An audio study on Mark 3:13-5:20. Who is this Jesus?

Radical Messiah: Audio Teaching Mark 2:13-3:12

Learning to Pray

+

Swaying walnut trees above the rooftops

Wave golden tipped arms over the

Unmoving great blue heron in 

Frozen pose at river’s edge, patiently

Poised for rainbow trout swaying in

Crosscurrents of pristine ice melt

Smoothing granite composites as it

Laughs its way to gulf and sea where the

Great whales dive for giant squid and 

Sing their base songs of love amidst 

Oscillating feathers of red and blue-green algae.

++

Deer attune oversize ears like radar and

The great bear sniffs the breeze as

The golden eagle soars thousands of feet

Above the tiny mouse scurrying along a

Moss laden forest floor above the family of shrews

While over the snow-laden peaks lies a vast 

Desert bejeweled with flower flames that

Burst forth en masse after the rains that

Filled dry wadis, awakened toads from sleep,

And gave drink to antelopes and hares as

Diamond back rattlesnakes sunned themselves.

+++

The centenarian struggled from his chair

Gripping the walker tightly and slowly

Shuffling out to gaze at Aquarius, great Ea,

His wispy white hair blowing like the burgee

Atop the mast of the anchored schooner

Which itself nods in thanksgiving for the

Gift of the water-bearer; at one with the

Prisoner gripping the cell bars with scarred 

Eyes straining skyward and the bedraggled 

Homeless woman peeking out from under

Old newspaper blankets in the alleyway.

++++

Children laugh and play in sandboxes under

Monkey bars while seesaws creak for oil,

Daddy’s push swings, mommies on benches

Chat about crumbling empires as cathedral

Bells toll the passing of time, ringing hope

Across the land, and calling the gentle

Cloistered to prayer while, across town

A minaret adhan sings forth and the

Devout face east at the same time that

Phylactery strapped men rock in gentle

Rhythm with prayer books in hand.

+++++

Scent of burning sage, swinging thurible,

Flickering candles, the Yoruba call upon Olodumare,

Indigenous dances in colorful colors, drum beats

Cassock and surplice adorned children

Sing Bach arias that harmonize with the 

The brooks and whales, birds and trees,

Laughter and tears, hearts and minds,

Incantations and prayers, songs and groans, all

Drifting into ethereal realms where seraphim 

And cherubim alike add their voices to the

Chorus of cosmic praise.

Who is this man Jesus? An audio teaching on Mark 1:29 – 2:12

A New Kind of King: An audio study of Mark 1:1-28

The Queen is Dead. Long Live the King.

Her official title was, “Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.” 

Here in the states, we tend to view British royalty with skepticism – a waste of money, medieval nonsense, or simply irrelevant. It is not. 

Queen Elizabeth died at the age of 96 on Thursday, September 8, 2022. She was the longest reigning monarch in the history of Great Britain. Her son is now His Majesty King Charles III.

Elizabeth was on safari in Kenya on February 6, 1952. At sunrise, an eagle flew directly over her head as she was watching a hippopotamus drink. It was almost the exact time her father, King George, VI died in his sleep four thousand miles away in Norfolk. 

Even before St. Edward’s Crown[1] was placed on her head at her 1953 coronation, she, along with her sister, were stabilizing forces, broadcasting messages of strength and hope to the bombed and displaced during World War II. 

For seven decades, she has provided a sense of stability, order, decorum, and calm rationality in a world of upheaval, change, and turbulence. America is the weaker without such an influence.


[1] Named for Edward the Confessor, an 11th century Anglo-Saxon monarch, the crown is nearly five pounds of solid gold, encrusted with gems and upholstered with purple velvet and ermine. It was manufactured in 1661, for the coronation of Charles II.

Another Misused Bible Passage

Every April Fool’s Day someone posts Psalm 14:1a:

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

The uncharitable, judgmental, and obvious insinuation is that anyone who doesn’t believe in God is a fool, which misses the entire point of the psalm.

The word translated “fool” in the Hebrew scriptures carries the connotation of moral corruption, not intellectual doubt or disbelief. The point of Psalm 14 is that corrupt people, — those who oppress the poor, amass wealth through exploitation, create and sustain wars, and exalt themselves over others – are acting as if they will never have to answer to God.

They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds;
    there is no one who does good.

When the psalmist says:

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all gone astray; they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.

Of whom is he speaking? Who are the people who are corrupt?

I’ve heard these verses quoted out of context numerous times to conclude that all humankind is evil, totally depraved, worthless. (You are not totally depraved. A good God created you and pronounced you “very good.”)

The psalmist is not talking about everybody. In context, the psalmist is pointedly referring to “those who do abominable deeds,” those who are described in the rhetorical question:

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread
    and do not call upon the Lord?

The “fool” is not the atheist or the agnostic. The fool is the person who perpetrates injustice because they are unaware that they will someday answer to a holy God who loves and cares for the poor, the war-torn, the mentally and physically ill, the incarcerated, the homeless, the displaced, the “least.” 

There they shall be in great terror,
    for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

There are many honest, seeking, moral, kind atheists and agnostics in the world. I dare say they are likely to press into the kingdom before the self-righteous religious. 

What would happen if we Christians lived our lives, posted our posts, and spoke our words in the awareness of the presence of the God of perfect love? What would happen to our world if those in power maintained an awareness of that same God?

++++++++++++++++

14:1Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds;
    there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all gone astray; they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread
    and do not call upon the Lord?

There they shall be in great terror,
    for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad. (NRSVUE)

Making all things new: An audio study in Acts 27 & 28

Parsifal and the Myth of the Holy Grail

The medieval legend of King Arthur and the Quest for the Holy Grail contains the story of Parsifal.[1] In folklore, the Holy Grail is the cup from which Jesus drank at the last supper. In mythology, it represents connection to Jesus, God in human flesh. 

THE MYTH

Parsifal literally means “pure fool.” Parsifal[2] was the uneducated, naïve, simple son of a widow. He’s a momma’s boy. He knew nothing of his deceased father, who, it turns out, had been a knight. He knew nothing of the world or what lay beyond his hovel. One day Parsifal sees some knights ride by and is so impressed, he naïvely decides to go off an be a knight, having no idea what he’s getting into. His mother is aghast, at first forbids it, then relents, but insists he always wear a simple undergarment she made. Her advice to him before he sets out is not to ask too many questions.[3]

Parsifal arrives at Camelot and is ridiculed until a maiden who hasn’t smiled in many years bursts out laughing. The others knew of a prophecy that said that she would not laugh until she saw the greatest knight of all. With that, King Arthur’s court welcomes, accepts and knights Parsifal. He is instructed by a mentor named Gournamond who tells him to ask, “Whom does the grail serve?” when he comes in contact with it.

Off he goes on knight quests slaying dragons, rescuing maidens, and, significantly, killing the evil Red Knight by throwing his knife into his eye. In all other triumphs, he doesn’t kill anyone, but instead instructs the knights he bests to go to Camelot and swear allegiance to King Arthur. His quests continue until he comes across a man fishing. 

The angler is Amfortas[4], the king of Grail Castle. He’s been wounded, is in great chronic pain, and cannot swallow.[5] Because of his ailment, the entire kingdom is depressed, in turmoil, and chaotic. Amfortas tells Parsifal he can go around the bend, turn left and he’ll find food and shelter. When he does, he discovers Grail Castle, where he is warmly welcomed to great beauty and banquet. Every evening, maidens bring out the Holy Grail and invite everyone to drink from it. When they do, whatever the guests are praying for comes true, with the exception of healing King Amfortas. Parsifal remembers Gournamond’s instructions, but chooses not to ask the question because his mother told him not to. As he leaves, the castle disappears.

He leaves, goes through 20 years of struggle with many defeats, and finally realizes he needs to get rid of his mother’s garment. In the process, he learns humility and brokenness. Eventually, he comes across a forest hermit who scolds him for not asking the important question, then directs him to go down the lane and turn left. The Castle of the Holy Grail lies in front of him; again, there’s a banquet; again, the maidens bring out the Grail, but this time, Parsifal asks, “Whom does the grail serve?”

Immediately, Amfortas the Grail King is healed and the castle erupts in celebration. Redemption comes to the land.

AN INTERPRETATION

There are many interpretations of the myth. Here’s one that is based on Carl Jung’s work.

All of us, regardless of whether we are male, female, nonbinary, or trans, have what psychologists call a Mother Complex. Our earliest encounters are normally with a mother figure, and, therefore, our earliest wounds come from that person. It’s not mom’s fault. No judgment. No condemnation. An infant cannot differentiate her/his/their self from mom, so when mom is not in direct contact with the infant, the baby feels disconnected. A piece of self is missing. A wound occurs. 

Depending on how healthy or unhealthy our home life was, we grow up searching for a lost connection. In an extreme form, a man will marry someone who unconsciously reminds him of his mother. One way or another, we all wear the undergarment mom made.

Typically in middle age, we go through a time of confusion and loss during which, if we’re navigating it successfully, we gain wisdom, humility, and an openness to being taught. We realize how little we know. We learn to face the red knights of our shadow selves. We allow the Spirit to redeem the shadowy sides of our beings. They don’t need to die. They can pledge allegiance to King Arthur. We search. Wise mentors point us toward truth.

Truth is God. God is truth. We come to God through Christ and ask, “Whom does the grail serve?” It serves all who partake of it. The Grail serves us by pointing us to God. Eucharist points us to Christ. “This do in remembrance of me.”

Everyone who comes to God through Christ, which we embody in the Eucharist, Holy Communion, symbolized by the Grail, learns to serve something higher and more noble than self. We no longer seek fame, legacy, success, recognition, riches, or status. We no longer care what other’s opinions of us may be. We are free from the idols. We serve the God who is Love. Healing, wholeness, joy, celebration, wellbeing, redemption, and shalom break forth. 

The ego-centered person pursues their own happiness. The authentic person is centered around Something, Someone, higher than self.

Others remain wounded until someone brings them the wisdom of true compassion.

Spiritual directors help us move from egocentric to theocentric by offering us the wisdom of genuine compassion.


[1] The Grail myth dates back to at least the twelfth century in Europe, and was transmitted in various versions, including French (from the poet Chretien de Troyes), English (Le Morte Darther, by Thomas Malory), German (Wolfram von Eschenbach’s version, which became the basis for Richard Wagner’s “Parsifal” opera) and others.

[2]Parsifal is called Perceval, Percival, Gawain, or Galahad in various versions

[3] Bad advice. Ask as many questions as you can think of.

[4] Amfortas is sometimes equated with Joseph of Arimathea, who buried the body of Jesus.

[5] Amfortas, the priest-king of the Grail Kingdom, is wounded while doing battle with Klingsor and the forces of evil. He allows his erotic interest in the pagan wild-woman, Kundry, to distract him long enough for Klingsor to steal the Holy Spear and stab him in the thigh. Amfortas languishes and bleeds for centuries until a “pure fool,” the young Parsifal, brings the wisdom of genuine compassion.

Angels of Light: Religion & Empire. An audio study of Acts chapters 21-26

%d bloggers like this: