Daily Riches: Crossing Boundaries to Where God Is Revealed (Belden Lane)

“The desert loves to strip bare.” Jerome

“Desert and mountain places, located on the margins of society, are locations of choice in luring God’s people to a deeper understanding of who they are. Yahweh frequently moves to the boundary in order to restore the center, calling a broken people back to justice and compassion. When Ahab brings the worship of Baal into the court of Israel, God sends fire on the mountain to refocus the direction of Israel’s praise (1 Kings 18). At the peripheral place, unsettling and ‘eccentric’ as it may be, the core of a people’s identity is reconceived. Scholars sensitive to the function of place in biblical narrative observe that Jesus, in a similar way, frequently presses the people closest to him into places they find threatening. Jesus is always redefining the nature of ‘center.’ He moves regularly beyond the safety and exclusiveness of the Jewish homeland in Galilee to include Gentiles in outlying regions where his disciples are reluctant to go. He functions repeatedly as a boundary crosser, pushing his disciples to edges they find exceedingly uncomfortable. In Mark 6:45, he uses the harsh language of a sailor in forcing them to cross the Sea of Galilee, raising sail for Gentile Bethsaida. ‘Just shut up and get in the boat,’ he seems to be saying. They don’t want to go, but Jesus insists. He knows that places on the edge, those considered God-forsaken by many, are where his identity as Messiah has to be revealed. Out in the wilds anything can happen. He pushes to the east coast of the Sea of Galilee, to the swine-herding country of the Geraenes to heal the demoniac (Luke 8:26-39). He goes north over the border into Tyre and Sidon to affirm the faith of the Syrophenician woman and cure her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28). He heals in Decapolis, on the far side of the Jordan. He feeds a multitude on the eastern or foreign side of the lake, even as he had done on the western or Jewish side (Mark 8:1-10). Ever dragging his disciples away from the familiarity of home, he declares present the power of the kingdom in the alien landscapes of another land.” Belden Lane

“Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples
get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida”
Mark 6:45

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your Jesus a “boundary crosser?”
  • Has he been dragging you “away from the familiarity of home?”
  • If not, why not?

Abba, use me as I move out of my comfort zone.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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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. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: Religion and Violence (Jonathan Sacks and Dan Clendenin)

“Sibling rivalry is ‘the most primal form of violence,’ and ‘the dominant theme of the book of Genesis.’  We desire what others have, become rivals for it, and then fight to get it in what we wrongly think is a zero sum game. And so Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim to be the one, true heir of Abraham. We fight to be the sole inheritor of the divine promise. The stories are familiar to those who know their Bibles, but in Sacks’s ‘close reading’ of them, he offers new interpretations in which sibling rivalry is revealed and then subverted. With Isaac and Ishmael, God chooses Isaac, but he doesn’t reject Ishmael. The story of Jacob and Esau is ‘the refutation of sibling rivalry in the Bible.’ Recall how Jacob returned the blessing that he stole from his blind father Isaac. The story of Joseph and his brothers who tried to kill him takes up a third of the book of Genesis—in the end, the victim forgives and the perpetrators repent. Rachel and Leah exemplify the ‘rejection of rejection.’ Sibling rivalry is natural, says Sacks, but these stories remind us that it’s not inevitable. Human beings cannot live without a group identity, and religion might be the most powerful of them all. By definition, groups require an Us and a Them. …There’s no middle ground, no subtlety or nuance, only black and white, in and out. By nature, we extend altruism toward my In group, and hostility toward my Out group. Here again the Hebrew revelation subverts our natural inclinations by commending a radical role reversal. Do not oppress the stranger, the people outside your group. Why? Because you know what it’s like to be oppressed as a stranger in a strange land (Exodus 22.21).  …have mercy on them, remember that you too were once aliens. …Protect the weak, care for widows and orphans, help the poor, speak up for those who have no voice. Do justice, love kindness. Don’t long for power, for you can’t impose faith or truth by force. Religion, argues Sacks, is an anti-politics that lives without power. Instead, it persuades by example.” Dan Clendenin

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite,
but love your neighbor as yourself.
Leviticus 19:18

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Does your religion subvert the tendency to create “insiders” and “outsiders?”
  • Does your religion persuade by power … or example?
  • Is there any good reason why Jews, Christians and Muslims must fight with each other? Can you imagine ways we might be able to learn from each other?

Abba, help me see others as insiders, included with me in your love.

For More: Not in God’s Name by Jonathan Sacks

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Thanks for reading/following my blog! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

 

Daily Riches: Don’t Walk By (Deepti Hajela and Henri Nouwen)

“The homeless man lay face down, unmoving, on the sidewalk outside an apartment building, blood from knife wounds pooling underneath his body. One person passed by in the early morning. Then another, and another. Video footage from a surveillance camera shows at least seven people going by, some turning their heads to look, others stopping to gawk. One even lifted the homeless man’s body, exposing what appeared to be blood on the sidewalk underneath him, 20150507_211748-1before walking away. It wasn’t until after the 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant had been lying there for nearly an hour that emergency workers arrived, and by then, it was too late. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax …had died. ‘I think it’s horrific,’ said Marla Cohan, who teaches at P.S. 82, a school across the street…. ‘I think people are just afraid to step in; they don’t want to get involved; who knows what their reasons are?’ Tale-Yax was walking behind a man and a woman on 144th Street in the Jamaica section of Queens around 6 a.m. April 18 when the couple got into a fight that became physical, according to police, who pieced together what happened from surveillance footage and interviews with area residents. Tale-Yax was stabbed several times when he intervened to help the woman….” Deepti Hajela

“One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there. Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being ‘other.’ Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.” Henri Nouwen

“with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Jesus, in Matthew 7:2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you aware of the negative forces at work in your life? (apathy, fear, anger, hurry)
  • Will you commit to following Jesus in his love for Others–in spite of such forces?
  • Will you allow him to show you his great love for you–and for Others–in the process?

Abba, we claim your great unconditional love for ourselves, and for all.

For more: Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! Please leave a comment. – Bill

Daily Riches: That Filth on the Street (Brennan Manning)

“Ironically it was April Fool’s Day, 1975, 6:30 a.m., and I woke up in a doorway on Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was thick in an alcoholic fog, sniffing vomit all over my sweater, staring down at my bare feet. I didn’t know a wino would steal my shoes during the night to buy a bottle of Thunderbird, but one did. I had been out on the street for a year and a half, drunk every day, sleeping on the beach until the cops chased me away. You could find me in doorways or under the bridge, always clutching my precious little bottle of Tequila.13071807_10156744822040251_2539662960200497518_o And it wasn’t just that this good Franciscan priest drank too much. I broke every one of the Ten Commandments six times Tuesday: adultery, countless acts of fornication, violence to support my addiction, character assassination to anybody who dared to criticize me or remonstrate with me. The morning I woke up in the alcoholic boozy fog, I looked down the street to see a woman coming toward me, maybe twenty-five years old, blonde, and attractive. She had her son in hand, maybe four years old. The boy broke loose from his mother’s grip, ran to the doorway, and stared down at me. His mother rushed in behind him, tucked her hand over his eyes, and said, ‘Don’t look at that filth. That’s nothing but pure filth.’ Then I felt her shoe. She broke two of my ribs with that kick. That filth was Brennan Manning, thirty-two years ago.” Brennan Manning

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison
and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.’
Jesus, in Matthew 25:35-40

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Notice how the woman saw the drunken priest as a “that.”
  • Imagine, breaking the ribs of Jesus with your kick.
  • In this story would you be the woman or the priest?

Abba, teach my eyes to see the precious person behind the distressing disguise.

For More: The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: No Outsiders, No “Others” (James Martin and Frederick Buechner)

“The movement of Jesus is always from the outside-in: welcoming, inviting, including. Jesus was always including people, bringing them in from the outside.  As James Alison has noted, for Jesus there was no “other.” All were welcome members of his community. By speaking to ‘outsiders,’ healing those who were not part of the Jewish community, as well as his ‘table fellowship’ with the outcasts, Jesus was embodying God’s hospitality. Jesus’s hospitality was the foundation of later patterns of Christian hospitality. In the Middle Ages, St. Benedict, in his set of rules for his religious order gave his monks the dictum, Hospes venit, Christus venit. ‘The guest comes, Christ comes.’ That is, for the Benedictines all guests were to be welcomed as Christ. In the 17th century, St. Alphonsus Rodríguez, a humble Jesuit brother, worked as a porter, or doorkeeper, at the Jesuit college of Majorca, in Spain. His job was to greet all the students, faculty and visitors who rapped on the great wooden door. The humble Jesuit brother had a wonderful way of reminding himself to be cheerful and hospitable to all visitors, and … welcome them as if they were Jesus himself. Upon hearing someone knocking on the door, he would say, ‘I’m coming, Lord!'” James Martin

“Jesus is apt to come, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable moments. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but … at supper time, or walking along a road. …He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.” Frederick Buechner

  “I was a stranger and you invited me in,”
Jesus in Matthew 25:35

“you are no longer foreigners and strangers….”
Ephesians 2:19

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Who are the “foreigners and strangers” in your life? Do you think of them as treasured and loved by Jesus?
  • Do you have elevated expectations of how Jesus would appear, should he appear to you? Would you expect it to be obvious?
  • In Sunday morning church, do you have the attitude, “The guest comes. Christ comes.”?

Abba, don’t let me forget when I was a stranger. Don’t ever let me forget that feeling.

For More: Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. 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.”