Wednesday, April 26, 2006

God? In the betrayer?

It seemed so easy to discuss the topic of betrayal as long as the pilgrims focused their attention on Judas. That universal bad guy. The ultimate betrayer. While the Gospel of Judas may try to do a "historical corrective," poor Judas' persona is set in the proverbial stone. Even the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar couldn't remove the stain of 2,000 years worth of bad press for the worse kiss in history.

But try and move the discussion away from a transference conversation into a personal mode of who screwed who, when; well that was almost impossible. Why is it so difficult to talk about being betrayed? Or worse still, the most obvious, is it even possible to talk about being the one who plants the wet kiss on a friend's cheek? Well, it's all too personal. And besides that, the issue of the "f" word always gets into the debate.

No, not that "f" word. I'm talking about Forgiveness. It's too hard to talk about forgiving and being forgiven or not forgiven.

To encounter the way too painful heart matter of betrayal in a manner that opens the wounds of reality and honesty, the faint notion of forgiving and being forgiven must surface. Surface, because forgiveness is suppressed out of hate, revenge or more often just for emotional survival.

So let's deflect for a minute. Did Jesus forgive Judas? Would you? Ok, never mind that second question. Back to the original. Did Judas receive Jesus' forgiveness? Maybe, that's two different questions. There is a difference between Jesus offering the forgiveness and Judas feeling forgiven. In that difference may lie our own issues with the slash of betrayal and the healing of forgiveness.

There are no easy answers. Only more complex questions. However, only when the questions are asked can the betrayed and the betrayer move one step closer to possibly embracing forgiving and being forgiven.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Every Life is a 7 mile pilgrimage

One of my dear friends made pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Another walked the Wicklow Way. Both of their lives were deeply touched. They endured aching backs, blistered feet and iffy weather to make pilgrimage; to journey down the road to find soul and self.

On their pilgrimage each story is filled with meeting new people. Every story encountered is centered around the sharing of meal and drink. It seems to be the ritual of life for pilgrims.

It's 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Two of Jesus' followers were walking along the road three days after Jesus was crucified. A "stranger" joins them on their journey. This man is intriguing because of his lack of knowledge of the biggest "news" in the land; Jesus, the Rabbi, has been crucified and some women say his tomb is now empty.

While on the road they talk theology and scripture. They found a common language. They were hoping to understand and the stranger offered interpretation. As the evening drew near and the travelers arrived in Emmaus, the stranger was invited to stay the evening and share a meal. He accepted their hospitality; the ritual of life for pilgrims.

As they sat at the dinner table the stranger took the bread, blessed it, broke the bread and gave it to his hosts. At the table of life in the ritual of pilgrims the Christ was revealed.

All people are "peregrini:" life is a pilgrimage. Life is a 7 mile pilgrimage from expectation down a long dusty trail of reality. It is in the ritual of life with those who travel the same path that we might find hope's nourishment. What appears to be most startling is that the revelation of life's secret is found in the stranger.

Sit down from your walk for a moment. Take off life's burdensome pack. Take out some bread and wine. Make a table. Offer a stranger who walks along some nourishment. See what is revealed in the breaking of the bread.

Easter's peace.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

God? In this tasteless wafer?

Feast Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, Easter we celebrate! Yet, when many of us walk down the aisles of our Churches we will be handed a small piece of something that has little of any reminder that we are experiencing a feast. It actually tastes more like cardboard or Styrofoam. Fortunately, we can wash it down with a little wine. Some may be fortunate enough to have bread that tastes like a feast. The question, though, has nothing to do with the culinary value of communion bread.

The question is: Is God really in this tasteless wafer (Or Wonder Bread)? However, this isn't a theological question. The question has nothing to do with transubstantiation or Presence or rememberances. The real question is: Where is God? Can God be contained in a wafer and wine? Or in a Church? Or in nature? Or in anything for that matter? So where is God? I'm not really sure. But, I can share with you where I've experienced God.

The experience of God was palpable last week when Peregrini gathered at Fair Trade Cafe around a table of pasta, bread and wine. We didn't say any magical words. We asked lots of questions about God and of God. We opened ourselves to one another. We had fellowship. We had communion.

Ok, so Church isn't important? Not sure about that. I think Church gives us a language around which to formulate questions. It gives us some benchmarks with which to sort through the possibilities in community. But, Church is not in the building. Church is where the people gather and share in the communion bread of life. Church is where people are present to one another and where people open themselves to the possibility that God is Present to them.

God? In this tasteless wafer? Come to think of it I was looking for a miracle in Easter. As I share in Easter communion this week my visual image will be sitting around the Peregrini table with laughing and story telling friends, eating bread and drinking wine.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What would MLK do?

April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on a Memphis balcony as he rallied to support sanitation workers for better wages. The day before he was killed Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed that he had been "to the mountain-top," and he had seen the "promised land," a land where all people would be "free at last."

April 4, 2006, a 1,000 people gathered outside the Arizona State Capital to pray for God's Presence as Congress and the State Legislators consider proposed laws that could make 12 million people in this land instant felons.

Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano preached words that sounded as if they were spoken by MLK himself.

"Instead of building walls along our border, instead of allowing men, women and children to die in the desert while they seek only bread and hope, let us commit to finding ways together to create a world of justice and of peace. The time has come for undocumented immigrants to be allowed to come out of the shadows of life in this country, be acknowledged for the contributions they have made to our society and given the opportunity to become citizens."

What is frightening though is that there are people in our country who are advocating a vigilante violence as a solution to immigration. On April 3 on KFYI Radio, talk show host Brian James said that he "had no problem" with shooting those crossing the border. Does this man speak for the mainstream? I pray to God that he does not. But, I fear otherwise.

Racism and bigotry is showing its ugliest of heads. Have not the lessons learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. made any difference in America today? Is fear the driving force of our society? Or is it greed; a greed that breeds isolationism and protectionism. Is this country on the verge of a civil uprising?

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. lead us to do today? What would Jesus ask us to do? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, and welcome the stranger. It seems pretty clear what Jesus expects and its obvious what MLK would do. The question is what will I do? What will you do?

It could be overwhelming. But, as Edward Everett Hale said, "I cannot do everything but I can do something, and what I can do I will do, so help me God." Do unto your neighbor as you would have do unto you and welcome the stranger. How's that for starters?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ode to grandads

A few friends and my own children have lost their grandads in the past months. Grandads, papas, tatas, seem to capture that special place in our heart. A place inhabited by great story tellers who smell like Old Spice and cigarettes; never offensive and somehow funny while not trying to be.

To be a "good old man" takes the seasoning of many battles with a just a few more wins than losses. It takes the kind of grace brought on by having suffered through the tragedies of life while still keeping a love for a child's smile. That old man wisdom that is shared by telling a story but never from a direct command of "you oughta do it this way or that."

While grandad might tell the same story every time you see him, it takes on a different meaning which each re-telling. I once used to think it was my grandad's maturing that salted the story. Now I know its my own grey hairs that enrich the flavor of remembering his tales as if he told them last night, though he has been gone from this earth for 16 years. I even hear his voice and see his wry smile when I think of him telling me about the red-headed grandmother I never knew.

Love is being hugged by your tata when you know his embrace is saved for you. Love is seeing his tears shed for your imperfect life seen through his eyes that make you somehow better today than yesterday. Love is knowing papa will hold your hand like no other can or ever will. Love is remembering.