From my Theology from the Trenches: “[S]elf-interest is not a concept alien to Christian theological reflection. One way or another, we will find ourselves motivated by self-interest. As deforming manifestations of self-interest in our lives are exposed and transformed through service and attentive, holy listening to God and to others, by God’s grace we are liberated from lives of self-absorption and enter into the fulfilling experience of loving God, neighbor and self in ways that bear witness to our true identity as God’s own people, formed in the divine image. As such, we are shaped for joyful service in the world patterned on Jesus’ example that seeks the good of others as our own good. Like the tree that gives glory to God by being a tree, we give glory to God by living out of our essential nature. Released from “the great suck of self,” we can be fat cats sitting in the sun.”
From Thick Nhat Hanh’s The Four Establishments of Mindfulness: To practice meditation is to look deeply in order to see into the essence of things. With insight and understanding we can realize liberation, peace, and joy. Our anger, anxiety, and fear are the ropes that bind us to suffering. If we want to be liberated from them, we need to observe their nature, which is ignorance, the lack of clear understanding. When we misunderstand a friend, we may become angry at him, and because of that, we may suffer. But when we look deeply into what has happened, we can end the misunderstanding. When we understand the other person and his situation, our suffering will disappear and peace and joy will arise. The first step is awareness of the object, and the second step is looking deeply at the object to shed light on it. Therefore, mindfulness means awareness and it also means looking deeply.
From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: “The smallest opening of our heart to adoration of our Lover [God] and … compassion for all beings shows us the endless beauty of beings — receding endlessly beyond our capacity to love them. And every time the floor opens beneath us and we realize the poverty of our imagination, our thirst and our anguish fuse in the paradoxical sweetness of contemplative desire. The economy of desire is not toward possession. Certainty remains within the economy of possession, and the way of contemplation leads us in the opposite site direction. Markers thin out. Beliefs, images of God, practices, goals, and moral commitments that seemed self-evident or essential lose their stability. We may wish to assuage the anguish of desire with clarity and certainty, but certainty is a pleasure one must learn to do without. In its place, it is only the more intense burning of desire that is our guide. Desire is like a magnet, weak at first and finding the object that pulls it only with difficulty. Naturally, we make mistakes and are tortured by doubt. We remain unclear about what to believe, and practice; whom to believe; and how to test the wandering insights of our hearts. We can be aided by all of the resources available to us, but it is desire itself that draws us implacably to our Beloved. Through all of our mistakes and lack of clarity, desire continues to seek out what draws it. The urgency of desire moves us through the difficulties we encounter and allows them to he purifying rather than overwhelming.”
From my Theology from the Trenches: “[Wendy Farley] calls attention to a fascinating correspondence between the Buddhist notion of “vajra pride” and the Christian notion of being “in Christ.” Vajra literally means “lightening bolt” and in Tibetan Buddhism denotes a severing (as a knife severs) of the self from self-absorption so that one is liberated or freed for compassion and service. And, most importantly, it denotes a power to serve that is not bound by either selfishness or humiliation. Farley puts it this way:
‘Vajra pride is an image, borrowed from another language and culture, for an order of existence that is not governed by the duality of selfishness and humiliation. It is an image for the joy that comes as we find ways to unhook ourselves from the pathologies of egocentrism. . . . It reminds us of the excessive modesty of our self-understanding. “Who am I to be compassionate and wise? Who am I to shine like the sun?” Who are you that you do not recognize who you are? Who are you that you defraud yourself of your intimacy with Christ, with nature, with beauty, with other people? Who are you that you are sick and exhausted from holding back your stupendous power to love and feel and live? . . . We are God bearers. As our trust in this reality becomes more stable, we will become less afraid. As we discover practices that help us live into this reality, we dismantle the polarity that bounces us between our self-inflation and self-hatred, our addictions and our terror.’ [The Wounding and Healing of Desire]
Farley also contends that vajra pride corresponds to Paul’s notion that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) In Galatians, Paul tells us that when we exist “in Christ,” the flesh (Paul’s word for self-absorption) is “crucified.” As a result, we are freed to live life in the power of the Spirit — a life of love, joy, patience, faithfulness and generosity (Gal 5:22-25). Life that is lived in the power of the Spirit entails Christ-empowered service that gives glory to God.”
From my Theology From the Trenches: “For the central paradox of our faith is that the gifts to serve emerge from the wounds, the crosses, of our lives, for the divine love is seeking us out in the midst of our fear, our anger and our incessant meandering, setting us free from them and empowering us to love. Resurrection emerges from such places, enabling us to grow more fully into love of God, neighbor, and self.”
From my Theology from the Trenches: “The ‘revealing’ power of the cross is critically important, for if the cross exposes sin, it also discloses the God who is always and already bringing life out of the death-tending ways of our world. Or as Nadia Bolz-Weber has put it, ‘God keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.’ The profound affirmation of cruciform faith is that God refuses to give up on God’s creation and is at every moment bringing life or resurrection out of the crucified places of our world.”
From my Cross Examen: Theologian Kristine Culp tells an arresting story of meeting a gang member from Los Angeles who had unusual marks upon him: the word “Florence” was tattooed on his forehead, over his skull, and around his neck. The tattoo defined him as belonging to a particular neighborhood—one ruled by his gang. The tattoo carried the threat of violence against anyone who would disrespect his hood. Culp met the man at an agency that aids people trying to escape L.A.’s violent gang culture. Through the ministry of this agency, the man found an alternative culture of love and forgiveness that helped him reconstruct his life. As a result, this former gang member was literally changing the marks upon him; he was in the midst of the painful process of tattoo removal, which required “months of treatment and entailed what are essentially second-degree burns.” This story is an apt metaphor for our human condition, for we also bear the marks of violence upon us, perhaps not physically, but spiritually, for the same violence that crucified Jesus crucifies us. But God in Christ is always at work, bringing life out of death, healing our wounds, resurrecting us from the death-tending ways of the world, and inviting our participation in the divine cosmic restoration project.
From Douglas John Hall’s Cross in our Context: “Christianity make the astonishing claim that God, who is preeminent in the only unqualified sense of that word, for the sake of creature’s shalom suffered – suffers – the loss precisely of that preeminence. In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr, ‘The crux of the cross is the revelation of the fact that the final power of God over humans is derived from the self-imposed power of God’s love.’ Not incidentally, Niebuhr’s qualifying adjective is tremendously important here: ‘self-imposed weakness.’ Against Nietzche, the pastor’s son who complained so bitterly about the ‘feminine’ weakness of the Christian God and his Christ, Niebuhr recognizes here that God’s apparent weakness is the sign and consequence of a strength that is greater than mere brawn: it is the strength that is demanded of those who voluntarily forfeit their strength in order to be strong for the other.”
As we journey toward Holy Week and look toward Easter, you might be thinking about how you might honor this most important week of the Christian liturgical year with children. Scroll below and you will find information about Easter too.
Holy Week ideas:
- During the week, go through your Holy Week Box that the children made last week in gathering time. If you’d like one, I have extras. You could also make your own.
- Read the Bible with your children. Start at Matthew 26, Mark 13 or Luke 22 and read through the end. We will be reading the John text in church on Sunday.
- This resource from the First Presbyterian Church of New York is good for more ideas and reflection.
- The United Methodist Church also explains it well here.
- You could also recreate your own worm composting bin. Here is my most recent post on it.
- Come to the sanctuary anytime when we are open (Wednesday, Thursday 8 am until 9 pm, Friday 8 am – 5 pm and Saturday 8 am – 1 pm) and take a self-guided reflective tour of the sanctuary windows going from Creation to Revelation. (better for older children.)
- Come to the Maundy Thursday soup supper at 6 pm and the service at 7 pm. We will be having the service in a circle this year in the Radcliffe Room. Instead of foot washing, we do hand washing. We will also serve communion. It is interactive. Childcare is available from 6 pm – 8:30 pm.
- Come to Good Friday service at 12 noon in the sanctuary. We will read and meditate on the last 7 words of Christ. Or, honor the day at home and talk about God knows our sadness and our pain.
Easter Sunday Announcements:
- All children are invited to SING at the 8:45 am service. Please arrive by 8:00 am to practice.
- There is a special Easter breakfast at 7:45 and 9:45 am in Peter Marshall Hall.
- All children are invited to an Easter Egg hunt in Peter Marshall Hall at 10:15 am.
- There is no Sunday School on Easter. We WILL have Worship Play at both services and will do a special Easter planting project to conclude our worm-bin composting experience for the season.
From Ted Jennings’ Transforming Atonement: “What seems to make the cross so important for the Gospels (as well as for Paul) is that it demonstrates the fundamental conflict between a mission directed toward life and the actually existing arrangements of the world, both political and religious. What is at stake is no mere amelioration of existing arrangements, but a fundamental opposition between these arrangements and the will and purpose of God…What God wills is the transformation of the world, announced as the coming of the divine reign of justice and generosity and joy…The cross is then a rather clear-eyed view of what follows not of necessity but predictably, from a call for radical transformation. The avoidance of the cross, therefore, leads us to underestimate the deep violence of the world in which we live, or may lead us unwittingly to collaborate in that violence by calling for a less radical transformation. Thus, the message concerning the cross of the Messiah seems to be essential to any theology that seeks to be clear about…the mission and ministry of transformation, a mission that seeks to genuinely enact the justice and mercy of the God who comes.”