Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By Their Fruits

Bear fruit worthy of repentance (Mt. 3:8)

Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees;
every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit 
is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mt. 3:10)

...for each tree is known by its own fruit. (Luke 6:33)

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord
you are light.  Live as children of light-
for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good
and right and true. (Eph. 5:8-9)

The recent NRA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee was an orchard of bad fruit. You can get sick on bad fruit. In spite of the reality that over 30,000 people die of gun shot wounds each year, that guns in the home double the homicide risk and triple the suicide risk, despite the fact that gun injuries cost about $250 billion a year to treat, even though the United States has the highest rate of gun related deaths among all industrialized countries, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement recommending that pediatricians urge parents to remove all guns from homes, and pediatricians are calling for permission to talk with patients about the dangers of having guns in the home, the Nashville Gun Bash triumphantly sold rotten fruit to the 70,000 attendees.

Here are some NRA Convention "fruits"!:

All guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational
with firing pins removed....
The Tennessean (local paper)

Yet the NRA supports guns in schools, businesses, on college campuses, state capitol buildings, and everywhere. But not at their convention. Do they know something that we should know? Hypocrisy reigns!

Lt. Col David Grossman lectured:

[Prepare to kill children] Folks, we've raised a
vicious generation of children...Sandy Hook is just
the beginning...We have a million students who are
criminals, gang members, and its exploded...Our
Founding Fathers knew there would be days like
this....and they created the Second Amendment
for just a time like this....
Lt. Col. David Grossman

David Grossman is the man who lent understanding following Columbine, who spoke of video games as "basic training" for learning how to kill, who implied we need to do something to stop a killing culture, yet is now prepping us to kill youth, and assuring us the Second Amendment will assuage our consciences. After all, killing is a practical necessity for a civilized culture. Grossman has coined the word "killology", a study of the psychological and physiological effects of killing. Some attendees at the convention have said his talk was the best! Then he calls upon people to prepare to become "predators," saying "Only a predator can hunt a predator."

Then there is Mr. Rock 'n Roll, Ted Nugent, NRA Board Member, who in 2010 at the NRA Convention in Houston said:

[The Obama administration is] wiping its ass
with the Constitution....If the coyote is in your
living room pis____ on your couch, it's not the
coyote's fault.  It's your fault for not shooting him.

Ted made similar comments in Nashville.

I think most NRA members are good folks who would support reasonable gun laws in the interest of safety. There is abundant "good fruit" in the NRA. Eat up! But bad fruit contaminates good fruit. The leadership and corporate money folks too often sell rotten fruit which sickens society, ruins peaceable homes, spreads the fruit of terror in schools and public places. 

When listening to the NRA, we need not be intimidated and bow in fealty. Instead, we need to discern what kind of fruit they are selling. The shiny apples are on top, but too often underneath the shine is the worm infested fruit. 



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Week: Reformation and/or Revolution?

Holy Week is the Christian Super Bowl! Jesus' mission is revealed in its entirety: life changing, world changing, cosmos changing! Were Jesus' actions reformative and/or revolutionary?

The case for REVOLUTIONARY rests in the degree of violence and respect for human rights. Hence, to what degree did Jesus reject physical and ecological violence during his ministry? To what degree did Jesus promote human rights? These questions are appropriate because God became human to embody the human gift of all of us being created in the Image of God and being good stewards of God's earth. It is the People of God who are the expressions of Jesus in the world.  It is the People of God who are responsible for seeking and doing the Will of God towards people and the earth. We are called to imitate Christ! 

How does Jesus' Holy Week actions reflect REVOLUTIONARY actions? First, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of an ass. The colt is symbolic of humility.  The colt bears the burdens of others labor. The colt is basically a walker rather than a strider. The colt is often guided by others who are walking. The colt is never used on the battlefield. The colt symbolizes nonviolence.

The Chief Priests, Elders, and Scribes sought ways to kill Jesus. They were tricksters, trying to catch Jesus acting contrary to Roman law, thereby opening the door for Jesus being arrested and imprisoned. To these attempts Jesus responded that people should pay to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. The fig tree is given prominence as a metaphor for what it means to be obedient to God. Furthermore, the religious elite were looking for a Davidic figure who would lead the People of God out of Roman oppression. Violence was on the table and Jesus was not playing their game. At no time did Jesus advocate violent overthrow of Roman rule. Finally, Jesus told the leadership that God would destroy the "tenants" of Israel (religious leadership) because of their denial of God's intention for their mission.

Yet, through his actions, Jesus used the power of speech, of the Word, of the mind and Spirit to teach, preach, and heal nonviolently. Human rights were addressed through his explanation of paying taxes to Caesar and giving generously to God's work.  Both expenditures are necessary for human dignity and life preservation. Jesus taught the Great Commandment: love God, love yourself, love others. Loving each other honors human rights and supports human dignity. Finally, Jesus told the people to expect persecution, NOT to be persecutors. Living nonviolently with a commitment to human rights invites persecution. This is the Cross: Jesus accepting death and suffering for us rather than inflicting it upon others. 

Was Jesus a REVOLUTIONARY? Yes, with a scandalous style, changing the methodology, surprising the world and followers with unconventional acts. 

The case for REFORMER is grounded in how he addressed the religious and cultural Jewishness of God's Chosenness through the People of Israel, unveiling radical new faith practices. 

Consider Jesus' chasing the animals and sellers of sacrifices out of the Temple. The worship life of God's followers was redefined. One does not earn God's grace by paying for a substitute for one's sins. Jesus' sacrifice for us will take care of that. Furthermore, worship is about prayer and nurturing relationship with God and God with us through focused attention on the Word through the Spirit. Relationship instead of paying blood money for God's love was central. 

Jesus taught the resurrection was for all which was contrary to the teaching of the Sadducees. Jesus was inclusive rather than exclusive.  Jesus expanded the definition of "chosenness" and "holiness" to include the world! All are welcome! One's bloodline was not the arbiter of life with God! What one wears, one's level of religious education, ecclesial position, appearance and pomp does not make one holier and closer to God's pleasure. Love makes the difference! Obedience to God's freeing us to love defines our holiness. The widow, not the Sadduccess, nor Scribes, nor Elders is lifted up as the exemplar of the God life. The Temple is redefined as where prayer, the Great Commandment, and generosity towards mission are practiced. Bricks and mortar are helpful, but they do not and cannot wall out all people of the world! Jesus opened the hearts of God's people to ALL!  Jesus went global! 

The Lord's Supper is for ALL!  ALL are welcome! Come!  Receive and meet Jesus! The Cross and Jesus taking upon himself all that would separate us from God's love and from us loving others and the earth is killed on the Cross. The Resurrection is for ALL people in the world, for a renewal of our care for the earth, for being Jesus' hands and voice in God's transforming grace!

Yes, Jesus was a REFORMER!

The Great Week!  Holy Week! A time of REVOLUTION and REFORMATION! Let's do it! Let's be it! It's kick-off time!