Saturday, March 31, 2007

Misunderstanding Jesus

On my way to church this morning, I heard a woman on NPR saying that liberal Christians were making a comeback on the political scene (not her words, but the idea) and that Jesus had talked more about "serving the poor" than anything else. Not really. I can't find such a program in the listing, so it must have been a quip quote in the news since we were approaching the hour--I moved on to another station

Often in the New Testament women "get it" when the men, even Jesus' close followers, are clueless. I think that's why the resurrection was revealed first to women. But the woman I heard today is missing the big picture. She probably thinks the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew is about feeding the poor and hungry; that sowing the seed and harvesting is about grain. Jesus did not set aside any of the concerns of Mosaic Law for the poor--don't exploit or oppress them, but have compassion. However, God didn't need to send his only Son to die on the cross for that message--it had been told and retold for thousands of years. But the biggest emphasis of the New Testament is who Jesus said he was. The conservative Christians also major in minors--like homosexuality (most Biblical admonitions and advice on sex are for men who lust after women, not men) or modest dress or homeschooling. But at least the records show they are more generous with their money than the liberals, and they know who they are worshiping.

The primary focus of the Gospels isn't the poor, or poverty, or even misuse of wealth (although all are very important topics) or end times, but the last week of Jesus' life leading to his death and resurrection. When the woman anoints and worships Jesus with the expensive perfume, who is it that expresses concern for what that money could have done for the poor? Why Judas, of course.

Conversation Peace

Our Women of the Word Bible study selection this spring is Conversation Peace; the power of transformed speech by Mary A. Kassian (Lifeway Press, 2001, 2006). The Saturday group runs through May 12 at our UALC Mill Run campus and there is a video and workbook. I believe there are women's groups for WOW that meet Tuesday evenings and Thursday morning at our Lytham Road location. This morning we surprised our leader with a birthday party--a chocolate raspberry ice cream cake from Graeter's. We paused our discussion of the text and video for laughs and jokes. Then she told us that after her husband was released from the hospital after a heart attack (she is now a widow) he had lost a lot of weight, and the only thing that tasted good to him was raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, so every time she eats it she remembers him. The woman who ordered the cake didn't know that. That's how God arranges birthday parties.

Our fearless, faithful leader

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


One of the advantages of blogging is being able to link to the items you want to share, but since I also print and bind mine, I've just got to provide the heart of this one. It's from Pomegranate and Paper.

"Yesterday in church, the priest asked what we had chosen as our Lentan penance. I squirmed a little in the pew because, as I wrote last week, I don't do the "what I gave up for Lent thing". And then he said that he had a suggestion for anyone who hadn't chosen a "penance" yet. He suggested that we chose what he considered the hardest penance of all: listening. Specifically, listening to someone that we don't like to listen to, someone with whom we are not sympatico.

He described listening as a physical and spiritual act. He suggested we listen without words, that is, that we truly listen without forming a reply, without thinking of what to say next, and without chiming in with what was bothering us. He spoke of listening as the act of opening up fully to another and receiving their words without judgment, without reaction, and without an eye on the clock. My mind immediately raced to all the times I've been impatient with listening: to my kids as I'm just home from work, to my mother in law on the phone with her repetitive list of complaints, to my own mother when she wants to tell me about the intrigues around the mah jong table, and to my husband when he just needs to tell me how he feels and have me accept what he says.

I'm working on listening this week. To really hearing what others are telling me. Sometimes that means listening more to the silences than to the words. I find that listening quiets the words in my own head. It takes me out of my self, beyond my needs, and my mind racing from thought to thought."