“God has only sons and daughters,” the pope said. “We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers, and label people. God has sons and daughters precisely so that no one will be turned away.”
Francis said “our instinctive reaction” is to “discredit or curse” those who we view as opponents, “to ‘demonize’ them so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification” for dismissing them.
God’s unconditional love, he said, “is the true prerequisite for the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn.”
I have always had a precarious relationship with breathing. My very first breaths were problematic, or so I have been told. My childhood and school years were punctuated by asthmatic episodes; I toted quick response meds as regularly as pencils and erasers. Thankfully the constant challenges to breathe subsided in adulthood, however I quickly remember those sensations when, like today, I wrestle with some virus that turns each inhale into a litany of spastic hacks and coughs.
Oh the reassurance of a deep, unhindered breath!
It enthuses the day with hopeful expanse.
It reinforces the essential rhythm of life.
It roots me deeply in the present moment.
It raises my chin and nudges a connecting smile.
In our dispersed community of contemplative companions, named Selah, we desire to pause and nurture contemplative living with Jesus. One of the regular, simple practices that supports this desire is simply pausing and focusing my attention on my breathing…whatever state it happens to be in at the time. Disconnecting from everything else that spins and swirls around the moment…drawing my attention to what is going on in my body right here and right now…I settle in and direct my focus to breathing.
It reminds me that I am right here in this moment.
It reminds me what is essential in this moment.
Receiving the inflow of life.
Releasing what no longer supports life.
Inevitably I end up reconnecting much deeper with the Giver of All Breath and with this present moment where life is and is in its fullness.
It’s that spontaneous.
It’s that accessible.
It’s that life-giving.
So be it.
Peace and love – and ample deep breaths – to you today.
"O Lord, God of vengeance,
God of vengeance, shine forth.
Rise up, O Judge of the earth."
God is the Judge of the earth; Abraham even said, "the whole earth." Here we must not think of a stern person wielding a gavel, but a merciful God who will put everything right, who will bring about justice.1 God is the one who straightens the crooked paths (Isaiah 45:2) of the whole earth. His appearance in vengeance, therefore, doesn't bring forth darkness but creates a radiant light.
The Hebrew word for vengeance is naqam. And naqam has the meaning: restoring justice.2 Vengeance is the restoration and recovery of justice. Traditionally the word naqam also has to do with qum, which means 'rising up.' Thus, vengeance has got everything to do with raising up what has fallen. Vengeance biblically, therefore, has everything do with the restoration of all things.3 "God of vengeance, shine forth," says Psalm 94. Popular opinion says if God appears with his vengeance, it will become dark. But Psalm 94 says, the light will shine. There will again be radiance in our lives.
Vengeance generally sounds slightly negative and malevolent in our ears. If you have feelings of vengeance, you don't generally have much good in mind, do you? Rather, vengeance actually is the restoration of the relationships in the community. So vengeance has to do with restoring, the recovery of relationships. Vengeance has everything to do with the question: How do we get Cain and Abel back together? How do we re-unite Jacob and Esau? How will coherence be restored? How do two opposites become one again? How do you get back the original unity? So again, the biblical vengeance is the rehabilitation of the relationships within the community. Vengeance is in fact a form of love, a kind of straightening. The relationships that are skewed will be straightened, so that people can look one another straight in the eyes again.
Joseph's vengeance was about giving his brothers bread. This is the mercy-bread, which is at the heart of the gospel. Elie Wiesel says in this regard: "the victim gets the last word"--giving bread to the enemy. You can also see this portrayed in the story of Elisha and the king of Syria. Rather than crushing the enemy, bread is being distributed. (2 Kings 6:21)
Divine vengeance is the counterpart of the vendetta, which says an eye for an eye (cf. Matt. 5:38-39). However, evil is to be overcome with good (Romans 12:21).
The United States apologized for locking up Japanese Americans. Have we learned nothing?
There is dangerous talk these days by those who have the ear of some at the highest levels of government. Earlier this week, Carl Higbie, an outspoken Trump surrogate and co-chair of Great America PAC, gave an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. They were discussing the notion of a national Muslim registry, a controversial part of the Trump administration’s national security plans, when Higbie dropped a bombshell: “We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will,” he said. Was he really citing the Japanese American internment, Kelly wanted to know, as grounds for treating Muslims the same way today? Higbie responded that he wasn’t saying we should return to putting people in camps. But then he added, “There is precedent for it.”
The goal of this essay is to understand the colonial roots of the disproportionate violence rates against Indigenous women, the Highway of Tears (a Highway in Northern British Columbia along which over 40 women have gone missing), as well as address the solutions these communities have come up with themselves. It begins with broader information to explain key statistics, as well as the scope of the situation. Settlers imposing Eurocentric views on First Nation Peoples lead to problematic relations, especially when Residential Schools were born and damaged Indigenous relations with the government and RCMP for years to come. The second half of this essay summarizes and discusses the Highway of Tears Symposium, a plan created by several Aboriginal communities along the Highway of Tears, and what exactly these solutions are addressing.
Keywords: Highway 16, Highway of Tears, Violence Against Indigenous Women, First Nations Relations
|The Sermon on the Mount by Miki Goodaboom - www.mikigoodaboom.com|
Editor's note: When approaching the Sermon on the Mount, two opposing ditches need to be avoided. One is adopting the Sermon as a new Law (to attain righteousness); the other is rejecting it as an impossible Law (negated by grace and the Cross). In the following excerpt, Eberhard Arnold steers between these errors, urging us along the grace-empowered Jesus Way. In that sense, the Sermon on the Mount is Christ's version of Paul's "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 6). It is the life of Christ-in-me, lived by those who "abide in the Vine" (John 15).
"For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for Go. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me." (Galatians 2:19-20)
That life, the salt and light life in Christ, was described for us by Christ himself in this Sermon as the foundation for Christian cruciform discipleship.
Excerpt from Eberhard Arnold's Salt and Light: Living the Sermon on the Mount (The Plough Publishing House).
Not a New Law
How do we respond to the Sermon on the Mount? The Sermon on the Mount is the first step on the way to discipleship. ... If we fully grasp the Sermon on the Mount and believe it, then nothing can frighten us -- neither our own self-recognition, nor financial threats, nor our personal weakness.
The dedication demanded in the Sermon on the Mount is not a new law or moral teaching. Instead it is forgiveness. Its vital element is the light and warmth of the Holy Spirit. Here is Christ: the essence of salt, and the strength of the tree that bears good fruit. The Sermon on the Mount shows us the character of a community, which shines like a light for the whole world.
The Sermon on the Mount is not a high-tension moralism, but we must grasp it as the revelation of God's real power in human life. If we take our surrender to God seriously and allow him to enter our lives as light, as the only energy which makes new life possible, then we will be able [empowered] to live the new life.
If we see the Sermon on the Mount as five new commandments, as the Tolstoyans do, we will fall right into a trap. For in his book My Religion, Leo Tolstoy lists the commandments of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount as five new laws: peacefulness with others, sexual purity and marital faithfulness, the refusal to swear oaths, non-resistance to evil, and love for one's enemies. But Jesus shows us that the clarity and demands of the old laws are not weakened by his coming into the world; instead they are infinitely sharpened. Moreover, these are only five examples -- there could be five hundred or five thousand -- revealing the powerful effect of God's work in Christ.
His righteousness, his justice, is better than anything scholars or theologians could offer. It is something absolutely different, and it does not depend on moral intentions and good ideas. The righteousness of the law can be fulfilled only through a new, organic way of living, through a life from God that flares up like light and sears and purifies like salt. It is like a flame that shines, like the sap that pulses through a tree. It is life!
Spoken Oct. 27, 1935, at the Rhön Bruderhof.
When the divine community we call God created the visible (and invisible) universe they spoke words like "let there be light" and things that were not in one moment began to exist in the next. Stars. Planets. Oceans. Mountains. Trees. Animals. Flowers.
All these things and more were breathed into existence by God. When the Father began to make all things, our wisdom tells us that it was the Son by whom the Father spoke all things into being; Christ spoke the things that were not as though they were and they were so. Orchid. Zebra. Maple. Everest. Atlantic. Jupiter. Andromeda. And so on.
Instead of speaking humanity into existence, our wisdom tells us that God hand-crafted men and women from the clay, breathed into our motionless humanity the breath of life, and gave us something the rest of creation does not have except metaphorically: the divine capacity of language.
Though all living things communicate, only humans have the gift of speech and this capacity is creative (like God) or destructive (like the dark powers), depending on our choice.
The mystery of the Incarnation is so great that every year—in this time of Advent and Christmas, six blessed weeks of waiting and celebration—I eventually see something I have never seen before, encounter a facet of the birth narrative I missed or neglected or did not see in all its beauty.
The season from Thanksgiving to Epiphany allows Christians to marinate in the story of the Word made bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh and we come away not as spectators but as *participants* in the mystery.
Likewise in relation to the article: I am not a “progressive”, because most “progressives” I read are not consistently pro-Life. They (not all) favour the use of abortion as birth control, elevating women’s right to choose to a fetish, thereby exhibiting a cavalier attitude towards Life, while in fact reflecting a culture of Death. They are the mirror opposite to the self-described “pro-Life” advocates, who (not all) support massive slaughter of the “born“, so long as they are America’s (or whatever nation’s they inhabit) enemies. Both camps are committed to ruthlessly destroy Life that “gets in the way." Both are profoundly narcissistic and hedonistic.
I can tell by how often your heavy burden for the sanctity of life evaporates upon delivery.In so many cases this compassion really has a nine-month expiration date, as if life begins at conception but ends upon leaving the birth canal.The completion of that third trimester is actually the shelf life of your passionate regard for much of the living.
Because if that life you say you so treasure, one day converts to Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.
If that life eventually comes out as LGBTQ, you condemn its soul, harass it in your workplace and church, try to prevent its marriage, tell it where and when it can use a public bathroom.You bully it and drive it to suicide.
It already seems like forever ago that we lived in a world where Trump just couldn’t be elected president. Most of us (literally - a popular majority) just knew in our bones that when we cast our vote, this annoying potential catastrophe would be averted and all would be well. If Trump’s apocalypse were to ever come, it most certainly wouldn’t be now.
But it did come, and it came by way of the Electoral College doing what the Electoral College sometimes does - favoring the candidate chosen by the most delegates rather than the most individual citizens. While in my opinion this is all the more reason to abolish the Electoral College (and the delegate systems in the RNC and DNC primaries for that matter), that is neither here nor there. Trump won. And his apocalypse is upon us.
I recently wrapped up writing my latest book, The Light is Winning, which will be released by Zondervan next summer. In it, I talk about one way of looking at the current phenomena of Christianity’s decline in the U.S. and the shift to a post-Christian cultural reality.
I propose that we view it as an apocalypse.
“Apocalypse” literally means revealing, unveiling, or disclosure.* The book of Revelation in the Bible - typically seen as source material for all things End Times - is even called “The Apocalypse of John” in some traditions, showing its synonymous meaning to revelation or revealing. And the book title is derived from the apostle John’s own words at the start of the letter: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place...”
The audience booed when conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked evangelical neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson (likely now to be a cabinet member in the Trump administration), December 15, 2015, if he was ruthless enough to kill thousands of innocent kids in war. Think of it!: Hewitt was rubbing Carson’s nose in it as it were, given his Hippocratic Oath, which originally reads in part: “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing… Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free“. And possibly given that he is a Christian. Carson’s affirmation below (full transcript) seems a tad non-pro-life.
Not to worry though! One thousand Evangelical leaders endorsed Donald Trump June 22, 2016, “a true believer” by his and their assertions, all avidly “pro-life” – except of course, one must understand a minor point, those who need slaughtering to protect America’s interests around the world. (Incidentally, no one of all the GOP contenders that night, Trump included, disagreed with Carson’s response to this question from Hewett): “So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians?” Carson responded: “You got it.” And again to underscore, “You got it.” Then later: “… the job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of this country and to do what is necessary in order to get it done.” This, by logical deduction, means massive murdering all over the globe. To be President of the United States is undeniably to become “murderer-in-chief” for the entire world.
Now I’m an evangelical. And Evangelicals are People of the Book. So wait a minute! Didn’t Jesus say something about one’s neighbour, one’s enemies? Something about “loving” them? “Ah”, say a huge majority of American Evangelicals (Canadian and all nationalities included for that matter), “there is an exception clause” to what Jesus taught and exemplified, what John says about God in chapter 3 verse 16, what Jesus seems in the Gospels to say about a kind of litmus test that goes something like: love of neighbour is only as real as its extreme case, love of enemies (Matthew 5:43 – 48 & Luke 6: 27 – 36); and love of enemies in light of the atonement, supremely shows us how to “live a life of love” as in Romans 5:6 – 11, Ephesians 5:1 & 2 – the “better way” of I Corinthians 13; and love of enemies therefore by Gospel logic is the supreme test for love of God. (Now that’s what my Book says! )
Fr. Aidan Kimel recently posted a fascinating, must-read article on the question of Judas Iscariot's final destiny in light of universal hope. It begins, "But what about the Iscariot‽ The fate of Judas is the challenge most often posed to anyone who dares to proclaim the greater hope." That's the question. His research and thoughts on the matter are worth reading here:
However, it still left me wondering about Jesus' words at the Last Supper in Mark 14, where we read,
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Verse 2 ought to trouble even the most hopeful among us, for in light of the possibility of ultimate redemption, how could the Saviour say non-existence would have been better than a redeemed outcome, the betrayal notwithstanding. That question led to a fascinating discussion among friends, worth sharing here:
Eccl. 6:3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that *a stillborn child is better off than he.* [emphasis mine].
"Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—
Glad to be so—and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner of young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done."- Edwin Muir, "The Transfiguration"
NEW YORK / GENEVA (28 October 2016) – Palestine’s right to development is being denied by Israel, creating an environment plagued by poverty, “epic” unemployment and economic stagnation, according to a new report from a United Nations human rights expert.
Michael Lynk - the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 - expresses deep concerns about the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), in the context of the right to development.
He calls on Israel to bring a complete end to almost 50 years of occupation, describing an atmosphere of “despair and hopelessness” among Palestinian citizens.
“The Palestinian economy is without parallel in the modern world,” said Mr. Lynk, delivering his first report* to the UN General Assembly in New York. “Israel’s occupation is denying Palestine’s right to development and severely hampering its ability to attain even the minimum targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Poverty is rising. Unemployment is rising to epic levels. Food insecurity is becoming more acute. The Palestinian economy is becoming more stifled and less viable under the occupation,” the expert said. “Israel’s deliberate fragmentation of the OPT and lack of development has negatively impacted human rights.”
Gaza has among the highest unemployment rates in the world – an overall figure of 42%, rising to 58% among the youth population, Mr. Lynk noted. In the OPT as a whole, unemployment hit 27% in 2016 – up from 12% in 1999.
“This occupation – which will be 50 years old in 2017 – is seriously deficient in its respect for the legal principles and obligations embedded within the right to development,” said Mr. Lynk.
Here are the key statements of Jesus on which I wish to comment: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mat 9:13) and “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6).
In order to get to the heart of Jesus’ take on the whole idea of payment and appeasement as a means of relating to God, I think it will help to look at these two sayings of Jesus together. There is something so crucial to his deliberate subversion of the whole empire domination system here, that motivates him to tell the Pharisees in no uncertain terms to “go away and learn what this means.” I suggest that this is central to the mindset change that Jesus wished to accomplish in the incarnation. After all, the sacrifice system and its outworking takes up a significant part of the law and the prophets which he claimed to fulfil.
In a previous post on katargēsis and the temple (April 29th 2011) we have already considered the way that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection brought the whole temple liturgy to an end. He did this by carrying through all that was good from it into his own life and subsequently that of his body of followers. So by insisting that the Pharisees, who were seeking to maintain the law and liturgy, learnt the deeper implications of his desire for mercy not sacrifice, it follows that he was implying that at a deep structural level the temple system itself was about mercy, and not about sacrifice. So what was sacrificed was not about payment and appeasement at all, but about mercy, or as alternatively rendered, compassion. It is very important to get hold of this.
Reconciliation of enmities is the heart of the Gospel message and Christian mission, and of Restorative Justice. It is a peacemaking, not warmaking, response to crime.
Restorative Justice has profound biblical roots. In Western culture, “It is an irony of history”, claims Religious Studies professor James Williams, “that the very source that first disclosed the viewpoint and plight of the victim is pilloried in the name of various forms of criticism… However, it is in the Western world that the affirmation of ‘otherness,’ especially as known through the victim, has emerged. And its roots sink deeply into the Bible as transmitted in the Jewish and Christian traditions… the standpoint of the victim is [the West’s] unique and chief biblical inheritance. It can be appropriated creatively and ethically only if the inner dynamic of the biblical texts and traditions is understood and appreciated. The Bible is the first and main source for women’s rights, racial justice, and any kind of moral transformation. The Bible is also the only creative basis for interrogating the tradition and the biblical texts (James Williams, “King as Servant Sacrifice as Service: Gospel Transformations”, Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies, and Peacemaking, Telford, Pa.; Pandora Press; Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000, pp. 195 & 196).
An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, CHRISTIAN MEDITATION NEWSLETTER, Vol. 34, No. 3, October 2010, pp. 4-5.
The other is essential to the mystical and loving mind. Otherness stimulates the mind to let go of its fixed points and expand beyond itself, enlarging the view we have of the world and of ourselves within it. . . . This is a little of what I understand by the term “a catholic mind,” because it faces openly what it cannot describe or control. The catholic mind intuitively seeks to include rather than reject, even when it might meet an abyss of difference in the other [. . . .]
We become catholic in this full and embracing sense only by means of growth, by passing through the stages of healing and integration. So none of us is catholic yet, not even the pope. There is always a ways to go. But the alternative to this process . . . is the sectarian mind that objectifies the other and, through fear and the pleasure of power, denies it its pure subjectivity, its is-ness. Socially and historically, we have done this to immigrants, to Jews, to gays and other easily targeted minorities, and also, of course, even to half the human race through the violent patriarchal exclusion of women.
By doing such things, we exclude ourselves from the whole and therefore from the Holy. God is always subject, the “great I AM,” impervious to our attempts to objectify and manipulate. We meet this pure emanation of being in our own deep silence, not in ideology or abstraction. And we meet it in diverse ways, in each other and in the beauty and wonder of creation, the ocean of being, of suffering and bliss, that we and even the creator have swum in. Because this growth requires depth and depth needs silence, the catholic mind . . . requires contemplation. To think of contemplation as a kind of luxury, relaxation or spare time occupation entirely misses the meaning of the opening of the catholic mind as the only essential way we have to glorify God.
After meditation: Simone Weil, Letter 6, May 26, 1942, “Last Thoughts” in WAITING FOR GOD, tr. Emma Craufurd (New York: Harper Perennial Classics, 2001), pp. 49, 50, 51.
The children of God should not have any other country here below but the universe itself, with the totality of all the reasoning creatures it ever has contained, contains or will contain. This is the native city to which we owe our love. . . . Our love should stretch as widely across all space, and should be as equally distributed in every portion of it, as is the very light of the sun. Christ has bidden us to attain to the perfection of [God] by imitating God’s indiscriminate bestowal of light. . . . We have to be catholic, that is to say, not bound by so much as a thread to any created thing, unless it be to creation in its totality. . . . We are living in times that have no precedent, and in our present situation, universality, which could formerly be implicit, has to be fully explicit. It has to permeate our language and the whole of our way of life. . . . [I]t is almost equivalent to a new revelation of the universe and of human destiny. . . . More genius is needed than was needed by Archimedes to invent mechanics and physics. Today it is not nearly enough merely to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent. . . . The world needs saints who have genius, just as a plague-stricken town needs doctors.