Love. Times Three

One:

Today is July thirty-first, which is a very important day for my brothers and me, as well as for our children and grandchildren down the line. On this day, seventy-eight years ago, our parents were married. I have written about them before, but the telling of their love never gets old. They were each others’ intellectual equals; they were people of faith and thus believers in the Kingdom of Heaven; they loved history, literature, politics, picnics, and yes, they loved their children and grandchildren. They never ceased to be in love.

Two:

Today, July thirty-first has traditionally been an excuse for a celebration between my husband Ron and me on the occasion of our half-year anniversary. Historically, we have always celebrated on this day, usually with a picnic lunch somewhere. We had our own picnic table at Saguaro National Park East in Tucson, Arizona, almost always with little ground squirrels watching nearby.

Three:

But this year, these loving anniversaries are overshadowed by love and concern for one person very much on our minds and hearts. Sonja is a young woman we care about very much and whose parents are dear friends of ours. Both Sonja and her medical team need prayers. Her sister has started a Go Fund Me account to help with the medical expenses. Please read Sonja’s story, and if you can donate something, please do. If you know someone who would be willing to give something, please share this with them. If you are unable to provide financial help, nevertheless please pray. Please pray that the organs that she needs become available, that the double organ transplant is successful, and that she gets some financial support. I’m asking you to be a prayer warrior for our friend Sonja. I’ve never made such a request before – but then, I’ve never known someone in the position that Sonja is in. Open the link below and read about her history and situation. Please. Pray. Help. On this day – let us work together to show that love can triumph.

Sonja’s Double Organ Transplant

 

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Character — Be One and Have One

Some of my family and quite a few of my friends are real characters. They are unique – one of a kind, human gems. Some make you laugh or roll your eyes; a few tell very highly embroidered tall tales. They embellish the events du jour because they can and perhaps because they always have an audience. I guess I gravitate toward characters. I gravitate toward people who aren’t boringly predictable or, perhaps, who are predictable in outrageous or outlandish ways.

But in addition to those kinds of characters, I was taught that it is helpful to have character. To be the kind of person who tells the truth, who shows up when you’ve said you’ll show up, who takes time to take the right way rather than the easy way.

Being a person of character holds many benefits. When you tell the truth, you don’t have to try to remember some long, convoluted narrative you thought up to cover your tracks. If you like having people trust you, you need to be the kind of person that others can trust. We aren’t put into this world to figure this out for ourselves – although often-times the school of hard knocks teaches us a few of these lessons. But there are lots of rules and laws and guides for living. Some of them quite old.

The Ten Commandments are in two places in scripture, Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

1) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
3) Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
4) Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.
5) Thou shalt not kill.
6) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7) Thou shalt not steal.
8) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.
10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.

But they are not the only laws given to us. Rules abound. Our lives sometimes feel overrun with them: rules of the road; rules governing localities, county, city, state, nation; laws governing how we are to act regarding others, in public, and private places, respecting the property of others, etc. As a kid, when I watched Perry Mason shows on TV, I watched witnesses called to testify, stand and swear that their testimony was the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth.

And then there is life. Several weeks ago, on a Saturday and a Sunday night, I had successive nights with severe chest pain, burning up, difficulty getting my breath, in fact – very frightening. I thought I was having a heart attack. The first thing that Monday morning I went to my Doctor’s office, explained my symptoms to the nurse at the front desk and she told me to get to the Emergency room immediately. I did that and then didn’t get to go home again for two days.

Nursing staff explained that some foods could make matters worse: foods high in fat, spicy foods, etc. But I knew what had triggered my pain – it was my naivete. It was two political run-ins that turned ugly that were my undoing. You think you know someone until you find out that you don’t.

A childhood friend of mine told me recently that friendship and politics don’t mix. That hasn’t been my experience. In my parents’ house, growing up, we often had debates about subjects about which we didn’t all agree. The conversations were always civil, and if you didn’t agree, you were expected to explain why. I have many friends with whom it is quite possible, indeed typical, to have conversations on weighty topics over which we radically disagree with each other without the conversations spiraling down out of control. Our discussions are civil and engaging and not vicious or backstabbing.

After plenty of hospital testing, the cardiologist said that my heart was not the culprit. I didn’t have a heart attack. The pain I was experiencing was telegraphing something else. It turned out that I had to have surgery – which I had a couple of weeks later, on Friday the 19th. I had to have a Cholecystectomy, (koh-luh-sis-TEK-tuh-me), the surgical procedure to remove my gallbladder along with all the nasty little gall stones.

I have learned some painful lessons throughout these days. I learned that I could not deal with some forms of political disagreement. I have had to back away from some people whom I considered friends because I can’t deal with the viciousness, condescension, and personal attack with which they craft their arguments. I thought I knew these people. I was wrong. Two of those who blindsided me were pastors. I assumed that they would treat me with respect as I was treating them with respect. I was disagreeing with their argument but was doing so thoughtfully without venom. I naively believed that people could respectfully disagree as it was possible to do around the dining room table in my parents’ home. There I could hold a differing opinion but was expected to explain why.

So, the takeaway. I can prune social media lists, I can stay away from people I now know seem to find pleasure at kneecapping you – but life is never entirely safe.

Life is short, too short sometimes. It can be exciting, challenging, colorful, rewarding, thoughtful, but it is lived in the company of others.

All I know to do going forward is to try to live the way I was taught to live while being aware of potholes and kneecapping. Now that I no longer have my gallbladder, perhaps I’ll be lighter on my feet and more able to sidestep trouble.

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Freedom Is Not Free

July 4, 2019

About 18 months ago I asked my Facebook friends and family how many were themselves a veteran or active duty member of the military and how many had family members who were. Of the seventeen people who answered – there were thirty-seven people mentioned specifically, and several said that they had quite a few relatives that have served. I am the wife of a Navy Veteran (Vietnam) and the daughter of a WWII Army vet. In my extended family, there are quite a few more.

My husband and I are both readers – and we bought a book we both thought looked interesting. We inscribed it to each other for Christmas. The book we bought is called: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence. (Copyright 2009), published by Quirk Books, Philadelphia. It has the added benefit of a remarkable dust cover which can be opened up to give you a full-color reproduction of the Declaration of Independence. That provides good reading for this fourth of July.

June of 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings by Allied Forces as part of World War II’s Operation Overlord. If you want to read more – check this out: National WWII Museum: 75th Anniversary of D Day

There are seasons and struggles in every generation and over the decades various memories get ingrained in our minds. On June 12, 1987, the world stood amazed as our President, Ronald Reagan, spoke at the Brandenburg Gate and said famous words that all of his advisors told him not to say.

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. . . . Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar. . . . As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. . . .
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate.
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Then we listened as those words echoed through the communist world and as we watched as others broke free from the iron hand of Communism. The revolutions of 1989 stretched out and we watched as Eastern Europe became free. Now we have presidential hopefuls in America urging that we become a Socialist country. We are America where people died to make us free – and now we have people wanting to yoke us to a Socialist government.

On September 11, 2001, my daughter was eight and at school. I was at work when a colleague told me to step down the hall to see the news because America was under attack. We swore as a people we would never forget. But we have largely forgotten.

The book that I started this post writing about – is an amazing story. A story of a people yoked to another nation. A people who strove to be free and live free, to be self-governing, to live without a dictator, with free speech, with free elections, with freedom to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . .

Today, July 4th, is our Independence Day. It was hard won and in every generation we may be called upon to fight for it again. The 4th of July is not about picnics and parades and fireworks. Those things aren’t bad – but we need to teach our children that all of our freedom has been bought by many, over many generations, at a great cost of lives lost, and shed blood. We cannot count on anyone else to teach our children. Each of us has to tell the tale of what it has cost to become free and to live free.

If you are able — take your children to Washington, DC, show them the war memorials.  Show them the cost of freedom.  Take them to the local cemetaries and help them to place flags on military graves.  Get this book and learn about our founding. Read and re-read the Constitution of the United States of America. Teach your children.  Freedom isn’t Free. It comes at a great cost.

God bless and preserve these United States of America. Amen.

Posted in Books, Courage, Education, Family, Life in these times, Politics, Responsibility, Sacrifice, War | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home Bound Christian

As readers of my blog no doubt know, I am a Christian who has attended and been a member of a Lutheran church.  We had education woes when our daughter was young, and for several years, we homeschooled our daughter and belonged to a local Catholic home school group in South Carolina.  Through that group, we came to know this Catholic family, and I have perhaps gotten to know them a bit better via shared writings over the years.

Mary Hathaway, author of the comments below, was writing in response to a particular article and I have decided not to share that article, but rather, I am just posting Mary’s comments which should be read by all Clergy — and frankly, by all the folks in the pews.

As a Catholic for whom missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin, I kind of have a different take on this. As a Catholic widow to a man who even getting out of bed at times was an act of heroic virtue, having disabilities myself, and having children with disabilities, I would say parishes need to stop telling people with disabilities (or shut in for other reasons beyond their control) to *come.* And start *going* to them. Jesus didn’t stay in the temple all day waiting for people to show up. He was constantly going out. Mass ends with us being sent. But for most that means Sunday brunch, instead of driving to visit the shut-ins or the family with special needs for whom going to Mass wipes them out for the next 3 days. Or the family with a new baby. Or the person with autism or depression. Yes, welcome a disabled person if they can make it. But for the love of God, stop the sanctimonious behavior. We should have every capable person leaving to visit a person or family. Ditch the enormous Church picnics and suppers and have small group ones at people’s homes. Or keep them but go to the shut-ins with meals. Just because someone looks like they have the same disability does not mean they have the same extraordinary challenges. And if someone leaves Mass early or comes late, stop the horrid Judas comparison. Over the years, I don’t know how many times we had to leave because one of us was about to have an autistic meltdown, there was a diaper accident, or poor John ‘s pain was flaring, or he had stayed home and I was scared to death to leave him alone for long. Jesus gave us the 11th hour for a reason. Every parish has a membership list. If people aren’t coming, reach out and find out why. You could teach your kids a better religious education lesson by being an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and visiting homebound people on a regular basis than a 100 classes or 20 retreats.

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A Question from a Jewish Reader of my Blog

Ten days ago, I wrote a blog post about looking for and deciding on a Christian church to join. Shortly after that, a Jewish friend of mine thanked me and told me that what I had written answered a lot of questions that he had but didn’t quite know how to put into words. Since that time, he suggested another topic for a blog post. He asked this question:

“Why is it that religions (not all) feel that they need to convert people, to save people, assume that they are the ONLY answer?”

First, I would say that generally, it isn’t religions but the people who believe in that particular religion that should be our focus. My gut reaction is that there are probably as many different answers as people on the planet. But here I go, wading into the fray.

People are people. Some religious types aren’t particularly interested in any other person’s religious beliefs, worshiping attendance, or eternal salvation. Frankly, they may not even be much interested in their own. They may be nominally religious because there is some outside pressure to attend a church or synagogue or to hold particular views, whatever.

There are also plenty of people who because of some difficulty in their life cling to religion. They say that there are no atheists in foxholes. Someone might become religious because someone they loved died. They may be isolated or have experienced hardships associated with illness, poverty, divorce, abuse, custody, or indeed any number of other things. Perhaps they cling to a particular religion for comfort, for solace to their aching hearts. They may have been raised in a specific religion, but they have returned to it later in life because they have found comfort in their faith, and they want others to experience that comfort.

I would also say, that Biblical religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, are closely linked and have scriptural writings which might encourage someone to worship in a particular church or synagogue. Reading those writings might cause them to dare to believe that God exists. My parents raised us to know the tenants of the Old and New Testaments of scripture. We learned the ten commandments handed down to Moses.   We said prayers before every meal. We were taken to church every week. As a little girl, I remember being read Old and New Testament Bible stories before going to sleep at night.

As a teenager, I remember one particular Sunday when I didn’t want to go to church. The night before I had been out late with my boyfriend celebrating New Year’s Eve. I wanted to stay home and sleep. My parents said it wasn’t up for negotiation. They made it clear: if I was awake enough to celebrate New Year’s Eve to all hours, I was awake enough to go to church. To church, I went. My parents weren’t shallow or ignorant people. They also weren’t pushovers. On this point, they didn’t negotiate with their 19-year-old. While living under their roof, Church attendance was not an option.

Back to the question about why some people of particular religions try to convert or save someone. As irritating as this may sound, it may be because they care about you. They may be concerned about some perceived lack in your life that they want to address because they are concerned for you. That isn’t to say that they are right. People frequently assume all kinds of wrong or misguided things about others. But still, the impetus might be genuine love and concern for someone.

I have all kinds of friends whose adult children are living with someone to whom they aren’t married. I find this always interesting as many of those children grew up in Christian homes. My parents didn’t succeed in preventing me from doing stupid things, some very wrong things, and even some dangerous stuff, but they did succeed in teaching me something about Christianity. My husband Ron, reading over my shoulder, just said: “me too.”

We are to put the best construction on our neighbor’s actions. Because of that, I would say that the final answer I would give to my friend is “because they care about you.”

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Finding a Church Home: What We Looked For, What We Saw, Why We Landed Where We Did

Disclaimer: You may not be at all religious. I don’t care. I don’t know that I am religious in predictable ways, but I do believe that there are no atheists in fox holes. When your boat is sinking you pray for help to come.

I have often written about religious subjects. After I decided to be an architect (6th grade), a lawyer (1st year of college), I decided I wanted to be a pastor. Life intervened with other ideas. But as a disclaimer, I did attend seminary, complete fieldwork in a Pennsylvania parish, fulfill the required Clinical Pastoral Education in a Cleveland area Hospital (even though I didn’t manage to watch the autopsy), and serve an internship at the Lutheran Ministry at Penn State University. I graduated from seminary and was approved by my Bishop and synodical committee for ordination.

As I said, then Life intervened. My husband was working on a Doctorate in Theology. I met with the Lutheran Bishop in New England, and he told me that there was not even a remote chance he could place me in a congregation. I don’t recall the numbers, but he had a large number of New England pastors available for every available vacancy. I was an outsider from Ohio. There was no possibility I even made the list. So everything was put on hold until my husband took a teaching job and we moved to SC. By that time it had been three years since seminary graduation. My church synod gave me a few more extensions.  I got involved doing many other things locally and finally pulled the plug and said I would not pursue ordained ministry. I have never regretted that.

But.  It has sometimes been difficult for me to sit in the pew. My parents were theologically interested people. For 26 or so years I was married to a brilliant theologian and teacher of the church.  Unfortunately, that marriage failed, a sorrow that persists through the years. You can read more about that here: When the River Won’t Flow: Love and Marriage and All That. . .

and here: When The River Won’t Flow: Personal Thoughts on Divorce

My second husband, 18 years my senior, is also an extraordinary man.  I am grateful that he has brought love and laughter back into my life.  And although he is a Navy Veteran and worked in Electronics, he once studied to become a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. When he realized that the Bishop could relocate him anywhere, he decided that he could not risk losing his job and putting his young family, his wife and two young daughters in jeopardy. So he withdrew.

Not long ago I asked for Feedback on Facebook regarding what topics were of interest as potential blog posts. One friend made me a list. The first item on his list was this: “Your search for a church where you could be fed spiritually.”

I started writing this blog years ago, again while hunting a church home.  That time we were searching for a church home in Arizona.  That search took a long time. But we were happy where we landed. That was back in 2014. You can read about that beginning here:  When the River Won’t Flow: The Beginning

Although I have many very close friends and family members who are Roman Catholic – I am still a Reformation Rebel and a Lutheran.  I narrowed my search to two distinct Lutheran church bodies: Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and The North American Lutheran Church.  I discovered about six congregations that were within reasonable driving distance.

The search itself didn’t take very long.  The final decision to attend took a bit longer given our bone-weary state of being following our difficult move.

But this is what we did.  I looked at congregational web sites, and we made an initial choice based on those.  Then we visited that congregation. I ruled out all the churches which focused their websites on the extracurricular activities: cozy family events, fun times for the kids, spaghetti suppers.  There is nothing wrong with any of that, but we were looking for a place to be fed spiritually not looking to find a club to join. Some of the larger churches looked as if they had a group for and jobs for everyone in the congregation. I grew up in a large church – about 3000 members – and smaller churches seem a better choice for us.

I looked at web sites and found a church, called Gethsemane.  The picture above is of their chancel one Easter.  Their website talked about their beliefs.  It was remarkable.  They didn’t just talk about their groups, their good works, their choirs, or their outreach; they got to the heart of the matter – what they believed.

Their website had links to the ancient creeds of the church (The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed: http://bookofconcord.org/creeds.php), to the Augsburg Confession http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php), there were simple lists of “what we believe” with those beliefs explained.  It was inviting and substantive, and most assuredly, it was not vacuous fluff.

No person, no church, no pastor, no congregation is perfect. But I would prefer to be imperfect in a church that:• sees worship with the Eucharist as the center of Christian Life

• has worship which moves through the calendar of the church year

• follows the lectionary of Biblical texts which includes readings from The Old & New Testaments, the Psalms, and the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John)

• follows a spoken and sung liturgy (derived from the Old and New Testaments)

• has faithful preaching (food to ponder throughout the week)

We belonged to such a church in Arizona.  Now we have found such a church in Ohio.

A delicious benefit to our choice is that we have been warmly welcomed, we have already begun making friends and talking about getting together with different families for meals.  Should you think that a church that pays attention to scripture, theology, and liturgy, which is, according to current standards of modernity, somewhat high church, might be stuffy:  think again!  Because it clings to the words of scripture, to the shape of the liturgy, it can dare to be welcoming, friendly, and take seriously the call to pray for others.

My husband and I still pray for our former pastor and friends at the congregation we left in Arizona. Some of them are still praying for us in our new corner of the world in Ohio. Prayer is central to being people of God.  If you want to take a chance at becoming part of such a family — and raising your children to be part of such a family — remember it starts with Baptism.

I have postponed the publishing of this post until now because tomorrow, May 11,  is the anniversary of my own baptism.  I am so grateful for parents who centered our lives on the Rock of Christ — the Rock on which the church stands.

Thanks be to God!

 

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Holding On, Holding Fast, Keeping On

Since June of 2018, I haven’t written very much. We were in Arizona preparing to sell our house and move to Ohio. We arrived in Ohio in September of 2018, and since that time our lives have been pretty well turned on their ear. I haven’t had the energy or luxury to think about writing blog posts because we have been overwhelmed with the chaos of our move.

I won’t belabor the tired story. If you follow my blog, you will know what has happened. We think our moving van rolled. We had a lot of broken furniture and possessions. Had our move gone as it should have we would have a substantial financial cushion when arriving in Ohio, allowing us to eradicate all but mortgage debt while leaving us a good sized cushion to invest for a rainy day. That didn’t happen. We still have multiple rooms with broken furniture. We are still living with unpacked boxes in our living room, bedroom, front hall, computer room, upstairs bedroom. Our front porch floor needs to be rebuilt. We have repaired about a quarter of our furniture. We haven’t the resources to do more at this time. We have a trip we need to take to see some friends of ours and everything else will have to wait.

Mind you; we have not been in this alone. My oldest brother has made several trips hauling broken furniture 110 miles round trip to be repaired and has then retrieved it for us. He has helped us with all kinds of projects, and he and my sister-in-law have also been great company when we just needed to get together over a meal somewhere. My youngest brother spent a day with us when we had just received all of our things and did a stellar job helping us tame the chaos.

Shortly after our move, I managed to injure both hands and finally went to the Doc to figure out if I had fractured something. Thankfully the answer was no. But I am wearing splints to help the carpal tunnel that hadn’t bothered me in decades and the new thing, the inflammation of the tendons on my left thumb with the fancy name: de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. Typing and sleeping are hard. Both hands have some swelling, pretty constant tingling, and numbness.

Despite all, we have had some pleasant interruptions. This last weekend my daughter, son-in-law, and little granddaughter came to visit. It was just what the doctor ordered. What a fun visit. We now have one nearly finished downstairs room – our dining room – and that meant that we could gather at the table there in pleasant surroundings. We also celebrated two April birthdays, and we celebrated Easter together – albeit a week late. My husband Ron and I were taken into membership at a Lutheran church about a half hour’s drive from us and were pleased that my daughter’s family were able to join us for that service.

They headed home on Monday but not before we were able to have a couple of meals together and load up a bit more of my daughter’s things stored with us when she went off to school. That was such a help and has since allowed me to tame a few more places in the house.We have made progress. We have hung what seems to be a gazillion family pictures up the front stairwell. We have had trees trimmed. My husband has worked miracles in the taming of the back yard. We finally hooked up with a lawn service and have had our lawn mowed.We have moved Ron’s painting equipment to the basement and will turn one room there into a makeshift art & jewelry studio. It might prove to be a much-needed clubhouse for escape. If so, it will be the second such escape room – we have also created The Rialto Theatre on the second floor.It is 3:10 a.m. I think I will give sleep another try. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post, for your comments, for sharing it on your Facebook page, for hitting the like button. Thanks for your many contributions which allowed us to repair quite a few pieces of our furniture. Thank you for walking with us through what has been a pretty rough patch in our lives together. We cherish our family and friends and all the readers of my blog. We always love hearing from you. I give thanks to all of you for hanging in there with us. Your prayers, encouragement, and thoughtfulness have been a great blessing to us.

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Entry Into Jerusalem: Thus Begins the Week

01A1 Giotto De Bondone--Entry-Into-Jerusalem-1304-1306Giotto De Bondone, Entry into Jerusalem, 1304-1306

Thus it begins. Palm branches and cloaks are scattered on the ground for Jesus of Nazareth. He comes to Jerusalem with his twelve disciples. They are come to celebrate the Passover.

The Gospel of Mark 14:12-15
12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples do as Jesus commands. They prepare that upstairs room for the celebration of the Passover. There will be thirteen of them. Jesus and the twelve disciples. They share the meal together.

01A2 Da Vinci Last Supper 1495-98 Leonardo Da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495-1498

The Gospel of Mark 14:17-25
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.
21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.
25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

 

The words that Jesus uses during the meal are new.  But betrayal is old.  Who have we betrayed?  The disciples ask that same question.  Which of us is the one who betrays Him?  It is Judas Iscariot.  His betrayal is done with a kiss.  All this for thirty pieces of silver.

Duccio di Buoninsegna Betrayal 1255–1260 – c. 1318–1319Duccio di Buoninsegna, Betrayal, from back of Maesta, 1308-11

Then follow the trials of Jesus.  First, he was taken to the religious leaders: Annas, then to Caiaphas, the high priest.  Finally he was bound over and sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.

0A Michael Munkacsy-christ-before-pilate-1881Michael Munkácsy, Christ before Pilate, 1881

Against his better judgement, and the pleading of his wife, Pontious Pilate condemns Jesus to death by crucifixion.

01A3 Durer-woodcut-the-crucifixion-the-small-passion 1509Albrecht Dürer, Woodcut of the Crucifixion, 1509

01A3 Anthony van Dyck Crucifixion 1629-1630Anthony van Dyck, Crucifixion, 1629-1630

While on the Cross, Jesus Christ, is reported to have spoken seven times.   They are reported in a variety of different places in scripture.

  • “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
  • When the criminal on the cross next to Jesus spoke to him saying: “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom” Jesus replied “Truly I say to you this day will you be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43)
  • Jesus saw his mother standing beside a disciple and spoke to them both: “Woman, behold thy son!  Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26-27)
  • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 )
  • “I thirst.”  (John 19:28)
  • “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
  • “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
opnamedatum: 2006-04-18

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Descent From the Cross, 1633

 

Jesus’ lifeless body was lowered to the ground.  Many have attempted to depict what the mother of Jesus felt at that time.

0A Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pieta, 1498-99Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pieta, 1498-99

 

But there was much to be done and time was limited.

The Gospel of John, chapter 19: 38-42
38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

01A5 Sisto_Badalocchio_-_The_Entombment_of_Christ,_1610
Sisto Badalocchio, The Entombment of Christ, 1610

The Agnus Dei is part of the liturgy of the church, used during the celebration of Holy Communion which is also called the Eucharist.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

It is based on scripture.  Agnus Dei are the Latin words for Lamb of God which is a title for Jesus (John 1:29), where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

01A4 Francisco de Zurbaran Agnus Dei 1635 -- 1640                                      Francisco de Zurbarán, Agnus Dei, 1635-1640;                                                                (note, Latin text to the Agnus Dei has been added to the painting)

 

If you have gotten this far you have travelled from Passion or Palm Sunday, through the last week of Lent to Maundy Thursday, which is the night that the Last Supper is commemorated, and Good Friday, which is the day on which Christ was crucified.  Now he laid in that tomb, provided by Joseph of Arimathaea, for two nights, Friday and Saturday.  But strangely enough, when women came to the tomb on Sunday, the stone had been rolled away, and he was not there.   Should you want to learn more, you can read about it here:  The Gospel of John, chapter 20.

Sao Paolo Museum of Art tourism destinations

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael,
Resurrection of Christ,1499-1502

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dogs and Scraps. Heaven and Animals

Today, the second Sunday in Lent, the Gospel Lesson was St. Matthew 15:21-28. The Story of the Canaanite woman who sought healing for her daughter.   Jesus answered that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.  But she knelt before him and said “Lord, help me.” He answered — that it was not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs — but she persisted.  “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Her faith was rewarded and her daughter was healed.  She persisted and trusted despite all.  There was no where else to turn. 

Perhaps it is a quirky stretch — but I have a quirky brain.  I was reminded of this blog post from many years ago — and the blessings of creation:

Once, many years ago, a dear friend told me that her children’s pet had died and they were extremely sad. Knowing that she was a devout Christian, I said that I would have told them that their pet had gone to live with Jesus and that one day they would be reunited with their furry friend. I was somewhat surprised when she looked at me in disbelief and said she couldn’t say it because it wasn’t true. I asked her why she thought it wasn’t true. She answered that scripture doesn’t say anything about animals in heaven, only that Jesus came to save people, to give them new life.

Some months ago a friend e-mailed me a slew of pictures of church signs, on opposite sides of the street. The churches were using those signs to engage in a friendly theological argument about whether there are dogs in heaven. I thought it was a lot of fun and forwarded the photos to some of my friends.
dogs in heaven (1)
dogs in heaven (2)
dogs in heaven (3)
dogs in heaven (4)
dogs in heaven (5)
dogs in heaven (6)
dogs in heaven (7)
dogs in heaven (8)
One friend e-mailed me this: “this is funny – but if our souls go to heaven – I don’t understand how dogs could go either. This is probably not a real debate.” I told her that I sided with the church which thought there would be animals in heaven.

What I believe on this subject was informed, not by serious Biblical or Theological inquiry, but by a believer’s eyes observing life. I’ve always assumed that heaven would be something like earth, only better. In the creation stories of scripture it tells us that God created the heavens and the earth and declared that the creation was good.

Long ago I taught a Bible Study course on Heaven to some college students and asked them what they thought happened to us after we die. One female college senior said that she thought we would become some sort of ghostly “life force” zooming through the air. I told her that I thought that was very interesting, but asked her what she made then of the words of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, one of which we said at every worship service, that professed that we believe in the resurrection of the body. It stopped her dead in her tracks. She froze. She said “we do say that don’t we?” She said she never thought that it actually meant what it says it means. She was stunned. But, I digress.

God declared that creation was good, and since in the book of Revelation, chapter 21 begins “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth” I assumed heaven would be something like the Garden of Eden, albeit without the snake! I’ve always thought that God would fill heaven with what creation suggests that He loves: flowers and mountains and trees and lakes and fish and birds and lilies and animals of every kind, size and shape. In much the way that we would be a continuity of ourselves, remade with the grace of God, then what we love would be recognizable to us including our pets.

After the resurrection of Jesus he let Thomas feel his wounds. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, she recognized him first when she heard his voice. The God of creation has given many in creation quite remarkable gifts. What would it be if heaven had no music? It always seemed to me that the creator of the world would want to hear Handel’s Messiah, Chopin’s preludes . . . all manner of music and dance and song that sprang from the gifts of God given to his people. In the same way, I imagined that God would enjoy watching the animals of creation.

I thought I would run my little personal ideas by a Roman Catholic theologian friend of mine who holds a PhD from a respected university. He said that scholasticism taught that of all creation, humans are the only creatures that have a rational soul and that therefore, only human souls are saved. Animals have animal souls and don’t need to be “saved” in the way that humans do. My friend went on to say that there is a whole tradition from St. Irenaeus on, that thought of heaven just the way I have written about it. As a return in Christ to the beginning, where we can have walks with God in the garden in the cool of the evening.

For several years now we have been living in southern Arizona. From our back patio we can see cacti, mountain ranges, and the most amazing skies I have ever seen in my entire life. We wake up to see the morning sky with a glimpse of the moon and end our days with the evening sky bursting with spectacular sunsets that are alive with color.

In the documentary film Expelled, Ben Stein reports what has happened to some scientists and professors of science, who have lost their jobs and/or tenure because they had the audacity to mention “intelligent design” in their writing. A bit of the baggage of political correctness that has infected science. It is a shame, as science, by its nature, has to follow leads wherever they lead. If certain conclusions or pathways are prohibited by political correctness then scientific study is thwarted. But I digress, yet again.

I am a Christian. I believe in the Jewish and Christian scriptures: the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. I make no apologies for that. When I look at the world, I look with eyes of faith, and with those eyes, I see the hand of God all over the place. Think about the colorful birds in the rain forests, or the hundreds of species of dogs, or the weirdly designed animals like kangaroos. Think about the thousands of different kinds of plants and trees. Here in the desert we have scrubby looking, prickly, don’t-want-to-run-into-them cactus. But these same cactus have the most exquisite flowers. The colors of those flowers are sometimes breath-taking. All the ones that I have seen only last one day. Like manna from heaven.

In the Narnia stories by C. S. Lewis, the lion Aslan has created talking animals. On earth animals don’t talk in ways that humans understand, but in Aslan’s world of Narnia, the animals talk. If God makes a New Heaven and a New Earth, I would not be at all surprised to find that C. S. Lewis was onto something. Not only would I be able to talk with Bach and hear him play his music; I could finally ask my long departed cat Otto, how he knew what time I would be coming home from high school. Day after day I would find him waiting for me by the mail box a block from home and we would finish the walk home together. In his life, though I pondered this, we couldn’t communicate those kinds of things. In God’s New Heaven, the New Jerusalem, perhaps the Lord will enhance creation so that the animals we have come to care about will be able to have conversations with us.

Apparently, there are Christians who believe only what they can find proof-texts for in scripture. It may turn out that I am all washed up on this subject. I do believe that in heaven, as on earth, all that we need comes from God. It lightens my heart to learn, however, that Irenaeus, along with many who followed after him, believed that heaven would be populated by all manner of the loves of God.

dogs in heaven (9)P.S. I also believe that there will be rocks in heaven!

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A Gift with Some Memories

The other day a friend from our former church in Arizona posted this on Facebook: “Name one thing that you learned from your father.” As I regularly don’t follow directions, I wrote two things, but they were woefully inadequate. Then Saturday’s mail brought a beautiful note, accompanied by a gift to help repair some more of our broken furniture. Since most of that furniture had belonged to my parents, I was not surprised that the note was in honor of Dad’s birthday on March 5th. I cried when I read the card and saw the check – tears of thanksgiving for the help wrapped up in memories of the best father I could have had.

My Dad’s father died in May of 1957; my Mom’s father died in June of 1957. Within six weeks our parents lost both of their fathers. As they did most years, they had already rented a house for a week in July of ‘57 at Lakeside, Ohio, on Lake Erie. It was a Methodist community but every summer there was a Lutheran week. There were speakers and events, swimming nearby at East Harbor, and lots of fun for the kids. Our cousins would go as well, and it was always a wonderful time. July of ‘57 was a healing time for my parents. Time to relax and get away and be with cousins. As my birth in April of 1958 would suggest, I happily surmise that I was part of that healing process.

My grandfathers never knew that a little one was forecast. I always wanted my Dad to live to see my children – as I was the baby after three boys, he knew all his other grandchildren – but I hoped and prayed he would live to see mine. My Dad lived a few months past his 78th birthday. As my parents lived in Ohio and I lived in South Carolina, I am forever grateful that God granted my Dad the gift of seeing my only daughter, not once but five times during the last year of his life. He loved seeing all of his grandchildren, and that included his littlest. My Dad’s doc wanted him to keep track of his blood pressure for a while, and my Mom always noted that it was better when little Katie was around. Dad wrote a letter to my husband and me urging us to keep up the good work! He humorously noted how well we had done producing our first child and urged us to continue to produce many more amazing children. Although we would have loved such a family, it was not to be.

Grief is weird – it changes over time but it doesn’t go away. When you love someone, they stay in your thoughts. Tuesday, March 5th, would have been my Dad’s 103rd birthday. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of my mom & dad and their incredible love for each other. I learned a gazillion things from my Dad – most importantly that his love for our mom came before his love for anyone else including his children. He taught me that you could be a better parent if you nurture your marriage and keep that love strong. He loved going on adventures with my mom, and they often took off for a weekend in the hills of Ohio — or perhaps to Amish country. Did I mention he had a weakness for pie?

Dad was a lover of critters and particularly birds and developed a daily routine of feeding them, eventually feeding the squirrels as well, so that they would leave the bird feed alone. I can remember the thousands of little bird footprints in the snow in our back yard around the bird feeder. He was an avid reader of books, a collector of antiques and particularly antique tools, he loved working in the basement workshop and routinely inciting our mom to riot when he forgot to change out of his business suit & tie before going to the basement to work on a little project.

When I was a little girl, he and mom sometimes took turns packing me off to bed, and when he was in charge, he always used the time to talk with me about my day and teach me the ten commandments and pray with me before I went off to sleep. He also taught me how to tie and fly a kite, how to use a wood lathe, how to pick appropriate hardware for a repair job or to hang a picture, and the joy of having theological or political discussions. He loved to read and would regularly demonstrate how to read a book or the evening paper stretched out on the living room couch with our cat Otto on his chest. He was also willing to have cat company while eating his breakfast.  He loved to work in the garden and fostered in me a love of roses, of the first flower of each year – the crocus that would come up through the snow, of wildflowers like bleeding heart, jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, trillium, and of how to pick lily-of-the-valley to take to my Mom. I still love the smell of the lily-of-the-valley and adore the sight of big bunches of roses in vases in the house. I am so glad that my husband Ron loves to garden and is working on clearing beds to plant in our new back yard.

Our Dad was a lawyer, and occasionally he would have to take papers to someone’s house to sign. When that someone was a widow or single woman, my mom would usually go with him. On a couple of occasions, when my mom was otherwise occupied, he would ask me to ride along with him. I did this a few times over the years – a little person whose quiet little presence was a help to put others at ease.

A staunch Lutheran, Dad had back surgery at one point for excruciating pain which was caused by a pinched nerve. One of his clients told him that her whole African Methodist Episcopal Zion congregation was praying for his recovery. At the mortuary, after he died, a black lady introduced herself to us and said that her common-law husband had left her years before and she was without means to keep her house. She told us that our Dad, who was her lawyer, had paid her mortgage for some months until she could find a better job allowing her to keep her home. We were blown away – we had no idea that had happened.

Not everyone is blessed with a man of character as a father. I was blessed doubly because my Dad was also something of a character. I had such fun with my Dad who was the best Dad this girl could have had. He left me with thousands of good memories including his love of picnics; childhood bike rides often followed by a visit to the local Root Beer stand; a vacation (just the two of us) in Europe following a job I had in Switzerland interrupting my college years.

While traveling in Switzerland and Germany, my Dad and I had time to talk about issues of truth telling, sin, and unburdening yourself by burdening someone else. Heavy stuff. I wrote about that here:

On Truth Telling, Betrayal, Secrets and Lies

He was an all-around good guy who died about a month short of what would have been our parents’ 53rd wedding anniversary. I have written about my parents quite a few times, but here are three:

Love and an Acre of Land

Living Life

A Decision Born of Grief

In honor of what would have been his 103rd birthday I give thanks for this amazing man.  Deo Gracias.

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