But We’re Disciples of Moses

As we know, I’m currently between churches and I’m trying to figure out where exactly I fit in the ministry scheme of things. Yesterday I was reading the lectionary passages and the Gospel passage was from John 9, a story of Jesus healing a blind man. This is the one, if you’re familiar with Bible stories, when the disciples ask who sinned that this man was born blind.  Jesus made the paste of mud & spit and smeared it on the man’s eyes and he could see. BTW – this is my biblical justification for spa treatments.

Here’s the part of the story I find particularly interesting at the time in my journey:

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah[d] would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

I’m interested here in the view of the man’s healing by the religious establishment. First, they don’t believe it’s possible. Then when they are proven wrong, they denied Jesus’ authority. How many times has Jesus intervened and brought healing into someone’s life and we are either surprised or incredulous and definitely skeptical. Then our next thing is to force them into established religion to make sure we can exploit their experience to get more butts in seats or we decide it wasn’t from God because it didn’t fit our view of how God acts in the world?

Right now there are two biblical films in theaters and a lot of the Christian community is trying to drum up support for those films so Hollywood will make more films that support their world view. What bugs me about this is that what they’re saying is, “We only see a story as valid if it matches how we see the world. If your story is not palatable to us, we don’t want to see it.” This view says that God can only be seen and appreciated in a certain, sanitized context. The truth is, God is in all life. There is no sacred/secular divide. It’s all sacred. It’s all God’s territory. The challenge is to see God in everyone’s story.

The same Christians who read this story and pity the Jews are the same Christians who behave exactly like the Jews. They have a narrow view of how God can be seen and act in the world and if someone dares to contradict that they are not welcome. This is my issue with church. And it’s on all sides – progressive and evangelical. For example:

Churches that are theologically conservative have more contemporary worship and are more open, in some contexts to getting out in the world. However, there is no full inclusion of women, LGBTQ people, and they’re pretty white.

Churches that are progressive theologically often have more traditional worship services and are structurally in their own way so that it’s very difficult to get them to move out of their comfort zone to get into the community. But you get some pretty full inclusion.

Both sets frustrate me in completely different ways and both suffer from Pharisee syndrome, in that there are some things that must always be done in a certain way or you’re not welcome. Do you see my issue here? Sometimes I just want to start my own thing, but then I’m pretty sure it’d be just me.

Friday Five: Signs of Spring

Deb writes:

2013-03-25 19.54.19

As spring slowly begins to bring a thaw to those of us in the northern Northern Hemisphere, I have been watching for signs of renewal and rebirth. It is also part of the season of Lent as well. This week, let’s focus on the signs of spring within us and around us!

Share with us:

1. Your favorite spring flower. (Is it blooming yet? If so, share the joy by posting a picture of that loveliness with those of us still waiting!)

I don’t really know so much about the flowers, I just know they’re pretty and I like them. I prefer a mix of colorful wildflowers as opposed to one particular type. Is this good?


2. Your spring cleaning routine. Do you have one? Is there a family memory or tradition around it?

I’m not sure it’s associated with spring because I’m a big purger and I like to get rid of stuff I haven’t looked at/used/touched in a while every few months and I happen to be going through one of them now. Because I work for a big clothing company, I shop a lot and have too many clothes. Therefore, I get rid of a lot. Currently I’ve got about 10 Trader Joe’s bags full of clothes awaiting a trip to the Sojourner Center. Also adding some household items to that load. I’m doing an electronic purge as well, unsubscribing to emails, filing emails, getting rid of old archived things I don’t need, etc.  I don’t actually “clean”, per se. I do clean up after myself but since I LOATHE cleaning, I have my place cleaned every two weeks, because, did I mention? I LOATHE CLEANING.

3. A personal area of growth where you have seen some success lately. It can be personal, physical, spiritual or familial.

I am becoming a grownup. It’s weird. I know – late to the party, but here I am. And I look fabulous! Last week I bought my first new car and now I have to keep it nice and make payments on it. This has brought some more grownup behavior in other areas as well. I kind of like it/am resigned to it, if that makes sense. I’ve never been “afraid” of growing up, but I’ve just never gotten around to it. Always been kind of a procrastinator. But here we are. Adulthood.

Presenting Princess Fiona Anastasia Elantra:

4. When does “spring” usually arrive in your area? Are you holding out for late May? Or are you one of the lucky ones who has already put away her sweaters and mittens?

Kids, Spring started in mid-January here in Phoenix and mercifully we’re still in it. We’re toggling b/t mid- to high 70s & low 80s now but I anticipate triple digits by the end of April. We stay there until October, which, believe me, gets old. But spring is cute while it lasts. This year my big trip is Australia in November, which means I get to experience 2 springs. Looking forward to what’s going to happen there.

5. A verse or set of verses from Scripture that speaks “new growth” to you.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Friday Five: At the Movies

3dogmom writes:

Recovering from a wee surgical procedure this week, and in the wake of the Oscars last weekend, I’ve been mindful of movies in all their assorted incarnations. For today’s ff, I hope you’ll share with us some of the movies that tickle your fancy!

1) Is there a film that so captured your imagination that you couldn’t stop thinking about it? In what way(s) did it affect you?

I call these “film grenades” where you watch and then later the thoughts about it just keep coming. I wish I could remember one off the top of my head right now. I will say that this weekend I was catching up on some Oscar films and I watched Blue Jasmine, for which Cate Blanchett won Best Actress, and it was well-deserved. Her performance was beautiful, emotional, nuanced and she put herself out there. The film is Woody Allen’s take on A Streetcar Named Desire and Cate’s Jasmine was his Blanche DuBois. Allen jumped back and forth between flashbacks of Jasmine’s life in New York and her new life in San Francisco and we saw what caused this already fragile woman to slowly lose her grip on reality.

I also watched 12 Years a Slave. Wow. Heavy, but so beautifully done. Also using a non-linear time sequence, Steve McQueen tells the story of Solomon Northrup who was kidnapped and sold into slavery after being a free man for years. Chiwetel Ejiofor gave a ridiculously good performance as we see him learn to cope with this increasingly horrible situation. He is sold to 3 different masters who become increasingly depraved until he is ultimately forced to beat a fellow slave or have all the other slaves shot. To me it is a reminder that racism in this country has such deeply held roots and is a systemic issue to this day.

2) What religious/spiritual film has touched you? This could be something overtly thematic, like The Last Temptation of Christ, or something more subtle, like Enchanted April.

One of my favorite spiritual films is one that no one has seen or heard of. It was the first of the now defunct Project Greenlight, a screenwriting contest that was sponsored by Ben Affleck & Matt Damon after they won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting. The winner of the contest got to have their film made. The result of the first contest was Stolen Summer, a film about an 8 year old boy who belongs to a large Irish Catholic family and his friendship with the son of the local Rabbi who has been diagnosed with leukemia. It’s a delightful look at interfaith relationships through the eyes of children and I highly recommend it.

3) When the going gets tough, is there a film you turn to for distraction and/or to help shift your mood?

Depends. Sometimes I like to wallow and watch depressing movies. If I’m looking to distract, I’ll go to classics like Sound of Music or Pillow Talk.

4) What is your all-time favorite movie?

Out of Africa

5) If you were to choose a film for viewing and discussion with your congregation, what would you choose?

I’m currently between congregations, but if I were going to choose a film to discuss with my congregation, it would be The Big Kahuna. Or maybe just this scene. This is why:

Bonus: If your life were to be made into a feature film, who would you want to play you?

While I’d like it to be Angelina Jolie, the more realistic choice would be America Ferrera.

Oh, Right. Lent.

Ok, so it’s Lent already and since I’m taking a bit of a break from formal churching, it sort of snuck up on me. I’ve seen a couple of resources around the interwebs and while some years I’ve given things up, I generally prefer to engage with the world differently instead of withdrawing. One thing I always need work on is general mindfulness – being present rather than being mentally elsewhere. I acknowledge that my brain works in future planning mode much of the time, and I’m grateful for it. I also acknowledge that I need to encourage my brain to present in the moment as well. Not judging, just encouraging brain development.

I’ve signed up for this. I have no idea what it is, but the facebook told me to do it, so I am. It’s in England, so I don’t even know if I’m allowed. Day 1 is create a journal and “remember the awesome bits.” Tomorrow is day 1 in this country, so I’ll take note of my awesome bits then.

I also really like the House for All Sinners & Saints list of 40 Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent. I’m going to do some of these too:

Day 1: Pray for your enemies

Day 2: Walk, carpool, bike or bus it.

Day 3: Don’t turn on the car radio

Day 4: Give $20 to a non-profit of your choosing

(Sunday)

Day 5: Take 5 minutes of silence at noon

Day 6: Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before

Day 7: Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill

Day 8: No bitching day

Day 9: Do someone else’s chore

Day 10: Buy a few $5 fast food gift cards to give to homeless people you encounter

(Sunday)

Day 11: Call an old friend

Day 12: Pray the Paper (pray for people and situations in today’s news)

Day 13: Read Psalm 139 http://bible.oremus.org

Day 14: Pay a few sincere compliments

Day 15: Bring your own mug

Day 16: Educate yourself about human trafficking www.praxus.org

(Sunday)

Day 17: Forgive someone

Day 18: Internet diet

Day 19: Change one light in your house to a compact florescent

Day 20: Check out morning and evening prayer at http://dailyoffice.wordpress.com

Day 21: Ask for help

Day 22: Tell someone what you are grateful for

(Sunday)

Day 23: Introduce yourself to a neighbor

Day 24: Read Psalm 121 http://bible.oremus.org

Day 25: Bake a cake

Day 26: No shopping day

Day 27: Light a virtual candle http://rejesus.co.uk/spirituality/post_prayer/

Day 28: Light an actual candle

(Sunday)

Day 29: Write a thank you note to your favorite teacher

Day 30: Invest in canvas shopping bags

Day 31: Use Freecycle www.freecycle.org

Day 32: Donate art supplies to your local elementary school

Day 33: Read John 8:1-11 http://bible.oremus.org

Day 34: Worship at a friend’s mosque, synogogue or church and look for the beauty

(Sunday)

Day 35: Confess a secret

Day 36: No sugar day – where else is there sweetness in your life?

Day 37: Give $20 to a local non-profit

Day 38: Educate yourself about a saint www.catholic.org/saints

Day 39: Pray for peace

Day 40: Pray for your enemies (you probably have new ones by now) then decide which of these exercises you’ll keep for good