Archive for March 2014
Blogging my thoughts for 27th of March, 2014 by Peter Krey
“Restore us, O God of Hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:7)
The Big Bang and inflation is in the news. I thought about how distant physics and astronomy are from biology and the origin of life and thought and love. Then I thought of the intellectual universe. “Let your face shine on us, [O God of Hosts,] that we may be saved.”
Plato thought of God as an invisible intellectual sun, whose goodness, truth, and beauty, as the form of forms, is the consciousness out of which the physical universe flows. (I’m merging Plato, who spoke of copies, with Plotinus who spoke of emanations.) Thus Plato helps us conceive the face of God shining on us, much like the physical sun, around which our planet revolves, and the Hosts are all the stars.
The way the sun brings life to our planet, the face of God, as understood like Plato’s intellectual sun, is part of an intellectual universe, with the heavenly Hosts, representing intellectual stars, planetary systems, galaxies, etc. What kind of a Big Bang took place in the source of life, thought, and love for God’s face to shine on us and save us? What are the four forces there? What is gravity and anti-gravity or inflation in the biological, philosophical, and theological universe?
Physicists speak of space-time and its origin in the Big bang. When an astronomer talked about training the Doppler space telescope on an empty patch of the sky and then seeing it fill with galaxies, it made me think of attaining knowledge and suddenly becoming aware of an entire configuration or constellation of new concepts unknown before.
So in the space-time conception, where does life, thought, and love; where does consciousness and the intellect fit in? Could there be a Big Bang analogy when we consider the face of God shining upon us as one Sun in the starry Hosts of heaven, producing our universe of thought and life and love? When God’s face shines on us, that knowledge can only be good just the way Plato thought, shining goodness, truth, and beauty over the earth.
Now consider the miracle science relates so matter-of-factly! Physicists say that “the cosmos when it was a subatomic quantum speck” inflated “a trillion trillion times and spread across the sky” into our incredibly macrocosmic universe. Unless we consider the creation from nothing by God or God becoming a human being in Christ or understanding the Good News that the face of God shines upon us with grace and favor loving us, what Biblical miracle could hold a candle to what science is telling us?
I wonder if looking into space like looking back in time, we are also seeing the mind of God when we see those starry Hosts, those galaxies, surrounding Plato’s invisible, intellectual sun? Does space-time derive from that Intellect, is God the source of the physical Big Bang or do we have to posit space-time-intellect? How does sentient life fit into this theory?
Considering “the trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the cosmic clock started ticking” that the Big Bang is to have taken place, instantiation and spontaneity seem like understatements. Perhaps because physicists have after 13.8 billion years attained this intellectual knowledge, it is really here and now, the space-time of our here and now, consciousness, our knowledge enveloping the there and then with the here and now.
 Dennis Overbye, “Ripples from the Big Bang,” New York Science Times, March 24t, 2014.
 Also see Dennis Overbye’s Article of March 17, 2014, “Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun,” where Overbye writes about how Alan Guth discovered inflation: “A potential hitch in the presumed course of cosmic evolution could have infused space itself with a special energy that exerted a repulsive force, causing the universe to swell faster than the speed of light for a prodigiously violent instant.” What a mind boggling miracle to blog about!
Two Sermons on the Woman who washed Jesus Feet with her Tears and Dried them with her hair, Luke 7: 36-50
I’ve been trying to write a song about how the sinful woman washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. I read a commentary about it way back in 1983 and felt that the sermons I wrote about the passage might help. Here are two of them:
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15 Psalm 32 Gal 2:11-21 Luke 7:36-50
St. Paul certainly saved the day for us Christians in that quarrel with St. Peter. He fought with the most prestigious Christians of Jerusalem for a law-free Gospel. To go back to the old Jewish law would be going back on Jesus and betraying Jesus. The old Jewish law was also partly responsible for bringing about that legal murder of Jesus. So St. Paul stood up for the new chapter, the new life, which we who follow Christ are to live out of. And this new life is lived out of faith, out of trust in God, out of trusting this Jesus of Nazareth in an unconditional way. This is the Gospel of grace. This is the strength that God gives us – to have a life of freedom, the freedom to serve, the freedom to look to Christ and to look to the cross.
St. Paul sensed the incredible temptation that the early church faced. The new life looking to Christ could be avoided. The cross could gently be placed in the background, and voilà! Everyone could go back to the old law, as if Christ had never lived, died, yes, and been raised again from the dead.
How could Jesus have forgiven that sinful woman, who takes expensive perfumed ointment and in as sensual a way as you can imagine, massages Jesus’ feet? How could that story jive with going back to the old law that would have forbidden a woman like that to touch a holy rabbi? How could Jews and Gentiles commune at the same table, if Gentiles supposedly were unclean and the Jews clean, according to the Jewish law? King David knew the law. He was also responsible to enforce it – and look what King David did! What a sinner he was! Blessed, however, is the one against whom God does not count the sin. David was punished but forgiven.
What intrigues me this morning is the definition of the cross which we face. It is a definition that fits into St. Paul’s understanding of how we are to live, because we look to Christ and walk in the newness of life. This definition comes from the West Berlin Prof. Helmut Gollwitzer, whom we lovingly called “Golly.” It reminds me of the song by the Stylistics: “Betcha, by Golly, Gee, and wow, you’re the one that I’ve been waiting for forever!” (I know I added the Gee.) Golly said that the definition of the cross is the old life attacking our new life in Christ and he continued that there are many onslaughts against the new life by the old.
Look at Jesus. Here he is in a prominent home, where people are not only testing him, but there are not a few just waiting for him to expose a weakness so that he can be done away with. And this crazy woman rushes in. Everyone there knows her and no one wants to let on that they do. And she rushes to Jesus – starts crying over his feet. She pours this oil over them – which must have been a wonderful feeling for Jesus – and dries his feet with her hair. How could Jesus allow it? He couldn’t have had one mean bone in his body or he would have gotten all red, and then, like what all the others were thinking to do, would have given her a kick, and said, “Leave me, scum!” The old life attacked Jesus powerfully. But Jesus’ new life was so strong it vanquished this assault from the old life.
“Look at the beautiful thing she is doing to me! She is loving me.” This love is the new life – and because she sinned much, she has been forgiven much – by the plenteous redemption God provides us. And Jesus lifts her up as an example before all those so-called righteous and holy people – none of whom would have wanted to be caught dead with her – with the accent on the word “caught.” But though they may have sinned less than she, by their double standard, that is, in their own eyes, they also loved less.
Then Jesus accepted this woman and gave her God’s hearty forgiveness. “Your faith saved you. Go in peace.”
The cross is right there. The old life tried to take away the new life in an ambush! But when we count on Jesus, love prevails, where the law would not have. And now the new life can unfold. A new love story could be told. New people with tears flowing down their cheeks caught a glimpse of how wonderful God is and they could leave forgiven, as new persons living the Gospel of grace.
It would be just as easy showing how St. Peter, St. James, and the other saints at Jerusalem, even St. Barnabas, had suddenly weakened to the assault of the old life. They refused to have table fellowship with Gentile followers of Christ, because they were uncircumcised and did not follow the Jewish law and were therefore considered unclean. Suddenly the world had won a battle. The cross was set aside. But St. Paul marches in with the new life and vanquishes the old. And the table is set, and Jews and Greeks, male and female, slave and free fellowship together, enjoying the new life won for us by Jesus Christ our Lord, who laid down his life for us.
What about you? How does your new life fare? Or has the old life settled in on you and crushed the living-daylights out of you – you a baptized child of God, called to walk in the newness of life. Then look to Jesus! Look to St. Paul! Look how the new life, the love of God in the Gospel, rushes in and boots your old life back down to hell and gives you some breathing space in the Holy Spirit again.
Or look at our church. You as well as I see the cross – the way the old St. Paul’s Church in Coney Island wants to prevent the new church, the vibrant fellowship of faith, the new congregation from unfolding here. Thanks be to God! I see Christ coming! And he will kick the old life in the butt right out of here, so that the new life stays here. Amen.
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, June 15th 1986
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15 Psalm 32 Gal 2:11-21 Luke 7:36-50
Our lessons are filled with stories today that show the love and humanity of our Lord and the real holiness, the genuine holiness that his love offers us.
Look at the confrontation between St. Peter and St. Paul. St. Peter had already understood that Jews and Gentiles found their unity in accepting Jesus as their Lord and having faith in this One, the crucified. He forgot the Jewish kosher laws and many ritual laws and customs of the Jews and ate with those Gentiles, namely, the household of the Roman Cornelius, who had accepted Christ in their lives. Then some real staunch Jews, who had become Christians, joined Peter coming from the church in Jerusalem, headed by St. James, the brother of our Lord. They proceeded to reintroduce the Jewish law over their faith in Christ. They said, “Unless you are circumcised we cannot sit at the table with you.” Peter was afraid to challenge them, so he stopped eating with the Gentiles, until the great missionary of the Gentiles, St. Paul confronted him face to face with his hypocrisy.
There is a new attitude that comes with the law in Christ. It is the love that fulfills and makes the law serve life. Perhaps it can be seen by the holiness that the law produces. If the law ends up isolating and separating people, then in the end people become divided and the wholeness of God’s people is broken. If so, then this cannot be genuine holiness. Faith in Jesus Christ is a holiness that unites and reconciles people in the law of the love of Christ. The holiness that comes from the love of God is inclusive holiness. The love of Christ has the power to reintegrate outcasts into society, to forgive sinners, and re-accept them into the congregation.
You can see the separation involved in the struggle between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. The one group felt that it was too holy to eat with the other group. And in the story about the woman, who put oil and perfume on Jesus’ feet, the people all around her were saying, “If he knew who this person was, he would not let her touch him.” But Jesus did more than that. He allowed her to massage his feet and dry them with her lovely hair. Jesus must have been ravished by good feelings – and he was not ashamed of them. This pleasure was not sinful. It would only have been sinful, if Jesus had taken advantage of her and that was not at all his intention.
She had to be re-included in respectable society. Many were her sins and God forgave her all of them. And she responded with wonderful love. Her love was pure and holy, because the love of Jesus re-accepted a sinner into the midst of the fellowship of the righteous.
Jesus, to the consternation of the Pharisees, ate with sinners. Not because he wanted to sin with them, but he wanted to help them become healed and whole. “The healthy do not need a doctor, the sick do.” He said. The righteous do not need forgiveness, the sinners do. But for someone to feel holy, and then feel self-righteous and judge others, and prevent them from leaving their sin and rejoining the fellowship of new life, is one of the worst sins of all. How can someone self-righteous be forgiven? How can you teach someone something who thinks they know it all? How can someone be holy and divide themselves away from other people?
Now joining a group of sinners requires some self-knowledge. You have to know where your heart is. If you know you are an alcoholic and you convince yourself to drink with others, because you just want to be with them, you are sinking into sin. It would be better if you didn’t go into that bar and join them. It would be better to deal with your tricky heart. But if you are an alcoholic and you go into a bar to get someone else out and you know in your heart that you will not take a drink, then you are being with sinners the way Jesus was and that is, to save them. But you can be sure that people who are alcoholics don’t often go into bars, because they know that this is their weakness. You don’t have AA meetings in a bar, but in a church, in a school, and in a place where your heart is strengthened by good support.
Now you could want to minister to prostitutes, but if you have a problem that way, then you should not minister to them, but let someone minister to them that is not tempted that way.
Jesus moved in on sinners and had the power to set them back on the right track. He was not derailed from the way of salvation by them. He personified the human power of love. He could go in there with all his love and bring a person around, where we would have succumbed to the sin. Many a person there in that Pharisees’ house, as religious or high standing as they might be, could have desired this woman in their heart. Perhaps they could not see that Jesus did not desire to use her, but wished for her to get over her sin, and join ordinary people again, who could love and get married and become the happy mother of children in a home among people who hunger for love and justice. Jesus did desire her. He wanted her to belong to God, to fall in love with the great love story of salvation, touching many people with the love of God, which makes us whole.
So here we are. We have to know what we can handle. If in your heart you are a fox, then you had better not guard the chicken coop. But in our hearts we can really change so that we love God’s will and do God’s pleasure. Then more and more we can help in the endeavor to reintegrate outcasts into our society, to forgive sinners and be one in our hearts with them, as we become holy and whole before God. Amen.
But if we are not there yet, then don’t judge others. Look at David and the way the Prophet Nathan tricked him with a parable. David became so very self-righteous. He condemned the man who had stolen a lamb. Little did he know he was condemning himself, because he had stolen Bathsheba from Uriah, the Hittite. He had to learn that he could not take a speck out of another person’s eye, if he had a log in his own eye. Amen.
Sermon notes: If you look at the law, there is a kind of holiness that it produces, but it is one of separation, which ends up isolating people and this holiness ends up becoming a problem for others. Whereas the holiness of Jesus is inclusive and has the power of reintegrating sinners into the congregation.
Jesus is into being human and giving human beings a new start with forgiveness. The law would have functioned to separate Jews from Gentiles again. Jesus as the way of salvation brings the Jews and Gentiles together. Jesus functions to give this woman a door back into society and the congregation. She is forgiven – and much love and humanness and sheer heart are involved.
We can be too “holy” for the sake of ourselves and for superiority over others. Jesus’ kind of holiness makes us whole again, those people fragmented away are brought back in.
 I wanted to change this while typing it now on March 1st 2014 (It’s my mother’s birthday today. She had 16 children, of which I am the eleventh.) and say: “the love of God in the Gospel rushes in and washes your feet with tears and dries them with her hair.” That way making the woman represent the new life in Christ rushing in on us like an inundation of grace and love.
Also See the recent sermon: Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One