Construing the Cross


From Frances Young’s Construing the Cross: “In a way I take my cue from the fourth-century writer Ephrem the Syrian… He not only did theology through poetic composition, but even spoke of two divine incarnations; first in limited human language in the words of Scripture, then in the limitations of flesh in Jesus. God speaking to us, he suggested, was like someone trying to teach a parrot to speak by placing a mirror over his face, so that the bird thought it was conversing with one of its own kind. The language in which we speak of the infinite, transcendent God is never adequate, always allusive, suggestive, metaphorical, pointing beyond itself, and, as other fourth-century writers, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzen, suggest, only able to get near its object by a multiplication of images overlaying each other and correcting each other. Insight into the saving mystery of God’s presence in one who cried out in God-forsakenness on the cross requires similar multifarious meditations, as well as a willingness to embrace the possibility of truth in paradox. As with all theological enterprises, construing the cross demands the richness of Scripture, the suggestive wealth of ecclesial traditions, the plurality of experience in different socio-cultural environments, along with endeavors to make some rational sense of it all: in other words, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.”


In Remembrance


From Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of Buddha’s Teachings (writing about his work during the Viet Nam War): “A wrong perception was responsible for a wrong policy, and a wrong policy was responsible for the deaths of many thousands of American and Vietnamese soldiers, and several million Vietnamese civilians. The people in the countryside could not understand why they had to die like that, why the bombs had to fall on them day and night. I was sleeping in my room close to the Buddha Hall on the School of Youth for Social Service campus when a rocket was fired into that hall. I could have been killed. If you nourish your hatred and your anger, you burn yourself. Understanding is the only way out. If you understand, you will suffer less, and you will know how to get to the root of injustice. The Buddha said that if one arrow strikes you, you’ll suffer. But if a second arrow hits you in the same spot, you’ll suffer one hundred times more. When you are a victim of injustice, if you get angry, you will suffer one hundred times more. When you have some pain in your body, breathe in and out and say to yourself, “It is only a physical pain.” If you imagine that it is cancer and that you will die very soon, your pain will be one hundred times worse. Fear or hatred, born of ignorance, amplifies your pain. Prajña paramita is the savior. If you know how to see things as themselves and not more than that, you can survive. I love the Vietnamese people, and I tried my best to help them during the war. But I also saw the American boys in Vietnam as victims. I did not look at them with rancor, and I suffered much less. This is the kind of suffering many of us have overcome, and the teaching is born out of that suffering, not from academic studies. I survived for Brother Nhât Tri and for so many others who died in order to bring the message of forgiveness, love, and understanding. I share this so they will not have died in vain.”


The Mountain

IMG_5016From Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: “Well-being of body is like a mountain. A lot happens on a mountain. It hails, and the winds come up, and it rains and snows. The sun gets very hot, clouds cross over, animals shit and piss on the mountain, and so do people. People leave their trash, and other people clean it up. Many things come and go on this mountain, but it just sits there. When we’ve seen ourselves completely, there’s a stillness of body that is like a mountain. We no longer get jumpy and have to scratch our noses, pull our ears, punch somebody, go running from the room, or drink ourselves into oblivion. A thoroughly good relationship with ourselves results in being still, which doesn’t mean we don’t run and jump and dance about. It means there’s no compulsiveness. We don’t overwork, overeat, oversmoke, overseduce. In short, we begin to stop causing harm.”




From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God (writing here of Johann Baptist Metz’s understanding of the cross): “Crosses keep on being set up in the world; the cry of abandonment echoes down through the centuries. To be faithful, theology remembers the cross of Jesus in solidarity with all the dead and those who suffer now in our world. Given that the crucified one is risen, remembering entails burning hope for their future. Why is this dangerous? Breaking through our amnesia, remembering the victims has a double effect. First, by keeping alive their story against the inclination of tyrants to bury it, it robs the masters of their victory. History is written by the victors, who strut about as if the dead over whom they climbed did not count. But memory keeps the reality of their lives alive, in protest against their defeat and in commitment to their unfinished agenda. Second, by connecting their story with that of Jesus, memory awakens the realization that each one of them is precious, galvanizing hope that in God’s good time they too will be justified. What there is at present, the victory of those who murder and harm, is not the last word. And so is set up a social counterforce to apathy; we do not act as if we were defeated by evil.”


The Good

IMG_0689From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth: “The habit of egocentrism is supported by the ego’s distinctive mode of awareness. The ego is acutely aware of what it directly experiences, but it is a skeptic and tends to be dismissive of what it does not experience. Pain and pleasure completely dominate the ego’s awareness of itself and of the world. Pain is pain. It is completely real. Pleasure is also completely real. Pleasure, because it is so pleasant, is to be sought. Pain, because it is so painful, is to be shunned, avoided, and feared. Generally speaking, pain and pleasure are good guides for survival. Food and sex are pleasant and help us survive; injury and danger are painful and threaten our lives. But the mind and the heart can move far ahead of its and bring back news of distant joys and sublime risks that awareness of pain and pleasure cannot envision. We have the power within us to overcome our fear of pain and our excessive attachment to momentary pleasure. We can be aware of goods that are infinitely more satisfying, delicious, sustaining, and delightful.”



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From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Four Establishments of Mindfulness: “Our feelings usually play an important part in directing our thoughts and our mind. Our thoughts arise and become linked to each other around the feelings that are present. When we are mindful of our feeling, the situation begins to change. The feeling is no longer the only thing present in us, and it is transformed under the light of our awareness. Therefore, it no longer sweeps us along the way it did before there was mindfulness of the feeling. If we continue to observe the feeling mindfully, we will be able to see its substance and its roots. This empowers the observer. When we are able to see the nature of something, we are able to transcend it and not be led astray or corrupted by it anymore.”


Trinity-Living and Experiencing Homelessness (NYAPC Children and Youth 5/22)

Trinity-Living and Experiencing Homelessness

Homelessness is on the rise in our region, especially among families.  3.5 million Americans will experience homelessness and 1.5 million of those are children. According to the National Cimages-2oalition for Homelessness, in the last 20-25 years, the 2 major factors for the rise of those experiencing homelessness are a shortage of affordable housing and an increase in overall poverty.  We see this reality all around us, in our neighborhoods, church, school, and in the many the other places we call community.

This Sunday as we celebrate Trinity Sunday, I think the Trinity has something to say about how we relate to those who experience homelessness and how we as God’s creatures should seek to relate to one another.  In the Trinity, we see the the three parts (or beings) of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, existing in perfect union with one another.  Each part of the Timagesrinity perfectly indwells another part of the Trinity.  Though they are different and distinct, they are all One.  We confess that this One and Three, Three in One God,  is a concrete  God very much alive and active  in the world.

Theologian Jurgen Moltmann  says that the New Testament witness, the story of the gospel is “the great love story of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a divine love story in which all are involved together with heaven and earth.”

It is this love-story for the world that drives this perfect unity existing from creation to revelation, from birth to death, and from the experience of being a creaturely being on Earth to seeking to being part of God’s kingdom here on Earth. We too are to strive to live in perfect harmony with one another. 

We, of course, are fallen sinful creatures who clearly don’t live in perfect harmony with one another.  We do all kinds of things we shouldn’t — thinking not so good things about even those we love the most – and doing all the things we know we shouldn’t do – lying, cheating, boasting….But just because we don’t live in harmony doesn’t mean that we should try.  Affirming the power of the God who created and continues to create new life, the power of God who did a NEW and AMAZING thing in Jesus Christ, and the every powerful force of the Holy Spirit, we too can lean into Trinity-LIVING with one another.

I hope we can experience a bit of Trinity-Living this Sunday, as we gather with the children, youth and participating adults to learn about what it means to be experiencing homelessness here in DC.  We will learn some facts about experiencing homelessness, hear stories of being homeless in DC, and  have a chance to make a personal care-kit and a card  for someone experiencing homelessness.  These time together will hopefully serve as an entry point to lean a  a little further into our calling to see God’s good creation in every being and to stretch ourselves into new relationships modeled after the relationships of God.

Here is the plan for the children-youth-parent-teacher contingent for 5/22:

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The Trinity

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From Brian Gerrish’s Christian Dogmatics (Thesis 20 on The Trinity): “Thesis 20 leaves further discussion open. It does not so much present a finished doctrine of the Trinity as rehearse the point of departure for a doctrine of the Trinity. It is simply an epitome of my outline. Christian dogmatics, as I understand it, is most faithful to its task when it does not let the presumed eternal background of redemption overshadow the historical and experiential foreground. However, theologians of every sort agree that there is at least one thing that can be said of God in Godself ( in se ). The Johannine confession “God is love,” twice affirmed (1 John 4:8, 16), is the high point of Christian faith and refers to God’s nature, not just to one divine attribute among many. “Love” has many meanings. Schleiermacher’s definition—“the inclination to unite oneself with an other and the will to be in an other”—fits John’s twofold evidence for the love of God: the sending of the Son and the gift of the Spirit (vv. 9, 13). That “God is love” is thus the final affirmation of my twentieth thesis: it is both “expressly set down in Scripture” and a “good and necessary consequence” of the scriptural narrative of redemption.”




From Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Four Establishments of Mindfulness: “Fear and anger are fields of energy that arise from a physiological or psychological base. The unpleasant feelings that arise within us are also fields of energy. The Buddha teaches us not to repress fear or anger, or the unpleasant feelings brought about by them, but to use our breathing to be in contact with and accept these feelings, knowing that they are energies that originate in our psychological or physiological make-up. To repress our feelings is to repress ourselves. Mindful observation is based on the principle of nonduality. Our unpleasant feelings and ourselves are one. We have to be in contact with and accept the unpleasant feelings before we can transform them into the kinds of energy that are healthy and have the capacity to nourish us. We have to face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection, and nonviolence. Our unpleasant feelings can illuminate so much for us. By our work of mindful observation, we see that experiencing certain unpleasant feelings allows us insight and understanding.”


The Pause


From Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: “Because of mindfulness, we see things when they arise. Because of our understanding, we don’t buy into the chain reaction that makes things grow from minute to expansive. We leave things minute. They stay tiny. They don’t keep expanding into World War III or domestic violence. It all comes through learning to pause for a moment, learning not to just impulsively do the same thing again and again. It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately filling up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness.”