ’s Life
"Even though this passage is a disturbing one, we are grateful for its inclusion in the scriptures for a number of reasons. First of all, it gives us some insight into the pattern of Christ’s home life. He grew up in a typical Jewish fashion, learning the trade of his foster- father Joseph. He was surrounded in the family by four younger half-brothers and by at least two sisters, whose names are not known. Because of the fact that he is called both a carpenter and the son of a carpenter we can be reasonably sure that he was quite familiar with honest toil. He shared the common experiences of labor. It might also be indicated that his honest weekday work led quite consistently to worship on the sabbath. This has always been true throughout the world. Wherever men have worked at some honest, constructive, helpful work during the week they have been more likely to worship God on his day. On the other hand, slipshod weekday work alienates a man from God and often finds such a man not at worship on the Lord’s day. Jesus knew a home very much like our homes and evidently engaged in work very much like our work.

The real crisis reflected in this passage is in the dilemma which the people of Nazareth faced. Either they could cut Jesus down to ordinary size and reject his claims, or they could acknowledge his claims and accept him as Lord. They did the former, rather than the latter. It appears likely that their own pride was the basic factor in causing them to reject Jesus as the Son of God. What a tragedy this was! Think of what it meant for those who had played with him as a child, or had observed his growing from infancy into manhood, to know him so very well, yet in the deepest sense not know him at all. What a tragedy that those who had seen him day-in and day-out through the years and who had been so close to this unique event in history, the incarnation of God in human flesh, should be blinded to its significance. We can feel something of the tragedy in the words, “They were offended in him.” What a world of meaning there is in Christ’s sentence, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.”

Perhaps you also remember the newspaper cartoon which appeared on Lincoln’s birthday some years ago which showed a hunter talking to a local farmer. The hunter asked, “Any news down t’ th’ village, Ezra?” And the reply, “Nuthin’ a’ tall, nuthin’ a’ tall, ‘cept fer a new baby down t’ Tom Lincoln’s. Nuthin’ ever happens out here.”

. . . Robert Hichens, the noted painter of the sea, once sought a boy whose face might reflect the wonder of the sea. After searching he discovered that he could not find such a lad in one of the sea-coast towns of England. In order to find a face that reflected wonder in connection with the sea he had to choose a boy from the slums of London, a boy who had never seen the ocean before. Familiarity breeds contempt. A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and in his own house."

This last quotation hits close to home. As Alaskans, we live in the midst of one of the most glorious natural environments in the world, and yet it is so easy to stop appreciating this because we see it every day. I pray to God every day that this doesn't happen to me. Every week I travel for more than thirteen hours through this magnificent alpine landscape, and I always remind myself to really stop and SEE it--to see it and let it touch my soul is what MY Alaska experience is about. In a previous sermon I mentioned the following:

The rhythm of nature reveals the divine form in alternating guises. The supernatural intelligence synchronizes with the various beats of the pulse of nature; this intelligence pervades the outer world and our inner perception of it.
In other words, God has arranged for His omnipresent spiritual personality to appear, to those with eyes to see, in every material as well as every supernatural thing. Indeed, it is the wedding of the natural with the supernatural that enables our powers of perception to approach a coherent appreciation of God in His various manifestations.
Thus, to truly appreciate what we have, it must be taken away from time to time--not that anything is ever really taken away, it is merely transformed into another mode of divine expression, which, coming from the changeless Godhead, is still essentially the same. Our powers of appreciation must be stimulated by shifts in perspective that force us to see our world anew.

Without a self-conscious butt-kicking once in awhile, we can lose our sensitivity to so much. People are so lazy.

I myself have my own story along these lines, that touches on my chosen brand of professional failure:

When I was living in Santa Cruz California, I did a lot of professional playing in orchestras, string quartets, chamber groups and the like. The normal protocol in professional music-making is that in chamber groups a very democratic process is observed where everybody has a say, and no one person's opinion is more right than anybody else's; however, in orchestra playing such democratic give-and-take just creates confusion and anarchy, so the conductor is always the final authority. So, when I was a section player I was just one of the guys, willing to take orders, but when I was the conductor, I expected to be OBEYED. This was always a tough nut for the musicians who played alongside me so often, and then were asked to perform my instructions without question. One of the reasons I got to be such a demanding conductor was that, under these conditions, I rarely got what I wanted if I asked nicely.

Likewise, very often there were auditions for positions of authority with musical groups or educational institutions, and I never had a shot at any of them because talent from out of town was always considered to be better than the talent that resided right there in their midst.

The list goes on: did you know the first symphony written on American themes was written by a composer from Czechoslavakia? Antonin Dvorak visited the United States in 1892, and was astonished to find that American composers were not writing any nationalist music, so he wrote the New World Symphony to show them how it's done.

Now, why is this so? Why are people open to the truth when it comes from somewhere else? Let's ask a different question: are people really willing to accept the truth if it comes from somewhere else?

I see two alternate answers to this question:

A. People don't EVER really examine the truth of a thing with inner vision, but, rather, resonate with the outer trappings, the surface features, as C.S. Lewis would say, the "fantasy" features, one of which is certainly the presumed authority of whomever they heard it from. If they accept the reputation of the source as true, then they can be made to swallow any stupid crap that comes out of the famous mouth. Politicians have ruined so much of this country because people believe them because they are politicians. The same with radio personalities. The same with TV evangelists. Or (this is the other answer):

B. People listen closer to people they don't know because they haven't yet formed the habit of NOT listening; therefore, they are more likely to listen deeper and more critically, and glean the wheat from the chaff.

Either way, the bottom line is this: to get the most out of what you hear, you must do away with your prefabricated prejudices, and listen to every word that proceeds out of every mouth in your world, with attention and INTENTION. As I said a few weeks ago in my sermon on the New Wine:

. . . the choices we make must be based on the imperishability of the thing chosen--not its newness or oldness relative to sequential time, but the experience of newness in the old eternal verities of the heart.

Belief is a CHOICE. And for our choices to retain potency they must always include the effort of will that is able to test the outer veracity of the thing spoken with the inner index of truth; all outer meaning must be illuminated by the radiance of inner light. The formation of habits is essential to the formation of virtues, but habits of thought must constantly be scrutinized to make sure they have remained true in the flow of causal evolution. Again, from New Wine:

. . . we have to be able to redefine and re-articulate what we think, as new information comes our way; we have to be willing to accept new truth as truth on its own merits, not in the shadow of what we passionately believed YESTERDAY. We have to be willing to change what we think, because, no matter how you cut it, what we think is a dark, imperfect reflection of what we KNOW in our hearts.

Again from the Baxter sermon:
. . . Just here we might contrast this with the expectancy of Martin Luther’s schoolmaster who used to remove his hat when he met his class of small boys. Explaining, he pointed out that no one could know what might be included in the group. To use his own words he said there might be a “future mayor, or chancellor, or learned doctor!” Few people are so far-seeing or so wise.

I have a few linked illustrations of this I always drag out in my music classes:

First I remind the students of this quote from the James Stewart movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: he mentions how the light at the end of a tunnel always makes the world seem so new and grand, and that, "You should always look at life as though you were coming out of a tunnel."

Then I mention how when you practice the expression in a piece too much it can become labored and artificial. Sir Lawrence Olivier was doing Hamlet on Broadway and at one point he did this horrific scream. Halfway through the run of the play, a drama critic mentioned how effective that scream was, and Olivier made the mistake of reading the review, and after that he couldn't do the scream, because he got too self-conscious about it.

Then I tell how I used to play this piece, the Aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations, at my piano gig in Illinois. It is a very ornate piece, and the embellishments can be very affecting, but if you play them the same way every time it sounds false. So, every time I play this piece, including this one, I first remind myself to experience it as though I had never played it before. This keeps the music fresh and sincere--but, every time, I have to remember to say to myself, "You should always look at life as though you were coming out of a tunnel." Reminding yourself is the key--being totally conscious is the key.

You have to ask yourself, "If a prophet came to Glennallen, would I be the one to give him succor, or would I jump on the band wagon of short-sighted philistines who drove him out of town?"

The parable of the virgins is instructive here:

Matthew 25:1-13
 1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
 2And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
 3They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
 4But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
 5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
 6And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
 7Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
 8And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
 9But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
 10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
 11Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
 12But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
 13Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

The point here is that the truth may fall on you at any moment, and you must be ready to accept or reject it on the basis of its imperishability, not its reputation. Sometimes life offers you a boat you can miss only once.

Benjamin Cardozo says:
The prophet and the martyr do not see the hooting throng. Their eyes are fixed on the eternities.

So must our eyes be fixed on the eternal in all we think and all we speak, in order for us to sing in tune with the angels when they come to carry us away.

Let us Pray: Jesus illumine our vision with divine radiance, so that when you next knock on our door we do not turn you away. Amen.

Glennallen, AK
July 10, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Be Not Afraid--Only Believe

The Miracle of the Bleeding Woman, and the Miracle of Jairus' Daughter are examples of an intercalation: a story within a story. Together they create a unity with a single point. I'll be honest with you, when I started this sermon I was not interested in the Bleeding Woman, OR Jairus' Daughter; I was interested in one thing only: Jesus's saying, "Be not afraid, only believe." And He only says it in two out of the three gospels! In Mark He says, "Be not afraid," In Luke He says, "Fear not," then, "Weep not," and in Matthew he doesn't say it at all. And yet the overwhelming message I get from this passage is the idea that faith can conquer all worldly troubles and tribulations, particularly, and especially, fear.

Here are the scriptures:

Matthew 9:18-26
18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.
19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.
20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
23 And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,
24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.
25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.

Mark 5:21-43
21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him; and he was nigh unto the sea.
22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jai'rus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
23 and besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
24 And Jesus went with him. And much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
35While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
36As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
37And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
38And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
39And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
40And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
41And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
42And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
43And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

Luke 8:40-56
40And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.
41And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house:
42For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.
43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
49While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.
50But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.
51And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden.
52And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
53And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
54And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
55And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.
56And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.

One of this story's most compelling attributes is its humanity: it is really a beautifully, humanly told story; there are so many lovely narrative details that put the story in a real time and place: in the street, Jesus says, "Who touched me?", and later at Jairus' house He says, "Give that girl somethin' ta eat!" All the characters have their own unique attitudes, and their own biased take on the action: we have the poor sick woman whose disease has made her an outcast of society for 12 years (she has spent her whole fortune on doctors who can't do anything, she doesn't want faith, she just wants a cure); there's the poor father whose little girl is dying (he's pretty speechless and helpless bewildered and overwhelmed by the situation); and, of course, there are the onlookers, the crowd, the mob, (the extras in this Otto Preminger movie), who first chastise Jairus for bothering the Master when it is already too late, and then the mourners who mock Jesus' confidence that the girl is merely asleep; finally Jesus Himself plays a complicated role, trying to promote acts of faith in His followers, but always, at first, trying to keep His miracles a secret.

Everybody, even Jesus, wants something. Everybody is frustrated at not getting what they want: the bleeding woman is afraid of not getting healed, Jairus is afraid of losing his daughter, the crowd is afraid of not being right about what they are nosing around in. (Notice that, when Jesus proceeds to Jairus' house he gives the crowd the slip and just takes a reduced delegation with him (Peter, and James, and John the brother of James). The good news is that the main protagonists, the bleeding woman and Jairus, both get what they want, and they both get it through two slightly different kinds of faith.

The bleeding woman gets healed by slipping in the back door. Let's call her kind of faith "closet faith." In matters of the heart, there is no sin in hiding your love away. This woman has suffered enormously and all she wants is relief, she doesn't want to make a spectacle of herself in front of people, especially in case it doesn't work. So, sneaking in the back door, she robs Jesus of His virtue and all is well--EXCEPT that that is not good enough for Jesus. He demands to make a public event of this affair by exposing the woman to the crowd. Being put on the spot and possibly fearing that the healing will be taken away from her, she declares herself to the crowd allowing Jesus to make His magnanimous pronouncement, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." Thus, what might have been a private matter between the woman and Jesus is made a public matter. Jesus tries to deny taking responsibility for the miracle, by attributing it to faith, but I'm sure no one in that street is buying it.

On the other hand, Jairus comes publicly to Jesus, before the same crowd that has witnessed the bleeding woman miracle, and makes a fool of himself by asking for help when it is clearly too late. Instead of making a big deal of His coming, Jesus sneaks in Jairus' back door, so to speak, raises the girl from the dead and begs everybody to keep quiet about it.

Why the reversal? Why a flamboyant display on one hand, and a cloak and dagger on the other? Perhaps it was just that raising the dead was a bigger deal than curing someone's blood disease--
Interesting sidebar: In the Oscar Wilde play, Salome, the raising of Jairus' daughter is actually mentioned to Herod Antipas, and the king makes a proclamation FORBIDDING such shenanigans: ". . . thus saith Herod the King, 'I will not suffer Thee to raise the dead.' To change water into wine, to heal the lepers and the blind . . . He may do these things if He will. I say nothing against these things. In truth I hold it a kindly deed to heal a leper. But no man shall raise the dead . . . It would be terrible if the dead came back."

As I say, perhaps it was just that raising the dead was a bigger deal than curing someone's blood disease, but it might simply have to do with one of Jesus' main preoccupations--that the great shall be brought low and the humble shall be raised on high. Perhaps he approves of the quality of the bleeding woman's faith more than the noble and distinguished Jairus. Either way, they were both humbled by Jesus' power, but one was clearly more humbled than the other.

I also get a little Thomas vibe off this story. Remember when Jesus returns from the dead Himself, and Thomas has to stick his hand in the Master's side before he believes?
John 20:29
"Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed."

Faith from afar is indeed one of the skills Jesus wishes to teach his disciples. Perhaps one of the messages of the story is that faith from any distance, near or far, works its magic on the world, but faith in the unseen is a more potent and mysterious brand of faith.

Now, this week's Wikipedia quotation:

"Donahue and Harrington state that this episode shows that "faith, especially as embodied by the bleeding woman, can exist in seemingly hopeless situations".

The combined stories have been used as an example of intercalation, with one incident inserted within another, and of contrast comparing the older woman with a 12-year ailment and the 12-year-old girl. Michael Keene states that there is a link between Jairus and the woman: "The link between them is faith since both Jairus and the bleeding woman showed great faith in Jesus."
Walvoord and Zuck state that: "What appeared to be a disasterous [sic] delay in the healing of the woman actually assured the restoration of Jairus' daughter. It was providentially ordered to test and strengthen Jairus' faith." Lang also states that: "This delay would serve both to try and to strengthen the faith of Jairus."

Now let's talk about fear. The Bible mentions two kinds of fear--the good kind (fear of God) and the bad kind (fear of anything else):

Psalm 111:10
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

Jeremiah 5:22
"Should you not fear me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?"

Proverbs 19:23
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm.

Proverbs 14:27
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Thus, fear of God is a good thing. The Hebrew words, yirah , yare , and pachad mean reverent fear, terror, or dread, normally translated simply fear. In the commentaries I read, there is some disagreement about the quality of fear of God one should have, but the term "reverence" definitely is part of the scenario.

There is one aspect of this definition, though, that points out a certain quality of the word "fear" that ought to be emphasized: fear always means putting something before something else; in other words, fear is a prioritizer; fear of God puts God before all other things while fear of anything else puts that thing before God. Emotional resonance aside, this is the main thing wrong with fear--it puts worldly considerations before God, particularly, and especially, because it denies God's ability and willingness to come to our aid. Fear gives power over us to things that ought not to have power over us. Moreover, fear is self-centered because it declares that our small-minded vision of the truth is more correct than the big picture that spiritual vision always has in view.

One of the main tip-offs as to the carnal nature of fear is its dedication to TIME. Fear is always embedded in some faulty time sense. Hear, once again, C.S. Lewis' Screwtape expound on the subject:

"The humans live in time, but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present--either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the Past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time--for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men's affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the Future. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead."

Here, Screwtape is telling us two things:

1.) that fear lives in the future, not the present, and
2.) that it is possible to choose which time dimension you want to live in.
I say this because free will changes things,
causes things, and
chooses things.

The quality of choice can create different futures because spirit exists outside of time. Therefore, Anyman can change his destiny by attending to the spiritual dimension of his nature. THEREFORE, the man whose attention is fixed on eternity never has any fear of the future because his will and God's will are the harmonized in divine charity, which can never do ill. The present is always more beneficent than our fears of it. You say, "What about the pains we feel in the present? Those suck pretty bad!" Yes, life brings all kinds of pain and suffering, but just think for a minute--the physical pains we endure as human animals are never really as bad as the psychic pains we feel as spiritual beings. True, the pains of the past can plant the seeds of fear for a terrible or worse future, but, think about it, the FEAR of pain is almost always worse than the actual physical pain. Physical pains come and go, the pain of the past is gone, but people who live in fear are in CONSTANT excruciating pain that is ten times more uncomfortable than the physical pain it is dreading.

And remember that some of our pains of the present are God's will and have a benevolent purpose; sometimes the current pain is God's substitute for some potentially greater pain down the road.

Psalm 23:4 says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou are with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

The rod and staff of Jesus are NOT always comfortable, but, as human animals we must accept a certain amount of pain as the price of admission into the world; and, if we submit to the divine plan for our lives, the pain is never more than we can bear, and, moreover, it is never escaped nor reduced by being fearful of it. Over the years I developed the habit of looking for the positive purpose behind every apparently bad thing that happens to me--and I always find it. Admittedly, this is a lot like living in the future, but a future supported by faith brings even our hopes into the present moment, a present that links us with eternity.

Matthew 10:26 says:
Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

What is hidden from us now must eventually be revealed; and what is revealed is God's irresistible Will expressing Itself in the mundane dimension. If you put your faith in God's vision of the future instead of your own, you are protected from all doubt, because you know that God loves you. Faith in the future is faith in the eternal now. Fear of the future is fear without hope.

And this fear is so unnecessary. Many people live in fear because they are convince that the world is a crumby place and fear is their only defense against a threatening future. Yes, the mundane world offers us trials in legions that sometimes seem overwhelming. And yet, fixing out attention on the eternal not only reduces the magnitude of our momentary pains to insignificance, it reduces the actual pain itself to something we can manage. With spiritual aid, we can endure anything. Without it, we can endure practically nothing.

Listen to all these words of encouragement from the Old Testament:

Psalm 56:3-4
3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.
4 In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?

Isaiah 41:10
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.

Thus, fear not only does us harm, it comes between us and the work we ought to be doing in our lives. Every single created life has a purpose and meaning. Fear just diverts our life's energies from their proper course into a carnal cesspool of vain and pointless agitation. Furthermore it makes us even more vulnerable to Satan's power than we already are.

From The Joyful Heart (Watchman Nee 主僕倪柝聲弟兄) we read:
"Fear is Satan's Calling Card
'Neither give place to the devil." - Ephesians 4:27'
"Without some foothold in us, Satan cannot operate. Hence, his first tempting of us will be aimed at securing some ground; the next will be an assault from the ground he has secured.
One very large territory, perhaps the largest, that he operates from is fear. 'Fear is Satan's calling card,' a beloved counselor used to say to me. Whenever you accept his calling card, you will receive a visit from him. Fear him and he comes; fear not and he is held at a distance. No child of God need be fearful of Satan, even though he roar as a lion and his teeth are drawn. Within us is One who by demonstration is greater than he."

Hear these verses from the New Testament:

Matthew 10:31
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Hebrews 13:6
So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can Man do to me?"

2 Corinthians 4:7-11
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

1 Peter 3:13-14
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."

I love this verse from 2nd Timothy. Here are three different versions, each contributes something to the meaning:

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7
God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

First "discipline" then "self-control" then "sound mind". I love that declension. And there is no contradiction, because all three terms refer to some kind of mental health and control--will. Indeed, in this verse, will and sound mind are equated, and for a reason: it MUST be admitted that fear makes us crazy. We have to remember that we are spiritual beings; our primary reality, even distracted as we are by the evolutions of the physical plane, is SPIRITUAL; getting stuck in a quagmire of worldly fears is contrary to our innate spiritual nature. Thus, the paradoxical nature of fear can cause our whole mental apparatus to burn out, and start feeding us lies, and more lies, until our very perception of physical reality is distorted out of all recognition. Crazy people are always sure they are right about everything. And crazy people are afraid. I don't care how right these people are, I NEVER WANT TO LIVE IN THAT DANGEROUS WORLD THAT HAUNTS THE EXISTENCE OF FEARFUL PEOPLE!!!

Now hear John:

1 John 4:18
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Love is the key. Love of God, love for others, love of self.

1st Corinthians 13:13:
"And now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the chiefest of these is love".

The faith of the bleeding woman healed her own affliction. The faith of Jairus, strengthened by the test Jesus put him through, brought his daughter back from the dead. But it was the divine love behind these acts of faith that brought the miraculous idea into physical reality, and it will be love that heals all our earthly hurts. Love soothes the ravages of difficult times, love heals the broken heart, love raises us out of our mundane circle into bliss.

Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for bringing such a staggering example of divine love to us. Remind us that, in this world of transient illusion, there can be nothing to fear if only we can fix our puny powers of attention on the eternal now of your heavenly presence. Amen.

Glennallen, AK
June 19, 2011