Explorations Category


Golden Calf

Golden Calf

From the moment the golden Trump statue arrived at CPAC in Orlando, Florida, social media was inundated with its comparison to the golden calf that Aaron, brother of Moses, made in the desert on the Sinai Peninsula.

Moses had climbed Mount Sinai to receive the terms that would define the covenant relationship between God and God’s people. He was gone so long that the people of Israel feared he would not come back. In their supposed abandonment, they asked Aaron to make a god for them to worship.

Considering that the Israelites had watched God defeat the Egyptian gods with plague after plague, walked through the Red Sea on firm ground–walls of water on both sides, witnessed the Red Sea enclose their pursuers in a watery tomb, were being guided by supernatural fire by night and cloud by day, were supplied drinking water from a rock, it is difficult for me to believe they would choose to worship a golden calf.

But after a quick internet search on “oxen worship” I found cattle worship was fairly common in some ancient cultures, one of which was Egypt, the country where the once enslaved Hebrews were held captive for generations.

Another example of idolatry and perhaps a more appropriate juxtaposition to the golden Trump might be the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to worship the golden Nebuchadnezzar statue in Daniel chapter three verses 1 through 7.

King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. He set it up in a recessed area in the wall in the province of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar sent messengers to assemble the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials to dedicate the statue he had set up. Then the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials assembled to dedicate the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They stood in front of the statue.

The herald called out loudly, “People of every province, nation, and language! When you hear the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps playing at the same time with all other kinds of instruments, bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever doesn’t bow down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” As soon as they heard the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps with all other kinds of instruments, all the people from every province, nation, and language bowed down and worshiped the gold statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Because they declined to venerate Nebuchadnezzar’s golden monolith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace stoked “seven times hotter than usual” due to the King’s prideful rage.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

Since the book of Daniel combines “a prophecy of history with an eschatology (a portrayal of end times) both cosmic in scope and political in focus,” it could be easy for one to imagine—due to his pride, arrogance, avarice, self-indulgence, and insolence–the gleaming graven Trump image in this scenario. Just as easy to conceptualize is Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell, Franklin Graham, Lindsey Graham, et al. obsequiously genuflecting to the resplendent effigy of emptiness.

What has Trump and his cohorts failed to perceive? What did the faithful trio know that King Nebuchadnezzar and his advisors didn’t know? What did Moses and Joshua remember that Aaron and the Israelites forgot?

As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. Exodus 20:19-20

Did he really make them drink the gold-powdered water? The following link gives a thorough explanation of this figure of speech. Moses did not force them to do anything, he was merely asking them, what are you believing?

https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2018/10/hebrew-word-study-drinking-gold/

When you are worried, what are you believing? When you are facing trials and tribulations, what are you believing? When the world around you appears to be going to hell in a hand basket, what are you believing? A simple question, one that gently reminds us that we are not separate from our Creator; that we are only lost in some form of “ignorance, deception (or) illusion.”

I read the following in a recent Richard Rohr daily meditation:

“… we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. We see the things we want to see, the things that confirm our assumptions and our preferred way of looking at the world … People can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion.” —Brian McLaren

We see things the way we are believing.

He (King Nebuchadnezzar) said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Daniel 3:25-29

King Nebuchadnezzar’s mixed response demonstrates that asking oneself “what am I believing” is an on-going process; that we can still see something “other,” separate.

This is why when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he answered:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

There is nothing other than God. To revere any mere object or idol as a representation of what is everything is to remove one’s own very self from this knowing that is everything. ‘I Am’ is not anything or something other than what we and all seeming others always and already ARE. To fully grasp the first commandment is to make all the other commandments completely unnecessary. Until and as this knowing is fully embraced and integrated, the rest of the commandments are offered to God’s people as a temporary abode, refuge and/or pathway.

Rupert Spira puts it this way:

Nothing has its own existence, but rather everything borrows its apparent existence from God’s being, the only being there is. There is only one reality, and that reality stands alone, indivisible, indestructible, whole, perfect and complete.

This does not imply any disparagement of people or things. On the contrary, we are elevating people and things to their proper status. We are relieving the world of its status as an object to be exploited, and we are liberating people from the projection of ‘other’ to be oppressed, thus alleviating both from the inevitable consequences that attend such beliefs.

In other words, we are removing the filter of beliefs through which the universe has been fragmented into an apparent multiplicity of objects and others.

Solely by asking ourselves one question—what am I believing—and then waiting in apparent spaciousness for the revelation of God’s presence.

This is what Moses and Joshua knew. This was the awareness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Me? I am still working on it, walking in “trust, not by what (I) see.”

Agents of Healing Too

Agents of Healing Too

Are we here to help people? Or are we here to heal people? Or are helping and healing one and the same? If not, how are they different? Do all people want to be helped or healed? Are there some people that are beyond both helping and healing?

“May we never applaud someone’s suffering, never weaponize our religion to do harm, never grow comfortable with hearts that are only capable of anger.” John Pavlovitz

This quote was posted on a Facebook page I follow. I “liked” it and thought it was pretty self-explanatory. Apparently, someone did not share my understanding and responded in the comment section with, “Not sure what this statement means? Further discussion would be interesting.”

What is to understand? Is it ever appropriate to celebrate anyone’s hurt and pain? If you know any US or World history at all, you know how religion has been used as a weapon in a broad spectrum of ways to justify shaming, displacement, mutilation, torture and killing. Wars have been and are still being fought in the name of religious beliefs with all participants believing God was and is on their side. How is that not obvious to the commentator mentioned above? A heart only capable of anger is one that Jesus warned against time and time again. In parable after parable, Jesus alerted his followers to the hazards of a hardened heart.

Seems like a very straightforward and sincere awareness to me. Notice how this person said further discussion would be “interesting,” not helpful, not insightful, not healing—but “interesting.” This suggests that this person just wants to argue the beliefs with which he or she is identified. Arguing from the perspective of an identity in the beliefs of separation is counter-intuitive and counter-productive.

Several friends who saw this person’s comment wondered how one would approach an individual with this mindset. One friend said, “I want to help people like (this person) but I wonder what the word “help” even means as I say it? To change (this person)? To persuade (this person) to think as I think? Am I making crazy assumptions by using the word “help”?

To which I wrote, “Maybe the word you are looking for is heal. You want to be an agent of healing, which is really our purpose here on earth.”

Perhaps there are different ways of looking at “helping.” Some people want to help others so the others can be like them, think like them, act like them, believe like them. But what about the example of the Good Samaritan who helped the man on the side of the road because it was the right thing to do, without asking anything in return. In that case, helping is healing because the Samaritan walked alongside the hurt man, joining and being present with him upon his journey to wholeness.

In Matthew chapter ten, before sending his disciples out on a particular mission, Jesus gave them instructions which included the following:

When you enter someone’s household, say, ‘Shalom aleikhem!’ (Peace be unto you). If the home deserves it, let your shalom rest on it; if not, let your shalom return to you.
Matthew 10:12-14

The peace to which Jesus is referring “is more than just the absence of conflict or a state of rest. It means completeness or wholeness, and it points to the presence of something else.” (wordsoffaithhopelove.com) Shalom encompasses not only peace but also tranquility, innate safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness and integrity.

If the home deserves it simply means, are the people within the home so identified with their beliefs in separation that their hearts cannot be open to Life, Light and healing? Basically, Jesus is saying, If they are itching for a fight, get the hell out of there and take your peace with you.

His words in verse 14:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

Sometimes the best response to someone with such a heart is silence. By not engaging, we extend Grace and the person is forced to look inward to meet God.

In discussing a similar circumstance where my responding to a zinger would have meant re-entanglement in the situation, my cousin replied:

This person, not consciously but instinctively, the instincts of separation so to speak, knows how to try to entangle people into a continuation of some of his or her past drama they are still attached to (identified with). Our lack of response is a clear no, a no that leaves them nowhere to turn except back into their self … And that is where Goddess waits for them… When there is nowhere left for them to go except inward (because they have finally used up all outward options), they will, if they are truly willing, begin to realize (make real) their own journey with Goddess… This world of outward appearances we humans share in the beliefs of separation offers a lot of distractions, so this sort of spiritual “turning” we are speaking of now may not be for them to realize in this lifetime… No knowing…

People cannot see, cannot hear, we don’t know why they cannot see, cannot hear, and so we are disappointed… It will keep coming up for all of us who walk these paths, our many unique journeys being sort of like all the many threads of Goddess’s yarn on Goddess’s loom, that is in a sense weaving all of us who were never really apart back together in some wholly new ways…

Our disappointment in those who cannot hear, cannot see, shows us deeper into our own expectations and beliefs, around all the ways we still don’t accept and therefore still judge how things are not other than they simply are… What is, is…

Jesus spoke to those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear… He did not try to speak to those whose eyes and ears are so covered by dreams and beliefs and fears it is as if they are blind and deaf and do not even consciously know what it means to see and hear… He trusted that all was well, and that everybody awakens out of dreams and beliefs in their own time and ways, in relationship with God… This lifetime, next lifetime, some lifetime…

Nothing is, nor ever can be, left out of eternity… In the end ALL must return to Goddess… For after all, it was only ever an illusion believed, that anyone (or thing) was ever apart from what is everything…

Shalom aleikhem … or not.

Please also see Agents of Healing and Peacemaker, two essays posted here on this site.

 

Peacemakers

Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

How do we make peace? Is it even possible?

Woodrow Wilson seemed to think so. After WWI, he included a peace keeping organization, to be known as the League of Nations, in his 14 points. This visionary covenant, ratified by 42 countries with the exception of the United States, was designed to solve disputes and bring long-lasting peace to Europe.

Or how about Alfred Nobel, a “Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer.” One of five prizes established in his will, The Nobel Peace Prize has “been awarded annually (with some exceptions) to those who have ‘done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’”

One name most notably absent from the long and distinguished list of winners is Eleanor Roosevelt who worked as Chairperson on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations, “an international organization committed to maintaining international peace.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a monumental document that testifies to the Oneness of all humanity and creation. I have included a link to it below.

According to the list of Peace Prize winners, the 20th century seems to have been and is filled with inspired and creative individuals and groups, seeking to make peace. Certainly, this kind of peacemaking is worthwhile and productive. After all, just as we can have useful and engaging beliefs, we can have useful and engaging ways of constructing or maintaining peace.

Because most of us humans identify with our mental constructs, feelings, emotions, sense perceptions, memories, etc., more generally called our beliefs, and because we also identify with all the ways we tend to organize and gather our beliefs into ideologies, groupings, tribes, nations, faiths, cultures, subcultures, systems, etc., etc. we tend to see different, unfamiliar and opposing beliefs as being a denial of each other’s very existence as identities, individuals, free persons, groupings, nations, etc.

And so, it could be said that peacemaking in the ways of this world as we humans have come to believe it to be, in this 21st century since Jesus’s birth, is about solving all the many conflicts, difficulties and problems that arise out of all our myriad and so very often differing beliefs.

In other words our ways of “making” peace have become more often than not about preventing or ending all our many perceived and imagined conflicts and differences in all their various ways of appearing, including but not limited to domination, subjugation, pillage and war, by building mostly static ideological (artificial) structures in the form of agreements, contracts and understandings (more beliefs) within what is always this fluid ever-changing reality that all life on earth actually shares.

Is this the kind of peacemaking to which Jesus was referring?

Between civil unrest, the pandemic and extreme political divisiveness, 2020 has not been a peaceful year. Even if you do not profess to be a Christian, it seems fitting to begin the new year meditating on peace.

In the Christian calendar, the new year begins on the first Sunday in December with the first four Sundays prior to Christmas known as the season of Advent. Advent in Latin means “coming”—a time during which Christians prepare for the coming of the Messiah’s birth. This is a spiritual preparation rather than a secular one, focusing on four themes—Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

Many denominations of Christian faith practice the lighting of candles on an Advent wreath decorated with evergreen branches. Three of the four candles are purple or blue representing fasting and repentance. A fourth pink one symbolizes joy. Each Sunday, the candles are lit in succession culminating in the lighting of a fifth candle known as the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. This last candle is white expressing “purity, light, regeneration, and godliness.”

If you grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as I did, you probably watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas special. In it, a confused and befuddled Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus replies, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” In the most innocent and sincerest voice, Linus quotes from the gospel of Luke chapter two:

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Verses 11-14

Just what sort of peace did the birth of the Christ child herald?

Following the verse that began this essay, Jesus goes on to say:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:9-12

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:44-45

These verses make it seem like our peacekeeping efforts will likely be in vain.

On May 1, 1992, Rodney King said, “People, I just want to say, can’t we all get along? Can’t we all get along?”

Can we get along? I don’t know. From what I have seen on social media, the answer is no.

Notice Jesus doesn’t say there will be peace on earth or peace between humanity. In fact, the verses from Mathew quoted above suggest that when you try to make peace, you will be persecuted and reviled; just because we try to make peace, it is not guaranteed. In fact, it sounds as if, things will get worse. So why try?

In Matthew 20:34-36 Jesus says:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

… but in John 14:27 he states:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If Jesus didn’t bring the ‘peace’ he gives us, and we can’t make it, then how can these seemingly contradictory understandings of peace be reconciled? Or perhaps they do not need to be. Perhaps what Jesus was attempting to teach us is we cannot make real peace between different beliefs.

Jesus’s words in these regards are actually pointing to how we may, if we choose, begin to realize that all our beliefs are just beliefs, that they are not what we are, and not what the real world (Creation) is.

Rupert Spira describes it as follows:

“The peace that is inherent in us—indeed that is us—is not dependent on the content of experience, the circumstances, situations or conditions we find ourselves in. It is a peace that is prior to and at the same time present in the fluctuations of the mind. As such, it is said to be the peace that passeth understanding.”

-Hazrat Inayat Khan states it in kind:

“There are two aspects of individual harmony:
the harmony between body and soul,
and the harmony between individuals.
All tragedy in the world. in the individual
and the multitude, comes from lack of harmony
And harmony is the best given by producing
…. harmony in one’s life.”

If we awaken to the Peace that is us, then we can act with kindness and compassion towards those who are identified with their beliefs. Jesus said to walk the second mile, turn the other cheek, give not only your shirt but your cloak as well, love your enemy, pray for your enemy, let your light shine, be humble, be meek, give generously, show mercy.

While Jesus was teaching and living his message, he also confronted the pharisees, sadducees, and various others who opposed him, with the Truth. He overturned tables in the Temple, he broke the “rules” by healing on the sabbath, he called out the teachers of the law as snakes and vipers.

At one point in his ministry before he sent his disciples out into the mission field, Jesus gave them these instructions, “When you enter someone’s household, say, ‘Shalom aleikhem (Peace unto you)!’” He further explained that some people will not receive the Shalom—peace, tranquility, safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness and integrity–you extend, and when this happens, “let your Shalom return to you.”

What does all of this look like here and now? How does this translate on Facebook and other social media platforms where everyone struggles to have their beliefs confirmed? I don’t know. I do know that everything we do and say must come from the peace “that is inherent in us” just as it did for Jesus. Nothing he did ever came from anywhere other than Peace.

The following hymn by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson seems a perfect place to end.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God our creator, children all are we.
Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Shalom aleikhem.

Written in tandem with John.

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/lists/all-nobel-peace-prizes/
https://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/preamble.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1u3Ia6msMFw

Waiting

Waiting

I’m waiting.

Among the Oxford Language definitions for the word wait is: “used to indicate that one is eagerly impatient to do something or for something to happen.”

“Eagerly impatient.”

‘Eagerness’ and ‘impatient’ are not two words that I often associate with one another. For me the word eager implies happiness and joy, while the word impatient implies disgust, worry, and/or anxiety. Putting these words together seems like an oxymoron.

My father and I often joke about his helping me with my math homework as a child, particularly word problems. I just did not get it and he was not patient. We can kid about it now, but at that point in time, it was not funny. I think I can honestly say that my dad was not eagerly impatient, waiting for me to understand, he was pretty damn frustrated, as was I.

Depending upon on whom you are voting for, you may feel eagerly impatient.

I have often found myself caught feeling anxious, concerned, and frightened while I wait for November 4th to get here. Do Trump supporters who are afraid of the “radical left” feel those same emotions worrying about Biden winning? Is this why I see campaign signs on FB and in front yards that read “Jesus 2020?” I do not see this slogan on the FB pages or front yards of Democrats, that I know. Does that mean we do not love Jesus like Republicans do? Do Republicans somehow believe Jesus would support Trump or is that their way of saving face in light of voting for a tyrannical twit?

Are Trump supporters as worried as I am about the acrimonious and contentious nature of our divided nation? Do they believe that the feelings of hostility and hatred will just disappear should Trump be re-elected?

As a child, I waited with great anticipation for Christmas wondering what Santa would bring and place under the tree. In high school, I waited for my learners permit to arrive in the mail. When I was a young adult, I could not wait to leave the nest and once married, I could not wait to have children. When my teenage sons began driving themselves, I could not wait for them to come home safe and sound.

Waiting … waiting in long lines at amusement parks, the movie theatre or the grocery store, waiting at the airport for a loved one, waiting for election results, waiting for tests results, waiting to be healed, waiting to die, waiting to live, waiting for universal restoration.

Whether we like it or not, we are in a perpetual state of waiting.

This year in particular appears to be defined by eager or anxious impatience, depending on your perspective, as we wait for a safe and effective COVID vaccine. I personally am having a very difficult time waiting to hug my grandchildren and other beloveds.

What is your state of mind and heart as you wait?

Isaiah 40:31 says:

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

In the Complete Jewish Bible translation, it reads:

but those who hope in ADONAI will renew their strength,
they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings;
when they are running they won’t grow weary,
when they are walking they won’t get tired.

Waiting it seems is not a passive activity, but one filled with eager anticipation as the Oxford definition suggests, and one filled with hope.

Waiting with hope, how awesome is that!

It doesn’t mean we will not have doubts or questions. It doesn’t mean we will not act rashly. It doesn’t mean we will get what we want or think we should have. It does mean that we can trust in the One to whom we all belong.

My childhood pet was a dog named Dolly. She was my best friend and definitely a member of the family. When we came home from being out, she would be at the door waiting, dancing around with her tail wagging so hard it looked like it might fly off. This is what I imagine our hope looks like while we wait.

No matter who wins the election, there will still be beloveds sick and dying due to COVID and other diseases. There will still be people who are homeless and unemployed. Fires, hurricanes and earthquakes will continue to rage causing untold damage and destruction. Some things may change because one man is elected to office but it is not about that one man, it’s about us.

The question is not about how you will respond on November 4th, it is about how you are responding now. Do you know who your neighbor is now? What are you doing for your neighbor now?

Yes, we are waiting, but that waiting is being held in the hope of now.

The following quote from Mr. Rogers is our calling: be a helper, now.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Dissatisfied

Dissatisfied

For several months at the beginning of the pandemic, my church went totally on-line for worship using Zoom and other social media platforms. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would have such a deep and meaningful sense of unity and belonging as I experienced. We continued to use our same worship format and litany, but there was something very deeply connective in the “being in it together” mentality of that time.

Our building has resumed in-person worship using strict protocols, while maintaining electronic platforms for those still not comfortable worshiping in person due to COVID concerns.

I am almost sorry the building has been re-opened for services because the sense of unity I felt when we were all on-line seems to be missing, for me anyway.

I find myself asking questions like: why am I tithing to keep an essentially empty building maintained when I could be giving it all to boots-on-the-ground charities and missions?

What if worship was a group of people meeting at an elderly person’s house and doing their yard work? What if the church building was repurposed for housing the homeless and giving them responsibilities to clean and keep up the maintenance in exchange for a place to stay? What if we continued to worship online but it looks more like a place of sharing our joys and concerns within a non-judgmental, grace-filled space? How do we do this?

What if the monthly mission focus was weekly and people shared what they did for missions or better yet an interactive bulletin board of needs in the community?

I am concerned that our current church model is no longer a fit for the times in which we are living and that the technology that united us so strongly and which could be used so creatively, is now being taken for granted until we can return to “normal.”  I don’t know what to do about any of this other than ask questions.

But it is not just my church with which I am dissatisfied.

In a larger sense, we are being called to do and be differently in every way of doing and being. Unfortunately, people have not been listening—some have, but many have not.

I would not say I am depressed or even alarmed; just a quiet reverence for what is and has been calling through this collective illusion of misbelief and a deep yearning for a vision of something more.

Washing Feet

Washing Feet

“Gathering for one of the final times with his students and closest friends, he (Jesus) rises from the table, wraps a towel around his waist, assumes a servant’s posture, and begins to wash their feet . . . in attendance at the meal is Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray Jesus and precipitate his arrest, beating—and execution.” John Pavlovitz, The Bigger Table

Did I read that correctly? As many times as I have read the story of the Last Supper, how did I miss this important detail? If I didn’t miss it, then why is it making such an impact on me now?

I went searching.

While the details vary slightly in the sequence of events, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include Judas seeking money to betray Jesus, logistical preparation for the meal, announcement of the betrayer—although not by name—and the celebration of what is now known as Communion or the Eucharist within Christian denominations. The book of John is the only gospel that includes the foot washing anecdote.

The narrative reads as follows from the NSRV translation of John 13: 1-11.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Only after Jesus finishes washing their feet, does he reveal the identity of the betrayer. Yet he does it in such a subtle way that the other eleven disciples think Judas is dismissed from the gathering to run some errands. They are seemingly oblivious to Judas’s nefarious scheme.

Jesus washed the feet of his traitor!

Whatever your spiritual practice, shouldn’t this veritable act of humility stop you in your tracks?

Judas was not a stranger to Jesus. These men spent three years together, day and night, in each other’s company. Judas observed the many miracles and healings Jesus performed and listened to his countless teachings and prayers.

Not only was this a gesture of lowliness on Jesus’s part, but also an action of hope. “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

“The book of John uses an unusual Aramaic word for wash. It is ‘shug.’ I could not find this word in any extra Biblical literature and of course Biblical sources simply says it means to wash. However, the word is found in the Hebrew but it means to help or encourage growth, like watering a plant will help it to grow.

The connection lies in the idea of watering for the purpose of growth. As a Rabbi, Jesus would often make a play on Hebrew words bringing them into the normal conversation in Aramaic. What the disciples should have picked up on was that to grow spiritually, they had to lower themselves. They were never to consider themselves better than others.” Chaim Bentorah

This optimistic act in service to the person who would betray you especially knowing your life in this earthly form was soon ending, is jaw dropping and mind boggling.

Regardless of Judas’s motivation, why I am feeling what I am feeling about Jesus’s act of grace towards him?

As Mr. Trump desperately promotes his iniquitous ‘us-versus-them’ narrative, the animosity in our divided nation continues to grow exponentially. I find myself very far away from some of those whom I love and respect and who claim to love and respect me, and not knowing what to do about the divide or how to communicate with them.

Therein lies the answer to my conundrum . . . wash their feet.

But what does that look like? Metaphorically speaking how do I wash the feet of those who believe me to be deceived? How do I show the same mind-bending grace as Jesus did to those friends and acquaintances who think I am a ‘left-wing-radical-liberalist’ who lost her way from the teachings of Jesus?

After all, in the four years since my mother died, I have ‘come out’ as pro-choice, an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, a supporter of BLM, and have frequently posted my opinions about Mr. Trump’s abominable leadership “skills.” I cannot say that I blame my friends and family if they are confused. Prior to my mother’s death, I did my best to fly under the radar and led many people to believe that I felt the same way they did, whether it be left or right, not wanting to confront anyone perhaps least of all myself.

I still love God with “all my heart, and all my soul, and all my mind, and all my strength.” I still love “my neighbor as myself.” Although most of the time this simply means not being an a**hole, and not getting caught in the illusions of this present world.  Or as Paul says in Romans 12:18–

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

What did Jesus do when engaged with those who thought he had lost his mind, who supposed him to be deceived, whose minds and hearts seemed to be set in stone? How did he wash their feet?

Among other things he broke the “rules,” he told stories, and he asked questions.

Of these deeds, the one I most resonate with is asking questions. Jesus silenced many people simply by asking a question.

When confronted by spies of the scribes and pharisees about the lawfulness of paying taxes, Jesus asked, “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” When they responded, “the emperor’s” he said, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

With one question, Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy. The trap they laid was not about paying taxes, but about whom they worshipped—the living God, or the emperor on the coin.

Earlier in the same chapter of Luke, the same folks question Jesus’s authority and he responds with “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” Their reaction is pitiful because they know they are caught in the very trap they set and so they refuse to answer him. Knowing this, Jesus is under no obligation to reply to their query.

“Who do people say that I am?”
“What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
“Why do you call me good?”

Beyond gathering facts and figures, questions have the potential to bring about metacognition and transformation—spiritual growth—within the spaciousness of humility, hope and grace.

“There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the first effort is wasted and there is no proof you won’t hit rock again. Sri S. Satchidananda

Asking questions of ourselves and others allows us to dig deep, deep wells where we will find “rivers of living water” to quench our thirst.

Jesus said:

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

I may never be as good at asking questions as Jesus was, but I know I will never be content with the superficiality of a life lived in and through the confining boundaries of either/or thinking. I see the divide, I hear the Divine calling me and I will continue to ask you, as well as myself, questions—difficult, challenging, possibly unanswerable questions.

Can you think of anything better to do?

https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2018/02/aramaic-word-study-wash/
https://www.teloscollective.com/engaging-through-asking-5-ways-jesus-asked-questions/