Dali Saturday

Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. (Psalm 39)

Saturday, a day of limbo. With the strange exhilaration of the crucifixion gone, we now wait for something. But what? We sense no presence.

In this vacuum there is only confusion. Our minds are numb and our eyes sting from the spectacle, there is nothing else.

We receive no understanding about all this. Jesus cried out seemingly forsaken, confused, and was delivered unto the deep and dark-knowing absence.

…Perhaps this day, between the shock of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, like no other day, we might sense the reality of our fractured-selves. We are nomads, wonderers, strangers. Too often strangers to each other, and strangers to ourselves.

…I have lived in this twilight for too long. I want to break out this Easter. I want to feel at home in my world and in my skin. I want Easter to firmly plant me in the world. I no longer want to be an alien, I want to be a resident. The world decays, I decay. This is real but it isn’t all there is. The world will be new, one Easter day, and so will I. This is real.

Gunrunners and Good Friday

We watched “Lord of War” last night. The movie, supposedly based on true accounts, depicts the madness of international conflict, and the dictators and the “freedom-fighters” and the gun-runners that keep the machinery of violence oiled.

It’s a movie as good as any to call to mind the reasons behind, and the necessity of, “Good” Friday. It shows our incapability to extricate ourselves from mimetic, reciprocal and victimizing violence.

As it is, only some intimate and totalizing experience with someone who simply refuses to retaliate has a prayer in the face of our blind addiction of sacrificing others to secure our own lives.

Friday’s here.

Maundy Thursday

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jesus)

It’s Thursday, there’s a gathering, a passover supper, a foot washing, a hint of impending betrayal. And after, as Jesus walks into the gathering night to the Mount of Olives and then to Gethsemane, he takes a moment to talk to his disciple-friends about something that sums up his heart and his life.

The term Maundy is from the Latin word mandatum. It means “to give,” “to entrust”. Jesus entrusts us to a new thing, a new way of living, a new way of seeing through the lense of love.

Mandatum is where we get our English word mandate. The Christian mandate is love. Love is the distillation of our faith. There is nothing else. Why is it so hard for us to get this right?

God help us as we move into the imminent dark of the crucifixion.

Passion Week Scandal

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, …He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers. (Mark 11)

Jesus threw everything off kilter. He was bad for the business of sacrifice. Jesus’ actions were scandalous because he was upsetting a system that supposedly contained everything necessary for the religious health of the people.

The great scandal about Christianity is that it claims both uniqueness and universality. It claims to save all people and claims to do so through the unique person of Jesus Christ. The paradox cannot be and should not be reconciled. It can only be spiritually or poetically intuited.

As far as I know other faiths from Islam to Buddhism, claim one or the other but not both; or at least emphasize one and not the other. Judaism claims uniqueness. But it held within itself the seed of universality. Jesus’ entrance into the temple subverted the exclusivity of Judaism. His quote from Hosea pointed to the seed of universality. His own life, death and resurrection ripped open the temple curtain between God, (the Holy of holies), and the nations of the world. The movement was God’s; God coming out to embrace all people.

Uniqueness without universality equals exclusivity. Universality without uniqueness, that is, without historical grounding, is ethereal and finally baseless.

When Christianity, hijacked by rationalists, emphasizes its uniqueness without equal emphasis on its universality it too becomes a stumbling block to God’s kingdom. Our’s is an “irrational” faith not supported by forensic accounts of factual data, but by a story that requires us to listen for the ring of truth with the ear of our hearts. Paul refered to the paradox of universality and uniqueness as mystery.

Let me try a practical example. When we received the contract to run the Single Men’s Hostile, now the Herb Jamieson Centre, I had a number of calls from agencies and well meaning people asking if we were going to serve anyone other than Christians. Or, as the question was occasionally framed, “Do people have to become Christians in order to stay there? The question is not as ubiquitous as it once was but it still surfaces. When it does, we are surprised.

I know it used surprise me. And I used to dismiss it. But it needs examination. I don’t think a question like this arises without cause. Leaving aside “perennial malcontents”, we need to ask ourselves how Hope Mission gained the kind of reputation that would provoke this question? Is it because we too, like the ancient sellers in the temple, can fall prey to constructing a closed system and instead of pointing to the truth through our compassion and our words, claim to possess the truth? A very different position.

Thankfully, through our actions of open compassion, this impression is dying.