Shabbat shalom

Image - painting of Jewish bride by Gottlieb

“The distinction of the Sabbath is reflected in the twin meanings of the phrase kabbalat Shabbat which means to accept the sovereignty as well as to welcome the presence of the day. The Sabbath is a queen as well as a bride.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 62.

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Japanese print depicting rich man asking forgiveness of the monk Myoren

The Legend of Mt. Shigi suggests that it’s child’s play for Zen monk Myoren to forgive a rich but stingy farmer [when his miraculous flying rice bowl has brought him the farmer’s entire rice granary]

Thinking about forgiveness this morning – why? Because we practiced “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” at choir practice on Wednesday? Because of trying to finish The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible for book group? For whatever reason, the thought unfolded something like this:

Forgiveness – the act of forgiving another, the state of having forgiven another – benefits the forgiver more than it benefits the forgiven;
people do claim this;
holding on to grudges takes energy, rehearsing our injuries emphasizes those, and diverts us from whatever healing or wholeness is available;

BUT – it’s a lot easier to say this, mean this, and act on it when the injuries are small;
and there is something monstrous about putting all injuries on a level – treating the injury of many years of abuse at the hands of one’s parent as a child, for instance, as “an injury” like, for instance, not getting seated at the “close family table” at a relative’s wedding or something along those lines;
and there is something especially monstrous about counseling the victims of grave injury, of which I myself have no direct experience, to “forgive your debtors” – as if I’m in a position to give that instruction;
especially if I’m somehow counseling the person to go back into an unsafe situation;
I have a problem with oversimplifying forgiveness!; read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise

Image Christ the good shepherd

The Good Shepherd in mural form

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, April 30 is John 10:1-15. This is the text (NRSV):

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. (2) The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (5) They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” (6) Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

(7)So Again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. (8) All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. (9) I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. (10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

(11)”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (12) The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away – and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (13) The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. (14) I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, (15) just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. …”

Here are my notes: read the rest

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“Lux umbra dei”

Main dome of Hagia Sophia with first lines of the Verse of Light

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is a niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as a shining star kindled from a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West. Its oil would well-nigh shine forth, even if no fire had touched it. Light upon light. …”
Quran 24:35

Going through the mail that has been piling up for the past several weeks; skimmed through a publisher’s catalog (Paulist Press), and ran across the description of Home by Another Route: A Journal of Art, Music and Faith, by Charles Scribner, III; in the course of this, was introduced to the Latin proverb – evidently, ancient – “lux umbra dei”: “light is the shadow of God.”

It’s a breathtaking thought.

For one thing, someone with this in mind would only forget the presence of God about as often as they forget the presence of light.

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Second Sunday of Easter

Saint Paul, by Rembrandt

“… we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”

[A sermon on the Uniform Series texts for April 23, 2017: Romans 5:6-11 & Romans 8:31-39]

“God has it in for me.” Who has ever heard someone say that – or maybe even said it ourselves, at least half in jest, maybe when we’re having “one of those days”? The kitchen sink springs a leak on the very day the county tax bill arrives in the mail and the car starts making a strange new noise after we just tripped and stubbed our toe on the back steps, and then when we get to work we find out we’re short-handed and we’re going to be running as fast as we can just to stay in one place all day … one of those days. read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

Image - Friday Evening by Isidor Kaufman

“The reason why the people extend the observance of the Sabbath to a part of Saturday night is to thank and to show that they do not like to see the departure of the holy guest, that her parting evokes a deep feeling of regret. This is why they detain her, and in their great affection accompany her with song and praise … as it is said in a Midrash: This may be compared to a bride and queen who is escorted with song and praise.”
R. Meir Ibn Gabbai, Tola’at Jacob, Warsaw, 1876, 49, quoted in Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 61.

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Thoughts on “separation from love”

Saint Paul, by Rembrandt

“… nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” – ??

Here’s an additional thought on what, upon reflection, is a peculiar statement in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

Where does this statement come from? How would hardship or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword “separate us from the love of Christ” in the first place?

What does it mean to be “separated from the love of” anyone, anyway? Would it mean we are no longer loved? Or would it mean we no longer feel loved? Or would it mean we no longer benefit from their love – assuming their love confers some benefits, whatever those benefits are? (Or is there something else it could mean that I’m not thinking of?) Continue reading

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