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Psalm 14 — New Revised Standard Version

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon the Lord?
There they shall be in great terror,
for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

And The Fools

And The Fools

Are the “Fools” Really Fools?

An apologetic for monotheism,
a denunciation of godlessness,
a blow to atheism:
this is one of the intentions
of this Psalm.
I meet people
every day who
deny every tenant of Christianity,
ridicule its existence,
and basically hate God.
But I have been thinking
lately that they might be right
in thinking this
because of the model
of Christianity
with which they have been presented.
Some notions that some Christians hold:
that there is a loving God
who will cast sinners
into a fiery hell,
that homosexuality
can be “cured” by repentance
and salvation,
a denial of science
and the scientific method,
judging that which is
uncomfortable
as a sin,
that claiming the name of
Jesus in some magical formula
is the only way to avoid hell,
that it is somehow OK
to fear and hate other races.
The list goes on and on,
and I wonder how anyone
could possibly be a Christian
if that was the only Christianity
they encountered—
until I remember that being a Christian
should be more about following Jesus
than about claiming Jesus,
and that Christianity
if it is based only upon
doctrine, theology, dogma, judgment, or fear
is faux, false, phony Christianity!
And those
who can’t buy into any of this
sham that masquerades as Christianity
are not fools to deny all of that — however,
they are missing out
on a lot of love and affirmation by doing so.
I do not,
will not,
believe in
or follow a God
or be part of a religion
that is either designed
to encourage and mollify our fears
for purposes of
by naming them as the “norm”
by which others might be judged,
or worship
at any altar built
upon the premise that it is
the only possible altar
at which God can conceivably be worshiped.
When Christianity is molded
around the words and deeds of Jesus
it is a system worthy of my worship.
When Christianity inflicts wounds
instead of facilitating healing,
it is not for me,
and neither is its God.
So I say to any
who think that the God
or the form of Christianity
they have encountered is
sick, or evil, or irrelevant
you are probably correct,
but I strongly suggest
that is not the only
form of Christianity out there.
There are entire communions and churches,
denominations even,
who actively seek to
walk Jesus’ path,
the one that loves unconditionally,
facilitates healing in the world,
affirms all, and welcomes all.
Such is the Jesus-centered Christianity I follow.

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I WILL LIVE WHERE I WILL CHOOSE

2 Samuel 7:1-14 New Revised Standard Version
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.” But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

In My House

IN MY HOUSE

I Will Live Where I Will Choose

This reading presents an interesting idea.
David wants to build God
a house for God.
God wants nothing
of David’s idea,
not needing a house.
David wants God’s house
to look like it is the
home of the God of
a conquering king.
God is satisfied
living in a tent.
The idea is that God’s desire
for where to worship God,
has nothing
to do with humanity’s need
for design, style, pomp, flair, beauty,
or bragging rights.
Entire cathedrals
have been built on David’s premise.
Super-structures
made of glass and gold,
brick and stone,
taking generations and
entire livelihoods to construct.

WHO ARE YOU?

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Ephesians 1:3-14 — New Revised Standard Version
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Who Are You

The Perplexity of Self

Who Are You?
I once was told by a pastor-friend
of the evangelical/fundamentalist persuasion
that he found nothing to helpful
for himself in anything Jesus said,
but that it was Paul who spoke to him the most.
It has taken me two degrees in theology
and much reflection to figure out
why he would say such a thing.
Thirteen books in the New Testament
have traditionally
been considered
to be written by Paul.
New Testament scholar, Marc Borg,
and others,
have deduced that Paul
may have only written seven of them:
Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians,
Philippians, Philemon, and 1 Thessalonians.
Our text today,
Ephesians,
was not written by Paul,
and not written to the Ephesians,
but to a wider,
more mystical congregation,
worshiping a sterile,
cosmic Christ,
not a sweaty,
earthy Jesus.
Many of the issues Paul faced,
such as the fundamental spiritual
differences between
Jews and Gentiles
in the wider church setting,
were resolved and now in the past
for this writer,
who may not be Paul,
yet who was clearly writing out of the
Pauline tradition and community.
The questions that arise for me
from this text are,
who are we,
who are you,
and who are you not?
By this reading,
members of the “church”
are adopted by God as God’s children,
redeemed, forgiven,
rich in God’s grace,
God’s own.
But this “church,” us,
is, also for this writer,
a spiritual,
mystical, clannish, churchy,
tribal contraption.
Is this who we are, really?
Are you,
we,
really what is claimed
for us in this passage?
Understand,
this writer’s agenda
is more about defining
what it means to be church
and what it means
to be a follower of Jesus the Christ,
than one who walks with
Jesus the man from Nazareth,
and emulates his very
concrete examples
and teachings.
In contrast to my friend,
I have generally been more
of a Jesus-person
than a Christ-person.
Less a follower of the cosmic Christ
than one who walks
with the grittiness of a real human Jesus.
Given the choice,
and I am daily,
I would choose to be
known as one who facilitates healing,
feeds the hungry,
clothes the naked,
and fights for the justice of God,
like Jesus,
than one who is known
by some mystical church membership.
But I only answer for myself.
What about you?
How do you define yourself?
Who do you choose to follow?
And, what does that mean for you?
You see,
I think that the cosmically oriented congregations
tend to stop with worship
not having a lot of connection
to the exigency of
any outside their frame of reference,
while the more identified to the
sweaty, earthy Jesus
have a deeply rooted sense
of the existential needs
of all creation.

OVERCOME WITH AMAZEMENT

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Mark 5:35-43 — New Revised Standard Version

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

AMAZEMENT

Amazement

Overcome With Amazement
Mark 5:35-43

I will probably
never figure this thing out,
at least not in this lifetime,
not today,
not tomorrow,
I don’t know,
maybe never.
I’m talking about this Jesus thing.
This great healer,
reconciler,
lover,
fulfiller of all true desires,
not to mention savior,
whose every act of love gets
misrepresented,
misunderstood,
mishandled.
I am overcome with amazement
at how
Jesus,
whose offering of unconditional love
picked up
conditions and terms and rules,
and forgot
how to be kind and gentle-love,
and learned
how to be tough-love.
There are actually people
who claim to follow
this
one-who-sets-free,
who enslave and make captives in his name.
There are those
who say they have been loved
by this
one-who-loves-all-souls,
yet practice and teach
soul destroying hatred.
I have never felt so loved
as when
I opened my own heart to being loved
and learned how to love.
There is ugly and brutal force,
and there is mighty and powerful love.
How can someone
mistake one for the other?
The first looks and seems strong,
but it is weak.
And the second, the second…
I am overcome with amazement
that
they cannot see that
the one who loved enough to die
has all the power and might they crave,
and this
is a beautiful thing
this unconditional love,
and anyone can have
as much of it as they want
if they will only allow
themselves
to love and be loved
in that way.
To follow Jesus
never means to hate or to fear,
or to do harm,
it simply,
or complexly,
means to be kind,
facilitate healing,
and to love.

WHO IS THIS?

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Mark 4:35-41 — New Revised Standard Version

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

A Delineation of Borders #41

A Delineation of Borders #41

Who Is This?
©Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Who is this
that breaks into our
lives with such
amazing love
and grace
and hope
and deeds?
Who is this?
From whence have you come?
To where do you go?
Who are we
that you linger a moment
so
we might be healed?
Who is this?
We walk at times
alone and in fear,
lying awake at night,
alone,
with only visions of doom
and specters of dread,
for company,
sleepless,
and frozen
in a
night-terror-panic
of hopelessness,
and we are visited
by one who
motions to
all that is frightening,
and it is gone.
Who is this that
calms the raging waters
of lost souls,
hearts forsaken,
minds consumed,
lives without hope,
who is this?
And yet
second to second,
day to day,
week to week,
month to month,
lifetime to lifetime
the presence of this
one-who-will-save,
this one-who-will-calm,
who-will-protect
and calm our fear
companions us —
we are never
truly
ever alone.

IF AS IF

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Mark 4:26-34, New Revised Standard Version He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does … Continue reading