Friday, March 31, 2006

After the Movie

Well, I never thought I'd say this but I finally have my own blog. Dave suggested I begin one a while ago but I didn't think I'd have enough to say and I didn't really think anyone would read it anyway. Nevertheless, it's been a week or so and I've managed to post something everyday - and I haven't run out of things to say yet.

I didn't really post many things here in the past and I'll be posting even less now, but I'll still be checking in every morning.

Blame the Woman? not.

Instead of starting the fifth glorious mystery (crowning Mary as Queen of Heaven) by tackling the difficulties with meditating on yet another event which contains no direct scripture passage to meditate upon, I'd like to start with something apparently unrelated.

I've asked numerous people "who was the first person to sin?". The answer I always get is "the devil". So i then ask "who was the first human person to sin?" Then the answer is "Eve, she started it all". And so the oldest male tradition, blaming the woman, begins with Adam in Genesis and continues until this very day.

Never mind that Adam seems to have given Eve garbled instructions about the fruit of tree of knowledge, never mind that he says and does nothing while he is right there with Eve (Genesis 3:6). Apparently Eve started it all even though Paul says in Roman 5, death entered the world through one man.

Whatever blame we attach to Eve because she was "first" to listen to the serpent, we should attach equal praise to Mary because she was the "first" to listen to the Word of God. If Eve enabled a series of events which ended with Adam bringing death to humanity, then Mary has also enabled a series of events which end with Jesus bringing eternal life to humanity. With what honor should we treat the mother of the King of Kings? Now that the King of Kings has triumphed over death and brought us everlasting life, let us consider the honor we bestow upon the mother of an earthly king (who inherits his monarchy from his father). We call her the Queen-mother. Let us bless Our Lord's Mother with at least the same haste with which we blame Eve for the fall.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Reverse engineeering

The final two glorious mysteries of the Rosary pose the great difficulty of referring to events not actually narrated in the Holy Scriptures. When reflecting on the fourth glorious mystery, Mary's bodily assumption into the heavens after her death, perhaps we can take the same approach that we did on the previous mysteries in which Mary plays a major role.

At the annunciation (first joyful mystery), Mary accepts Jesus into her life, we realize we all need to do this, and that she was first. At the visitation, Mary, Elizabeth and John make the presence of the Lord the focus of their fellowship and rejoice, we realize we all need to do this, and that she participated in the first expression of Christian fellowship. At the Nativity, Mary brings forth Jesus into the world and for the shepherds to worship and adore, we realize we all need to share Jesus with others, and that she was the first to bring Jesus to others. At the presentation, she brings Jesus and her relationship with him into a formal religious context, and we see that she was first to perform this essential task. After finding Jesus in the Temple, she ponders and treasures the surprising ways in which Jesus acts, we realize we need to do this, and that she was the first to let Jesus direct their personal relationship. At the wedding in Cana, Mary intercedes for others, we realize we all need to intercede as well, and that she was the first to intercede on our behalf to the Messiah.

In all these "Marian" mysteries, we see that she gives us the first and most perfect examples of how to respond to Jesus. When we turn our attention to the Assumption then, we must almost reverse-engineer from the Scriptures an essential part of our relationship with the Lord and imagine a first and most perfect example of how to respond to Jesus which fits the Assumption. Our destiny of a bodily Resurrection and an eternity hopefully with God. This is our final hope, the purpose for which we were created, the purpose for which Christ entered the world, the purpose for which Christ died, the purpose for which Christ rose.

Some have received this privelege early. Enosh and Elijah were taken up to heaven according to the Bible. Suspicion looms about Moses (who appeared with Elijah to Jesus at the Transfiguration) as he left no known grave after his death. If in so many other areas of "our personal relationship with Jesus" Mary was both first and example to us all, then in the final known aspect of our personal relationship with Jesus (the Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting) it would make sense that she is still first and example to us all in this area as well. Certainly the Assumption is not an event contained in the Scriptures, but perhaps the event does not require as much of a stretch of the imagination as one might first think.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The birth of the betrothed

We may have heard that the relationship between Christ and his people is like the relationship between a bridegroom and a bride. The bible draws this parallel in numerous places (husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church).

Since the story of God's love for us culminates in the as of yet unfulfilled event of the Church being presented as a spotless bride to Christ. The Church, full of sinful people such as myself, has a long way to go before being the spotless bride. It seems the lovely girl (the Church, Christ's fiancee) is still a bit too young for the wedding.

When we ponder the third glorious mystery, Pentecost, what we have is the birth of Christ's fiancee, the spotless-bride-to-be. This new baby, like all babies, turned their world upside down with the fervor of new life. What began as a meeting of men once too cowardly to admit any association with Our Lord ended with these same men speaking new languages and offering forgiveness for killing the Christ whom they all betrayed. Sometimes while improsoned for preaching, these men found angels coming to their rescue. Though sometimes these witnesses died a violent death instead of getting rescued. But then comes the conversion of those that murdered the Christian witnesses. And when this murderer turns into preacher, he preaches a sermon so long and boring that someone falls asleep, falls out of a window, and dies. But not even death is an excuse for getting out of one of Paul's sermons and so the Apostle raises the man from the dead. And if that wasn't enough the disciples get mistaken for the Pagan Gods (Jupiter and Mercury) they were calling people to forsake.

If we celebrate the beginning of Jesus' earthly body in the first joyful mystery, then we celebrate the beginning of Christs' mystical body (the Church with Christ as head) in the third glorious mystery.

When we pondered the Ascension (the second glorious mystery) we needed to remember that the story of victory over death did not end with Christ rising and saying good-bye to us. Rather it began a new chapter in which there was much work and preparation on our part. Now we see God's part in the in-between time after the Ascension of Our Lord and before his return. He sends us the Holy Spirit to invigorate and intoxicate the works that we have dedicated to the Lord's service. May we all remember the earlier lessons of relinquishing control over our relationship with God.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A long distance personal relationship

We've all heard that a personal relationship with Jesus is essential to one's salvation. The second glorious mystery, the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven, reminds us that our personal relationship with Jesus is, for the most part, a long distance one. He is seated at the right hand of the father and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

The relationship is alive and real and yet when we say "Jesus is in our hearts" it bears resemblance to a couple maintaining in a long distance relationship, writing letters, making phone calls, remembering each other in their hearts, and longing for personal contact.

In some sense, after our Lord ascends, the apostles are in the same boat we are when it comes to our personal relationship with Jesus. When we compare our relationship with the infant Jesus with the relationship Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds had we feel painfully aware that our relationship is but a pale shadow of theirs. And so it continues into Jesus public ministry and his Passion and Resurrection. We can always draw symbolic parallel between their experiene and ours, but we were not there, we were not with the Lord as they were. Yet after the Ascension, they are just as removed from his physical presence as we are. Thus begins a period of waiting and longing which characterizes Lent, Advent, and the entire Christian journey.

One can almost understand one of the oldest criciticisms against the Christian faith, namely that the Christian religion has its head in the sky, awaiting the return of the Lord, and entirely unconcerned with the oh so important affairs of this world. Having journeyed with Jesus, learned from him, watched him die and rise, and to witness him ascending to the heavens, what on this earth could be worth paying attention to? Why can't we follow him? Why can't we follow him now?

Jesus answers this question before it is even asked by telling us we will be his "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Just as Our Lord died and rose so we could be with him, we need to remain apart from him so that others may be with him as well. And so, rather than causing us to withdraw from the Lord, our longing to be with the Lord in heaven should inspire us to spread the good news about the Lord so others may be with him in heaven as well. Far from removing us from our worldly duties, our heavenly gaze should give meaning and purpose to our worldly duties. Or, as Saint Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 10:31),
whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God

Monday, March 27, 2006

Left Behind

Mud Glove

The Resurrection

The glorious mysteries, which celebrate our risen and triumphant Lord, really do not fit into the Lenten spirit of preparing for our risen and triumphant Lord. In hindsight, I should have done the glorious mysteries on the Sundays during Lent as Sundays technically do not belong to the Lenten season as celebrating the risen Lord trumps the Lenten focus of prepration. Uh oh... now my inner geek / pharisee is getting out of control and insists on mentioning that the Lenten season which mirrors the 40 days in the desert leads us to a curious anomaly. If Ash Wendesday is day 1 of Lent, then the day before easter becomes day 46. But when you remove the 6 sundays in this period, we get back to 40 days of Lent. Yeah, I know, totally irrelevant, see my earlier post on geeks and nerds.

In the first glorious mystery, we think about the risen Lord, eternally glorified. One may wonder "how this is different from life before the first joyful mystery?" Before the Word became Flesh, the Word was alive and eternal. Has the Word merely reverted to its former undying state? Does the resurrection simply reset everything that happened since the Angel Gabriel announced the coming of Our Lord? Do we then forget everything Our Lord has done before the resurrection? Granted, in his risen state Our Lord still has flesh and before the incarnation he had no flesh. But if that is the only point, surely he could have entered the world in his glorified state and not bothered with the messy in between details. Why did he bother with a detour?

The only answer I can see is that he did this to establish a personal relationship with us. A crucial step, of course, is to set us free from our sins - but it is not the only step. He chose his path, which involved birth and death, in order that we could walk it to. Now that his path involves rising to new life, our paths can also involve rising to new life.

If we look back on the five joyful mysteries (the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity, the presentation, finding the Lord in the temple) and the five luminous mysteries (the baptism of Our Lord, the wedding at Cana, preaching the kingdom, the Transfiguration, the institution of the Eucharist) and the five sorrowful mysteries (the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crown of thorns, carrying the cross, the crucifixion) we see that all these events are not only centred on Jesus but focused heavily on his personal relationship with us.

Taking this idea and applying it to the resurrection, which first brings to mind Jesus risen and alone, we see that our thoughts on the resurrection also need to focus on our relationship with the Lord. Namely, our relationship with the Lord, just like the Lord himself, is now characterised by a victory over death. Or as Paul says, in Romans 6:5
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection

Almost makes the Sorrowful mysteries seem worth enduring, doesn't it?

Geek vs Nerd

Well, at work the discussion of the difference between geek and nerd came up. I have always felt that nerd better described me than geek (because I was not cool enough).

My co-workers and I went to the online dictionaries and found that the definitions of nerd and geek both include foolish, socially inept, and single-minded in technical or scientific pursuits. The key difference, according to the dictionary, is that a geek is clumsy while a nerd is unattractive.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Six Degrees of Kara

Kara Kara is Yuval's girfriend, Mike and I worked with Yuval in Edmonton back in the day. Kara came out to today's Calgary Flickr Meet Up. Yuval did not :(

- Peace

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Crucifixion

The fifth sorrowful mystery, the centre of the Christian faith, the crucifixion. Or as Paul says (1 Corinthians 1:22-23),
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles
What is special about the crucifixion of Christ? Crucifixion was common before the time of Jesus and continued after his death. Even today, some brave followers of Christ choose to expose themselves to danger of execution rather than deny the Lordship of Jesus.

Some point to Christ's sinlessness to make it special because we all ultimately deserved death anyway for our sins even if we are executed for a crime not meriting death (for example, converting to Christianity as Abdur Rahman has done). Some point out that Christ died willingly. Certainly that sets his crucifixion apart from most others. And countless martyrs have died for the Lord giving us the supreme example of what it means to follow the Lord. But what is it that sets Christ's crucifixion apart from the behavior of the martyrs which followed him?

Once again, Saint Paul to the rescue: Romans 5:7-8.
For a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Gospel According to St. Luke

Got this via email today.
On Friday, Bruce Kuhn will be presenting The Gospel According to St. Luke, a 90 minute version of Luke's story of Jesus. I wish I could tell you how powerful it is to hear the story of Jesus told "the way it was meant to be told." Bruce makes the story of Jesus (told exclusively in Luke's own words) come alive in a way that I have rarely seen. I know it can be hard to visualize if you've never heard him before – he doesn't "act out" the story, nor does he simply "recite" it – he "tells" it as the person who was there, who saw it all, and is now telling the story to others. I have not only seen Bruce live, but have had the privilege of attending a two-day workshop with him a few years ago.

I can assure you, you will not be disappointed if you come. Not only will you enjoy the performance, you will be caught by the story of Jesus and will see Jesus in a fresh way. Furthermore, even those who are relatively unfamiliar with the story of Jesus have found Bruce's performance very illuminating. Feel free to bring a friend, knowing that they will really enjoy it as well.

Friday, March 24, 2006
7:30 pm
Irish Cultural Centre
6452-35 Avenue NW

Tickets: 288-8393 or 451-8784
$12 Adult
$10 Senior/Student
I saw Bruce at Urbana 93 and he was amazing. Sarah Kim and I are going. The hall can hold just over 100 people and there are still tickets available. Well worth it if you don't have plans.

- Peace

Bearing your cross

In the fourth sorrowful mystery, the Carrying of the Cross, we find perhaps the dreariest aspect of Christian life. The part we would almost all love to ignore. It is one thing to decide to do the unpleasant when it is just a decision. It is one thing to suffer at the hands of others when you have no power to change it. But requires so much more to willingly pick up that load and persevere for the temptation to give up and take it easy looms all the time.

While it always stinks to suffer at the hands of others, it requires little effort on our part. But to bear our crosses, to take out the garbage, to pay a bill, to do the chores, to apologize once again for yelling at loved ones (despite numerous previous resolutions to control the temper), actually requires our strength and effort. To go beyond "not sinning" and actually doing good wearies even the best of us - weakened as we are by our own sins and the sins of others.

As much as we detest the dreary chores, we see here Jesus teaching us the secret to humility (the sure fire remedy to the sin of pride - which is ultimately the only sin). After we fall, we need to get up and try again. and again. and again. and again. and again. and again. and again.

I remember making fun of other Catholics for the habit of doing the same bad thing and then going to confession over and over again. I smugly thought to myself they were abusing the system. And then I tried to live a good life. And found myself doing the same bad thing and going to confession over and over again. And I know just how ridiculous it looks to others.

How often does Our Lord forgive us? Seven times? Seventy times seven? Our Lord has shown us he will keep pressing on and asks us to press on until he accomplishes his purpose - victory over death and sin.

The Easy and the Hard

Getting saved is easy; becoming a community is difficult - damnably dificult.
Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. Thought I had blogged this the first time I read it, but couldn't find it. Reading it on the ctrain last night all I could think was, yup that's true.

- Peace

You Can't Take My Joy Away!

The chours of Terry and The Pirates by Elim Hall is "You Can't Take My Joy Away!" It's also what my Razor sings when you call it. Last weekend I caved and retured to having an electronic leash. Payphones have become rare, and many are broken and repairs are few and far between. Of course you know I'm going to customize my leash. Fido let's you select the last four digits, so I picked 4359, IDJY. The chourus to Terry and The Pirates seemed to fit the theme, plus Elim Hall has remained a favorite of mine since the days of listening to Things Break on my first walkman. It's Canadian content, and you won't find Elim Hall on any Ring Tone site. Indeed Glen (of Elim Hall) confirms I'm the first the to let him know I have an Elim Hall ring tone.

I got a Razor V3, with blue tooth and MP3 Ring Tone support. Unlike Bell, Fido doesn't disable the file transfer via blue tooth so a custom ring tone was just a mater for finding a good MP3 Editor and sending the MP3 file to my PDA then using blue tooth to send the file from my PDA to my phone. All without paying a dime to the cell company.

Finding an MP3 editor was bit of pain, google Free MP3 Editor and you get a ton of garbage. So much so that I was thinking of writing one. While googling for Java MP3 encoders I found a wired article Stop Paying for Ring Tones.

The article boils down to this: Download Audacity and Lame (helpful install tips). With the software installed:
  1. Make a copy of your MP3 (for the paranoid)
  2. Load in Audacity.
  3. select a 15 second section of your fav MP3
  4. use file /export section as MP3
  5. send to phone.
That last step will depend on your carrier, as I mentioned I used my PDA ab both my Razor and my IPaq have blue tooth file transfer. With out that you'll need a data cable that can sync with your PC or pay the internet charges to download to your phone.

- Peace

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cruelty for its own sake

We turn now to the third Sorrowful Mystery, crowning Our Lord with Thorns. Once again our Lord suffers at the hands of others and we can ask ourselves the same two questions: how can we imitate and respond to what Our Lord has done for us? how can we avoid doing what others did to Jesus?

The cruelty in this turn of events now reaches a new low. In the second sorrowful mystery we saw how Pilate abused his authority and had him scourged. Unjust as it was, the soldiers were following orders, Pilate was at least acting within his legal rights as governor of Judaea, and one could see his actions in some twisted way as justified in his own eyes (if nothing more than an attempt to save his own skin).

But when the soldiers crown Jesus, strike him on the head, and challenge him to guess who hit him (whoever thought of this may have even thought himself clever and witty because of the following laughter and imitation) we see a cruelty born not out of self-preservation or an error in judgement by one in authority. We see instead a cruelty inflicted simply because it was possible and because it was fun. The temptation to retaliate must have been immense indeed. When challenged to prophesy who struck him, he could have easily said something like "the man who has the following dirty secret to hide..." and soon the soldiers would be hitting one another instead of him. He could easily have mocked them in more humiliating ways than he was mocked, but he chose not to. Let us be thankful he deals patiently with us, and let us deal patiently with others especially when we feel needlessly humiliated.

On the flip side, before we condemn the soldiers too quickly, let us remember that we too play the part of the soldiers every time we insult or mock someone just for the fun of it just because we can. The excuse "it was in jest" hides our sins only as well as it hides the sins of the soldiers. We, like the soldiers, also strip Our Lord of his garments for the sole purpose of humiliating him before others every time we tell a story of someone's weakness and failures. How often do we spread juicy rumors like so-and-so got knocked up, doesn't go to Church anymore, got divorced, gambled all his money away, is having an affair, got kicked out of home, got sent to jail? Often we make no attempt to make the situation better and by repeating the story to people who have no right to know, we make it worse.

This sin, known as detraction, is particularly difficult to detect and repent of. For even when our mistake is shown, we quickly say to ourselves "oh, that's ok - the story is true". What would we say to the soldiers who stripped our Lord if they said "oh, that's ok - he really does look that dreadful". What would we say if some pranksters ruined a cancer patient's wig for a good laugh - and then said "but the person really does have no hair and looks ridiculous"? And when we do spread a malicious story, are we willing (upon learning the sinner has repented or that the story was false to begin with or that it was simply wrong to engage in such sport) to issue a retraction to everyone who you told and everyone they told? That takes a lot of work because those corrections don't spread through the community nearly as quickly (many people heard the story of my wife's pregnancy 18 months before the birth of our first child - the story of my wife and I getting married never made the rounds interestingly enough).

When I learned of the sin of detraction, I was over thirty years old. When I think of the numerous times I have wronged people this way and continue to do so, I begin to understand why James exhorts us to keep our tongue tightly under control. As despicable as the soldiers may have been, we're not much better, and the Lord still deals with us as patiently as he did with them crying out "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". When it comes to cruelty for its own sake, let us embrace the forgiveness Our Lord offers us and in turn offer it to others.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The injustice of it all

When we turn on the news, we often cry out in helpless indignation "That's outrageous", "it's not fair", "this is wrong". Whenever a controversial issue arises, the losing side always complains bitterly of the lack of justice.

When we consider the Scourging at the Pillar, it is hard to think of a more unjust punishment. Pilate has failed to find any case against Jesus, and yet Pilate uses his authority as governor to send him off for a cruel scourging. Surely this constitutes a breach of trust which makes the failings of the Enron, Worldbank, and FBI leaders pale in comparison.

When Our Lord suffers at the hands of others we can always ask ourselves two things: first, how can we change to be more like Jesus when we suffer at the hands of others? second, how can we change to be less like the people who inflicted such cruel punishment on the Blessed Savior?

In particular, let us focus on suffering which results from the abuse of authority. We have all heard how we need to give to (and suffer for the sake of) those who are needier than ourselves. But will we suffer for someone who is in authority over us? When our boss or parent makes a poor decision that causes us grief, do we compare him to the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert cartoons? Are we willing to content ourselves with dealing directly with our boss or do we take it on ourselves to exact revenge by ridiculing the decision to others? What about the leaders in our Church and our nation who implement policies we consider unjust or incorrect? Are we willing to suffer for their sake as Jesus does? In light of our Lord's actions, do we have any right to speak ill of our leaders and pointy-haired bosses? Certainly we have the right to publicly disagree with and object to their actions - but does our Lord wish us to grumble as Dilbert does?

And coming to the second question: how do we treat others who are in our power? younger siblings, children, wife (yes I know I should spend a few pages on that topic to properly explain what I mean), or most importantly the people we pay for services. I've lost count of the number of times I've felt justified in becoming irate simply because I was "the customer". Paying someone money brings me instant authority over them and how quickly I have Lorded it over them like the Gentiles do. By abusing my authority, I too have cruelly scourged the Lord's flesh.

Lord have mercy.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Half-handed Cloud

The Feb/March issue of Paste finally arrived, loved the mag hate the long delay in it getting to Canada. The CD sampler had a very catchy tune by Half-handed Cloud who's on Sounds Familyre / Asthmatic Kitty with Woven Hand, Danielson, and Sufjan Stevens. Half-Handed Cloud is a quirky indie Gospel pop act. There are four full length mps at download.com. Yeah I know there's no track there over 2 minutes, but he keeps them short. You'll either love it or wonder what I've been smoking!

- Peace

Not my will, but yours

Dave posted earlier about Jeremiah's anguish at having been mistreated after faithfully proclaiming God's words, and about how we need to create a space to lament in our Christian life.

The five sorrowful mysteries, which focus on the events leading up to and including the death of Our Lord, give us precisely this space to lament. In the first sorrowful mystery, the agony in the garden, we find Jesus alone and sweating drops of blood. Like Jeremiah, Jesus knows how obedience to God's will means all sort of mistreatment at the hands of others. Also like Jeremiah, he still desires to do what is right despite the consequences. In the fifth joyful mystery (finding Jesus at the temple), we see how Jesus obeyed his earthly parents - now he chooses to obey his heavenly father. In the third luminous mystery (preaching the Kingdom) Jesus said "blessed are you who are persecuted" - now he is to suffer persecution. In the fourth luminous mystery (the transfiguration) Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus of his "exodus" - now he is going to live out what he had spoken of. In the fifth luminous mystery (the Last Supper) he says there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend. Now he is going to do just that.

Like any sane person, he desires to avoid this trial and he prays "let this cup pass". And yet, he chooses to follow not his own will but that of the Father. In this period of agony, he prays for us - that we may be one.

As we consider the suffering of Our Lord, let us remember not only the words of Isaiah, "by his wounds we are healed", let us not only remember that it is our sins that brought on the need for Jesus to suffer for us. Wounds and suffering are, unfortunately, common place just as our sins are all too common. What is uncommon and remarkable is that Our Lord willingly chooses to suffer. Not only that, but he chooses to suffer for our sake while we are in the midst of our sins so that we may be freed from our sins.

If Christ chose to suffer to free us from our sins, let us give him every opportunity to free us from our sins instead of clinging senselessly to them. Let us also be willing to suffer for the benefit of others - especially those who sin against us even though it may bring times of great agony and lament as it did to Our Lord and to Jeremiah.

Yes, we need space in our lives in our Church to lament and grieve over the tragedies in life. Let us learn from Our Lord what to do with this space by striving to imitate his behavior in the garden: obeying will of the Father rather than our own and willingly suffering for the sake of others. Easier said than done, of course, for most of us the temptation in the times of lament will be to wallow in self-pity instead of looking to the Father and to others. It was difficult for Our Lord, it was difficult for Jeremiah, it will be difficult for us as well.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Greatest among us

As we ponder the institution of the Eucharist at Lord's supper, the fifth luminous mystery, we see that the disciples to can use some illumination.

Imagine you announce to your closest friends that you will be dying in less than a day. How would you expect them to show your love for you? By listening to them argue about who was your best friend? And to think that I thought I had trouble keeping Bible Study discussions on track.

And yet, the Master that he is, Jesus uses this most petty and insensitive debate to lead us into the most profound mystery of the Christian faith.

The shortest answer to the debate, "who is the greatest among us?" is obvious: Jesus. But Jesus goes beyond their question and shows us what makes him so very great. Unlike any other ruler, He humbles himself before us and washes our feet, rather than asking us to humble ourselves before him. Furthermore, he instructs the twelve to serve others with this same humility - reminding them not to Lord their authority over others as the Gentiles do.

But if we are not to Lord our authority over others, what should we do? At this point Jesus brings the disciples back to the original point of his discussion. His upcoming death, the promise of the Holy Spirit, and instructions on what to do - and not so coincidentally he shows us by yet another example of his alternatives to lording authority over others: to die for another, to send aid, and to teach.

So rather than shut down their tangential and insulting line of discussion so as to return to the original point, Jesus somehow manages to answer their question and bring things back to the original point in one swell foop.

And as if humiliating himself to the level of a foot-washer wasn't enough to drive the point home, he then lowers himself to the level of a crust of bread and a cup of wine. Truly, he is the greatest among us.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Adidas Gospel

As wrong as that sounds, it works! As seen on can you hear . . .

- Peace

Listen to him

In the fourth luminous mystery, the transfiguration, we receive yet another reminder to listen to Jesus. It already happened at the baptism of Our Lord and again at the wedding of Cana. Are the Sacred Scriptures reminding us so we won't forget or is there something special about this one.

Certainly, this event is both more private (only two of the disciplies witness this on the mountaintop) and more spectacular than the others - Moses (the law-giver) and Elijah (the greatest of prophets) make cameo appearances as an opening act to the voice from heaven. The last book of the Old Testament (Malachi) predicts the return of Moses and Elijah - and here they are.

What role does this relatively private, mystical, spectacular experience have in the life of the disciple? Perhaps to provide additional public evidence of Jesus' authority? Certainly the testimony of Moses and Elijah strengthens the notion that Jesus has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. But why so few witnesses and almost no observable effects which persist after the miracle. There were already plenty of other public miracles with many more witnesses. In addition, Jesus explicitly instructs the two disciples not to speak of this event to further the public ministry.

Perhaps there is no other point to this intimate gathering than to establish intimacy with his friends. While many of us may not have such spectacular appearances, we can all have intimacy with the Lord by spending time alone with him. When we spend time with Our Lord, let us remember that self-improvement, increased understanding of the faith and other lofty goals do not bring value and purpose to our times with the Lord. Our times with the Lord are already valuable in of themselves for he desires our presence just as our souls long for his.

Certainly our Lord does transform and enlighten us during our times with him but let us remember that we do not spend time with Our Lord in order to be transformed and enlightened. Instead, let us remember that Our Lord transforms and enlightens us so we can better appreciate and embrace our times of intimacy with him.

Whatever our method of prayer and intimacy with the Lord, be it private or public, mystical or mundane, contemplation, meditation, reading, or speaking in the tongues of men or angels - let us consider the essential characteristic of the very best prayer: "wasting time with the Lord, the beloved". For this is how we act with those we love, we waste time with them.

Walter, drawing of..

Walter
My mom drew this based on this picture.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

neither will your Father forgive you

Finding something to focus on in the third luminous mystery feels like trying to sip water from a firehose on full blast. "The proclamation of the kingdom" just covers so much. We have the "kingdom parables", "the beatitudes", "the Lord's prayer", "the sermon on the mount", and puzzles like "the messianic secret" to choose from.

In fact, there is so much here that one can almost understand how Gandhi revered these teachings so much that issues like "the divinity of Christ" and "the atonement" received little attention and credibility. One can understandably read Jesus speaking of turning the other cheek and so forth, focus too much on the moral teachings, ignore everything else, and then come to believe,like Prince Charles who is slated to head the Church of England, that Christianity is just "another world religion" and that Jesus occupies no special place above other prophets.

But in his moral teaching, Jesus says something that separates himself and his teachings apart from all others. This concerns forgiveness. We hear Jesus speak of forgiveness and we think how wonderful it is, especially to receive it. But we get all tripped up when it comes to forgiving someone who has done something "really bad" to us or a loved one. Often, the best we can manage is to convince ourselves "it wasn't all that bad". To forgive someone for doing something "really bad to us" would be inconceivable. Though perhaps we do not know what that word means ("forgiveness", not "inconceivable").

Why do we receive God's forgiveness so eagerly and yet offer it to others so reluctantly? The first, easiest, most common, and perhaps only excuse is to think or say that what we have done isn't really bad but what others have done is really bad. But Jesus sternly warns us in the sixth chapter of Matthew that if we do not forgive others, neither will our Father in heaven forgive us. Why would Jesus threaten us with damnation over our refusal to forgive others? Isn't salvation free? Aren't we saved by grace alone? Once we repent of our sins, doesn't the Lord promise to forgive us?

If salvation is a free gift, then the those who are not saved must not have received the free gift. If we are saved by grace alone, then those who are not saved must have rejected God's grace. If the Lord forgives those who repent of their sins, then those who do not get forgiven must not have repented of their sins. In particular, refusal to forgive others must somehow, in some way shape or form constitute a rejection of God's free gift of grace. It must in somehow mean we have not repented of our sins.

Let us recall the all too common excuse "what I did was understandable, what they did was unforgiveable". In this excuse lies the most dangerous understanding of forgiveness possible (perhaps this is why Jesus threatens us with hellfire over it). It is all too easy to believe that Jesus died for us because we were pretty good people who needed a little extra help. It is all too easy then to think that those who are not as upright as ourselves do not make it in to heaven because they, unlike us, did something really bad. But if we believe that we are not deserving of hellfire, then we do not really understand forgiveness, and in some sense have not really asked for forgiveness.

And so, by refusing to forgive others, we make it clear that we have not accepted God's forgiveness. To my knowledge, Christianity is the only religion or ideology which proclaims forgiveness for heinous crimes. Every other system either treats crimes as not heinous or refuses forgiveness for the offenders.

So even as Jesus warns us that we may not receive forgiveness from heaven (i.e. threatening us with damnation), he also points us to the most unique and beautiful of all Christian teachings: pardon for the sinner.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Do video games count as "luminous mysteries"?

I couldn't resist...


What Video Game Character Are You? I am Mr Do.I am Mr Do.

I am sedentary by nature, enjoying passive entertainment, eating when the mood takes me, and playing with my food. I try to avoid conflict, but when I'm angered, I can be a devil - if you force me to fight, I will crush you. With apples. What Video Game Character Are You?

What is it between you and me, Woman?

Someone explained to me that after Mary says "they have no wine", Jesus, who has grown weary of his mother's constant nagging, tells his mother to get lost with the rather odd phrase "What is it between you and me, Woman?" Methinks this person has read into the Scriptures something that cannot be read out of them.

In this second luminous mystery of the wedding at Cana, we have the last dialogue between Jesus and his Mother which appears in scripture (the first we already saw in the fifth joyful mystery of finding Jesus in the temple). In the first luminous mystery we struggled with why Jesus needed to be baptized (a problem of systematic theology) and ended focusing on our relationship with the Lord and how it begins with our consent but needs to mature to the point where we totally relinquish control of our own lives to the Lord. In the same spirit, let us struggle with the meaning of the phrase "what is it between you and me, Woman?" (a problem of exegesis) in hopes that we will learn something of the relationship between Mary and Jesus. For just as Jesus gives us the perfect example of what we should do and believe, the relationship of love between Jesus and Mary gives us one of the very best examples of what our own relationship with the Lord should be like.

If I learned anything from my days at Regent College, it was extreme caution against drawing any kind of connotative meaning from a literal translation of biblical text. Language is usage and changes quickly. King George VI remarked less than a hundred years ago that a piece of art was "awful, contrived, and artificial". And this was meant as a compliment! Yes, "back in those days" awful meant it inspired awe, contrived meant that deliberate effort had been spent to produce noticeable beauty, and artificial meant that it had the splendour of a beautiful work or artifice. So when a phrase uttered "back in those days" gets translated into English, what sounds like an insult may not in fact be one.

My cousin tells me that the original Greek which gets rendered "what is it between you and me?" is actually a Greek phrase which continues to this day and gets uttered when someone wants to express a sentiment roughly like "that's amazing, I was thinking the exact same thing" (Yes, I know Petersen takes the "it's none of our business" interpretation but then we have the trouble of explaining why Jesus acts the way he does in response to Mary's "disobedience" rather than dealing with the difficulty of "my time has not yet come" - and therein lies the inherent difficulty with exegesis - you ask two biblical scholars and you get three answers).

If we, for the moment, take the interpretation that Jesus is expressing a consonance rather than dissonance of thought between himself and his Mother, we have a beautiful picture of a well-functioning team led by Our Lord. Like many other of Our Lord's commands, this one seems positively ludicrous. Fill the jars intended for ablutions with water and give it to the chief wine taster? How would you react if you ran out of wine at a party and someone told you to go fetch some water from the toilet bowl tank and start giving that stuff out? (like the ablution jars, technically it's clean but sure has some strong associations with very dirty stuff) I know I didn't really believe in this "turn the other cheek" and "bless those who persecute you" that I heard every Sunday until the Pope went and visited Ali Agca to forgive the man for attempting to murder him. Before believing in the promises of the Bible, almost every convert tells of how they met a person who believed in the promises of the Bible. While the words of Our Lord are truth in of themselves, the witness of just one person who believes the words of Our Lord can carry more weight with the undecided than the entirety of the Sacred Scriptures themselves. It is almost as if when someone believes the words of Our Lord, the word is made flesh once again. Now Mary knows from many years of experience (starting perhaps with finding him in the Temple) just how shocking and unexpected Jesus actions can be. And so she proactively and confidently tells the servants to "do whatever he tells you".

In this narrative of Jesus, Mary, and the servants bringing new wine to the wedding, we see here a perfect picture of what happens during "evangelism". It begins with someone who already has a relationship with the Lord noticing that many people are "without wine" and approaching the Lord with this concern. Why Jesus waited until Mary said something constitutes as much of a mystery as why Jesus often waits for us to pray for someone by name before converting them. The Lord then takes over and starts saying things which stretch the our bounds of credibility. And yet, a key witness still plays a part and says "we can trust Jesus and do whatever he says". People decide to trust because someone else also trusts - and the best wine ever brings new life to the party.

What is it between you and your Lord? It is your relationship with him, built on trust, united in concern for others, and a source of great blessing to those around you.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I need to be baptised by you

Strange things are afoot indeed when Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John, who preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, realizes the contradiction at once. What on earth does Jesus need baptism for? So much for easy enlightenment during the first "luminous" mystery.

I remember speculating that if we enter the waters of baptism to receive cleansing, perhaps Jesus enters the waters to cleanse us. When our hands are dirty, we put not only our dirty hands which need cleansing into the water, but also some soap. Is Jesus entering the baptismal waters like soap entering water?

At Regent College, I learned that this was a popular view but the revered J.I. Packer rejected that explanation and suggested instead that Jesus entered the waters as an entry into his Messianic vocation. Though how he could take such a view of baptism and maintain the validity of infant baptism puzzled all his students. Class went a little overtime that day due to an unusually large amount of class participation.

Although I now think Packer was wrong to reject the "entering the baptismal waters from the other end" explanation, perhaps it is equally wrong to neglect the "entering into the Messianic vocation" aspect of Our Lord's Baptism.

The fifth joyful mystery ends with Jesus obeying his earthly parents and temporarily suspending his practice of quietly running off to the temple while his parents worry about him. We know that on the night of his death, Jesus was concerned primarily with obeying his heavenly father. At what point in time does Jesus life of obedience change from obedience to his earthly parents to obedience to his heavenly parents?

Perhaps we cannot say for sure. Many parents (not mine, thankfully) might exclaim an emphatic "over my dead body" in an attempt to bring final clarity to this question. Though one might also treat the appearance of a talking cloud at Jesus baptism / beginning of public ministry as a small hint. It has been said that "God has no grandchildren" because he relates to everyone as a parent. While there were no talking clouds at the baptism of my children, the message of letting go remains. Not only may things not go according to my plans for my children (the lesson of the fifth joyful mystery). The day will come when I do not even make their plans.

We can even draw a parallel into our own lives. Recall that Mary, like us, accepted Jesus into her life (quite literally) after hearing the good news (from an Angel). The baptism of Our Lord in some sense marks the end of Mary's "control" over that relationship. At what point, after having first begun our relationship with Jesus, will we relinquish our own control over our relationship with Jesus?

Praise and Cursing

Sing to GOD! All praise to GOD!
He saves the weak from the grip of the wicked.

Curse the day
I was born!
The day my mother bore me--
a curse on it, I say!
Jeremiah 20:13-14.

In two verses Jeremiah goes from praise to cursing, one often gets the impression that the spiritual life is all about praise, I deeply appreciate the laments in scripture, the freedom to rage against God as at the start of Jeremiah famous lament
You pushed me into this, GOD, and I let you do it.
You were too much for me.
And now I'm a public joke.
They all poke fun at me.
I wonder if we could create space for lament in Church, to let people know it's ok to hurt and tell God about it in very direct terms.

- Peace

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Greatest Happy Meal in 2000 years!

The McPassion Meal Deal. Only available during lent.

- Peace

Lost in the Big City

Okay, let me see if I have this straight. Mom and Dad bring Jesus to a big city, the last ruler of Jerusale killed off all the boys the Jesus' age and younger on the off chance that one of the boys might be Jesus, on the way home they notice Jesus missing. And we're supposed to call this the fifth Joyful Mystery?!? The real mystery here is how we can consider this joyful.

Perhaps our notions of joyful need to change. Although the Scriptures tell us that Jesus, being obedient to the will of his parents, never pulled that stunt again, the final response of the parents is desribed as "his mother treasured all these things in her heart."

We can probably all name quite a few people in our own lives who followed the Lord to the astonishment, bewilderment, and chagrin of their (often apparently devout Christian) parents. Often parents can simultaneously oppose their child's vocation and wield such influence at their Church that the constitutions explicitly refuse missionary support, ordination, or baptism for children (often well over twenty years old and nearing thirty) who seek these things against the will of the parents.

Most people understand that things can "get out of control" and "go wrong". We know about freak accidents and we buy our insurance policies. Nothing astonishing or joyful or remarkable there. But the idea that things can "get out of control" while they "go right" merits our attention. When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, our relationship to our children, and our children's relationship to the Lord, we need not only to know that things can "get out of control" but that this can happen even when and especially when things are "going right". Not only are the Lord's ways not our ways. Not only are his ways above our ways. But his mysterious ways are very good for us and worth "treasuring in our heart".

Perhaps when we treasure in our hearts the times when the Lord's ways are out of our control, we will trust that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is taking very good care of us. A joyful mystery indeed.

Light Stone

Light Stone

Behind the Shadow: Fumito Ueda

Wired News interviews game designer Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. We've played both of his games on the PS2 and they're artistic, naritive and fun.

- Peace
Dave

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Two Turtle Doves...

What does this have to do with the fourth joyful mystery when Mary and Joseph present Our Lord in the temple? And to back it up a step, why did they even bother? Yes, I know it was the custom of the time, but what purpose does the custom serve? Initiating infants into a religion seems to be as old as religion itself. Whether the practice is circumcision, baptism, or dedication - something always appears in the culture to bring a spiritual dimension to a new birth.

If memory serves correctly, when a Jewish infant is "presented" in the Temple, the parents do NOT present their child TO God. They "buy" their child FROM God. In this case, Jesus was bought by his parents from God for a pair of doves. This symbolic transaction teaches us some important realities. First, it reminds us that when children come into our families, God is giving us a gift - we've gotten things backwards if we think we're doing God a favor by giving him our children. Second, it reminds us that children are valuable by making us pay for it (children of course are valuable for their own sake, but having to paying for something is one of the best ways of remembering and demonstrating its worth). Third, God considers our ability to pay when determining our need to pay.

The standard payment in the Law was a more expensive animal but it made provisions for poorer families and allowed them to pay with a pair of doves. Don't be misled by the innaccurate nativity scenes where Wise Men stand beside Shepherds. Joseph and Mary must have been pretty poor and the liquid assets of Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh were still years away from arriving and they certainly were not going to have any chance to use it before reaching Egypt because soldiers were coming to murder the new baby.

The customs the Jewish Law, and the act of buying Our Lord for a pair of doves can teach us much about our relationship with our God and our children.

Stay tuned for: Lost in the Big City

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Birth of Our Lord

The third joyful mystery invites us to focus on the birth of Our Lord. A child was born, this child is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Can't get much more joyful than that - so what else can be said?

Perhaps answering a question can yield some ideas worth pondering. Why all the fuss over a birth anyways? Pro-lifers always remind us that life begins when the egg is fertilized. The Chinese count a newborn baby as one year old. When the Word became Flesh, it happened nine months before Christmas day (irrelevant bible trivia from a nitpicker tired of hearing that we have no reason to believe Jesus was born in December: John was conceived around the Jewish Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur - September, Gabriel appeared to Mary when Elizabeth was six months pregnant - March, add nine months and you arrive in December).

So what changed on the night the Angels led the Shepherd to the manger? While the objective reality of the Word becoming Flesh began when Mary said "yes" to God's plan nine months before the Birth of Our Lord, the subjective reality of the "general public" interacting tangibly with Our Lord begins with birth. We have a curious reversal from the norm here. Pregnancy, while very real objectively, is for the most part a private experience of the mother alone. Child birth marks a transition to a less private situation but in some sense is more subjective. We usually think of the private as subjective and the public as objective.

Getting back to Mary's relationship with Our Lord then, it objectively began when she said "yes" to God's plan. When she gave birth, she was able to share the fruits of this relationship more fully and visibly with others. When we turn from our sins and say "yes" to God whether it be at an altar call or in a confessional, a very real but hard to notice change occurs - just like when a woman becomes pregnant. As time passes, what was very real but mostly unnoticed grows as time passes into a new life which we can share with others.

For us, accepting the Lord is like becoming pregnant and when we share our relationship with Jesus with others it is like giving birth (for some this comes with great pain). For Mary, accepting the Lord really was becoming pregnant and when she gave birth, she really was sharing her relationship with Jesus. The Holy Scriptures have shown us more than an analogy where conversion maps to becoming pregnant and evangelism maps to giving birth - they have given us an event in which the analogy is also the reality.

Up next: Two Turtle Doves, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Let us rejoice in the Lord

I thought "Let us rejoice in the Lord" makes for a pretty dull title for the second Joyful mystery. Mary visits Elizabeth, John the Baptist leaps for joy in the womb, Elizabeth praises God, and then Mary does. Not exactly the stuff of legends and epic folk tales.

As dull as this may be, I think we have in this scene three essential ingredients for authentic Christian fellowship (in no particular order): rejoicing, togetherness, and paying attention to the Lord. We have all had our fill of Sundays where everyone gets together to focus on the Lord but rejoicing is the furthest thing from anyone's mind because the only thing on the mind is "when will this be over?" We have all been to many joyous gatherings with others where the presence of the Lord is all but ignored (he often appears as a newcomer to a crowd already familiar with one another). Many of us have personal preferences (music style, natural surroundings, favorite subjects) that drive us into a joyful yet solitary experiences with the Lord. As valuable as having two out of three is, we can and must strive for all three together.

From what I have read, pilgrimmages may have provided all three elements of togetherness, rejoicing, and focus on the Lord. These waned in popularity (perhaps due to civil unrest) but they see to be coming back. Events like Urbana, World Youth Day (did you know that the Pope's advisors told him it was a dumb idea, kids these days only want sex drugs and rock music, and no one will come), or Taize have drawn millions over the years. Those fortunate enough to participate in such an event, often treasure this as a once in a lifetime experience.

The Holy Scriptures have given us a beautiful portrait of authentic Christian fellowship. Perhaps we will not experience it often or at all in this life, but we must yearn for it in the same way that we desire to "go to heaven".

As a final point to ponder, I would like us to consider Elizabeth's unborn child John - who leapt for joy in the womb. Let us therefore remember that even the very young can rejoice in the presence of the Lord. Even more importantly, let us also remember that Our Lord, like any good family member, takes particular delight in the presence of the young ones. And if you would be so kind, please remember these two things the next time you plan a worship service or fellowhip evening - and remember to invite the children and babies. Despite the crying and the distractions and the discipline issues, they do bring completeness to the event.

Bow River, Calgary

River Edge Downtown Edge

Monday, March 06, 2006

Blogging Lent

I would like to share some Lenten meditations, starting this week with the Five "Joyful" Mysteries.

I'm hoping next week to move to the Five "Luminous" Mysteries, then the Five "Sorrowful" Mysteries, then the Five "Glorious" Mysteries.

In order not to take up too much space, I'll make one post each week and put the daily posts inside the comments. Here goes...

The first Joyful Mystery: Mary becomes the first Christian.

The dialogue between Gabriel and Mary contains prophetic insights that I will get to later. But for now, I'd like to focus on the moment before "the Word became flesh". God most certainly did it all for us in this moment by sending his Son to take on flesh and begin human life as a single cell. Certainly, nothing we do can earn the favor he has shown to us. But in the moment before he took on flesh, he gave Mary a chance to decide.

Just as Eve listened to the serpent and chose to disobey God, Mary listened to the Angel Gabriel and chose to receive Our Lord. If personally accepting Jesus into your life makes you a Christian, then Mary would have to be the first Christian. If witnessing means bringing Jesus to others so that they may be saved, then Mary is also the first witness. Or in the language of the evangelism, she has "led us to the Lord". It boggles the mind to think that God would incorporate into his plans, our decisions to accept or reject him.

next day, the second joyful mystery: Mary, John, and Elizabeth together rejoice in the Lord's presence.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Annie Dillard: With Her Eyes Open

An article by Eugene H. Peterson. Found it while googling a refence Peterson made to Dillard in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

- Peace

Friday, March 03, 2006

Blogging Lent

No I'm not giving up blogging for Lent I'm blogging Lent with a six others at the new South Medows blog. I'll be blogging Lenten thoughts on Thursdays till Easter.

- Peace

Peterson on Love of Nature and People

I'm not sugesting it is easy, this maintaining of an observant Genesis conection between the animals and trees in the garden and the people in the garden, honoring the continuities in the God-formed man or woman right before us with the God-formed trees and birds around us. I'm only inisting that is is necessary.

...

Deseceration of the one is of a kind with desecration of the others. If we are going to enjoy and celebrate and live this gift of place in wich the Lord God has placed us, we going to have to embrace the people around us with the same deligth as we do the hawks soaring above us and the violets blooming at our feet. Men and women, children and the elderly, the beautiful and the plain, the blind and the deaf, amputees and paralytics, the mentally impaired and the emotionally distraught -- each a significant and sacred detail of nature, of God's creation.
Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. I'm rereading this book before going on to Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, the second of a planed serries of five.

- Peace

Thursday, March 02, 2006

4k Java Games

I love art that has to live inside a limit. Creativity is unleashed by dealing with limits. Check out Java 4k 2006 Games. 55 tiny games writen in 4096 bytes or less.

- Peace

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Blog as Virtual Veranda

Yup Jordon nails it.

- Peace

Abandoned Canadian Coffee

Abandoned Canadian Coffee