Daily Riches: “The Unfamiliar Jesus” (David Brooks, Romano Guardini)

“My background is Jewish. So I see Jesus through a Jerusalem lens. To see him in that lens is to see him embedded in the Jewish world of 2,000 years ago. That world is nothing like the peacefulness of an American church pew. It’s nothing like the quiet domesticity of a modern Bible study. It was a world of strife, combat and fractious intensity. The Holy land then, and it is now, was a spiritual and a literal battleground. The primary factor was foreign occupation. Jews and Jewish homeland had been oppressed and occupied for centuries. The Babylonians, the Syrians, the Romans–certain questions would have been electric in the air: Why are we oppressed? Who amongst our people is betraying us and collaborating? How do we survive as a people under the crushing burden of their power? Everything was fraught, semi-hysterical and tension-filled. Desperate gangs roamed the land. Minor league revolutionaries were perpetually rising up. N. T. Wright lists seven separate revolts between the years 26 and 36, about the time of Jesus’s ministry. . . . When you see Jesus in this context, you see how completely bold and aggressive he was. He lived in a crowded, angry world yet took on all comers. . . . Jesus walked into a complex network of negotiated and renegotiated power settlements between various factions. And he . . . pierced through them and went right to the core. At a moment of elite polarization, he was bringing access to the kingdom directly to the poor. He was offering triumph directly to the downtrodden. [He taught] . . . another way, another path, a higher serenity. [The Beatitudes] were an inversion of values. They were beauty in the storm. Romano Guardini put it beautifully–in the Beatitudes, something of the celestial grandeur breaks through. There are no mere formulas for superior ethics, but tidings of sacred and supreme realities entering into the world. Jesus was love and beauty in the midst of muck and violence and the most difficult circumstances imaginable. You don’t have to be Christian. You can be atheist, Jewish, Muslim–whatever, and you can be astounded by this man and astounded by the faith he inspired. . . . [and] these are the acts that have the power to shock . . . a revolution in our culture and in our consciousness.” David Brooks

“Behold, the Man!”
John 19:5 NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Was the Jesus you know an “agitator”–challenging and offending the political and religious leaders of his day? –often rocking the boat?
  • Have we somehow pared Jesus down to make him more acceptable–more manageable–less demanding?
  • Have you turned to his story lately (as an adult)?

Abba, guide me into “good trouble” (John Lewis), and truth seeking just like Jesus.

For More: David Brooks at the National Cathedral in Washington

_____________

Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches: A God Familiar with Confinement, Torture, Disrespect, and Abuse (Willie James Jennings)

“We know too much to ever be fooled into believing that prisons are natural or normal.” Willie James Jennings

“Arrest, incarceration, and imprisonment have never been and never are neutral processes, functioning according to basic rules of justice and human utility. Incarceration is a process at the disposal of the rich and powerful . . . . The prison has never been about criminals but about societies. As this story of Paul and Silas [Acts 16:16-40] indicates, the prison is a tool for control and containment. The question we must continually ask is, Who desires to use this tool? This question turns a searchlight toward finding who, how, and why the prison gets used. . . . This is why we are told to visit those in prison as though we ourselves were imprisoned with them (Heb. 13:3). We must be present in the prison to destroy its anthropology and challenge its false morality and to witness to all those incarcerated a God familiar with confinement and torture, disrespect and abuse. Yet we must also be present in all the places where laws are made and modified to advantage some and disadvantage others, and to challenge social policies that align those already suffering under poverty on a pathway to prison by strangling off the resources and social services they need in order to build a flourishing life.” Willie James Jennings

“But Saul began to destroy the church.
Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women
and put them in prison.” Acts 8:3 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • When you think of prisoners, do you think not only of Alcatraz and Rikers Island but also of John Lewis, John Donne, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Richard Wurmbrand, Adoniram Judson, William Tyndale, John Knox, Martin Luther, John Hus, Joan of Arc, George Fox, John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, William Penn, Meriam Ibrahim, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus himself? . . . Do you think of people you know? . . . family members?
  •  Do you think of prison as a necessary cure for the problem (as “inevitable”) or as contributing to the problem (“unjust” or “a tool for control/the “rich and powerful”)?
  • Does God care about prisons and love prisoners? Does our society? Do Christians? What are your “trigger” feelings when you think about it?

Abba, may I never forget that I worship “a God familiar with confinement and torture, disrespect and abuse.”

For More: Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible by Willie James Jennings

_____________

Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches: “American Idealism” (James Baldwin and Stacey Abrams)

“It comes as a great shock to discover the country which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and your identity has not, in its whole system of reality, evolved any place for you.” James Baldwin

“I don’t know what most white people in this country feel but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian church that is white and a Christian church that is black. I know, as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian church. I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me—that doesn’t matter—but I know I’m not in their union. I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to. Now this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.” James Baldwin

“Because we live in a nation that has begun its path to democracy by putting stumbling blocks in our way, we’ve got to start moving those blocks.” Stacey Abrams

“Love one another deeply, from the heart.”
1 Peter 1:22b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you offended by Baldwin’s critique of church and country?
  • Can you attempt to imagine living his experience? . . . feeling as he does?
  • Do you notice “stumbling blocks” meant for people of color where you live? Do you want them moved out of the way? Think about your answer.

Abba, teach me what it means to love deeply, from the heart. Truly.

For More: James Baldwin on Dick Cavett (1968)

_____________

Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Embracing Mystery, Paradox–Even Unknowing (Richard Rohr)

“I call non-silence ‘dualistic thinking,’ where everything is separated into opposites, like good and bad, life and death. In the West, we even believe that is what it means to be educated—to be very good at dualistic thinking. Join the debate club! But both Jesus and Buddha would call that judgmental thinking (Matthew 7:1-5), and they strongly warn us against it. Dualistic thinking is operative almost all of the time now. It is when we choose or prefer one side and then call the other side of the equation false, wrong, heresy, or untrue. But what we judge as wrong is often something to which we have not yet been exposed or that somehow threatens our ego. The dualistic mind splits the moment and forbids the dark side, the mysterious, the paradoxical. This is the common level of conversation that we experience in much of religion and politics and even every day conversation. It lacks humility and patience—and is the opposite of contemplation. In contemplative practice, the Holy Spirit frees us from taking sides and allows us to remain content long enough to let it teach, broaden, and enrich us in the partial darkness of every situation. We need to practice for many years and make many mistakes in the meantime to learn how to do this. Paul rather beautifully describes this kind of thinking: ‘Pray with gratitude and the peace of Christ, which is beyond knowledge or understanding (what I would call “the making of distinctions”), will guard both your mind and your heart in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). Teachers of contemplation show us how to stand guard and not let our emotions and obsessive thoughts control us. When we’re thinking nondualistically, with this guarded mind and heart, we will feel powerless for a moment, stunned into an embarrassing and welcoming silence. Then we will discover what is ours to do.” Richard Rohr

“To answer before listening––that is folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have everything separated into black and white, right and wrong, us v. them? Is this helping?
  • Are you aware of your impatience, arrogance, or judgmentalism towards others? (Think about discussions of politics!) If that’s a regular thing, have you stopped to ask why?
  • Can you practice responding more slowly to others, and listening in the silence for where you might have misunderstood? . . . where you’re being defensive?

May I unlearn, O God, what has taken me a lifetime to learn (my arrogance, my impatience).

For More: Silent Compassion by Richard Rohr. Cincinnati: Franciscian Media, 2014.

_____________

Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.