The Waystead is a Hermitage of the Lindisfarne Community, established with the intent to foster the love of God in the world. Our resolve is to follow the Way of the One in Whom we live and move and have our Being.
We trust that by thoughtfully founding, and steadfastly keeping, a dwelling place and setting it apart as a place of prayer, reflection, and contemplation, we will be able to hold onto that resolve.
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The Main Thing
160 The main thing
about your word is that it’s true; and all your just rulings last forever.
18 Adonai made this
known to me, and then I knew —
you showed me what
they were doing.
19 But I was like a
led to be slaughtered;
I did not know that
they were plotting
schemes against me —
16 “Pay attention! I
am sending you out like sheep among wolves, so be as prudent as snakes and as
harmless as doves.
Today is the
commemoration of St. James of Jerusalem. (Known as ‘The Just’, the brother of
Funny, lately I’ve read a great deal about James the Just,
and as far as the readings go it seems there’s been a coincidence in other
areas as well, mainly regarding discussions I’ve been having about things that
are True and Eternal, and about Paying Attention.
So it’s time to ferret out the connecting thread, I guess.
The first reading reminded me painfully of the times that I had
been ‘like a tame lamb led to the slaughter’, oblivious of other people’s ill
will. When I did finally get it, it hurt something awful. I was forced to
notice that the psalmist said that God ‘made this known’ to him. It never
occurred to me that it might have been God that made me get it; made me see that
I’d been set up to be mocked by people
who really didn’t like me.
The other thing that I’ve been adding to my understanding
lately, is the idea that we are all connected; all ‘in the same boat’; all
beholden to one another.
So if I put those two things together, it shows me exactly
how God makes that kind of thing known. God makes us see into other people’s
hearts, and see how we are connected. We see how we share the impulse to harm;
to belittle; to make fun of other people. We don’t just get it because we’re
told, we get it because we feel it. When we know, we can then look back on when
we did not know, and when we compare the two and ask ourselves, “How come now
we know the difference?” the answer has to be, “Because I might have done the
same thing to someone else.” We have to recognize that our understanding came
from asking the question, “Why would they do something like that?” And not just
asking it, but actually trying to answer it. That’s when we understand that the
only way to answer the question is to ask ourselves, “Why would I do something like that?” That’s when
we understand that the only reason we’re able to answer the question, is that
we too are perfectly capable of ‘doing something like that’. It’s our trust,
like the tame lamb, that tempts us to ‘lead each other to slaughter’. It’s knowing
in our hearts just how tempting it can be to abuse trustfulness for the sake of
a practical joke. Not to mention what Jeremiah is talking about, which was
deadly serious and could have ended up with him not just mocked, but deader
than a doornail.
So how does that tie in with the Gospel? Well, Jesus told
them to be both prudent and harmless. He also implied that knowing the danger
ahead of time doesn’t always help you avoid it. In fact, he pretty much said
that it wouldn’t. So why bother? I think the key to understanding it is
that it isn’t about avoiding your enemy’s plots. No, it’s about being able to
see the value of being a “tame lamb,” and the resolution to go right on being a
tame lamb, only a tame lamb with its eyes wide open, knowing exactly where it’s
being led off to. It’s about knowing that we are all lambs being led to the slaughter. So all that stuff in the
Psalms and the Old Testament begging God to visit ‘retribution’ on our ‘enemies’---
could that be simply a request for our enemies to have the same understanding
about the whole mess that we do?
The other thing that popped into my head was this: I can’t
think of anything more disconcerting to an enemy than to realize that their
victim knows perfectly well what they are plotting, and is going to just go ahead and let them do it! After all, that’s
exactly what Jesus did, and it disconcerted all of history.
So the Psalm and Jeremiah prefigure the Jesus event. God
shows the trusting Lamb what the enemy intends, and the Lamb goes right on
Jesus tells his disciples to be prudent but harmless,
because those are good ways to be. He sends them into danger and tells them
that they might not survive, and expects them to follow his example and go
anyway, still trusting.
I’m not sure if there’s a thin connecting thread that leads
to James the Just, but there must have been a reason that he was called ‘The
Just’. So where is the justice in all this?
That leads us back around to the Psalm, and its
unsophisticated point that “the main thing” is that nothing’s worth anything if
it isn’t true, and once a thing has been decided, it’s a done deal. It’s a good
thing God’s verdicts are fair, right?
Well, what about when there’s no way to be fair? What about
when trust encourages contempt? What about when it’s the innocent that suffer, and
the shrewd that escape? What about when God’s retribution turns out to be
enlightenment? What if God’s punishment is just that moment when you realize
the truth, and you say, “Oh, Shit!”
What about the smack-in-the-face realization that trust
exists because of deceit; innocence depends on guilt, and vengeance relies on mercy?
Where does that leave us? Back at trust?
Well, maybe it just leaves us at the gates of Heaven, asking
ourselves, “Where to now?"
(I originally wrote this in November 2015, after reading a book on understanding Jesus's teachings in the light of first century Jewish Temple mysticism. I had been struggling with the cannibalistic implications in the Eucharist of "eating Jesus's body and drinking his blood." It was such a relief to discover this interpretation which connects neatly with the way his disciples would likely have understood the language Jesus was using.) Eucharist A little bit of research on the internet produced a
description of Jewish ritual sacrifice in the time of Jesus. A person, say a
woman named Sarah, offers a goat. She buys it and takes it to the priest at the
Temple. He examines it to see if it is “perfect,” i.e. healthy and unblemished.
He then takes it and slits its throat with the ritual words, “This is Sarah’s
blood.” The meaning should obviously be, that this is the blood belonging to
Sarah and offered on her behalf. The blood would then be poured out at the base
of the …
Hebrews 6:1-12 (CJB) 6
Therefore, leaving behind the initial lessons about the Messiah, let us go on
to maturity, not laying again the foundation of turning from works that lead to
death, trusting God, 2 and instruction about washings, s’mikhah (blessing,
laying on of hands), the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment. 3
And, God willing, this is what we will do. 4 For when
people have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become sharers in
the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), 5 and tasted the goodness of God’s Word and
the powers of the ‘olam haba (world to come) — 6 and then have fallen away — it
is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for
themselves they keep executing the Son of God on the stake all over again and
keep holding him up to public contempt. 7 For the land that soaks up frequent
rains and then brings forth a crop useful to its owners receives a blessing
from God; 8 but if it keeps producing thorns and thistles, it fails t…
Lectio: Psalm 137 *****3 when
those who had taken us captive
asked us to sing them a song;
our tormentors demanded joy from us —
“Sing us one of the songs from Tziyon!” 4 How can we sing a song about Adonai
here on foreign soil? **** 7 Remember, Adonai,
against the people of Edom
the day of Yerushalayim’s fall,
how they cried, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Raze it to the ground!” 8 Daughter of Bavel, you will be destroyed!
A blessing on anyone who pays you back
for the way you treated us! 9 A blessing on anyone who seizes your babies
and smashes them against a rock!
Micah 7:11-20 13 The earth will be desolate for those living in it,
as a result of their deeds. 18 Who is a God like you,
pardoning the sin and overlooking the crimes
of the remnant of his heritage?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in grace. 19 He will again have compassion on us,
he will subdue our iniquities. You will throw all their sins
into the depths of the sea.