Archive for February 2010
In the out-sourcing of labor, it is really to be wished that up and coming countries start getting decent jobs. But there are the transnational corporations, countries, and the global economy. When the corporations out-source labor they are getting very cheap labor, undermining the standard of living of the labor force in more developed countries. (I’ll leave out environmental regulations for now.) It should not be a zero sum game. Why should the labor of one country have to suffer for the sake of out-sourcing jobs? Corporations are of course accruing more profit by this practice. They do not have the real benefit of the labor in those countries at heart or in mind.
I forgot the exact figures that Jeffrey Immelt, the chair and CEO of General Electric, told Charlie Rose on TV (On Thursday, June 25th, 2009), but it was something like the financial industry, that is, Wall Street had grown to 47% of our economy while the manufacturing sector had shrunk to 11%. CEO’s should realize that if they destroy the middle class in this country, they also destroy one of the most lucrative markets in the world, thus hurting their own profits. He suggested that the CEO’s of our country try to balance these figures more and bring our industrial base to 20 or 25% of the economy as a goal.
All of this initiative, if it was not blown away in the wind, should however, think in terms of the global market. Rather than shrink the financial industry, workers should be encouraged to buy into stock and become beneficiaries or take the losses as well of the global industrial base. of course, blatant “bank robberies” by that I mean the way banks are short-selling on the country of Greece right now after knowing and hiding its debt and now standing to reap billions if Greece defaults, need to be stopped and prevented by the governments of countries.
Financial corporations that make their money in the stock market also have shares that can be purchased, of course, but the little investor, really investing for the sake of industrial growth and more productivity, versus the big financial powers that can game the system, need to be protected. The mutual funds help them somewhat, but one gets the impression that the hedge funds and other fancy financial firms leave others with the short end of the stick.
But labor ought to be encouraged to become part of the stock market and partially have ownership of the corporations. CEO’s and management needs to stop taking a lion share of the profits out of the pockets of individual shareholders. Now these have also become middle class and the holders are not merely the great pensions, institution, and the rich.
When jobs are outsourced, labor there ought to receive access to shares in the stock market as much as the middle class and labor here. When labor here is helped by stock market income they too will become middle class. But real investment would not be so much of a gamble if so much irrational speculation and gaming the system was not going on.
When productivity grew in the global market place and and when investment for productivity in the financial industry became reality for the global labor force, the industrial base could grow for many countries and the labor could also enjoy the profits. In consort with corporations countries have to figure out how to guide this growth and not allow industries to do the race to the bottom in terms of environmental regulations and wages. D’Angel Rugina argued that if the irrational speculation, that is, the speculation were taken out of the stock market, then the real investment in productivity would produce full employment. Applying that to the global market place is not utopic for our computer enhanced consciousness.
My son Mark was gracious and gave me permission to put our correspondence into my website. My book, which will hopefully be published, is about Luther’s Commentary on Joseph found in Luther’s Works, volumes six through eight.
February 3rd 2010
I just finished reading your book! I enjoyed it very much. While I’ll admit on a whole it was a little too intellectual for me to understand, I could understand and was moved by a good deal of it. Some of the ideas and comments that came to my head that I wrote down that I want to share with you, may not really pertain to what you were concerned with and writing about, but these were just neat things I thought of as I was reading it.
Walter Brueggemann’s Quote about songs (I’ll put it in.)
In dramatic and dynamic ways, songs may also function to evoke and form new realities that did not exist until or apart from the actual singing of the song. (From “Psalms and the Life of Faith”)
The idea that songs can evoke a new reality that did not exist before and can in fact evoke them in the actual process of the singing of the song
This is the reason I write music, and one of things I’ve always felt Marc Bolan’s Music does to me (especially his song “The Broken Hearted Blues”).
It also reminds me of Ovid’s adaptation of the Orpheus myth in which he talks about the poet’s ability to create a beautiful environment and world for others and for themselves with the poems they write. Ovid describes Orpheus sitting down on a lonely hillside that’s devoid of life and playing a song on his lyre and all the trees of the land gathering around him and giving him shade; creating a beautiful oasis around him.
Your idea about Luther’s Joseph commentary drawing us into its “world” and changing us in that world like a parable draws us in and affects us.
This is another reason I make art. In my Junior year of college with a friend I went to see a live symphony at the Walt Disney concert hall in Downtown LA. On our way there, my friend asked me why I was into Theater. I told her it was because I wanted to create art that could transport viewers to a place where they could obtain a knowledge and a hope that, upon their returning to their world, would allow them to change their world in a positive way. I still strive to do this with the songs I write. This quote of yours really stresses, to me, the power of story and the way it can change lives. Just like the way a dream can change the life of someone all in one night.
Luther’s quote about the darkness the demons cannot even penetrate
“The word is a sure shade and darkness, which the evil spirits however lofty they may be cannot look into.”
I like this quote a lot. I like that God can be darker than the demons, also the whole Idea that nothing is what it seems. I really get from Luther, now that your book has allowed me to look more closely at him, that he seems always up in arms amidst a battle of good and evil and constantly on the look out for deception. This also reminded me of one time when you were taking me to work (when I was working for the Berkeley Rep. Theater summer camp) and you and I were talking about Jesus and God and the Devil because I was feeling strong in the spirit after doing Godspell. Right before you dropped me off you said “Remember, though, if the devil ever visits you, he’ll come to you disguised as the Christ.”
God can be the worst devil!
This quote rang true with the previous quote I was talking about. Also it really helped the whole “being put through the School of Hell” idea sink into me. Our immense suffering is God playing a cosmic game of some kind that to us is a game for keeps. Our very lives depend on the game. And Death, the ultimate farewell that has been the terror of humankind since the dawn of time, is somehow an illusion we must surrender to in order to truly have Life. My mind was running wild by this point. I was asking myself the question: “What then is life?” and have I even experienced it yet? I’m no philosopher and my thoughts may sound existential. But I enjoy having thoughts like that because they fascinate me. So that quote and the quote about being put through the school of hell really drew me in. In fact I made a note in my note book to eventually write a song called “the school of hell”.
“You cannot understand God through Speculation but by experience”
I can tie this into a quote I recall from the end of your book. It spoke about how this “School of Hell”
Luther’s Theology of the Cross is a dramatic life story; One that could be predicted through different scenarios or scripture but can only be experienced. Also that in its occurrence there are dangers that pose threats to its completion like a despairing heart. If it goes beyond the despair Jesus felt in Gethsemane and the individual loses their faith that [then] God’s will cannot be completed. Or in the way that people need to ventilate and be a beast under their conditions rather then remaining stoic. And how the beast is what will help them get through the school of hell. I know I’m mixing passages, but I was relating these ideas to one another.
“He is the silver cup”
This quote helped me understand the Joseph story better then I’ve ever understood it. Especially the idea that when he asked his brothers “What deed is this that you have done?!” he was not asking them about the silver cup, but about what they had done to him so many years ago. His planting the silver cup in their bag and that being symbolism for him, and the irony of demanding repentance of his brothers (not for stealing a silver cup he had planted, but for stealing his youth, happiness, the happiness of his father and injuring his father’s faith) is something so Timeless. For some reason I could feel exactly how Joseph was feeling when I read these passages and I could almost see the mystery of God unfolding in his own eyes. I found myself asking the question. When will I be put through the school of hell? How is it that one finds favor with God and is called to carry out the holy mandate? In Joseph’s case he must be killed and lose all recognition then be raised to power as a new form (like the highest power in Egypt). It sure is fascinating. But something about how Joseph is the silver cup line really got me. It’s like he puts the silver cup in the bag (to frame his brothers) this is because he wants his brothers to repent, but it’s ultimately because he loves his brothers and he wants to give them his riches (the silver cup). It’s like objects to God can mean one thing (what they are) mean another thing (their opposite) and yet another thing (what they are once more but in a hidden form). For some reason, however, I couldn’t get over the sadness in Joseph’s eyes. Like this deed his brothers did to him really left a kind of scar that would forever remain on him. Maybe this is the mark of an anointed one and a Christ. They bare special stripes. The stripes of a sacrifice they made to be a chosen one of God. Though the end of Joseph’s story is a happy one, he’ll forever have a look I’ll always see. Tim Rice the writer for Jesus Christ superstar calls it having the look of a haunted hunted man. Now I’m ranting but you can see how much this passage of yours affected me.
Jacob’s relentless Faith
I loved the passage about how someone involved in the wrestling match at the river Jabbok could call the angel a demon and walk away with a life full of curses. But Jacob insisted on wrestling the Angel until it blessed him and thus his life was full of God’s blessings. I can see this being a metaphor for someone’s struggle with faith.
I really enjoyed reading your book, Pop. You should really publish it. I know lots of people would get a lot of joy from reading it. You could inspire many people. Hope you and Mom are well. All my love
February 10th 2010
I just had the time to read your notes and reactions to my book on Joseph. I really appreciate your reading it and struggling with some of its most difficult parts. I can also see that you are a writer. You already have natural style. I only got there after filling fifteen books with diaries! Let me react to just a few of your thoughts.
I think a song or story or dream that changes our lives, that creates a new reality for us can be called performative in a general sense. The idea being that God makes promises in our lives and then keeps them, even when they first begin with the opposite of what we wished, for example, four people coming to a concert! We can also use the word “performative” in a technical sense, where a speech act has to fulfill many requirements to be performative. I promise, command, forgive, etc. are examples. But I’m just clearing it up in my own mind and that is not really your concern.
You mentioned the “illusion of death.” You know the joke about Christian Scientists. The guy tells one that his mother is sick. “She thinks she’s sick.” the Christian Scientist corrects him. The fellow’s mother dies and he meets the Christian Scientist, who asks about the health of his mother and he says, “Oh, she thinks she’s dead.”
There is the illusion of death and there is spiritual death in Christ, after which we are raised up into the newness of life. But there is also biological death, where we still have the promise of eternal life. Even though death is very real, we can call it an illusion if we cling to Jesus’ word: “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26-26). We are merely translated into some marvelous existence that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor a heart ever been able to imagine.”
The School of Hell
I thought that going to Philadelphia would work. I said, “The only trouble with heaven is that you have to go through hell to get there.” I thought I could get through it. I found out that I was not able to take very much. If you accept abuse, then you become an accomplice to those committing their crime against you. So God does put us through the school of hard knocks or the school of hell, but it cannot be of our own choosing. Self-chosen suffering is a cop-out. It has to be the suffering that God decides for us, because it is God fashioning us for God’s purposes and we should not be choosing our own suffering for our own purposes. When God calls us, let God be God, and create us in the way God needs us for the purposes of salvation.
Making Friends with the Beast
I did Jungian therapy for many years and the point was to befriend the beast and that took place in my dreams. All sorts of monsters used to give me nightmares. They were all different encounters with the beast. The beast is our own incredible power externalized and attacking us. When we make friends with the beast, then it internalizes and becomes our creative energy and the powerful force of human love and compassion in our hearts.
Those are just a few reactions to your beautiful words.
Transfiguration of our Lord February 14th 2010
Exodus 34:29-35 Psalm 99 II Corinthians 3: 12-4:2 Luke 9: 28-36 [37-43]
What a wonderful text to be able to preach from! Today we celebrate the transfiguration of our Lord – although most of us really celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Let the cherub shoot the arrows – no harm. And let’s go to those we have a crush on and say, “Be my Valentine?” No harm – but let’s set that sentimental little holiday into the background and place the source of truth, love, and life into the foreground, because this Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ causes us to grow and mature in the greatest love this world has ever known.
That love is engendered by faith in the very God who created the heavens and the earth and whose face shines with the light in which we see light. The wonderful God who said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. You notice that Jesus was going up that mountain to pray and taking his inner-circle of disciples with him, Peter, James, and John. They are a sleepy bunch just like they were in the garden of Gethsemane, although here Peter does talk a little in his sleep not knowing what he was saying.
I certainly wish my prayer life were stronger and more disciplined. I wonder if praying is like climbing up a mountain and climbing up a mountain is like praying? Because it was while praying together, the way Bethlehem did the Saturday before last, that Jesus was transfigured. It was as if he had entered heaven and his body already became glorified, making his clothes become a dazzling white, and his face begin to shine. You hear about some transfiguration stories among the Hindus, but here Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared with Jesus and conversed with him about his departure from Jerusalem. (Just as an aside, you remember that Moses died on Mount Nebo and no one ever found his grave and Elijah was taken up into heaven by a fiery chariot and horses. Thus the song, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!) Now the word used in Greek for “departure” is “exodus.” They spoke of the exodus that Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem.
Moses took the children of God through the Red Sea on dry land through the wilderness and into the land flowing with milk and honey, the Promised Land. Elijah the prophet reminded kings, who thought they were gods, that it is God who is our real king and the powerful of the earth had better humble themselves before God and obey God’s will and care for God’s people.
Moses represented the law, Elijah, the prophets, and Jesus, the Son of Righteousness, stood for the Gospel between them. Jesus would lead the children of God through the cold waters of death, through the valley of the shadow of death, to dwell in the House of the Lord [in Heaven], where we will live forevermore, so that even here [on earth] goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.
But Jesus had to bring about our new exodus by means of his dying on the cross for us; yes, dying on the cruel rails of the cross for you and me. Moses had his staff, but Jesus had to get nailed to the cross and by that cross he opened up the gates of heaven for us, the entrance way to life, abundant life, the life that overcomes death, the love that is stronger than death. And for all who believe in Christ and him crucified, God opens up the way to a heavenly new life that even begins here on earth.
I used to think that the three booths that Peter talked about were for the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches. But in our churches we still talk in our sleep, because we have to become awakened in the likeness of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven has to spread over all the earth, not by so-called mighty armies and lying voices of violence – terrorism will fail, but by the love that shone from Jesus, when the face of God shone through him just like the way the sun shines on the earth.
We are blessed in the transfiguration, because the Lord made his face shine on us and was gracious unto us, lifted his countenance upon us, and gave us peace. Not with the force of armies and coercion, but by the almighty power of God’s love – sending us all out on healing campaigns, rescue missions, like the one in Haiti – “We are the world, we are the children!” Bringing food, water, medical help, and shelter to those poor souls brings them the glad tidings that God reigns! Would that armies everywhere were converted and sent out on campaigns of rescue missions! Amen!
Yet and still when the cloud covered the three sleepy heads, they were terrified. We have to approach God through Jesus and obey God’s voice and listen to him, whom God himself elected and called his beloved Son. We cannot approach a pillar of fire nor a dark ominous cloud; but we can in the words of Luther, come to the child, Jesus, at his mother breast; be proud to be a fish that Jesus caught or to be the loving people that Jesus sends out to catch more fish. Or we can turn to the One who keeps on forgiving, heals us of all our diseases, brings fulfillment into our lives, makes us straighten out, glorify God, and live a life full of joy as we go on our way rejoicing!
Now Peter’s three booths for me seem to be Moses, standing for Judaism, Elijah for Islam (think of Elijah Mohammed), and Jesus for Christianity; but in the Gospel of Jesus Christ our cups overflow with love for Jews and Moslems. One day I believe that every knee shall bow to the name that is above every other name, Jesus Christ our Lord, because his overwhelming love will convince them that he is the truth. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “they will fall on their knees with the overwhelming conviction they had nowhere else to go.”
Where Luke describes the transfiguration of Jesus, St. Paul relates the transfiguration to us. It is called “metamorphosis” in the Greek, like the metamorphosis of a larva asleep in a cocoon changing into a marvelous butterfly. God’s face shines on us and when we turn to our Lord, the Spirit, the veil that separates us falls away, and we see our real reflections in the transfigured Christ, become a miraculous mirror. No longer does St. Paul here speak of looking through a mirror darkly, we will begin to be with God and walk with God and talk with God in prayer face to face. We will begin to know ourselves, the way old Socrates bid us do; but more than that, we will begin to be filled with the source of life and love and faith and hope just like Christ.
Hmmm, “What’s the pastor been smoking?” You might ask. For some of us a whole lot of other things are more important than being a Christian. Like somebody said to me, “I’ll see you in church unless anything else comes up.” That was a dead-give-a-way. Church was the last thing on his list. And that is all right, if you want to be short changed. But when Christ climbs up that mountain in your heart and starts making your little light shine, then you start seeing what life is really all about.
You don’t have to come to Christ, of course. You might enjoy being a 20 watt light bulb. That’s not much better than walking in the dark. But St. Paul speaks about becoming one of the stars lighting up the way to the salvation of the world. We use the word “magnitude” of stars where Paul uses the word “glory.” Some stars are first magnitude, some second. The sixth magnitude stars are the dimmest that you can see with the naked eye. The little dipper has some sixth magnitude stars and the big dipper has a couple of first magnitude stars. Ah, those kind almost light up the whole sky! And our transfigured Lord can light us up and change us from one glory to the next, just like those stars, until the face of God shines through us, like the Son of God shining in our hearts and making life, love, faith, and hope grow all over the world. As St. Peter says, “Be attentive to Christ as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19). Ah, the sun in the sky can make plants and other vegetation grow, but the Son of God makes the life that overcomes death grow, makes forgiveness and reconciliation grow, overturns evil and frees up the good, opens up the Jim Crow prisons and lets the oppressed go free, increases our hunger for justice and fairness. Invites all the nations of the earth into the Promised land.
The Son of God brings real climate change. Our hearts become strangely warmed with fresh new life and love and compassion, and in the gratitude for our change we freely forgive those who did us wrong.
Imagine the metamorphosis, when Jesus healing campaign opens up the hearts of congress and everyone gets health insurance and our medical industry becomes reformed, decreasing the cost, and fewer people get sick and die in hospitals instituted to heal us and make us get well. Schools stopped spreading ignorance and prejudice and started really enlightening us. The government stopped being against us and became a government of the people by the people and for the people.
And churches, what can I say about churches? Scriptures say, that judgment begins with the House of the Lord (I Peter 4:17). We should not become a burden on society, but bring renewal to society. We should not spread bad news, but good news, because of the marvelous things that God does through us. Churches should not turn off their lights, but become the lights that enlighten our society and showing all manner of persons in our society the way that they should go.
The street lights don’t light up Oakland. Our churches should be the lamps that light up our city. Our faith, the face of God shining through our churches has to light up our streets, fill our city with gentleness, love, and justice. Climbing the mountain of our prayers, the Light of the World can make Oakland be our shining city on the hill.
Now this mountain-top experience is given us by God to strengthen us as we go down into the valley of Lent and head for Holy Week, the Passion of Christ, and the cross. This mountain top experience makes us rejoice even in our suffering and we know that God will help us through it.
Our lesson this time did not leave Jesus up on that Mountain of glory. We could see he was back down there driving an evil spirit out of a boy that was demon possessed. The disciples failed to be of help. They even later tried to stop someone who was curing people successfully. They must have had an attitude, because Jesus reproached them because they lacked the faith to be helpful.
But when we think of facing the realities of the future and the valley of departure and separation, remember that prayer is like climbing up a mountain, and God gives us more than enough light, more than enough heart, and more than enough strength. God remains the life of our lives, continuing His unconditional love for us. Just keep on praying and God will increase your angel-power to get through any valley, no matter how dark, no matter how deep. Amen.
Communion Blessing: Jesus shines brighter, Jesus is fairer than all the angels in the sky! (Adapted from “Beautiful Savior”)
My Lecture for for Reformation Day 2008 at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg entitled “Luther’s In Depth Theology and Theological Therapy: (Using Self Psychology and a Little Jung)” has been published in that seminary’s journal, Seminary Ridge Review vol. 11 No. 1-2 (Autumn 2008-Spring 2009): 97-115.
I take a rather great risk by presenting Luther’s theology as in depth and I project that therapy can issue from it. In Luther’s day psychology and sociology had not yet separated from theology in an intellectual “division of labor.” We have always known the personal and psychological strength of Luther’s theology, but I go farther and try to work out an in depth personality theory and therapy from it. Instead of intra-psychic ego states like the super ego, ego, and id; I posit internal relational stances before God, others, oneself, and the world. I associated Luther’s continually placing opposites together with Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of opposites, which have to be transcended for growth. This theory also helped me analyze Luther’s episodes of spiritual conflict. I also correlate Self Psychology with Luther’s theology to bring out Luther’s depth dimension. Check out the rapturous ascent in faith and descent in love (falling in love). I would covet a critique of what I here distill out of Luther’s “Freedom of a Christian.”
My brother Philip also has a lecture in this issue and I recommend acquiring it. Write to
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