Archive for January 2013
I wish I had had this concept for my dissertation. I just read on the editorial page of the New York Times (page A16, January 28, 2013) how Cardinal Mahony “invoked a non-existent church privilege to hide miscreant clergy and shield the church and his own reputation.” That privilege was very real in Martin Luther’s time when he threw the canon law into the flames on December 10, 1520. In those days clergy could not be judged by civil judges but only in ecclesiastical courts by fellow clergy. They considered the canon law to be above the civil law. Luther disagreed and declared that the civil law was the law of the land. In those days the canon law was referred to as the “spiritual law” as I discovered in my dissertation.
This insight is very significant because historians only regard the issue involved as a theological issue regarding the law and thereby miss the legal revolution involved in Luther’s action. In those days there was a legal pluralism, in which the church wanted the primacy of the canon law. James Preus and others have argued that Luther was almost an anarchist, who discarded the law and against Carlstadt, for example, wanted to revolve all matters around his personal authority without recourse to law. What Preus and others, who criticize Luther from that perspective fail to realize, is that, even though the canon law and ecclesiastical courts may have been more advanced than the civil courts, Luther was championing the civil law as the law of the land and refused to recognize the rule of the law of the privileged clergy estate.
When I wrote my dissertation I did not realize how relevant it would be to the attitude of a Catholic cardinal even today and of course the whole regressive movement of the Islamists to place the Shariah, their religious law above the civil law.
In Football Every Play is a Potential Touchdown: January 27, 2013 Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in South San Francisco
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in South San Francisco
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 1 Cor 12:12-31a Luke 4:14-21
In Football Every Play is a Potential Touchdown
When the Assistant Bishop Katy Grindberg emailed me about your interim I felt pretty challenged, because my last assignment was back in 2010. But I’ve been going all the way up to Shepherd of the Sea in Gualala, up in Mendocino County and they’ve tried to get me for Super Bowl Sunday and another Sunday already and I tell them, I think I’ll have an interim. I miss preaching and teaching, because those are things I love to do, as well as play my trumpet, of course. Let me say, when we sign the three month interim contract, I’ll be glad to be the one to proclaim the real presence of Jesus Christ among you until you can call a new pastor.
Now to serve and nourish you with the word: Notice that in both the Nehemiah and the Luke Gospel Lesson, we have descriptions of the public reading of scripture. So that goes back to the fifth or sixth centuries B.C. and when you are a lector, then you know that Jesus was one too. With the public reading of the scriptures in this church you are continuing a tradition that goes back over 2,500 years.
In the Letter to the Corinthians, we have the mystery of how the Word of God forms the body of Christ among us, how we are different members, who also have different gifts, but we have one heart and soul. We are all one, and if one hand in the congregation hurts, then the whole body hurts.
When I studied this passage the notes sent me to Galatians 3:28: “In Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male or female, we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Today we would have to add, we are no longer White or Black, gay or straight, rich or poor. Perhaps we also need to add, we are no longer Democrats or Republicans, because the parties have almost become two tribes, who have brought gridlock to Washington. No matter your political party, we are one in Christ Jesus, sisters and brothers with one another.
The commentaries for Luke said that the first verses were important, because we tend to go right to the Isaiah passage. They say that when Jesus returned to Galilee, he was filled by the power of the Holy Spirit and the report of him spread throughout the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. If we would continue reading, we would discover that he was not praised in his hometown Nazareth, but soundly rejected. They tried to throw him off a cliff. A prophet is praised and accepted except in his own home town.
The passage Jesus reads from Isaiah is called his Inaugural Speech, much like the one we heard last week given by President Obama in Washington. Now Jesus overshadows the president of our country and the leaders of all the nations of the world, but of course, we won’t be able to get Beyoncé to sing for us. Anyway Jesus calls ordinary people.
In his reading of Isaiah, Jesus does not include every miracle and nor all the miracles of the long lists that are usually reported. In this list he leaves out “to bind the broken-hearted” and in others, to open the ears of the deaf, cure the lame, heal the sick, drive out demons, and raise the dead.
Jesus heals those who are in the gridlock of paralysis so they can move once again. Jesus gets us to move. The progression of his miracles here goes from preaching the good news to the poor to proclaiming release to the captives to the recovery of sight to the blind to letting the oppressed go free and to proclaiming the year of God’s favor.
The year of God’s favor is sometimes interpreted as the year of Jubilee. After seven times seven years or 49 years, the fiftieth year becomes the Jubilee, where all the slaves are set free, all debts are forgiven, and the property that belonged to people that they lost was returned to them. If the year of Jubilee was in effect today, then all those who lost their houses because of the housing debacle and the wave after wave of foreclosures would get them back.
Still it isn’t just the Jubilee year that Jesus proclaims, but his new administration on the throne of David, which has God’s promise that it will last forever. Jesus is the Son of David, whom King David himself worshiped and longed to see. He is the Son of Man, who will one day return to judge the nations, and the Son of God, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, blessing us with the law and Gospel, the Word of God, and ruling this world forever.
I am still thinking in terms of his progression of miracles. For me a miracle is the opposite of a crime. Miracles are random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty and, let me add, wonderful acts of love. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, opened the ears of the deaf, made the lame to walk, raised Lazarus from the dead, and then he himself was resurrected. From Epiphany we will go to Lent and then Good Friday and Easter. We celebrate the fact that even though Jesus was rejected by those of hardened hearts, was crucified and buried, God raised him up on the third day.
That sets our hearts rejoicing in the Spirit of the Lord. Because, as Jesus gives us the recovery of our sight, we can see the vision of the Beloved Community, like this congregation, which belongs to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus preached that the reign of God was near and at hand and it is here among us. Just look at each other. It becomes real insofar as we believe it and disappears insofar as we stop believing it. The kingdom of heaven that Jesus rules is within you and me and our faith that becomes active in love and our love that hungers for justice, makes it happen even today, because we serve a living Savior, who is in the world today and really present with us.
But we are captured and oppressed in our worldly city, our South San Francisco, our state of California. And even though we love it and we do because we experience so much goodness, we also live in a culture of violence. We ourselves and our worldly governments, our powers and principalities rely too much on the threat of death, coercion, and war. The Beloved Community of Christ is based on trust, gifts that are freely given, life and love – a love ready to die for other lives, more love and abundant life.
What good is the threat of death to the mass murders, who kill themselves? What can we make of one of those heartless murderers who can shoot all those first graders, the teachers and the principal, who gave up their lives when they threw themselves into harm’s way to save the lives of their children? Then the shooter turns the gun on himself and shoots himself. What do we do when they have already put killing themselves into their equation? The threat of death becomes bankrupt when we consider these murderous suicides here and the suicide bombers over there in our wars.
We who believe in Christ, the Lamb of God, also become like lambs. What kind of a threat is it when we say, “If you do that, we’ll still love you?” You are going to sin? “Well, I’m going to forgive you!” Take that! Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Those Mennonites whose daughters were murdered in their classroom, went to the funeral of the murderer! Personally, I don’t think I could have done that.
Let’s all remember that each of us has a death instinct and a wish to live and sometimes it is easier to die than to live, especially when we are used to being very comfortable. But there is hope. Christ is our redeemer, who will release us from our captivity. Christ can set us free from the culture of violence that we are imprisoned in.
One thing that it took me quite some time to learn is that we are threatened by love as well as by criticism and rejection. You criticize some people and you lose your relationship. Perhaps they have low self-esteem and experience criticism as a rejection. We should always ask someone if they can take it at that time or first build them up with compliments. But other people cannot handle love. But Christ deepens our relationships so that we can share love and makes our relationships so steadfast and strong that we can bring up issues, talk them through, and have even stronger relationships thereafter because of it.
Love is sometimes hard to take. I remember a first grade teacher, who kept wanting to hug me, and boy, did I hate it. My youngest son introduced saying, “I love you!” in our family so we have begun saying it to each other. He can sing the line from a song, “We are sinners who need love” and say the word love with so much love that it melts me away. Did you hear about the Norwegian farmer who loved his wife so much he almost told her?
Jesus, you see, is inaugurating a Kingdom of Love, one that is based on the rejection of the power and threat of death and brings life and life more abundantly.
I don’t know the history of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in South San Francisco. But I know that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that you were all brought together.
I thought today was Super Bowl Sunday, but I guess it’s next week. In football, you know, every play is a potential touchdown. After every huddle or every Annual Meeting, you can preach the good news or throw the ball like Kaepernick, Joe Flacco or Tom Brady and make a touchdown. So every time we meet as a congregation of the body of Christ, we can have an in-breaking of the Beloved Community. Every member, every person, baptized by the water and the word is a potential Christ … a person anointed with the power of the Spirit.
Let’s let the Good News set this congregation moving because in Christ we are alive and kicking. Sometimes we may be kicking, but not too high! A woman called Berenice always used that expression. When I asked her, “How are you doing?” She would answer, “I’m kicking, but not too high!” She immigrated from one of the Caribbean Islands. Her uncle met her and stood at the visa counter with her. The official there asked for her name and he answered for her, “This is my niece.” and the official wrote down “Berenice.” So we all called her Berenice, but her real name was Alice.
But sometimes I feel like her as a Christian, let alone being a Christ for others. Do you as well? “I’m kicking but not too high!” Let’s get kicking. Not like that kicker David Aker, whose been missing easy field goals lately. And we’re not Catholics so we don’t need to throw any “Hail Mary” passes.
You can trust the Holy Spirit and if you allow the Holy Spirit to move and stir you with the love that comes down from on high, then God will also find a pastor that fits you, like a lid that belongs to a pot. We have a cabinet in our kitchen where we keep all our pots and we have to get down on our knees and rummage through them until we find the lid that belongs to a particular pot. Get down on your knees. Seek and you shall find. In the Beloved Community, there is a pastor that belongs to this congregation. Every pot has a lid that fits and then you can start cooking! Amen.
Pastor Peter Krey
Scholardarity just e-published my dissertation, Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron. Its 420 pages are available for a small price. I just developed ideas from its section on the “Freedom of a Christian” into a Lutheran social ethics and a theology of anti-racism. The first part of my dissertation is a manual of Luther’s most often published pamphlets from 1520-1525 and the second part argues my thesis that Luther overcame a juridical ethos of his time for an internal realm of freedom and spontaneity, in which the personal and social agent could act responsibly.
I plugged my name into Google and Peoplefinder was offering my name, age, and previous addresses for free, and different levels of my information for a dollar, fifteen dollars, or forty dollars a month, that is, 39.95, of course!
We have returned from the anonymity of the big city to the technology-based everybody-knows-everything-about-everybody of a small village. The question to ask: does this work against being human or is it helpful to it?
Knowledge is power and this is really knowledge without relationship. So power comes very close and relationship is like a paper relationship that is reduced to letter writing or now emails; or a telephone relationship that was reduced to calling each other – or sometimes a one-way imaginary relationship; or a Facebook internet relationship that is also virtual and somewhat unreal unless it adds and deepens the quality of a real and living relationship.
After reading Bill Keller’s OP-ED piece, the “Invasion of the Data Snatchers,” (NYT 1/14/2013, p. A21) I realize that it is really not the case that everybody knows everything about everybody: things the government does are classified and top-secret and can remain so for twenty years or more at a time. That spells untold information about us and very little for the most part about our security state. Bill Keller points that out by mentioning Daniel Solove’s book Nothing to Hide. The government should not say “Trust us. We are the good guys.” Checks and balances have to be strong so that individuals are not trampled and undone by the concentration of power on top. That has been one ingredient in the freedom we enjoy in our country.
This power imbalance is not the only way the people at the grass roots become dis-empowered: racism divides us, our classes do, that is, those who have money and those who don’t, and in a strange way our political parties now function that way. Perhaps the old tactic of divide and conquer has also been translated into that of divide and rule, but perhaps the division of the parties has only paralyzed the two chambers of our representative government, the security state gobbles up more and more power.
What do you think?
I was looking into some of my responses to Student Philosophy of Religion essays of about 2005. The students had already left for the semester, so I could not give them my response. On one of them by a student called Santos I wrote:
This is a very interesting exploration of the fifth dimension: the dream-state reality in the mind of a greater being. St. Paul quoted the Greek philosophers: “For in [God] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) And in the Gospel of John, we read, “God is spirit; and those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) That gets to Hegel’s philosophy of the spirit. Could “spirit” be the concrete thought of God and as our thoughts are abstract and reflect and affect reality, while God’s concrete spirit is reality?
Footnote from December 31, 2012: Thinking about Plato’s Cave, my son Mark noted that the way our shadows are projected by the physical person, our physical persons themselves are projected by a Being even greater. I responded with Bishop Berkeley’s “Being is perception”. The fact that we do not stop existing when humans do not perceive us is that we remain perceived in the eyes of God. But that perception could be our very life and the source of our being. The Spirit of God could be creating us out of the fifth dimension, if time is considered the fourth.