"then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far. Let us descend now therefore from this top of speculation; for the hour precise exacts our parting hence" Paradise Lost, Book XII, lines585-590

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

All things necessary for salvation

Last Sunday was Pentecost, and among the readings was a portion of Psalm 104.  I really love this Psalm because it has one of the best lines ever in the bible in verse 27 where amidst its rapturous glorification of God's creative powers it says; “and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it.”  I am strongly attached to the notion that God creates partly for the pure joy of doing so.

But this week, the Revised Common Lectionary (which lays out the scripture readings for worship in a 3 year cycle) does one of the things that really annoys me - it edits the scriptures, ostensibly I suppose, to make it more amenable to the modern listener.  It's bad enough that we can't hear the entire psalm, but in this case they also leave out a single verse (36) which says; “And let sinners be consumed from the earth; let the wicked be no more.”

I’m willing to bet that almost everyone has, at one time or another, said a prayer just like it – “God, please make the bad people go away.”  The first human to turn their eyes heavenward and pray to God probably prayed a prayer just like it.  God is great and God's creation is awesome, but sometimes people really suck - they let us down, they lie, they cause mischief and too many of our fellow humans are subject to capricious injustice and true bodily harm at the hands of others.  Yes, please let the wicked be no more.

But the thing is, of course, that all of us are one time or another the one disappointing rather than the one disappointed.  All of us have broken a heart or wounded the feelings of others.  Maybe we've even been willing  to harm or did actual physical harm to another.  I know that I was willing to annihilate millions of people I'd never met with nuclear weapons in my time in the Navy because of our fear of the Red Menace.  

The disciples were expecting a Messiah who would lead a rebellion to restore the Davidic kingdom and make the wicked be no more through killing them - they wanted a sacrificial purification of Israel.  I have long harbored the suspicion that Judas's motivation may have been his realization that Jesus would do no such thing. Because Jesus and therefore God's intention is to remove the wicked, not by sacrificing them, but by loving them and breaking down the fear that lies behind all our selfishness and wickedness.  

Shame on the RCL for leaving that out!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dark Shadows

I really want to go see the new movie, Dark Shadows, that just came out.  I remember Dark Shadows being on TV, but I don't actually remember anything about it.  I suspect I wan't allowed to watch.  Probably why I remember it is because my older brother, Kenny, wasn't allowed to watch it.  It gave him bad dreams, and he would fall out of bed.  Kenny was 6 1/2 years older than me, but until I was about 6 or so, we shared a double bed.  At this remove, I don't recall whether his nightmares were a danger to him or me.  I do remember that when we got bunk beds, my big brother got the bottom bunk because of his proclivity to fall out, so maybe he was always more a danger to himself.

I imagine it would be fun to see the movie with Kenny, but that isn't possible.  He died nearly thirty years ago, in a house fire.  It's probably fair to say I miss him more now than I did then, even though that doesn't reflect all that well on me I suppose.  I keep a picture of him on the wall of our stairway; amongst the mostly dead ancestors.  I was telling my daughter about him just the other day and we went and looked at him and then all the other pictures as I shared their stories.

I feel bad for my brother, his life was tragic - beginning to end - and I wonder now if he ever really knew happiness or contentment.  He had a different mother from me.  His mother, Janice, became gravely ill when he was just a baby and spent much of his life in the hospital I'm told and died when Kenny was only six.  Later, he married a young woman also named Janice, who died from a brain aneurysm. In between were troubled years, difficulty at school, difficulty at home.  He must have wondered who loved him.

I've spent a lot of time over a lot of years wondering about, and more recently, praying for my brother.  I find myself praying for his mother as well.  My origins lie somewhere in her sickness and death; we are in some way connected.  Learning about her, her sickness, her desires for her children, my father and my mother's relationship with her has been helpful to learn about who I am.  I like Bowen family systems theory, but untangling the mess that is my family of origin isn't easy.  Those long-ago tragedies are, if you will, dark shadows that shift the color of my life.

So, I think I will go see the movie, and laugh (hopefully) and remember and live.  I will live, I will remember and be thankful for the whole company of saints who went before.  Our lives are formed and touched by so many others in so many ways that are beyond our understanding or even knowledge sometimes.  Happy Mother's day Janice, God bless you.