God is Dangerous

Here is Truth: God is dangerous!

Americans (and all Westernized Cultures) have tried to tame God, but to no avail, the Holy One will not be confined or consumed by our whims or appetites.

We have tamed God, un-Deified God, molded him to our desires forgetting that the clay has no say to what the potter will make it into.  We have made Jesus the Messiah into Casper Milquetoast…a spineless, mushy, materialistic Messiah.

We have taken the very Bread of Life and turned Him into a palatable tea-time snack.

We have made Jesus into a comfortable suburban soccer mom (and dad), who comes alongside our best intentions for the best life we can have: a house, 2.5 kids, a Prius and an SUV, designer clothes, and a pittance of our time and money to give to the majority of the world that lives in poverty, under oppression, hungry, hurting and chained to despondency.

We in the West have tried but to no avail; God will not be tamed.  God is dangerous.  God is an all consuming Fire (Hebrews 12).  Jesus came to divide mother from daughter and father from son.  Jesus came to bring a sword and Fire (St. Matthew 10).  Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, and friends I’ve said it many times: good news for the poor is always bad news for the rich.

Jesus is dangerous, for He will turn our worlds upside down in order to turn them right-side up.  We’ve made Jesus an addendum to our agendas and desires rather than the Prime Motive, the divine Modus Operandi to our days and lives.

Following Jesus is dangerous and deadly: it will break our heart (in order to heal it in a healthy way); it will kill us (the cross we are called to carry will slaughter our ego, our will, our plans, and maybe even our lives).  It is a dangerous thing to love our enemies, give to the one who asks, to go two miles when we are asked to go one, to sell all that we have and give it to the poor (ref. Sermon on the Mount, Gospel of St. Luke).

Make no mistake about it, God is dangerous.  He brings down the rulers and rises up the broken and poor (St. Luke, ch. 1 – 6); God humbles the proud and breaks the arrogant and gives life to the downtrodden.  God comes to us, not in the gold of kings or presidents, but in the distressing disguise of the poor and homeless.

God is dangerous.

God loves the unlovable and the unlovely, is not interested in our suits or ties or Gucci or DKNY.  God cares not for our fancy words, smooth talking, nor our degrees, licensures, or certifications.

Jesus is radical but we care more about the whiteness of our teeth than the words that come out of them; we care more for the way things “look” rather than the way things are.  We keep Jesus in the background, the backseat, the closet, or the dark.

We should tremble and remove our fine leathered shoes and realize we are on Holy Ground, for God is a consuming fire and He will burn up all the dross that we call precious and priceless.

God longs for us to surrender everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – to Him and to love Him more than others.  Oh yes, God is zealously jealous and will remove anything that stands between us and single minded devotion to Him if we are not careful.

Oh yes, God is dangerous.  So shut your ears to the manicured hands of those with expensive suits, whitened smiles, big churches, nice homes, and realize that one day, the Good Shepherd will come and separate the sheep from the goats (St. Matthew 25).  I tremble when I realize that the sheep and the goats have one thing in common: they both bleat.  So how do I tell the difference in what they say?  For according to this dangerous God, the only difference between the sheep and the goats was what they did and did not do (for the poor)!

God is dangerous…and His love will turn you upside-down, but in the end you will find that the world looks so beautiful, so radically different when seen through the eyes of (our) dangerous God!

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Earthy Monk Manifesto (part 2)

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart.”

Dorothy Day

The Calling is not difficult to find, but few ever do.
The Word is very near but found only in Silence.
The Way to life is to die upon a Cross carried daily.
The One I seek seeks me more.
He is found not in a grave but Risen,
in the faces of the poor,
in distressing disguises.
I came to be found, and now found I must lose myself.
I came to seek the face of the Comforter that I may
comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
I seek solace from the storm that I may rage against the winds of apathy.
I find no peace until the ego (the one that says “I am God
and in no need of Him Who is Love”) is shattered.
I came as one lost to the lost,
as one poor to the poor,
as one confused to the wise.
I am nothing unless I am at peace with Him
Who is the Prince of Peace.
I am forgotten.
I am lonely.
I am wounded, lame and whole.
I am a beggar at a banquet feast.

I am…only because I am one with the Nazarene!

Blessed, Broken, and Given

When [Jesus] disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with [compassion] for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” [Jesus] said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”  But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”

Then [Jesus] said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, [Jesus] said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. (from the Gospel of St. Matthew, 14)

Blessed, broken and given – the imagery is rich; the concept thousands of years old.  However, the embodying of this, in my everyday life, is still to a large extent untried.

In the Gospel story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (which is actually the miracle of feeding more like 10,000 since the number counted was only the men, no women or children were included in this biblical census), we have the simple yet profound statement: Blessed, broken and given.  That is the essence of what it means to love God and love neighbor.  It is as simple as can be yet we could spend a lifetime trying to ‘embody’ this reality.

We are called by God to be in deep fellowship with Jesus – that is the Blessed.  We are called to deny ourselves and take up the Cross and follow Jesus – that is the Broken.  And we are called by God to give our lives away for the sake of our neighbors, the poor, the broken, the dispossessed, the most vulnerable of our world – and that is the Given.

We are all in some ways perpetually receiving and seeking the embodiment of being Blessed, Broken and Given.  Obviously the greatest embodiment of this is Jesus of Nazareth, Our Messiah Who came to be a Blessing, to be Broken for us and the entire world, and to be Given as a Divine Gift for our salvation (Note: notice how the world salvation is made up of the root word for “salve” – and it is high time for followers of Jesus to put the “salve” back in salvation, no doubt).

We find another example of this idea of being Blessed, Broken and Given poignantly in the Eucharist.  As the priest stands before the people praying the Eucharistic prayers we are given another deeper meaning to the Blessed, Broken and Given.  For in the Eucharist we are given Jesus all over again, blessed, then broken, then shared among the faithful.

To be Blessed, Broken and Given is to allow for the Spirit to mold us into a Eucharistic People – a people of Thanksgiving who are broken, blessed and given to the world for God’s glory and for the benefit of all.

May we all be blessed and be a blessing; may we find in our brokenness, a call from God to know that we are all broken and in that moment we can find common ground; and in that common ground we are called to give: of our faith, our love, our total being as a “Thank You” back to God for all He has done for us.

A Little Leaven Makes Heaven…

[Jesus] spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” (Matt. 13:33 New American Bible)

The words ‘leaven’ when used as a verb means “an element that produces a transforming influence.”  Well, that seems about right when used as an example of the Kingdom of Heaven (which is synonymous with the Kingdom of God when used in the Gospels).  SO here is “A Simpleton’s Guide to the Leaven that makes (the Kingdom of) Heaven” or my pontificating on the Gospel and what it means to follow Jesus in this day and age (please forgive my simplicity and my impetuousness, I’m a work in progress):

  • The word Kingdom comes from the Latin word “Regnum” which translated to English means (roughly) Kingdom, Rule and/or Reign.  So the Kingdom of God is the Rule and Reign of God…the area, place and locale where God is King.
  • Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within, so the Reign and Rule of God is within, so it is not ‘really’ a place that we see, but it is a reality we can see, feel, and experience and create (and it starts within and flows without).
  • So hungering to be “good citizens”, we seek to follow the Rule of Law for the country of which we are citizen, namely the Kingdom of Heaven.  So we follow the Rule and Law of Love: intimacy with God, compassion for the poor, freedom for the oppressed, binding up the broken and wounded, forgiveness to all, love of enemies, service to all, quiet (inner) prayer, not loving or seeking after money, but rather seeking after God’s Righteousness (a.k.a. the “Right Relations” that occur when the Rule and Reign of God are in full operation within the hearts, minds, and souls of its citizenry).
  • So the Kingdom of Heaven is God’s Love and Law of Love ruling our hearts (the seat of action) so that as citizens of this New Kingdom, we are living by a new standard of Love, and not “Love” as defined by American values, the American way of life, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Rich, Corporate America, the Military, Hollywood, or Wall Street.  No, we are living by another Way, a true counter-culture (not the sex-crazed liberal one of the Sixties nor the drug crazed ‘laissez-faire’ of the Eighties nor the selfish, isolationistic Tea Party/Coffee Party/gun-toting Minutemen agenda/values of our current day).

God’s Rule is not the American Rule, it is not the Western Rule, It is not the World’s Rule.  In fact, it is the exact opposite.  God’s kingdom is not merely conservative or liberal American values dressed up all pretty with the Cross of Jesus.  Nope.  In God’s Rule the poor are given good news, the broken are healed, our enemies are loved and even cared for, we strive for God rather than money or status, we seek community rather than isolation, we forgive even in the face of hatred, murder, differences, and pain and suffering.  Like I said, almost the exact opposite of what I hear way too many American ‘Christians’ talking about….what Bible are they reading I wonder.

We follow a Messiah Whose love led him to the Cross even and especially for His enemies and for strangers He did not yet know: yes, Jesus has the exact same amount of love for you and me as He does for Muslims, for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans community and for atheists, agnostics, drug addicts and drunks.

So, if God is in our hearts, His leaven will begin to ‘rise’ in us, acting as the Ultimate Transformative power, turning us from one kind of people into a completely different kind of people.

So, I’ve got to ask myself: Is God’s leaven in me?

When dough is placed into the oven, it looks one way: soft, lumpy, malleable, and not so tasty.  When the dough comes out of the oven it is almost another entity entirely: it has risen, spread out, become a bit more firm, and is oh so tasty.

Is that what my faith in Jesus is doing in and through me?  Is that what our faith looks like?

Am I being so leavened by God’s rule that I ‘come out of the oven’ of God’s love a completely different person?  Or am I just the same person, but ‘dressed’ up in Christian clothing?  Do I really love my enemies?  Am I really willing to surrender everything over to God, including my security, my safety, my reputation and my comfort?  And to do so for even my enemies?

Am I so filled with the Spirit that I almost bleed compassion?  Or am I a stone cold blathering idiot, more a fool because of my own stupidity rather than a fool for the Messiah?

Am I allowing God’s leaven to turn my life into a little slice of Heaven?  Are we doing this as a Pilgrim People?

Is my life good news to the people that meet me?  Is my life, by its very actions, a living Gospel?  Can I be so bold as St. Paul and St. Francis and say to you: imitate me because I so imitate Christ?  Well, of course the truth is: No!

But, I will strive passionately after God and his Rule over and in my heart.  I will rest in the Spirit’s gentle power to transform me, you, us, into the leaven that makes a little Heaven.

So would someone please pass the butter?

The Poetics of Faith

If you never read The Cloister Walk by the poet Kathleen Norris, I highly recommend it. I’ve read it at least three times and eachtime I do so I “re-see” what I thought was old.

And as a ‘poet’ (I use that word as someone who writes and loves poetry, not one who is good at it), I find both her use of words and deep understanding of them suits my own understanding and feeds me. We both believe that words are indispensable and simultaneously superfluous…words are needed and yet unnecessary.And this leads me to sense and feel that poetry is much like the Journey of Faith…the poetics of faith.

In using the word “Faith” here I am using it to signify “a confidence or trust in a Being, person, or thing and as a “belief that is not based on visible or tangible proof.” For myself, I speak as someone with a deep and profound faith in God and in following Jesus.It is interesting to note that root of the word Faith comes from the word meaning “to trust” – fides/fidere from which we get fidelis.

Faith involves building and nurturing deep and (ever deepening) trust with someone – Some One.Norris reminds me again and again that faith is a kindred soul to poetry, in that “poetry is expressed through that which is lived, breathed, uttered, and left silent (62).”

For her, as well as for me, faith is like poetry because the Process is as important (if not more so) as the Product.  Because in faith, as in poetry, when humans are involved the Product is always somewhat flawed through its finiteness. The so-called goal is not the end, but the Journey is. And if the process is “the point,” then the journey will be a great deal messier than we could imagine.

In poetry, as in the journey of faith and life: we must “pay attention” – for it is this clarity of attention that allows for imagination and creativity to have full range and a deep and freeing life, for the poet, the readers, and so to for the people of faith.In poetry as in faith, revision is as much a part of the Journey as the first thought or draft, and in this revising process the poem (and the process) can make a mess of the original.

Seeing things in a different perspective, seeing things new for the first time, starting over, redefining: these are the tools with which we grow in faith and in life.The same is true of faith; and in learning to discover a living faith – one that is real, authentic, embodied, and active, we sometimes have to make a stinkin’ mess of the whole process. And then surrender all of it to God and learn to let go in order to get going.

Expecting to live a life of faith that is free from error, doubt, darkness, mistakes, or forgetting is about as realistic and downright silly as telling a child to go have fun on a muddy playground and not get dirty. It is impossible.

Norris says “when it comes to faith, while there are guidelines…there is no one right way to do it (63).” Although every religious expression has a dogmatic element to it; overall, faith (not religion) by its very definition is a process of learning and unlearning, doubting and believing, moving forward and moving backward…and all this journey is done in and with God, not apart.

Faith, like poetry, is a motion and a movement. It is a journeying motion like the ebb and flow of the waves and tides – always there, but always coming and going, arriving and leaving. Faith is rarely “perfect” but it so sacredly poetic, holding a vast richness whereupon we can draw for courage, inspiration, motivation, and comfort.

I daily seek to “write” my faith out in the pages of my life, fleshing out in living words the hope that I have in God, writing it out like my poetry: revising, crossing out, erasing, re-writing, and editing.

Our faith, like poetry and all art, is a Journey of Revisioning: seeing what seems old with new eyes given by the Spirit empowering us to (like T.S. Eliot said), see it again for the first time.

Flannery O’Connor, one of THE saltiest saints to live, once said that most people who come to (any) Faith, do so by means that most religions would not allow, or at best frown upon. And so I sense it may be that way with all of us.

Fumbling into Grace & Bleeding Daylight all over the place…

Heaven’s Call to an Earthy Spirituality…

The word for Home and Economy come from the same word – oikos – meaning “home” and economy meaning “management of the household.” 

Our spirituality is the soul aspect of our economy; how we relate to and embody our soulful Oikos. 

We live in the body, filled with Spirit, planted firmly on this Earth to know, love, experience and live out God’s limitless Love.  We can not avoid the economy of our planet, our countries, our communities and our very souls.  We are given this life as a Gift from God, and what we do with it is our “Thank You” back to God.

 It is the spirit of Heaven to call us to an earthy spirituality, one deeply connected to all, and I do mean ALL, aspects of life.  

We are called to reject typical spirituality, Americanized, that says We are to be heavenly minded.  But what tends to happen is we fall somewhere in-between the dilemma of being so ‘earthly minded’ we are no good for heaven…or being so heavenly minded that we neglect, reject, and even abuse the Earth.

Remember: Grow where God plants you.