A Carburetor For Christ

Matthew 25:31-46 – The Reign of Christ, Final Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, November 23, 2014

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

Judgment Day.

The apocalypse.

End times.

Good sheep? Bad goat? (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA)

In Matthew’s Gospel, the future reckoning of the “good” and the “bad” hinges on actions in the present moment. With agrarian imagery familiar to his first century believers, Matthew’s Jesus declared the “good” sheep will be saved and rewarded and the “bad” goats will be abandoned, left out.

The bright dawn of Holy sorting is near for the good sheep! Those goats that live alienated from God, those goats that pander to the false gods of greed, avarice, deceit, and selfishness, will soon be cast into darkness.

And yet, doesn’t it always seem like the end times?

Were the Christian crusaders of the Middle Ages, with their menacing swords and fervent faith, the “sheep” or the “goats” as they attacked the “infidels” in the Holy Land? Both sides claimed God’s side. Didn’t their world feel as if it were on the verge of ending then, regardless of which side a soldier’s arrow was launched from?

In recent news, a 22 year-old Union soldier earned the Medal of Honor 151 years after he died trying to thwart Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Both the Union and the Confederacy claimed God’s side. Didn’t their world feel as if it were on the verge of ending then, regardless of which side squeezed a trigger or launched a cannonball? Continue reading →

God’s Go-To Guy

Exodus 33:12-23 – The 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, October 19, 2014

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glorious presence.’” (Exodus 33:18)

There's a new sheriff, er Moses, in town . . . Christian Bale will soon play Moses in the movies.
There’s a new sheriff, er Moses, in town . . . Christian Bale will soon play Moses in the movies.

Near the end of the conversation with God at the burning bush, Moses moped about not being eloquent. “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” claimed the guy (in Exodus 4:10) who’d soon lead the Children of Israel to freedom.

Really? (I can’t image Moses/Christian Bale, in the upcoming Ridley Scott film “Gods and Kings” being slow of speech! Charlton Heston’s Moses didn’t have a “slow tongue!”)

Much of Exodus depicted a whining, wondering, and willfull Moses. He cajoles, he vents, and he seethes. The precious child once plucked from a river’s bulrushes becomes the pushy man who persuades THE CREATOR OF THE WHOLE DARN UNIVERSE WHO IS CONTINUING TO CREATE AND ACCOMPLISH A WHOLE LOT MORE WHICH IS FAR BEYOND THE UNDERSTANDING OF MERE MORTALS to reveal the Holy name (which, in Hebrew, was gratefully shortened to Y-H-W-H instead of T-C-O-T-W-D-U-W-I-C-T-C-A-A-A-W-L-M-W-I-F-B-T-U-O-M-M.) Moses alone first received the radical and community-building commandments from God (and then the commandments again after some nasty idol business). Moses continually convinced God that the escaping, fake-deity-making, heartbreaking, and bellyaching Chosen People were worth saving.

Moses talked.

God listened.

God talked.

Moses listened. (Well, most of the time.)

Based on the various accounts of Exodus (including the chatty Exodus 33:12-23 example of the God and Moses dialogs) Y-H-W-H and Mister Moses were the Abbott and Costello (or Key and Peele for you moderns) of the Old Testament.

Moses, forever with one more request, requested in the thirty-third chapter of Exodus that God show God’s presence. Continue reading →

The Divine Lunge

Genesis 32:22-31 – The 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 3, 2014

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (Genesis 32:24)

Jacob traveled to seek favor—forgiveness—from his brother Esau.

Jacob sent his family on ahead and remained by the River Jabbok.

River. Sunset. Night approaching...
River. Sunset. Night approaching…

It was night, with the heat of the day finally easing. The Jabbok flowed, a liquid ribbon of life among the arid hills and barren ridges. Stars glittered overhead, nocturnal jewels. A breeze soothed Jacob’s skin, carrying the smoky remnants of old campfires and lingering fragrance of his departed family.

Jacob was alone, and yet not alone.

In a darkness only partly caused by night, Jacob waited. He was alone with the countless promises that he’d broken and made and broken again, the old lies he’d crafted and sold as the truth, the shameful acts that moaned from the hidden corners of his soul.

Jacob was alone, and yet not alone.

Why did he wait?

Why had he sent his wives and children across the Jabbok?

Had Jacob intuited something, in the murmuring of the river or in the whisper of wind, which had prompted him to stay?

And then, so said Genesis, a man wrestled Jacob. It would be a brutal struggle, lasting the night, without rules, with neither adversary relenting, with Jacob sustaining injury and still fighting on.

Like Jacob we live much of our lives in darkness. But if we’re busy-busy from dawn to dusk, or if we have that rare stretch of dreamless sleep, we pretend to temporarily escape or ignore the darkness. Though often enough, the darkness of our fears find us. Continue reading →