Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mere Thoughts

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, in his Mere Anglicanism presentation, discussed two views of Jesus that are quite common today.

1.  Jesus as exemplar of obedience.

2.  Jesus as "guru" or guide.

So, two questions:

1.  Have you seen or read any Christian theological works that promote these views, either exclusively or a as a primary understanding?

2.  Who holds these views?

Then answers may surprise you.

To answer question #2, Bishop Michael notes that the first view of Jesus is held by Sufis the second makes its presence known in the Hindu comprehension of Jesus.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Homily at the Funeral of Donna Mann

(I know there are punctuation and grammatical errors here.  They are intentional for a spoken script, not as an article for reading).

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Jesus said to Thomas, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In 1951 the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, wrote the following in light of his father’s death.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though death, in Thomas’ poem, is called “that good night” there is an underlying principle that death is the enemy to be raged against, not a friend to be embraced.  His is an understanding that death, not life, is an aberration, a falling away from what should be.
Yet, if we peruse the universe, and test the evidence of our senses, it would appear just the opposite.  The universe is filled with emptiness.  There is more nothingness out there than there is somethingness. Though we can mathematically prove the existence of other planets like ours, with a “Goldilocks zone” perfect for supporting life, we have yet to discover life “out there.”  There appear to be many more dead planets, than live ones.  Even on this blue planet, life for many is “nasty, brutish, and short.  When we are honest, we look around and see the struggle that life has to emerge, survive, and to be sustained, it appears, always as a losing battle.  It appears, in fact, that death, that nothingness, is not the aberration, life is…

This is not the Christian vision.  This is not the Gospel.  Life is the goal of the creator God.  Life is not the aberration, death is.  Death, nothingness, as Mr. Thomas reports, is the enemy.  Mr. Thomas implores his father to fight this enemy.  To rage against him.  To not give up the ship.  To boldly stand and declare that he “has not yet begun to fight.”  As if, by his own might he might keep this enemy at bay.  As if, by all of our advances, all of our medicines, all of our cosmetics, all of our surgeries, all our exercise, all of our Botox, we might withstand this enemy, when the truth of it is, we cannot.  Yes, Mr. Thomas you are correct, death is the enemy, but we need a champion.

Here then is Jesus, our Champion.  He has come to fight the fight for us.  To win where we can not.  To deliver us from the grasp of death and its power.  Yet, he came not raging, but with love.  He came not wielding power, but in humility to serve.  He came not with a shout, but stood before his accusers as a sheep mute before its shearers.  He came not to be raised to a throne, but raised on a cross.  He came indeed to take on death for us.  He came to die, and in that surrender, in his dying, and in his raising he put death to death forever.  In Jesus we can know that death is the aberration and life the norm.

This is the heart of the Gospel, that in Jesus the crucified and risen one, death holds no dominion.  Death holds no power over him, and the promise is that it holds no dominion over those who put their trust in him.  The resurrection is that proof that Jesus has won the victory. To quote Bishop Tom Wright, “Resurrection is not a fancy way of talking about death.  Resurrection is the overthrow of death”.
This is part of what Jesus means when he refers to himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  To know Jesus is to know the creator God whose will and work, whose “way” is to bring life to the world.   To know Jesus is to know the Truth that there is a God who cares, a God who lives, a God who delivers, a God whose way is a way of Life.  To know Jesus is to participate in his divine and eternal life, the Life of God.  To know Jesus is to join in his defeat of death.

To know Jesus is to know that we do not rage against the dying of light as if we must fight it on our own.  No, to know Jesus is to trust that natural death is not the final word.  This physical death is transitional.  Jesus himself promised that a place is prepared for those who love him.  A place in the Father’s house of many mansions.  The image Jesus is working with is that of a wayside inn, a resting place in his presence. I find it intriguing that, as we are not too distant from Christmas, that there was no room in the inn at Jesus’ birth, yet for all who are prepared to follow there is always room in the inns prepared by Jesus.  Yet this wayside inn is not the final destination.  The God who brings something from nothing, will bring life from death.  To those who know Jesus, who follow in the way, who say Yes to God, will be given resurrection and new life in God’s final renewal and recreation of the world.  In short, we shall be like him who died and rose for us.  This is the promise of Jesus, the promise of the Gospel.

This is the promise to which Donna held so fast.  This was the promise that allowed her to face a terminal diagnosis without raging, for she knew that the light would not be dying.  It was apparent, in her last days, that death held no dominion over her.  The disease, which could take her body, held no real power over her.  This was not because of her own strength, but because of the strength of the faith of Jesus in her, and her trust in the eternal promise. Donna was born again in the waters of baptism, and nurtured in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, in fact, her final meal was the heavenly meal of the Body and Blood of Christ, Donna is a child of Jesus, and heir of resurrection.  This is her faith, and it was actively seen in her life of service, of giving up of herself for the life of others.  She followed her master, and now resides in that place prepared for her, that wayside inn to final resurrection, in the presence of Jesus.

 This same Jesus, who is her way, her truth, her life, who has won victory over death and the grave, is our only hope.  May we have the faith to offer over our lives to him who can make somethings of us all.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back in the Saddle

As is par for the course, I have ignored writing here.  I could claim to be busy, which is true, but in reality I did not have much to say.  Still do not have much to say, but I did find this quote today and it spoke to me.

Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not have time for prayer.--Fr. Hilary Ottsenmeyer (St. Meinrad Archabbey) quoted in "Preaching Effectively, Revitalizing Your Church" by Guerric DeBona, OSB.