“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” Psalm 25: 4-5
Posts by Susan:
I had a favorite aunt who, up until the day she died six years ago, believed we were living in the “last days.” I find myself wondering the same; especially when I read the book of Matthew in the New Testament, chapters 24 through 26, and compare it to the current world circumstances.
In different translations of the Bible, the headings of these particular chapters are titled “Signs of the End of the Age,” “The Coming of the Son of Man,” and “No One Knows That Day and Hour.” I have read these and other similar chapters in both the Old and New Testaments. I do not have a clearer understanding now of “the end times” then when I read these scriptures the first time.
Could it be that . . .
“the end times” as Jesus might have been pointing to is always ongoing timeless here and now? And yet, recognizing that the destructive nature of human beliefs in separation no longer just affect regions but is now destroying the whole planet wide web of nature, balance and life we truly are not separate from… And so for those who identify with form and bodies it does seem like the end, so to speak… Yet as always the opportunity is to see more and more clearly what we are not, and in that seeing realize what we are, more and more…
What gives me hope, though, is that with every ending is a new beginning. The process of transformation and renewal is continual and ongoing—from everlasting to everlasting, from Alpha to Omega.
My present ponderings have been aroused by the deeply troubling events on Monday, June 1. I watched peaceful protestors incur violence at the hands of law enforcement officers, in order for the president to have a photo opportunity in front of St. John’s church in Washington, DC.
I concur with Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde . . . “I am outraged.” She also said, “The president did not pray when he came to St. John’s nor did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now.”
She went on to say:
“One of the responsibilities of people of faith is to know the context of superficial acts. When I say superficial, I don’t mean insignificant, but the ones that are right on the surface. We need to understand the deep-rooted causes of these things . . . If we don’t understand the context, we miss the opportunity to be agents of healing.”
My pastor frequently quotes NT scholar Ben Witherington III who says, “A Scripture without context is nothing more than a pretext for whatever we want it to mean.”
‘Context’ made me think of the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25-37. I include it here in its entirety.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Certainly, this parable quite clearly answers the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
The Jews and Samaritans hated each other; it was a hatred rooted in Israel’s history 700 plus years before Jesus ever told this story. Sounds relatable to our own history, does it not?
I find the actions of the Samaritan man remarkable! He did not ask “the man” his political, cultural, sociological or theological views before rendering aid. He treated and bandaged the man’s wounds, put the man on his own animal, took him to an inn where he continued to take care of him, gave money to the innkeeper so the man could continue to rest and recover, AND promised to repay the motel owner for any other expenses incurred in the care of the man.
In spite of their differences, the Samaritan loved him. He was an “Agent of Healing.”
Within and through the limitlessness of this healing, transformation and renewal abound because we are all “agents of healing.” This is our calling! This is our purpose!
I do not expect you to agree with me on politics or anything else for that matter, but I do hope you will love me as I love you. Disagreeing with one another and blatantly ending any conversation gets us nowhere. But disagreeing within the framework of love, mercy, and compassion . . . this is where real listening, sharing, problem-solving, and consensus can occur . . . if only we will “go and do likewise.”
Where are you?
In the past when our nation was in crisis and turmoil, sitting presidents gave stirring speeches meant to unite our nation. They evoked compassion and grit, and sought to comfort us in our troubles, and fill us with hope.
Consider George W. Bush’s “Bullhorn Speech” given at Ground Zero after the terrorist attack of 9/11. What about John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech delivered during the Cold War with Russia? Yesterday’s historic SpaceX launch is a direct result of his inspirational words.
You are too young to remember the fireside chats Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered between 1933 and 1944 when our nation was struggling through the Great Depression and WWII. My 91-year-young father remembers! He vividly recalls sitting in front of the radio listening intently to President Roosevelt deliver words of condolence and consolation.
Finally, I dare say no words of a presidential speech are more hallowed than Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Words that ring true now more than ever!
I have read your tweets and Facebook posts. Almost always you seem to choose words that incite hate, violence and division. Your re-election ads on television embrace a self-centered campaign rhetoric espousing only your own ego as the man who does things his way.
. . . “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom . . . and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” . . . is NOT about you! Being president is about being in service to the people, NOT to your wallet!
Your words, “I’m not a schmuck. Even if the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, I won’t lose a penny.”, do not sound like someone who is donating his presidential salary. Considering the world’s current circumstances, you would realize you sound almost prophetic–that is if you were capable of even the slightest bit of insight, which clearly you are not.
So, I ask again, where are you? Are you really that out of touch with what is happening all around you?
Yes, I am still praying . . .
. . . for your heart to be softened and for you to control your tongue.
James 3: 5-6 says:
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.
. . . for the families and loved ones of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and all those grieving to feel the warmth of love and peace being sent their way.
. . . for those people refusing to distance or wear masks—that the eyes of their hearts will be open to the pain and grief being endured by so many who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19; that they will see wearing a mask as truly THE MOST loving, kind, and humane act of compassion and protection for their fellow human beings.
. . . and for our nation, that we may awaken in healing and wholeness together.
With all due respect to the office you presently hold,
John 15:10. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Take a few minutes to meditate on this verse . . .
This scripture takes place within the context of the Last Supper before Jesus is betrayed and eventually crucified. Jesus and his disciples are gathered together in the Upper Room. He has washed their feet, shared a Passover meal, and is explaining to them about his death and resurrection. Before they leave to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, he prays for his disciples and “for those who will believe in (him) through their message.”
The first part of the verse seems fairly straightforward.
His disciples, as devout Jews, would have known the 613 laws that comprise the Torah—“the first five books of Moses.”
At the start of his teaching ministry, Jesus explicates the moral intricacies of this Jewish code in his Sermon on the Mount, found in chapters five through seven of the New Testament book of Matthew.
For example, Matthew 5:21-26:
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister (without cause) you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult (abuse) a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell (Gehenna) of fire.
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
The three chapters that comprise the Sermon on the Mount, elucidate the “honorable dispositions of humility, mournfulness, meekness, passion for justice, mercy and peace” at the heart of God’s commandments.
Coming to the end of his teaching in verse 12 of chapter seven, he summarizes the core commandment that encompasses the old and new.
Therefore, in everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (NSRV)
The Complete Jewish Bible translates it this way:
Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets.
What piqued my curiosity with intense fascination, however, was the latter half John 15:10 . . .
. . . just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Jesus could have been talking about these same Pentateuch instructions, but I sense something more profound in the mix.
What were the commands God the Father, gave God the Son? In other words, what were the commands that God gave Himself?
God Herself gave Himself divine instructions through which to be—to exist.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being. John 1:1-3
In other words, what is the Heart of Consciousness?
I have been reading through John’s gospel and I think I found the answer. During his last Seder with his beloved friends Jesus says:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34
Sounds easy, does it not?
This is not an “I love chocolate” declaration or a Hallmark love story movie that stirs the emotions of infatuation, lust, passion, tenderness, sentimentality or desire. The heart of this Love is much more significant than what I feel for my sons, grandchildren, family and other beloveds—as much as I dearly love them!
This Love is THE conscious awareness IN which all thought, feeling and sensation arises in one’s lifetime.
Now more than ever, we should be regularly asking ourselves, “what is this Loving Heart of all experience enjoining me to do?”
Why now more than ever? Because all of life’s existence literally hangs in the balance due primarily to human caused pandemic, environmental destruction, political, social and economic conflicts, climate change among many other related and catastrophic traumas now deeply embodied in the human experience.
I confess this examination of conscious was engendered by recent events in the news.
The first was people’s reactions to wearing face masks in response to preventing the spread of the Coronavirus. I am appalled by the lack of compassion, empathy and ignorance regarding this very simple act of kindness and love. Even our own President (yes, I am picking on him again), who should know that he leads by example, refuses to wear a mask.
Second, the heart wrenching and horrifying deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia; killed simply because of the color of their skin.
And last, the attempt of a Caucasion woman to “weaponize the police” against an African-American man who was bird watching. He merely asked the woman to leash her dog in accordance with the park directives.
How am I to respond to such virulent hatred? What should I do with the angst this creates? How does one manage the pain these loathsome deeds generate?
If I hold all my anxiousness, anger, sadness, and other emotions in the spaciousness of Her Love, the Peace that passes all understanding envelopes me. Then I can release it all through prayer, writing, singing, meditating, activism or some other constructive and loving pursuit.
It is not easy! It takes time, practice and patience. I fail and fall short more often than not . . .
. . . and so the practice continues.
Wow! After almost four years in office, you finally said something that is true and that I agree with: “We need to pray.”
Before you begin a temper-tantrum twitter to what you may perceive as an insult, keep in mind, I am a 61-year-old white, protestant woman—one of the key demographics in your bid for re-election. For this reason, it is in your best interest to continue reading.
Your uninformed determination to open churches for worship and prayer is nearsighted. You incorrectly assume that closed church doors are stopping the life and mission of the church. That, Mr. President, could not be farther from the truth!
In Matthew 18: 20 Jesus says:
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Of the 7.8 billion people now alive on this planet, I think it is safe to conclude that there are many groups of at least two or three gathered together somewhere in His name. These assemblies may not be taking place in the traditional ways you are perhaps familiar with, but they are taking place!
The church where I am a congregant has been worshipping on-line since Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church made the decision “to honor local government directives” and not meet “on site until it is safe to do so.” This kind of technology is connecting billions of people worldwide in reverential awe of God and Her creation.
Jesus did not say “go build a mortar and brick structure, gather weekly, and then forget about me for the rest of the week.” He said, among other things, to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “love others as I have loved you,” “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned,” “take care of widows and orphans,” “where possible live at peace with one another,” and “pray for your enemies.”
None of these pursuits necessarily take place within the confines of a steepled edifice and can sometimes be more effective when they don’t!
This active mindfulness, or Christ consciousness, transcends the barriers of space, time and the labels of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, economic status, political affiliation and otherwise.
Unfortunately, I doubt you will understand any of this due to your white privileged, patriarchal psychopathic personality which only serves to exacerbate your misogyny, bigotry, narcissistic heartlessness and greed.
Be that as it may, I am praying . . .
. . . for you and for all those in authority and leadership positions all over the world to make knowledgeable and wise decisions.
. . . for Scientists to find a safe and effective vaccine/cure/treatment for Covid-19.
. . . for doctors, nurses, medical professionals, front-line workers and essential personnel to have a tangible sense of how very much they are loved and appreciated so they will not get discouraged.
. . . for those who are sick, grieving, homeless, unemployed, in prison, the abused and abusers, alcoholics and addicts, all those who are suffering and feeling hopeless—that they would trust that God is with them—loving them, helping them—even if it does not feel like it and even when the evidence seems to point to the contrary.
I am praying.
Take care and please wear a mask.
P.S. Will I be voting for you in November? I will let one of my favorite actors, Will Smith, answer for me via this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im_5QdHp04E
Post Script to those of you still reading . . .
As the US death total due to Covid-19 approaches nearly 100,000 people, I was (and still am) deeply troubled by President Trump’s lack of remorse over this traumatic loss of life. Additionally, his flippant attitude toward prayer only makes light of dire circumstances. These thoughts, coupled with my own discouragement at how sometimes situations seem to get worse before they get better while praying, prompted the above letter.
I know there are those among you who will be offended by what I have written about our President . . . I understand.
I hope you will take the energy that creates and join me in prayer. While we may not see eye to eye about President Trump, hopefully there is at least one thing on my prayer list above on which we can agree.
Please take care.