John’s Farewell Discourses 1

29 04 2008

My Spiritual Director has suggested that in addition to looking at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” I also pick a section of Scripture to do a bit of lectio divina, so in keeping with the Lectionary Cycle for Easter I have chosen the Farewell Discourses from the Gospel of John. When I write lectionary reflections I usually use a few texts from my personal library to help pull some thoughts together. By doing lectio I have basically taken then text from Gospel, read the New Revised Standard Version as well as the Message, and distilled my own thoughts from what spoke out of Scripture. So, in other words, what follows is the Reverend boy … raw. I have read this as if I am the recipient. I have tried to put myself in the place of the disciples who are listening to Jesus’ final speech before his Passion.

NRSV text can be found here. Text from the Message can be found here.

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Faith in Community 3

27 04 2008

Now that we have examined a life or corporate worship and prayer as provided by the Daily Office and integrating it into our daily lives, Bonhoeffer then turns to what it means to have time alone with God.

The Day Alone

People seek to be alone because they are discouraged by other people or even Christians may be discouraged by other Christians.  Others might find themselves to be so lonely that they hope to find solace in the company of other people or other Christians.  In both cases, disappointment on some level will set in.

Real Christian community is not a place of like-minded folks.  If you are using community as a means of escape, you are misusing that community for the sake of diversion.  In fact, you may not be seeking community at all, but a distraction from the day.

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Faith in Community 2b

27 04 2008

Continuing where we left off in Bonhoeffer’s Life Together we finish the second chapter called “The Day with Others”

The Days Work

Work is of necessity part of our life. Consequently, neither work nor prayer should hinder each other. Dietrich goes on to suggest that where each have their proper place in life, they are not mutually exclusive, but rather inseparable.

Work is about the the physical world of things, of “its.” Our challenge as Christians is to break through the “it” of things and into the “Thou” of God in our work. Prayer and work eventually become more and more integrated into our day, and it is only then we can really know what it means to “pray without ceasing” as it says in the New Testament. When we can find or see God in our work, so then prayer becomes a part of work. “Every word, every work, every labor of a Christian becomes a prayer, no in the unreal sense of a constant turning away from the task, but in a real breaking through the hard ‘it’ to the gracious ‘Thou.'” (p71)

Work will always be called work (there’s a punchline to a joke which says “it’s called work for a reason!”) but our patience and energy will increase the more we have integrated prayer into our daily lives.

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Un-effing believable

24 04 2008

This kind of thing happens only in the South ….

Courtesy of the Associated Press

Only in the South ....

Florida lawmakers consider offering drivers a specialty license plate with a Christian cross
JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press Writer
AP
Updated: 4:18 AM ET Apr 24, 2008

Florida drivers can order more than 100 specialty license plates celebrating everything from manatees to the Miami Heat, but one now under consideration would be the first in the nation to explicitly promote a specific religion.

The Florida Legislature is considering a specialty plate with a design that includes a Christian cross, a stained-glass window and the words “I Believe.”

Rep. Edward Bullard, the plate’s sponsor, said people who “believe in their college or university” or “believe in their football team” already have license plates they can buy. The new design is a chance for others to put a tag on their cars with “something they believe in,” he said.

If the plate is approved, Florida would become the first state to have a license plate featuring a religious symbol that’s not part of a college logo. Approval would almost certainly face a court challenge.

The problem with the state manufacturing the plate is that it “sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state” and, second, gives the “appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

The “I Believe” license plate still has a way to go before it reaches the roads. The proposal is part of a package of license plates being debated in the Senate and ready for a floor vote. In the House, the bill that would authorize the plate has passed one committee 8-2. The Legislature’s annual session ends May 2.

Some lawmakers say the state should be careful. Rep. Kelly Skidmore said she is a Roman Catholic and goes to Mass on Sundays, but she believes the “I Believe” plate is inappropriate for the government to produce.

“It’s not a road I want to go down. I don’t want to see the Star of David next. I don’t want to see a Torah next. None of that stuff is appropriate to me,” said Skidmore, a Democrat who voted against the plate in committee. “I just believe that.”

Florida’s specialty license plates require the payment of additional fees, some of which go to causes the plates endorse.

One plate approved in 2004, displaying the motto “Family First,” funds Sheridan House, which provides family programs but also sees its purpose as “sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bible” and “information about the Christian faith.”

The bill creating the “I Believe” plate would also create an “In God We Trust” plate to benefit the children of soldiers and law enforcement officers whose parents have died. It also could face opposition as a violation of the separation of church and state.

An Indiana plate with the same “In God We Trust” phrase has been challenged by the ACLU, but the courts so far have deemed it legal, arguing that it is comparable with other specialty plates.

This isn’t the first time a Florida license plate design has created religious controversy. In 1999, lawmakers approved a bright yellow “Choose Life” license plate with a picture of a boy and girl. It raises money for agencies that encourage women to not have abortions.

That generated a court battle, with abortion rights groups saying the plate had religious overtones. But it was ruled legal, and about a dozen states now have similar plates.

A “Trust God” license plate was proposed in Florida in 2003. It would have given money to Christian radio stations and charities, but was never produced.

Earlier this year, a legislative committee was shown an image of a “Trinity” plate that showed a Christlike figure with his arms outstretched. It and two other plates were voted down.

The group asking for the “I Believe” plate, the Orlando-based nonprofit Faith in Teaching Inc., supports faith-based schools activities. The plate would cost drivers an extra $25 annual fee.

Approving the plate could open the state to legal challenges, according to Josie Brown, who teaches constitutional law at the University of South Carolina. And it’s not certain who would win.

“It would be an interesting close call,” Brown said.

Simon, of the ACLU, said approval of the plate could prompt many other groups to seek their own designs, and they could claim discrimination if their plans were rejected. That could even allow the Ku Klux Klan to get a plate, Simon said.

Bullard, the plate’s sponsor, isn’t sure all groups should be able to express their preference. If atheists came up with an “I Don’t Believe” plate, for example, he would probably oppose it.

Comment from the Reverend boy: No Comment

Comment from the Personal Atheist: I’ll take the “I Don’t Believe” plate.





Faith in Community Part 2a

21 04 2008

Continuing along with our lectio divina of sorts with Bonhoeffer’s work “Life in Community,” dear old Dietrich leads us through parts of the Daily Office in his second Chapter, “The Day with Others.”

Chapter 2: The Day with Others

The Day’s Beginning

In the Old Testament, the day began at evening, a time of expectation.  In the New Testament, the shift of the beginning of the day to dawn, seen as a time of fulfilment where we remember the Resurrection.  Sin and Death are defeated and new life and salvation is given.  Today, we have no fear of night.  We would actually be hard pressed to find a time when we truly experience darkness.  What if we were to recapture the sense of wonder when day broke after a long night?

Our common life using the office begins with common worship at the beginning of the day.  We should not begin immediately thinking of our work and what we have to do or how we are going to get through the daily grind.  If we get up early out of a sense of worry and there being way too much to do, that is in Dietrich’s word, “unprofitable” (p44).  Rising early for the love of God is the practice of our spiritual forebears such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Jesus.  Morning devotions today vary according to the needs of the community.

The Secret of the Psalter

The use of psalms have had special significance since ancient times.  It is not only God’s word, but our own prayers.  There are psalms we can identify with and those we can’t.  Our challenge is to live into the entire psalter.  It is a book of prayer, if not our owns then someone else’s, but all are lifted up to God.  It is an example of a truly inclusive book.  Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of humanity as well as divinity, is able to pray the psalter in all of its beauty and ugliness.  Prayer means “praying according to the word, the basis of promises.” (p47)

Do we dare pray what are known as the imprecatory psalms, the psalms of vengence?  We dare not by ourselves, but we can pray them in and through Christ who suffered wrath so his enemies could go free.  We dare not call ourselves innocent or righteous on our own except when we pray them out of the heart of Jesus, who is the only one of us who was truly innocent.

What about psalms of suffering?  We do not know the depth of suffering portrayed in its verses.  But the same principle applies here for Christ also suffered for everyone, so we can pray the psalms of suffering through him and in him … and with each other.

The psalms teach us to prayer as a fellowship, for our own individual prayers are but a “minute fragment of the whole prayer of the Church.” (p49) Take Psalm 5, for instance.  There are clearly two voices present, which serve to remind us that no one ever prays alone.  Dietrich suggests that the entire psalter could be summed up in the Lords Prayer.  Even there, there is no “I” or “me” only “us.”

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News from Jerusalem

18 04 2008

Hattip to Yard[D]og, who just so happens to have one or two things in common with SIR … (he who has ears, let him hear … )

From Haaretz.com

Mayor to raise funds for E. J’lem Arabs to block Hamas

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski is planning to enlist world Jewry in a fund-raising drive for East Jerusalem’s Arabs, in a bid to counter Hamas influence in local schools. The money will be used mainly for educational projects in the east of the capital, where an acute classroom shortage means many pupils end up in schools identified with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“It should be a national imperative that every East Jerusalem child has access to a state school,” Lupolianski said Thursday .

Jerusalem officials said the drive is the first such attempt to enlist world Jewry to help the capital’s Arab community.

“The state should finance schools. But we’re losing many pupils because we lack hundreds of classrooms. Consequently, the pupils go to schools supervised by Fatah and Hamas instead. We may see the outcome in the years to come,” Lupolianski said.

The mayor’s first goal is to raise contributions for a science magnet school in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood for 1,000 outstanding students.

“As mayor of Jerusalem, which is also Israel’s largest Arab city, It is my duty to provide schools for the children of 250,000 Arab residents,” Lupolianski said.

Jerusalem lobby chair MK Colette Avital (Labor), who is collaborating with Lupolianski, has raised $3 million from Jewish British donors for schools in East Jerusalem.

“East Jerusalem’s population is largely peace-seeking and loyal, but given the state of education, we have no assurance that this will be so in the future,” he said.

“Our schools in the east part of the city are in demand due to their high standards. Their graduates contribute to Israel’s economy,” he said.

Municipal officials said that most Jewish communities prefer donating to “Zionist” projects.

Lupolianski has put together a portfolio to present to Jewish communities abroad during his next fund-raising trip next month. He is expected to tell them that building schools in East Jerusalem is an important national-Zionist task in order to preserve the city’s image and maintain good relations with the Arab community.

Avital said Thursday that she tried to advance East Jerusalem’s education system in various ways, but encountered numerous obstacles.

Three new schools are being opened in East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud and Umm Lison neighborhoods, part of the city’s NIS 66 million investment in new classrooms for the 2009-2010 school year. However, this will not be enough to meet the growing demand created by a high birthrate and migration from the territories.

This sounds like a very good thing. The violence done by every side to every side over there is horrendous and for the mayor to of Jerusalem to reach out in this way is very laudable. I hope it has the desired result and becomes one of many steps to reconciliation.

When I explained this to my Personal Atheist, who is Israeli (in fact he goes to Tel Aviv for 10 days starting Sunday), he was a little wary saying these things tend to backfire. To paraphrase his comments …

In the 80s, Israel worked really hard to undermine the influence of the PLO in the territories by doing similar things, and they needed some local folks on the ground, which would have presumably given credibility to the Israelis. The organization they used was religious leaning but the leaders were fundamentalists. This caused some concerned, but they figured that was better than using the PLO which was considered a terrorist group. The organization the Israeli’s used? Hamas.

So it could be said that Israel created Hamas, just like it could be said that the US created Al-Quaida.

Hopefully things will turn out better in this venture …





Confession

18 04 2008

I was a little naughty yesterday.

I scheduled some doctors appointments and took it as a sick day.  The weather was GLOH-REE-US!

Went to the dermatologist at 930, then stopped in a cafe in SoHo and watched everyone going about their day.

Had lunch in Chelsea and a nice glass of wine.

Went to my physical.

Window shopped.

Back to a cafe in the West Village where I enjoyed a martini.

Then I couldn’t resist so I sent a text message to my Personal Atheist and Beefeater, who were slaving away in the office saying I was enjoying said martini (grey goose, 2 olives, absolutely no vermouth)

I am so going to hell.