The Violence of Commitment

The violence we should use in religion is the violence of commitment:  Using every means you have as a creative being to bring yourself closer to God…I believe that everybody on earth was created in God’s image.  We are all related in being created.  So I, as a created [being] have to respect other created things.  That’s what I mean when I say putting God at the center.  He created us this way.  We have to learn to live together.

Such were the words of an Orthodox Christian nun of the St. Mary Magdalene monastery located at the Mount of Olives who  Bruce Feiler spoke to as part of the stirring conclusion of his book Where God Was Born.  This nun exemplified the passionate position that the God of Christianity is a God of Love, not hate.  Therefore, when I need to send my friend Liz a link to Rob Bell’s Bullhorn Nooma video, to provide her with some relief and hope after she stumbled across this, I am convinced more and more of the need for the gospel to truly be the Gospel- the Good News of a loving, compassionate God.  If we as Christians remain quiet while our misguided fellow brothers and sisters in Christ preach a message of hate and exclusion, instead of the redeeming message of love and inclusion spoken from the lips of Jesus, then where exactly do we stand?  Book Burning?  Is this what we want to be reduced to?  Or shall we be lights in the darkness, bringing peace and love to those we meet, regardless of race, sexuality, creed, etc.?

Feiler writes that “religion can only be saved by religion,” that the “only force strong enough to take on religious extremism is religious moderation.”  I believe he speaks the truth in this regard.  Do we want to be content to shout from the mountaintops our “rightness” or feed the poor and hungry at the foothills?  No matter what translation of the Bible you read, care for the poor, the widow, and orphan is pretty self explanatory.

For too long we have allowed the message of Christ to be used as a weapon, not as a unifying force for good.


Time to Breathe…

At last!  Ten minutes to 7 on Sunday night, and I am finding some downtime to enjoy after a hectic afternoon of lesson planning and certification work.  The week looks fairly planned out, with room for the unexpected, if need be.

Today’s liturgy at Emmanuel offered strength to face the afternoon.  Last week- pretty bad.  On the faulty assumption that I could get everything in the world done if I was merely jacked up on 5 cups of coffee per day.  Bad move.  When will I learn that my own steam will never be enough?

So, time to ponder.  Picked up Abraham by Bruce Feiler at Borders.  I have already read through Walking the Bible a few times, and although I could not stand the documentary he made out of that book, I still enjoy his writing style and ability to really connect with his subject matter.  Abraham is a slim book compared to Walking, but what from I skimmed in the Borders cafe, it looks like a good read.

Today I made it to the adult study group session at Emmanuel.  Class usually goes from 9am-10, and since I have choir rehearsal at 9:30, I thought it just wasn’t an option to come.  On the contrary- apparently several of our choir members join in the discussion, and then leave half way through.  Dave, my fellow tenor (and might I say, becoming a bit of a spiritual big brother to me) invited me to stop by last week, so I said “what the heck?”

Discussion focused on the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer to God after Elizabeth’s greeting to her (Luke Chapter 1: 46-55).  Here it is in context:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.

Our discussion led to an analysis of Mary’s perception of God.  This soon led to a focus on the words “He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent empty away.”  Given the scriptural emphasis on the “first being last, and the last being first,” and taking into account the current poverty levels around the world and the”riches” we enjoy as Americans- well, where does that leave us?  How can we “empty” ourselves before we are sent “empty away?”

Anyway, I hope all enjoy a peaceful night.