A Small Offering

Reflections

Marianne Gould: 5/26/11

Attitudes Are Contagious

Everyone has them. Young folks, chronologically challenged folks, and in between folks all exhibit attitudes which, in part, help shape our personalities. When our lives are going well, we show our smiling, happy, God-loving attitude for all to see. However, if you’re like me, when life deals you challenges and things aren’t going your way, attitude is often colored by circumstances.

A former student of mine recently wrote about her 5 year old who is dealing with some significant changes in his life…a move to a new city, his mother’s miscarriage, and a chronic illness. Any one of those events would certainly influence a change in attitude…but she dealt with it in a very unique way. She purchased two pairs of dark framed glasses without the lenses and when the negative attitude starts, they put on their ‘attitude’ glasses and trying to see things through a different perspective.

Isn’t that what being a Christian is all about? When we become a Christian, we “see” the world through a new perspective. We see our neighbors and ourselves as people created in the image of God. While being a Christian does not change our circumstances, the Resurrection changes our perspective. Yes, attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?

Shared with permission of the author from the June 2011 issue of Tidings of Peace, Peace Lutheran Church, New Braunfels, Texas.

Diana: 5/17/11

WITHOUT YOU....

without your eyes...
I cannot see the wonder of the full moon rising over the trees or the smile of a young one doubled over in mirth

without your ears...
I cannot hear the song of the mockingbird or the laughter of an elder recounting her youth

without your hands...
I cannot feel the caress of a cat’s purr or the touch of love

without your nose...
I cannot smell the sweetness of the scent of rain or the powdery softness of a newborn babe

without your heart...
I cannot heal the World
I cannot know Creation
I cannot be present to those who seek
you, and only you, can do these for Me.

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Diana: 3/11/11


All is One. Nothing separates us from each other but our egos. We move toward selfishness when we should move toward Self. When we see ourselves as separate from others, we are in our selfishness.

Moving from selfishness to Selflessness is a gradual process. We have to be willing to let go of who we think we are to become who we can be. We have to be able, willing to let go of rightness and wrongness—at least our perceptions of these—if we are to begin to move toward Oneness. It is in the process of moving that we grow closer to the Self, the One, which is in and around all things.

In the field of Creation, we are emerged in the All. Looking through pictures of my life as they flash on the computer screen, I am astounded by the things I have seen, the places I have been. From the smallest tree fungus to a monkey in the Amazon, from my four legged companions to the beauty of the Amazon rain forest or the stunning quiet of the Great Sand Dunes, it slowly becomes apparent that the diversity around us is so enormous, yet we do not really see. Seeing it in slow motion, apart from our daily lives, helps bring into focus how wonderful the Self is and how complicated and mysterious the world we live in really is. We have no real way to fathom this, except in moments of mystical remembrance, however fleeting these might be.

In dealing with those people and situations we find difficult, it is often important to go to that field. By lying in the dewy grass, feeling the delicate breeze caressing one’s face, and absorbing the warmth of the Earth beneath one, we can begin to feel Whole, healed and One with all that surrounds us. When we begin to feel whole then we are starting to make steps toward the Self and Oneness.

Love is everywhere…even when we do not see it through our ego’s perception. It is only maya, the way we frame what we see, that brings us hurt and pain. If we can detach from our ego in the process—the hurts and wants we think we have—and move toward the Whole, we find what we perceived as hurts and snubs were not really real at all. If we keep looking to others to meet our need for Wholeness and Oneness then we are “barking up a wrong tree” or “looking for love in all the wrong places” as the lyrics of one country-western song go. Only God, “the I AM,” can do that.

Diana: 6/29/09 — 9/7/09 Update

The Sermon on the Mount

Earlier this year, I felt pulled to begin working with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I wanted to sit with the reading, approaching the text from many different angles as well as using several translations/interpretations. I am no scholar but admit to a bent in that direction, so as I am prone to do, I ended up cross referencing Matthew’s text with parallel Scriptures as I tried to arrive at what Jesus’ was really trying to say. Given the time gap between then and now, as well as the time gap between what Jesus said and the time the Master’s words were recorded, this is obviously tricky business. My musings and meditations on the texts are just mine, but at a recent Gardener’s House of Prayer meeting, we all found that in sharing our own observations, each of our individual understandings were deepened and enriched, so the observations that follow are possibly useful for others.

I originally started reading each verse individually, using Lectio Divina as part of my sitting with the text. I also use a concordance to try to better understand the key words. And, then there is the process of just sitting quietly to see what comes to awareness. This process is an on-going one and so my musings are updated as my awareness deepens.

Having taken this approach, I was gifted at our monthly contemplative gathering to be forced to look at the text in total. This was not an approach I had intended to take, but I came away with a new understanding of the underlying teaching.

Each verse consists of two parts and there is a tension between the two. First, we have a description of the human condition. You can read this literally (blessed are the poor), or figuratively (blessed are the poor in spirit). Both have value and are helpful. But in response to each of these aspects of human journey is a response that (in composite) is the focus of the teaching. In each and every verse Spirit’s Presence and the Kingdom are here in the present. Not in the future. Regardless of what we suffer, Wisdom is near. Ultimately, whatever we go through is secondary to the wonder of Grace and Love.

The other thing that is tickling in the back of my mind, is whether there might be a pattern of deepening growth in Matthew’s version in particular. The text starts with the poor (in spirit) and ends with the peacemakers, seemingly moving one from an internal focus on the condition of the individual to an inclusive view that stretches beyond the individual toward the total of human reality as well as the healing of the Cosmos.

In comparison, Luke’s text focuses on the poor, the hungry, those who mourn followed by a tirade against those who have escaped the pain of these realities. What appears to me to be a template for the spiritual journey is missing from Luke as well as the other scriptures. Only in Matthew does this appear to exist.

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I have always misunderstood the story of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. Somewhere, I got the picture in my mind that Jesus was teaching the masses. He wasn’t. Thanks to several teachers for bringing this to light – Richard Rohr (Jesus’ Plan for a New World Order), Lynn Baumann (Jeshua’s Instruction from the Mountain and The Wisdom of the Twin) and the translators of The Complete Gospels.

Matthew’s version suggests that Jesus was not too far into his ministry when his teaching and preaching started to attract the attention of large crowds. He had called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him.

In the Revised Standard Version (RSV), Matthew 5:1-2 reads, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him And he opened his mouth and taught them saying,”...

The Complete Gospels (CG) reads “Taking note of the crowds, he climbed up the mountain, and when he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He then began to speak, and this is what he would teach them,”....

Another version, Jeshua’s Instruction from the Mountain (JIFM), translates, “Seeing the masses around him, Yeshua ascended the mountain. Sitting there, his students drew close, and so opening his mouth he began to teach them saying:”....

What strikes me in these readings is that Jesus noted the crowds and high-tailed out of there. The crowds would have gathered in the low lands, where there were water and food and small villages. I picture this miracle worker (who was already causing problems for the establishment), realizing he needed a break. As he would do time and time again, he would depart for an isolated place, a mountain top. This would be like leaving the busy city you live in and heading for a break in the mountains. But think wild mountains, full of wild animals. No real trails. Certainly no park rangers. Out there, far, far away from the masses, civilization, and what we as humans depend upon to feel safe and secure.

Now Jesus ascends the mountain. Apparently most of the mass of people did not follow him. Too scared? Too hard a task? Too locked into their comfortable village life? It makes me wonder if I am not a little like that. Climbing a mountain is never easy. The rocks are big, the overgrowth hard to get through, the air thin and regardless of how much I love hiking, I am always a little on edge. What if I get lost? What if there is one of those freak storms? What if I get hurt? Lots of reasons for not making the journey.

But if you ever had made a hike like that and get to a high place, ascended above it all, it will take your breath away. The wind blows, the sun shines, and you are on top of the world. If being there doesn’t make you feel closer to the Creator, then nothing will. At least for me. This image of climbing, ascending, may well be a physical activity but just as much metaphor for moving toward a closer encounter with the Holy (think Moses and the 10 Commandments, Jesus’ Transfiguration, and so on).

Here only a small group is left – his students or disciples came to him (drew close). Luke’s version (6:12-16) suggests the group was specifically chosen and names “the 12.” Mark (3:13) indicates he chose those he wanted but doesn’t give specifics. Matthew and John say only that there was a group of students.

They are not part of the masses. In their hearts, they are called out to follow this Jesus. We too are called out to listen with our hearts. If logic ruled, they would have been home having dinner with their families or hauling in the fishing nets. Given what Jesus is about to call them to, they might want to rethink the decision.

If logic rules, we too might want to reconsider our acceptance of Jesus as teacher. Because what he is about to teach isn’t going to be easy to hear, easy to accept or easy to live.

But if we are called out from the masses, God knows our heart. God knows we are ready. And in that vast space of wilderness, where the wild things are, God is present. We really have nothing to fear....all we have to do is listen.

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Matthew 5:3 (also see Thomas 54 and Luke 6:20)

Congratulations to the poor in spirit! Heaven’s domain belongs to them. Matt 5:3 CG

And he opened his mouth and taught them saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:3 King James Version (KJV)

Those who are lowly of spirit live in a state of blessedness, for out of their very being the Reign of the Heavens arrives. Matt 5:3 YIFM

Jesus said, “Congratulations to the poor, for to you belongs Heaven’s domain.” Thomas 54 CG

Yeshua says, “You poor are blessed, for the realm of heaven is already yours.” Thomas 54, The Wisdom of the Twin (WOTT)

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said, “Blessed be the poor: for yours is the kingdom of God”. Luke 20 KJV

Congratulations, you poor! God’s domain belongs to you. Luke 6:20 CG

CG - The Complete Gospels, Robert J Miller, editor
KJV - King James Version
YIFM - Jeshua's Instruction from the Mountain, translated by Lynn C Bauman
WOT - Wisdom of the Twin, dynamic translation by Lynn C Bauman

Right out of the starting blocks, Jesus has some startling things to say. It is interesting that the three gospels address the poor, but only Matthew clarifies this to mean the poor “in spirit.”

The word “poor” is worth some attention. We use the word a lot in our culture but here the word suggests someone who is a beggar, pauper or so poor that they have nothing, no means of support. That Jesus honors this state (physical or spiritual) as the first state of blessedness, causes me to think deeply about my own world view. I work with the unemployed, the disabled, the poor every day, but rarely the type of person Jesus is talking about. The people I know may be on public assistance or may be have some friend or family who is helping them hold body together, but this is not who Jesus speaks of.....

His reference embraces the population that has nothing... they are completely dependent on what comes their way by God’s grace to make it through the next minute, the next hour, the next day. They have hit “rock bottom.” Their whole life is dependent on Spirit’s grace, the care of the Universe.

It reminds me of when I was visiting Vancouver. I watched a homeless man live on the corner across from my hotel for two days. He sat on a piece of cardboard and some newspapers. He would talk with people if they acknowledged him. Where he went to use the toilet I have no idea. When I felt my heart tugged to reach out to him, he nearly broke down in tears, I did too. It was one of those moments when you realize you are interconnected with everything. Maybe that is what Jesus is talking about here. He had no walls to break down, they were already gone. I did, even if it only lasted a minute.

Certainly, when you are poor, you cannot have your ego front and center. You have been ignored, spat on and sworn at. You have let go of that small self; it gets you nowhere. What happens next is not under your control and you know it. You just have to wait and be grateful for what does come your way. Your life is one of hoping and waiting. You are on the bottom, period.

This whole idea of poverty has some historical undertones also. In ancient Jewish culture, there was an underlying belief that how well off you were materially was a direct reflection of how “in” you were with God. Holiness and material wellness were interconnected. Maybe this is really not so different from today.

With Jesus words, this whole world view is turned on it head. No, the poor are in favor with God. Apparently, God embraces the poor more than those who have a comfortable lifestyle and just think they are “in the inner circle”.

Jesus’ words are also counter cultural, and he lived them out in his own life style. Paupers, lepers, prostitutes, sinners were all included in his inner circle, God’s inner circle. It calls me to consider my inner beliefs and attitudes toward those who live on the margins of society. Do I think I am better than they are? Do I think God loves me more because I am lucky enough to enjoy the blessings of the American middle class? How often have I walked faster past the homeless on the corner or made sure I took the long way around the ghetto on my way across town? What does that say about me, how I see the world, and how I really see my brothers and sisters?

In Matthew, Jesus supposedly qualifies poverty relating it specifically to spirit. Richard Rohr suggests this is because Matthew is addressing a middle class audience and knew his listeners would run the other way if he had left the text as related by Luke and Thomas. This may, in fact, have been his agenda. Maybe Matthew realized that his listeners were not ready to embrace the more challenging call to completely change their world view. So, his editing focused on challenging the listeners’ understanding about their personal relationship to the spiritual journey and their relationship with God.

Jesus seems to be providing a metaphor for how the seeker must relate to the Divine. Just like the materially poor, I have to be without my usual world view and supports, without my ”self”-based resources (my comfortable pew, preferred understanding of the Scripture, insistence that I understand what God thinks and am in charge of my spiritual journey).

It seems that to be “poor in spirit” e.g., pneuma, that invisible breath that energizes life, must be missing from my existence – or maybe more accurately, from my awareness – if I am going to be able to be open to the kingdom. I have to let go of self, to become completely dependent on grace and the Holy, to recognize God’s domain. I am called to recognize when I am “poor in spirit,” the Holy is present. I may not know it, may not sense it, but during that dark night, God’s domain is still part of my reality.

Only in letting go of my propensity to try to be in control of my spiritual journey, can there be space so that the kingdom can be my reality.

The use of kingdom or domain suggests the foundation of power, of that which is sovereign. When I give up my ego-self in the process of opening to the One, Mystery can then work through me to move creation to a different place. Heaven is not in another place, in another time. The domain is available here and now. It is only a matter of letting go, of emptying the self, so I can become aware of the realm of God that is already here. As each us lets go of self, becomes poor (in spirit), opens to the Holy, the kingdom of God arrives and all of Creation is reconciled.

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Matthew 5:4 (also see Luke 6:21, John 16:20b, Secret Book of James 6:31-32, Is 61:1-2)

“Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Matt 5:4 KJV

“Congratulations to those who grieve! They will be consoled.” Matt 5:4 CG

“All those sorrowing in grief are also blessed, for they are calling out for the comforting.” Matt 5:4 YIFM

“Blessed you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:21b RSV/KJV

“Congratulations, you who weep now! You will laugh.” Luke 6:21b CG

“You will grieve but your grief will be turned to joy.” John 16:20b CG

“I have remembered your tears and your grief and your sorrow; they are far from us. Now, then, you who are outside the Father’s inheritance, weep where it is called for, and grieve, and proclaim what is good: how the son is ascending, as he should.” Secret Book of James 6:31-32 CG

“The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”
Is 61:1-2 KJV

CG - The Complete Gospels, Robert J Miller, editor
KJV - King James Version
RSV – Revised Standard Version
YIFM - Jeshua's Instruction from the Mountain, translated by Lynn C Bauman

In this verse, is Jesus addressing the personal experience of loosing a loved one, of letting go of the small self during one’s spiritual journey, or in grieving the loss of his Presence here? All three interpretations are possible and likely ways to read the text.

In Matthew, Jesus proclaims that those who mourn will be comforted, those that grieve, consoled. The grief expressed in Matthew is not every day sorrow, but the heart-ripping, gut-wrenching sorrow that is accompanied by a total loss of self and awareness of the Presence. The feeling that you are all alone and there is no point in going forward. The word (pentheo, pentho) chosen to convey mourning and grief seems to carry an “internal” orientation and focus. It makes me think of the images from Iraq which hit the nightly news after suicide bomber devastates a community..... families wailing and besides themselves, outside of themselves in grief and loss. It is the emotion behind the image that propels and conveys the depth of loss and agony, not the act itself.

Matthew’s word for “comforted” (parakaleo) can also be translated “called out for comforting” or “to call near,” “to implore”, or “beseech” to a place of reconciliation, comforting and healing. Spirit’s work here is active, and even when one is deeply in pain, so deeply sorrowed, the promise remains – healing is inevitable. This healing reflects a return to wholeness, wholeness catalyzed by something outside of the aggrieved. God’s healing Presence is active and implied.

Luke’s text presents a somewhat different tone. Here, the weeping conveys a more external presentation, the wailing and sobbing that erupts from loss and pain of separation. The separation may be from the loss of a loved one in our lives or maybe more poignantly from our ego-self as we let go, moving toward our true Self. We may grieve what we believe to be true as we let go of our biases and perceptions of who and what God is, or as we let go of our false selves so that Spirit can awaken the Inner Wisdom. Luke suggests that the outcome of this letting go, this grieving, inevitably is laughter and joy. My image is the laughter and underpinning joy we feel when we know we are loved and all is well. This is a much more dynamic feeling, a different manifestation of healing than the softer sense of “comforting” suggested by Matthew.

In contrast, the texts in Isaiah, The Gospel of John, and the Secret book of James seem to more directly connect the grief and mourning to the response of Jesus’ followers after his death. These texts may reflect a focus on understanding how to respond to the death of the Messiah, the beloved Master. The listeners are consoled that grieving is appropriate but also encouraged that God’s Presence remains. These texts seem to more directly respond to the physical loss of Christ and the response of the remaining community.

Regardless of the analysis, ultimately we can be assured that in our grief, healing occurs. This healing is deep and complete. The comforting is not manifested through our own power, but through the Presence of the Other. In letting go, we are reconciled and made whole.

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Matthew 5:5 (also see Psalm 37:11)

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”Matt 5:5, RSV

“Congratulations to the gentle! They will inherit the earth.” Matt 5:5, CG

“And blessed are the gentle and kind for they are the true heirs of earth.” Matt 5:5 YIFM

“But the meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” Psalm 37:11 RSV

RSV – Revised Standard Version
CG - The Complete Gospels, Robert J Miller, editor
YIFM - Jeshua's Instruction from the Mountain, translated by Lynn C Bauman

The idea of being meek is not something touted as having much value in American culture. In fact, just the opposite is true. To get ahead in the world, you have to push, claw and, when necessary, climb over the backs of others. But Jesus’ teaching here commends just the opposite. His words are directed to those who are at the “bottom of the food chain” not the top.

According to Richard Rohr (who borrows his data from Daniel Crossan), over 80% of the population in ancient Israel was at the bottom of the food chain. They owned no land; this was the privilege of the priests, the scribes and merchants, those with money and resources, those with power. They might be able to rent their land if they had steady income, say as a craftsman. Likely, most were the equivalent of tenant farmers, basically working for little more than their food and a simple roof over their head.

Overlay this with the people of Israel being under the rule of Rome. There were certainly Jewish politicians that worked the system to stay in Rome’s good graces, but the rest of the population had to tread water quickly to keep from drowning. Most of the population had to battle two fronts, both the Roman rulers as well as the selfish interests of their own politicians and religious leaders. They were caught in the middle.

Part of the hope of Israel was for a Messiah that would save them from Rome (of course nothing was every said about their own crooked and selfish countrymen). And yet Jesus, who many hoped would be this Messiah, doesn’t even go there. In fact, he heads in a completely different direction. He suggests those that are “meek” or “gentle” or “humble” are on the right path. Inevitably, he models this response to aggression and power.

In the companion verse in Psalm 37, the word implies someone who is “looked down upon”, “afflicted”, “lowly” or “needy”. Basically, Jesus commends those who get their ego out of the way. You can’t be needy or afflicted and keep your ego, your false self, intact.

I was reading an article last night; the writer had interviewed a large number of prostitutes. All of them (after 6 months as “working girls”) would give up their lifestyle in a heart beat. These women were caught in the same middle, no way to escape from their pimps, no place to go, no resources -- trapped, trapped, trapped. Out of this experience comes the realization that you are at the bottom, there is no place to turn, and you are definitely NOT in control of your reality. It is when you hit bottom, also typical of the wisdom of the 12-stpe movement, that you realize you have to turn to your Higher Power to survive and thrive.

It is this place, at this place of letting go, where Jesus suggests we are blessed and are to be congratulated. When we reach ”ground zero” on our spiritual journey, set aside our belief that a solid retirement plan, health insurance, a nice home, a new car and a decent job will get us where we want go, that we arrive. And, trust me, I am still working on unloading this myth, but the reality is that being a middle class American does not help us “inherit the earth”.

The word “inherit” implies relationship. We don’t buy the earth (although we may try). We receive it not through any thing we have done but simply because we are in relationship with the Holy. The Greek term used here could also be translated “a sharer by lot”, “to be an heir”, “to obtain by inheritance”.

One could interpret Jesus’ teaching from the perspective that those who are humble, meek and down-trodden will eventually join the middle class and have all their material needs met. If one ties his teaching back to the Psalm, then this might be a viable interpretation. Certainly, the word for “earth” used here alludes to a tangible place -- “a region”, “the whole of the globe ‘—including the occupants, land, and earth”, the “world”.

Jesus may be suggesting to his inner circle that the “myth” they have been sold by their leaders really isn’t true for them either. In the end, Spirit calls the shots, and those who have opened themselves to Spirit’s leading will be in right relationship with the Creator.

It seems given Jeshua’s skill at teaching truths at multiple levels of understanding; he is suggesting something other than a tangible response to a shift in consciousness. The underlying message is that when we reach the place where we are meek, humble and can set aside our false selves, and then we become true brothers and sisters of Christ, equal heirs to God’s bounty. By extrapolation, there seems to be an implication that when each person has set aside self and recognized that the Father is in and through and around all things, when all of humanity is reconciled to God, at that point creation is transformed from a place of selfishness, greed and ownership to a kingdom of sharing, grace and love.

9/7/09 Update ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Matthew 5:6 (see also “Q” 6:21,Luke 6:21a and Thomas 69:2)

“Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matt 5:6, KJV

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matt 5:6, RSV

“Congratulations to those who hunger and thirst for justice! They will have a feast.” Matt 5:6, CG

“Blessed are those who are hungering and thirsty to be in right-relationship, for they shall be fed to overflowing.”
Matt 5:6, YIFM

“Blessed are ye who hunger now, for ye shall be filled.” Luke 6:21, KJV

“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.” Luke 6:21, RSV

“Congratulations you hungry! You will have a feast.” Luke 6:21, CG

“Congratulation to those who go hungry, so the stomach of the one in want may be filled.” Thomas 69:2, CG

“Blessed are the hungry ones. Their inner longings will be satisfied.” Thomas 69:2, WOTT

KJV - King James Version
RSV – Revised Standard Version
CG - The Complete Gospels, Robert J Miller, editor
YIFM - Jeshua's Instruction from the Mountain, translated by Lynn C Bauman
WOT - Wisdom of the Twin, dynamic translation by Lynn C Bauman

Often, I have to wonder what Jesus really said. Maybe sometimes the nuances don’t matter, but in this verse the differences in interpretation are huge. There is similarity in passages from Matthew, Luke and Thomas. But the differences are striking and critical to getting to the heart of the text and teaching.

Luke’s version appears straightforward. If you are hungry, you will be filled. Just like the story of Elisha in 2 Kings, where a hundred people are fed on a little food. Or, Jesus’ feeding of the multitude recounted in each of the New Testament gospels. Yet, although this seems pretty straight-forward, it is quite a statement. You may be physically in need of food, but God will provide. Just like JHWH provided for the Hebrew people in the desert. Just as we are counted more valuable than the birds of the air.

For Americans with pantries stocked, food routinely thrown in the garbage or down the disposal and the next meal right up the street from one’s favorite fast food restaurant, the import of this may not register. But travel to the inner cities or rural areas of America, and you may begin to see the face of those that hunger. Watch the evening news or the latest podcast from the BBC, and one will have to wrestle with the heart-rending images of children dying for want of food in Africa and parts of Asia. How can Jesus promise that they will be satisfied? That they will be filled? It seems rather like a cruel joke. Luke’s interpretation of Christ’s teaching might have given comfort to the poor and destitute, but how it was received remains unclear. That Jesus felt solicitude with the marginalized is clear, he was the holy man who ate with sinners and tax-collectors. But practically speaking, how could you embrace the teaching? Maybe Luke missed the critical point, the point that Thomas captures in his text.

Thomas has a different orientation to understanding the teaching. The editors/translators of the Complete Gospel and many scholars of the ancient texts translate Thomas’ parallel version of the story suggesting the impoverished and hungry are satisfied when those of us who “have” help those who “have not”. We are blessed when we give of ourselves and our wealth to someone in need. We are especially blessed if we love enough to forgo and sacrifice, to suffer instead, so others may have. From experience, that is not a place I have jumped into from my comfortable perspective. Certainly, I help feed the poor through various means, but it is not like I have ever gone hungry so someone else could eat. THAT would personify radical love, the core of the Great Commandment.

I have always been enamored by the stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes. When I was young, I thought it was a miracle. The food just kept recreating its self, certainly a God of Wonder is capable of that miracle! Although that may, in fact, be what happened, today I am more likely to believe that when one person started to share with their neighbor, everyone did. And, that is probably as big a miracle as God just dropping manna out of the sky. When we give of our bounty and material wealth, openly and willingly under the influence of the Spirit, God is certainly at work. When we give out of the very essence of who we are and what we have, that is a miracle. When we can let go of our need to be in control and feel secure based on what is in the pantry (or in the bank account), then we have moved into the space where we are to be congratulated...where God’s Presence can work without our small self getting in the way. We become, in fact, God’s presence in this time and place. The process of transformation allows us to move from only worrying about our own needs and desires to a deeper understanding that we are interconnected with everyone and everything, all of Creation, in a mystical but, in fact, dynamic way. As Mother Teresa said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. “

If each of us could slowly move in this direction, running to a hurting world to help instead of running away from it by numbing ourselves with material goods and busyness, Creation would slowly be transformed into heaven on earth, a place where the hungry and thirsty would be literally filled. And, like the widow’s oil and meal that was repeatedly replenished under Elijah’s oversight (1 Kings 17), there is always enough for one to be sustained. Today, in our world of want and plenty, there is certainly enough to go around. All we have to do is listen and remember that through God’s power at work within us, God “is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20).

Matthew’s understanding of the teaching further bridges the scope of Jesus’ words, moving the focus from the basics of sustenance to the more abstract concept of righteousness. The word in the original Greek can be translated to mean “holy”,” just” or an “equitable act”. When the scope is broadened, the words of Matthew speak to each and every one of us, urging us to become “holy”, whole and one with the Creator who sustains us. When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, become “holy”, then we are fulfilled. Spirit hears this prayer of the heart and responds.

Elsewhere in Matthew (7:7-12), Christ restates this teaching more directly and concretely, “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks, receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks at the door, it will be opened. Or, which of you, if their child asks for bread will give him a stone? Or, if he asks for a fish, will given him a serpent? If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God who is in heaven give good things to those who ask? “

So, we are blessed when we hunger for righteousness. God listens. God responds to our prayers and searching. And, when we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we open ourselves to Spirit’s Presence in our every breath. Then, as Thomas suggests, our “inner longings” are satisfied and heaven on earth becomes a reality not an abstract futuristic ideal.

Diana: 12/28/08

What do we do now that Christmas is over???

But, the wonder has just begun…

The day of the Epiphany, January 6, in the Western Christian Church, commemorates the arrival of the wise men led by a star to worship and honor the “King of Kings” (Matthew 2). On January 11, we celebrate Christ’s presentation in the Temple -- his dedication to God and his circumcision -- in “the Baptism of our Lord” (Luke 2).

Things may seem quiet between now and when Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (February 25) as we enter into the “Season after Epiphany,” a period of “Ordinary Time” in the church calendar. The lectionary is designed to help us live Jesus’ life in “real time” and allow us to accompany Him on the journey from His dedication, through His childhood and teen years, through His baptism in the River Jordan, until the wedding in Cana when He enters public ministry (John 2).

But as always, the movement of the calendar calls each of US to deepen our relationship with God. As winter sets in, our pace slows. In this time of fewer demands (holiday company gone, Christmas decorations packed for another year, and work or school back to normal), we have time to enter into a deeper relationship with Christ. Our movement toward God can deepen during this period just as the child, Jesus, grew in wisdom and truth toward a more adult, more mature relationship with His Holy Father.

In essence, this period of Ordinary Time is an elaboration on the capacity of Christ to manifest the Divine Light, and to draw each of us into increasing levels of relationship with Him. It is time to seek God’s Presence in our lives through prayer and contemplation, to open ourselves to a deeper relationship with Jesus as Savior and Teacher, and to manifest God’s Love to the world around us.

Diana: 12/12/08

Advent arrives again. God is with us or, rather, with me.

Today, it seems the worm hole in the Universe opened and God slipped in again…but out just as quickly. I catch a glimpse of Spirit again and again. Only because I am awake, waiting and watching, like the wise bridesmaids about whom Jesus speaks.

This morning at church, while the children’s choir sings “Silent Night”, I tear up and realize how absolutely precious a child’s faith is. Later today, after helping my dear friend, Lois (who at 88 still manages on her own) hang mirrors in the dining nook of her small apartment so it will look larger (her smile beams as she feels better about where she lives, at least for the moment), I was reminded how small gifts can matter is such monumental ways. Later today, I smile at the lickey-face love my 11-year old spaniel-border collie mix, Joy, unselfishly bestows on her favorite two-legged friends. In this day alone I was reminded again and again, that God is everywhere...small miracles all around...miracles I so often rush past...because I am too hurried, too busy, and too self-centered to see.

Over 2000 years ago, a baby boy was born, nestled in a bed of hay....just another “small” miracle. I wonder, had I been a shepherd, or a weary traveler, would I have passed “God with us” by? Probably....but the miracle is... God is still with us!

Diana: 9/28/08

A Song of Praise

God is the Omnipotent…the Divine…the Other.

God, the One, who exists in and through all things; is an integral part of our deepest selves, simultaneously reflected throughout the Cosmos.

For the Holy is both

… near and far

… here and there

… tangible and intangible.

Praise be to God!


Seeking God

"Come then, Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find you.

Lord, if you are not present here, where, since you are absent, shall I look for you? On the other hand, if you are everywhere why then, since you are present, do I not see you? But surely you dwell in light inaccessible. And where is this inaccessible light, or how can I approach the inaccessible light? …

Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in desiring you; let me desire you in seeking you; let me find you in loving you; let me love you in finding you." St. Anselm, Bishop of Canterbury, 1033-1109, Proslogion, 1.

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