Monday, November 22, 2010

τὸ κυριακὸν σημεῖον

The cross was made up of two wooden planks, nailed and bound by twine in the shape of a lower case ‘t’. Throughout ancient tradition in the Roman Empire, these were used as means of execution for criminals and captured soldiers of war. In the first century, two planks were erected and stained with the blood of Jesus Christ. Soon after, the cross soon became a symbol that would be worn by monks around their necks, could be found in churches, on the walls of homes and on the coins of Christian emperors like Constantine. For some it reminded them of the work of Christ, for others such as Emperors, it was a symbol of their own religious beliefs and that which they claimed for their empire. Today, the cross is one of the most dominant signs of the Christian faith. It is superficially worn not only as a reminder of Christ’s death but is also a sign that reveals ones religious beliefs. However, I often think that these outward symbols tell the painful and gruesome story of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness revealed through death.

Death. The cross is a death sentence. I say this obviously because Jesus died on it. I see tears of blood as Christ is praying in the garden of Gethsemane. I see him taken by the Roman army, the betrayal of his followers and a sentence of death. I see a man beaten and scorned, spit at and laughed at. A man no one understands, no one gets. I see a man who does fully know or completely understands what is happening. I see a man, willfully suffering in every way for those causing him pain. I hear nails piercing flesh and cries out to God who does not seem to be listening, or perhaps just watching; then a yell as the cross is erected and gravity takes its toll. I see soldiers stab Him while others watch. Some are crying, some of laughing, some are still. Then I hear a final cry, “God, why have you forsaken me?” and I remember that because of this, we, his creation, has been forsaken.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, the light, seas, all its inhabitants. When he saw his creation he said that it was good. However, just as man entered the world, so also did sin. Once sin found its place among man, we began losing sight of God, and began dwelling on the desires of our flesh. This led us further and further from God. Throughout the ages God has punished us, spanked us, told us we were idiots, and has tried to start over, hoping that we would realize our need for Him. However, as always, we quickly turn back to the flesh.

Because of our fallen state, God came to earth in the form of man to try and bring our eyes back to the Father. The Son of Man became the living, breathing, speaking, “Word” of God. Through his teachings and his actions, Jesus Christ became of model for humanity. In Christ, we are shown what it means and what it looks like to fully rely, trust, and follow God. It is through Christ we see love and compassion for all God’s people. Although we fall and fail time after time, and even though we turn our backs on God and push him aside, his never ending love for his people, brought Christ to this earth. Though the Son we are given a chance to redeem ourselves. We are shown how to act, how to love, how worship. Through this love he reveals to us by and through the Son, so we can learn how to truly love God.

God’s love for us indoctrinates in us his grace. If I was one of the disciples, I like to think that I would not have betrayed Christ like Judas. I hope I would have stood up for him and his mission that I believed so heavily in, enough to follow him throughout the dessert, and I would have claimed him at his death. However, like Judas, I betray Christ every day. Every time I complain about chapel, get frustrated with Christians and Christianity, think prayer is unnecessary, hate my neighbor, or cheapen my faith, I betray Christ. I betray Christ every time I betray myself or my neighbor, however, as a follower of Christ, I claim that his grace is still offered to me. His grace teaches me to give grace under the hardest circumstances because Grace hung on the cross. I see myself turning Christ in or denying him, and I see him hang there because of me. However, because of His grace, I am not the one hanging on the cross. This Grace was hung for me.

God’s forgiveness and mercy for his creation does not end on the cross. As many Christians believe, Christ was buried and rose again, walked once more with his disciples, and ascended into heaven. The cross is empty, and the tomb is empty. His ascension means that he was able to conquer death; he conquered death for me and for all. Although I will fall, I will be tempted and tired and give in over and over again, I am free of the curse. I am no longer chained up by laws, sacrifice, sin and death, I am free.

This vision of the cross, empty and bare, reminds us that God is currently working and dwelling among his people. He is no longer restrained to the tree. In the Baptist Church, none of the crosses have Christ on it. The empty cross represents the death, resurrection and Christ’s ascension into heaven. Most sermons acknowledge the resurrection, reminding us that although we have fallen short we have hope through Christ’s resurrection. This imagery also places more emphasis on the work of resurrection and the role of the Holy Spirit in the world. Thus, the Holy Spirit dwells among us, continuing on the mission of Christ through his followers. This cross emphasizes redemption and salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Although seeing the empty cross offers us warm feelings, seeing Christ on the cross offers some a clearer since of reality. Unlike the Baptist and other protestant traditions, the Catholic Church always places Christ on the cross. This emphasizes Christ’s suffering because of our sin, thus our need for repentance. We are reminded to place ourselves on the cross where we belong. We see ourselves hanging there suffering because of sin, hoping that one day we will no longer have to bear the weight of sin. There is hope in knowing that Christ has conquered sin and death, thus, one day we can do the same. The crucifix reminds us of the need for the Savior. We subjectively rely on the Holy Spirit to continue on fulfilling Christ’s mission, but this imagery is not necessarily found on the icon.

The sign of the cross acknowledges the role of the Trinity. The Father is at the head, the Son at our chest, and the Holy Spirit at our left and right shoulder. Although we claim all are equal, the Father is at the head because He is unbegun and brought into being the Son. The Son is below the Father, because the Son relied on the Father as a child relies on their parents for guidance and direction. He was sent to earth, which is below the heavens, to die, be buried, and rise again. The Holy Spirit then remains on earth working through mankind. By doing this, all parts of the Trinity are united, recognized and remembered.

While the icon of the cross holds deep meaning for many, if I was to be honest with myself and others I would have to admit I wish that there was a different symbol for Christ that we could wear, rather than the cross. For me, the cross belongs in the church, on a rosary, on a wall, or motioned during prayer or supplication. I think that it is perhaps weird, for lack of better word, that we walk around with what would today be an electric chair or lethal injection needle, around our necks. Also, the cross has become an icon that has lost its meaning because it is over used. This icon is used so often that more often than not we just see the cross, and not it’s meaning.

At the beginning, I used the word ‘gruesome’ to describe the story of the cross because the cross is not like an execution chair or lethal injection. The cross means hours of hanging, bleeding, plain, and agony. You watch and feel yourself die slowly. In this story, represented by this icon, we not only remember this death, but we remember why. We are reminded why Jesus was bound to it, thus we prostrate ourselves before God, acknowledging our sin that put him there. The cross to me is not pleasant and definitely not beautiful, but what is real is not always these things. This gruesome reminder reveals to us over and over again the work of God through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a message of love, grace, suffering and hope for the people of God.

I do not think of Christ when I see the cross. I do not see grace and mercy, obedience to God. The cross has not become a symbol that in which I am emotionally attached. When I look at the cross, I see a man hanging there who believed he was being obedient the teachings of God. A man who believed so strongly in social justice that he was willing to be condemned by man for healing the sick and loving the ugly. I see a man who loved others more than himself.

While this vision Christ is lovely, the cross also reminds me of the absence of God. I hear Christ calling out to a God who has forsaken man. Seeing the cross reminds me of the homeless, the raped, the persecuted, the condemned, the ill, the hurting; I am reminded of all those praying for salvation from the current state, those who are fighting for something better, those who try but are forsaken. I see a God not present among man, a God who cannot or will not stop the hurting of those around him. Thus, the cross has become for me a symbol of the reality of life-no matter how loud we cry, God has forsaken us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stellet Licht/Silent Light

Silent Light (2007): A film by Carlos Reygadas.

Johan, a Mennonite in Mexico, betrays God and family by engaging in extramarital affairs with another women, Marianne. As his quilt builds and his deeds become irreconcilable, his faith is in question. The film feels as if it is on “real-time”, if not slower. While the cinematography is not that of any perfection, the narrative is unique and troubling.

We (the viewers) are introduced to a world that we cannot understand. Automatically from the beginning we feel as though we are intruders: watching and judging.

It is told from Johan’s point of view which creates an awkward boundary. You become inclined to side with Johan; feeling what he feels, which makes it harder to adjudicate who is in the wrong.

The ‘resurrection’ of Johan’s wife (Esther) by Marianne is an act of contrition and repentance not necessarily by Marianne but more so Johan. Throughout the film the feelings of regret and guilt transpire, but it isn’t until the end that Johan and Marianne really come to understand to consequences for their actions.

The theme of silence is quit disturbing in that it reminds us to remain without judgement. Because of the relationship we build with Johan and our emotions that are tied with his, his failings become our own, creating within us a willingness to ultimately offer him mercy and grace.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

1 Sam 3:1-10

As we sat near the pond, reading your favorite section of scripture-the wind bustling the trees and the pump refreshing the water-I remember you. I remember you urging me to remember that the lamp of God has not gone out. To remember that as shitty as the church has become, God has not given up on her yet. I remember you reminding me that sometimes we ourselves cannot see or understand the work of Christ in our own eyes-thus we must also be aware (and maybe listen) to the voices around us. I thank you for this, because today, I felt your presence, and I know you are still here with me.

For yesterday, and today, I feel like Samuel. Waking up in the middle of beautiful slumber, to a rude voice around me. I hear it, I ask about it, I’m told to listen, I go back to sleep. Over and over I hear this voice, but I don’t want it. I want to be left to be the cursing Arian that I enjoy being. But I am reminded that it isn’t about me. It’s okay for me to be fight my battle over hell and trinitarian theology as long as I listen to the voices around me. It’s okay for me to doubt the validity and responsibility that has pushed me here. It’s okay. The lamp of God has not yet gone out.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Luke 14:7-14

7When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

12Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Response: Do not invite family and friends to the banquet, invite those who cannot return the favor.

To begin the sermon the pastor suggested that todays students have less intent to look at those who are helpless. That when be begin to push for the “better” more suitable future we leave behind or even step on those whose opportunity to “succeed” is questionable because of social status, race, gender, sexuality. While I agree with him, I think that the institution of the church has created this monster based on theological principles. We work hard to increase our numbers by pushing aside those who are not apart of our social group. We fight against authoritative women in the church, the heretical homo’s, and the dammed Hindus, Buddists, Jews, Muslims, creating a god-awful community of ass holes eager to save the church by pushing away its members.

And then I find myself wondering if my theology is an easy way out. Maybe these asses (of whom I love) have it right. I sit in the chair quietly, willing to share faith experiences, hoping and praying that my actions are enough. That loving and listening is all that is required of me. Faith that God will take care of the rest. But then the ass comes out and I wonder if this makes me a lofty Christian. How important is it to share with others what may be the “only way to salvation”. Will I one day be ashamed that I was not a “witness” out preaching the “message of salvation” to all men, warning them of their future in hell. Am I taking the easy way out by creating a more universalist view of heaven in which God ultimately saves all people. What the hell is required of me-how and whom am I supposed to invite to the banquet table-who are the poor, crippled, lame and blind.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Well, I am been thinking a lot about Endo’s Silence, and Bonhoeffer…I re-read his “Letters and Paper from Prison” and “The Cost of Descipleship”. Here are sort of my thoughts.

I am beginning to think that what we consider “silence” is not really silence. We pray asking God to grant our wishes: save the lost, heal the sick, make the gays straight (sorry that is a joke…I currently has a piss poor attitude towards MT’s homo-legislation laws), save ourself from persecution. Needless to say, we want results that we can see here and now.

What if this “silence” is really God’s activity in the world. For years blacks fought for their rights. Some died, some were beaten, but they could honestly say that although they were fighting for God’s people and God was not answering their prayer. For Bonhoeffer, his letters make it obvious that he wanted of that damn prision. And the fact that he died moments before he would have been saved makes God seem like an ass. Why the hell didn’t he save this man who was “wrongly” being persecuted for fighting against the enemies. For Rodrigues in silence he was set up after a long and prolonged struggle for the survival via running away from the xian persecution in Japan. Yet God did not hear their prayers. Or did he…

It seems rather simple to say that maybe God’s plan is not our own. Hell, we hear that all the time, and we are reminded that in this silence He is saying “not yet”. I think that maybe Endo and Bonhoeffer are suggesting that the work of God is beyond our expectations. That it takes persecution and suffering of others to bring us to him. To remind us of our responsibility to others. However, Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship says that we must endure suffering for Christ’s sake…because he did the same for us. It is our responsibility and perhaps even our purpose.

Also, they really made me think about what persecution is and if we should run towards it, let it come if it must, or flee. I am reminded of the second century martyrs and how important persecution was in expressing ones obedience to their faith. Bonhoeffer and Rodrigues were both trying to run from persecution. Bonhoeffer didn’t want to die and looked forward to the day he would be released. Rodrigues left town when things began getting shady, tried not . My question is are they running because they don’t want to face death or are they running so they can “finish” what they started out to do? By staying alive they will be able to continue their work and spread their message? Is spitting on the fumi acceptable as long as you do in order to stay alive and further your mission, or lie in order to get out of prison? If one betrays God in order to further his kingdom is that okay by God’s standards.

Why is God silent? Is suffering required of Christian in order to be followers of Christ? Bt Christians aren’t the only ones who suffer-so is it out of ministering? If anything why can’t his purpose for this silence be known..

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

response to “toleration?”

…response from my dear friend on my former post. I love discussion, and thoughts so thank you my dear friend…

hi. I’m not sure this post says what you or the author really intended. As I read this, I realize that the author, we’ll call him Jim for simplicity, is attempting to clarify a point that he contradicts and cancels with his arguments.
Jim wants a counter argument to the Christian corner that keeps bringing up the old, “You think Christ was tolerant?! Ha! My Christ was so pissed and intolerant that he raged and threw the money-changers, sinners, homosexuals, thieves, liars, and bigots out of the temple.” I exaggerate a bit but that’s what Jim is fighting against.
Jim wants a Jesus of Justice, the “J-O-J”, a Jesus that cannot be not tolerant (using Jim’s double negs.) But he cannot be tolerant either, yeah. Confused yet? Jesus is the JOJ, he’s justice personified. Dangerous words wield. Christian theology has danced around the “j-word” for years. The Bible is pretty clear about Justice. In fact, it simply states, “The wages of sin is death.” Now in the original Greek this means “the wages of sin is death.” Applying this to Jim’s ideology and the JOJ now Jesus slaughters the money-changers in the temple, and his disciples and anyone else within smiting distance. Not pretty is it.
A Jesus of Justice is the one thing that everyone on this earth or wearing the seal of Christian should be afraid of. Justice in its very nature is blind. Our court systems are founded on that basic principle, you do the crime, you do the time. Justice. In fact God’s Justice is far blinder than human justice. Human justice has grey areas, compromises, loopholes. We love loopholes, ways we can get out. Godly Justice, true Justice has no loopholes. There’s no plea of self-defense, there’s no different degrees of murder or crime, there’s no “fifth” to plead or insanity. There is only guilty or not guilty and the punishment is always death. Godly Justice. Balance.
Jesus isn’t the JOJ or at least not Jim’s version of the JOJ. For those of you following that would be the JJOJ. Rather Jesus is the embodiment of the fulfillment of Justice. We’ll come back to this.
Jim also is promoting Jesus not only with Justice party but with the LUV party. I say LUV cuz that’s what we want from Christ, that’s what he preached, right? That’s what he was, right? That’s what everyone agrees on, right? Jim plays his trump, Agape. People like to throw down Agape, Eros, and Philos to try justify and support their claims and don’t realize they are handling something too hot to hold.
Jim I’m really not upset with you, I’m upset with the whole LUV card that some teachers, preachers, profs and shallow water Christians like to wield, guilt and persuade others with. “Jesus luuuuved everybody, and told us to luuuuve everybody too. That means we can’t get upset about people and their sin, or call them out on it cause Jesus wants us to luuuuuve em, he is without sin cast the first stone, right?” WRONG!! (Not to the biblical quote) but to the whole misguided twisting of the figure who was, and is, and shall forever be Jesus. So many people try fitting Jesus into a box, their box. They want Jesus to be like them, who they want him to be. For Heaven’s sake, let Christ be Christ for once! To quote my friend Frank, “Christ is Christ whether we believe it or not, whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not.” Which means he doesn’t change his opinion and who he is just because it’s inconvenient for us. Jesus loved everyone BUT (and here’s the biggest but that everyone who plays the LUV card forgets) Christ demanded, get that, demanded a Change. Come everybody we all wanted to change we’ve all heard the buzz-word in campaign slogans and rallying cries for years but when it comes into my comfort-zone, my lifestyle, my backyard NOOO WAY! When I was talking about change I was talking about you not me, I was talking about them, not us. Change refers to everyone except me. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
Christ demanded that we change. Christ came to us, loved us, healed us, dwelt with us, came into us but it doesn’t stop there. When Christ is a part of us, there is a change if we let it. We don’t stay the same. Shallow-water Christians want to say sin isn’t sin, sin isn’t bad, we all sin. We should accept it and accept people who choose to openly live in sin daily and we shouldn’t feel remorse, guilt or sorrow for sin cause Jesus luvs us and that makes it all okay. Have you ever seen real Christians? Christ overflows from every pore. His word, his praises, his amazingness, his truth is always on their lips, in their hearts and in their actions. When they fall into sin they weep and swim deeply in remorse because the love that they feel from Christ overwhelms them and the comprehension that he still loves them even though they faltered, his love for them endures. When someone who walks with Christ sins, they desire all the more to sin less because of the love the God continues show. Understand? Christ love changes us, leads us away from sin. Christ love doesn’t make sin less bad. It doesn’t work that way.
When Jesus is the embodiment of fulfillment of Justice it means that he sat in the Courtroom at our trial, where we have been found guilty of sin and the punishment of that sin and the Justice God demands is death, Jesus steps forward and says, “I’ve paid it, my blood has p the cost.” That’s the difference. The JOJ or the JJOJ makes sin less bad because the JOL waters it down and makes it okay but when Christ, the embodiment of the fulfillment of Justice steps forward with Love and says “I’ll pay it, I’ve pad it, go and sin no more,” we then have the choice. Do we argue and say our sin was less bad, it really wasn’t even a sin more like an oops or yeah, it was genetic, biological, I couldn’t help it OR do we accept that we sinned, accept that we were wrong and let his sacrifice, his willingness, his love change us? Your choice, your change. But you can’t have one without the other, you can’t have Christ without a change in you, you can’t stay the same. That’s what I hear when I read Jim’s note. I hear someone trying to convince me and himself that Jesus doesn’t want a change (at least not where I think I’m right), trying to tie Jesus’ hands and say “Now be nice.” Jesus was throwing moneychangers out of the temple because of Justice which is like getting a spanking because of love? It doesn’t work. Jesus threw out the money-changers because he was pissed, he was intolerant with these men defiling His house, His home while he was standing there. It doesn’t sound nice but its true, Jesus didn’t tolerate sin, he doesn’t sigh and say “It’s okay.” He climbs on that cross and dies with your sin because of his INTOLERANCE of sin. He dies, he takes it, he delivers it to HELL, right into the devil’s hands and say’s, “No more! It’s paid. Justice served.” And he comes back to us and says over and over again, “Go, and sin no more.” He doesn’t say “sin is okay,” he doesn’t say “be tolerant,” he doesn’t say, “Luv everybody,” he says, “Go, and sin NO more!” Don’t be tolerant of your sin, get rid of it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


John 13:31-35

“At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

During the “questions and concerns” reflections of today’s sermon an authentic question was asked: how does our idea of love differ for that of the Greek- agape? Agape is God’s love; which is not at all comprehendible to us today. It is love out of words and deeds. Somehow toleration was brought up. Christ did not tolerate the stupidity of mankind; thus in the temple he flipped over tables and went crazy on those who were making a market out of the temple. However, I don’t think Jesus likes or who even use the word tolerate or not-tolerate.

If we look at the works and teachings of Christ, he is a hard-ass. Plain and simple he tells us exactly how idiotic we really are. To tolerate something means that we accept it how it is, we put up with whatever we dislike or agree with. This idea is really unsettling to me. By tolerating something we “love” because we are command to, not because we want to. Jesus did not flip over the tables in the temple because he was not tolerant of their behaviour, but because justice has to be served. My dad did not spank me because he wasn’t tolerant with me hitting my brother or swearing, but because justice had to be served in order for me to understand what love looks like under hard circumstances. If he had done it because he was not tolerant with my behaviour, then it would not have been done out of love and his actions would have been meaningless.

If I was to tolerate “sinners” then I would accept them as well as their sin. I would see the “sin” but love the “sinner”. But that isn’t what Christ is commanding us to do. He is not commanding us to be tolerant with people but to love them. He is asking us to take away whatever “sin” we attach to people and simply love. Not love the “sinner” and not the “sin”, but to flat out love. Not love because we are tolerant, but because justice and grace prevail.

I don’t think that it would be fair of me to say that I love someone because I have been told I have to. I don’t love my brother simply because he is my brother, just like I don’t love my friends only because they are my friends. In the same way I cannot love the poor because they are poor or love the drunk because he is drunk. If I did, that is toleration. I accept the fact that you are poor because I must love you; or I simply feed you because you are poor. However, if we are tolerant we overlook the person within. We feed the hungry in order for the hungry to have food, but the hungry is not just hungry for food, but for love. We can feed them physically, but it is the food made up of love and justice that matters.

Jesus told Peter he would deny him, and he got pissed at the Jews who made a mess in the temple, and the Pharisees who did not understand the law. He did not do this because he wasn’t tolerant of their behaviours or wrong doing, but because justice had to be served. Justice puts us to rights; in-toleration simply puts people to shame. Toleration is done out of necessity and because we have to, where justice is done because we love. There has to be a different between toleration and justice. We cannot say that Jesus was not tolerant with the Jews, we cannot say that Jesus is or is not tolerant; toleration cannot be used in the same sentence and Jesus.

Jesus got pissed at people because they needed to learn, and maybe even physically demonstrated his frustrations. In the same way my dad spanked me when I was a kid; I needed to learn. This is done for the sake of love and grace; justice is done for the sake of love and grace. Jesus was not a man of in-tolerance but a man of justice. That is how Jesus loved us and how we are commanded to love others. Love others justly.