Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Gospel According to Judas: A Thoughtful Response

The Gospel of Judas - Some Observations

William Loader
http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/Judas.htm

Having now read the full text of the Gospel of Judas, I would like to offer the following observations. It is of great value to have this text which we had known of through Irenaeus (ca 180 CE). It has some similarities with the Gospel of Mary (Magdalene), both in its rhetorical strategy and in its success, apparently then and now, in making its point.

There is something appealing about people who seem to be (or portray themselves as) underdogs fighting the dominant system. In this case Christians who identify themselves with Judas or Mary are fighting ‘the church’, identified with the apostles. In the case of Mary there is the added element of discrimination by the male disciples.

I know where my sympathies lie in such struggles, but in these instances I can see that this is a rhetorical strategy on the part of one religious group in the second century whose views I personally find quite unattractive. The Judas gospel reflects the view that the material world (including human flesh and blood) is something negative, the creation of a depraved deity, and that hope lies in escape from this realm, the inner spark being released. So, of course, it follows that Judas did the real Jesus (the inner one) a favour by facilitating the demise of the flesh and blood Jesus ("the man who clothed" him, as the gospel puts it).

The secrets which Jesus is alleged to have confided to Judas and not in the others (or to Mary in intimate liaisons and not to the men) happen to coincide with this system of thought, which we find in second century gnosticism. Those who focus on the empathy evoked by Mary as victim of ostracism by the male disciples often overlook the very negative implications such systems usually have for women, who are often blamed in such systems for perpetuating evil matter/flesh and blood! The scenes created for the gospel play out the tensions with ‘the church’, including ridicule of its Eucharistic prayer of thanksgiving - who’d want to thank a god who made matter and flesh and blood!

Further back behind such movements, and before they started shaping Christian thought, are possibly the creative subversions of people forced to live under Jewish rule, who took Jewish scriptures and turned them on their head, making the creator god a villain and the serpent a hero. They also express a (for the time, fairly intellectual) protest against life in this world: there is no meaning here except to find an escape. We who largely enjoy what this world offers have difficulty appreciating this mindset, but it arises from what has been arguably the experience of most of humanity for most of history.

The Christian versions of this response which come down to us in such second century gospels have little if any relevance for reconstructing the historical Jesus of the early first century, but they are valuable historical relics which help us understand that response first hand, of which we have known mostly only through second hand and unsympathetic reports.

Known in the Breaking of the Bread

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


What emotions do you see portrayed in this painting by Rembrant? Is the disciple, in recognizing Jesus, frightened, sad, glad, excited, or angry?

Do think he is ready to run away from or towards Jesus?

Placing yourself in the story and in the situation of these first disciples, how might you feel? Did Rembrant capture the experience in this painting?
What is the redeeming work of Jesus in you, your family, your community, the nation, and the world?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Looking for Jesus in All The__________ Places (fill-in the blank)


I received a FedEx package the other day. It had my name on it, but it also bore a bar code that identified it as a package destined to arrive at my home.

The bar code was scanned at various points in the journey from the sender to the receiver. It had many marks and some cuts and tears on it. When my package arrived I was in the middle of meditating on the past two weeks’ Gospel passages and that interruption became part of my meditation.

I wondered if the bar code on the package wasn’t in some strange way like the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and feet. I wondered if these wounds were the only forms of identification that allowed Thomas and many of the other disciples to recognize Jesus after the resurrection.

I wondered if Thomas was the first CSI (Crime Scene Investigator) to do a forensic evaluation of the crucified and risen Jesus. I wondered if Jesus looked upon his disciples and saw similar physical and spiritual marks that identified them to him.

I wondered if I bore marks in my body, mind, and spirit that identify me to others as I have passed through life.

Old photographs reveal a head full of hair, scars on that same head where teeth were sunk into the skin during a football practice in high school and where falls into various sharp edges of furniture and doors had create a permanent mark. As the photographs become more recent, it is like watching a time lapse movie of me getting older as my hair gets thinner and thinner.

There is a scar on my left knee from two major knee surgeries in high school that just does not go away. There are large ears that protrude and will protrude even further as time passes.

There are ways I speak, tell a story, eat, laugh, cry, gesture and greet those of you who know me. Some of these ways are unique to me and perhaps allow you to recognize me from a distance.

There are memories of times shared with people in my life that have changed me in positive ways. There are also negative memories of interactions that have also become part of who I am. There is a whole history of journeying through the major events that we have shared historically as residents of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Think about how the larger events of your time on earth have impacted you and were part of your formation as a human being.

And so, I eventually came back to the question of recognizing Jesus, knowing him when he is in our midst. I invite you to read this week’s gospel from Luke post below and see if you can find hints as to how we are to recognize Jesus, raised from death, in our midst.

Our gospel reading starts quickly with some of the disciples who had just encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus “telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.” Of course this story of their journey from disappointment to joy is recorded just before our reading today in Luke 24:13-35 and prepares us for this next meeting between Jesus and his other disciples.

How will we recognize Jesus?

I am not sure anyone can guarantee you or me that we will actually recognize Jesus in the world around us. There are stories in scripture in which the most faithful servants do not recognize that those to whom they offered help and hospitality were truly Jesus in their lives. Many people upon reading this story drew the conclusion that we are a people of faith and so offering help and hospitality to “the least of these my brothers and sisters” in faith, was a way of knowing and serving Jesus in the world.

In our times of worship, there are also ways we seek to meet Jesus through reading and hearing the eye witness accounts of those who met the crucified and risen One immediately after the resurrection and later, in the case of St. Paul.

According to our passage in Luke today and our collect for today that reminds us of Jesus meal in Emmaus, we can meet and know Jesus:

When We Hear the Eye-Witnesses to his Resurrection Tell Their Stories

Telling and listening to the eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection create a spiritual reality within our physical world. Luke had seen this happen many times in his community of faith. People told the story of the resurrection and immediately, Jesus was in the room with them. St. Paul, writing earlier than Luke, spoke of this truth: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

When We hear Jesus Offer Us Peace in the Midst of Our Fear

Fear is a multi-media response to real and imagined threats and dangers in our lives. Fear is driven by our concern for how we will be seen by others or by the threat of us losing control. The ultimate loss of esteem and control is often believed to be death.

Consider things that have threatened you and created fear in your life. Fear is our warning system that allows us to survive. When Jesus comes to his disciples, he assures them that he is not a threat or danger to them. He brings them peace because he does not threaten them, but comes with forgiveness and love.

When We Break Bread Together

Our collect for today** reminds us of Jesus meal with his disciples in Emmaus. After spending most of the day walking with them and talking to them about the nature of God and his messiah, Jesus is finally revealed to them when he breaks bread with them in their home. Our prayer for this Sunday asks God to open the eyes of our faith. Faith comes from hearing eye-witness accounts. Our hearing then allows us to see Jesus in the Eucharistic feast we celebrate each week.

What sort of God do we find in Jesus? Jesus makes it clear and claims that the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms bear witness to and are fulfilled in his life, death, and resurrection. Where will we find him between Sundays? Will we know him when he stands next to us?

*Luke 24:36b-48

While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.

Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."


** O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Signs of Christ's Resurrection in Our Lives

Have you ever considered the value of the Gospel in your life or in the life of the world?
Perhaps this is a revelation that sneaks up on you over a life time or suddenly grips you at some point and to which you respond in ways that you would not have hitherto for considered.

If you are in doubt of the impact of the gospel, look at your life—past and present, and the plans you are making for your future. The life you have lived, are living, and plan to live is the best measure of how deeply the message of the Gospel has sunk into your very being and soul.

The writer of the Acts of the Apostles tells of the radical reordering of life in an early Christian community. Carefully read over this account and consider whether you think their actions are in keeping with how you value the message and meaning of life in Christ.

Acts 4:32-35
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power (dunamei) the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

You might note a couple of things about how this community of faith responded to Christ in their individual and communal lives.
There seemed to be a common heart and soul. The heart is the place of our desires. To be of one heart means to share a common desire.

Within most human communities sharing a common desire is very much a part of the way we work. Some researchers believe that all human desires are borrowed. That is, we want what the Jones have.

Our desire is conditioned and energized as we see an object in the possession of others. But, in this Christian community, desire is not about wanting and getting something that others have, but about the way each person deals with his or her possessions.

The selling of lands and houses to contribute to a common treasury was the exact opposite of the human way of desiring. To surrender what is claimed as mine and to give those monies to the community was radical then and continues to be radical today. Such behavior flies in the face of human greed and envy.

Desire that considers the good of those less wealthy as something to be desired, can only be understood as the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in and through the community.

It was the testimony of the Apostles about the resurrection of Jesus that made this new desire possible. Acts says that their testimony was powerful. The Greek word (dunamei) used here is “dunamei.”

This Greek word found a place in our English vocabulary as dynamite, dynamic, and dynamo. What could the Apostles possibly say in their testimony that would so move people to sell all that they possessed and give it to a common fund that cared for everyone in the community?

A testimony is a telling of what a person has experienced first hand. It is not hearsay. What the apostles shared with those who would listen was their own failure to be part of Jesus’ gathered people as the threat of death loomed large before them. It was their failure which was met by God’s gracious forgiving mercy that made their message so compelling and convincing.

None of these followers of Jesus could ever boast that they had stuck with Jesus the way he had stuck with them. None of them could claim that they did not desire to have all of the power, all of the glory, and all of the possessions of God’s favored one. When the object of their desiring was brutally and violently caught up in death, they abandoned Jesus. That was their story.

But the story did not end there. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead as God’s reversal of the verdict we had passed on him and on ourselves also reversed the direction of the apostles desiring. They were set free to love and give and forgive as Christ was free and giving and forgiving.

While giving up material possessions seems like a huge sacrifice to most of us, to those who heard the testimony of the apostles it was a small thing. Desire transformed into acts of love speaks to the human heart about a new reality that greeted these apostles in the resurrected Jesus and poured grace upon grace on those who heard their testimony.

What is the sign in our individual and communal life that Christ has risen?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Vigil Meditations from Christ Church EFM

Father Bob Says: What a wonderful gift was given to those of us who attended the Easter Vigil this year. As the rector of Christ Church I was delighted at the swirling of the Holy Spirit that worked in concert with our EFM gift givers to create the diverse and powerful insights and wisdom which blessed us as the sun rose in the East. Bob, Sandy, Jeanne, Andy, and Lizz the Holy Spirit was with you and through you with us all. I am posting your written gifts below with a note from Lizz.

God's Peace in the Bright Light of the Paschal Mystery, Bob


A Note from Lizz: It was a glorious service. We went from the darkness of the yard, where our terrific Eagle Scout lit the fire with flint and steel, to the darkness of the parish hall. Gradually the sky lightened but I didn’t notice because I was so involved in the service. I was a little unready when we reached the end of the readings. Bob’s Sermon put me back into the service. Such energy! And to gather around the altar, wonderful! I am sorry more people did not seem to realize there were bagels and strawberries afterward.

Lizz

The Story of Creation - Genesis 1:1 -2:2

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights — the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.

Commentary - Jeanne Hogan

Commentary on Creation – Genesis 1-2:3

And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.
God’s light that shines on all creation – land and sea, plants and animals of every kind, and even on our human selves. The light of life. The symbol of salvation, His promise to us.

God must have been pleased with His creation, for we are told, “He saw that it was good.”

The word “light” evokes two powerful images for me.

The first is from long ago – August 1945 – when suddenly, and somewhat miraculously to my young eyes, there was a joyous light-filled celebration. House lamps gleamed through unshaded windows, and streetlights shone brightly everywhere, wiping out the darkness of wartime. Light! God’s light and the hope, then, for peace.

The other is almost a daily occurrence now, as I walk early in the morning. The sunrise changes the color of the sky, from gray to crimson to gold to blue. God’s light reflects off the clouds and the water and brightens my whole world. It brings the promise of a new day and, for me, the hope that, at its end, I will be able to look back on it, on my work, my creation and “see that it was good.”

So we wait this Easter morning for the New Light, God’s promise of life and salvation fulfilled for all time. The Resurrection. The Light of Christ.


The Flood - Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark, they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind — every bird, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. Gen. 7:17 The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more. In the six hundred first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh — birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth — so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

COMMENTARY: THE FLOOD (GENESIS - VARIOUS) Bob Nelson

Noah's story is about a God of anger and destruction. As a reminder, God's huge war bow is found amongst clouds after the storm. Being righteous Noah and his family were chosen to survive and waited out God's vengeance inside his ark.

On this Easter Sunday Noah's story of survival reminds us that after the flood life had to start over. Seed had to be sown. Livestock had to be cared for. To ease man's fears God promised never again to bring peace by His violence. His weapon of destruction, a bow, was put away. This act became the seal on a covenant between God and all living things. From now on violence would be in the realm of men, not God.

The story of Noah is not the cute story of animals going into the arc two by two, rather it is a story of survival through righteousness. Lest we ever forget the retelling Noah's story throughout our generations and again here this Sunday reminds us of a time when God was truly a vengeful God.

Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea - Exodus 14:10 - 15:1

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.” The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses. Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.


RED SEA COMMENTARY - Sandi Nelson

The biblical story of the parting of the Red Sea is seen as the greatest display of God's power in the Old Testament, but the greatest power of all time, we celebrate today; the raising of Christ from the dead.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to put whatever is bothering us in the hands of someone else. Young children tend to put their trust to solve their problems in their parents’ hands, just as we need to put our trust in God to protect us and help us solve our problems. When we have difficulties and can't come up with a solution to them, it is sometimes said we are between the devil and the deep blue sea which is a phrase thought to come from this biblical story. When any of our problems are solved we are joyful. We feel wonderful when we are not left in a situation too difficult for us.

All of us see God's miracles everyday. We have the ability to see and hear, to walk and talk and most importantly to praise God.


God’s Presence in a Renewed Israel - Isaiah 4:2-6

On that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

Commentary - Lizz Beitzel - “a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night”

The cloud and fire remind me of the presence of God leading the people thru the desert with Moses. The cloud and fire indicate the presence of God is something we can see. Something we can experience. It is not just for the mystic, that cloud and flame, you and I can know the presence of God. There does seem to be an attendant promise of cleansing. That scrubbing could be painful, or the refining that takes a lot of heat. I have to give up all that is familiar; all that I learned about living in a human created society. I must learn to live in a society created by God. It is a new creation.


Salvation Offered Freely to All - Isaiah 55:1-11

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Commentary - Andy Tomat

Isaiah asks:
Why spend money on food which does not nourish you?
Yet, we do that all the time…for example Doritos;
They’re Crunchy Salty And Addictive.
But you cannot live on Doritos alone…and in fact if you’ve ever sat in front of the TV and eaten a bag in one sitting - you know that eating too much makes you feel unwell.

To the Hebrews living in exile in Babylon - to whom Isaiah is speaking; it’s the Word of God that is the food that nourishes the soul. They are asked to Pay Attention! So that by partaking of God’s Word and living their lives according to His Word, it shall bear fruit in terms of their eventual redemption by God and restoration as a nation.

So to us this day, each week we are offered free bread and free wine. But this is more than just an open bar, it’s “the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation”. By dying on the cross and rising again Jesus strikes an Everlasting Covenant with usl so that by partaking of God’s word and being in communion with Jesus…we shall be truly fulfilled.

The Jew’s have a toast…L’Chaim - To Life…and that is ultimately what God is calling us to do when we partake of his Word and the body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…to live our lives according to his will and be nourished.

So L’Chaim - “To Life”


Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD."

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act," says the LORD.

COMMENTARY ON 'DRY BONES' (EZEKIEL 37:1-14) - Bob Nelson

Fa. Wally has just read to us a famous passage from an Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel.

Today, almost 150 generations later, Ezekiel's 'dry bones' prophesy is still familiar to all children.

Remember from your childhood?
Them bones, them bones
them dry bones
Now hear the word of the Lord!

And the song goes on to connect our entire skeleton.

Today we celebrate that word connect. A connection we call resurrection, Ezekiel's prophesy of resurrection. Remember - Ezekiel asked the bones, as in our song, to hear the words of our Lord.

And what they heard was 'Behold, I am opening your graves and raising you up from your graves.' From death to life. Resurrection - found in Ezekiel's 2500 year-old Old Testament passage. Dry bones to life - Resurrection - still today's word.

The gathering of God’s people - Zephaniah 3:12 -20

For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD — the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid. Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

Commentary - Lizz Beitzel - “The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst”

At a time when the country of Judah was pressured from all sides by stronger military powers Zephaniah had a lot to say about how fickle the people of Judah were. Yet he still finished with this promise. Those people who truly turn to the Lord will find a refuge. Not just any refuge; but one in which there is no untruth and no hurtful treatment. It is a vision of society as the rules of the Law were meant to form people. There will be honest love among folks. Even more the Lord will rejoice from the midst of the people. He will exult, be glad. The lame and the outcast will be brought into this society. Those on the margins of human society will find a rejoicing God in their midst. It is nothing less than promised utopia only better. What is so often missed is my personal part in this plan. I am God’s ambassador, mine are the hands that will reach out and touch, mine the voice that will rejoice. We are now the hands of God to the world as we move together toward this promise of gathering.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Light Shines in the Darkness...



Note: This is my annual Easter letter that was sent by mail to all of the folks who are on the Christ Church mailing list. I am placing it on this blog for those who are not on the parish mailing list, but who do connect through the Internet.

Easter celebrates, with great joy and relief, that God is not like us. That God does not build community by excluding anyone from his Table or crucifying them to maintain his holy and sacred Name. The sacred is not created by blood shed, but by love, mercy, and forgiveness offered.

The mystery of human religion is that God is used to enforce and justify unjust ways. The resurrection rolls back that stone of human delusion and tears the veil of the Temple that seeks to promote this God of violence. What we find on the other side of the stone and through the veil now rent asunder, is the God that is not glorified in exclusion, violence, and death. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Therefore, Jesus is not where we expect to find him. When his early disciples, women of faith and compassion, went to his grave, they were greeted by an angel who announced that Jesus had risen.

What does it mean for us today that Jesus did not leave behind a monument to his death? Jesus’ life was about giving life, life that was full of the possibility of forgiveness and mercy. The resurrection is more than just bringing someone back to life who is dead. Resurrection is about God reaching out to all of us in love even when we reject such love. The cross is a continuing reminder that when offered a choice between the way of healing, love, forgiveness and reconciliation, the human family chose the old ways of power, violence, and death.

As we approach this Easter Sunday, I invite you to open your hearts and minds to the love of God that is not ended in judgment and the death of unforgiveness. The empty tomb is a sign of the deathless love of God; the unlimited capacity of God’s mercy; and our hope for lives that do not end in the graves of judgment and fear. The resurrection of Jesus is the sign to this and every generation that God’s way of love is the only path to life, communion, and the future.

God’s Peace in the New Life of Grace,

Bob+


Easter Service Times at Christ Church in Redondo Beach

5:30 AM Easter Vigil and Holy Eucharist in the Garden and Parish Hall

8:00 AM Choral Holy Eucharist in the Church

10:00 AM Choral Holy Eucharist in the Church with Easter Egg Hunt after the service.

The Passion of God

This past Sunday, Passion Sunday, we read Mark’s Gospel narrative of Jesus’ passion and death. Passion is a word that can mean suffering, but it can also describe a feeling of total devotion and love towards a person, an idea, a hoped for outcome, an activity, or an object. Sometimes we suffer in our pursuit of what we love.

In a very real sense, Jesus was and continues to be passionate in his love of and devotion to God and us. It is this double passion of devotion that makes the name of last Sunday most appropriate. Jesus’ love of God and us flows from God. God loves Jesus and he loves us with equal passion.

According to Marcus Borg, a well respected New Testament scholar, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the same day that Pontius Pilate did. Jesus entered through the east gate of the city, riding a donkey. He did not come with armies, weapons, or any other show of force. In contrast, Pilate entered through the west gate of the city and was surrounded by his powerful army of Imperial Rome: foot soldiers and cavalry. Both Jesus and Pilate came on a mission of peace.

Pilate did not live in Jerusalem, preferring to stay near the cooler and more civilized beach town of Caesarea. He was not a particularly tolerant man. His mission was to keep the region under his charge under Imperial control using whatever means of brutality and diplomacy necessary.

For Pilate, peace was maintaining “Pax Romana.” This peace was bolstered by Roman military might and summed up by the philosophy that what was good for Rome was good for the world. Those conquered nations and peoples were at the service of Roman power and wealth. Without Rome, this sort of enforced peace would not exist. Roman armies patrolled the empire putting down rebellions and taking the wealth of the indigenous people back to Rome.

Jesus offered a different peace—the peace of God which passes all human understanding. For this reason, he did not come into Jerusalem as a conquering General or Caesar, but as an unarmed man inviting us to follow him and to create a peace based upon the mercy, justice, and forgiveness. Jesus’ power was the power of love. Jesus power came from God. Neither Jesus, nor the God he called “Father” seemed intent on ruling the world as the Romans did. Peace which comes at the expense of others who are less powerful and less able to defend themselves, was not the peace Jesus was coming to bring to Jerusalem or to the world today.

On that first Good Friday, the human race judged Jesus and sentenced him to death, rejecting the Prince of Peace, they embraced peace based upon violence. Our ignorance of how judging others results in a violent verdict against ourselves was nailed to the cross and on the third day, God reversed that violent judgment we made against Jesus and ourselves.

The resurrection of Jesus casts light on our system of peace making and judgment. That system based upon ignorance died with Jesus on the cross. Our willingness to seek forgiveness for our active and passive past and present participation in this sin of violence and injustice is really about changing our minds, hearts, and our loyalties. Do we come through the east gate of Jerusalem with Jesus or do we follow Pilate and his army through the west gate?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Renewal of Vows

Gospel Reflection Mid-Holy Week: Renewal of Vows
April 12, 2006

Yesterday Father Norm, Father Wally, and I went to the Cathedral Center to renew our priestly vows with the other clergy of this diocese—bishops, deacons, and priests. In my memory, this seemed to be the largest gathering on this special day that I have ever seen.

It was a very moving experience even though we were seated outside the sliding glass doors of the church (that is how I knew this was a very large turn-out). I was moved by the sight of the assembly. There were priests all around me who, like Ed Hailwood, have been role models for the younger members of the church. Some of them stood despite their physical ailments, to reaffirm the promises they had made when they were first ordained. There was also a large group of younger clergy whose voices were strong and confident and who stood with ease when reaffirming their recently taken vows.

Wally, Norm, and I were in the group of clergy that span the difference between these elder and younger folks. As I stood next to Wally and Norm, surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, I felt a very strong sense of gratitude for the life God has opened up to me as a baptized member of the Episcopal Church and as a priest in this wonderful mystery known as the church.

Once we reaffirmed our vows, we celebrated the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup together. The singing of that large and diverse group had a certain lovely and powerful quality about it that always seems to be present when we come together in worship. Voices, male and female, blended from this past century in praise of God and of the gift of love and compassion offered to us in this new century. I wished at that moment that all of you had been with us. I wished that you could see that in the midst of controversy and conflict, God renews the church and sends the Holy Spirit to lead us to his Table. I wished that you could have been there to not only witness first hand the great truth contained in this prayer from the ordination service, but to know that you were called to this very same ministry.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, April 07, 2006

These are a few of my favorite links

http://www.christchurchrb.org/ Visit the Christ Episcopal Church Redondo Beach, California Web site to see what is going on.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html/103-5372582-5108656?node=172282 You can contribute to Christ Church's mission to the South Bay by buying your Amazon purchases through this link. I will be recommending books in this blog that you may purchase through Amazon and by doing so, you will be supporting the parish. Thank You.

http://lectionarylizz.livejournal.com/ Each week Lizz Beitzel, our Coordinator of Adult Christian Education, writes a commentary on the readings assigned for the Sunday Eucharist. Lizz brings a love of learning, a tremendous background in Holy Scripture, and a great sense of humor to her weekly postings on Lectionary Lizz. Please visit her blog and enjoy her wisdom, wit, and tour through our readings.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nails Do Not a Home Make


Nails are what hold many of our homes together. Driven deeply into wood, nails secure and hold fast the lumber frame and covering that make our houses dry, warm, and safe places in which to live. This Sunday you will be offered a nail to take home with you and to contemplate during the Holy Week that follows.

Many Christ Church members over the years have returned with their nail on Good Friday and hammered it into the large, nail scarred cross that is laid at the foot of the altar as a sign of their turning away from what separates them from God and other people in their lives.

The nail symbolizes two very powerful realities in life. It symbolizes what holds us together in so far as our houses are made safe and secure and a comfortable haven for us at the end of our day’s journey. The other reality is recounted in our Gospel reading of the passion this week. We will read that nails were used to hold Jesus on the cross. What an odd juxtaposition of images this seems to be: home and a dying man held fast to a Roman cross.

As we participate in the passion narrative from Mark’s Gospel this Sunday, it will not conjure up the dramatic representations of bloody violence portrayed in the movie, The Passion of the Christ. The Gospel of Mark is not interested in creating a box office sensation, but in describing God’s view of what we are doing to one another. It is almost as if Jesus is behind the camera, an imbedded reporter reporting on the ways of human callousness and duplicity. Jesus watches as we perform our predictable rituals of self-justifying judgment and the Gospel is the witness to what he sees.

God in Christ became the victim of our human system of judgment and death. Most victims die and disappear in the killing fields of the world, but the Gospel, unlike any other previous account, tells the story, not from the winner’s perspective, but through the eyes of the victim. The Gospel is the stunning expose of the human condition and an invitation to change our ways by changing our gods for the One whom Jesus called “Abba.”

Nails used to create a sense of security and peace in building our homes were used to destroy the only source of true security, peace, and home we could ever hope to have in creation or beyond. It has been said that nails could not have kept Jesus on the cross had not love for us kept him there. Jesus did not die to show the innocent how to win eternal life or gain God’s favor. Jesus died showing us the view from the eyes of the world’s system of judgment. It is that system that was judged and condemned on the cross.

As we take our nails with us this Sunday, may we consider the ways in which we have used them to build personal, communal, and national homes that have no real permanence, peace, justice, mercy, or forgiveness. May these nails offer us the hope that what died upon the cross with Jesus was our blindness, fear, willingness to abandon others to save ourselves; and a conviction that God is just like us. May the hope of the resurrection, the victim returned with forgiveness and hope, give us the grace to change and then humbly guide us in the path that leads to a home, not built with nails and wood, but with the power of God’s love and forgiveness.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Is That Someone You


Somewhere someone
The kingdom of love is coming because:
somewhere someone is kind when others are unkind,
somewhere someone shares with another in need,
somewhere someone refuses to hate, while others hate,
somewhere someone is patient - and waits in love,
somewhere someone returns good for evil,
somewhere someone serves another, in love,
somewhere someone is calm in a storm,
somewhere someone is loving everybody.
Is that someone you? (Jesus & his kingdom of equals).

Unknown author

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Age and Visibility


As I get older, I am looking to those 5, 10, 20, and 30 years older than me for lessons in getting older. When I turn 60 in October, I will have lived longer than my father who died of a heart attack on the Alondra Golf Course at age 59. I did not get to see how he would have dealt with getting older. Strangely, I saw my father as older than most of the parents of my friends because of his 16 year history of heart disease and the fact that he had survived much longer than his doctors had given him.

And so I ask for your reflection on aging.

What does it mean to get older in terms of the way you are treated by others?

Do older people get ignored by younger people? Why?

What fears does getting older bring up for you?

God's Peace in the Passing of Time,
Bob