Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Prayer: "The Fruit of the Spirit."

We have reached the end of another year, and are collectively asking what this New Year will bring.

Personally, I have reached the end of an amazing, challenging, life-changing struggle to finally finish my undergraduate degree, and with God’s help I even was awarded magna cum laude in philosophy from the University of Colorado Boulder.

This is beyond anything I could have hoped or prayed for, and I am grateful.

The parties are over and the celebrations are ended, I have put my souvenirs and 'trophies' away, but I keep my metal pinned to my bulletin board by my desk. I still have filing to do and year-end clearing out of my closet, the studio has been tidied, the floor swept and mopped, even my sock drawer is organized…but it is time to move on.

For the coming year, I would like to share a prayer that is a bit of a meditation on the "Fruit of the Spirit."

 Dear Lord, you have given me the fruit of your Spirit to not only manifest your grace in my life, but to work through me to minister to the marvelous beings around me; both human and animals.

I pray that you will use me to share your Love to all your creatures,
And to spread the Joy of life each day,
To bring your Peace by listening to those who are ignored,
And to show your Patience to the stressed and pressured that I meet every day.
That I would always share your Kindness to those who are unkind,
To remember that your Goodness is not just a gift to me, but meant to be shared;
The Faithfulness that you have shown me, is meant for promises keeping,
And that the Gentleness in your dealing with me, is meant to keep both friend and neighbor. 

But Self-control is the golden setting that holds all  your marvelous “fruit” together; for your virtues are not virtuous when separated from the whole. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:-22-25

Happy New Year.
Lisa Guinther
Insights From the Furnace

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quote from Simone Weil: Thoughts on Beauty

Simone Weil, Awaiting God: A new Translation of Attente de Dieu and Lettre à un Religieux. Translated by Bradley Jersak (2012, Abbotsford, Fresh Wind Press)

"The beauty of the world cannot be attributed to matter itself. It is a relationship of the world to our senses—those senses that come from the structure of our bodies and our souls. The ‘Micromegas’ of Voltaire—a thinking infusorian organism [an alien], could never access that beauty with which we feed ourselves in the universe. In a case where such beings did exist, we would need to have faith that the world would also be beautiful for them, but it would be a different beauty. Anyway, one must have faith that the universe is beautiful on every scale; and more generally, that there is a plenitude of beauty relative to the physical and psychic structure of every thinking being that exists—and in fact, of all possible thinking beings. It is this same concordance (agreement) of an infinity of perfect beauties that give the beauty of the world a transcendent character. Nevertheless, what we experience of this beauty was destined for our human senses.The beauty of the world is the cooperation of divine wisdom and creation. ‘Zeus made all things,’ said the Delphic oracle, ‘and Baccus perfected them.’ This perfecting is the creation of beauty. God created the universe and his Son, our First-born brother, created beauty for us. The beauty of the world is the tender smile of Christ to us through matter. He is really present in universal beauty. Love of this beauty proceeds from God and descends into our souls and goes out to God present in the universe. It too is something like a sacrament.Such is the only universal beauty. Aside from God, only the whole universe in its entirety can properly be called beautiful. All that is in the universe and less than the universe can be called beautiful only by extending this word beyond its strict significance to those things that are indirectly part of beauty, that are imitations."(p 67)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Mercenary Piety" from "A Diary of Readings"

A quote from Père Jean Nicolas Grou The School of Jesus Christ (ca. 1795) English translation 1932 quoted in John Baillie A Diary of Readings ( (1955, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons)

"If we look into our hearts, we shall be filled with confusion when we see there the mean, mercenary ideas that form the bond of our intercourse with God.
Are we not of the number of those who, like the Jews [ read biblical Pharisees] have no object in their prayers but temporal benefits, those who pray earnestly for the fatness of the earth but never ask for the dew of heaven? Are not our churches full [ca. 1795] whenever public calamities overtake us, and quite deserted in times of prosperity? When our domestic affairs are disturbed, or we are involved in a vexatious lawsuit, or are in danger of some serious loss we become very devout, we resort to prayer, and ask our priest and pious friends to help us. When our life, or the life of our husband or a beloved child is in danger, we have Masses said, we begin Novenas and invoke the Saints. Events and circumstances awaken our religion, as though there were no need to pray to God except in illness and sorrow. As soon as affairs take a turn for the better and the danger is past, our devotion vanishes; the most we think of doing is to thank God for the successful end of our troubles; after a short act of gratitude we forget Him, and think of nothing but our pleasures. Speaking generally, it is true to say that the necessities and accidents of life form the main subject and the actuating motive of the prayers of the ordinary Christian."

Do you blame us, they may ask, for thus appealing to God in times of temporal need? I am very far from doing so, since it is God’s own intention to call us back to Himself by such needs, and we can do nothing better than appeal to Him on these occasions. What I blame is that He is never invoked except for these needs, as though there were no other blessing and no other evils than those of the present life. What I blame is that God is forgotten as soon as these needs are supplied, as soon as these evils are averted and these blessings secured. Truly it is altogether too material, too carnal, to make piety a matter of such aims and events as these." 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Facebook: "Friend" or foe?

I remember when I was learning to use Facebook: I would see what friends were doing, where they were going, and what they were thinking. I understood nearly from the first, the time-wasting qualities of scrolling for interesting articles that people who were my friends had posted. As I used Facebook, I also learned of privacy and security issues. You really do need to be careful of what information you post, and there really are such things as Facebook “stalkers.”

It took me some time, but I did learn that this was not my living room or even a coffee shop; these people that I “friend” are not all close-enough friends to air in public my up-sets, rants or personal problem for all to see; this is tempting for a person who lives alone.

I want to keep up with real friends, and I have very little in the way of free time right now. Facebook seems like a virtual living room or coffee shop, and I see enough of other “friends” lives for me (or anyone) to feel as if this virtual relationship is a real friendship, with real support from people you begin to think of like a surrogate family; which is a danger of this virtual world. Most of the people you “friend” are not real friends. (Yes, some are real friends, but don’t miss the point here.)

A friend is a person you see in person, can hear the sound of their voice, and have shared things with you (and you with them) often enough that you really do know and trust them.

Then there are Facebook friends: some whom I have never have met in person, but I begin to feel like they are real friends. This is where the problems begin.

We all select friends in real life, based on certain criteria; and one criteria is that you actually have something in common with them. Those common things can be a job, faith, hobbies, home life, or collecting bottle caps, or belly-button lint. Whatever!

And if we really care about our friends, we want or hope that they would tell us if we are doing something wrong or dangerous, and we would do the same for them.  We hope our friends would tell us if there is something important we should know about, or even something as mundane as “Excuse me but you have a piece of spinach in your teeth.”

But what is Facebook? 

Facebook is a social-media/marketing tool.  Facebook earns money by being a direct marketing tool, customized by algorithms designed to record your likes, to post advertisements, and various media articles to interest you and your group of “friends.” It is used to collect data from all segments of society, world-wide. It was originally designed to reach groups of college students and record their likes, and follow the trends on what and where they spent money. Taping into this huge market is of prime concern to certain segments of the economy.  Facebook has grown to be a corporate entity, now traded on the stock market, and is a marketing tool used to reach all across society and see what people like, don’t like, and generally to take the “pulse” of all cultures around the world.

But what do we seem to be using Facebook for?

We treat it like a coffee shop of world ideas. We treat our Facebook friends as if they were real friends, and when our “friends” do things which are contrary to what we believe is important, or follow ideas that are counter to the ideas that we hold dear; we feel that we should behave like a good friend and point out to them when we think they are doing something wrong. After all, that is what a good friend is supposed to do.

Yet when these “friends” don’t listen, we try better words, new rhetoric, even “meme’s” and photo cards to reach and teach them. We get righteously angry with them; after all, if they are our “friend” shouldn’t they “get with the program?”

Whatever our political party, we try and educate those who don’t “listen” to us, and convince them to see things our way.

But Facebook is an international marketing tool.

If we are “for” gun control, we will try and correct those misinformed “friends” to see things the “right” way.

But Facebook is used to sell products and attract customers.

If we are some particular segment of theistic believers, we will ask leading, significant questions to tease out our particular brand of orthodoxy, and be certain to correct, (very firmly,) those who just don’t seem to “get it right.”

 But Facebook is used to collect marketing data.

If we are Atheists, we will work on our arguments (ad-hoc or reasoned,) in order to smoke out those weak minded, non-scientific “religious” folks. They certainly have it dead wrong, and need to be educated.

But according to Facebook is a “…popular free social networking website…” but the first important bullet point tell us that Facebook is a “Market place- [it] allows member to post, read and post to classified ads.”

Yes, we can chat. Yes, we can post and see what our friends are doing. Yes, we can post headlines from around the world and keep up with some current events. But Facebook is not private. It is not a closed group. Your “friends” may not be a like-minded group of internet geeks who post private comments within their closed chat-space: that is, unless you use Facebook that way. Honestly, if you really desire a closed group; then create one.

If you want to convince people of your views, take the time to meet these “Facebook” friends and become their real friend. But in the mean-time; maybe those of us with real debate skills can create closed groups to “duke it out” and really get good at rhetoric in print. There is nothing wrong with doing that.

But you are not going to convince ANYONE of ANYTHING on Facebook.
(Yes, I do see the irony of posting a link to this blog post on Facebook.)

But instead:

You may get really good at thrashing someone with words on a screen.

You may get really good at being an Internet “Troll.”

You may get really good at surrounding yourself with only those people who will “like” your posts…for you can un-friend anyone who disagrees with you.

You may get really good at “one-liner” aphorisms that can be turned into “memes.”

But remember, you will only convince those who already agree with your view i.e. preaching to the Choir. 

You will alienate those who do not agree with you, and possibly contribute to creating an even deeper polarization of society.

You cannot get good at debate by typing on a screen.  You need to do that in a group, “for real.”  Spending time perfecting your answers on Facebook is not a debate.

Bringing back the “Town Hall” style debate is another topic for another day.

Rather than give up on Facebook, why don’t we keep social-media social. Enjoy your wide-variety of friends, “like” their photos of kids, pets and vacations; but keep your rhetoric to the closed group or the real-public square, or the real lecture hall, or the real friends over for coffee in your living room.

By the way; let me know what time you will be over.
Bring some snacks, and I’ll provide the coffee or tea.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

An excerpt from C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce"

 I highly recommend this little book; it is a thoughtful analogy which presents the ideas of Heaven and Hell, for those who are not “religious”or maybe as good advice for those that are.

You can find the book here on Amazon or other on-line or local booksellers.

We will enter the story with the conversation between the ghostly narrator of the story and one of the Solid People, who calls himself George MacDonald; formerly an author admired by the narrator.

“‘but if they come here they can really stay?’ 

 ‘Aye. Ye’ll have heard that the emperor Trajan did.’
‘But I don’t understand. Is judgment not final? Is there really a way out of Hell into Heaven?’

‘It depends on the way ye’re using the words. If they leave that grey town behind it will not have been Hell. To any that leaves it, it is Purgatory. And perhaps ye had better not call this country Heaven. Not Deep Heaven, ye understand.’ (Here he smiled at me.) ‘Ye can call it the Valley of the Shadow of Life. And yet to those who stay here it will have been Heaven from the first. And ye can call those sad streets in the town yonder the Valley of the Shadow of Death: but to those who remain there they will have been Hell even from the Beginning.’

I suppose he saw that I looked puzzled, for presently he spoke again.

‘Son,’ he said, ‘ye cannot in your present state understand eternity: when Anodos looked through the door of the Timeless he brought no message back. But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that this forgiven sins and remembered sorrow take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.’

‘Is that not very hard, Sir?’

‘I mean, that is the real sense of what they will say. In the actual language of the Lost, the words will be different, no doubt. One will say he has always served his country right or wrong; and another that he has sacrificed everything to his Art; and some that they’ve never been taken in, and some that, thank God, they’ve always looked after Number One, and nearly all, that, at least they’ve been true to themselves.’

‘And the Saved?’

‘Ah, the Saved…what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.’

‘Then those people are right who say that Heaven and Hell are only states of mind?’

‘Hush,’ he said sternly. ‘Do not blaspheme. Hell is a state of mind—ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind—is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.’
‘Milton was right,’ said my Teacher. ‘The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell that serve in Heaven.” There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality. Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper that say it was sorry and be friends. Ye call it the Sulks. But in adult life it has a hundred fine names—Achilles’ wrath and Coriolanus’ grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride.’

‘Then is no one lost through the undignified vices, Sir? Through mere sensuality?’

‘Some are, no doubt. The sensualist, I’ll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a small one. His sin is the less. But the time comes on when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving fiercer and fiercer, and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him. He’d fight to the death to keep it. He’d like well to be able to scratch; but even when he can scratch no more he’d rather itch than not…Ye’ll understand, there are innumerable forms of this choice. Sometimes forms that one hardly thought of at all on Earth.’
‘There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.'

Moved by a desire to change the subject, I asked why the Solid People, since they were full of love, did not go down into Hell to rescue the Ghosts…One would have expected a more militant charity.

‘Ye will understand that better, perhaps before ye go,’ said he. ‘In the meantime, I must tell ye they have come further for the sake of the Ghosts than ye can understand…The sane would do no good if they made themselves mad to help madmen.’

‘But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?’

“Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.’”

C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce ( copyright 1946, C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd) excerpt from The Coplete C.S.Lewis Signature Classics (2002, New York, Harper Collins) pp 338-340

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Wonder...? some wandering lines of thought.

I wonder what would happen to the Kingdom of God,

…right here and now;

 If we would think of God in Trinity as intelligent?

What would happen if we could see God’s Son as a


What if we stared reading the words Jesus spoke

 as tied together, meaningful,

 and not un-connected


Would you believe those words?

Would you act on those words?

Or would you rather have some pastor,



 or teacher,

 shake their head in confusion

And say “Well, I’m not sure What this means?”

And laugh with them, from the middle of the pews.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Does Jesus = intelligence? A quote from Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard writes: 

"If you play a game of word association today, in almost any setting, you will collect some familiar names around words such as smart, knowledgeable, intelligent, and so forth. Einstein, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and the obligatory rocket scientists, will stand out. But one person who pretty certainly will not come up in this connection is Jesus.

Would you be able to trust your life to such a person? If this is how he seems to you, are you going to be inclined to become his student? Of course not. We all know that action must be based on knowledge, and we grant the right to lead and teach only to those we believe to know what is real and what is best.

The world has succeeded in opposing intelligence to goodness. A Russian saying speaks of those who are “stupid to the point of sanctity.” In other words, you have to be really dumb in order to qualify for saintliness.

Centuries ago, even, when Dante assigned the title “master of those who know,” he mistakenly gave it to Aristotle, not Jesus, for Jesus is holy.

Tertullian, a famous Christian leader of the second and third centuries, asked rhetorically, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens, the Church with the Academy, the Christian with the heretic?” The correct answer, he supposed, was “Nothing whatsoever.”[1]

Here is a profoundly significant fact: In our culture, among Christians and non-Christians alike, Jesus Christ is automatically disassociated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as well-informed, brilliant, or smart.

Far too often he is regarded as hardly conscious. He is looked on as a mere icon, a wraithlike semblance of a man, fit for the role of sacrificial lamb or alienated social critic, perhaps, but little more.

A well-known “scholarly” picture has him wandering the hills of Palestine, deeply confused about who he was and even about crucial points in his basic topic, the kingdom of the heavens. From time to time he perhaps utters disconnected though profound and vaguely radical irrelevancies, now obscurely preserved in our Gospels.

Devotion to God is independent of human knowledge. Of course, the modern secular outlook rigorously opposes sanctity to intelligence. And today any attempt to combine spirituality or moral purity with great intelligence cause widespread pangs of “cognitive dissonance.” Mother Teresa, no more than Jesus, is thought of as smart—nice, of course, but not really smart. “Smart” means good at managing how life “really” is.

 For all the vast influence he has exercised on human history, we have to say that Jesus is usually seen as a frankly pathetic individual who lived and still lives on the margins of “real life.” What lies at the heart of the astonishing disregard of Jesus found in the moment –to-moment existence of multitudes of professing Christians is a simple lack of respect for him. He is not seriously considered or presented as a person of great ability. What, then, can devotion or worship mean, if simple respect is not included in it? Not much.

The picture the ordinary person today has of Jesus’ surroundings in his earthly lifetime seems largely determined by what this homeland, Palestine, looked like to famous nineteenth-century tourists such as Mark Twain. Their impressions of Jesus’ social setting remains today in the minds of most people. We imagine a desolate land of ruins, perhaps with a few peasants and ignorant villagers, Jesus among them. But here is no truth in this. In fact, his own society should be thought of as the equivalent in its world to Israel’s place in the world today.

In Jesus’ day Jerusalem was a glorious city, routinely flooded by hundreds of thousands of visitors, including multitudes of brilliant people from all over the ”known” world. It was a cosmopolitan environment, interacting with the entire Roman world and more. What was known and discussed anywhere was known and discussed there. It was in such surroundings that, already as a lad of twelve, he held spellbound for several days some of the best minds in the land."  (pp 134-136)

From: Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (1997, New York, Harper One)

[1] Tertullian, “The Prescriptions Against the Heretics,” subsection 7 in Early Latin Theology, The Library of Christian classics p 36. This endnote from Dallas Willard; you can find this on line in a digital copy of Nicene and anti-Nicene Fathers if you need it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Civil War ?

From the web-site blog "Civil war: real issues"
Since shortly after the death of St. Paul, the Kingdom of God has been wracked by continuous, on-going civil war.

Civil war def : A war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation.[1]

But Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say ‘you fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Mathew 5:21-23)

Why would Jesus tell us that to be angry with a brother or sister is akin to murder! Or to call a brother or sister “fool” was worthy of guilt before the highest court of the land.
We make excuses for not listening to these words. After all isn’t it unhealthy to hold in your anger?  Don’t bottle up your anger: vent it!

But at the root of his teaching on anger is the heart.We are supposed to be filled with agape love,  even loving our enemies; to act just like “little Christ’s."

Instead we are filled with pride, anger, and malice towards anyone who disagrees with us; especially within Christianity, and especially when it is about a theological position, denomination, or even what version of the Bible one should use.

Sadly, anyone who is a student of the history of the Christian church will see the problems which grew after the deaths of the Apostles and the first generation after them.

I am not making light of the serious issues which led to the Council of Nicene in 325; but can we understand for a moment that Arius really believed that he was honoring God and being true to Scripture by his formulation of what we take for granted now: how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit could be ONE God. The philosophy to hold together the dogma was not written until just before St. Augustine![2]

So let’s “fast-forward” to our arguably more civilized day: we Christians haven’t burned anyone at the stake for about 200 years or so. 

But not so fast; we’ve got something that may be worse: The Internet and Social Media. There are people who need to win at every argument (Christians or not,) so that there are “meme’s” which we all laugh at “that person” who has to correct a wrong on the Internet!  In every Christian Facebook group, there is a need for moderators to make sure that all group members play nice.

I say this because I used to be one of “them” ; that person who had to be right.  I would allow myself to be triggered by one of several “hot-button” topics, then I would be off and running. I would type pages of tight, philosophical arguments intending to not only win the argument, but I envisioned winning some sort of Kingdom War!

I had so much anger and contempt for those stupid, ignorant fools that could not see how WRONG their position was.  I finally gave up; but only because I could not teach people who didn’t want to be taught.
*I still could see “them” (you know, my enemy,) with contempt; other believers who were a waste of my time.*

But I finally stopped avoiding Jesus’ words.

I am praying a new prayer now: “Dear Lord, please heal my heart and help me to love.”
When I get angry, I am fundamentally not trusting God.
When I get angry, I have malice towards my fellow human: Christian or not.
When I get angry, I am full of pride in my own “right-ness” instead of God’s righteousness.
When I get angry, I am not righting wrongs with God’s persistent love. 

Dallas Willard writes, “…there is nothing that can be done with anger that cannot be done better without.”[3]
These words of Willard touched my heart and brought me back to the reality of what God is trying to do for and through us in the Kingdom of God. I am back to really listening to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, not influenced by the confused words taught by those few who wave off  Jesus’ words as either a paradox or impossible.

Willard writes:
“By truly loving our adversary, we stand within the reality of God’s kingdom and resources, and it is very likely we will draw our adversary into it also. Things are really different there, and a resolution manifesting the divine presence becomes possible.”[4]

I know that as a Christ-follower, and with God’s ever present help, I will look at my brothers and sisters with God’s love, God’s patience; and trust that God will heal my heart and teach those around me.  And if they really are wrong, I will pray that they might ask questions of someone who knows more…and that doesn’t necessarily mean me!

[1] Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language  (1957,Cleveland, World Publishing Company)

[2] And quite frankly, a lot of this was a struggle for who had the power mixed up with violent care for the people of God; also quite apart from Jesus’ words.
[3] Dallas Willard The Divine Conspiracy (1997, New York, Harper One) 151 emphasis mine.
[4] Ibid. 157

Friday, April 3, 2015

Messiah? A Good Friday Meditation

The Jews had studied and debated for years over the “weeks” in the book of Daniel; to know just exactly when the Messiah would appear, and the time was right.

The Pharisees were looking as well, knowing that the time should be now.  Their sect had grown stronger after the slaughter during the Maccabean revolt. They were sticking to teaching and serving God rather than meddling with politics.

The scribes and experts in the Law debated each point of Torah so it would be clear how to properly serve and worship God. 

They knew the time was right. It was up to them to correctly lead the simple masses in service to God. Everything had to be perfect so as not to cause God to turn his favor away from the chosen people and to bring Messiah, the strong deliverer. All the hopes for freedom were pinned on deliverance from the horrid Roman oppression. Surely God would deliver his people. The Pharisees looked to following the law; they needed to be seen as the deliverers of their people. It was by their piety that they would please God and bring the delivering Messiah by their own obedience.

But what did they find instead? The ignorant, unclean masses seemed to be lead astray by an un-schooled Jew from the back-water town of Nazareth, with uncouth followers from Galilee. More than once this Jesus made fools of them in front of the crowds, undermining their authority. He seemed to have some miracle working power; but like any so-called healer, would not produce a miracle on demand. He was obviously demon possessed and worst of all, a heretic. He couldn’t even remember to wash his hands! Their whole plan to usher in the age of the Messiah would be ruined and they would face endless torment at the hands of Rome; something would have to be done!

“If we let him go on like this, all men will believe in him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year said to them, “you know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people…” (John 11:48-50)

But little did they know Jesus would not just be killed for the nation, but for the whole world; ushering in the “new Covenant in His blood”.

And Pilate said “Behold the Man!”

As the crown said “Crucify, Crucify!

And Pilate washed his hands.

And our Lord and Savior said “It is finished!”

Surely our griefs he himself bore, and our sorrows he carried; yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well being fell upon him and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Foot Washing: A Lenten Meditation

Foot washing: a Lenten Meditation*

Jesus, knowing that the father had given all things into his hands, and that he'd come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him… After he had washed their feet and he put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. But if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you servants are not greater than their master nor are messengers greater than the one who has sent them. If you know these things you are blessed to do them.” (John 13:3-5,12-17)

I envision this scene in a room with a low table, perhaps a bit higher than a coffee table, with cushions or low benches around it. This was in the room where they were to celebrate the Passover. The disciples were sitting around this table waiting for the start of the traditional celebration meal commemorating the Exodus. 

So getting up from the place of honor at the meal, Jesus took off his robe, took a towel, or what would probably look like a large thick homespun off-white cloth of either linen or wool, and tied it around his waist like an apron. There may have been a table with a pitcher of water, and a basin probably already set there by the owner of the room, perhaps for the purification ritual for their hands.

If you have visualized here the paintings of the foot washing from during the Renaissance with the disciples lining up in front of Jesus, I think you need to change your thinking: the text says that Jesus was the one who picked up the wash basin and carried it to the first disciple and began to wash his feet.

There is no added dialogue in John’s Gospel.  Did Jesus have to tell the first stunned disciple “Give me your foot” in the same way a mother would as she  undressed her child to get her ready for a bath. Did he say, “Hold still" while he washed off those feet.  Did he put that confuse man’s sandals back on for him, or did he just pick up the basin and move to the next man. 

Remember that John the Baptist said he himself, was not worthy to tie Jesus’ sandals; So I wonder if Jesus tied the disciples sandals for them?

We have to remember this was the service the household slave would have provided, but since we know from the Synoptics that this was a borrowed room and there was no host mentioned for this Passover there was no slave to meet Jesus or his disciples at the door.

This was an amazing service that Jesus did for his disciples. This same Jesus raised both Lazarus and Jairus' daughter from the dead. This is the same Jesus that gave sight to the blind. This is the same Jesus who died for our sins. How could we miss the idea of making an effort to serve our fellow man?

 After all Jesus did.

Jesus finished washing all 12 of the disciples feet, took the basin and put it aside, then took the towel off, folded it up and set it down, then put his robe back on. But as he returned to the table, he said to them “… you know what I have done for you? You call me teacher and Lord – and you are right, that is what I am. So I your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”

Can you hear the challenge?

Can you serve your brothers and sisters in Christ?

The messy, obnoxious, burdensome, take you 15 extra minutes-out-of-your way service?

One last thought: Could you wash the feet of your enemy?

Jesus did.

*I originally posted this in December of 2012