Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Herodian Motivation

Reading the Gospel of Mark, chapter three the other day, I read a phrase that got me thinking - oh dear! :)  It was the section from verse one to verse six. I stopped at verse six because just those six verses were quite a lot to digest. But what caught my eye were the Herodians, a group that joined with the Pharisees to plot to kill Jesus. I wondered, who were these Herodians?

"Herodians: Influential Jews who favored the Herodian dynasty, meaning they were supporters of Rome, from which the Herods received their authority. They joined the Pharisees in opposing Jesus because they feared he might have an unsettling political influence on the people"*. An unsettling political influence on the people...why? I don't know the answer to that except that the common fear of the Pharisees and Sadducees was the allegiance the people might give to Jesus, upsetting their own influence. But it seems to me from the description above that the Herodian individual must have been influential first, political second, Jews last. Ego first, power second, person last. And it is obvious that they did not recognize who Jesus was.

We should vote and as a citizen of any country that allows you to do so, should be grateful that you can. Organized groups that share common beliefs to further the goals of those beliefs should be allowed. But I am very, very, very wary of any individual or group who use their faith to force an issue because ultimately, what is their true motivation? What is really driving them? Where are the true allegiances?

Years ago I read Chuck Colson's book Kingdoms in Conflict (it has been republished under the name God and Government: An Insider's View on the Boundaries Between Faith and Politics). I highly recommend it. My opinion of Chuck Colson is that of a man who allowed the humbling and mistakes he made to become part of being a much better human being. In this book, Colson gives several examples of clashes through history with politics and religion such as Hitler, Chamberlain, and Nixon. I came away from reading it grateful to have read it.

Since we are in this election phase of our country, perhaps this post on this particular subject might be timely; the push and influence of groups towards influencing a populace. In all the different ways we live more and more in a virtual world, where words and images have become king, our own accessibility to witness the actions of and have personal interaction with the people running for office become less and less. We should stop and take a moment to really pray and meditate on who we should vote for and be driven less and less by people and groups with a possible "Herodian" motivation.

*Note - NIV Study Bible, Zondervan

Sunday, January 15, 2012

For the Sake of an Illusion

“I was beginning to say these politics are crazy. I’ve experienced so much loss, and created so much loss, for the sake of an illusion.”
The sentences above are the best in a very good article in the New York Times today. It's about Judith Clark, a radical from the 1960's in the USA that was sentenced to a very long prison sentence for her part in a robbery of  Brink's armed truck in 1981 where 3 people were murdered. The article  highlights to me the waste of extreme views that do not allow for community - community that consists of variety. It also made me wonder what seeds of her early character were sown in her life by her parent's earlier extreme views. Regardless, I found it worth the time to read it. I recommend it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Reverse Image

I find it interesting that when you look in a mirror you see the reverse of what other people see of you. I  decided that would be a great subject to write about some day and... today is that day! Of course with that visual in mind I thought about reflections, perceptions and even conclusions we have about ourselves based on what we see.  When I use the word see I am referring to something more complex than the function of the eye, I am meaning to understand or to interpret both what you see, have seen and have experienced. This forms that opinion of yourself. But often times what we see or think we see may not be as it really is, the reverse image in the mirror thing. I thought that it would be interesting to write about that dynamic, the challenge we have as human beings of faith when the reverse of what we expect happens. How do we react to events and experiences that we go through that are not at all what we expected?

Because the Bible and the stories in the Bible are something I have read since 1974, I thought that using examples from people in the Bible would be interesting to use in this context. Whatever your belief, the Bible is a powerful book that I have never grown tired of all these years. Through my ups and downs it has been an anchor, a light, a comfort, a standard and an inspiration. I love it.

I'd like to start with Joseph, the Joseph of the coat of many colors. He was the son of Jacob, later named Israel, and Rachel: he was a true love child. You can read about Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Joseph's life was complex and there is much to read in those chapters but I want to concentrate mainly on Joseph's dreams and Joseph's destiny - and how I feel he must have been bewildered during at least some of the journey between having dreams of greatness, and when he actually was great. How could Joseph have known, at 17 years of age, that the relating of his dreams to his family would start a process of enslavement and deception that would last for years. The opinion of himself that  I think Joseph had from his dream, and his position of favored son must have given Joseph a sense of security and confidence even though he was ridiculed by his many brothers. I can image a confident young man just waiting for the wife, the tent, the flocks and the beautiful children running around. It would have been inevitable, and expected. Yet his life took a sudden turn in a complete reverse of that very soon after having the dreams.

Another example of life taking a reverse turn is the one of John the Baptist. His conception was prophesied by an angel, his destiny to proclaim the Son of God was certain, his ministry was public and powerful - yet  he ended up in prison with what I believe was a crisis of faith. I believe this because John as a child in the womb leaped when Mary, the mother of Jesus visited her cousin Elizabeth, John's mother, while pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:41). During John's ministry as he saw Jesus approach he proclaimed "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29-36). John the Baptist KNEW WHO JESUS WAS  - but - while John was in prison he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask a question. I found this question strange for some years until I came to believe that John was in a personal crisis, a crisis because his circumstances in prison must have been the reverse of what he had imagined for his life.  The question was - "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7: 19) John knew who Jesus was at the river. I find the last sentence of the passage where Jesus responds to the question that John had his disciples ask - "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Luke 7:23) WOW! John was confronted with a reverse image of what he had previously thought about his life, yet the new image was the true one. He had been called to die. Would he fall away when he saw it?

I don't know how both of these men felt. I can only imagine what they might have felt given the details of the stories. One of them, Joseph, eventually rose to the power and prominence in this world that he had dreamt about. The other, John the Baptist, lost his head due to the wishes of a vengeful woman. Both were presented with life changes that were challenging to say the least and I believe that were contrary to how they may have viewed their lives initially. As I have aged I have found challenges also, comparing what is to what I had expected. Everyone reading this  that is of a certain age has gone through that process, in varying degrees. But I write this in hopes that I can understand and embrace the fact that perception changes with time and that I can approach those changes with grace and patience when I see that image of myself as it is. I will not "fall away" but will face that image with grace, faith and strength of purpose in what and Who is unseen.

There, I did it. :)  MB

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wandered into the Party

At 10:00 AM you come
clean, dressed, polished up
and greet more like you –
clean as a whistle on the outside.

You have assembled looking for something in the someone who gives.

Very earnest mothers care about
the daily feeding of their
sheep children,
kept clean as a whistle on the inside.

Two door watchers survey and direct
a healthy dose of verbal affirmation
to your weekly seat.

And suddenly
the running film of your life outside
is freeze-framed
an hour or two to allow for
an injection
of something familiar to coat
the sore place on the sole of your foot
where you were running
and the blistered palm of your hand
where you were hanging
as if your life depended on it,

and it did
but you checked the week at the door
like a hat or a coat
and wandered into the party.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Women Go Straight to Heaven

Women go straight to heaven, they really do. No lingering in purgatory's halls, no sir - or ma'am. Straight in. That was my thought this morning at the kitchen sink. It seemed to have come to me all of a sudden but I think it's been sneaking up on me all through the holidays with the rush to decorate late and then cook then clean up in the aftermath. Now, on January 2 after 6 days of holiday, with the boiled peanut pot and the ham roaster as well as assorted other skillets to clean from yesterday, I am morphing out of, rather quickly, a holiday state of mind. These chores accompanied by husband sitting at counter watching iPad data and that thought came over me - that women will go straight to heaven. I thought about all that being a wife and mother takes, all the second seat on the bicycle built for two days, all the effort required to create an atmosphere others enjoy, and all the sacrifices that make up most of your day when you would really rather be doing something else - and so while I was doing a slow burn at the sink and now letting that burn get some air with this post, I decided that the reward of this all was a easy entrance ticket to glory - that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!