Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire, you are
the cornerstone makes us both one: 
Come, and save the creature which you fashioned from clay.

The reason why God came into the world as a human being, as Jesus, was to make one that which was divided in two. This is the absolute bottom line of theology.

He came to make one the creature and the Creator, separated by their natures, separated further by the creature’s sin.

He came to join together Jew and Gentile, to break down the most basic, the most unshakable division of the culture in which he was born, a division even more fundamental that the division of male and female. The Jews were a peculiar people, a race set apart; the function of many of the commandments in the Torah, of the laws about diet and clothing and what to sow and how to reap, was simply to separate the Jewish people from the nations around them, to make them *different*, and to remind them that what is different, like the wool of an animal and the linen spun from a plant, must always be kept separate.

He came, Paul boldly tells us, to erase the divisions of Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free. I submit that if Paul had had the concepts in his world, the words in his vocabulary, he would have added that Jesus came to erase the division of gay and straight, black and white, cisgender and transgender.

He came to unite heaven and earth, and to cure the most fundamental division of all, the one that lies deep inside each of us, between the clay of the earth from which we were formed and the breath of God’s life that was breathed into us.

It is my belief that no rule, no cult, no practice, no morality which relies on separation, division, and exclusion can be part of the way of Jesus, the Cornerstone, the unifier.

We democratic Americans are apt to think of a king as something we got rid of a long time ago, and good riddance, for all that people read tabloid articles about the British monarchy as fervently as about the Kardashians (and the Windsors, after all, have been famous for a good deal longer). A king is a useless object that sits on top of the heap of hierarchy and claims everything as his own.

My wanderings in the forest of druidry, my attempts to learn something about the ways of my pre-Christian ancestors, have given me a somewhat different model of a king, as the one who is not the top, but the center. In the great mead-hall of Tara, the high king of Ireland sat in state with his attendants about him, and at the four quarters of the hall, the lesser kings of the four provinces and their attendants, and everyone in their ordered ranks, with the fires burning. When chaos threatened, as in the nights of Samhain, the doors would be shut, and the order of the court about the king kept safe the order of the realm.

The Rex Gentium, the King of Nations who is their secret desire, is the king at the center, not at the top. Thus in the book of Revelation, the Lamb is upon the throne, with the four living creatures about him and the twenty-four elders encircling him, and the whole heavenly court with all its myriads of angels enclosed in a golden city which is a perfect cube. Christ is the cornerstone.

Come, and save the creature you fashioned from clay.

Read Full Post »

When [Jesus] got nailed to a cross, it was more than just a payment for our sins. It was God saying all those people who make you feel unsafe, yeah I’m one of them, that’s why I got lynched. God takes sides on the cross; He’s on the side of the people whose lives are actually unsafe because they can be crucified, as opposed to the people who don’t go anywhere near the type of place where Jesus got crucified because they’ve devoted their lives to worrying about their safety and the safety of their kids.

To take up your cross and follow Jesus means more than just doing “sacrificial” things for other people. It means you join the people who are unsafe. It means you do a lot of listening without speaking. It means you don’t live in denial about the shameful assumptions you make about other people in the deepest corners of your mind. It means you ask God for help in unlearning the racially-triggered instincts that we’ve all had drilled into us by a complex amalgam of social forces.

via Unsafe in black and white America | Mercy not Sacrifice.

Read Full Post »

They claim the moral high ground, but actually violate everything Jesus stood for. We hear a lot of talk about posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses, but we really should be reading the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25 outside every legislature.

They claim to stand for small government, but actually disdain all government, from police forces (begging for gun controls) to public hospitals (saddled with the uninsured), from food stamps to schools, from consumer protections to online privacy, from bridge and highway repairs to housing values. Down with government, they say, except, of course, for government’s ability to shift public money to the wealthy.

They claim to be patriotic, but actually violate every reasonable value this nation holds dear — including values extolled in years past by genuine conservatives.

The Reckless Right-Wing War on America

Read Full Post »



Let’s remember, Jesus was a Jewish man of color, born homeless to an unwed teenager, who spent his formative years as an illegal immigrant before returning to his home country to hang out with twelve men, prostitutes, and socially untouchable tax collectors while he taught a radical social doctrine of equality, love, and forgiveness that included paying taxes, free healthcare, and the sharing of resources within a community.

thank you

Reblogging for TRUTH.

Read Full Post »

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

I have been thinking a lot about where I am and how I got here: Being a Christian, being an Anglican, again, after having been a Christian Druid, a Druid, a Pagan Druid, a Tibetan Buddhist, a Buddhist Druid… and so on round back to Anglican. I could just feel like I’ve been going around in circles, but it helps me to think of my progress as a spiral, or a dance, or a labyrinth; it may not be progress in the sense of onward and upward motion forever and ever, but it is a pattern, and maybe even a pleasing and/or meaningful pattern.

What helps the most, though, is to think in terms of doing rather than being. An Episcopalian is what I am; all through the past ten years of exploring, my name has been on the rolls of the parish where my husband is the organist, where his parents have been members for decades. But what am I doing? Well, since around Christmas, what I have done is say the Daily Office. I have done this before, as a teenager, in my twenties, in my thirties; I come back to it when I’m at loose ends, just as I come back to writing in a notebook, keeping a journal. (Which, come to think of it, I also started to do as a teenager.)

I’ve come to think that the Daily Office is just What I Do; in Buddhist (and in some cases Pagan) terms, it is My Practice. I read Scripture; I say Psalms; I recite prayers. It is a training in Scripture, in the ground level of Christian tradition; it is a training in how to pray; it is devotion, offering, the necessity of petition for human needs, the duty of praise to the Divine Source. And I just do it. Sometimes I read it silently; I prefer to say it aloud; sometimes I even chant it.

The idea of a Practice, of religion as something To Do rather than simply a label for what one is, or a set of beliefs, a list of propositions that to be affirmed, is very strong in Buddhist traditions and in Neopagan ones. Being a (Druid, Hellenic Reconstructionist, member of the Troth, whatever) means primarily doing certain things, at certain times, in certain ways, usually with a group of people. It is less important that everyone has the same opinions or theories about the gods, for example, than that everyone shows up to ritual with an appropriate offering for the deity to be honored, and speaks respectfully to the deity if given the opportunity.

For a lot of American Protestants, this would be a very strange idea. Religion is about belief, and belief means assent to a description of the universe, which may or may not be called a creed. People seem able to conceive of themselves as quite acceptable Christians without going to church, taking communion, or following the teachings of Jesus–because they believe the right things.

But the idea of religion as right practice is not really foreign to an Anglican. The Anglican tradition, and later the Anglican Communion, crystallized around a book of prayers, a book of practice, rather than around a description of beliefs. Lutheran tradition, for example, produced a number of confessions, whereas Anglican traditions did not. The Thirty-Nine Articles have never had the mojo of an official confession or catechism (although Article Twenty-Six has often been a great comfort to me in my affliction).

Anglicans like to quote a saying from the early Church: Lex orandi, lex credendi. The rule of prayer is the rule of belief. What we pray, what we affirm in our liturgy, is what we believe. What I believe as a Christian is what I pray: The Psalms, the Apostles’ Creed, the prayers of the Office and the Eucharist. Liturgy in the church is older than the creeds, older even than the canon of Scripture; the Church is older than the Bible, that is, the Christian community is older than the list of texts that it defined as authoritative.

I am not at all certain that I believe what I say in the Apostles’ Creed, if by “believe” I mean “assent to it as a definitive map of reality”. I say it because it links me with the Church, because it reaffirms my baptism and confirmation. I am even less certain that I believe what I sing in the Nicene Creed, which is full of Greek philosophical jargon that ceased to be widely understood over 1000 years ago; it is less important that I assent to it than that I sing on pitch and at a brisk tempo.

What I do believe, and by “believe” I mean trust in and rely on, is that God is present; God is listening; Jesus is a revelation of God; the Gospels have something important to tell me; and the Anglican tradition is a source of wisdom and peace for me, because it is a tradition of music, poetry, and story.

Read Full Post »

Today is the feast of the Epiphany, also known as the Theophany to the Eastern Churches, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. I am feeling unusually moved by this feast this year, having not paid much attention to it for a while.

The Gospel of Matthew is the source for the story of how wise men visited the infant Jesus. Let me cite it in the Common English Bible translation:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2They asked, “ Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him. ”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “ In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel. ” b

7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “ Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him. ” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Notice what this text does and does not say. It refers to magi, not wise men or kings; it doesn’t specify how many there are; and it certainly doesn’t give them names. Nor does Matthew mention the stable, the shepherds, and the animals–those details are from the Gospel of Luke.

Later tradition interpreted the magi–literally, priests of the Zoroastrian or old Persian religion, widely regarded in the ancient world as a prime source of spiritual and magical wisdom–as wise men or kings, called them Gaspar, Melchior, and Baltasar, and speculated that they came from different lands and all converged on the humble venue indicated by the star. But Matthew doesn’t say that. What he does say is what they brought the infant: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Why does he name these three substances, besides the fact that they were (and are) rare and valuable? John Henry Hopkins explained everything you need to know in his hymn “We Three Kings“:

The Gospel mentions a prophecy from the book of Micah about Bethlehem being the birthplace of the Messiah, but what is really in the back of the writer’s mind is material from the third and latest section of the book of Isaiah, starting at chapter sixty:

Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
the LORD ’s glory has shone
upon you.
2 Though darkness covers the earth
and gloom the nations,
the LORD will shine upon you;
God’s glory will appear over you.
3 Nations will come to your light
and kings to your dawning radiance.
6 Countless camels will cover your land,
young camels
from Midian and Ephah.
They will all come from Sheba,
carrying gold and incense,
proclaiming the LORD ’s praises.

(I always hear Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” in my head when I read this.)

What Isaiah is looking forward to, and Matthew is riffing on, is a glorious future in which Jerusalem, the sacred center of Israel, will also be the sacred center of the world; foreigners will bring tribute and commerce to it, it will be wealthy and productive, and even more than that, it will become a center of worship where the nations, the goyim, will worship the LORD, the god of Israel.

I’m coming to gather all nations and cultures. They will come to see my glory. 19 I will put a sign on them, by sending out some of the survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Libya, and Lydia, and to the archers of Cilicia and Greece—distant coastlands that haven’t heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will declare my glory among the nations. 20 They will bring your family members from all nations as an offering to the LORD —on horses, in chariots, in wagons, on mules, and on camels—to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD , like Israelites bringing an offering in purified containers to the LORD ’s house. 21I will select some of them as priests and Levites, says the LORD .
22 As the new heavens
and the new earth that I’m making
will endure before me, says the LORD ,
so your descendants
and your name will endure.
23 From month to month
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all humanity will come
to worship me, says the LORD .

That’s pretty daring–to suggest that foreigners, non-Jews, unclean people, will be chosen to serve as priests alongside the one and only tribe that was allowed to serve the Temple, the sons of Levi. That’s what Matthew has in mind. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the kings and their camels–the kings always have camels, right?–are from the book of Isaiah.

So what does it all mean?

First of all, you might be wondering if I believe this actually happened, if Jesus and his family were visited by wealthy foreigners who gave them lots of luxury goods and explained that the astrological omens of the last year led them to a stable outside of Bethlehem. Well, no. I don’t believe that. I don’t think this story is a historical anecdote. I don’t think there’s any indication that Jesus grew up as anything but an average peasant in Galilee; his parents weren’t sitting on a stash of goods that made life easier for them.

However, Cynthia Bourgeault points out in The Wisdom Jesus that, as a Galilean, Jesus was not the backwoods hick that we have often assumed he was. To the authorities in Jerusalem, Galilee was a backwater, a marginal place full of marginal, slightly dodgy people. To the Romans and other non-Jews, Jerusalem, in fact, the whole province they called Palestine, was a marginal place, a strange little country full of religious eccentrics; Galilee was a stop on the Silk Road, a cosmopolitan place where local Jewish culture rubbed elbows with the world. Foreign merchants, foreign wealth, foreign potentates, and foreign ideas were perhaps more present in Jesus’ background than we used to think.

I look at this whole complex of images, the myth and the history, the reality of present-day Jerusalem, where three religions contend for the right to define the place and what it’s all about, where Jews and Palestinians are at one another’s throats, the reality of Rome and its replacement by other empires, and what I see is a gigantic missed chance. Christianity had a chance to become a sacred center where all the nations of the world brought their wealth, their wisdom, and their worship, gathered around a Christ who was anointed messiah, sacred king, eternal priest, fully enlightened one, the desire of the nations, the joy of every heart. It could have joined hands with existing religions as Buddhism mostly did, not replacing but enhancing them. It could have retained a vision of an alternative to Empire, to the instance of the conqueror, the oppressor, the tax collector, the army recruiter, that things have to be this way, always have been, always will be.

Instead, it joined hands with Empire. It went from being the despised religion of women and slaves, a cult for those who had not the money or social status to join more respectable foreign devotions, a way of life that people chose because it was better than the old ways, to being the darling of the Emperor, the conqueror’s banner. In this sign conquer! Constantine did. Jesus didn’t.

Read Full Post »

One of my not so secret vices is that I read and write fanfiction–stories inspired by existing media, such as books, films, or (most often) television shows, and shared among friends or online for pleasure, not for profit.  (What fandoms I read and write is a story for another blog….)  In the fannish world we have a word, “crack!fic” (sometimes spelled without the !). Crackfic is any fanfic that causes you to wonder whether the author was smoking crack while she wrote it. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Bad crackfic is usually badly written, and the author entirely misses the absurdity of her premise and the inadequacy of her execution thereof. Good crackfic, on the other hand, written well and with an awareness of the implausibility, incredibility, and surreality of the premise, can be a good and joyful thing, upon which hilarity ensues.

Yesterday I finished reading a novel which is basically New Testament crack!fic. And it’s *good*:  The Passion of Mary Magdalene. It is the story of Maeve, a Celtic woman raised by warrior witches, trained by druids, and exiled from her homeland for interfering with a sacrificial rite by setting free the intended victim–a wandering Jewish guy she calls Esus. With whom she falls madly, passionately in love, and vice versa.

All that happens in the prequel, which I haven’t read yet, Magdalene Rising. Because Maeve, the mouthy red-headed Celt, who is kidnapped by slavers and winds up working in a brothel in Rome, is the woman we all know as Mary Magdalene. I kid you not.

Maeve becomes a prostitute, bonds with her sister whores, is sold to a drunken Roman woman with daddy issues who rather resembles Tom’s daughter-in-law Marion in Waiting for God, becomes a healer priestess at a two-bit temple of Isis, and all the while keeps looking for Esus, alias Yeshua, who apparently was supposed to marry some girl from Bethany but instead the two of them ran away to live in the Essene community, and now Mary of Bethany has come home but nobody knows where Yeshua is. Or so Maeve’s friend Joseph–of Arimathea–informs her. But she can’t find him, so she sets up a temple of sacred prostitution in Magdala, a fishing town in Galilee, with some of her brothel friends, and eventually Yeshua comes to *her*.

And that’s just the first half of the book.

Maeve’s Celtic background is a mishmosh of British, Irish, and Gaulish influences, with a healthy dose of legend, that would make any scholar point and laugh, or possibly weep and shake his head. But Cunningham’s portrayal of Rome and Roman Palestine in the first century C.E. is obviously solidly researched, and so is her portrayal of Jesus, his movement, and his mission. The great joy of this book is that it not only gave me a wonderful female protagonist in Maeve, alias Mary, but it gave me a Jesus I can love. The last third of the book, in which Maeve somewhat reluctantly becomes part of her beloved’s movement, was, as Marcus Borg has put it, meeting Jesus again for the first time. Cunningham’s Jesus is a lover, a teacher, a healer, someone intensely present to and engaged with whomever is in front of him. He is also a man living moment by moment, listening for the voice of God, but not driven by an overarching plan. Sometimes he screws up. He is pretty much a disgrace and a source of despair to his family. But there were moments where Cunningham retells some incident from the Gospels where tears came to my eyes and the hair stood up on the back of my neck, something which I have not experienced in actually reading the Gospels for a long time. There are also places where Cunningham adds something to the story, something uniquely from Maeve’s point of view, that were equally moving and hair-raising, where I felt the thrill of conviction–yes, it really happened this way.

Cunningham’s retelling of a large-scale story from a female character’s point of view, and her masterful weaving together of disparate stories into a coherent whole, has to be compared to The Mists of AvalonThe Passion of Mary Magdalene is really a MoA for the Gospel story, and richer in characters than Bradley’s work. It is a complex blend of myth, legend, sex, mysticism, feminism, and humor (lots of humor) that will haunt me, I think, for a long time.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: