Sé ICM: Sé Cumplimiento
Durante muchos años creí que la Cuaresma era renunciar a ciertos alimentos o actividades durante cuarenta días. Mi punto de vista de la Cuaresma está cambiando. Se está convirtiendo en un tiempo de plantar semillas espirituales que empezarán a echar raíces y crecer. Mientras planto las semillas preveo el cumplimiento que viene durante la Pascua y Pentecostés. Estos cuarenta días están conectados a algo mucho más grande que una barra de chocolate pospuesta hasta la semana de Pascua. Mis anhelos más profundos son llegar hacia un propósito mayor y un cumplimiento duradero.
La historia de Sara y Abraham en Génesis 17:1-7,15-16 es una historia de cumplimiento. Sus semillas de pacto fiel abren el camino para un legado eterno. Dios cambio el nombre de Sarai a Sara y dijo: “le bendeciré, y se convertirá en Naciones; los gobernantes de los pueblos vendrán de ella” (Gén 17:16b, primera traducción igualitaria).
En el espíritu de Sara y Abraham, nuestra invitación cuaresmal es a abrirnos al cumplimiento dentro de nosotr@s mism@s y más allá de nosotr@s mism@s. La Cuaresma es un tiempo para la conexión de un pacto profundo con el Creador. Una manera de abordar esto es replantear la práctica espiritual de oración. En lugar de que sólo sea un deber en nuestra lista de Cuaresma, apreciarla como un movimiento a y con la oración. La historia de Jesús durante esta temporada describe las relaciones cada vez más profunda entre Jesús y sus seguidores. Es un movimiento a la vulnerabilidad compartida y un movimiento con la complejidad santa que colorea todas las relaciones que se atreven a ir más allá de la superficie.
La gente pregunta a Jesús y Jesús les pregunta. Jesús se involucra en relaciones que no son fáciles. Están marcadas por la tristeza, la decepción, el malentendido y la impaciencia. Sin embargo, sorpresa, la vulnerabilidad, la fidelidad y la misión compartida también emergen. Para aquellas personas que estén dispuestas a arriesgar, los giros, vueltas y paradas y arranques en última instancia conducen al cumplimiento de las relaciones y del propósito cumplido.
Transformación ocurre a través de las relaciones. La historia del ICM tiene muchas intersecciones con las historias de Sara, Abraham y Jesús. Desde nuestros inicios hemos tomado riesgos para plantar semillas en lugares que muchos considerarían infértiles. Compartimos el dolor y la decepción. El malentendido y la impaciencia, en ocasiones, han probado nuestras relaciones. Sin embargo nuestra vulnerabilidad, riesgo y persistencia también han sido una puerta a la alegría y a la celebración.
Be MCC: Be Fulfilled
For many years, I believed that Lent was about giving up certain foods or activities for forty days. My view of Lent is shifting. It is becoming a time to plant spiritual seeds that will begin to take root and grow. As I plant these seeds, I anticipate the coming fulfillment during Easter and Pentecost. These forty days are connected to something much bigger than a bar of chocolate postponed until Easter. My deepest longings reach towards a greater purpose and lasting fulfillment.
People question Jesus, and Jesus questions them. The relationships Jesus engages are not easy. They are marked by grief, disappointment, misunderstanding, and impatience. Yet surprise, vulnerability, faithfulness, and shared mission also emerge. For those willing to risk, the twists and turns and stops and starts ultimately lead to fulfilling relationships and fulfilled purpose.
Transformation happens through relationships. The story of MCC has many intersections with the stories of Sarah, Abraham, and Jesus. From our earliest days, we have taken risks to plant seeds in places many would consider infertile. We have shared grief and disappointment. Misunderstanding and impatience have, at times, tested our relationships. Yet our vulnerability, risk-taking, and persistence have also been a gateway to joy and celebration.
Amados/Amadas, en ustedes me complazco
Tú eres mi Hijo amado, en ti tengo complacencia.
…ni habrá más diluvio para destruir la tierra.
Hace una semana los carnavales terminaron en los países de mayoría cristiana. El Carnaval es tiempo de extravagancia antes de la temporada austera de la Cuaresma. Durante carnaval los colores, la buena comida y el baile están fuera en las calles de muchas ciudades. Este año uno de los carnavales más famosos del mundo, Río de Janeiro, se vio ensombrecido por el asesinato de Claudia da Silva, de 25 años, una joven transgénero conocida Piu. Piu, era miembro de la famosa escuela de samba Beija-Flor (colibrí en portugués) fue asesinada en un país en donde cada 28 horas una persona gay, trans o bisexual es asesinada. La tortura y el asesinato de Piu fue publicada en los medios sociales. La muerte ocurrió cerca de una favela, Morro da Mina, controlada por señores de la droga. La mascarada, los colores y la danza no pueden ocultar la cruda realidad de la pobreza, las drogas y la violencia en Río de Janeiro.
Estamos viviendo en un mundo complicado donde la violencia, la desigualdad, el prejuicio y el odio están aumentando de manera escandalosa. Frente a esa realidad, nos preguntamos: ¿dónde está la esperanza?
El evangelio de Marcos fue escrito en una época de convulsión política y de inestabilidad social. La destrucción del templo de Jerusalén y la derrota de los movimientos de liberación de Israel por parte de estructura militar imperial de Roma, creó una gran crisis y todos se preguntan dónde estaba la esperanza. Al mismo tiempo, Jesús vivió en medio de la agitación social que produjo varios movimientos mesiánicos que pretendían dar respuesta a la falta de esperanza de sus tiempos. El tono apocalíptico de Marcos es un recordatorio de que la desesperanza terminará: “El tiempo se ha cumplido, y el reino de Dios está cerca”. Pero ¿dónde está ese reino? Probablemente Jesús sabía que se trataba de una pregunta difícil de responder, y tal vez por eso, antes de que comenzara su ministerio, se enfrentó al mal dentro de él en la soledad del desierto. La llamada de Jesús era para ayudar a la gente a descubrir el rostro de Dios en medio de la pobreza y la violencia y así desenmascarar las respuestas fáciles de las estructuras religiosas y políticas. Es muy interesante que en uno de sus primeros milagros de sanidad, un hombre con un espíritu inmundo en la sinagoga, Jesús no destruyó al espíritu, sino más bien lo silenció y le ordenó que saliera del hombre.
En el relato del Génesis descubrimos una historia asombrosa de Dios, en donde hace el siguiente compromiso: “ni habrá más diluvio para destruir la tierra.” Esto no es una promesa de un planeta protegido del mal, sino … tal vez es una promesa divina de controlar las respuestas fáciles de una imagen divina todopoderosa para en cambio hacer un llamado constante a todos nosotros/nosotras: ustedes son mis hijas / ustedes son mis hijos, los amados; en ustedes tengo complacencia….
Y la gente responde a ese llamado, como Aki Ra quien era muy pequeño cuando fue elegido por los jemeres rojos en Camboya para convertirse en un niño soldado. Él puso miles de minas y luchó por los jemeres rojos hasta 1983. Recibió entrenamiento remoción de minas con las Naciones Unidas y escuchó a su verdadera vocación: Tú eres mi Hijo amado; en ti tengo complacencia… Sin ningún tipo de herramientas de remoción de minas, comenzó ilegalmente a desactivar minas en las zonas en las que había luchado con nada más que un cuchillo consiguiendo con ello la prevención de muertes y lesiones graves de muchas personas, especialmente los niños.
Violada a la edad de seis años y huérfana a los nueve años, Betty Makoni de alguna manera se las arregló para mantenerse fuerte, sobrevivir y escuchar la voz: tú eres mi Hija amada; en ti tengo complacencia… En 1999 fundó la Red de Niñas como respuesta a la pandemia de abuso sexual infantil, en especial la de las niñas en Zimbabue. Su organización, está diseminada en 35 de los 58 distritos de Zimbabue. Hasta la fecha, Betty ha alcanzado a 7.000 (algunas estimaciones dicen que hasta 35.000) niñas víctimas de abuso, trabajo infantil, matrimonios forzados, trata de personas y asalto sexual.
Una investigación realizada en 2011 indica que el 90% de las travestis y transexuales que se prostituyen en las calles de Río de Janeiro les gustaría ser parte del mercado de trabajo formal… También ella escuchan la voz de Dios: ustedes son mis Hijas Amadas; en ustedes tengo complacencia… Así surge “Projeto Damas”. Quienes buscan preparar estas mujeres con competencias profesionales y técnicas; fortaleciendo su dignidad, para que puedan volver al mundo de al mercado de trabajo formal.
Beloved ones, with you I am pleased
You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
…and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Carnival just ended a week ago in countries with a Christian majority around the world. Carnival is time of flamboyance before the austere season of Lent. During carnival colors, good food and dance are outside in the streets of many cities. This year, one of the most famous carnivals in the world, Rio de Janeiro, was overshadowed by the murder of Claudia da Silva, 25, a TMF known as Piu. Piu, member of the famous samba school Beija-Flor (humming bird in Portuguese), was killed in a country where one gay, trans, or bisexual person is killed approximately every 28 hours. The torture and killing of Piu was posted on social media. The death happened in a nearby favela, Morro da Mina, controlled by drug lords. The masquerade, colors, and dance cannot hide the crude reality of poverty, drugs, and violence in Rio de Janeiro.
We are living in a complicated world where violence, inequality, prejudice, and hate are escalating in scandalous ways. Confronting that reality, we ask ourselves: where is hope?
Mark’s gospel was written in a time of political convulsion and social instability. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the defeat of Israel’s liberation movements by the Roman military structure created a big crisis and made people ask where hope was. At the same time, Jesus lived in the midst of social turmoil that produced several messianic movements that pretended to answer the lack of hope of their times. The apocalyptic tone of Mark is a reminder that hopelessness will end: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” But where is that kingdom? Probably, Jesus knew that it was a difficult question to answer, and maybe because of that, and before his ministry started, he confronted the evil inside him in the loneliness of the wilderness. Jesus’ call was to help people to discover God’s face in the midst of poverty and violence unmasking the easy answers of the religious and political establishments. It is very interesting that in one of his first healing miracles, a man with an unclean spirit at the synagogue, Jesus did not destroy the spirit but instead ordained the spirit to be silenced and to come out of the man.
In the narrative of Genesis, we discover an amazing story of God making the following commitment: “…and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” This is not a promise that no more bad things will happen on our planet. Maybe it is a divine promise to control the easy answers to be almighty and instead proclaim to all of us: you are my daughters / sons, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.
And people answer to that call, like Aki Ra, who was a very young boy when he was chosen by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to become a child soldier. He laid thousands of mines and fought for the Khmer Rouge until 1983. He received landmine clearance training with the United Nations and heard his true calling: you are my son, the beloved; with you, I am well pleased. Without any demining tools, he started to illegally clear and defuse mines in the areas he had fought with nothing but a knife, preventing the deaths and serious injuries of many people, particularly children.
Raped at the age of six and orphaned by the age of nine, Betty Makoni somehow managed to stay strong and survive and hear the voice: you are my daughter, the beloved; with you, I am well pleased. In 1999, she founded the Girl Child Network, in response to Zimbabwe’s pandemic of child sexual abuse, especially that of young girls. Her organization spread over 35 of Zimbabwe’s 58 districts. To date, Betty has saved more than 7,000 (some estimates say as many as 35,000) girls from abuse, child labor, forced marriages, human trafficking, and sexual assault.
Research done in 2011 indicates that 90% of transvestite and transsexual prostitutes in the streets of Rio de Janeiro would like to be included in the formal labor market. They also hear God’s voice: you are my daughters, the beloved; with you, I am well pleased. And Projeto Damas emerged. They look to prepare these women with professional and technical competence, strengthening their dignity to return them to the world of jobs.
In a certain way during Lent, the Christian world, from the most fundamentalist groups to the Vatican, generates speeches of God that masquerade the kingdom…a kingdom that is in the midst of our deepest contradictions, that is as fragile as a child soldier, as a transgender woman, or as a raped woman. God is calling us today: “you are my daughters / sons, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” We should go to the wilderness to confront the evil inside us and then return to find God’s face in the midst of conflict and contradictions “…and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
Rev. Ines-Paul Baumann
Cuando alguno de ustedes ore, hágalo a solas. Vaya a su cuarto, cierre la puerta y
hable allí en secreto con Dios, su Padre, pues él da lo que se le pide en secreto.
Cuando ustedes ayunen, no pongan cara triste, como hacen los hipócritas.
A ellos les gusta que la gente sepa que están ayunando.
Les aseguro que ése será el único premio que ellos recibirán.
Mateo 6:6,16-17, Biblia en Lenguaje Actual
¡Toquen la trompeta en Jerusalén!
¡Que se reúna todo el pueblo!
¡Que vengan los ancianos y los niños,
y hasta los recién casados!
¡Que ayunen y se preparen para adorar a Dios!
Joel 2:15-16, Biblia en Lenguaje Actual
¡Qué no he hecho “en secreto”! ¿Qué no he hecho en mi habitación, a puertas cerradas, para no ser visto por los otros? Estas palabras en las lecturas de hoy, son campanas para mis oídos, que no proclaman a un Dios satisfecho con lo que he realizado. En cambio, “el Padre que lo ve todo” fue más una amenaza, “la recompensa” que también me espera.
Para algunas personas, el Miércoles de Ceniza en este contexto es una oportunidad para arrepentirse lo suficiente y escapar del castigo merecido. Los días previos, la gente en el carnaval de Colonia habían hecho mucho en público que solo suele hacerse en privado. Efectivamente, la mayoría de ellos disfrutaron de la mayor parte, pero ahora todos los miedos internalizados contraatacar, junto con el pensamiento racional que viene cuando la fiesta terminó. “¿Qué he hecho? ¿Esto es solo un resfriado, o estoy infectado? Mejor me hubiera quedado en mi recamara”.
Hay mejores maneras de manejar el “intercambio público” de “cosas privadas” que por medio de drogas y arrepentimientos. Un manejo más responsable puede ayudarnos a desarrollar dónde nos detenemos nosotros mismos, ocultando lo que tendemos a ocultar a los demás y a un Dios castigador.
En la agenda política, salir del closet es una cuestión clave. Además, a nivel personal: ser alguien diferente en público, a quien somos en privado probablemente causará problemas para nuestro bienestar en general. (No necesitamos un Dios castigando para que esto suceda). Algunas personas trans preferimos mantener una gran parte de nuestro pasado “en secreto”: lo que el público podría leer fuera de esto está muy lejos de quienes somos realmente.
La apelación a “ungir tu cabeza y lavar tu rostro” me recuerda una discusión de doble filo, sobre “los derechos” de las personas LGBT para luchar por la igualdad de derechos. Es un argumento común señalar: ¡Mira, somos tan normales como tú! Aquellos que aún buscan como practicantes de algo anormal escuchan el mismo consejo de sus comunidades así como de las iglesias “amistosas”: “¡Haz lo que quieras, pero no queremos saber!” (Por cierto, NO parece “normal” simplemente por el hecho de depender de lo que se mira “normal”.)
Una vez más, las personas trans a menudo tienen preocupaciones específicas acerca de “parecer normal”.
Para los cristianos dentro de algunas comunidades LGBT y movimientos políticos, hay otro aspecto: en medio de las personas que tan a menudo han tenido malas experiencias con las iglesias, a veces puede sentir apropiado (o ¿tentador?) orar “en secreto”.
Así que, con todo esto en mi mente, la invitación del profeta Joel, a que “todas las personas se reúnan” y a que “salgan del closet” suena bastante atractivo para mí!
¿Pero Jesús realmente quiere guardar silencio acerca de quién soy y qué hago? ¡No! ¿Jesús, exactamente, apoya la idea de no mirar y actuar ante el temor de lo “que piensan de mí ahora”?
¿Quiero ser como ellas, principalmente a causa de lo que piensan de mí? ¿Puedo unirme a sus hábitos, principalmente a causa de lo que piensan de mí?
Con Jesús, los actos espirituales pueden ser una oportunidad para liberarnos de la mímica y observancia (también religiosa):
1. Orando y ayunando podemos convertir las voces y “tesoros” que tan a menudo nos vendan más que sanarnos.
2. Podemos hacer una revisión interna y preguntarnos: ¿Por qué orar y ayunar ahora? ¿Quién necesita a fijarse con el fin de darle un valor?
Las prácticas espirituales no son para satisfacer las expectativas malsanas de los asistentes a la iglesia. Por el contrario, las prácticas espirituales pueden ayudarnos a crecer, saludables y amorosas, relaciones con Dios, con nosotros mismos y con el otro. Junto con esto, nuestras prácticas sobre a/sexualidad y actuaciones de género experimentarán una curación similar de observadores e imitadores.
Si tu decisión es unirte al ayuno en esta cuaresma o no. Deseo que entres en una experiencia gratificante.
by Rev. Ines-Paul Baumann
Matthew 6:6,16-17, King James Bible
Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:
Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders,
gather the children, and those that suck the breasts:
let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
Joel 2:15-16, King James Bible
What have I not already done “in secret!” What have I not already practiced in my room, the doors shut, in order to not be seen by others! These words in the readings ring bells in me that didn’t proclaim a God who was pleased with what I was doing there. Instead, the “Father who sees everything” was more a threatening one, the “reward” to expect also.
For some, Ash Wednesday in this context is an opportunity to “regret hard enough to escape the deserved punishment.” The days before, people in the Cologne carnival had done a lot in public what you usually do in private. Sure enough, most of them enjoyed most of it, but now all the internalized fears strike back, along with rational thoughts coming back when the party is over. “What have I done! Is this just a cold, or am I infected? I had better stay in my chamber!”
There are better ways to handle “public sharing” of “private things” than by drugs and regrets. A more responsible handling can develop where we stop hiding from ourselves what we tend to hide from others and from a “punishing God.”
On the political agenda, coming out of the closet is a key issue. Also, on a personal level: Being someone different in public than in private will likely cause problems for our well-being in general. (We don’t need a punishing God for this to happen.)
Some trans people might prefer to keep a big part from our past “in secret”: What the public might read out of it is too far from who we “really” are.
The appeal to “anoint thine head, and wash thy face” reminds me of a two-edged discussion about the “rights” of LGBT-people to fight for equal rights. It’s a common argument to point out: “Look, we are as normal as you are!” Those still looking as practicing something “unnormal” then hear the same advice from their communities as from “friendly” churches: “Do whatever you like, but we don’t want to know!” (By the way, NOT looking “normal” just for the sake of it is still depending on the “normal” look.)
Again, trans people often have specific concerns about “looking normal.”
For Christians within some LGBT-communities and political movements, there is a further aspect: In the midst of people who so often had bad experiences with church, it might sometimes feel appropiate (or tempting?) to pray only “in secret.”
So, with all this in my mind, Joel’s call to “gather all people” and to “get out of the closet” sounds quite attractive to me!
But does Jesus really want me to keep silent about who I am and what I do? No! Jesus exactly supports the idea to not look and act in the fear of “What do they think of me now?”
Do I want to look like them, mainly because of what they think of me?
Do I join their habits, mainly because of what they think of me?
With Jesus, spiritual acts can be a chance to free us from (also religious) lookism and mimics:
1. By praying and fasting we can turn from voices and “treasures” that so often bind us rather than heal us.
2. We can do an “inner check” and ask ourselves: Why do I pray and fast now? Who needs to take notice in order to give it a value?
Spiritual practices are not meant to meet unhealthy expectations of church-goers. Rather, spiritual practices can help us to grow healthy and loving relationships with God, with ourselves, and with each other. Along with this, our practices regarding a/sexuality and gender-performance will experience a similar healing of lookism and mimics.
The diversity within MCC therefore is a real blessing. Who should I regard as “standard” to copy looks and behaviour? What a precious encouragement to look and act in truthful ways!
It’s your decision if you want to join fasting this lent or not. Step into a rewarding experience!
Matthew 28: 1-10
Most Easters, for the last 42 or so, I have preached from the beloved story in John’s gospel. John’s account of Mary Magdalene in the garden — her intimate encounter with the Risen Jesus — is so personal and compelling that the lectionary always offers it as one of the readings.
Yet today, I am fascinated with Matthew’s gospel portion, which includes earthquakes in the account of the death of Jesus (Matthew 27: 51 and 54), as well as in the story of Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection is preceded and followed by accounts of tombs being opened by the quakes and many “saints” roaming about the city!
The earthquake in Matthew 28:2 accompanies the appearance of an angel whose appearance reminds us of the Transfiguration, whose illumination is compared to “lightning” and “snow.” This is a fierce angel, reminiscent of the one who appeared to Daniel. Apocalypse all around.
It is very dramatic, perhaps the most cosmically dramatic of all the resurrection accounts. I was in Los Angeles recently and experienced a mild quake (4.4) while on the 6th floor of a hotel, reminding me of other more lethal earthquakes in my own past. The Northridge earthquake in 1994 killed over 100 people and damaged or destroyed over 80 churches, including the one owned by Founder’s MCC, where I was pastor at the time. In the aftermath, as part of my own healing from the trauma of that day, I learned that earthquakes are the way in which the earth’s surface is reshaped. The earth naturally heaves and spews lava and has done so long before humans tried to inhabit the most tectonically unstable places.
Earthquakes are a natural phenomenon, a sign of the “aliveness” of our planet, whose molten core erupts powerfully to the surface from time to time, rupturing ocean floors, sending tidal waves, and ripping open faults on the earth, many of them still unknown to us. Only dead planets have no earthquakes.
And even today, with all our scientific capabilities, we are not able to predict earthquakes with the kind of accuracy that we need. Especially in these days as climate change and pollution threaten the health of our planet as never before, the earth is not just something “acted upon” by us — rather, it is also an actor, a participant in the cosmic drama. The earth itself is full of surprises, then and now. So, why this connection of earthquakes to Jesus’ Resurrection? Here are some thoughts as we prepare for Easter this year The Resurrection was meant to be a shattering event, one that would shake the disciples and the power structures! It was not just a happy post-script, a reward for Jesus’ going through the violent crucifixion. Easter Sunday morning was not a Disney ending with the sweetness of birds singing; it was violent, and in its own way, shocking. It included the shaking of the foundations, something new that would alter every life it touched. The world, and reality, turning upside down. Love and justice triumphing over raw power and hatred. This was a cosmic event, bringing together heaven and earth, as the two worlds intersected. The earthquakes in Matthew’s story are a clue this resurrection of Jesus, and all it demands of us, is bigger than my world, my perceptions, or my capacity to fully understand. It is bigger than religion — my friend, Joshua DuBois, says, “Never do violence to Jesus in the service of religion.” To me, this means Jesus was, and is, bigger than religion, than any narrow container might hope to be. And containing or controlling Jesus does violence to him and to the God who was present in him (and in those earthquakes too!) As if we could control who Jesus wants to love, or use, or shake to the foundations!
Earthquakes change the direction of rivers sometimes (like the Mississippi centuries ago), the height of mountains, and the contours of earth and oceans. Jesus’ resurrection changed the direction of all who followed him and many who resisted him. How has God called you to places and directions you never expected?
Also, the phrase “have no fear,” or “do not be afraid,” appears four times in this story. Every time that word or phrase appears, especially in the gospels, it makes me laugh. Fear is a natural response to earthquakes of any kind, real or metaphorical — like when we are asked to believe the unbelievable, to do the unimaginable. When we celebrate Easter, we are invited to imagine the first ones who were so terrified. As I read Matthew’s account, Mary and Mary Magdalene were keeping vigil at the tomb early that morning, “as the first light of the new week dawned….” As they were there in quiet, pain-filled grief, “the earth reeled and rocked under their feet.” In front of their stunned gaze, an angel rolled the huge stone away, and it sounds like the guards were “slain” in the spirit. It is a tall order indeed to be told after that, “Do not be afraid!” Right! But the women left the tomb, “afraid yet filled with joy.” As they ran to tell the disciples, Jesus himself meets them, echoing the command to not be afraid.
In this volatile, earthquake-ridden, complex world, there seems plenty of reason to be afraid, every day. The only question for us is, will we have to courage to leave an empty tomb — with our fears and our joy — help shake the foundations, and love the world that God so loved?
(19 April 2014)
by Rev. Elder Dr. Mona West
“So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock.”
The scene of the burial of Jesus is one of the most tender in all of scripture for me. Matthew’s gospel tells us it is Joseph of Arimethea who asks for Jesus’ body. In John’s gospel, Nicodemus is there too. His presence makes me believe that somehow he did understand Jesus when he had that nighttime conversation about being born again. And while scripture does not mention Mary the Mother of Jesus in the story of his burial, the great Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo has poignantly depicted in the Pieta the depth of tenderness between mother and son as Mary holds the broken body of Jesus.
These scenes are a prelude to Holy Saturday. While the movement of Palm Sunday has been one of entry, and the movement of Easter morning will be rising, the movement of Holy Saturday is one of descent. Jesus must descend from the cross into the depths of the earth before he will be raised on ‘the third day.’
With Earth Day occurring two days after Easter, it is fitting to think about Holy Saturday as a ‘day of the earth.’ The Psalms attest to the glory of God in all of creation, and the apostle Paul reminds us that all of creation groans for redemption. Jesus’ descent into the arms of the earth indicates that salvation is a cosmic event.
Wendy Wright, in her book The Rising, indicates that in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, “salvation is envisioned not primarily as the rescue of the individual sinner through the sacrifice on the cross but as the transfiguration of the entire world through the descending-ascending process of God becoming what we are and our becoming what God is.” (p. 108)
(Art: Dana Gray)
Holy Saturday invites us to move beyond a privatized understanding of salvation to consider our relationship to the earth. Part of my Lenten discipline this year was to slow down and be more present to the beauty of creation. I practiced this by taking long walks most of the days of Lent, and instead of seeing myself as an observer of nature, I imagined myself as a participant in the beautiful scenes — sort of like a Lectio Divina walk in nature! To my amazement and wonder, I experienced creation reaching out to me. It was as if the birds, the limbs on the trees, squirrels, and deer were all coming to meet me on my walk. I experienced myself as part of a great cosmic whole that emanates from God’s love and keeping (as Julian of Norwich would say).
“For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.”
1 Peter 4:6
Scripture and tradition speak of another descent Jesus makes on Holy Saturday — his descent to Sheol, or Hades, to redeem the righteous dead. This ‘harrowing of hell,’ as it is often called, grows out of tradition in the Hebrew Bible, which indicates that in the messianic age God will vindicate all those who have died a righteous death. The iconography of Eastern Orthodox Christianity regarding this tradition depicts Jesus riding his cross down into the depths of the earth and bringing such figures as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and even the good thief on the cross up from the grave.
Not only is this descent a symbol of the depth of divine compassion, it also points to the corporate dimension of resurrection. It is tempting to think about resurrection as a one-time individual event, which guarantees eternal life. Holy Saturday reminds us that out of the depths of God’s compassion, new life is always happening, and we are invited to participate through our acts of compassion.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that the same spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in each of us. So, this Easter Sunday, while we are singing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” look for signs of resurrection in the faces of people around you.
(18 April 2014)
by Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez
In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the form of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death —
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2: 5b-11
I chose this Paschal passage because is not possible to find a better Christology´s summary. In this short passage, we have a profound reflection about what is the best way to talk about the Mystery of Salvation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection, as parts of the same event.
In the understanding of many Christians, at least in the collective imagination of the Latino communities, Good Friday is always a sad day. Most of the people want to express with sacrifice their gratitude to Jesus for his passion. In my tradition, Good Friday has a larger impact on personal devotion than Easter Sunday.
Since the first day I learned you call this day “Good Friday” in English, I’ve loved it because it is a refreshing title. In calling it Good Friday, it asks for us to be aware — we are not only to commemorate the death of Jesus, sanctifying the pain and suffering, per se.
It is not only about the suffering and death. It is also about the “good” that happens. In the teachings of Christ, we come to understand that by his death, Jesus showed his great love for humanity and obtained for us every blessing and everlasting life.
(Photo: Bill Owen, Allegheny College)
Good Friday is not a sad day; instead, it is a good day for humanity. The main reflection for this day is that Jesus Christ, through his death on a cross, precisely got the real victory for us, which is Life Eternal, a gift from God.
Of course, we are to reflect on death today, but we should do so from God´s perspective and not from the concept this world imposes. For humanity, for Christians especially, eternal life is far more important that death; death is just the last earthly step to the fulfillment of our full realization of God.
I believe Good Friday reminds us we are to be in solidarity with our LGBT siblings who are crucified in some countries — like Uganda, Belize, Honduras, Brazil, and Russia — or with those currently crucified by poverty, incarceration, and HIV, as well as with other communities being persecuted unjustly. We must fight with them to obtain a resurrection from their situations.
(Art: Rafael Enriquez)
Leonardo Boff, in the book Passion of Christ, Passion of the World: The Facts, Their Interpretation, and Their Meaning Yesterday and Today, said:
To preach the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ today entails the following:
To commit oneself and all one´s energies for a world where love, peace and community of sisters and brothers, a world where openness and self-surrender to God, will be less difficult. This means denouncing situations that generate hatred, division, and practical atheism — atheism in terms of structures, values, practices, and ideologies. It means proclaiming, and practicing — in commitment, love and solidarity — justice in the family, in the school, in the economic system, and in the political relations. The consequence of this engagement will be crisis, suffering, confrontation, and the cross. Acceptance of the cross, of this clash, this confrontation, is what it means to carry the cross, as our Lord carried it: it means suffering, enduring, for the sake of the cause we support and the life we lead….
To carry the cross as Jesus carried it, then, means taking up a solidarity with the crucified of this world — with those who suffer violence, who are impoverished, who are dehumanized, who are offended in their rights. To carry the cross as Jesus carried it means to defend these persons, and to attack the practices in whose name they are made nonpersons. It means taking up the cause of their liberation, and suffering for the sake of this cause….
It is in MCC’s very DNA to be the Human Rights Church. This year, we must embrace as never before this call to lead the way in living as justice-seeking people. Let’s celebrate this Good Friday with the understanding that we are to be the voice for the voiceless and with the principal goal to share with everyone that another world is possible — and another type of church is possible, too.
To be in solidarity with all who are crucified in this world — that must be MCC´s business card. And our business is to offer life — and life in abundance — for all our siblings.
Pray with me. “Oh God, Universal Father and Mother, we ask that as we celebrate this Good Friday, we feel in communion with all humanity, looking to you as we seek the meaning of life. We cordially welcome all countries and religions who reflect upon and seek you.”
(13 April 2014)
by Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson
Matthew 26 and 27
The Passion Narratives are a central feature of each gospel, focusing on the last week of Jesus’ life.
The passion drama is a story within the story of Jesus, one that includes all kinds of losses: betrayal, abandonment, physical suffering, humiliation, and death, as well as loss of control, of relationships, and of justice.
Other scholars point out the painful truth that the passion story, written first as an internal Jewish conversation, became fodder for lethal anti-Semitism for millennia. Passion plays from the middle ages, all the way through Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” have fed into dangerous, racist stereotypes.
This ugly underbelly fits into a larger narrative of the ways in which the dominant culture uses religion to oppress and to marginalize. Christianity that is held captive to this narrative must be overthrown by the prophetic, liberating gospel we have come to know. And overthrowing is always costly, thus “the passion.”
For this reflection, I have reduced my own understanding of Jesus’ passion to a message more simple and stark: Through losses, changes, and challenges — though weary — do not give up!
I continued to press on, limping, my feet aching, slipping, sliding, desperately wanting to sit down, chilled to the marrow. Even in this sopping wet state I could feel the hot tears welling in my eyes. Eventually I cried out to God and said, “God, what is this all about? Why am I out here? What am I doing here? Am I crazy?” then came the still, small voice of the Spirit as I sensed God saying, “No, David, I am just teaching you to endure; I am just checking you out.”
Finally after some six hours Carol arrived to collect me and I could hardly bend down to get in the car. I looked at her and said, “If I were a quitter, today would be the day I quit.” But as Carol turned the car, I knew once again that God was saying, “No one, after putting their hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the (Kin)dom of God!”
We have all been there, for many reasons, as diverse as each of our stories. Who can we go to, to admit that we wonder how we got here? We wonder if what we are doing makes a difference. We wonder if we are really crazy to care, to love, to work for justice, to minister, to do what we do, day after day. God, are you checking us out?
We are also checking You out!!! We are asking who You are, and what You want, and what You want with us in particular.
Jesus suffered his moments as well, as he journeyed to Jerusalem. After pouring himself out on a three-year, unrelenting road trip, he must have wondered, “Am I crazy? God, is this really what you want? How will it all end?”
The point of the story is, if we do not give up, if we hold on and hold out, and if we endure, we can trust the God we know in Jesus to use our suffering as the compost for something new, and good, and just. That will make a difference, changing lives and history.
I think of so many. Like those parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, Connecticut, USA), who bravely put their suffering to work so that others will not have to suffer the way they have. Or those LGBT people in Uganda who are standing proudly and suffering for justice with so little protection. There is a powerful intensity of “suffering transformed” that inspires awe and courage in the rest of us.
Suffering is part of being human. Unnecessary, undeserved suffering is the most poignant and mysterious of all. Jesus’ suffering and loss, his humanness before the Mystery, makes him most accessible to us, and most like us.
Finally, can we, like him, offer up our suffering and passion — our tears, our pain, our doubts, and our fears? Can we keep on and not quit until that day when hope and victory arrive at an empty tomb?