Daily Riches: Disruptive Jesus (Alexandra Petri, Albert Einstein, H. G. Wells)

“The gentleman arrested Thursday and tried before Pontius Pilate had a troubled background. Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals. He had had prior run-ins with local authorities—most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it. At the time of his arrest, he had not held a fixed residence for years. Instead, he led an itinerant lifestyle, staying at the homes of friends and advocating the redistribution of wealth. He had come to the attention of the authorities more than once for his unauthorized distribution of food [and] disruptive public behavior…. Some say that his brutal punishment at the hands of the state was out of proportion to and unrelated to any of these incidents in his record. But after all, he was no angel.” Alexandra Petri

“I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene…. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” Albert Einstein

“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” H.G. Wells

“He was despised and rejected”
Isaiah 53:3

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Jesus was homeless, poor, hung out with seedy characters, and broke many social customs and religious laws. What would you think about such an outsider today?
  • Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of capital crimes–but by false testimony, political machinations, and a sham trial. Has the story of Jesus made you more aware of how easily someone can be treated unfairly by the criminal justice system? …how routinely dissent is suppressed?
  • The religious and political leaders of the day condemned Jesus as dangerous and subversive because of their own self-interest. Has the story of Jesus made you more skeptical of authority, both political and religious?

Abba, thank you for the luminous Nazarene.

For More: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: Impending Cosmic Disaster (Thomas Merton and Boris Pasternak)

“I know from my own experience that in the last twenty years, the world has moved a very long way towards conformism and passivity. So long a way that the distance is, to me, both frightening and disconcerting. I have been all the more sensitive to it because I have spent this time in the isolation of a contemplative monastery, and have only recently come back into contact … with the America which I used to know as a rather articulate, critical and vociferously independent place. It is certainly not so any more. Not that the people do not complain and criticize, but their complaints and criticisms, indeed their most serious concerns, seem to be involved in trivialities and illusions–against a horrifying background of impending cosmic disaster. It seems to be that for all our pride in our freedom and individuality we have complete renounced thinking for ourselves. What passes for ‘thinking’ is mass-produced, passively accepted, or not even accepted. We simply submit to the process of being informed, without anything actually registering on our mind at all. …If we stop to think about what [Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago] says, we will realize that if Pasternak is ever fully studied, he is just as likely to be regarded as a dangerous writer in the West as he is in the East. He is saying that political and social structures as we understand them are things of the past, and that the crisis through which we are now passing is nothing but the full and inescapable manifestation of their falsity. For twenty centuries we have called ourselves Christians, without even beginning to understand one tenth of the Gospel. We have been taking Caesar for God and God for Caesar. Now that ‘charity is growing cold’ and we stand facing the smoky dawn of an apocalyptic era, Pasternak reminds us that there is only one source of truth, but that it is not sufficient to know the source is there—we must go and drink from it, as he has done.” Thomas Merton (1959)
.
“Sin will be rampant everywhere,
and the love of many will grow cold.”
Jesus in Matthew 24:12
.

Moving From Head to Heart

  • People on both the political “left” and “right” believe they are “thinking for themselves”–and consider others misguided–as passively repeating mere slogans. Do you have a practice that forces you to critique your assumptions?
  • If politics as we know it is a “thing of the past”, and we’re facing “an apocalyptic era”, where do we turn?
  • One thing surely–we must turn to “love”–but not merely as a concept or belief, but as what we “drink”–moving beyond that “one tenth of the gospel.” What might this mean for you?

Lord, help!

For More: Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton

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Thanks for reading! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Worship of Might and the Bitter Irony of History (Abraham Heschel and J. Mullenburg)

“Why were so few voices raised in the ancient world to protest against the ruthlessness of man? Why are human beings so obsequious, ready to kill and ready to die at the call of kings and chieftains? Perhaps it is because they worship might, venerate those who command might, and are convinced that it is by force that man prevails. The splendor and pride of kings blind the people. The Mesopotamian, for example, felt convinced that authorities were always right. . . . The prophets repudiated the work as well as the power of man as an object of supreme adoration. They denounced ‘arrogant boasting’ and ‘haughty pride’ (Isa. 10:12), the kings who ruled the nations in anger, the oppressors (Isa. 14:4-6), the destroyers of nations, who went forth to inflict waste, ruin, and death (Jer. 4:7), the ‘guilty men, whose own might is their god’ (Hab. 1:11) … The end of public authority is to realize the moral law, a task for which both knowledge and understanding as well as the possession of power are indispensable means. Yet inherent in power is the tendency to breed conceit.’ . . . one of the most striking and one of the most pervasive features of the prophetic polemic [is] the denunciation and distrust of power in all its forms and guises. The hunger of the powerful knows no satiety; the appetite grows on what it feeds. Power exalts itself and is incapable of yielding to any transcendent judgment; it “listens to no voice” (Zeph. 3:2) .'[2] It is the bitter irony of history that the common people, who are devoid of power and are the prospective victims of its abuse, are the first to become the ally of him who accumulates power.” Abraham Heschel

My power works best in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Moving From Head to Heart

  • How much of what Heschel describes from the ancient world do you see today? (e.g., the worship of power? the “bitter irony” of the manipulation of the powerless?)
  • Do you agree with the Hebrew prophets “denunciation and distrust of power in all its forms and guises?” How does this affect your reading of the news? … your politics? …your life of faith?
  • God spoke through the prophets, and those prophets often focused on governments and what we might consider “political” issues. Do you think of God as being concerned with the politics of human history? Does it matter?

Abba, may we always speak up for the powerless – never contribute to the exploitation of the weak.

For More: The Prophets by Abraham Heschel

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. By goal is to share something of value you with in 400 words or less. Thanks for following and sharing my blog. – Bill

[2] J. Mullenburg, The Way of Israel

Daily Riches: Remembering and Rising to Our Better Selves (Pope Francis and Thomas Merton)

“I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born.” Thomas Merton

“Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. …In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.” Pope Francis

“ Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Luke 6:31

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Is religion as you practice it, part of the problem (extremism, reductionism, polarization), or the solution (protecting freedom, fostering love, working against grave injustices, creating social consensus)?
  • Is the language of your religious leaders characterized by the moral courage, humility and hope that Pope Francis demonstrated before Congress?
  • Do you recognize both the “image of God” and the “image of the world” in yourself? Can you be gracious and patient with yourself accordingly? …with others?

Abba, may your image increasingly prevail in us as individuals and communities of faith.

For More: The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. Thanks for reading and sharing them. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

 

Daily Riches: Summer Vacation Break

Hi everyone. I will be on vacation this week, so I won’t be sending out any Daily Riches from richerbyfar.com. As always, I really appreciate your interest in and support of the blog. Thanks for reading and sharing, and for your prayers!

While I’m away, don’t forget there are about 450 daily posts from the last 18 months. I’m sure there is something there you haven’t seen and that may encourage you as you seek after God and God seeks after you. (see below)

Bill

Daily Riches: Explaining Jesus (Hans Küng)

“Jesus apparently cannot be fitted in anywhere: neither with the rulers nor with the rebels, neither with the moralizers nor with the silent ascetics. He turns out to be provocative, both to right and left. Backed by no party, challenging on all sides: ‘The man who fits no formula.’ He is neither a philosopher nor a politician, neither a priest nor a social reformer. Is he a genius, a hero, a saint? Or a religious reformer? But is he not more radical than someone who tries to re-form, reshape things? Is he a prophet? But is a ‘last’ prophet, who cannot be surpassed, a prophet at all? The normal typology seems to break down here. He seems to have something of the most diverse types (perhaps more of the prophet and reformer than of the others), but for that very reason does not belong to any one of them. He is on a different plane: apparently closer than the priests to God, freer than the ascetics in regard to the world, more moral than the moralists, more revolutionary than the revolutionaries. Thus he has depths and vastnesses lacking in others. It is obviously difficult both for friends and enemies to understand him, still less wholly to penetrate his personality. Over and over again it becomes clear that Jesus is different. Despite all parallels in detail, the historical Jesus in his wholeness turns out to be completely unique –  in his own time and ours.” Hans Küng

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’  They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?'” Matthew 19:13-15

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you in awe of the “vastnesses” in Jesus? Do you give others the impression that you have him pretty much figured out?
  • Can you think of anyone like him in ancient or modern times? Anyone you’ve ever known?
  • If he was “provocative” both “to right and left”, do you think that either the right or left can fully represent him today? Does Jesus challenge the positions of your political party? …your denomination?

Abba, I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene….

For More: On Being a Christian by Hans Küng

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”