Learn To Do Good

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 – The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 11, 2013

“Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow….” (Isaiah 1:17)

Screen-shot-2012-08-09-at-9.21.01-AMI’ll likely grit my teeth in anger whenever someone reads the Bible and then claims they understand God’s intentions.

‘Cuz the Bible says . . .

Slavery is acceptable; though it also invites us to turn the other cheek.

Women are men’s property; however, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Parents can stone a child if the kid bad-mouths Mom and Pop; and yet, unless we become child-like, we won’t see God’s Kindom.

The 39 books of the so-called Old Testament and the 27 books of the so-called New Testament proclaim hundreds of wonderful tasks to do or attitudes to have for a person of faith, but it’s just as easy to identify hundreds of other Biblical edicts that embarrass, denigrate or shock modern and ancient believers. The Bible can too easily become another way to gouge the believer who doesn’t believe in your way, rather than a guide to understand the many ways to seek a closer relationship with the Holy.

For me, it’s easy—with my head held high and my faithful heart beating strong—to backpedal from any fellow believer too zealously clinging to the Bible’s literal and superior authority. But then I read the opening of Isaiah, and grit my teeth for a far different reason.

Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Is this what God desired and desires? Sought and seeks? Hoped and hopes? Continue reading →

You Can Handle The Truth

John 16:12-15  – Trinity Sunday (or) the First Sunday following Pentecost – for Sunday, May 26, 2013

“When the Spirit of truth comes, s/he will guide you into all the truth…” (John 16:13)

"You can't handle the truth!"
“You can’t handle the truth!”

Jesus—so said John’s Gospel—spoke to his disciples about the Spirit of truth.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth . . .

According to my second-hand, hardbound, outdated Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word “truth” is used in the Bible (caution…Strong’s uses the King James Version) around 250 times. I apologize for the qualifying word “around,” but Strong’s print has gotten smaller as I’ve aged. An accurate count is a challenge.

I’m just telling the truth here. Remember, truth has a “u” in the middle!

I could say, “Trust me.” It’s another word with “u” in the middle, but the exhausting Strong’s lists fewer Biblical variations of trust than truth, so trusting may not be as important as being truthful.

There’s an inspiring, intimidating Sufi* saying (although a Facebook friend—always a reliable source—informed me the saying originated with Buddhists*) that goes like this . . .

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.

At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?”

At the second, ask, “Is it necessary?”

At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

Buddhist or Sufi, those three questions should cause me to keep my trap shut most of the time! Continue reading →

Magical Thinking

Luke 24:44-53 & Acts 1:1-11 – Ascension Day – for Sunday, May 12, 2013 (or May 9, 2013 for ascension sticklers)

“…he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven…” (Luke 24:51)

I felt compelled to write about Jesus’ ascension to heaven. And, as Fox Mulder fervently intoned on the classic “X Files” television show, “I want to believe.”Fox-Mulder-fox-mulder-25366898-500-375

I wanted to believe Luke and Acts were correct when they described Jesus rising from earth to the sky and then . . . out of sight. I want to believe Ephesians 4:8-10 (“…when he ascended far above the heavens…”) and I Timothy 3:16 (“taken up in glory…”) were additional factual, Biblical and faithful confirmations of Jesus’ divine flight.

This is what I told myself on the morning I read (again) about Jesus’ ascension and decided this time I’d approach it as true.

It happened!

But I couldn’t do it. Not for a thoughtful moment. Not for a faithful second.

I think the ascension is holy who-ha. Fanciful faith. It’s splashy and flashy but without a dash of historical veracity.

While I wonder about the contradictory and confounding resurrection stories, there’s an inexplicable core belief that something transcendent happened to, with and for Jesus at Easter. I can read, and agree with, critical scholars like Bert Ehrman or Marcus Borg (who have rigorously questioned the Biblical accounts of the resurrection) and yet their views don’t shake my Easter faith. Indeed, Ehrman, Borg and other progressive scholars have strengthened my faith. Continue reading →