THOUGHTS ON POWER

Power

Harsh, gross, mean, violent,
and full of intrigue
is the imagery in this text.
Does it
represent the Word
and love of God,
or is it an example of hack writing
by a writer trying to throw
responsibility
for the ills, and successes,
of the people onto God’s back?
What bothers me most
about this text is
that it is the very kind of text
opportunistic preachers use
to convince
their ignorant constituency
that this is the Word of God
and how God works,
and how it will work
in their lives.
It is a fear-based promulgation
That panders to
hate, xenophobia, and fear of anything unusual.
God selling God’s people into slavery,
then God starting a war,
then God allowing Jael
to murder a sleeping person,
so God could then destroy the very people
to whom God sold God’s people into slavery?
Ah, come on!!!
A good story,
a great saga,
but the word and work
of a loving and just God?
No.
There are many texts that reflect
God’s love,
this is not one of them.
If this is how God really works
we are all in trouble.
This is more a text about power,
but whose power?
God’s power?
The Hebrews power?
Jael’s power?
Or maybe the power
of the writer of the text?
Taken as a historical work
that is full of the
naïve biases
of an ancient uncritical people,
it works just fine,
but not a text to be considered as
the Word of God.
To be clear,
I do not consider the
so called “red letter words”
of some versions
to be fully trustworthy,
either.
When I am looking for what might
be God’s word,
the Gospel Jesus proclaimed,
(which, by the way,
is scattered throughout
the Bible,)
I look for what those texts
have Jesus doing
rather
than what the writers
have him say.
Jesus saved,
he forgave,
he set free,
he taught us of God’s love,
he was an advocate
for the powerless—
he did not show us how to drive
tent stakes
into our opponents’ temples.
Rather,
he taught we are
to love and forgive
those who do us harm..
It is in this forgiveness
there is true power.

# # #

In Case you’d like to read the text, I am including it below.

Judges 4 — The Message

1-3 The People of Israel kept right on doing evil in GOD’s sight. With Ehud dead, GOD sold them off to Jabin king of Canaan who ruled from Hazor. Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim, was the commander of his army. The People of Israel cried out to GOD because he had cruelly oppressed them with his nine hundred iron chariots for twenty years.
4-5 Deborah was a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth. She was judge over Israel at that time. She held court under Deborah’s Palm between Ramah and Bethel in the hills of Ephraim. The People of Israel went to her in matters of justice.
6-7 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “It has become clear that GOD, the God of Israel, commands you: Go to Mount Tabor and prepare for battle. Take ten companies of soldiers from Naphtali and Zebulun. I’ll take care of getting Sisera, the leader of Jabin’s army, to the Kishon River with all his chariots and troops. And I’ll make sure you win the battle.”
8 Barak said, “If you go with me, I’ll go. But if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
9-10 She said, “Of course I’ll go with you. But understand that with an attitude like that, there’ll be no glory in it for you. GOD will use a woman’s hand to take care of Sisera.”
Deborah got ready and went with Barak to Kedesh. Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together at Kedesh. Ten companies of men followed him. And Deborah was with him.
11-13 It happened that Heber the Kenite had parted company with the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ in-law. He was now living at Zaanannim Oak near Kedesh. They told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. Sisera immediately called up all his chariots to the Kishon River—nine hundred iron chariots!—along with all his troops who were with him at Harosheth Haggoyim.
14 Deborah said to Barak, “Charge! This very day GOD has given you victory over Sisera. Isn’t GOD marching before you?”
Barak charged down the slopes of Mount Tabor, his ten companies following him.
15-16 GOD routed Sisera—all those chariots, all those troops!—before Barak. Sisera jumped out of his chariot and ran. Barak chased the chariots and troops all the way to Harosheth Haggoyim. Sisera’s entire fighting force was killed—not one man left.
17-18 Meanwhile Sisera, running for his life, headed for the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite. Jabin king of Hazor and Heber the Kenite were on good terms with one another. Jael stepped out to meet Sisera and said, “Come in, sir. Stay here with me. Don’t be afraid.”
So he went with her into her tent. She covered him with a blanket.
19 He said to her, “Please, a little water. I’m thirsty.”
She opened a bottle of milk, gave him a drink, and then covered him up again.
20 He then said, “Stand at the tent flap. If anyone comes by and asks you, ‘Is there anyone here?’ tell him, ‘No, not a soul.’”
21 Then while he was fast asleep from exhaustion, Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg and hammer, tiptoed toward him, and drove the tent peg through his temple and all the way into the ground. He convulsed and died.
22 Barak arrived in pursuit of Sisera. Jael went out to greet him. She said, “Come, I’ll show you the man you’re looking for.” He went with her and there he was—Sisera, stretched out, dead, with a tent peg through his temple.
23-24 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the People of Israel. The People of Israel pressed harder and harder on Jabin king of Canaan until there was nothing left of him.

TRUSTING IN THE LOVE OF GOD

Trusting In The Love Of God

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – The Message
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.

#   #   #

This scripture
is one I use at
funerals and memorials
to offer hope to the grieving
and also make some sense
to that vast emptiness
we suddenly
find in our lives at the loss
of a loved one.
There are those
who reject the
claims in this reading
as specious
and silly
ways to make meaning—
but this scripture does inform us.
It informs our faith.
It informs our hope.
It informs our understanding
of how things work.
I have been asked
what I believed about God
and how these mystical
and metaphysical claims play out.
Let me go on record
as not being really
too sure about
what Archangel thunder is,
or if the master really does
give a command,
or how we might
be caught up in the clouds.
Yet,
I think there is something
here
that is powerfully informative
about
how God works—
and I do believe in God, so
here is how I see it:
no matter how it all shakes down,
we are cared for by God.
And,
while I do not believe,
factually,
in the grand claims
that the Christian
metaphors and mythologies
make about heaven,
I still see them as stories
that explain not so much how,
but that we are,
indeed,
cared for and
loved and nurtured
by God throughout the
unending span
of what we term,
eternity.
And this is
what we should not be
uninformed about:
come what may,
the love God
has for us will continue—
forever.
And we can trust God
to do the best possible
by us
forever.

THE PERFECTION WITHIN

The Perfection Within

Matthew 23:1-12

Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.

“Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

#   #   #

How do we name ourselves?
Many times
we can know best who we are
by the names we call ourselves.
So, by what personal set of claims
do we know ourselves:
Strong?
Idiot?
Loved?
Inadequate?
Beautiful?
Fool?
Perfect?
The Matthew text,
at first glance,
seems to be about
religious posturing.
But if I do a sidewalk-psych-eval,
it appears to me there is strong evidence
of a dynamic
of low self-esteem at work.
The Pharisees appear
to be inflating themselves
to seem more important than they
believe they are —
positioning themselves
to look better than
their inner-selves can actually accept as an inner-truth.
Though it is usually preached otherwise,
I read this text as more about
believing in ourselves,
and how we are seen by God,
than
about walking our talk,
or needlessly posturing before others.
So many times we forget,
Or we have never known,
how perfect we actually are.
There is so much crappy theology
being spewed around
that claims only God,
or Jesus,
can be perfect,
and how we are only
vague, dim, imperfect, worthless, vessels.
To which I say, “Hog swill!”
We are how we have been created —
perfect.
No original sin!
No damaged soul!
No fools!
No fooling!
I suggest we begin to live into
what we have been created to be
by naming ourselves,
as God originally named us,
“Good.”
We say we want
peace, love, that we want “nice”
in our world.
Let us first offer these things to ourselves
as God has
offered them to us.
Sit with this for a moment.
Can you feel the goodness
in yourselves?
Can you sense the perfection of Being
waiting to be acknowledged?
Can you?