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Showing posts from October, 2018

Good Choices

Martha and Mary
Luke 10:38-42
I’m going to go sideways with this one. I’ve heard a lot of sermons about this passage. I suppose almost everyone has, but just in case, this is the story of two sisters whose house Jesus visited as a guest.
Martha was flustered; Mary was calm.
Martha felt the burden of hospitality as an arduous responsibility; Mary didn’t consider it difficult.
Martha bustled about; Mary sat down.
Martha got up in Jesus’s face and complained; Mary didn’t say anything.
Martha had ideas and expectations; Mary just listened.


The usual interpretations involve a value judgment about the relative worth of Martha’s activity versus Mary’s passivity. I don’t think that is the point at all! Elsewhere in the Gospel we learn that Jesus loved both Martha and Mary. These traditional interpretations imply that Jesus was criticizing Martha, and telling her that Mary had made a ‘better choice.’ I looked up the Greek, and it simply doesn’t say that.
Jesus tells Martha that she is ‘merimnaō’ (anxi…

A Place Inside

I know that your ears don’t listen to what I hear and that your eyes don’t see the things I see.
But can you find a place inside you which lets you imagine why it is that I have to try to tell you?
I have to believe you might still suddenly hear it— the pure crystal bell of a wire harp string in O’Carolan’s “Farewell to Music” like an unearthly touch on your own heartstring and then you would listen as though you had been captured by forever.
I can’t bear even now to surrender my hope that in some eggshell sunrise you might slowly see it— the dawning outline of a deer head downward at the misty edge of the world—
or be delicately seized at the corner of your eye and drawn into the clear lens of a single bead of water knowing yourself to be falling upward into the Well at The End of The World.

Something To Save

Luke 9:51-62
Going to Jerusalem for the last time.
I don’t get why the Samaritans wouldn’t give Jesus hospitality “because he was going to Jerusalem” unless he was already so famous that everyone knew that if he went to Jerusalem at Passover that there would be bad trouble.
Maybe everybody was afraid of what would happen if they were marked out as accomplices because they helped him and gave him a place to stay, instead of telling him there was no room at the inn.
Maybe Jesus was running on fumes by this time, and being turned away felt like another indictment added to his upcoming death sentence. Maybe he felt like someone had kicked him in the gut. Maybe he found out exactly how his parents felt at Bethlehem. There’s an alternate source for verses 55 and 56 that has Jesus saying to the disciples who wanted to punish those inhospitable Samaritans: “You don’t know what Spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save.”
I like that. “Not to destro…

Needle's Eye

Mark 10:7-31 Sunday 10-14-2018Jesus and the Young Archon.
I’ve heard two reflections on this text since Sunday, and my take kept on veering away in a different direction than either of them. This is the gist of the story:
‘The influential and powerful prince comes and kneels before Jesus to ask him what he needs to do to get an admission ticket to the Kingdom. Jesus disappoints him.’
Of course, being me, I immediately departed from the traditional interpretations. I had in mind the lengthy, grim knowledge of manipulative people that I gained in my 18 years working as a cop. This young fellow was “working” Jesus, I’m sure of it. So then, how do we interpret Jesus’s response, “Why do you call me good?” [To aid in this analysis, I want to dredge up another Jesus quote from John 2:24-2524 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.” (NRSV) — 24 But he did not …

At Sea

Psalm 131 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) 131 (0) A song of ascents. By David: (1) Adonai, my heart isn’t proud;
I don’t set my sight too high,
I don’t take part in great affairs
or in wonders far beyond me.
No, I keep myself calm and quiet,
like a little child on its mother’s lap —
I keep myself like a little child.
Isra’el, put your hope in Adonai
I don’t have much to say to add to this. It’s the second shortest psalm in the Bible, and it made me think of verse 20 from the Tao te Ching:


How much difference between yes and no? What difference between good and bad?
What the people fear must be feared. Oh desolation! Not yet, not yet has it reached its limit!
Everybody’s cheerful, cheerful as if at a party, or climbing a tower in springtime. And here I sit unmoved, clueless, like a child, a baby too young to smile.
Forlorn, forlorn. Like a homeless person. Most people have plenty. I’m the one that’s poor, a fool right through.
Ignorant, ignorant. Most people are so bright. I’m the one that’s dull. Most people …

How It Is

“To learn the Buddha’s truth is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by the myriad dharmas. To be experienced by the myriad dharmas is to let our own body-and-mind, and the body-and-mind of the external world, fall away. There is a state in which the traces of realization are forgotten; and it manifests the traces of forgotten realization for a long, long time.”
—Dōgen, from the Genjo-Koan; Shobogenzo.
Yeshua answered, “Yes, indeed, I tell you that unless a person is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born from the flesh is flesh, and what is born from the Spirit is spirit. Stop being amazed at my telling you that you must be born again from above! The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. That’s how it is with everyone who has been born from the Spirit.”
—The Gospel of John, Chapter 3; The Complete…

A Little Child

Mark 10:2-15
Yes! I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it!”
In church today, I suddenly heard this verse completely differently. I’m reading a book right now that recommends reading the Bible ‘against the grain’. I don’t know if that is what I did, but I was suddenly overcome with a need to write down what I heard in my mind’s ear. Is that what happened to the prophets when they were blown over by the breath of the Holy Spirit? Maybe that’s not such an unusual happening as we are taught to think. Not something that used to happen in far off ancient Israel in a mountain or a cave, but a thing that can come over any of us, anytime.
Anyway, here is what I frantically scribbled down during the exchange of the peace—

“Receive the Kingdom as a little child..”
Not us; not the ones receiving; but the Kingdom, thatis what is like a child!
Receive the Kingdom, abashed after being chided by Jesus— receive it with cheeks flaming because Jesus is indignant…