Saturday, March 28, 2020

Waiting it out & waiting on God: (John 11)

I learned these lyrics when I sang in a Barbershop Quartet years ago: “I’m dreaming dreams, I’m scheming schemes, I’m building castles high... I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in air. They fly so high, nearly reach the sky. Then like my dreams, they fade and die. Fortune’s always hiding, hiding. I’ve looked everywhere. I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”

Disillusionment and bitterness is a tough shell to crack. And after it’s run its course, you often end up a different person than before. Your faith has been tested, from the frying pan to the fire. You have perhaps matured and deepened as a person. You know God as much in the wonder and mystery than in finely chiseled creeds of almost two thousand years ago. 

It can be disappointing to look back and realize that things were not what they seemed. In any given situation, and with any person, we see only the tip of the iceberg at best. Now we know “in part,” whether that knowledge is about ourselves, others, the Church, or God. I Cor. 13. 

We often forget that by the time John’s gospel appears, a full generation of “church” has been seen and experienced. Don’t you know that churches of the First Century struggled with disillusionment amidst terrible persecution. After all, where was God’s deliverance from evil when that deliverance wasn’t apparent? 

But disillusionment can save me the trouble of thinking I can know another’s thoughts and intentions, and it delivers me from judging others without mercy. Too, in the disappointment, I’m set free! When my illusions die, I’m never freer to live and love. There’s one less attachment to life on my terms. 

There’s no replacement or “Cliff Notes” for waiting on God. Today, we are invited to wait through the night (Psalm 130). We are waiting for Jesus, with Mary and Martha in Bethany, at Lazarus’ tomb.  (John 11) What will we learn about the Resurrection and Life when Jesus does not show up when we had hoped?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Thomas Keating on Success

Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to work miracles and to preach the gospel before they were remotely prepared to do so; they were even less prepared to handle the success they achieved. When they arrived back from their journeys, they exultantly proclaimed, "The demons are subject to us in your name!" Luke 10:17). They expected to be patted on the back. On the contrary, Jesus said, "Do not get excited about that kind of success. Anybody can work miracles with a little psychic energy and the divine assistance. What you should rejoice over is that your names are written in heaven.' That is to say, "You have the destiny to enter the kingdom of God and to transmit the values of the kingdom to the people you love and to whom I am sending you." Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love, p.129

Thoughts about Success and Faith

  1. On different ocassions, Jesus “strictly” told those who followed him not to tell anyone what miracle they had seen or witnessed (Mark 5:43)  
  2. Jesus upbraided those who expected or demanded a sign, such as: Satan (Matthew 4), religious leaders (Matthew 16), and  Jesus' "generation" (Matthew 12) 
  3. The miraculous feedings in the Gospels, are very short lived. Following Jesus for the next free and filling meal results in dropouts and desertions among disciples. (John 6:66)
  4. We cannot get enough of what's not working, such as more success. (Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater)
  5. The Church and the Kingdom of God are often used interchangeably by leaders who should know better.  They are not identical. If this was not true, why would Jesus teach us to pray: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?
Reflections on Leadership
  1. Churches and their leaders find it difficult to differentiate between short-lived success- and enduring belief or faith. (John 6:58-64) Church staffs often celebrate successes in the way of the Lukan disciples. What church is not driven by better stats? In some traditions, the status- symbol bedecked leader validates the effectiveness of their faith.
  2. Religious leaders today do not seriously think we have much in common with the original  twelve disciples or the religious leaders of Jesus' ministry (even if we admit it once in a while). This betrays an underlying dishonesty and arrogance.
  3. Leadership that is authentic, compassionate, and honest can still give others real encouragement and creative, workable options. Toxic leadership uses blame, shame or guilt as a default- and says infinitely more about the leader than it does about God or anyone else.
  4. Regarding #3, God is perfectly happy being God. (Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust) God does not need us to make God happier than God already is. God is not our co-dependent.
  5. The cultural use of "servant leadership" does not come from the Gospels no matter how many times "servant" is used. When the Suffering Servant "arrived," in the Passion, what happened to Jesus' "following?" 

Oldies but Goodies