AND IT’S BEEN SO CRAZY — good/bad/weird

Trying to See Through the Layers of Weird

Trying to See Through the Layers of Weird

Wisdom 1:13-15
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

A week of joy;
a week of mourning;
a week of laughter,
and a week of tears.
So much of it all just weird.
SCOTUS
(The Supreme Court of the United States)
three rulings;
three wins,
three losses.
Housing in Texas.
Healthcare subsidies.
Marriage equality.
And America seems to have gone nuts.
Who’s right?
Who’s wrong?
Who wins?
Who loses?
Where the heck is Jesus in all of this,
and what should we as Christians do,
what should we support?
What does it mean to be righteous,
anyway?
I saw a post that proclaimed
that homosexuality was still
a sin, but that we should still love the sinner.
I have heard people say these kinds of things
who are divorced
and have boy friends/girl friends,
wear blended materials,
do not eat kosher,
mix meat and milk and the same meals,
eat shellfish,
eat pork,
all of which are mentioned in the same
Leviticus text
as sins,
many of which are punishable by death.
It seems we Christians only
find sins in those things
that we are not interested in
doing,
and ignore as sins
what would make our lives
inconvenient, uncomfortable,
or change our lifestyles.
I’m saying,
if you are going to be literal,
about one thing
be literal about them all!
About the rulings on
Texas housing and healthcare:
while we are supposed to take care of ourselves—
love our neighbor as ourselves, and all that—
we are to care for those who have less than we do.
In the three parables in Matthew 25
it is clear that to live in the kingdom of heaven
we are to be ready,
we are to take risks with our resources,
and we are,
evidently,
expected use those resources
to care for those who are in need of help.
In Matthew 5
Jesus explains how we are
explicitly expected to live and act.
We Christians do our best to live
by these guidelines laid out for us by Jesus,
and we assume that because they are in the Bible
that they are absolute Truth
and represent the inerrant expectations of God.
But is that a correct assumption?
No, it is not.
The Bible is called the word of God,
but in actuality,
it is comprised of the words of people
who are doing their best to relate
their experience of God
as best they can communicate.
Mingled in with all this are
very human emotions,
very human fears,
very human ungodly actions
and rules and judgements and failings
all passed off as God’s word.
In other words,
the composers of the Bible
are no different from us
in that their comfort
and convenience
and economic interests
are purported to be God’s word.
And don’t we tend to vote out of our comfort zones
rather than out of Matthew 5 and 25?
About the marriage equality ruling,
at issue is the notion of homosexuality
and sin and the Bible’s
supposed condemnation of it.
As Cherie puts it,
here is where we get to choose
between being a
Jeremiahist, a Leviticusist, a Paulist, or a Christian.
Contemporary historical research
and text-critical techniques
have shown that
The “Sin of Sodom,”
Genesis 19:1-11,
was actually about inhospitality;
the “Abomination of Leviticus,”
Leviticus 18: 22 and 20:13,
amounts to ideas about uncleanness;
and are part of Hebrew “purity codes,”
no more no less.
The Christian Scriptures contain
elements of these Hebrew purity codes
that seem to conflict with the
words/actions/intentions
of Jesus, but do not, really.
Upon closely reading Paul’s writing,
instead of condemning same-sex acts,
Paul is more concerned with the nature of relationships
and whether or not they are abusive.
It boils down to this:
do we read and interpret scripture
to support our preconceptions and comfort zones,
or do we use scripture
to discover how best to
love God and follow Jesus.
Uncomfortable as it sometimes is,
and because the time has come for love,
I choose to act according to
the teachings and expectations of Jesus.

ADVERSITY RUNNING OUT OF BREATH

Mark 4:35-41
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Mark 4:35-41 — The Message
Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?” Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”

09-0011-Rain

09-0011-Rain

So much adversity has happened this past couple of years,
I am almost out of breath.
Our nation seems to be in a time of constant grieving.
If it isn’t revisiting Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting,
or the mass shooting inside a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado,
or watching police behaving feloniously on cell phone video clips,
it is seeing thousands of vets in hospitals,
suffering PTSD, begging on street corners,
or being blown apart in wars we aren’t sure we belong in
Hate and blame abound.
The NRA claims the murders in Charleston
were brought on by the minister himself.
Schools, Christian churches,
Protestant and Catholic
abound in sexual exploitation and abuse,
and our children are stolen off our streets,
out of our arms never to be seen again.
Racism, homophobia,
gender inequality,
nationalism
just will not go away.
Instead of tears our nation rages
and rips itself apart with an unspoken fear.
And many times we just feel helpless…
Newscasters are looking for easy sellable headlines.
Preachers are looking for easy, preachable, phrases.
Politicians are looking for easy reelectable planks for their platforms.
But the truth of it is that it is not easy.
The hate has to stop—now!
The finger pointing and blame has to stop—now!
Seeing these issues as someone else’s problem has to stop—now!
The time for reconciliation is now.
The time for forgiveness is now.
The time to shoulder our culpability and complicity in the problem is now.
The leaders of our nation,
right and left,
have been acting like a pack
of fools, jesters, clowns,
and petty, self-aggrandizing pre-teens
on a stage that demands more than adolescent elbowing.
Our job
as thinking, praying, people of faith
is to stand against this tide
of cynical solipsism,
and fear-filled reactionism.
The change begins in us.
The hope starts here.
There is no buck to pass,
only grace to nurture,
and it begins with forgiveness.
The model for this was made for Christians
by Jesus
when he forgave his tormentors,
and it was acted out again
by the families of the murdered in
Charleston, South Carolina
as they one by one spoke to Dylann Roof,
named their pain and loss,
and then forgave him.
Our task as individuals as I see it,
is to believe adversity can run out of breath,
stand against injustice,
naming it to its face,
asking forgiveness for our own part in it,
accepting that forgiveness,
and then passing that forgiveness on
to those who commit egregious crimes
against us and humanity.
Can we name those whom we are called to forgive?
The time has come for love…

TO FLOURISH

Mark 4:26-34
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

To Flourish

To Flourish

We want to flourish,
but sometimes it takes more that just going to bed
and awakening surprised to discover
we didn’t have to do a thing,
our lives prospered,
and we have lives with no problems,
secure in our health
and strong
in heart and soul and body—
dream on…
It takes more
than a good night’s sleep
and the spin of the earth
for us to flourish in mind, soul, being.
We all desire physical, mental, spiritual health,
but what do we do to have
a life of well being,
thriving in perfect harmony from the cradle to the grave?
Do we take it all as it comes?
Are we spending our time
rejoicing when we have something to rejoice about,
taking pride in our physical abilities and strength,
feeling sorrow for those with mental disabilities,
praising God as our spirits soar to the heights?
Do we then turn around and whine and gripe,
at least inwardly,
when our physical abilities fade,
stagger in shock and disbelief
when overcome by our emotions,
question our faith and our God
when our spirits falter?
What do we do
to prepare ourselves
for the times when the going gets really tough?
We can walk, run, work
out to keep up our physical health.
We can choose our friends wisely and positively,
and go to counselors to keep our mental health strong.
But in the end,
after our health fails
and our minds become depressed,
what have we done
to keep our spirits strong for those tough times,
when there seems to be nothing at all left for us?
A baseball player who can field and catch
the most awkward balls
is referred to as someone with “soft hands”.
Meaning that his hands are not tense,
but pliable enough
to hold onto a badly spinning ball
on the worst hop possible.
It seems to me that for our souls to flourish
they need to be “soft” in much the same way
the baseball player’s hands need to be “soft”.
A soft, pliable soul is a strong soul
that has allowed God to work in it
and that soul is open to God’s healing
and strengthening, Spirit.
Praying with an openness for change—
in ourselves and others;
trust in God to be working in ourselves and others,
even when WE don’t see it;
faith that God is present in things
we not only don’t understand,
but also just do not like;
and believing that
the time has come for love
when the opposite seems true.
HARVEST TIME:
these are the spiritual practices
that help our spirits to flourish.

HONEST PRAYER

Passion and Prayer

Passion and Prayer

Psalm 130
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

So much of Sunday church worship
is nice and safe and sweet and gentle,
and I think,
\while this is a good thing,
most of the time,
we get taught lessons that
do not apply to our daily living,
and imply
that this is how we ought to pray,
all the time.
Applying a spiffy,
polished-up and tamed-down
church model
to our everyday living is not ideal.
For most,
our lives are not nice and safe and
sweet and gentle.
Wild, crazy,
mean, scary,
treacherous, hurtful, horrible
things happen to us
and those we love
off and on throughout our lives,
and it piles up
until we think we will explode
from the stress.
Betrayal and agony
and death and misery,
monotony
and mind-crushing boredom,
lives that fall short of
dreams and potential,
and flat-line for
year
upon year
upon year
upon year.
For many of us
these are the daily weights
with which we struggle,
drag up the proverbial hill,
day after day,
decade after decade,
and somewhere,
in a partitioned-off corner
deep within our soul
there is an outrage,
born of inequity and despair,
that waits to escape.
And it will
when there is enough provocation.
These are the times when the
sweet
prayers and praise
of our worship lead us to think what we really
truly
have to express
is not only inappropriate,
but blasphemous.
Not so!!!
God wants us,
all of us,
not only our praise
but the full expression of our true emotions.
Praying should always be the most honest expression
of where we are
mentally/spiritually/emotionally
at that precise moment we are living.
Screaming, swearing,
crying, jibbering,
denying God,
making rude-gestures-at-the-sky at God,
cursing God:
all these are very timely,
appropriate,
honest
praying forms,
and they are,
in some ways truer
and more honest forms of prayer
than the prayers we generally think
we ought to pray.

BORN AGAIN???

John 3:1-18
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

The Waters of Creation

The Waters of Creation

Well this is an interesting spin
on the work of Jesus on earth.
It apparently takes more than just breathing
to enter into the place
to which this translation has Jesus referring as
“original creation—
the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water creation,
the invisible moving the visible… ” place,
but I think that might be a wrong assumption.
Well, we can say that it is
mystical language for sure.
It is:
cloaked in metaphor,
simile disguised as fact,
analogy dressed up as actuality,
dim memory passed on as current history,
but still, 100% truth.
These words are the attempt by the writer
of what we call
the Gospel of John
to explain to us,
two thousand years and beyond,
something that occurred
about 90 to 120 years prior to his writing,
and in terms common to his time,
not to ours.
We are challenged to
not only have open hearts,
but generous minds.
In past and other translations
and exegetical essays
scholars have created a polarized treatment
of this text that saves or condemns
depending on the work
the one-to-be-saved is willing to put out—
a rigidity excluding the ambiguous
nature of the text itself.
But does it take more than just breathing
to enter into this mystical realm?
I think not.
I think that if,
no mater which way we turn
God is there,
then so is our salvation.
Something I have worked on over the years,
and come to a satisfactory understanding,
is how Paul tells us that we cannot be
saved by our works
and that only faith can save us.
But if it is our faith that saves us,
then our faith itself
becomes a work,
not having the power
to save,
and we are left holding
onto an empty hope.
I have come to understand that
Jesus, who instituted the
NEW AND UNBREAKABLE COVENANT
had an incredible faith in
the one he knew as abba, or father,
and it is precisely this faith that saves,
not ours.
In the Gospel of John,
the writer offers no definitions,
no suggestions
as to how one might do such a thing
as being born again
beyond believing and
leaving us kind of
dangling between the devil
and the deep blue sea, so to speak,
with salvation nigh unto impossible,
unless there was something else going on.
And I believe that the reason the salvation
Jesus offered was,
and still is,
so hard to understand
was that it was/is truly free,
and with no action at all
needed on the part
of the one-to-be-saved—me, you.
Which is still true and today
still so hard for many to understand,
and why some scholars make it so tricky,
and with so many consequential
and mean-spirited stipulations.
Salvation
does not make us special
and better than the unsaved.
In the end, we are all
part of the same crowd.
With none being unsaved,
salvation
makes all of us equal
to all the rest of us…