Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Proximity

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

The kind of intimacy Jesus shares with people, the kind that was and is transformational, only comes with close proximity. It is not possible screamed from across the road or shouted from a pulpit or laid out in a carefully researched dissertation. It cannot be gleaned from a clever meme or a spirited Twitter exchange or a hermeneutic debate. It only comes through the redemptive relationship forged when we are willing to sit across from people who believe differently than we believe, willing to get close enough and stay long enough to see both their unique humanity and their inherent divinity. This is how we love people well; it is how we put flesh on our faith; and it is how we follow so close behind the rabbi Jesus that we are covered in his dust. The only way the table can really expand is when we, like Christ, are willing to take our place across from those who appear to be or even desire to be our adversaries. Jesus’ call to embrace love as theology isn’t merely a surface, sugary platitude. It’s the most difficult, radical, time-consuming work of reflecting Christ to the world around us. In the end, the thing that glorifies God isn’t our belief system, but how we treat those who don’t share that belief system. We can be people of deep conviction without needing to pick up a bullhorn.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 121

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 25, 2020

The Way of Jesus

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

The ultimate truth that Jesus revealed by becoming a scapegoat and then offering forgiveness is that forgiveness is the best, most successful, and most divine way of creating peace in times of conflict. Since most conflict is generated through an ever-increasing cycle of violence and retaliation, no party in a conflict is ever truly without fault. Except Jesus. He alone, among all human scapegoats in the history of the world, could have justifiably retaliated against humanity for the crimes committed against Him. Yet instead of retaliatory vengeance, when Jesus was on the cross, He turned to God and prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Accepting forgiveness for what we have done and extending forgiveness to others is God’s only divinely-sanctioned mechanism for creating peace and restoring relationships in times of conflict. The way of Jesus, which is the way of God, is the way of peace through forgiveness.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 220-221

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 19, 2020

Always Merciful

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Scripture testifies that the cross did not begin the outpouring of divine mercy to the world. It has been present from the beginning and endures forever. No one threw a switch to turn off its flow, though one might think so, given the way preaching and teaching have labeled the cross as the event that triggered divine forgiveness. Gracious and compassionate, God has always been acting mercifully.

The cross of Christ brings this infinitely merciful love into a different kind of personal intimacy with the pain and death of creatures. In view of Jesus’ death the words of divine solidarity at the burning bush, “I know well what they are suffering,” can be announced with unexpected resonance. Together with the resurrection from which it cannot be separated, the cross anchors divine saving love historically in the flesh of the world’s evolving life. In its light we see that saving mercy accompanies all creatures in the world’s beautiful, terrible journey through time to final fulfillment. The grace of this presence empowers life to emerge anew, rebuilds broken relationships, forgives wretched human sin, and embraces all the dead into their future, promised but unknown.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 223-224

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 22, 2020

Waking Up

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

Religion, at its best, helps people to bring this foundational divine love into ever-increasing consciousness. In other words, it’s more about waking up than about cleaning up. Early-stage religion tends to focus on cleaning up, which is to say, determining who meets the requirements for moral behavior and religious belief. But Jesus threw a wrench into this whole machinery by refusing to enforce or even bother with what he considered secondary issues like the Sabbath, ritual laws, purity codes, membership requirements, debt codes, on and on. He saw they were only “human commandments,” which far too often took the place of love. (See especially Matthew 15:3, 6-9.) Or as he puts it in another place, “You hypocrites, you pay your tithes . . . and neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and good faith” (Matthew 23:23). Cleaning up is a result of waking up, but most of us put the cart before the horse.

It’s no wonder his fellow Jews had to kill Jesus, just as many Catholics would love to eliminate Pope Francis today. Once you wake up, as Jesus and Pope Francis have, you know that cleaning up is a constant process that comes on different timetables for different people, around many different issues, and for very different motivations. This is why love and growth demand discernment, not enforcement. When it comes to actual soul work, most attempts at policing and conforming are largely useless. It took me most of my life as a confessor, counselor, and spiritual director to be honest and truly helpful with people about this. Mere obedience is far too often a detour around actual love. Obedience is usually about cleaning up, love is about waking up.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 72-73

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 6, 2020

Door Openers

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I would like to love other people enough to go to extraordinary measures to open the door and invite them in, rather than passively allow the door to close, go on my way and keep them out. Jesus said, “I am the gate. . . . All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them” (John 10:7).

Jesus encouraged his followers to become door openers rather than gatekeepers. He hoped that once people experienced the goodness of God, the love of God, and the grace of God, they would reside in it and be free to share it with others. This is why people who were sinners, outcasts, and poor loved Jesus and felt such joy in his presence. They were unaccustomed to being loved by someone who was talking about the ways of God. They knew that Jesus valued them, that he saw their worth, not one that they had earned or instilled within themselves. He saw their intrinsic value, the image of God that was imprinted upon their lives.

How does one become a door opener who leads others to the joy of Christ rather than a gatekeeper who judges others? Observing Jesus enables us to see how to value a vulnerable person.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 99-100

Photo: Festung Hohenwerfen, August 1998

God’s Way to Peace

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Forgiveness is God’s way to peace, and it is the way revealed by Jesus through everything He said and did.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 220

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 1, 2020

Following Jesus’ Model

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

We have in Jesus the greatest model of compassion and kindness ever to walk the planet, and that needs to count for something. It needs to influence how we as followers of Christ interact with people we disagree with, or we end up simply being clanging cymbals, a loud, loveless noise in the ears of those around us, and feeling justified in doing so. We need to figure out how to live without the bullhorn and to find that quiet place of civility that Jesus finds so many times with so many different people. The idea of universal family or kinship is at the core of the Christian faith too, of all people made in the image of God, all creations of the same Creator, all equally flawed, all equally worthy of compassion. Our story is that every person is the neighbor we are called to love as ourselves.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 120

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

Hands and Heart of Love

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Throughout the Bible, God calls people to do difficult things. Keeping the Great Commandment to love God fully and to love your neighbor as yourself may be one of the most difficult. While our innate tendencies to self-centered actions and responses are a part of the complexity, another part of our difficulty is found in the remarkable example of love expressed in Jesus’ life that we are called to follow. Jesus shows us the hands and heart of love. When you read the Gospels and picture Jesus as he lived and carried out his ministry, you can see his hands at work. He offers a hand up for the paralyzed man healed by his touch. He puts a hand out to the woman caught in adultery and puts her on her feet with an experience of mercy and new life based on her future decisions rather than her past mistakes. Jesus’ expressive hands move when he shares his wisdom with a crowd about life with God through a parable.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 114

Photo: Wildeshausen, Germany, May 2004

The Scapegoated God

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

The fact that the lamb is slain since the foundation of the world reveals that this is the way God has always been. He has always been an innocent Lamb who allows Himself to get slain for the sake of others. He is the premier scapegoat of humanity, but as a perfectly innocent scapegoat, it is best to describe Him as a Lamb. As the scapegoated God, Jesus identifies with all scapegoated, sacrificial victims since the foundation of the world. When we kill others in God’s name, Jesus is right there, with the sacrificial victim, being killed alongside the one we condemn, accuse, cast out, expel, dehumanize, and kill, all in the name of God. Through this revelation, we once again see that we can no longer scapegoat others in God’s name, for God is not a God who blames, accuses, and condemns, but is a God who loves, forgives, and accepts. And He calls us to do the same.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 206-207

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 16, 2020

Connection, not Separation

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Jesus seemed to want connection with those around him, not separation. He touched human bodies deemed unclean as if they were themselves holy: dead little girls, lepers, menstruating women. People of his day were disgusted that Jesus’ disciples would eat with unwashed hands, and they tried to shame him for it. But he responded, “It is not what enters the mouth that makes one unclean but what comes out of it that defiles.” He was loyal to the law, just not at the expense of the people.

Jesus kept violating boundaries of decency to get to the people on the other side of that boundary, those who’d been wounded by it, those who were separated from the others: the motherless, the sex workers, the victims, and the victimizers. He cared about real holiness, the connection of things human and divine, the unity of sinners, the coming together of that which was formerly set apart.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 26-27

Photo: Rhododendron Park, Bremen, Germany, May 16, 2004