Sometimes, figuring out what to write is like a treasure hunt: I have to go out and see what I can find. Other times, like the last few days, I’m less of a hunter and more of a collector, picking up the things that fall around me and then working to see what they might become. This particular collection began Friday afternoon when Ginger and I went to see The Dark Knight. Though there is much to unpack about the film, the overarching thought I carried away was we choose how to respond to difficulty and tragedy that comes our way and whether we seek redemption or revenge. Part of the magic of a movie is the invitation to engage in the willing suspension of disbelief and let myself enter a different world for a couple of hours.
Sunday, Ginger preached a kick-ass sermon on the loaves and the fishes. Her lead in was to quote Robert Farrar Capon about Jesus’ parables:
Openness, therefore, is a required attitude when approaching the scriptures. And nowhere in the Bible is an un-made-up mind more called for than when reading the parables of Jesus.
The same is true of the miracle stories, she said, as she invited us to listen to Matthew’s account of how the thousands were fed with a sack lunch: “So with willing suspension of disbelief, we enter the story of enough.” she said. Truly the disciples had to let go of their made-up minds when Jesus told them how to feed everyone. I spent a good bit of time last night trying to find the words to say one of the reasons the miracles are important, even for someone like me who struggles with how some of them could have actually happened, is they show what God can do with committed and trusting hearts and un-made-up minds. And they also call us to live as if God can really change our world. Status quo is not a theological concept.
(After about an hour of writing, Microsoft Word crashed and I lost what I had written. It was late enough that I went to bed instead of trying to recreate the post.)
Today, as I was blog surfing, these quotes fell into my lap. First, from Journeys with Jesus:
One must urge (to his own soul first) a firm rebutting midrash; bring Christ to bear. Read the gospel closely, obediently. Welcome no enticements, no other claim on conscience. Mourn the preachers and priests whose silence and collusion signal plain revolt against the gospel. Enter the maelstrom, the wilderness; flee the claim that would possess your soul. Earn the blessing; pay up. Blessed — and lonely and powerless and intent on the Master — and, if must be, despised, scorned, locked up — blessed are the makers of peace.
Daniel Berrigan, The Kings and Their Gods: The Pathology of Power
Then from Towanda’s Window:
What is the value of a Christianity in which Jesus is worshiped as Lord, but Christian discipleship–“the way of Jesus”–is regarded as largely irrelevant to life in the modern world?
René Padilla, Argentine Baptist theologian
We took time in our service on Sunday to pray specifically for the UU Congregation in Knoxville that fell victim to the shootings a week ago. The guy dumped over seventy rounds of ammunition into the congregation because of their liberal agenda and their welcoming of gays and lesbians. Carla, our associate pastor, was in Knoxville last Sunday for a UCC National Youth Gathering. She talked about being in a wonderful praise service while, unknown to the gathering, the church was being attacked. And then I sang David Wilcox’s wonderful song, “Show the Way” (one of my favorites). The second verse and chorus say
Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify
What’s stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late, he’s almost in defeat
It’s looking like the Evil side will win, so on the Edge of every seat,
From the moment that the whole thing begins
It is Love that mixed the mortar
And it’s Love who stacked these stones
And it’s Love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we’re alone
In this scene set in shadows like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us but it’s Love that wrote this play…
For in this darkness love can show the way
The citizens of Gotham had pretty much made up their minds that life was going to be a living lasagna filled with layers of pain and more pain. Some were willing to shine the Batlight into the moonless sky, but no one was looking for miracles.
Berrigan and Padilla have not only suspended but have hung the belief that the darkness gets the last word and pretty much expect miracles, if by miracles we mean
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
(Luke 4:18-19, The Message)
The last quote that fell my way today fell like a stone – that someone threw at me. A Different Street quotes former US Senator Rick Santorum’s ad hominem argument against Obama, saying Barack’s faith is “phony.” (Obama is a member of the UCC, by the way.) When the interviewer presses and asks if one can be a liberal and Christian, Santorum answers:
You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian. When you take a salvation story and turn it into a liberation story you’ve abandoned Christendom and I don’t think you have a right to claim it.
A made up mind is like a made up bed: no one is getting in.
“Free your mind and the rest will follow,” En Vogue used to sing. We would do well to sing along. The love of Christ does liberate us from our cynicism, our hopelessness, our self-absorption, our bitterness, our prejudice, our blindness, our pride in order that we might be liberators and builders of the Community of God in our world. The thousands got fed because the disciples un-made-up their minds and moved beyond the logic that said there was not enough and fed everyone.
We live in a world full of poor and imprisoned folks waiting for those who believe in miracles to start cutting locks and serving dinner. May we un-make-up our minds and open our hearts that we might be liberated, even as we are called to liberate.