Our Sister Phoebe, a Deacon

Theological musings inspired by the Spirit and totally Ellen…

Archive for the month “March, 2008”

>The Journey of a Lifetime . . . for all Life

>So it begins; and so it ends. Some say it is the greatest story ever told. These seven days hold excitement and dread for me – excitement because I never tire of the story, always find something new to ponder; dread because of the long hours of liturgy that culminate in exhaustion. I joke that when Christ climbs out of his tomb, I climb into one.
This is the week that I reflect on what exactly happened. Prophets came and went, were executed, in first century Palestine by the authorities. What made Jesus special?
His special relationship with God – he was the only man, I believe, that fully understood and accepted God’s message of unconditional love and how to return it. As God incarnate, he could show us how to love, and demonstrated in a supreme act of sacrifice that unconditional, unwavering love.
I’ve always had a problem with the atonement theology – that Christ died to take away our sins. If that were so, then why is sin and evil such a problem after two thousand years? This is where my belief of right action and unconditional love comes into play. Yes, Christ died to take away the sins of world, but he died also to show us a new way of living, of loving, of serving. That’s what made his ministry stand out among so many first century prophets.
He also kept his word, delivered on his teaching. He said he would rise again after death and return to the Father, that he would be with us always. He said that if we believed, we would have eternal life; if we loved one another, he would be in the midst of us. That’s what really made him special. He was, I think, the first to offer a message of hope and change. Christ offered us a new life through his sacrifice and a new way to look at the world and each other and more importantly, to love God, because as he said, he could do nothing except through God.
You see, loving God leads us on the journey of a lifetime, just as Jesus’ complete love and understanding of God’s call for him, led him on a journey that we commemorate during the next seven days.
This week is Holy Week, and I’ll return with reflections on each of the sacred days and hours of liturgy and worship.
I hope during this week you find a path you can walk.

May the peace and love of God, which passes all understanding, keep us and sustain us this Holy Week and always.

Go in peace, dear ones!

Ellen+

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>The New Life

>”In that part of the book of my memory before which little can be read, there is a heading, which says: ‘Incipit vita nova: Here begins the new life’.”

So begins the Introduction to La Vita Nova, The New Life, written by Dante.

With this week’s Gospel from John 11:1-45, we are witnesses to a new life – both spiritual and physical.

This scripture brings an end to Jesus’ earthly ministry and in a sensational way, as if Jesus is pushing the agenda here. He has been giving the apostles clues as to the next chapter of the story, yet it hasn’t sunk in yet. What better way to hammer home the message that one is the Son of God by bringing a man four days dead back to life?

I love this story, for it tells of unconditional love, unwavering faith and unfathomable power through the working of God in Christ.

Jesus is en route to Bethany when he learns that his friend Lazarus lies near death. Rather than pick up speed and hurry, Jesus takes his time so that he arrives too late to do anything – or does he? We hear from Martha, Lazarus’ sister, a word or two of scolding: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” and then affirmation of Jesus’ unique relationship with God: “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” This is unwavering faith and love, knowledge that in God all things are possible.

And so it happens. Lazarus is brought back from the dead, but not before Jesus is disturbed at his friend Mary’s distress and the grief of those who were with her. The Gospeller tells us that Jesus, greatly disturbed, goes to the tomb and weeps and returns again, still disturbed. I used to wonder why Jesus would be so unhappy when he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead; perhaps we told this, in this very spiritual and mystical of Gospels, to show the human side of Jesus. We are shown a Jesus who is like us.

Or, could be be that Jesus was anticipating, even fearing, his own human limitations and his death?

Whatever the case, Jesus prays to God that those who were present might believe in his power to do God’s will on earth, that they may finally understand. Lazarus comes out of the tomb. He has new life, reborn through the saving acts of God through Christ.

As we approach Holy Week, we are given the promise of a new life when we proclaim the risen Lord on Easter Day. We are given the opportunity to climb out of our self-made tombs of despair, stress, selfishness, self-pity and give ourselves totally to God and give God control of our hearts. Releasing ourselves from this kind of death will enable us to live out the Gospel and serve one another as Christ serves us.

That’s not a bad life, is it? It’s the new life I want, and maybe you do to.

Go forth in Christ, dear ones!

Ellen+

>The Most Unlikely People . . .

>I may be repeating myself, but I used to think that God chose the perfect people to represent him/her on Earth; the people who went to church on Sundays, always did good work, never swore, never had money troubles, never had relationship problems, always there with a green bean casserole in times of crisis. This week’s scripture proves how wrong I was, and how each of us, in our own way, and according to our ability, is suited to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.

God chose David, a pretty shepherd boy with lovely eyes to lead Israel.

Jesus chose a man blind from birth to proclaim the good news.

In each of these stories, the norm of society is turned upside down. What we assume should be is not.

I imagine that the Temple authorities believed that one of their own, a boy born into a Pharisitical family of privilege and wealth, education in the Mosaic Law, would be the Messiah, never mind Isaiah’s prophecies! This what their society knew to be management material. Instead, a man who is disabled, is cured by Jesus on the Sabbath and his insistent testimony, a testimony steeped in faith, leads Jesus to tell him that the man who healed him is the Messiah. It is Jesus.

David, with his beauty and lovely eyes, was a flawed man but a great king, a man of faith. He made some whoppers when it came to mistakes, but God loved him nevertheless, and David honored God with some of the most beautiful poetry imaginable, the Psalms.

God chooses the least likely of people to carry the message and proclaim the good news.

The good news for all of us imperfect people in the world is that it’s okay not to have all the answers, to not drive the best and biggest SUV, to live in a toney neighborhood or carry pets as accessories. It’s okay if we are who God calls us to be, and if we make mistakes, or are less than perfect. Our striving for perfect intention and perfect relationships are more important. If we strive every day to live out the Gospel, picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off when we stumble, then perhaps we’re that much closer to the perfect Jesus asks us to be. And how wonderful is that?

Go forth in the name of Christ.

With God’s love and mine,

Ellen+

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