On the one hand, one who diligently lives as Jesus taught eventually reaches a point where loving All is not merely a possibility, but a responsibility. I am at that point now.
On the other hand, loving All of necessity entails loving situations, events and people one might much more easily abhor.
1 Corinthians 12 applies to the need to love one’s whole self. We are acquainted with an individual who finds one feature of himself, or rather of his story, so abhorrent that he preoccupies himself with it, until the self-hatred becomes unbearable; at which point he lashes out. I wrote “A short route to agony” with that person specifically in mind.
In 1978, I applied through the United Methodist Church Board of Global Ministries to become a missionary to Japan; I would teach English at a Japanese Christian high school. As part of this process, they required me to read William Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land. I hated it. For the most part, it was a typical 1970’s radical screed, blaming America for every single problem that exists in the world. One point stuck with me, however. Stringfellow opines that the Kingdom never does or will manifest in any permanent or worldwide basis; the Kingdom instead appears here and there, now and then, in a community that honors the gifts of its each and every member.
1 Corinthians 12 applies equally here. I belong to “A real church in a real ’hood.” We are diligent and intentional about being that sort of community. Now, I have learning opportunities here: even though I am homeless myself, it is easy for me to look down on “the critters and the crazies” whom I meet at McDonald’s. Birur nitzotzot relates: evangelism entails facilitating each person’s discovery of his or her own way to shine.
“‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” 23Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.'”
In the Kingdom, there are no outcasts. Everyone has a place at the table.
It’s the William Tell Show. I call myself William Tell; you can call me Bill. Podcasting just now from our state-of-the-art studio in Dunkin’ Donuts at the Court Square Building.
Thank you for including me in your world. It feels really nice to be included.
Big John stayed at the shelter pretty regular for a couple years. He’d come day after day for several months, disappear for a few days, and then come back. I don’t know what finally became of him. This was all some years ago.
Almost every time I saw him, he was high. He used methadone, but methadone itself won’t get you high. I’ve known methadone users who were able to hold down normal jobs and live basically normal lives. If a methadone user’s high, he or she is using other things on top of the methadone. For all his strength, Big John just could not keep himself from finding, buying and using these other chemicals every day.
He was basically a good guy, or the shelter would not have let him stay.
Pentecost Sunday came. This is a church holiday, celebrating an event reported in the Bible, in the second chapter of the book of Acts. And at suppertime, the guys who sat at the same table as me began discussing this, trying to figure out what really happened.
The Bible says that fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles, and they began to speak in tongues. The commotion drew a crowd of more than 3,000 people, who wanted to know what it was all about. Peter stood up and gave a long speech to explain it to them. At one point, he quotes from verses 28 and 29 of the second chapter of the book of Joel, to the effect:
In the last days, says the Lord,
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your young men will have visions,
and your old men dream dreams.
But what did this mean in its original context, in the book of Joel, which is mainly about a plague of locusts?
At this point, Big John — that man, that man — began reciting the second chapter of the book of Joel, word for word, from memory. This is not a well-known chapter. What does this say about his commitment to the Bible, his commitment to Jesus? We’ll look at this more in a minute. First, let’s take a break. Word count: 401
Who or what defines you?
Who or what defines you?
There’s a mandatory chapel service every night at the shelter where I say. It’s half an hour now; in Big John’s day, it was an hour. A different preacher comes every night, in a monthly rotation. There’s been almost a complete turnover of the preachers since Big John’s time, but at the time, many of them —
Some of these teachings are so preposterous I don’t even want to report them, even though I believed the same way myself, from seventh grade through college.
They’d tell us we’re homeless because we’re sinners who don’t believe in Jesus. In fact, almost all of us believe in Jesus already. Look at the conversation I told about, at the dinner table.
They’d tell us we’re homeless because we’re drinkin’, druggin’ and whorin’. Well, I got saved in 1968. I became homeless in 2011, and drinkin’, druggin’ and whorin’ had nothing to do with it. Or for many homeless men I know.
They’d tell us that if you believe in Jesus, all you have to do is pray — once — and God will deliver you from bad habits. In fact, their God, the God they conceive of, the God of their understanding, is notorious for turning a deaf ear the first, second, third, fourth or fifth time an addict cries out in despair. That fact is exactly why the 12 Steps movement came to be.
They basically promised us that once you’re born again, you’ll never face difficulty ever again in life. Some hymns promise the same thing:
Floods of joy o’er my soul
Like the sea billows roll
Since Jesus came into my life.
But that’s not real life.
In effect, in their view, our circumstances defined us. Our circumstances were proof positive of our state of grace. Our circumstances proved what sort of men we are, what sort of lives we lead.
I’m here to say, your circumstances don’t define you. The love of God defines you. What you’re composed, what you consist, what you’re made of is the love of God, and God means, through you, to bring blessings to the world.
In the end, your circumstances, your limitations, your diseases, your past, your criminal background, your defects of character do not matter. The love of God is all that matters.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control — God means to bring these things into the world through you.
Just as with Big John.
Today’s music is Tim O’Brien singing, “He had a long chain on.” I’ll provide links.
Baltimore is more likely than other places, to have weather when you can see rainbows. We are coming now into a period when this is especially so. We will probably have another such time again in September.
The key to seeing rainbows is, three things have to happen at the same time:
(1) The sun is shining
(2) while it rains, and
(3) there is blue sky somewhere. Continue reading Rainbows→
Saturday, May 17, 2014. Another deep med session this morning. Afterwards, I considered my upcoming (May 22) interview for a different secretarial position at the Water Department. I’m not as excited about it as I feel I ought to be.
19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew, Mark and Luke report many of the same episodes, often in almost exactly the same language; but the sequence in which these episodes are reported differs greatly from one to another. In the late 19th century, it was conclusively determined that it is absolutely impossible to harmonize these chronologies — to establish a single sequence in which the alleged events would have occurred.
In the PDF file linked to here below, the center column lists the episodes reported in Luke 9—12, in the order Luke records them. The lefthand column lists those that also appear in Matthew, in the order Matthew records them. The righthand column lists those that also appear in Mark, in the order Mark records them.
Some weeks ago, I stood in line awaiting check-in at the shelter. This place charges $3 a night. I was holding my money in my hand, and someone playfully tugged at it. I snapped. I said, “You don’t value your life much, do you?”
Minutes later, I explained this to someone else. I said, “Don’t take a man’s last dollar.” “Why not?” he asked. I said, ” ‘Cause that’s the one he’ll die for. That’s the one he’ll kill for.”
Don’t take my last dollar. That’s the one I’ll kill for.
I’ve been on hard times since 2004. If I lose, or am robbed or cheated, of $20 or $50, that’s a pretty significant amount. But it doesn’t hurt all that much if I have more, and know more is coming. However, if I lose, or someone robs or cheats me of my last $1 — that’s the one that really hurts. That’s the one I’ll kill for.
All my life, I’ve been fascinated with things that glow in the dark. Where does the light come from? This is now fundamental to my understanding of prayer, and of my vocation.
The picture shows what I take for the latest advance in the world of fluorescent materials. Here are germanium nanoparticles in a colorless colloidal (gelatinous) suspension, being irradiated by ultraviolet light. By virtue merely of where they are and what they are, the invisible light that shines on these particles is changed into visible light.
The nanoparticles catalyze that process: they do no work of their own, expend no energies of their own, and take no active part in the process; but it won’t occur without them. Continue reading Prayer primer→