Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Confessions on Light in Questions

I have a confession to make.

I haven't posted on this board since I introduced myself months ago, and I haven't even picked up my bible since then.

Come to think of it, I haven't picked up a bible (except that teen Bible to find the funny devotion about the cat in the microwave -- long story) to actually sit down and read it in about two years.
This thought occurred to me today. While I haven't been posting, I have been at least trying to keep up on what everybody else is posting, and contemplating that. After reading this most recent post (on John and shying away from holiness and practicing the trumpet), I figured it was about time to say something other than my name and what I do for a living.

For some reason, that line in John (and that last post, which interpreted it beautifully) struck a chord with me. It seemed to say that we shrink even further into our weird little selves when we're angry at God or the church, because God is perhaps the light and we don't want to expose ourselves in that light.

I completely agree.

My only problem is, I so rarely find that light in church... and I've discovered that the times when I'm angriest at God are when I'm somehow involved in a church.

Church and I had a bit of a falling out a while back. Okay, not a bit, pretty much a huge falling out. I tend to find God elsewhere, in unconventional places, sometimes even in sinful places.
Mountains, breezes, the black outlines of winter trees against sunsets, laughing, cursing, a good beer buzz, pedestrians smelling roses in front of sorority houses (another long story), questions... Most of all, I find God in the questions.

I find light in the questions.

Now, please understand, this is a personal prejudice of mine, and is perhaps some kind of strange neurosis... but church tends to block out the light for me. Or, perhaps a better explanation, I'm not good at looking for, finding and recieving light in church.
I don't think I hide from it...or if I do, I don't do so consciously, because it seems that I find that light in so many other places. It took me a while to discover that it wasn't God that I was angry with, it wasn't God I was falling out with, but church.

...which is maybe why I like talking about religion so makes me ask questions, makes me examine myself, makes me find that light again, even if I have been hiding from it.
I hope you all find holiness in light wherever you go (even in 6x6 practice cells).

...and sorry it took me so freakin' long.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Finally, a response...

These thoughts might be very disconnected, and they may not make sense.
Reading the gospels like this, pieces at a time, makes it very clear how different John is from the Synoptics. Maybe it's because it's the last thing I read, but what's sticking in my mind now is John. "For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed." This is so amazingly true. Maybe it's just me, but any time I drift away from the church for any length of time, I find the thought of God really negative. I don't want to think about church or God or religion...I just don't want to think about any of it. "But those who do what is true may come into the light, so that it may clearly be seen that their deeds have been done in God." This makes me wonder. It's so hard to know if what we do is done through God or just in ourselves. I spend hours a day practicing trumpet. Is God in all of that, or is it something else pulling me away from Him? It's hard to find holiness in a 6x6 practice room. Is there such a thing as neither one or the other? Are there actions that have nothing whatsoever to do with God, but that aren't detrimental? (Wow, that was quite a tangent.)
John's cleansing of the temple comes early. That's interesting to me. I can see wonderful symbolism in the beginning and the end. As in John, at the beginning--the old corruption and broken ways are being tossed aside. Something new is coming, and the trash we've filled the temple with has to go away now. The cleansing of the temple is probably one of my favorite parts of the gospels. It's such an amazingly prophetic action, and I find a new emotion of love and strength each time I read it.
I wish we had more of an account of Jesus growing up, even if it's not really vital, I guess. There's one year that Anne Rice writes about in Christ the Lord out of Egypt, but I'm not really sure if I liked that book. Has anyone else read it?
Sorry for the rambling and focus on John. Thanks if you read this far.

Friday, November 2, 2007


some all saints/all souls grenadian traditions inspired a blog post on my personal blog. it sort of talks about some of amanda's afterlife questions too... but doesn't really answer anything. i don't think clear answers are attainable from our perspective. for you amanda, and for all of us, i pray that in searching there might be insight. but even more so, that there might be peace. so check out my blog if you want. the link is over on the side: abby's reflections... will post on the second set of readings maybe next week... lot of love.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I can't honestly say I have any answers about the afterlife. I definitely don't claim to know what happens beyond death. But I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a friend while I was abroad. I was strugggling a lot spiritually...I had just come off of a semester at school in which I was very relgious, had a lot of very religious friends and subscribed to an evangelical Christian outlook. I had gradually been realizing I just couldn't accept this belief system, and was realizing I'd have to go back to Davidson, where I had never been 100% happy anyway, and face these friends with whom I no longer shared their beliefs. But I was also just struggling with what I believed and if there was really any meaning out there. And I said to my friend, "Life is so tragic. We live, we make all of these connections and friendships and experiences, and we make it through struggles together, and we build so much...and then it just ends. It's just over. We die. This is so tragic! It's almost like a cruel, cruel joke." But my friend came back with, "It's tragic, but in a way, it's also beautiful, because we know we just have one life, and that's what makes everything meaningful." So we decided that life was beautifully tragic....tragically beautiful. And I really think it is a gift, it really is. It is something that is given to us briefly that is to be celebrated and enjoyed and shared, and the more you give of yourself and the more you love, the more meaningful and rich your life is.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I like John, too :)

First of all I want to apologize for taking so long to post. There have been other things demanding my attention. Some have been worthwhile, and others not so much. But I guess that is life.

My thoughts are random and unrelated.

Why do the Scriptures trace Jesus's geneology through fathers? Wasn't Hebrew heritage passed through the mother's line? Today children are Jewish if their mother is Jewish. Why, then, is patriarchy still so evident in the Scriptures?

Luke used to be my favorite book of the bible because I liked the Christmas story best. It is very visual, and more concrete. It makes great pageants. It makes great pict'sure books. But what does it really mean?
Angels appearing to shepards. That's a powerful image. A powerful statement. Glorious angels to lowly shepards. It's like appearing to dairy farmers, or trash collectors, or something.

One of my favorite bible verses comes from Luke. It's when Zechariah can finally talk again, and he's praising God. It's one of those blessings you read over and over again in morning prayers in the Epicsobal liturgy. This translation is from the Message, and I think it does the best job:
God's Sunrise will break in upon us, Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.
Now, though, John is my favorite. Because it's less pretty. Because it leaves a lot of room to feel and understand. I always feel so hopeful when I read John. I am like, Yes. That is the Jesus I know. (Which of course, is probably a sin of arrogance in itself.) But it's something I can put my teeth into, as well as my heart. It's something I can meld with the way I understand religion and the world. And Light. Quakers talk about Inner Light. That of the Divine in every person. I love that. It's such a beautiful way to approach the world.

It's interesting how different things were important to different authors, but it makes sense. Different things are important to different people, and different times in our lives. We each have our lense through which we see the Gospel. See the World. See God.

I don't believe in virgin birth, per se. I don't disbelieve it. For one thing, there's a lot of things Mary could have done that weren't intercourse that could have resulted in a kid. But for another . . . miracles happen. All the time. And who am I to decide about this one? I don't think it matters though. Or really the Resurrection. I think the most miraculous thing about Jesus is the way that he lived his life. Selflessy, beautifully, full of renewal and healing and honesty. I think that's important. That's what makes me want to believe.

This is unrelated, but due to my last week, I have some questions of my own. Afterlife, anyone? Do you believe in Heaven? Hell? Anything? Why? And why does it matter? And how does it matter? And if it comes down to it, and you don't believe in Heaven, and you don't have any answers . . . what are you supposed to tell your friend who's mother just died? Where does the hope come from, exactly? And God? Where does that all fit in? I am not expecting concrete answers. I've been around too long to hope for that. But I have been asking the questions, and I can't find an answer that's good enough . . . even for myself. I know it's something about love, right? But that almost seems childish. It almost seems not good enough.

Anyway, know that I am not bitter. I am just lost. Completely. And I would love to hear what you have to say.

The next readings are as follows:

Matthew 2:13-23 and 3:1-17 and 4:1-11
Mark 1:2-13
Luke 2:39-52 and 1:80 and 3:1-18 and 3:21-23 and 4:1-13
John 1:6-51 and 2:1-25 and 3:1-28


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

i like john

At this point in my life, I cannot honestly say that I'm a Christian. But I am spiritual, and I am a perpetual searcher of spiritual meaning (I can't help it) I liked John the best because it's more existential. I especially liked John 1:3-5, because of the light/darkness symbolism and the idea of good triumphing over evil. I love that it's very philosophical (I think I've learned that such light/dark symbolism was common during the time and probably came out of Platonic philosophy) and esoteric. I love the number of times the word "light" occurs througout all of John: 1. This is so hopeful and unifying. I love the unifying sense of who can recieve the light: in 1:9,"enlightens everyone," and, in 1:4, "the life was the light of all people."

Abby, I was just reading over your post, and I noticed you asked about the connotation of "the word" in the original text. I know I learned about this in my Rise of Christianity class, but I don't have a clear memory of the exact meaning. So I looked it up on the Internet....this may be an incorrect explanation, but this is what I think it means. "Logos" was the original Greek word used, and the "logos" was a being who was present with God from the beginning of Creation, and who became human in the person of Christ. So essentially, the "logos" was the being of the Son of God before he existed on earth as Christ. The idea of the "logos" being with God from the beginning of time was used to argue for the doctrine of the Trinity. The concept of the "logos" was used to counter the Arians, early Christian heretics who believed that God was one and that the Son of God had not been with God since creation, but who had achieved God-like status on earth through merit. Ultimately, (of course) the doctrine of the Trinity was accepted and Arianism faded out. (hope that made sense...)

I liked the hopeful sense of the beginning of Mark: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God." It provides an interesting parallel to the end of Mark, when the disiplines "went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere" (16:20).

I also thought Mary's speech was really interesting in Luke 1:47-55. Mary definitely makes her future son sound more like of powerful earthly ruler than like the gentle, loving person of Christ. She says, "He has shown stregnth with his arm...he has brought down the powerful from their thrones."

I'll add some more later...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

happy birthday jesus and erin.

not sure the format we're looking for. more or less rambling my thoughts and questions... looking forward to hearing your different perspectives and insights...

so much that could be said and asked about each one of these texts. the beginning of the gospels. the introduction of christ. the christmas story that is easy to rush through because it seems so familiar. each account seems so different. what do we make of inconsistencies? do they lead to doubt of scripture's reliability? do they give us insight into the motives of the writers?do they help us understand the overall story from a variety of perspectives? do they give us different ways to personally connect to scripture?

i'm a fan of john. and the opening paragraph already sets up themes that reoccur throughout. the emphasis on jesus' oneness with God. a union that has existed since "the beginning" (whenever that was). the symbolism of Light. an intangible something. not directly seen. or touched. but a source of illumination. that which allows us to see. i associate "the Word" with Christ, but i don't necessarily understand the meaning of it. what was its connotation in the original text? why did the author not feel it necessary to give details of "the Word becoming flesh?" perhaps that absense of a literal birth story adds to the mystery and divinity of Christ so evident in john.

mark, the gospel written first, gives no birth story. but starts "the beginning of the good news" with john the baptist and jesus as grown ups. did the author consider the birth story irrelevant? why did the birth story gain relevance in later gospels?

matthew and luke. very different accounts of the same event. in matthew, joseph sees the angel. wise men visit. my version says wise men find jesus in a house. whoa. what about the lowly manger? there's something regal and magical about the birth. i wonder what was going on astrologically to prompt the magi to travel so far. the author makes it known first thing that this is The Messiah. a direct descendent of abraham. i often skim through geneologies. but it is interesting to slow down and look at them. interesting the women included in matthew's list: rahab, ruth, the wife of uriah, and mary. interesting that matthew starts with abraham. goes by fathers. where as luke - who saves the geneology business for a few chapters in, perhaps it not being as top priority - starts with jesus, ends with God. goes by sons. john the baptist is absent in matthew. but an important figure in luke's story. different people are graced with angels in luke: zechariah, mary, and the shepherds. and its in luke where mary and joseph settle for that lowly manger. more ordinary guests. more humble setting.

how much do the differences in the stories relate to the authors' purposes and agendas? how do we approach the inconsistencies? and what do you make of the virgin birth? do you believe that literally? and to use a phrase so eloquently put by my friend matt: what would if feel like to get "knocked up by the holy spirit?" how do you feel about the connection made between having favor with God and becoming a mother - in the case of both mary and elizabeth? how do you feel about mary's spirit of surrender? do you have a favorite account? is there one you connect the most with? what details do you question? are there parts you can't accept?