There seems to be a lot of confusion these days in and about certain religions, perhaps my own particularly at this juncture in the limitations of place and time. Just a few thoughts from those a million miles better than I; who are convicting and (I hope) instructing me. We of a certain faith don’t need to fear national changes as much as we should fear actually doing what Christ asks us to do if we want to follow Him. I know it scares the “American” right out of me!
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:21–25)
Bishop Dom Helder Camara: “When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked WHY people are hungry, they called me a communist.”
Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”
Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
“The Lord has told you what is good. He has told you what he wants from you: Do what is right to other people. Love being kind to others. And live humbly, trusting your God.” (Micah 6:8)
I am (sadly) curious about what the “Christian” lemmings’ take / excuse is on the latest news that Donald Trump, in order to treat his Covid 19 symptoms, took a drug that is made from aborted fetus cells. Anyone? Anyone ready to look at the definition of hypocrisy, now?
I speak here from what I hope is an evolving, growing Judeo-Christian Worldview and a belief system that reaches out to all forms and belief systems of truth, light, joy, love, and peace. However, every now and then, I simply cannot remain silent when I see so many, at least in my country, America, claiming a type of “Christianity” that I don’t recognize as either Biblical or God-loving. We used to do these things called “testimonies”, in the churches I grew up in. Here is a little one of mine for today.
If I claim a Judeo-Christian worldview, it is not about whom I support, but WHY I support them, for we believe God looks at the heart. And for the one who claims either Judaism or Christianity, there should be only one “WHO” that matters — our Parent/ Creator/ God. My choices about anything and everything are important because of what that says about my walk, my religion, my soul, my God. As Jesus makes tragically clear: “What does it profit me if I gain the world, but lose my soul”? The only WHO that matters is Whom I say Christ is. The only WHO that matters is the God of LOVE of the whole world, the whole planet, the whole of Us, from the least to the (temporarily) greatest.
I will once more recommend a deep dive into the actual words of The Christ that many of us have claimed to follow. Matthew 23 is shockingly bold and convicting for starters. Warning: there is absolutely nothing at all on abortion in Christ’s words or in fact any of God’s, but there is quite a lot on hypocrisy and lies.
As just one little sheep myself, I am trying to follow the right Shepherd, not the wolves in sheep’s clothing. I am trying to take these words to heart from Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Jesus is very clear that there will not be any politicians or even church leaders to stand beside me on judgement day. He does promise me judgement however, on how I treat others and how I follow “the Truth, the Life, and the Way.”
Sorry to be so preachy, but it just matters so very, very much to me. Not this man, or that man matters one whit in The End; and I matter not all; but it all and all certainly matters about The Son of Man and what some of us do in His name. #nocheapgrace#nocheapSavior
May you today find your own way to Truth, Life, Love, and Joy. May you know the value of your very own soul above all things temporal. May you be bold and brave enough to stand up and be counted among those who would change the world, even just your own little corner of it. May you have the assurance that Good will always win in the end if we truly believe that “faith, hope and love will reign eternally”. And above all, may you know that there is a Spirit-God Who loves you — just little old you.
Since I have put a bird feeder outside my “reading window”, I can now spend my early mornings looking down at my book, looking up at the birds — down, up; down, up; down, up. Come to think of it, I look a bit like a bird, with a head full of grey feathery hair atop my long scrawny neck, bobbing up and down as if pecking among the philosophies and fictions strewn across my table; and looking up at the birds — down, up, down up. I am like the scout-bird who is often a part of a small group of birds; the one that sits not at the trough of seeds but up on the top of the post, or in a nearby tree branch, the guard-dog of the others, (to mix animal metaphors). I sit with my pack of people imagined and real in books and pictures and thoughts and memories, and my own life-flock is with me in spirit, if not in truth. And I guard them, both in my memories of feeding them, and their continual feeding of me.
I like to see the little red-breasted, red-throated birds, who might be robins or finches but might be neither since, even though my daughter, Verity and my dear friend Heather, have tried to teach me and help me, I remain blissfully ignorant of types and names. The birds in the air swoop in and peck in their persnickety ways among the feeder’s offerings. I love the cool, grey pigeons — so seemingly unremarkable compared to the others. The pigeons are the sheep of birds, quietly feeding on the seed that has fallen to the ground. They may not be flashy or particularly bright, perhaps being two feathers short of a quiver, but they calm me and I feel my divine pathos rise up to surround them with thoughts of hope for their protection and delight in their innocence.
There is often one little sparrow — at least I think it’s the same one. I least I think it’s a sparrow. I watch the birds — I am not a bird watcher, a birder. I actually mostly don’t want to know anything about them — their names or anything like that. I just want to observe them. To be with them, apart, but a part, similar in cellular makeup, but oh! So very different! If there is anything that can assure me in the dark hours before the Sun rises, that there is a Loving Creator who somehow spoke into being, our planet Earth and all of the awe-some-ly unique creatures that roam it — for me, a belief in a Creative God is stronger, now that it has happened to be that I have time to sit and quietly watch the curious qualities of “birdness”.
So back to this one little sparrow. The minute he comes he pushes or scares the other birds away. He is a horrible bully and I feel so sad for the little birds that he scares from their places at the bird feeder as they fly away in fear and shame, while the bully bird takes their place. Notice I assume a male dominance factor going on here, but the bird could easily be female. Remember, I don’t want to know. It is unimportant to me. With the birds, I am able to do what I seldom can with people. I can judge the behavior without judging the character.
This sparrow, let’s call him / her a non-gendered name, shall we? This sparrow I will call “Jody” is a true bully. There isn’t a morning when Jody does not feel that no matter how much room there is, no matter how peacefully all the other little birds are getting along with each other, no matter what side of the nest Jody woke up on that morning — there is not one single morning when Jody does not immediately swoop in to bully the other birdies. He doesn’t stop to assess the situation. He doesn’t offer a deal or make some small talk. Jody doesn’t wait for the other birds to strike first or snap at him with some unpleasantry. She just hops on the feeder, flaps her quite normal-sized and frankly, rather drab colored wings, and chases away whoever got there before her that day. And if one of the others tries to sneak back on the other side of the feeder to finish its breakfast, Jody leaves her spot and chases the interloper off again. Don’t try to make excuses for Jody. This has nothing to do with being a “leader” or a “chosen and favored one” (Jody is nothing special, being a bird just like other birds). Her behavior must not be excused with some silly idea about it being evolution or natural selection. I am sorry, but it must simply be accepted — Jody is just a bully.
And I feel like sneaking up one morning on Jody when he’s at the bird feeder, his attention somewhere over his birdy shoulder looking for perceived enemy/victims; and I feel like grabbing Jody up in my gigantic godlike paw and holding Jody powerfully in my right hand and saying,
“Jody, my birdy-pal, my darling, I, the God Who Peers Through the Window, She who observes the Sun rising, and the deeds of all birds; I, Who have watched you each morning of your miserable little birdy-life; I, the Goddess who gives the birdseed to nourish the good and the evil birdies — and who cares for even the naughty, cheeky squirrels, for Heaven’s sake! I forbid you, small wee Jody, to keep bullying the other birds. Fly now, away with you — you are forgiven but Sin No More!”
And then, because I can’t kiss Jody on his little beak or hold her little foot as I would a naughty child’s small hand, I will stroke Jody on the head and assure her, and assure the whole little flock that now has come to see me deal with Jody– a flock of all kinds and colors, genders and abilities of birds — a multitude of birds that has by now gathered at my Godlike feet, stunned into birdy awe at my great supernatural appearance, and who are all bobbing their little birdy heads as they listen to my righteous message. And I will say to the flock that, foolish though they be, are my own, and are all those whom I have come to love and care for, even Jody:
“There is plenty. There will always be plenty for all in My Kingdom. Do you not know, that I can take these small seeds that I hold now in my hand, and I can turn them into a Costco sized bag of food to feed you? There is room at the bird feeder for all, for the pigeons and sparrows, for the meek and the red-breasted, for the shy and the brave, for the protectors and the children and for those who sing like angels, and yes –there is even room for the Jodies. There is scattered seed on the ground for those who must scratch in the earth to get their daily meal. And there is seed in the feeder for all that I watch over from my own perch, behind the window.
Do not worry, little flock of beloved birds. Do you think by worrying you can add one feather to your head? Do not worry, Bully Jody. Do you think by bullying you can add one hour to your life? Be peaceful in your bird-brains, and at peace with each other. If God can care and provide for both the good and also the naughty humans, how much more will He care and provide for you, the birds? Yea, even for the Jodies.”
I think Jesus observed birds often and knew them well. He used them as illustration and metaphor quite often, along with ones about seeds and grain. Maybe every morning, he woke up and read the Torah and had some pita bread, maybe throwing the crumbs out onto the ground to share with the birds. I like to picture him quiet before the world woke up, meditating prayerfully, reading and learning from the words on the scroll, and then looking up at the sparrows eating his crumbs and the grey pigeons pecking at the seeds in the fields. I imagine The Great Teacher and Miracle Worker in the early hours of the mornings before the hungry, needy multitudes gathered and the crowds and his friends and followers, who would swoop in, full of need, full of chatter, full of fears and hopes, and with broken wings and bent tail feathers they wanted fixing. A flock of followers who just as I do, just as you do, keep searching for something to feed us body, mind and soul, but miss the common, ordinary miracles of life and our planet and the miracles of other humans. We miss the miracle of seeds. And so we have rarely seen, that we too can fly.
The miracle that real food and spiritual food are always available is what Jesus tried to show the people; the reality that there is plenty and that no one needs to take more seed than what they need that day, because tomorrow, there will be more seed. That is the miracle of the seed.
Good birds will share space and seed; but even bullies could have much more than they could ever dream of, if only they would just ask. If we would only look around, and scoot over to give more room to others, and enjoy the seed set before us in just this moment, why then — those everyday miracles would become common place. Most people came to Jesus looking for a handout, anxious to fill their stomachs. But Jesus offered them what he knew they really wanted, which was the bread, the manna of his life that gives us life, and the “living water that will make us thirst no more”. Many came to the one they called Messiah, Rabbi, Lord, looking for an edge, a way to rise above the hungry, dirty masses and be better than their neighbors, richer than their enemies, more favored than those who were different than they; and to have Jesus do the heavy lifting but grant them a ticket cheaply bought to a better, far off heavenly place, a new, select feeder made just for them and not for the crows and ravens, those they considered scavengers, or the weak and meek, those they considered worthy only of what we in our pride and greed, had made of this filthy, untended, sinful world. But what they were really looking for was the beauty that had been forgotten, an earth full of possibility and hope, joy in the journey, and fullness in every moment. What they longed for was not someplace out there, but to finally be truly right here; in a new Garden, a better Kingdom to live in, a world that is this one, but reborn, renewed, recreated, in every glorious breath we take.
Since the beginning, some humans have struggled with the fearful reality that tomorrow the feeder will be empty, and others have hoarded and stored up more than they need, with the despairing anxiety that The Feeder will desert us for good. We are all afraid that that which has held the world together, and The One Who has cared to create us, will leave us on our own, leave the fools and the bullies that we are, in the shadows, in the burnt out husks, in the arid, drought-deadened fields, in the wilderness without Him. So since First Woman and First Man bullied each other into eating from the forbidden fruits of greed and need; and since the manna in the desert wilderness rotted in the storehouses of both the greedy and needy alike, we seekers of seeds and soulfulness, have tried to bully God. We pray without listening, look without observing, take without trusting, and we try to force God into understanding us, rather than the other way around. We whine that our hearts feel empty even when our stomachs are full. And we refuse to believe that we might be able, — even now, even all these years, after the beginning, after the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us — we refuse to believe we might be able to fly.
Many start their mornings and end their evenings at the feeder of thoughts and prayers, yearnings offered up to a God that in truth, we doubt can really care that much for us. After all, if there was a God who loved us, wouldn’t He give us more seeds and crumbs? So some of us bully the weak, and hoard the grain that rots in our storehouses, and we convince ourselves that it is our own power that provides the food in our feeders, and our own abilities that keep us aloft. Some of us choose to believe that there is a God who is as weak as we have let ourselves become, and so we convince ourselves that we need to do nothing but assent to the idea of the existence of a Bird Feeder, and we can let the world turn as it has always done, being only as weak as the God we have fashioned in our image. We worship a God whom we have made in our likeness and so She is either a bully or a weakling, or some days one and some days the other. We keep chirping and squawking, “Why? Why do we have to keep coming daily to the feeder for our sustenance? Why don’t You bless us with something more than manna or crumbs? Why must I share?”.
People came to Jesus and some of them learned that he loved them and that he believed in a Greater Good that also loved them just as any wonderful Mommy and Daddy always love their children, even when those children might be very naughty or unable to fly because of a broken wing. Jesus showed people that there really was Someone behind the window, and that even though the window was so foggy and scratched up and cloudy, you couldn’t really see Who was sitting there, you could sometimes see movement; and you knew that it was The God Behind the Window who each day, provided the seeds for us.
People came to Jesus because they were hungry and wanted to be fed, just as my birds come each morning to my yard to be fed. The people came to The Christ in their foolishness and pride and neediness, and they drained him of power and fought over who got the best and biggest crumbs of divine knowledge and holy interference. We are all people who never quite trust there will be enough of God’s good gifts. But there are seeds strewn throughout the world, freely given, gratefully received, enough for all, created by The Feeder’s righteous hands and shared by those of us who scoot over to make room for more hungry beaks. I think of these people who came to The Christ, people who depleted the Giver, like the hungry birds deplete my feeder full of seeds. I like to think after a long tough day, that Jesus returned to sit by himself, or maybe with one or two other bird-watchers, sharing a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread but not talking much, just sitting together, listening to each other’s breathing, and relaxing, and observing, and very glad to be alive.
I, too, want to follow in the footsteps of those who have left us evidence that they were Masters of Life and Living. I want to rise each morning to learn my lessons and share seeds with the birds, and to let the Great Gurus and the small birds teach me as I look up and down, up and down, up and down. I want to sit in the cool of the evenings somewhere quiet and alone or with those who also watch and wait, and we will end as we begin, by watching the birds.
When I sit watching Jody bully his neighbors, or the pigeons meekly graze, or even those cheeky, naughty squirrels catapulting through the branches or skittering across the yard in their games of tag, I imagine the mornings before the Father’s Sun rose, when Jesus sat alone, but never felt alone. I think of The Man as that one who would suffer all we do and more, much more, and yet who was able to care for the birds; a man perfectly content, happy, mindfully watching and waiting, just a human being, like me, reading, observing, smiling or shaking his head at the foolishness of birds and of men; someone who saw everything for what it truly is, but deeply loved and cared for it all. And I imagine that those were the times that he understood most truly that he had fulfilled his mission for living among us, as he sat with his head bobbing — up and down, up and down, up and down.
I understand a bit more now about my own task in this world and my own joy in the journey of a moment, now that I too, have made the time I always needed but seldom took, to sit and study, and watch and observe, and just be — just be with the goings on about me on this planet, and to be with the birds. I know more about why Jesus, The Teacher, told us the Parable of the Sparrows, because knowing birds a bit better, I am learning that we are all so much less important than we think we are, and we are also so much more loved than we believe we are.
Whether today, you are a struggling pigeon of a person, pecking and hunting for your sustenance. Or you are a Jody — a bully who thinks he has to overpower and overcome others to get ahead, to get more, to get what he deserves, to have the best perch, the most seeds, the top spot, or whatever it is you think you must have. No matter what kind of bird or being you are, remember that there is One Who Makes the Seed; One Who creates and plants and tends; One Who gives each day the Sun and Rain to grow the seeds; and One Who cares as much for you as for the sparrows. Meditate today on The God Who is a Feeding, Watching, Caring Being that even when you can’t see Her, loves you and has provided plenty of food and room at the feeder.
Then we must all try to understand, that the final instructions that Jesus gave before he flew off, were:
“Feed them. In the same way you feed others, you will be fed. Trust in Goodness, and that there is enough for all. In the same way you share seed and give place with others, I will give to you. Now go — and you must not just feed the birds you like, but you must also feed your enemies, the Jodies. I say, unto you, love The Watcher in the Window, and love your neighbors and your enemies just as much as you love yourself. Know that by doing so, you are like Your Heavenly Feeder and Father, whose feeder is full to overflowing, available and free for all of us.”
Remember to look around at the world, to observe the birds of the air, and the beasts of fields, and as you peck and scratch, or you hop and flit from here to there today, be assured —
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the unbelieving and faithless who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.~~Jesus as recorded in The Book of Matthew by one of his followers.
I have an acquaintance who is all worked-up about America becoming Communist. I just don’t have enough hair left on my head to keep pulling it out trying to explain things to some people, but remaining silent is also not always an option for me, at least at a first go. I do not engage in fruitless argument, but neither will I engage in the mock-niceness of not saying anything. Not saying something to people is not only not nice, it is unkind. If people want to go out and play in the traffic, I at least have the responsibility as someone who has learned that playing in traffic is not only wrong-headed but dangerous to try to convince them they aren’t seeing things the right way. I have to at least try to be ethical and to warn them and tell them: “Hey, you know you don’t have to play in the traffic, you can play right here in my safe backyard with me. C’mon in”. I can’t force them to change their minds, but I also can not be silent while they play a game of chicken with speeding semitrucks. And no this is not about things that are truly open to one’s own opinion. For more on that you can see my post of July 6, 2020 (janetawel.com/2020/07/06/unapologetically-thoughtful-woman-seeks-thinking-humans/)
So, back to the person who lives in fear that the people who are protesting throughout America today are “commies”, and that all of the people who want real change in this country are “socialists” (a term some people erroneously associate with synonyms for “thieves” or God help us, with that frightening term “French People”) (and let’s just pause here for a moment of silence to let this settle in: this man and others are upset only about the Black Lives Matter protests – about the way Black People protest or the way we are protesting as white people for the long disenfranchised people in America. In the name of Saint Colin Kaepernick, isn’t it as clear as Black and White by now folks what the real issues are?!?!) This person and tragically too many like him actually believe that the federal government of America is right to send camouflaged troops into cities to protect property rather than allowing local governments to decide how to protect peacefully lawfully protesting people. I mean, can we get this straight – some people are still more upset about property destruction as a bad side effect of good people protesting long after they have forgotten what the protests are about – people!)
And when my friend brings up the cold, cold-war corpse of Communism as a specter, he is right (but oh so wrong because he doesn’t see it)– right in that it is always the abuse of power by those who lead that corrupt a system of government and thereby decay the moral integrity of the very foundations of a nation. This is absolutely true today, if we look only at nations and governments in which the philosophy of communism fell to the greed and power-mongering of the entitled, and this is true no matter what they may claim their governing philosophy is today. Of course, as Orwell predicted, our founding philosophy of American Democracy and the ideology of a “republic for all” has fallen just as low, if not lower than that of the original intent of Marx’ and Engel’s ideology. This is what we should be looking at – not where we might be headed as we change, but where we have sunk as we have changed.
And can we just actually look around at our nation with open eyes and ask, “is this really what we want to believe in?”. It may be what we “want” since we can be as self-centered and greedy as the next person, but is it what we want to believe in? Are we willing to follow along with the folks that have drunk the kool-aide and let ourselves think that a little more “communal-ism” would even be the worst thing that could happen to our self-centered nation?
(I refer you to a commercial break here so you can listen to that great prophet, Bob Dylan and one of his many protest songs: “Gotta Serve Somebody” https://youtu.be/wC10VWDTzmU )
People who think this way about what they fear happening in America don’t understand either America’s true system of current leadership which I would describe as “Oligarchical Unethical-Uber-Capitalism”; nor do they understand very much about the theory of Communism as a governing ideal rather than the way Communism has come to be used by history’s dictators and shysters.
So when this acquaintance of mine, who happens to claim Christianity as his religion, posted a scary meme about America becoming Communist, I responded thusly. (For those of you that don’t know much about Christianity, the cult of Jesus Christ was originally the most philosophically “Communist” religion since Abraham gave Lot the first choice in land ownership. It still has elements of the ideals of communism that can be found in many communities that practice Christianity including nuns, monks, the Amish, and the Bruderhoff communities.)
I told my friend, that in fact he was right – America’s Federal Government is behaving like a Cold-War-ish Communist regime, in a frightening way, perhaps not seen on a federal level since the civil rights movements of the 1960’s or the student riots which caused Neil Young to pen the words to the song “Ohio” in 1970 (https://youtu.be/xy7FgTKPaMc) . Change a few words and names in Young’s song, and we horrifically, sadly seem to be right back in those days of the American Federal Government abusing its power against its own peacefully protesting citizens. So, to my friend’s fallacious argument meme, this is what I said:
Why yes, my friend — the fact that you see freedom of speech as vandalism is exactly the point of propaganda such as regimes like Communism and Fascism have used in the past. Or Nixon’s “bums” at Kent State. Or Hitler’s Jewish enemies of the state that led to the Holocaust. It is called propaganda for a reason and the reason is to persuade people that lies are truth and truth is a lie and to create an alter-enemy narrative so that the people in charge can divert your attention away from the problems they are supposed to help solve. Read your Orwell. Read your history. Read news accounts of what is actually happening — your government employees lining their pockets by abusing their power (golf tournament in Scotland anyone? So worthy of a petty, greedy strongman like a Stalin or a Putin.) Your federal government acting against its own citizens let alone against immigrants and sojourners. Things allowed to happen because someone was “elected”, even though it is unconstitutional, breaking the laws and the rule of law of the Constitution, tear gassing innocent people, not “vandals”. Oh, you are quite correct — that is all something that communist countries do (see China vs. Hong Kong) or dictators (see history of Tienanmen Square, Arab Spring, just for a few in our lifetimes). Caring more about their economy numbers than the health of their citizens is indeed so worthy of a communist dictator — you could not be more right on this, if you are pointing the finger at our current federal government. And please, if those points of true history or current events don’t convince you, read the Bible for it’s great and God-origin calls to justice and sharing and equality and freedom and love — and then just picture Jesus (who was frankly nothing at all like an American capitalist) — imagine the Guy who people want to claim as their Savior, turning over the tables of the politically sponsored religious money making businesses, while he was being teargassed and hit with rubber bullets by Caesar’s camouflaged men while the religious leaders washed their dirty hands of it rather than washing the protesters’ and sinners’ dirty feet.
For me, a person who has long tried to figure out what that figure of Jesus Christ is supposed to mean to my very own life, has there ever been a better time in my own country – in my own community – in my own family – in my own soul– to serve and love others as He did? Do I, as Jesus did, fear G-d enough to stop fearing Caesar? As Martin Luther King and John Lewis did?
And even if you don’t believe in any god at all – is your life not worth more than letting your fears define you? Don’t you want to be defined by what you believe IN, not what you fear is OUT there?
So, I told this friend of mine, and I say it to us all:
Be careful what you are allowing yourself to fear because it will end up being what you are left to serve.
Honestly, I have never liked talking about politics. I don’t have a desire to spend my remaining time on earth to write about them or even think about all this stuff. After learning and thinking about all the issues currently swirling around in America today, I feel like I have just willingly put myself in the eye of a storm much too big for little ole’ me and I am watching the pressing needs and problems swirl around like a million Amazon packages in a Wicked Witch’s Tornado.
But I must. If I am forced to run into the oncoming traffic only because it might save somebody else, then run into the speeding cars I must. It is my time. It is The Time. As that great sage and prophet, J.R.R. Tolkien said in The Fellowship of the Ring: We must decide what we are called to do with the time we are given.
A previous student of mine posted this today. Another day to thank the Dorsey Family for trying to teach me and help me. You know I was privileged to teach three of the Dorsey “kids” years ago, and I didn’t realize it then, but I do now — they began to teach me some truths during those years, and now they have become some of my best teachers at this critical point in my life and the life of this nation and the life of God’s Kingdom.
I can not even imagine what this feels like — generation after generation. This brings it home…
I wake up trying to fight and stand with, every day now, and I am so tired and exhausted and I say to myself — “you stupid baby — stop whining. Imagine being this exhausted by fighting every day of your life, every generation of your family, just because you woke up black today. Get over yourself, Jane Tawel! Time to wear out myself in this cause, and get off my old white duff.”
The time is now — it has to be– the time is now — don’t let any one tell you otherwise. May the spirit of Lord truly rise up, May His Kingdom be known by justice, truth and love on this planet, in this world, in His true people as it was meant to be, may we be fearfully aware that we will be judged by how we rise to this challenge in our own lives today, may we be fearfully aware we will be judged by the lies we let ourselves believe and live by, and may we be changed to Be the Change.
To my white friends — make yourself a student today of the experts — you can tell who they are by their skin color.
To my religious friends — make yourself a student today of The Expert– you can tell who that is by His Love.
To my American friends — make yourself a student today of the experts of a balanced and humbling History. — you can tell what that is by how uncomfortable it makes you.
And to young folks today — you are going to have to become quick studies but deep, wise thinkers in how to be the experts for making this world a better place for the future. Some of us old folks will try our best to help you — you can tell who we are by our humility and willingness to learn from you.
Love, hope, prayers, and I commit to continued action! — “Mrs. T”.
Left Speechless but Speaking Out by a Humbled White Person
By Jane Tawel
June 1, 2020
George Floyd, 2020
And so it is, as we see that black lives still don’t matter to my people, the white people; that social justice still does not matter to my people, the people in power; that we are all for equality as long as my people don’t have to give-up any thing to make America a more equal playing field for people; and so it is we see that Langston Hughes was right all those years ago:
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
“Harlem” by Langston Hughes (1951)
(FILE – Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in New York. The massive protests sweeping across U.S. cities follow the police killing of a black man in Minnesota. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
We see that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ever so right, was so right, when he wrote:
Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. [Martin Luther King Jr., “The Other America”]
Years and years go by. . . deaths and deaths go by…. Are we really still surprised, when black people have to shout, still have to try to make themselves heard over our white complacency, still have to shock us as they cry out: “Can you hear me now?!”
We have failed to hear that we have not met our promises. People say, “oh but two wrongs don’t make a right”. But the question for me, a white woman grown up in America all these years, isn’t about being right – it is about being righteous. Righteous indignation is all very well for a white person, but righteous action is what is needed now. My intellectual assent to what black people are feeling, or doing is all very well, but that doesn’t help them two bits worth if I do not act on that assent. As it is said, “faith without works is dead”.
How dare we like spoiled children cry over our broken toys, more than we weep over the dead bodies of black boys and girls. How dare we demand self-righteously that the playground rules be changed to punish black people, and not ever demand just punishment for the white looters sitting in the halls of power, looting our democracy, looting our economy, looting our health system, looting the very foundations of any remaining morals this country might have tip-toed toward. The playground has never had fair rules for blacks and whites, because we white people hog all the swings and slides. How dare we continue to let people keep killing our citizens just because they are black and then complain that they don’t know how to control their anger. We dare because we are white. It is that horrifically simple.
And so I am left speechless in the flood of prophetic, condemning, heart-breaking, angry, fearful, mournful and sorrowful words and actions, protests and riots, preaching and venting — I read by and about and hear by and about black people in this nation. They are the stored words and feelings of centuries and they rise once more like a flood of tears that is never dammed.
And yet, though I do not have the right, I have not earned it as I should, I was not born black with so few other equal rights other than the right to speak up on this now –I must speak. I will not stay silent just because it is not “my fight”, for until we white people make it our fight, nothing will ever change, as we have seen. I will not condemn the reactions of people whose shoes I have never walked in. I have never been black. I can try my hardest to walk in those shoes, but it will be an exercise in moral thinking only, not moral action, unless I am truly walking with, standing up for, acting for people of color.
But I have spent a lifetime walking in a white person’s shoes, and so I get to decide what it means to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”. I get to decide what I believe my own life is worth. Is my life merely worth the gathering of more stuff for me, the avoidance of conflicts that might be difficult, worth only the “niceness” of staying silent, and the ease of retiring into a life that was never all that hard to begin with? Or is my life worth more than that? Is my life worth believing that small people doing small things in the name of justice and truth and love, is the only real kind of life worth living?
So, I will speak when spoken to, and I will condemn and call out white people—my people–, no matter whether they are people I love or not. I will call-out white people who use racist language to defend their unease with black anger. I will call out those white folks who sit in judgement of others, while the giant planks in their own eyes prevent them from seeing their own sins against God and others. I will call out the white pastors and white Christians who claim their rights to practice their religion and earn their salaries are more important than the death tolls, the health, the salaries, the murders of black people in this country. I will call out those who listen but do not act. I will call myself out, first and foremost.
And I will not stay silent when I grope for the words I continue to try to say to my black fellow Americans, to my black brothers and sisters, and forgive me for using a phrase that has given so many white people like me a false sense of solidarity, to my black friends: Please forgive me. Please help me. Please.
I am so sorry. I am here and now accepting my own egregious culpability and the egregious culpability of my nation. I have tried to say many things during this time with words that will only remain pathetic if I don’t act. I speak as someone who has long believed in a world view that is only as good as it is acted upon. Unlike what you may be hearing from those who claim it today, the Judeo-Christian worldview is one of acting for love and truth and justice, against hatred and injustice and deceit. In fact, the only thing worth believing about God, Jesus or the Bible is that it doesn’t matter what we think, since in light of God we are all stupid. It doesn’t matter what we believe if it doesn’t change us. The only thing that matters is that we humans are meant – required –to act out goodness – goodness for the whole earth, the whole world, good hearts and minds that translate directly into wills of loving actions for the betterment of all, but especially for those who have less than we do. Period.
So here are some thoughts related to a few things my black connections, and other people of color, have been trying to help me with and that I have been struggling with. I don’t say that there are not white friends of mine who are also speaking out and speaking up and standing for, but they like I am, are the “roar of the crowd”; we are not the players who literally have skin in the game.
I have to start with my own worldview as shaped by American Christianity but which has drastically morphed in recent years, to something that I hope resembles more like what a real God, and real Savior, and a real Holy Book would teach. If you believe in the truths about justice in the Bible, and the idea of how the world is supposed to be as Jesus taught, as I do, then we know that accordingly, the nations are continually and will be in the future judged. Check out the books of Amos and Isaiah and the words of Jesus, if you don’t believe me. America will be judged, and I think God will start with what we — our whole nation of white, colonizing, slave owning, genocidal, violent and silent– people have done to people of color, indigenous peoples, and in this country, especially, to black people. It makes me tremble to hear people call this country “back to being” a Christian nation — it never was, never has been, never will be. Christianity is as Christianity DOES. As God has always called His people to do, we must decide “as for me and my house, who will I serve?” Will I serve the false idols of this nation, or serve the Lord? As all individuals from Abraham to Moses to Joshua to David to Jesus, we can choose to side with the power of a nation of kings who are not just, not truthful, not caring of the least of society, not “loving the whole world as God so loved the world”, a nation built on racism and greed. Or we can stand up and be counted. We can leave the Babylon of our false religion, we can stop wandering in the wilderness of our grumbling and greed, or we can leave the Promised Land to those willing to risk for it. But this is “religious” talk. What is happening in our country today is about humans, and humanity, no matter what your beliefs and disbeliefs.
The transgressions and consequences of racism and violence of our nation continues and I can not imagine if I were black and having to witness atrocity after atrocity. But until everyone who is not a person of color, accepts their own responsibility, either by commission or omission, we will not know how to change. I must accept my own shame — we carry the sins of our fathers and mothers generation after generation. I carry the stain of my own prejudices, spoken or “only” thought. I carry the heavy cost of my own laziness in not fighting for others, silence in the face of pure evil, and for not mourning with so many people of color who continue to mourn, and mourn, and mourn.
I have no substantial say in my nation except with my vote and my money, but I do have a say before my God and my brothers and sisters, and fellow humans, and even a voice that should be heard by those who do not believe as I do. Perhaps they cannot believe in my God because they have suffered at the hands of this white “christian” nation for so long – and that is on me.
I am angry, and I am sorrowful. And I am so, so sorry for everything. To claim it is not “my fault” may have philosophical credence but it has no bearing on what must change in my own heart, my own life, and in the hearts and lives of this nation.
And to those who would see me as a spiritual person, I repent. And I confess my own sins humbly with repentance, for my owns sins of both commission and omission, done and left undone. I honestly believe, that in this life and the next, God will weigh us all in the balance. I know I, too deserve to be judged, for my prejudices, my racism, my not being who God has called us to be, and I pray that I might understand the weight of these words: “Repent and be saved. I, Jesus, do not judge you — so go and sin no more.” And sinning no more in white America today, means that I am also being told: “Now get out there and do something about this as God has commanded you to do.”
To look at oneself in the mirror of truth is to face one’s own hypocrisy. Black people in this country are understandably incensed not only at the institutionalized racism of centuries, at police murders of black people, of white racists killing innocent black people and getting away with it in the courts meant to uphold our laws, but they are also angry at the blatant hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is the other monster head on the Hydra of white privilege, hatred, inequality, and greed that lives and is fed in America.
I am finding that hypocrisy is one of the most difficult things to call people out on. It makes sense, because hypocrisy is not only in the very foundations of our egos, but is a founding father of this nation and of the major religion we claim as “Christianity”. Our foolish lazy stance that we are merely called to a belief in the idea of democracy but not a fight for it, and our complacent belief that we need not do anything other than pray to earn God’s favor, has led us to jump off the cliff of reason and understanding, and into a raging tide-pool of hypocritical insanity-producing self-justification and destructive false mores and unsustainable values.
My heart breaks most of all at what people are doing and not doing in the name of God or Christ. A white pastor I know and whose church I once attended, posted the other day to all his followers that maybe we should stop speaking out on social media and stop speaking out in the streets, and try “listening”. Dear Lord, does this man not see his own complacent hypocrisy? Answer: no. The man has a cushy job in an all-white church with a house on a golf course (paid for in God-money) in a pretty much all white state – a place he fled to a few years back after Los Angeles got a bit too much for him. What black people is he “listening” to? I’ve tried calling him and others out before and they just delete or unfriend me. LOL! But isn’t it really the same for most of white people, we live in all white glass houses and throw rocks at the reactions of black people throwing rocks in riots?
Frankly, I’m always rather thankful when someone decides to “break up with me” over issues, because I feel I must be doing something, maybe even doing something right. Also, when someone unfriends or deletes me because they don’t like how angry I am, or my truth-telling, or my trying to discuss something I don’t agree with, then I get a little bit closer to understanding what is it to walk in the shoes of a person of color. To be shut down, to have no voice that is worth listening to, to be “listened to” and then ignored. I can pity these people who decide I am not worth it, who think God’s love is for being nice, that God’s command to love others as self, is for Sunday pew sitting, and not protest marching, tables turned over righteousness. I am aware that I am being “deleted”, being dismissed, being shunned or judged because I am in-your-face angry. I can almost imagine how angry I’d be if I were black. When white people get upset and angry with black people for demanding truth, demanding righteousness, demanding change in thinking and acting, for “calling out” and calling to account our wrongs, our deeply entrenched problems, our race issues, and our “Christian” failings, do we not see our own hypocrisy? Do black people also have prejudices, do they also make mistakes, do they also have to be accountable – why of course, but as a white woman, I take to heart these words from a person of color, Jesus Christ, who said “to whom much is given much will be required”. Mea culpa. Much is required of me and it’s time I started paying my dues, not just skimming off the top.
So we keep at it – all of us. Listening, yes, I am listening, but “faith without works is dead”. And listening without change and action is like watching a meal without eating it. It is like eating a communion wafer, the body of Christ given for us, without becoming the person of Christ, without acting out the life of Christ, suffering unto death for the love of others.
Ah, listening. Is the corona virus “listening” as more people of color die than white people do because of years of entrenched greed and racism and institutionalized inequality? Did the cops “listen” to any single one of the black men and women they have pulled over for being black, arrested for being black, killed for being black? Did they “listen” when they heard George Floyd cry, “I can’t breath”? Are our government leaders “listening”? Are schools and those who will educate the future “listening”? If they are truly listening, they will hear the thunder of the waves — the flood is here–and they –we– will all DO SOMETHING. It is not time to take cover, white folks, it is time to fix the broken dams.
Who do we admire, black and white folks alike? Gandhi? Mother Teresa? Abraham Lincoln? Martin Luther King, Jr.? Did they merely listen and then “pray” or “discuss” or “promise change for the future”? How about Jesus? Did Jesus just “listen”? Heck no, He led a one-man riot, he turned over the tables, folks. Jesus actually lived out his whole life as a single-handed protest against racism, injustice, and greed and pride. There was no one who understood better than The Son of God what having great power means and so he used it by laying it down for the least of the least in this world. There was no one who suffered more at the hands of conspiracy theories and racism and false religious leaders and persecution than the Son of God. How dare we treat him with such contempt today with our hypocrisy of inaction.
We have got to stop giving powerful or entitled people the “pass card” on their actions (or inactions) and for us white folks, we must stop giving people the green light on their hypocrisy. I confess humbly, that it is easy now at my age, with my color, in my place to speak out. Far too easy compared to George Floyd, a black man who cried, “I can’t breathe”. It’s kind of a relief that all the “Christian” places and the schools that I used to work for “let me go” for being a bit radical, a bit different, for speaking out, for questioning authority, for protesting. I’m not complaining as it has helped me understand prejudice more intimately. I don’t have to weigh any more who might read my posts and decide that students or other “Christians” “can’t handle” something or that hard truths are merely “opinions” that should be kept to oneself, or worst of all – that Jesus came to preach “why can’t we all just get along?”, which is the very last thing Jesus would have said.
What Jesus did say was, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” What Jesus did say was, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
White folks, we keep “swallowing camels” and “straining out gnats”. And that is the truth we seem unable to “swallow”.
What students can’t handle – what young people today can not tolerate – what people who do not believe in the religions of today can not stomach, what people of color cannot swallow — is the broken world we are leaving them and the excuses we are still clinging to.
So, you are right, no matter how the words may come out, my friends, to call out and call to account each other and ourselves. We must all call-out folks, but let’s start with calling out our own folks. Let’s call out especially educators of young minds and hearts, especially white people, especially self-proclaimed religious people, especially powerful leaders, especially the “listeners” and not “doers”.
When there is a seismic earthquake going on in this country, a destruction of the very foundations of morality and democracy, then people can’t keep silent. We can’t just enjoy sharing recipes. It’s why it has all been a “recipe for disaster” — our complacent acceptance and our soul-destroying hypocrisy of those who are privileged to live white. The foundation is crumbling folks, don’t keep painting over the dirty walls.
I am calling out myself, because it has always been easier for me, a white woman, an American, a “Christian”, to speak out and speak up. It has always been easier for me to post and write things like this than it has been for a black person, a person of color, a Muslim or Jew, or an immigrant. I refuse to give myself a pass card, and don’t you either, my friend, “To those who have been given much, much will be required”.
Thank you to the black people, to all the people of color, in America today, throughout the world, in fact, who love me enough to speak out and to speak truth. Who care enough to believe that I can change. Thank you. Be brave, be safe.
Thank you to all the black and yes, white people who have been acting in ways seen and unseen for all these years to bring justice home to America in real ways. Be tireless in doing good, be hopeful.
I will continue to think and pray, listen and take in, and find ways to actually ACT, not just talk and write. I will keep listening and keep listening and never feel that it is my right as a white person to be tired of listening. I will mourn in anger and sorrow with black mothers and fathers and spouses and children and friends across this nation for the terrorism and tragedies that no one should have to endure time and time again.
And I will act, without knowing for certain whether it is the “right thing” to do, but with the hopeful assurance that it is the “righteous” thing to do.
~~ “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoting the ancient prophet, Amos)
I have more time lately, and reason, to meditate on all the “What If’s” and “Instead Of’s”. Some days, this is instructive and hopeful, such as “What if we realize people in essential services need to be paid more in the future and billionaires need to be paid less?” And some days, this is mind numbingly depressing and futile, such as “What if they win again, and Canada still has closed borders?” Perhaps we all have been made more aware of this frame- work of Possibility Thinking during this “Impossible- to- Imagine- It- Could- Happen-In-Our-Lifetimes” Time. I mean, even dear John Lennon, didn’t “Imagine” this. I truly hope and pray that with all we are all thinking, writing, experiencing, doing, that we, the human race, or at least The Good Guys and Gals, decide to use Possibility Thinking for a better world for all of us. A healthier, saner, safer, kinder, more peaceful, restful, equitable world would be a nice “Instead Of” Outcome.
Though I am rather obsessed lately with the What If’s of the Future, we most often use this rhetorical device for thinking about the Past, and not the Present or Future. It’s human nature, after all to pick over the spoils and pick at the scabs incurred in our Pasts. And of course, it is vitally critical to look at the Past — or should I say, Pasts — plural. We have all gone egregiously and just stupidly wrong in not learning from our individual Pasts, our communal Pasts, and our national, religious, planetary, and world-wide Pasts. It is one of the things that elevates us as humans, this ability to change course, to envision something better, and yet we foolishly continue to so seldom use it. Rather than evolve by learning from past mistakes or last night’s sins, we so often choose to devolve into either helpless or stubborn beast-like creatures, chalking it all up to some other beastie’s problems or some innate inability in ourselves to grow and change. But being a human being was meant to be a glorious thing — a unique thing, a godlike thing. As human beings with souls, we are uniquely placed on this planet to live into the reality of “If-Then’s”. And therefore, when we go wrong, we can live into the miracle of “What If Instead Of this, We do that Instead’s?”. We can choose differently today than we did yesterday. We can regret. We can repent. We can hope. We can imagine. We can change. We can ask, What If we did this Instead Of that?
Now the “What If’s” are closer to home for many of us on a day to day basis now they seem to be more personal and more a very real matter of life and death. We don’t have to imagine quite so hard what it is like to walk in another person’s fragile, vulnerable shoes. We don’t have to try so hard to think what it is like to be afraid of going outside, of being imprisoned, or of not having enough money for the future or even the present day, or what it is like to work among dying patients in a war that makes no sense, or what it might be like to be very ill, afraid of dying and physically impaired in a world meant for only healthy people. Some of us don’t have to rely on memory alone any more or try to imagine what it is like to have pollution- free skies, or birds singing in the morning, or time to just be still and relax and rest. Some of us are finally experiencing a small sense of the prejudice and injustice that people of color have experienced their whole lives. Some of us are mourning over the senselessness and randomness of death.
Some of us are finding out the joys of the “Insteads”. We are finding that it is freeing to make do with less. That love starts at home but you have to be there to be part of it. We are discovering that creating things is vital for every human being and that everyone, no matter how faceless and nameless, matters deeply and intimately to each of us personally. A few of us may be realizing the “Instead-Reality” that we were meant for more — maybe it isn’t completely clear yet, but it is glimmering up ahead as a faint, dream-like Possibility. Most of us hopefully have some clue that instead of getting ahead for just me, myself, and I, Life is more fulfilling, and the Future more plausible, if we realize that we are all in This together.
And so, we may find ourselves asking, “What If we want things to be more like this in the Future?” What if I want to care more about others less fortunate than I, now that I have a better idea of what their lives have always been like? What if I want to help heal the planet from the outrageous things we’ve done to it? What if I want to work less and live more, and try to make sure that everyone has that same opportunity — to stop living for our work and start working so that we all might live — more equitably, more freely, more safely, and more joyfully? What if I want to spend more time in creative pursuits and supporting those who create art — whether it is on a stage, in a gallery, or in a garden? What if I want to spend more time outside in a world made for our enjoyment? What if I want to help protect the things in nature that before I have endangered? What if every day, I want to look at those I love and be more forgiving, more accepting, more understanding, and more selflessly helpful? What if everyone I love becomes Everyone? What if everyone I love includes you? And what if everyone I love includes myself — me?
What if I carry the lessons of the Past into Today to change myself in order to be a part of a better Future for the world? What if I become an “Instead Of”?
At this crossroads time in the history of humans, we are forced perhaps like never before in most of our lifetimes, to look backwards and wonder, “What If”. We ask it of the whole world: “What If they had done this Instead Of that?” We look at our leaders and weigh them in the balance of this equation. But it will never mean a thing if I am not asking the What If’s of myself. If we are at all honest and seek any kind of life of understanding or at least desire something better up ahead, we must look within our own hearts, our own minds, our own individual wills. We must peer with intention into the very essence of what makes us human — we must look within our souls. While we have been picking at the Past scars of What If’s that we can not change: — What if I hadn’t let Grandma go to work that day? What if I hadn’t gone to that birthday party where that woman was coughing all over the buffet table? What if Uncle Pete hadn’t gone to sing in the church choir that Sunday? — We must now let the scars heal over, and begin to seriously look at the “Instead Of’s” from here on out going forward. The What- If’s of our past choices should be given a very short shelf life. They are rather useless “what if’s” unless we can create a Time Machine and go back in Time to change them. (Let me know please, if you do. But I must warn you, I have a rather long list of changes I’d make.)
Some people spend a life-time on “What If’s”. What if I hadn’t married her? What if I had taken that job? What if I had majored in something else in college? What if I hadn’t gotten drunk? What if I had told him how I felt? What If’s can only change the Past-Self if we let it change for the better our Present-Self in order to grow into our best Future Self. We can evolve, we can be born again. That is the glory of our status as sentient, sensible souls. What If’s can pull us under with regret, remorse, anger, sorrow, lack of initiative, brokenness, and a host of other short-term and long-term emotions and ploys for convincing ourselves and others that change is impossible. Emotions without goals for change merely serve to sap our desire for a better life and deplete our energy for action. What If’s are only helpful if one understands that “though I didn’t know it then, I DO know it now”. What If’s are only helpful if you look at the Past and decide that Today, you will choose “Instead Of’s”.
If you grew up “back in the day”, when I did, with any sort of Biblical or Judeo-Christian Worldview, you have grown up to believe that every thing is, in fact, a “life or death” decision. Ideas like, “what does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?”, or “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life”, used to be the bedrock of a belief system that supposedly was based on a Savior who lived and died in such a way that the whole world might be changed for the better. Tragically, this isn’t at all a popular or wide-spread belief among the most vocal of those who claim this particular religion these days, so please don’t be fooled if you look to those who espouse a religion in name only, and not in deeds. Unlike what we hear today, the Judeo-Christian belief system was meant to be pretty much completely a religion of straight-up, unadulterated, no excuses, no holds barred — Love-First actions. I say that with a great amount of regret and repentance before God and other humans, for my own Past, a deepening humility for my Present lack of virtue, selfless love, wisdom and dearth of loving actions, and my plethora of selfish wrong-doings. I say it with a great desire for a Future that is definitely based on a lot of “What If’s”. What If — I can change — be reborn — starting today? What If — God is real? What If — human beings are meant to live most practically and healthfully when we love others as we love ourselves? What If — we were put here to care for a planet? What If — we will only keep our human souls alive if we make sure that the least and most struggling among us is as essential as the highest and most powerful? What If — Jesus was an example of what we all could be — Miraculous?
So Today, I look outside my window, and hear the little grey sparrows and the large black crows, and I say, “What If God’s eyes are on the sparrows and the crows, and what if I can trust that like a Mother Hen, She is watching over me?” What If I truly have nothing to lose by living in love for all others, by doing right and speaking truth, by choosing to do Good, by changing my worldview, my heart, and my actions, and by hoping and praying that the whole world might be “saved”? What If I have everything to lose if Instead Of that, I choose my freedom and rights over other people’s safety and health? What If I choose my will over their lives — “not Thy will but mine be done”? What If I choose my convenience over the planet’s safety and health, if I choose my pleasure over other people’s needs, if I choose to be right rather than righteous? What If I gain the whole enchilada, but piece by piece, day after selfish day, lose my soul?
Ah, hurrah, hurray, it’s another grand day! To be alive! To be alive to choice and change and chance! To be alive to the idea of being a better human being today than I was yesterday. What If — ah Glorious, Glory-ing thought! What If by believing whole heartedly in the lessons of the Past, by studying them deeply and with humility, I can change. What If by making less of me and more of others Today, there will be something of me Tomorrow? What If by loving others with heart and mind and will in the Present, I can save the very essence of who I was created to be, I can save my soul, and have more than a temporal happiness, have Instead, an eternal life of love, and light, and joy?
What If today instead of Death, I choose Resurrection?
What If my Future, and the Future of the Earth and the Human Beings that inhabit it could, Instead of This be……………? Imagine……
The abrupt crash between idealists and opportunists, that has occurred at the intersection of the Corona Virus Pandemic meeting the onrushing onslaught of our climate and planet abuse should wake us all up. It’s rather a shock to me, who grew up in a very different kind of American Christianity, that so many who still claim that faith, are like lazy servants, putting their heads under the covers, and pointing their crooked fingers at PNLU (People NOT Like Us). Like bridesmaids in Jesus’ story who don’t think they have enough oil in their lamps to spread light, or the complacent servant who has told himself convenient falsehoods for so long about his Master that he no longer knows what his real job is, or what The Master is like, we who would claim to have the corner on Religious Truth have gotten used to sleeping-in or taking a break from our labors, hoarding our resources, and shirking our duty. For more on what our “duty” is, one could start by meditating on Christ’s summation of the commandments of Moses’ YHWH, or conversely, taking to heart the prophets of old who foretold what a real Savior of the whole world would be like.
It is difficult for some of us to do anything more than choose to survive another day, especially for those throughout the world who are suffering in unparalleled ways during this 2020 Plague, with the sure knowledge that more suffering lies ahead. I have been quite ill, probably with the Virus, and because so far, I have survived, I have been granted another chance to stare at my imminent death (everyone’s death, actually, is imminent from birth, if you think of the length of your own life in terms of the life of the world and the planet). I know I am not alone, in considering this current World-Event, to be much like other catastrophic and reality-bending historical occurrences. And these types of events are for many tragic and sobering, and strangely, for some with “eyes to see and ears to hear”, fortuitously salvific, reviving, and energizing. Or they can be, if we let the tragedies, uncertainties, and fearfulness at this crossroads we all have arrived at, to become each individual’s and our communal renewed determination to make new and better paths forward to a new way of living into our new lives. This can all seem like a revelatory nightmare if we awake to much healthier and Goodness-oriented physical, relational, planetary, and spiritual realities. We have to stop hoping and dreaming for a better world, we have to make and create a better world.
Like lying half asleep, and hearing outside the safety of my own home, an horrific accident, a loud and near car crash, with grinding brakes, blown-out tires, engines exploding, glass and metal smashing into cacophonous, roaring explosion, I have been startled into wakefulness. I have been forced to be more aware of what is “going on out there”, outside of my small reality, the very real clashes and collisions of values, morals, and needs of our human species. And like many other wee warriors in the daily battle to make sense of the world, I have struggled to interpret what is really happening out there. Although the destructive forces of human beings wrecking their very own living space, the Earth, has been a more quiet, less recognized, but more insidious catastrophe; compared to the dropped atom bomb of the Corona Virus, the destruction and dismantling of our planet for personal gain, like an advancing army of drones who wreak havoc across the world, seemingly with a will and mind of their own dronish-selves, has caused throughout the world, a mindless vacuum of virtue, and a soulless species of what might have once been human beings. But now that people have relegated our culpability to others, and our own responsibility, in the Earth’s destruction to people we can label, “them”; some of us suddenly wake-up in time to understand that “them” is really, in the end “us”. If this Corona Virus lockdown has revealed anything, it has revealed the truth that “we have finally met the enemy, and the enemy is Us”. This quote originally about the War of 1812 was rewritten by the cartoonist, Walt Kelly, and used on the very first Earth Day in 1970 to with tragic irony, describe what humanity had become to itself in terms of how we were treating the Earth. We had become our own worst enemy. Fifty years later, and most of us have not only not learned anything about our own destructive enmity towards the Earth and our species, we have stopped caring.
One of the things, I have had time to think about during this strange season, is what in the world Jesus meant, when he said a bunch of stuff about God and the Earth, and about human beings and about death and about the future of the world and about His different sort of “Kingdom”. I call that only “One-thing” to think about, because everything, in the end, is part of a Whole, or, it isn’t. We have found during this Corona Virus and the crazy abilities of small cells to defeat our greatest minds, and we have found during the economic depressions and repressions looming once more and throwing off balance some systems that we thought could survive it alone, and we have seen during this time of enforced sheltering in, how the world’s interplanetary eco-systems, and everything including dependent human beings, are connected. None of us can go it alone, and all of us will eventually meet the same fate, and all of us need each other to make things right again, and everyone is connected to everything, and nothing will stand alone for long, and what will be left standing in the end, is up to all of us.
With more than enough time to be restful and perhaps paradoxically, during this period which has turned into a very tiring, and somewhat sleepy time, in some profound ways, my “eyes” have been jerked open, and my eyelids which often function as blinders, have been propped wide with the pain of having to look at Really, Real Reality. My vision has been cleared, with the pandemic functioning on one side, as a sharp toothpick propping open one eye, and the planet’s dire condition as a log propping open the other eyelid. In this way, one thing that the wise Teacher said that has taken on new meaning for me is, “why do you try to remove the toothpick in your neighbor’s eye, when you have that giant sequoia tree propping up your own eye, dearie?” The Visine of platitudes won’t get the red out of eyes opened by a frightening pandemic. Vaccines against our willful blindness won’t save us from eye-popping Truth.
This morning I began my day much as usual. First, I pray my “praising psalms”, which are often third-rate words of praise sent out blithely to Someone Out There, thanking Him for all my “stuff” and achievements, otherwise known to some people as “blessings”. These days, after Someone Out There has wacked me upside the head with thoughts about what’s really going- down in the World, and I have noted another day with an increased heartrate thinking about what happens after the day that I die; my praising prayer is set to the tune of “Being Alive” from the Steven Sondheim prayer book in his musical, “Company”. I am truly finally, just so peachy keen happy to be breathing and aware, that I have to believe there is Someone Out There I should thank for that.
Then while waiting for the coffee to brew, this morning as I have had more time to do, now that I’m not rushing off somewhere every morning, I looked outside my back door, while the dog, Daisy, did her nose-led tour of the yard, and I prayed my “help my family and me” prayers. These prayers are tuneless mewls, and at 5:00 AM are silent for the neighbors’ benefit, done with the sound turned off everywhere but in my own head. Because in fact, the Help Me Prayers, that I pray to God, sound like two feral cats in heat – all screeching desire and mindless animal-need. “Gimmeeee, gimmmeeee, gimmmeeee, helphelphelp!” Finally, as Daisy saunters in, never having had anywhere to rush off to in the first place, and I give her a treat for not needing toilet paper to do her business. I have that delicious, first sip of the elixir of the gods, laced amply with milk and honey (as all Promised Land drinks should be) and I move on in my habits of seeking spiritual connection or at least a kind of solace. Now, as I think about what is going on in the world outside my kitchen, I begin the final round of my life-long attempt at “thoughts and prayers” to a God Who Hears. I begin the Cursing Psalms.
I confess, I have had many days of speaking cursing psalms to God about people I actually know. Don’t deny it, I may have done it – but you thought it. These days my Cursing Psalms are almost exclusively reserved for the World’s titans of industry and kings of nations – in other words, the Pharaohs, Herods and Pilates of our Times. I am not often as extremely violent as the Hebrew Cursing Psalmists were, being weak of stomach and low on horror fiction images. I have a hard time praying, as the ancient Jew did in Psalm 137, that the current political Darth Vaders and religious Sarumans will have their “children’s heads dashed on rocks”. However, I have found a deeply felt connection with the revenge motif in Psalm 109:8 “may his days be few; may another seize his position”. I mean, c’mon, the cursing prayers in The Bible far outweigh one misinterpreted line by a biblical Paul-wannabe who wants us to “obey un-named authorities” because then we won’t “get in trouble” and we can keep tithing and being taxed.
Like the Psalmist, the prophets, like Jeremiah and Nehemiah, also have quite a lot to say about what they would like Providence to do to the wicked, or to those people who, even if they aren’t downright evil world-players, that God would do to anyone, even the little no-named soldiers and spouses, who are connected in wrong-doings (or by their silence?) to the “powers of this world”. Cursing prayers were prayed often by saints who saw the harm done by those who instigate or just allow “bad things to happen to good people”, and by those who deny direct involvement but are implicit by their profiteering silence.
For any one who is apt to think of this idea as too Old Testament, too “old style God”, best to read the curses of that currently trendy commentator, St. Paul himself, who says of his fellow “Christians” who are foisting their legalism and religious false interpretations on others, “I just wish that those troublemakers, who want to mutilate you by circumcision would emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12). Yowza! Something for those who want to rush their paying audiences back into death-trap churches and temples and mosques to think about. Or for the Biblically so inclined, read John in Revelations 6:10 or Peter in Acts 8:20. Of course, people today who want to claim some kind of belief in what is called Holy Scripture, or Torah, or the Bible, people who want to claim a kind of belief especially in that human/god we call The Son of God, Jesus, The Christ, have only to look at the words of Christ himself in Matthew 23 about the greedy and proud religious and political leaders of His time, and prophetically of ours. And of all time. To put Jesus’ words into a handy Spark-notes version, Jesus asks for and foretells “Woe”; which means Jesus requests and foretells a litany of bad consequences, for these people who were leaders and authorities in Jesus’ religion and of both of his countries. Jesus prays they will actually incur and experience a judgement and real future of “great sorrow and distress”. Woe to those humans among us who are enemies to Truth and Love. As I think about these things, I feel a personal type of uncleanness that far surpasses the way I feel having not taken a shower for the past few quarantined days. I still feel a righteous anger looking at the people I want to curse, but I also feel like a leprous dark cloud of disease, in the presence of a Holy God and a Perfect Savior. And all I want to do, is pretend I don’t know what any of it means, and that I can’t be responsible for the whole world, let alone, somehow judged for my own insignificant actions, and I just want to go back to watching a comedy on Netflix or eating my way through what remains in my freezer.
This morning, as I was winding up (or was it winding down?) my daily devotions of reading The Guardian, The Washington Post, the Bible, and some readings in mildly radical social, theological, prophetic works on spiritual realities, in other words things written by those who have explored Meaning throughout our human history, and people wiser than I who discuss “what in the name of earth and heaven does everything mean? And what is the answer to Why?”; I was once more beginning my rounds of prayers.
Let’s try again, I told myself. Okay. First — Praises for a growing understanding of God’s presence in the Universe. Praises for new insights into what it means to follow The Way. Next– some more conscience-stricken, gentle, humbled “help me” prayers. Prayer asking for the grace and health for me and mine, inside and out, to live through just this one more granted day. Prayers of asking for help that admit that though I do not know what is best for those I love, I will pray that the Holy Spirit will guide and change them in the ways they need to be guided and changed. The Serenity Prayer fits nicely here, the one that Reinhold Niebuhr so beautifully wrote and as it always does, today it moved something in me, when I recited the whole thing, including the hard parts, like the line “taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is and not as I would wish it to be”. And because I meant it, it changed something incrementally important in my own heart and soul.
Finally, I was ready to move on in my prayers to the Cursing Psalms, with the intent of simply asking that those people out there who thought they were too important to wear masks around sick people or too rich to wait in line or too smart to listen to people much smarter than they, or too free to be servants of Christ—that they would all just get the real-life consequences for their choices. I was just going to pray as the Psalmists and Prophets did, “please just let what they allow to happen which can kill others, what they do without caring who suffers because of it, what they take when they don’t need more instead of giving to those who have so little – please just be fair, God and let those things kill them instead of others; and please, God, harm their lives instead of the lives of the least of us, and just let their hoarded storehouses be taken away from them and distributed to a world in need; and while You are at, get rid of all the nuclear stuff and end the wars and if possible, stop the nasty viruses. Please God, just give enemies what they have worked so hard to deserve.” Woe, woe, woe. And then of course, that “Good Friend Jesus” of mine had to remind me, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that God sent His only son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to die and live again, so we can all be cleansed from unrighteousness, and that what I think in my own heart, is what I really am, whether I act on it or not and that I am to go into every little corner of my own world and speak Good News of light, and hope, and love, and forgiveness, and faith — and once, more it all became One Thing, all the dots connected to the whole, and the whole thing of both evil and good, sin and righteousness, hate and love, cursing and praise – the whole thing led inexorably, unmovably, unignorably back to Me – the only “dot” that matters, the elephant in the room, the stone around my own neck dragging me down, the one “enemy” that has to lay down her weapons, and give in to The Unsearchable Goodness of A Good, Good God.
Over the years, I have perfected the ability to pray to myself and call it praying to a God. I have honed a sort of sing-song prayer life which is mostly like one person trying to sing a musical-round by oneself. Sometimes, though from the back seat of the Life-Car I am driving, I hear the Holy Spirit pipe-up. So, now and then, when I am praying at God or whining at the world in the Name of God, I let God or Jesus get a line or two in. It can be quite unnerving to suddenly realize that I am finally having an actual dialogue with Otherness. It is quite different than having a monologue with the various personalities that inhabit my mind from day to day. Back to this morning. Once I recognized my own need for forgiveness and change, I was able to listen to something outside of myself. And this morning was one of those times that prayer suddenly became conversation and not soliloquy.
Like a whisper across an ocean, like a butterfly appearing out of a tempestuous tornado, came the words of Jesus: “love your enemies”, and then the footnote –”because they do not live in reality”. In this barely discernable moment, shot like an arrow through the permeable membrane of my brain/heart, The Real World, of life, of myself, of other people, of the planet, and of God, was for a brief, but very sense-able moment, completely seen by something inside me that I can only call “soul-vision”.
That moment when The Presence was real, was like looking at one of those ambiguous images that at first look like a vase and then, when you squinch your eyes a certain way, is suddenly revealed to be a woman’s silhouette. The dire forecast of what I knew would be the consequences of humanity’s actions and inactions was completely turned inside out. Like the Upside Down Kingdom of Christ always does, suddenly the pandemic and all cancers and diseases, and the abusive, greedy, corrosive powers throughout history and currently running the world; and the rot of religious hypocrisies used for personal gain; and the communal ignorant destruction of our planetary home; and all the sins great and small, done and left undone; all of these were for just for an instant revealed as one big smoke-screen, one giant chimera of lies about what was and is and will be in The Kingdom of Meant to Be. My point of view – and it was just a tiny point on a long, long line of crooked and miscalculated points in my own life and worldview—that tiny momentary point was Trued, was like a little creaky craft sailing due North, was the small speck in a traced circle of new life. That moment became, not the end of the line but a chance at beginning all over again.
What I connected that little point to, was the small dot in a swirling mass of human life-thought-dots of what Jesus Christ meant when he said, “My Kingdom is not of this World.” And what true followers of Christ mean when we pray to God the Father, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. On earth. This earth. The one we have almost – but not quite– destroyed. With these people. The godlike imago Dei in humanity, that we have almost – but not quite – destroyed. His Will be done, not theirs, not ours, not mine. There is a spark of that reality still ember-ing throughout the world. We just need to stoke it back to life.
We are meant to recognize beyond the pollution and rape of our resources, beyond the racism and violence, beyond the greed and pride, beyond the carelessness and uncaring, that we live in a place like we imagine a heavenly one to be — not somewhere else, but here, available if re-created, restored with the help of other human beings – not some other kind of species, just human ones like us. We are meant to look around and get to work making a reality of our longings for a good, heaven-like place here, now, with normal people, who if we look close enough, reveal themselves as angels, who have abilities for goodness and recreation and healing, miraculous works beyond our wildest dreams. We don’t need “them” to change, we need “Us” to change, and when we all work together for a truthfully Good life, “they” won’t have any choice but to join us. When in this moment, we choose God’s Kingdom on earth as His Reality is Everywhere Else, we will live as we were meant to live eternally. Because that is what Jesus Christ did. That is what Jesus Christ does. That is what Jesus Christ will do.
Because, thankfully, other human beings throughout history, have been much more attuned to moments like that butterfly moment of mine this morning, we have the examples of certain people throughout the world’s history who have been able to live lives connecting the dots of a different sort of Kingdom, a different sort of reborn life, a different reality in a world of justice, peace, sharing, health, miracles, love, and care for something bigger and more lasting than temporal and fleeting treasures. It is to my shame, that I so easily focus on those sad, mistaken, misguided ones whose lives are lived in the false doctrines of humanistic, individualistic self-centered Team-Me-ness. Because of some small communities throughout history, and some very special women and men, there have been bold, brave, fantastical, “Heavenly” forays into the enemy camp of the illusory world of false treasures, and there have been brash takeovers of the predatory, prejudiced profiteering of the temporal wannabes, and the building blocks have been laid in the construction of that which is worthwhile because it is eternal. Some of these heroes of the world, and communities of faithfulness to The Way, are in fact, people who have given Jesus Christ the credit for their world-changing vision and actions, and others weren’t and don’t. That, though, in the end, won’t matter one bit, because what any of us really believe, will be revealed when our hearts are laid open to God.
This time of a world laid open, like a patient on an operating table whose chest is opened up for the Doctor’s exploratory, surgical intervention, will allow us to open our eyes and minds and hearts to the reality of our actions and the consequences of our choices. It is painful and scary; it is also, the way forward, if we keep our eyes focused on the flickering of a hopeful light at the end of another dark tunnel in our history.
We can choose to focus on the crashes and cacophony outside, or we can tune our ears to the calm assurance that is found in the quiet, still voice of The God of Second Chances-Jehovah, and The Creator Who Loves Her Created World – Our Parent, and the Son Who Lived and Died as One With Us- Emmanuel. That God will not leave us alone. But of course, if we keep insisting to have it our way, He will get out of our way. And despite our Enemy’s best tries, there is A Way, there is The Way, there is only One Way for us to survive, to live, to prevent the death of our planet, and if not our physical, at least prevent our spiritual death. There is One Reality.
This morning, I realized for a small moment, that I should feel sorry for people who live a fiction, a false life, a continual version of themselves as the protagonist of a show that they think of as Real, in the same way they think that what they see on Reality TV is real. I should feel pity for those who do not live the right kind of life, as I have so often not lived the right kind of life myself. I understood that I am asked to forgive what seems unforgivable, because that is how I am forgiven. This is the miracle of repentance and restoration of my own soul, that by praying for the souls of others, I am healed.
I realized that the “biggies” and the movers and shakers of the world are never going to be convinced to give up their “stuff” so that the planet will survive. But I can. I realized some people will never understand how demeaning it is to the very basis of what being human is all about when they care only about themselves. But I can. I realized that the only reason to vent cursing prayers to God, is to cleanse myself from all unrighteousness, so I can finally be still and peaceful and centered enough to hear what God has to say to me.
And someday, when the Real Kingdom comes for good, we who have tried to be like Christ, Will Be. When only the little Davids are left, and not the Goliaths; and when only those who care for Creation as their Creator does are left, and when only those who have loved others as Jesus did are left, then they will inherit the New Earth. When we love our neighbor as ourselves and love God with every morsel of our being, every moment of our day, every dot on our life-line, then there will be no more pandemics, no more war, no more sorrow, no more suffering – no more death. When the world is made right as God intended it to be, then even death will have been conquered.
So, rather than praying for an end to the lives of the bad people and an end to all the bad stuff destroying us, I had best get started on being alive. I had best spend however many moments I have left, becoming one of the Whole, part of the community of good people, and taking care of whatever I have of the stuff that will last.
I should pray for the enemies of my own silly self, and those enemies of the world, not because I think they will change, but because by praying for them, I will change. I should love the enemies of God who take His name in vain, and whose pride has led them into a raging current of hypocrisy, because I am also, hypocritical and abusive of God’s intended purposes for this world. Loving doesn’t mean being silent in the face of lies. Loving doesn’t mean not speaking the Truth boldly, even angrily, when we must. Loving does not mean I think there is no such thing as bad people or sin or sinfulness. Loving means I recognize daily that I am part of both the problem and the solution. By loving even those whom I can see for what they sadly actually are, I can see my own egregious sins more frankly. I can repent and change who I am and pray for grace for those people who are yet unchanged, and ask for a bit of God’s grace for me as well. I can focus on the “YET” not the “never”. I can live as a truly grateful servant of Christ, and as a humble, dependent child of God.
In my dialogue of prayer this morning, this is an interpretation of some of what I understood God to be saying. I let God get in a few words edgewise in my thoughts and prayers this morning, and My Parent-God said something like this:
Child, feel pity for those people who are intent on destroying the Earth– they will not inherit it. Remember that only the meek will live to see a restored creation, so be meek and learn with those who are learning how to care for the planet I entrusted your species with. Child, you must try to learn more about caring for your planet, and love those who are too foolish to know that when they die, they will receive only what they have planted- dust.
Child, feel sorrow for those who claim they know my Son, Jesus who stretched out his arms on a cross for the whole world. Feel sorrow for them, for they do not see Him in the outstretched hands of the needy, as Christ commanded them to do. But you, my child, have another day to seek My Kingdom. Remember that only if you begin to love others as you have long loved yourself, will you enter into My Kingdom. Know that only if men and women are poor in spirit, will they have the Kingdom of Heaven forever.
Child, you see the Truth when you understand that the world is full of soul-less ones, of zombies, who think they are alive when they are really dead or dying inside. You too, have spent far too many days, trying to gain the world, and losing your soul. Be humbled, and be on guard, against the Devil and his hungry wolves who prowl the earth looking for easy prey. Do not let your heart be hardened against those other people, but love them, not for their sake, but for the sake of the New Earth, and the New Heaven, that I have in store for all those who follow The Way of The Light. To be persecuted for seeking righteousness, is the Way of my Son, and if you die to yourself, my child, you will be resurrected, now, and in the future, to a glorious Reality.
Child, you must not despair, but also, you must not hate. Despair and hatred are mere illusions of something, and are in fact, only the absence of something. This reality that is full of fear and suffering, wrongs done and left undone, of anger and violence and disease and, yes even death, are no more real to God, than any evil ever could be. These things, created by us, and not God, have been passing away from God’s Created Universes, since Adam’s Fall. They will pass away from the earth, as blades of grass blown by A Sovereign Wind. All that will remain for those who will inherit a restored and healthy world, in a reborn humanity, and in the Kingdom of Christ, God’s Son, will be all that has ever been truly real. All that will remain will be “faith, hope, and love.”
And, My Child, the most powerful, lasting, eternal, overcoming, over-whelming, greatest thing that will remain – is Love. So, my Child, focus your life on Flourishing in The Way, just as Christ lived out The Way for you. Seek to Love as We Love you. My foolish Child, so full of self-righteousness and desire — Today, love Me like a small child loves her Mommy. And work harder at loving others, even when they are destructive and evil, because that kind of Love will someday destroy all the evil in the world, even that which is in yourself. Forgive people who are naughty, in the same way you want to be forgiven. And always Remember– Love Will Win. So, Love other humans, especially the ones that no one else seems to care about, in the same way you love your own children.
And then, dear Little One, Leave the rest to Me. I’ve got this. I’ve got you. In fact, I’ve got the whole world in My Hands.
And so, my morning has ended with a pause in my cursing of my enemies. And as I try to figure out what loving enemies has to do with the rebirth of our world and the future of our souls, I end my prayers and start my day, by admitting, I have no idea what it all means, but I can trust that there is a God Who does. And as the Psalmist in Psalm 139 did after he cursed the bad guys, I can pray for God’s help to be one of the good guys:
And Just Like That — We Might Finally Get That “Jesus Thing”
And Just Like That –We Might Finally Get that “Jesus-Thing”
By Jane Tawel
April 11, 2020
And just like that – — we might finally understand the meaning of the Season.
Thanks, Corona Virus.
There finally comes a time — a true, even though foisted -on -us time — when those who want to follow the Son of God in His Passion, in those final days — not the first euphoric, “this -is -fun” days — but the final ones when Jesus accepted willingly the full spectrum, the end results of human sin and suffering — now there is a time when we who are completely human, can get a glimpse into choosing to suffer as the Son of God, did — in other words as we claim that He who was human by choice suffered.
Just like that, Christians are forced to celebrate the final Holy Days that Jesus celebrated which of course were not “Christian” but Jewish Holy days. Passover. As we put the sign of the cross on our doors in hand sanitizer, and huddle around tables with those family members sheltering from the plagues, fearing what might be our final plague of viral death-cells roaming outside and destroying the world’s largest economies in the process — as we decide whether to keep throwing in our worldview with the current reigning Pharaohs or whether we will seek a whole new world by following the poor mumbling, stuttering Moses-es who would lead us to literally only God-knows-where, and possibly to a new world order out beyond our cultural norms, a world which we distrust now as what sounds like a socialist, spiritually-demanding community of equals living out in the desert with only what we can carry on our backs and a faint hope that the Promised Land will be better than the Land of the Brave and the Free.
Now in the Year of the Corona Virus 2020 — this Christian season like none other in our bonnet-wearing, basket toting, bunny-worshipping lives is actually something we might have to rethink in the same way we had to rethink playtime, worktime and now, worship time while hunkering down at home. Now we finally know what the people of God have celebrated since Moses led them out of Egypt and away from locusts and flying frogs and Amazon rivers and Michigan waters filled with blood. We celebrate another day of being spared. We celebrate the Goodness of Providence. We celebrate life — l’chayim!
Now we see our part in all that has gone wrong on our planet and in our neighborhoods. We can choose to ignore it, but not if we want to continue to pretend that this particular weekend — Friday through Sunday — has any significance at all. Now we see ourselves for the lazy Egyptians, or Romans, or Americans we have become — for the kind of people who want to claim to be God’s Chosen People but only if we don’t have to keep up our end of God’s bargain; only if Jesus keeps the covenant for us, not with us. We finally must look at our destructive abuse of God’s world and the real consequences, our destructive abuse of our own souls and the consequences, our cheap love and grace towards others and the consequences. We must own our years of complicity — in worshipping a nation, not a Kingdom, a religion and not a God.
We may understand at last, Christ’s warning to those who would follow him: “Beware the yeast of the Pharisees”. Yeast won’t make it to the Promised Land, any more than a religion of pride and greed will. Neither travel well. As we find ourselves in our own wandering wilderness — apart from all the comforts, separated from the parceled-out bread and entertaining circuses that the rulers sell us as nationalism and numbing panacea, as we pull back the historical and currently polarizing wizards’ curtains to see the false prophets for who they really are, those with their emerald-green worlds made by money-making machines; those that if we don’t want to stay in Oz, that too many religions will re-sell us as tickets to Kansas or Heaven.
At last we may realize that God is out there — in the wilderness, offering only the manna we need. At last we realize as Dorothy did, as Jesus did — that we have always had it within our own power to go Home. But first we have to leave Oz, leave Egypt, leave the comforts even of our own parents or community.
First, if we want to understand any kind of “Holy” time or “Holy-ness”, we have to walk the Yellow Brick Road of trials, and fears, and bad things and bad people and of suffering. And we have to fight all those soul-destroying things in others and in ourselves. We have to learn how to share love with those we meet on the journey, even if they are nothing like us — even if they are Tin Men or Scarecrows or Cowards.
First, before we can live again in a new Corona-virus-in-the- past world — we have to learn to take only what we can carry with us in this world — a few loaves of pita bread and some leftover hummus maybe. We have to have enough faith, without caring what anyone else thinks of us, and we have to use our own hands, our own abilities and put the Blood of the Lamb on the doors of our hearts.
First, we must humbly pray that this plague passes -over our family, our loved ones, the People of God, the whole world — that this ends, so we may have the chance to begin again. Passover. Then, as The People of God have always done, we must promise each other to “Never Forget” and so we have to learn to suffer more willingly in the wilderness with other human beings. We have to believe that God will provide, if we provide for each other, and that there will be enough manna for all of us today, if we don’t hoard it for tomorrow for ourselves.
We have to not only pray for immunity from this current plague, but we must keep doing those things that we now do to make us stronger, and our immune systems more effective in fighting pandemics. We must also find truth in those words and people throughout history and alive today, that make our spiritual immune systems more effective in fighting evil. We must keep doing those things that make us better inside, as well as outside. We must find the same strength to make our hearts, minds and souls more immune to hate and sin and pride and greed. Then we must re-learn how to live rightly, in fear of a Holy God, with love for the natural world of creation and a selfless care to restore it to wholeness, and with a renewed sense of love for our very lives and the lives of all others; and with a contentment we might find in knowing that we have a soul headed for a place of perfection that we can only imagine.
We must accept that God has already provided the vaccine against the diseases we all share caused by fear, and hatred, and self-centeredness. It is called The Way, The Tao– but we have to trust it to heal our souls and to insure our real lives against death by the shiny things that tempt us into soul-destroying things. We have to willingly get vaccinated from evil, for love to conquer all.
Now, perhaps, in this unique Holy Weekend, we finally know that if we don’t do the right things, we will die. We should remember that nothing has actually changed — we will die. There is no way that any single person will ever do enough “right things” so that he or she can live forever. There has only been one human who chose differently — who chose rightly — only one since Adam and Eve first chose their own serpent’s version of fake news over God– since people chose The Lie because it gave them more justification for getting more stuff — more physical, intellectual, emotional, political or religious stuff. And ever since Eden, most of us have kept choosing the intriguing complications of our lives over the simplicity of eternal life. As Leonard Berstein wrote, “God is the simplest of all”. We, however, continue to prefer the puzzles of forbidden fruit. We have a chance to realize, during this enforced simplification of our lives and an enforced simplification of our chosen means to worship God, that simple can serve us better, and that we serve God better, when we choose to live simply.
Only the Messiah, Jesus the Christ got to choose whether he wanted to die after living on this planet. The Father gave only His only begotten Son the choice of whether to die or not. This weekend we celebrate the fact that Jesus chose to die for sins he never committed, and he chose to give us the opportunity to die with him in his cause or to allow God to leave us behind in the dust.
This weekend we celebrate our free will on this planet, and we can use that free will today to ignore the cautions about what is the right thing to do to protect — save — ourselves and others, or we can offer our own wills on the altar of a God who waits for us on the other side of the Red Sea, a God who has prepared a place for us, a God who loves us enough to send His Son to live with us, eat with us, celebrate God’s provisions throughout history with us, and a Son who will choose to die with us so that we can have hope once more that Sunday’s Coming and the Tomb is empty.
Today our deaths may be due to a virus cell, tomorrow it may be from a heart attack; tomorrow we may die from our hatred gone amok, the next person might die from gluttony, and the poor we will have always dying because of our own appalling lack of love.
We celebrate a day that in too much lapsed time, too much hindsight, too much cheap-grace theology, we have dubbed “Good Friday”. But it’s not all so “good” standing alone — it certainly wasn’t for Jesus. Why do we think we can leave him hanging there for all time, saving us from our sins? Do I really think that if I live in Boston, Massachusetts, that the Doctor at the hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, or a nurse in Sacramento, California or a researcher in Wuhan, China can save me personally from the plague that has infected the world? No. I am saved only by what I am, what I seek, what I have recourse to, what I live into and by and for and amongst — I am saved by a whole lot of luck in what I’ve been given and what I can survive. I am saved by the strength of my immune system, not my sister’s or brother’s immune system, not my pastor’s immune system, not my president’s or governors, or guru’s or shaman’s. And it was long past time for many of us to realize we should have been taking better care of our health, our immune systems and frankly the health and immune systems of everyone within six feet of us. We have all become quite the “evangelicals”, during this Corona-Virus plague, have we not? Sharing warnings, sharing tips, sharing encouragements, sharing the Gospel of how to live through and after Corona-Virus? Quite the over-night prophets and pastors we all are now from the safety of our social media fortresses. Quite the love we seem to be overflowing with — from a distance. What will be our evangelical good news for a world struggling to survive the consequences of this time? Will we finally celebrate the Jewish Jubilee that Jesus claimed he came to install as God’s Kingdom on Earth?
I should have been building up my immune system all these years. I should have been taking care of my health and the health of the homeless people in my park and of the grocery clerks and the people I worked for that I thought weren’t important enough for me to stay away from when I had the flu, and then I should have been fighting for the rights to a living wage for all the people who are still out there risking their lives because they can not afford to stay home from a job that doesn’t pay them enough. I should have been taking only what I need and not hoarding. I should have been asking for forgiveness and begging for mercy all these years. I should have been loving my neighbors and my enemies enough to save us all from “what’s out there”. I should have been reaching out in love to everyone. I should have been not worrying so much and loving more every moment of this wonderful God-given life. I should have been reducing my stress and increasing my faith.
I should have been putting on armor against disease — just like God advises me to do with sin. If I am saved from the Corona Virus, it is only by a current bit of luck, because of course everyone is going to die of something. I am saved, perhaps also, by my willingness to keep the contract with the rest of the world that I should have made as soon as I could reason. The contract is that I will be a good citizen of the world and think of you all as I would like you to think of me — do for you all as I would like you to do for me. Jesus taught us this, not with words only but by deeds — “To live, you must love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and will, and you must follow this as the first rule of being a human being. The second rule is like this one, because your fellow human beings, whether you like it or not, are created just as much in god-images as you are yourself — so love everyone, just as you would love yourself and treat everyone as you would like everyone to treat you, and behave towards all, and connect to all as you would like them to be in relationship to you.” Do those two things, Jesus, says, do them as He did them — and you will find your way from the garden, to the Passover, to the crucifixion, to the tomb, to the Resurrection, to the Promised Land, to Christ’s side and to the completely healthy, virus-free reality of God’s Kingdom.
And now we see that we have been worshiping a Golden Calf and we better once more let Jesus into the temples and churches and small group Bible studies, and hand Jesus the whips of rope to turn over our money tables. Those tables of those that sell cheap salvation for a price, who have too long been blocking us from worshiping the True God in spirit and in truth.
And now, as we live in our own tense, stressful, worrisome, Garden of Gethsemane, we see how fearful we are that Jesus can’t really pull it off. We are finally aware, perhaps, of how tired and drowsy we are. How lazy. How cheap we think prayer can be. How happy we are that Jesus is somewhere else, somewhere back there, so we can rest. Now we see we have fallen asleep. We thought we wanted to follow Jesus to Calvary but we can’t even stay awake in a Garden, long enough to pray with him. We don’t need to wait for the rooster to crow, we have betrayed him with our willingness to believe God’s grace is Walmart-priced and Christ’s plan is for us to relax while he does the heavy lifting.
And now we see that the Saturday between the Friday of Jesus on the cross is the longest, longest, longest day in the whole world for any one who thinks they want to follow a crazy rabbi who claimed to be a Jewish Messiah and who finally claimed to be The Only Begotten Son of YHWH, but who on a Friday, before the Hebrew Sabbath could begin — died.
And this King of the Jews died of the same thing that we all die of, no matter what our beliefs. He died because of what we have done to the world and the earth and to each other. Jesus died, as we will, because of our choices to pretend we are not responsible for the ills of the world; because of the evils of pride and greed that we have let infect our most profound human ideas — those that make up our religions and our overseeing, ruling governments. Maybe we are those nationalists, those who want to make ourselves “Great Again”. Maybe we are the religious groups, who like those of Jesus’ people who were only too glad that Moses went away for a while on the Mountaintop with G-d, so we can deal with Aaron who will give the people what they want to believe they can worship and so that Aaron can keep his job.
Maybe we are glad to believe that Jesus has gone away for awhile and we can do whatever we want until He returns? Maybe we don’t believe that Jesus will come down from the Mountaintop as Moses did, and be as righteously angry as a God to find us worshiping gold and cheap entertainers like Aaron was — like too many of our leaders are? Maybe we don’t believe, just like the Golden-Calf-worshipping, bored with God’s provided- manna, unwilling in faithlessness Hebrews didn’t believe, that we will really die because of what we choose to do? Maybe we’ve given up on walking for forty long years and we don’t want to relearn what it takes to be the kind of human being who will be useful and happy if they someday live in a perfect land of milk and honey and community and love? Maybe we’ve forgotten that not everyone makes it to the Promised Land, even if they say they “believe” in Jesus? Just like everyone who hid at Passover behind the Blood of the Lamb didn’t make it to the Promised Land, Jesus warns us that “not everyone who comes in my name will enter my Heaven”. Maybe we can, in our sheltered, quarantined time away from the world out there, remember that Jesus knows only those who “do unto the least of humans, as if you were doing it unto The Christ”. That’s scarier than a pandemic to my mind.
Maybe our enforced sobering in the face of a pandemic, and the joy we find in living in this different kind of life we have right now — a life forced on us by the plagues we have fled –a joy that comes not from getting something new or more, but from being grateful for having what we need just for one more day — Manna — “this is my body given for you, take, eat in remembrance of Me” — maybe all this will sober us to find joy in a message that we can start living, out there — and not put our lives and love back on a shelf with our other scriptures and self-help tomes. Maybe we will defy death this time so we can go about life as if we really have been Reborn to New Life.
Jesus died because we grow easily bored, and restless with simplicity, and we prefer to be a palm-waving, cheering participant in the mass hysteria of the people who want to make Jesus a Reality TV Star. “Go, Team!” is so much more acceptable than “Repent!” “We Win!” means someone else — the other team, the other gender or color or creed or socio-economic strata — “They Lose!” So, what do we do now without teams to watch and cheer for; without churches whose doors are either open or closed to us depending on who we are; without even wars to continue to fight “safely”? What do we do now that we have proven, albeit without our consent, that we can live simply and in peace and by sharing more with others?
The scary truth, is that the veil has been torn — and we see people hoarding, disobeying God’s law of love, ironically, there are those who are still convinced they have to go to church to find the right God, even if they kill their neighbors for it. The torn veil shows us a world sorely lacking in not only protective gear for sacrificing health workers and life-saving medicines for poor people, but not even the right antidotes for price-gauging drug companies, and not even enough expensive ventilator machines for the famous and rich who have always assumed that only poor homeless, worthless, 401k-less Lazarus-es lie at their doors with unhealthy sores and cells; we see that no one escapes, and that even the very wealthy, with their rich warehouses of stuff can’t save themselves from death.
People are all for freedom if it means they can do whatever they want to whomever they want. People don’t want freewill in a Kingdom with a suffering, truth-telling, overly-loving-of everyone Savior. People don’t want the King who says he belongs to a “kingdom not of this world”. We want a King like the one we elected on Palm Sunday — the miracle-making Santa Claus King that we can cheer for, while we stand on the side of the road to Jerusalem; we don’t want the King Jesus really was — is — will be — we don’t want to have to carry our own crosses beside Him while we walk with The King to Calvary. And if Jesus won’t bow down to our expectations, why, then — we will find someone who will. And we will call him, not Jewish Messiah, not Old Testament Son of God, not present King and coming Ruler — but we will make our own images of gold, and will cheer those who are only too willing to pose as our god-substitute sacrifices for us. If we leave here, lucky enough to be Passed-Over, then we may find our way back to Jesus as God-lite. But we will have a new choice — a new Egypt to leave — a new wilderness to cross — and a new Savior for a new day to follow. We can as Moses did, ask God to show us the future — the Promised Land — a healed and healing world — that we are meant to carry our brothers and sisters to live in — along with us. We can as Jesus did, pray that we don’t have to die from this death in particular, that “God takes the cup from us” in this time of pandemic, and allows us to live with our friends and family and in the joy of a wonderful world for a bit longer. But, as Jesus did, we can also pray to endure, to suffer willingly even to the point of death, to walk the road, and enter the tomb even if we don’t feel God’s presence at all. We can with only a tiny bit of hope and faith, pray, “Thy will be done and into Your Spirit- Father Hands, I give my life, my soul, my all”.
So, we live not as if Jesus is still on the cross, and as if we are wandering afraid and alone in the wilderness of this world, but as if it is always Saturday and Jesus is still in the tomb. Because tomorrow, that day of Easter we are so anxious to celebrate, should be the really scary, sobering, choice-inducing day. Tomorrow, when Jesus rose, is the day we have to decide whether we are going to leave Egypt once and for all or not.
Tomorrow is the day when the disciples of Jesus were still found huddled in terror behind their closed doors, afraid of the death lurking around every corner — death by Roman empire, death by religious leaders, death by unemployment and lack of the most basic of necessities or funds. And so today, whatever day it is now, as we huddle behind doors, and tomorrow as we, as the early disciples did, must continue for our own safety to huddle behind doors, we must not think that because Jesus chose death, that we won’t have to. We will.
This year won’t be like other Easters for most of us. It won’t be a Passover for Jews like it usually is, although the Jews of this world are much more acquainted with short and long term suffering than most of us, which says a lot about why Jesus chose them as His People. And so –
On a day like Easter, after giving our token-worship to a Savior that died on Friday, Easter arrives like a party-day, one that we usually see as — Oh, yay, rah Team Christian! — here we go, back to the Egyptian — I mean, American — values of Easter bunny-idols, and exorbitant amounts of moneys spent, not on God’s work of caring for the world, but on candy and fertility-rite egg hunting for children, and salaries for public speakers in robes behind lecterns, and large dinners at home or at fancy restaurants; and in a belief system with a manufactured, fake grace so small and cheap it can fit inside a brightly-colored plastic Easter egg. But this year, tomorrow — if you are a good person, and are truly following Jesus, and not following some preacher or rabbi more worried about their career than about your health and safety — tomorrow you will have none of those trappings of “celebration”; none of those rites of religion or rites of Spring; none of the passing pleasantries of friends and family who come and leave again after a rich meal, loved ones who may leave you without leaving barely a trace of what is still missing, hungering inside them. Tomorrow there will not be those who are gone away from your home without filling those universal yearnings for a love that lasts longer than a large hollow chocolate bunny. Tomorrow, we will all still be behind closed doors, waiting for a Savior. Tomorrow, we may simply be celebrating being alive for one more day.
But, finally, tomorrow, this year of 2020 Worldwide Pandemic “Resurrection Sunday”, might just actually feel like what it felt like for the disciples of Jesus. Tomorrow we might wake to the sorrow and sadness of another day behind doors closed in fear, doors locked in vain attempts to keep death out. Tomorrow we might feel an aching loss of a loved one, that we will not see in this lifetime again. Tomorrow we will wake to less extravagances, to another day of only the food /the manna we can “carry”, the things we need just to survive. Tomorrow we will look outside and feel the kind of fear and anger we should have of those powers and rulers who play with our lives so carelessly. Tomorrow we will realize that this is what God intended every Sabbath to be — rest from labors, and maybe it’s time we stopped working at the idea of working, and started working at the stuff the whole planet and everyone need to live well. Maybe tomorrow, this year, we will be content to do nothing, and to let our Sabbath be a time when God actually meets us right where we are.
Tomorrow we will realize that we have all that any of us really need, if we truly want to worship God right where we are. We will wake to an understanding that He has given each of us His Word, the Truth, the Light, and while it has always been nice to expect someone “official” to bring us to the Promised Land, and to hear nice music, they aren’t with us now. And really, in the end, it’s always been about my choice, my life, my decisions, my relationships. In the end, even after all he did for the People of God, Moses didn’t get to leave the quarantine alive. I think now that that was the most loving thing God could have done for Moses — to choose to protect Moses’ soul for God’s Eternal Promised Land, over what had become Moses’ self-centered dreams of ruling the Hebrews in what could only be a temporary way-station, anyway, a nation that would at best, be a passing illusion of what God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven would someday be.
If we leave these upper rooms of fear and hiddenness, like Jesus’ disciples did days after Jesus rose from the grave, we will always have more choices, more decisions, more moments to live as God’s People in God’s Worldview. We must walk-on in our own strength and paradoxically only with strength from outside ourselves, we must journey on toward the Promised Land. The Good News about Jesus is, He came to show us how by doing it himself.
On this Easter Sunday, when we will not yet know what it means to be resurrected from fear and loneliness, from sorrow and pain and disease, from sin and death — this Easter — we may realize that this sense of waiting and watching that has become our new normal in the time of the 2020 Plague of Corona Virus, this watching and waiting was always supposed to be the life-enhancing philosophy of the People of God. From Job to Abraham to Moses to David to Mary to Jesus — the long arc of the Messiah is the arc of watching and waiting. Watching — our Salvation is at hand. Waiting — the Kingdom of God is among you like a pearl hidden in a field — Seek and you will Find!
The disciples of Jesus ran away from him on Thursday, betrayed and denied him on Friday, despaired and doubted everything and everyone, especially their God, on Saturday, and on Sunday, the disciples hid and regretted their decision to give up their jobs and families — to give up everything to follow Jesus. On Sunday, when Jesus was dead, his disciples hid together or alone, and tried to figure out how to deal with an uncertain tomorrow but a tomorrow that would one day, certainly mean their death. They behaved like we do, like we are, at least now. They behaved as we do, because they didn’t believe that what they had been watching for, the One whom they were waiting for — Messiah, Savior, Son of Living God — would ever come.
Jesus was dead.
And then. . .
Not because the disciples had the right theology. Not because they were faithful. Not because they were pure and loved well. Not because they had a great heritage. Not because they went to temple or church or tithed or were baptized or prayed the right prayers. And not because Jesus had died in their place so they wouldn’t have to. And then, not because any of us had followed the right rules, or practiced the right rites, or believed in the right Constitution. And then…
On Sunday, after the Jewish day of Rest, Sabbath, and very early in the morning, and just when some that the world considered tainted and useless, some grieving women came to Jesus’ tomb, and those women who were also afraid and in despair said, “Nonetheless, we will persist”. And these women went to care for a dead body according to the Jewish burial customs because even when someone we love dies, we keep their memory alive and we care for their legacy as best we can. “And when they came to the tomb, the women found it empty with someone who was maybe a gardener and maybe an angel nearby, and they said with agony, “Where is the body of our friend, Jesus”. And the angel, who might have been just a man, said: “Don’t look for him anymore here where dead things and dead people are. He has overcome death by dying, and he is risen just as he promised you, and he is waiting and watching for you to come to Him today.”
And then on this day we celebrate on Easter, all these years later…
And not because of us or anything we can achieve…
But because of God’s great love for His Child, who we call Jesus…
and His great mercy on His children, who are all of us….
— the whole world shifted.
Even though we may follow all the right sanitizing programs to protect us from COVID-19, there are no guarantees. And it will not be merely because of anything we do or believe that we will be saved, or that will ensure that we will have an eternal life in a new earth and new heaven — a Promised Land. And yet, our very souls depend as much on our inherent spiritual immune systems as they depend on the health, the need to consistently sanitize our worldview, and the rules we follow to live justly with others and walk uprightly before our God, and of how we love others. Our souls depend on what we do and believe just as much as our physical health depends on it at this time and throughout all Time. That is the paradox, the mystery of the Passion of The Christ — it all depended on what He did, and it was completely out of His hands to do anything. “Father, you know I can do nothing apart from You.” “Father, you and I are walking in this world as one.” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why must I suffer and die?” “Parent -Mother-Father-God — into your very enormous holding hands and loving Self, I give you my all.”
We will be saved by the Blood of the Lamb that WE choose to identify with, even behind closed doors. Our world will be saved by how we choose to die. Will we die trying to take as many toys and chocolate bunnies and plastic baubles and rolls of poop-wiping material and armaments and experiences and mansions with us when we go? Or will we die trying to do unto others — to the least of the least on this planet, in this world, in this nation, in this neighborhood — as we are hoping other people will do unto us? Isn’t it when all is said and done, sacrificial Love, that is the real “Jesus-Thing”?
Will we die for the same things we have learned to live for in this time of sheltering in –for something, even if we can’t see it now, that may well count for something bigger, more important, more lasting, and beautiful than our own small life?
Jesus was just another small life, after all. A nobody, a poor despised Jew, a person who didn’t follow the unhealthy, unloving, ungodly rules of the Pharisees and Sadducees and Roman rulers; but rather followed the rules we have all been given to keep the planet healthy, to make people truly believe and know that there is hope and love and help along the way, and Jesus followed the rules and The One Way that God has given us in order to keep our very souls from death. Jesus died just like we all will, and from the same thing. Jesus died from what we have done to the world, not what God has done for it. And then Jesus rose from death, so God could show us what He is still able to do for and through and in us.
And so Saturday, is our day. A day to decide if we will watch and wait or if we will hide and despair. Because tomorrow is the day that Jesus comes back from The Promised Land to invite us to let Him help us find our way to eternal life there, too.
Tomorrow is the day Jesus had the biggest Surprise Party of all time. Jesus walked into the room where the disciples hid frightened and angry and lonely and lost and yelled, “Surprise!” Easter is the Surprise Party Jesus throws each year in God’s honor, and yet — though all are invited, not all will come.
Tomorrow is the day, that disciples had their whole worldview turned upside down on its head. Corona Virus has done the same for many of us in the world living today. Tomorrow is the day of “Shock and Awe” when Jesus shows the world that Love can win over hatred, that peace can win over violence, that meekness beats pride, and truth destroys lies. Tomorrow is the day that Jesus shows us that He lived as “the way, the truth, and the life” and that that Way can lead us to God. Tomorrow is the day that Christ’s Life defeated Christ’s death and that God’s Love defeated the World’s Pandemic.
But Today — this holding-pattern day — is the Everyday of not just our new reality behind the closed doors of Corona Virus sheltering-in. Today is the Every-Saturday of Holy Week. Because every day of this lifetime, is the day to choose whether we will die with Christ, in order to be resurrected into His Kingdom.
And just like Jesus instructed us to go into the world and wash each other’s feet, so today we choose, again and again and again, will I wash my hands to love my neighbor? Will I humble myself enough to let God show me how dirty my feet are because of how I’ve chosen to walk in this world?
Will I choose today to live as if Jesus is no longer dead, but is risen and alive in this room where I am still trying to hide from fear and still trying to hide from Him? Because The Kingdom of God is now. It is here. It is both here and also that for which we watch and wait. Just like my life today, when I am seizing this moment with grace and gratitude as all I can be really sure of; while also longing for the moment we will be reunited with the ones and The One that we love.
Jesus spent a lifetime dying to himself, and living for His Father. I struggle with even a day spent dying to my own wishes, yearnings, grubbing, or worrying, or self-care preening or just giving up getting out and about. During this time of Corona-Virus, I have learned how pointless so much of it has been and how much of what I have done or who I think I am, is useless here and now. I am not even strong enough to “stay awake” and pray for those truly in need. As never before, I am afraid of dying and also more aware of my own impending death. But I am also, as never before, more aware that I am not alone, and that no matter what I go through or what happens to me, there is a Savior who has gone before me, and is here to help me take one more step forward in His Way. Christ bears the Lion’s share of what ever yoke or burden I carry today.
Today, I am grateful, to be imprisoned in this living tomb of worldwide plague, because I am given another chance, a new choice, another opportunity, and a seedling of hope. I get another chance to truly listen to what Jesus means for me when he calls: “Follow me”. They are hard words, but Jesus promises that although “With human beings, this is impossible, with God, all things are possible”.
Because it is finally oh so very probable for me to believe in the inevitability of my very own death — It might even be possible for me to believe in Resurrection.
And just like that — death’s victory is hanging in the balance.