Living the Sacred Life

Sunday’s reading: Psalm 25:4-5,8-9,10,14.

Readings from Psalm 25 include verses in which the psalmist asks God for guidance in understanding how to live as God wishes. Wise, to ask, wiser to follow the guidance. Being in relationship with the Divine involves making time for God, interacting with God, and then, taking action. It’s more than reading scripture; it’s more than prayer and meditation. The more difficult part is acting out our relationship with the Divine when we leave our personal sacred space and go out to help create sacred space in the world. For that, we need God’s guidance and help.

While difficult, this is what most want: to see and feel the sacred everywhere we go and in every interaction we have.

Perhaps doing what we can to make this so is our task!

Relax and Love

 

Regarding the apocalyptic writings, a take-away might be the advice to relax. The gospel today (Mark 13:24-32) reminds us: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

So far, any time people believe they have calculated the exact date and time, and prepare to be taken up, nothing happens. Yes, it can be unnerving to read the scriptures or the books or listen to some preachers talk about the end times. But. We don’t know, just as we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. So, we can relax. We can read about the lilies of the field in Matthew where Jesus tells us that we are more than the lilies, and the lilies don’t worry, then just exist, as do we.

If we wish to prepare for our own personal end on earth, or the end times, we might be wise to remember other words attributed to Jesus. His great commandment is to Love. We are to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. If we love and act in love, we are probably doing exactly what God wants. So, we can relax and live our lives by treating all with love.

 

CCOA Continuing Education, update

~ CCOA’s CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAM~

 

January8: Presentation based on a World Parliament workshop: Is it Universalism or is it White Privilege?  presented by +Michael Talbot

 

November 13: Discussion based on the Parliament of  the World’s Religions Conference, continued

 

October 23: Discussion based on the Parliament of  the World’s Religions Conference

 

August 14: ‘The Cross of Antioch’ presented by Mary Altalo+

 

 June 12: ‘Dreams: Messages from God,’ presented by +Linda Rounds-Nichols.   

“God loves a CHEERFUL giver!”

Today’s gospel reading for many Christian churches is Mark 12:38-44. If you happened to attend a worship service, either on-line or in-person, the message for the day could have been on the unselfishness and generosity of the widow who gave all she had. This message may have then lead to the beginning of the stewardship campaign, in which the congregation is asked for their estimate of giving, their monetary pledge for the upcoming year.
And yet rather than praising the widow and using her as an example, this story may be interpreted quite differently. This perhaps radical thought could have been mentioned a podcast by Rev. Nadia Botz-Webber (www.nadiaboltz-weber.com and www.nadiaboltzwebber.com) or in something from Rev. Dawn Hutchings (www.pasterdawn.com) but it definitely is from the writings of Dr. John J Pilch, in THE CULTURAL WORLD OF JESUS. Whichever of the women whose podcast or writings I experienced, <I don’t remember.>, shared the same thought as did Pilch – giving too much to the temple is not a good thing. In fact, Pilch goes beyond and says that the widow who did this was acting “shamefully” because she deliberately worsened her status because “she has been taught ‘sacrificial giving’ by her religious leaders, and that is a pity.” (p.161-2)
If you were in a church today, you may have heard about tithing, giving 10%, a custom found in the early Jewish expectations. But consider, in those days the temple was the one and only place that could be considered a social agency. The Jewish people at that time had no non-profits; their taxes went to the Romans or whichever group had conquered them. This is not the case in the US or in many other places in the world today. There are many, many, many deserving non-profits who help those the Temple and early church were to help. Our taxes don’t go to our conquerors, but to our own government, and many people benefit from the programs our tax money provides. No matter what our donation to an individual church, many of us are probably donating more than 10% overall to good works, and therefore to God, than we know. Sadly some who don’t give 10% to their individual church may be shamed. This seems wrong.
I know many won’t agree with me, Dr. Pilch, Pastor Dawn, or Rev. Nadia, and perhaps others. Others will. And still others may begin to see things outside the box – or see the other side of the coin (pun intended!) I’m not saying don’t give. I’m not saying not to give 10% to your worship community if that feels right for you. I am saying give – and give what you can – and give to whatever agency or groups of agencies, including your worshipping community, that seem to be doing the most for people.
Doing this, your giving can be a joyful action rather than something done grudgingly because someone tells you what and how you should be sharing.
As we’re told in 2 Corinthians 9: “God loves a CHEERFUL giver!”
(thoughts from +Linda, not necessarily shared by all in CCOA)

Latest Newsletter Now Available!

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to editor Ron+ and the many clergy who contributed to the latest issue of our newsletter.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, please visit the Newsletters page and take a look.

While there, you may be interested in reading past issues as well!

Wisdom

 

In 1Kings 3:9, we read Solomon’s request, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind..” In today’s reading from Wisdom (or The Wisdom of Solomon) 7:7-11, Solomon explains more about this understanding mind, wisdom. He points out that wisdom is more than power, more than riches, more than beauty and even more than health. God did grant Solomon his request, and not only did he receive the requested wisdom, but he also received the other more worldly things he thought he had given up because of his request.

Some decisions are easy. One choice is obviously the better choice, with better expected results. The other not so much. Other choices are more difficult. Sometimes all of the options seem equally good. That was Solomon’s situation when his options were things like power, riches, beauty, health, and wisdom. He chose wisdom, and he tells us, “All good things together came to me in her company and countless riches at her hands.”

He wanted to be a good leader, so wanted wisdom; his choice was not only for himself, but for the good of his people. May we, too, make unselfish decisions, seeking the best for all.

Divorce?

Along with Paul’s words, telling women to submit themselves to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), the words in today’s Gospel, Mark 10:2-16, have been used by far too many clergy to convince women to stay in a domestic violence situation, whether that violence be physical, emotional, or sexual.

Those clergy read the words, but don’t refer to the culture and customs of the time, well-knowing that today’s Western world is far different than the world and customs of the Biblical lands. John L Pilch, in his series: THE CULTURAL WORLD OF JESUS, has done research and his work always sheds light on the scriptures. He tells us about the meaning of marriage, divorce, and adultery during those times, which helps us understand the message of today’s reading.

Unlike those of us in today’ Western world, the people in Jesus’ time weren’t so individual. They were much more connected to their families than even the most connected families are in our world. There was no dating in Jesus’ world, no down-on-one-knee proposals, and little choice about marriage. Families took care of all of this. There was a wedding, but it was not only a joining together of the bride and groom, but rather of the two families. Because of this, a divorce at that time wouldn’t have involved two people, but rather two families.

Under Mosaic law, only men could divorce, and Jesus’s teachings were directed at the Jewish people. Some say it is likely that the comment about women was added because Mark’s message was not only for the Jewish people but for followers of The Way in Rome, and, unlike the Jewish women, Roman women were able to divorce.

Jewish men could divorce for any reason. So, a Jewish wife could be booted out for anything – being a bad cook, being barren at an early age, or going through menopause, with similar results. However, just as marriage was between families rather than only two people, divorce was as well. Divorce caused by adultery shamed the husband, and the families.

Shamed the husband? Yes. Remember it was a different time. Men were citizens. Women, children, and slaves were belongings. If a man coveted another man’s wife (Exodus 20:17), or went beyond coveting, he was insulting the husband. This insult, like the resultant shame, was against the husband and his family. And, of course, because everything involved the full family, both men’s families would become involved in a feud, which would likely disrupt the community.

Today’s reading, which, as said, is too often used to prevent freedom from domestic violent and other unhappiness, or to shame those who are divorced, was really about maintaining peace within a society of a particular people during very unstable times. Today’s reading reminds us that there is always the rest of the story, the historical and cultural meanings, rather than only the words we read on the page.

Siblings in Christ

 

One of the readings for today is Mark 9:38-48, and it reminds us how little changes unless we recognize that not all who follow Jesus do so in exactly the same way. Even now there are people and groups, and denominations who, like the disciple, want to be the special one/s. In the reading, the disciple says something like, “…we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” Jesus didn’t want this other person to be stopped then, so probably wouldn’t like what we might see happening today.

People, groups, denominations may make subtle references or may say outright that unless others don’t attend their particular place of worship or another place within their denomination, something is wrong. Some say that they are the only real Christians. They may, therefore, infer or say outright that others are not.

Wrong. They forget the words attributed to Jesus in this reading, saying that “putting a stumbling block” before those who believe in him is worse than death. He doesn’t say those that believe in him and worship in a particular way….. not only those in a particular group.

Christians follow Jesus. Period. Some are quiet and barely move during worship and others are boisterous and move constantly during worship. And they are all following Jesus. They are all Christians. They are all worshiping. They are all real; they are all loved by God, and we are all brothers and sisters, siblings in Christ.

Amen!

 

 

Us – Them is not loving!

 

In James 2:1-5, we see how similar we are to the ancient people!

Seems like they discriminated against people, just as happens now.

They, too, looked at outward appearances to create an Us-Them situation.

They favored the rich, and the same occurs today,

along with many other Us-Them distinctions.

Then, as now, the arse-kissing was noticed and was harmful.

It certainly wasn’t the message of love Jesus taught!

Live in Love

 

Many Scripture readings tell us how we are to live, as does today’s reading:

Ephesians 4:25-5:2.

 

We are to be kind. We are to forgive. 

We are to live in Love.

 

So may it be.


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