meditation: a prophet without honor

Our church’s reading for today made me think about how we oftentimes read about the Pharisees of Jesus’ day – and the apostles too – marking how they couldn’t see Jesus as he is, and judging, even mocking them from a temporal distance. We joke how the apostles didn’t “get it”, or the Pharisees as “religious” people who also didn’t get it, a sly way of saying “we get it, but not those other Christians over there.” We do things like this not only out of a self-righteous pride we barely notice, but also because we forget to be reflexive, and misunderstanding the function of the Scriptures.

We must never forget to see ourselves in every Biblical character, from Adam to Sanballat, from Jesus to Judas. The passages from Leviticus and Matthew prompt me to ask myself whether I confuse Jesus as mundane, even profane, rather than sacred. If Jesus were to walk into our churches, disguised as one of the marginalized and disinherited, would we pass the test? Would I pass the test? Would Jesus receive honor when he walked into his home?

Moreover, when Christ speaks in my heart, do I recognize what I’m hearing? Or do I filter this raw, powerful otherworldly interruption of my world through what is known, worldly and safe, sanitizing it so it doesn’t move me to religious change – as the Pharisees did with Jesus? Is the Prophet of prophets honored within my own soul, or do I take offense at him?

These are only some of my questions, when I turn these Scriptures upon myself. What do you ask?

meditation: on the parable of the weeds

It may be possible to see cosmological significance in the parable of the weeds, our reading for the Church today. I think of what Justin Martyr said about the logos spermatikos: those seeds of the word spread throughout every human society and culture throughout time. Each seed only holds a portion, an echo, a reflection of the Truth of varying quality, which has only been revealed fully and completely in Jesus himself. It is the wise evangelist who can water those seeds and help it grow into a unique expression of the kingdom of heaven – a process called inculturation, but that is another post. What intrigues me about this possible, parallel interpretation of the parable is that we always see the adversary seeks to create counterfeits to corrupt God’s plan of salvation. We see this evidenced in the dialogue between him and the angels:

[Jesus] answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.

This counterfeit seed, this daimonion spermatikos, a demonic or fallen word, commingles with the logos spermatikos. As Paul said, the god of this age has blinded us (2 Corinthians 4:4). These whispered lies fall upon our willing ears, sprouting into more lies and do violence to the inviolable, divine spark of God within us all. Man has justified violence precisely because his fallen nature is incapable of distinguishing the demonic seed from the divine seed. He has waged war, abused women and children, bastardized his religion, and subverted dignity and rights through capitalistic injustices – to name only the most glaring – because he cannot see. Philosophers, theologians, and now economists, striving to create a moral order, flounder because to them the edges between light and darkness blur, as if we are at a continual dusk. The demonic word is at the root of conception of reality and identity, it is written into the fabric of our social institutions. Every person and institution is bound up at the root with the weeds: even if we were to try to pull up the weeds, we would pull up everything good with it.

We are not without hope. As Jesus also said: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” I see the woman as the Church, the yeast as the kingdom, and the flour is the world. Just as we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ, so the world can be transformed such that his kingdom come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Church has been given the keys, and the authority to cast out Satan, to rewrite the fabric of reality and identity. Yet we do not take it. We alone carry the fullness of grace and truth – the word of Christ, the perfect Logos. Yet we are quiet about him. We must work the yeast into the flour, only then may the whole world see and partake of the Bread of Life.

meditation: life is in the blood

In the last two years often conflicting lines have passed through me: my Christian faith, my American nationality, my black identity. I live thankfully free of direct affect of violence and racism, so these are psychological lines, but true and real nonetheless. As I consider the line of racial violence running from Trayvon to Charleston, and the lines of political rhetoric that cross through the Church, I find myself meditating on how God regards the spilling of innocent blood.

God is an avenger of the blood of innocents. The blood of Abel cried out to God for justice against his brother, Cain, in Genesis 4. The blood cries out because, as we find tucked away in Leviticus, life is in the blood, and because there is life in it, atonement is in the blood.

Where division has rent the social fabric, only blood can sew it back together. Where sin has bruised a soul, only the welling up of blood can be a balm. Where hatred, envy, lust, cowardice and other sins have separated souls from God and each other, only blood can make them one.

We see this most clearly, of course, in the spilling of Christ’s blood on the cross. The blood of this pure innocent forever cries out to God for vengeance, but also makes makes peace between God and us all, stranger and stranger, family and family. The very justice Christ’s blood cries out for, it also creates by its righteousness.

We are seeing more than ever that the spilling of innocent blood brings life. The blood of Pinckney, Hurd, Coleman-Singleton, Doctor, Lance, Sanders, Jackson, Simmons and Thompson is bringing life by drawing disparate people, separated by the sin of racism, together, and breathing life back into our nation by the taking down of its symbols to a satanic belief that people may be sold and enslaved as cattle. Innocent blood should never be spilled, yet we thank God, because He turns its spilling from death to the issuing forth of life.Yet among the hope, we must consider warning.

Innocent blood also cries out for vengeance. At the end, God’s martyrs will cry out, and their blood will be avenged, and what will become of their murderers in that day? The hidden, spiritual Powers that run the world have martyred God’s people and destroyed the lives of innocents – but we Christians have often submitted ourselves as the Powers’ willing instruments. When God closes history, will the blood on our hands condemn us? Do we suppose we also escape vengeance?

As I consider the political rhetoric of my Christian brothers and sisters, I hear the writer of Hebrews: you have not yet resisted to the shedding of your blood. I wonder if we American Christians have any concept of what this means, to resist sin, the Powers, and the god of this age, in a self-sacrificial way, laying our lives on the line for the truth?

We produce pulpit rhetoric against a few sins, yet ignore the blood on our hands – the sins so insidious they run deep through the heart of our communities: individualism, racism, imperialism, gluttony, capitalistic greed and in-hospitality – only to name the worst. Few if none of us are innocent – and none of us wants to be victims like Jesus was, for fear it denies our American, post-Enlightenment, rights-laden-with-few-responsibilities identity. Yet, if we were to pursue blamelessness, self-sacrifice, to resist sin to the shedding of our own blood, rather than continue to ally ourselves with the murderous sin structures created by the Powers, how much life would be unleashed on the earth? How might the kingdom of God flourish?

Christ, may we know. Let us know what it means to resist as you did, and, mimicking you, achieve to some extent a life of pure blamelessness. Avenge the blood of the innocent, we pray, and come in your justice. May you also have mercy on us, and on all those used by the Powers – they know not what they do. Purify us, we pray, that your gospel that we have tarnished may once against glitter as gold. Theotokos, Blessed Joseph, and all the angels and saints, please, pray for us.

Before you pray for Charleston…

To all my brethren, praying now for Charleston or gathering tonight in the coming days… I am no one at all to offer these thoughts, but you must decide for yourselves whether they are needful:

Consider how shameful it would be to falsely divide their Christian souls from their black bodies. Much of the commentary I have seen tries to do so. They were Black Christians, specifically; the shooter committed this heinous act out of hatred for their black bodies. Our prayers must deal with that reality. We do violence all over again to those 9 souls if we whitewash their Black identity with their Christian identity. For many of us Black Christians, the two identities live joyously as one in the same body, mutually affirming the other. The Charleston 9 are martyrs for both the Christian faith and the Black American struggle.

Consider that the universe bends towards justice, but another force bends toward death. AME’s were created because many American churches bent with the Sin, Flesh and the Devil toward a throwaway culture of death: they segregated blacks, viewing them as less of a person in God’s eyes than whites. So blacks left. Hundreds of years later that same hatred followed them into the church and murdered them in cold blood. We all carry the spark of God’s justice within us, made in his image – but we also carry the spark of Sin, Flesh and the Devil. What violence – overt, subtle, great or small – lurks in our hearts? How is God using this moment to call us to repentance, and for what?

Consider the power of forgiveness. Now is our moment to turn into one another in loving embrace, not turn away in mutual suspicion. We must also forgive the shooter. We must not desire to answer blood with blood, but answer hatred with love. Let us pray for all white supremacists, that they may know the love of God, and the joy that comes from knowing and loving your neighbor as a co-equal laborer in God’s kingdom.

Consider lastly the power of silence. It is godly wisdom to be silent so we may hear God in the midst of a violent storm. But it is cowardice – a sin – to be silent in the face of evil. Let us be silent like sheep, but only so long as to let the Shepherd speak, then let us shout his words, roaring like lions.

Yet, also consider that we may no longer have words. I know after too many years of violence against blacks, I have few left to speak. I have been reading Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment alongside Charleston news, and am reminded of Paul:

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

Do we hurt enough today to only groan in prayer? Do we hate Sin, Flesh and the Devil so much… love our neighbor so deeply… hope enough in the kingdom, that the cry of our soul manifests only as unintelligible noise to the flesh, but a mournful, beautiful spiritual to God’s ears?

Any prayer is better than no prayer at all – yet, the question remains, how deep are we willing to go? If we can bravely face that question, we may be considered truly praying for Charleston, and be one step closer to the kingdom of God.

jottings: the missal, june 15th

Opening to Matthew 5:38-42…

“you have heard it said… but I say to you…”

The world has become cacophonous. There is no longer a Center that holds – perhaps it does, but the people no longer believe in it. The Center is no longer singular but plural, dispersed throughout the flow of human relations. We are the Center, we are the Sacred, truth originates in us, not elsewhere.

The world is so… loud. And this is why. So much I have heard said, Lord. Yet, to whom else shall I go? You and you alone have the words of eternal life. Revise the narrative I have learned so well from birth. Teach me your way so I may know You, know life. Strengthen me to have ears to hear you, and you alone. Give me the refuge of silence, and the discipline of asceticism, so I may emerge to spread your kingdom, as you did, Lord, from the desert. Keep my grounded in you, so I may withstand the torrent of words. Protect me from the Evil One. Amen.

Open Letter From A Black Christian

I regret deeply that I can share this again, unchanged in its sentiments and pain, 2 years later. I have heard so much discussion this week of privilege, systemic racism, injustice, poverty – the powers that rule the American public.

I wonder: if I could hear every sermon or homily in every American Christian gathering this Sunday, whether it would give me hope? I anticipate most churches will speak about whatever was on their schedule or in the lectionary.

In the black churches, they likely will speak about Baltimore. But in the multicultural or mostly white churches, the places where it truly matters… I wonder if it will be silent? I wonder if the pain and anger among its congregants will be silenced by the rhetoric of the pulpit? If they do, I wonder if they will truly grapple with the issues, or take the easy, sinful road of criticism and judgement? What will the church say to millions of its congregants and parishioners who need to hear good news in the midst of so much trouble?

Warrior Poet

My heart is heavy today. It is pierced with pain and filled with fear. I wore a hoodie at church out of solidarity with the lost, so he may not be the forgotten. I saw glances and disapproving eyes. I felt backs stiffen. I heard only silent pews and pulpits on this issue confronting our nation. I continue to see, hear and feel all this. I must ask you, my brother, my sister, my Church—why don’t you love me?

A man follows me, as I am on my way to a loved one’s house. I don’t know him. He asks me what I’m doing here, where I’m going, who I am. To me, he looks threatening. I don’t want him to know where I live or where I’m going. If he doesn’t let me go am I not justified to defend myself? Why should I be stripped of my masculinity…

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What do skeptical ancient historians think of the earliest Christian creed?

Not my own post – however it definitely reflects my own thoughts so I wanted to reblog it here. Enjoy.


Sherlock Holmes and John Watson Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson solving a mystery

Here is a post from my friend Eric Chabot. He writes about the earliest historical source for the minimal facts about the resurrection, which is the early creed recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians: 3-7.

1 Cor 15:3-7:

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,

8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally…

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confessions of a catholic: unity

At Easter Vigil 2015 I will enter full communion with the Catholic Church, which I hope will be a touchstone for greater depths in my spiritual journey toward God. In this series, I attempt to share ‘why’, not as defense or argument, but to point at something better for the mystical body of Christ. It is organized over five themes during Passion Week: merger, reclamation, hunger, visibility and unity.

Tonight I become more than simply Catholic, but ‘catholic’ meaning ‘universal’, the original meaning of the word. I begin a journey toward merging my double selves into a better, truer self; fighting in love for nothing of intrinsic value to be lost. I go hoping to bring out new treasures with the old, in search of an answer to the paradoxical question: how may Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism merge within me, without disintegrating who they are?

These are small, incomplete confessions of my spiritual biography, but I hope, more than anything it has stoked your imaginations, moving you to consider Jesus’ John 17 prayer for us and eventually, to also fight in love for a deep, Trinitarian unity in the Body of Christ, to see one, reconciled visible church.

What now? Where do we go from here? Honestly, I do not know, yet.

I only know we must go in search of an answer to our question, asking not where is this visible unity, or how can it be, or this is a hard teaching, who can accept it? Rather, we ought to ask ourselves how will this unity become visible and true within us? It is not the journey itself that will shape who we are, but our faith working itself out in action that will change us, and as we are changed, the church will change. And when the church changes, so will the world.

Yet, we must achieve a critical mass: two is enough to bring Jesus; three is even better; even more than that? Transformational.

Tonight is the Easter Vigil, as we prepare for the coming of our Lord. It parallels the hope of the Parousia, when he will break the sky and return for his Church. I believe it is time for us to trim our wicks and prepare to meet him, so that we may rise with him in and as a new, visible, unified creation. The alternative is, I believe, to fail Christ’s vision for us in John 17.

Jesus asked once, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Turned around on us, when the Son of Man comes, what kind of church will he find? One fractured and separated, feigning unity with a thin veneer of ‘ecumenism’? Or will he find a beautiful, visible, unified expression of the Trinity?

Who will Jesus find us to be when he comes?

jottings: the awful fate of aweful (for good friday)

i fear we have confused the A​weful with the awful,
and now we hate what we ought to love.
if to ‘know’ a thing is to master it,
then the Aweful eludes
     such attempts.
the Aweful sits forever
     at the hazy horizon of our understanding.
we hate it because it sits beyond our reach.
we declare the Aweful dead to us,
     because it refuses to submit  to our skeptical gaze.
in this way the Aweful became awful.
yet, the Aweful did deign to do so
We touched it and spoke to it.
We interacted as we would with any other.
Yet the Aweful did not submit to the tyranny of our desires,
     so we murdered it.
We had glimpsed beyond the arc of time and space,
but we were not able to meet what we saw.
     While it is still Today;
     when we may yet work at it;
     before the rage after the dying of the light comes;
let us not see the Aweful as awful.
Rather, let us be purged of the awful
so that we might stand in awe
     of what we are to behold.
The Aweful will once again hurtle back across the breach;
     will we then embrace it in hatred
or awe?