Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Anabaptist Rosary

During the discussion in the Jesus Girls group about the rosary this morning I mentioned the Anabaptist rosary. Link to it here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bizarro Jesus

I don't know if it was Joe (my spouse) or Jerry Seinfeld who first introduced me to Bizarro Superman. I am not versed in the world of comics (surprising to me, then that I have two entries labeled such) but I was reminded of Bizarro this week as I reflected on the parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King or The Parable of the Pounds, from Luke 19:11-28 - it's a toughy.

A cruel and greedy king, some people who oppose him, some servants who invest his money, and one who does not. This parable bugged me and bugged me because I don't want Jesus to be the king. The king is so cruel, so unfeeling, so power hungry, so cavalier. He seems to be the opposite of everything that Jesus stands for - just exactly like the real-life kings and rulers then and now.

Well, exactly! Jesus is not the king, he's the bizzaro king. Or rather, the king is the bizzaro Jesus. Luke, in having Jesus tell this parable was creating the anti-Jesus. Alvin Schwartz, the creator of Bizarro Superman, said this about his character Bizzaro Superman:

"I was striving, you might say, for that mirror-image, that opposite. And out of a machine which would reveal the negative Superman, came the mirror image, - always remembering that in a mirror everything is reversed...The times were such that one-dimensional characters, your standard superheroes, even in comics, seemed rather simplistic, like paper cut-outs. What was demanded was the full dimensional personality - a figure that carried a shadow, if you like. I was certainly inspired to some degree also by C.G. Jung's archetype of "the shadow" - and Bizarro certainly reflected that, as well" Bizarro talked in opposites and didn't know good from bad.

Jesus is the king who exalts the humble, seeks the lost, gives life to the dying. So when Luke puts Jesus in the mirror, he gets a king who does the opposite of those things, who exalts the already exalted, who turns the loser away and who kills the ones showing the life-spark of opposition. The readers recognize the king for who he represents - the corrupt and vengeful kings of Israel's provinces - and identify with the fearful slave and the protesting bystanders. The recognize the injustice. That is exactly what Jesus wants. The kingdom of God, the 'upside-down kingdom,' turns the world that we know, and the violent values that it practices, on it's head.

Link to the sermon that started it all here.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The tender place in the heart

Neko Case’s song ‘Hold On, Hold On’ begins “The most tender place in my heart is for strangers.” I was listening to it as I wrote the article for the front of the SMC newsletter introducing the theme for Lent: Holding on, Letting go. During this time of pondering that to which we will hold fast, and that which we will give up or let go, those close to us seem an obvious inclusion in the ‘in’ column. The tender place in our hearts is reserved for our dearest loved ones. Strangers are extraneous.

It was about this time two years ago that I commemorated the life of Carole Marnet, a dear woman from our congregation who died after a battle with cancer – her third. I still smile when I remember her. Always ready with a tight hug, she had a constant sparkle of mischief in her eyes and she was gentle but strong. She loved her family fiercely and proudly, telling anyone who would listen about the accomplishments of two daughters. She would have been overjoyed at the birth of twin granddaughters a year after her death. But Carole also had a very tender place in her heart for the ‘stranger’.

She was tough advocate for people who many would ignore or despise. Carole welcomed into her home, a man who had for many years had lived in his van. From stranger to loved one.

Although we let go of Carole two years ago, I believe that what is worth holding on to is her legacy of love of stranger. I am so grateful to have known her. I thank God for her fierce and loving presence in my life. Marilyn prayed on Sunday as she began her sermon 'Make our hearts to be tender, that we may welcome you.' Indeed, Christ often comes as a stranger, and I pray too that we might be open to receive him.

Hold On, Letting Go

Heaven's net is cast wide
and though its meshes are loose,
nothing is ever lost.
- Tao Te Ching

We come to Lent every year knowing that it is a time of being in the wild, spare space of self-examination and confession. The season begins with Jesus in the desert, tempted by Satan, the Adversary. He has let go of everything, emptying himself in preparation for what will be the intense and full life of the itinerant preacher and teacher, healer and wonder worker. He is fasting and weak. He is offered by Satan feasts and kingdoms and invulnerability at the moment when he might most want to grasp at those things. He has not yet begun his ministry, he has no disciples, no followers, no ardent supporters. And in the time of greatest emptiness, what his net retains are the Hebrew scriptures in which he has been immersed all his life. When he is tempted he replies from the scriptures that have formed and fed him.

The wilderness of the Pacific Northwest is nothing like the one that Jesus experienced. Our wildernesses are craggy mountains, pine forest, cascading waterfalls, and the vast ocean. It was the shore and the empty, waiting nets of the ocean’s fishers that began to seem like an appropriate metaphor for the wilderness of Lent as we planned the worship series in which we will be immersing ourselves these next six weeks. Here at the shore we are at the verge, in a place between earth and water. An empty space, a space full of possibility. A space where we anticipate and discern action and direction.

Certainly the first disciples of Jesus knew what it meant to be on the shore. They also know what is meant to come up empty again and again, nothing in their nets but the holes. And they knew then what it meant to be filled to brimming; Jesus’ word offering a rich harvest so that when they were called, they went with their whole hearts. We will come before Christ with empty nets, waiting to be filled. Many people give something up for Lent, but this wilderness time is also about pondering that to which we shall hold fast. We will discern together and before Christ what the net will hold and what we will let fall through its mesh.