Just Sightseeing

Today’s Gospel Passage: John 20: 19-31

open hand When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

I love Thomas.  The truth is that I find a lot of my self in him.  First of all, I’m one of those that never seems to be at the right place at the right time.  I’m continually thinking, “why didn’t I think of that?”, “why didn’t I ask for that?”, or “why wasn’t I there for that"?”.  Thomas had missed the “first showing of Jesus”, perhaps because he was doing something wonderful but if he was like me, he was off being Martha somewhere!

And then he wanted proof.  I mean, don’t we all?  Perhaps we’re just afraid to ask for it.  But what if he didn’t care about proof?  What if he didn’t need to be certain?  What if he just needed to touch Jesus?  What if he just needed to know Jesus?

The truth is that “seeing” with our eyes is probably not all its cracked up to be.  Perhaps it even gets in the way.  And yet, most of us are really just “sightseers” as far as Jesus is concerned.  We want it to be right.  It’s even better if we can touch it and prove it and then go on with our lives.  But, either way, certainty is what we crave.

And yet, certainty is surely the downfall of our faith.  Why do we have to have proof?  Why do we have to be certain?  I’m thinking a little doubt never hurt anyone.  It makes you search and question and desire the Truth.  It even makes you want to touch the thing that you don’t understand.  And it will never allow you to just “go on with your lives”…in fact, no more sightseeing; you’ve really got to live there to understand.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

The Rest

Genesis 2: 1-4a

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

worlds God rested.  Those are the words that we tend to concentrate on in this Scripture, as if God, weary from all the creating just laid down and took a little nap.  The truth is, the point of it all is not that God rested; the point is the rest…

The seventh day is the climax of Creation.  It’s the point where it all comes together, where all of those scenes that have been   painstakingly shot in semi-chronological order but in different places and different lights and different hues are suddenly are spliced together into some semblance of order.  God does not just create rest; God creates it all.  God pieces it into order, into the way it should be and then hallows it, inviting reflection and thanksgiving…and eternity.  The heavens and the earth and all that they contain and all that they are do not rest from Creation but rather are all invited into the rest—the rest of Creation when it continues on.

The truth is that nothing really existed before the seventh day.  Oh sure, there were archetypes and rehearsals and things that carried some semblance of the final product.  But this…this is everything.  The Sabbath, the day of rest, the day of the rest…asks that we stop and look and continue on into eternity.

In this Eastertide, we celebrate the ultimate Sabbath, we celebrate the Holy Rest.  That third day gave us a glimpse of what God is doing.  And God continues to recreate all of Creation until everything has had a third day, until everything has seen the rest of the story.

Holy Shabbat…

Shelli

In The Image of God

Genesis 1: 24-31

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Concentric mirrors What does it mean for humankind to be “made in God’s image”?  Most of us mainstreamers are probably more comfortable, whether we choose to admit it or not, with the idea of ourselves as that sinful creature who simply can’t do any better because our brother and sister Adam and Eve screwed it all up for the rest of us.  I mean, that’s easier, right?  It sort of gives us something toward which we can strive.  It means that if we’re really, really good and do it all right, then God will somehow get us out of this mess that we as humanity have gotten ourselves into.

But, then, how does being “made in God’s image” reconcile with that?  Keep in mind that an image is not the actual thing; it’s not necessarily even an ideal, unmistakable replica.  An image is a reflection, something that makes one think of the real thing, something that makes one feel as if the real thing is close.  Without a doubt, we are not God.  Not even on our best days.  Not even on Mother Teresa’s best days.  But we are made in God’s image.  We are made to reflect God to the world around us.  No longer can we dismiss ourselves as hopeless, sinful creatures.  There’s too much work to do!  What we need to do instead is get out the Windex!

You are God’s image.  That does not mean that you are perfect; it doesn’t even mean that you don’t sin or screw up, intentionally or unintentionally.  It just means that there’s more riding on it than God simply pulling you out of the game at the end.  After all, what sort of God are you reflecting right now?

Go and be God’s image in the world!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Sea Monsters & Flying Things

Genesis 1: 20-23

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

Myth of the Bird Creation is wider and more inclusive than we usually let it be.  If the Resurrection of Jesus is the “new creation”, then where are the sea monsters and the birds?  What happens to them?  The truth is that we probably sort of skip through these verses in the context of the Creation account.  And yet, God thought that those things that were not like us, that did not live the way we live or exist the way we exist were worthy of creating even before us.  What does that say?

I think it reminds us the same thing that Jesus did:  The world was not made in our image.  Creation is not limited to the way we see or the way we think or the way we live.  God is bigger than we can possibly imagine.  God reaches beyond where we go.

The lesson here is simple:  Christ died for you…and him, and her, and the one that you got “pissed off” (sorry, it said it better!) at yesterday, and the one that you don’t understand, and the one that scares you, and the one that doesn’t live the way you do or think the way you do or believe the way you do or sleep with who you think they should or live where you do.  In fact, Christ died for the sea monsters and the flying things, those things that are not us and do not exist where we are.

Remember that on Holy Saturday, tradition tells us that Christ “descended into hell”, sweeping up all those things that are different, all those things that we do not understand, all those things that threaten or defy our being and Christ took them unto himself.  Now if Christ can do that with hell and sea monsters and flying things, why are we so high and mighty about who belongs “in” and who belongs “out”.  After all, that’s not what Jesus did.

Go and welcome them all in!  After all, THAT’S the answer to “What Would Jesus Do”, if you’re keeping track!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Inseparable

Genesis 1: 14-19

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

The Light has come into the World!  Actually, if you remember the first day of Creation, there was light.  You know…”Let there be light!”  And there was.  The first day God created light in the midst of the darkness. But here…here God creates more light, putting light even in the midst of the darkness.  Notice that the darkness was not extinguished.  Perhaps it is there to make us look Sunrisetoward the light.  God did not snuff out the darkness; God rather gave us a light to navigate through it.

And now…in this Easter season, we are told that Jesus is the light of the world.  Now, notice here that the claim is not that Jesus HAS the light; it is that Jesus IS the light. What does that mean to “be” light? Light means life. Light signifies life-giving power. Think, for a moment, of the everyday miracle we know as photosynthesis. In photosynthesis light means life. In the presence of light, green plants convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into carbohydrates and oxygen. If there would be no light, there would be no photosynthesis. If there would be no photosynthesis, there would be no life. Light means life.

So Jesus is not just saying that he has brought light. Jesus is saying that he, God, the great I AM, IS life. But light’s value is not just unto itself. In all honesty, light, alone, is rather useless. Its true worth comes to be in its effect on everything around it. Its true value is in the way that it illumines and clarifies the world in which we live. Jesus’ intention, too, was not to come into the world as a blinding, white light but, rather, as a warm, illuminating presence that shines toward God and enables us to see the world the way we are intended to see it—all the world—the darkness, the light, and the shadows in our lives that constantly play between those two poles.

Edith Wharton said that “there are two ways of spreading light—to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” God is the candle, the firstborn light of Creation, the light of the world. We are called to go into the world and be light by reflecting God’s light even into the deepest crevices of the earth. Do not fear the darkness. In all truth, the darkness would not be if the light were not so bright. The two are inseparable. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world…”  With Jesus, God re-created Light not to rid the world of darkness but to show us how to walk through it.

So, go, in the Name of Christ, and be light!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Brought Forth

Genesis 1: 9-13

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Rose of Sharon Bud And then God created all those things that we think of as “nature”.  So what does that have to do with Eastertide?  What does that have to do with Recreation?  Everything.  You see, God did this wonderful act of recreation that we call Easter for a purpose—to show us eternity, to show us what God intended for us, to show us the way it should be, and to invite us into the act of bringing the Kingdom of God into its fullness.

Recreated, baptized, commission to service, if you will..in the Name of God.  And now, we are called to bring forth, to yield, to bear fruit.  Nature is cyclical .  In essence, nature knows what it is here to do.  Perhaps part of its purpose is to teach us—to teach us unconditional fruit-bearing, unending connection with the rest of Creation, and to show us what holy dependence is.  We cannot exist alone.  God brought us together that we might love one another and so that we might see eternity in one another’s eyes.  Whenever we look into a fellow human’s eyes, whenever we embrace any of God’s Creation not out of what it can do for us but out of love because it is God’s, whenever we treat someone or something with caring and compassion, we get a glimpse of he Holy, a sacred view of how things should be, of how things will be when all the tombs of all the endings are rolled away, when the Kingdom of God in all its fullness and all its glory is finally brought forth.

And there was evening and there was morning the Third Day…

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

The Second Day

Genesis 1: 6-8

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Water Drop The second day…no grand processionals, no Hallelujah Chorus, no drama of a massive rock being rolled away to reveal an empty tomb.  What kind of follow-up can you expect after (Re) Creation?  What in the world could God have up the Divine sleeve, so to speak?  How in the world can you do better than Easter?

I think that’s our problem.  We celebrate the Easter as the pinnacle of our faith, as that thing that God DID for us.  The truth is, though, that God is always DOING for us.  In the second tier of Creation, once the relationship between heaven and earth was established, God separated the waters from the waters.  God made “Sky”.  When I was little, I was told that the universe was “infinite”.  Now to a child’s mind (and probably to most adult minds, although we don’t usually admit it), “infinite” is hard to grasp.  I used to look up at the sky and imagine it going on and on and on.  And then I knew it got beyond the cumulus clouds that I saw to the dark vastness of the solar system.  And then I knew it got beyond the solar system to the darker and more incredible vastness of the galaxy…then the universe…then….then….SURELY it had to stop somewhere.  Everything does.  But then what is beyond where it stops?  And then what is beyond that “whatever” when it stops?

On the second day, God made vastness; God made infinity; God made forever.  We Christians seem to think of eternity, of forever, as a Christian theological point (or a really bad theological point that claims its some sort of Divine reward for being good boys and girls).  No, it’s really a God-thing.  In fact, God IS eternity.  But God knew that we would never grasp that, no matter how hard we tried.

So God separated the waters into things that we could get.  And yet, they were all connected.  The smallest of waters leads to the vastness of eternity.  And so, to remember, God gave us water—just a tiny bit.  “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”…”Remember your baptism and be thankful.”  And with that little bit of water in which you are immersed, or that is poured on you, or even that tiny bit that is sprinkled into your life, God reminds you that you have entered the vastness and infinity of eternity, whether or not you understand it.

Now THAT was a pretty good follow-up to Easter.  God is full of surprises—unlimited and eternal ones!

Remember your baptism and be thankful!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli