undying love

Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus shows what it means to have one person hold fast to us in our hour of need, despite the apparent hopelessness of it all. cac.org – RICHARD ROHR

This magnificent woman of the Jesus story has been horribly maligned over the centuries since the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries.  The male dominated Church chose to depict her as a sinner suffering seven demons within, healed by Jesus, then becoming a follower of the Jesus and the Way.

In 591 Pope Gregory I delivered a series of Easter messages blending Mary Magdalene with the “sinful woman” of Bethel who anoints the feet of Jesus with precious oil and then wipes his feet with her long hair.  This led to the theory that Mary, the apostle, was a repentant prostitute.

Even more interesting is the theory that Mary was in reality the wife of Jesus as popularized in the book and movie the Da Vinci Code and that they possibly had a child.  And why not?  Considering how the Roman Church had bastardized the teachings of Jesus, why can’t we believe that a healthy, devout Jewish man in his early 30s would  have a wife and family.

I’ll answer my own question – that would negate the basic foundation of the priesthood of the Roman Church – chastity and celibacy.  It would also question the Church’s premise that men were superior to women in spiritual affairs thereby justifying that women should be relegated to submissive roles in family life.

I have digressed from the intent of this writing:  one’s undying love for another.  Have you ever loved another person so deeply and unconditionally that even in the greatest times of despair you refused to give in to hopelessness?  In a family unit trying to  navigate the despair and hopelessness of an alcoholic loved one, we hang on to faith and hope, don’t we?  We pray, we plead, we beg, we threaten, we cry, we yell…and then we pray some more.  Why?  Because we still have hope in the face of hopelessness.  That’s what our Higher Power gives us.  The examples of undying love which we see around the tables of AA, the power of another’s comforting words, the personalities we read about in Scriptures all give us reason to go on for yet another day.  We cannot allow despair and hopelessness into our lives.

Mary Magdalene was that kind of person.  She loved her Jesus, stood by his side, wept at his cross, went with him to the tomb, guarded the tomb, and then arrived first at the tomb on the 3rd day to see it empty.  Not quite understanding, even though Jesus had told them in numerous conversations that he would indeed resurrect, Mary thought the body had been taken away.  Perhaps, briefly, at this moment she gave in to despair and hopelessness thinking the recipient of her undying love was forever lost:

“They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him,” was her reply to the angels standing nearby who asked why she was crying.

The resurrection message from John 20:10-18 continues to tell us that her Lord was there all the time even when she did not recognize the presence.  Mary Magdalene stood by her Jesus through the good times and the bad, through the trials of being a rebel, being an outcast from the Jewish hierarchy, being an insurrectionist in the eyes of the Romans, through the humiliation of his crucifixion, and finally through her perceived loss.

My loved ones were my Mary Magdalene through the difficulties, the heartbreaks, the disappointments, the betrayals, the lies, the drunkenness.  Theirs was an undying love.  Today, in sobriety, I hope to be the same to the ‘still suffering alcoholic’ who shares my life.

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So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

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….as near as the destination may be, it’s still the journey that matters….

made in the image

It doesn’t say white or black, short or tall, handsome or rugged, sailor or land-lubber, farmer or hunter.  It doesn’t say intelligent or obtuse, mechanical or artistic, straight or cropped-larry-rebel.pnggay, musical or tone-deaf.  Verse 27 of Genesis 1 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

That’s who we are whether we believe we have descended from hairy jungle dwellers or from a colony of extraterrestrial voyagers or whether we emerged from God’s test tubes fully human six or seven thousand years ago.  The wisdom of the early sages is saying that we are all alike, made from the same stuff.  The mystery of this image covers all humanity.

Okay, I can hear you saying, “Larry, the verse is not talking about physical appearance.”

You are probably right.  Then what is God’s image?  Maybe love?  Maybe compassion?  Maybe faithfulness?  How about hope and righteousness?  And don’t forget joy.  That is who we are, whom we were designed to be, so why would we choose to live otherwise? God’s DNA is the stuff from which we were made.  We are not ignorance, intolerance, hatred, weakness and fear.  We were not made unimportant and inconsequential.

That shared DNA makes us brothers and sisters, doesn’t it?  I may not know my Asian brother in China, but we are related.  My sister in Iran may not follow the same political philosophy which I do, but we are related.  The names given to the God whom we worship may be vastly different, but we are brothers and sisters in the universal oneness.  Do you see the common thread developing here?  As much as you or I desire to be different or distinguished, more handsome of prettier, smarter than all others, we are one humanity born into the image of the One, the original creator.

Our survival as a species is not God-dependent.  God did the birthing, but it is our choice to live in harmony with others and with all of Creation.  There have been messengers to lead and guide on this journey, to redirect as necessary, but in the end, living or not living in solidarity will determine the chances of our survival.

My skin color does not make me more worthy.  Your intelligence does not make you more like God.  Our financial success on earth will mean nothing on heaven’s society page.  Our personalities, our physical appearances, our possessions, our bodies will stay behind when we die.

“All go to the same place; all come from dust and to dust all return.”  ECCLESIASTICS 3:20

The author of the Jesus story has tried to tell us that this life is birth, death and then resurrection – what is so difficult about that?  The most significant part of us will return to the energy pool in preparation to become part of another human’s God energy.  The cycle continues forever.

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Shrove Tuesday

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”CANDLE

When I was a young boy, the house filled with the aroma of homemade donuts sizzling in a pan of hot fat on the day before Ash Wednesday.  We called them Fastnachts.  Nothing which Dunkin Donuts creates could ever compare to those pastry delights.  Our family was preparing for the six-week period ahead leading into Easter Sunday, the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.  This time period, Lent, embraced a sincere endeavor to right the wrongs on our hearts and walk with Jesus to his death on Calvary.  Some families observed a weekly day of fasting during Lent.  Some eliminated a favorite pastime or a certain food as a means of sacrifice.

Shrove Tuesday is also observed as Fat Tuesday, Carnival, or Mardi Gras.  Over the past 500 years the call to be absolved of one’s sins on this day has evolved into a time of partying, drinking, and merry-making.  “Shrove” is the past tense of “shrive” meaning to confess one’s sins, repent and be absolved.  To me and my family it provided a path to clear our slates of wrongdoing and resentments within a corporate faith fellowship.  Personally it provided a time to carry a daily routine of prayer and forgiveness to an especially focused effort to take an inventory and cleanse the heart of wrongdoing.  We ultimately carry our crosses with Jesus through the season of the Lenten journey to a time of crucifixion of self, death of selfish motivation, and then spiritual renewal.

Contemporary Christianity seems often to be joyless and even dead because it has relinquished the joys of celebratory church observances to preach instead a Gospel which dwells on prosperous worldly achievement or social justice activism.  The “holidays” of the Church are meant to enrich the daily routine of our faith walk.  Jesus loved a party, a wedding, a time with friends.  I’m sure he would have appreciated a plate full of Fastnachts.  I know that today he shares our humanity, smiles and laughs when we do, celebrates when we celebrate.  That’s who he is.

 

SPIRIT VS EGO

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“God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”  John 4:24 kjv  (emphasis is mine)

Perhaps the most difficult trek through our faith journey is the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Have you ever witnessed or even heard of a person returned from hours or days of death?  The only recourse we have is to think that a God who is as omnipotent as our God can surely do such a thing.  This past week the Christian world observed Holy Week with traditional services leading up to Easter Sunday.

“He is risen! Indeed, he is!” we exclaimed excitedly to one another.

Yet silently we wonder, “Yeah, and how many of you really believe that?”

The mystics do not have that doubt.  Those who believe that God is within, without, and all about in every breath, every whisper of wind, every creature, every ripple of water, every flower, every fellow human companion, every thing which was created know for certain that we are not our bodies; rather we are God spirit in a vessel of flesh and bones.  Mystics do not doubt the passages which exclaim the resurrection of Jesus the Christ because they have realized that Jesus was the Spirit, Jesus lived the spirit controlled life.  Everything Jesus thought, said, did was directed by the God spirit within whom He called Father.  Yes, Jesus of Nazareth was human, but, had transcended the dominance of human ego to be at one with the Oneness described as God.  His body was mutilated, scourged and beaten; but the Spirit within arose from the fleshly death, i.e. resurrected.

The human ego is not spirit.  It is the opposite of love and unity.  It is self-serving and it cannot tolerate the concept of being left behind when it’s dwelling place, our body of flesh, dies and decays.  It will do whatever is necessary to ensure the separation of man from man, man from earth, man from God.  It thrives on self adulation.  In its state of egomaniacal control it wants to be greater than Spirit, greater than God.

We were created by God from God’s very breath and in God’s image.  John 4:24 tells us that God is spirit.  In Genesis 1:26-27

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…… 27 God created man in God’s own image, in the image of God man was created…..” Genesis 1:26-27

Read that verse again.  The writers of Genesis tell us that we are created in God’s image; the writer of John tells us that God is Spirit; are we not therefore spirit dwelling within a body of flesh and bones?

Jesus said,

“Verily, verily I say unto thee.  Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5-6

UNTOMBED

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“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.”
Matthew 28: 2 NIV

Entombed in the world, lost and shattered,
awaiting my eternal destiny.
My body, broken, suffering and battered,
anticipates with resignation the coming darkness.
Where are my angels? Who will save me
from the emptiness of my soul’s distress?

My life’s demons dance merrily about me,
seek to put the final seal on my tomb.
“There is no solace or reprieve,
we have bought your soul for ungodly desire.”
Oh, how my heart grieves;
Why did I transgress God’s burning fire?

The love affair with lust and wine, a faithless tryst,
a demanding and jealous mistress.
To satisfy her, I entertained limitless risk,
wanting more, desiring fulfilment, seeking love.
In the end she laughingly abandoned me;
“Where now is your God from heaven above?”

Indeed, God has deservedly cast me aside,
just as I cast Him aside so many times before.
I have no hope that with Him again I’ll reside;
my life in sin and darkness has been vainly spent.
My days in the far country have been grievously long;
how could He ever allow me to repent?

Surely the stones in my life are beyond removal,
firmly set in place awaiting death’s seal.
A life spent apart from God has fated my fall;
there shall be no eternity filled with joy and bliss.
Yea, as I walk through my valley of the shadow
how deep is my pain for the Lord I shall forever miss?

But wait! A tiny shaft of light begins to stream in,
casting a patch of hope on my tomb’s dark wall.
“Reach to me, touch me, I will still forgive your sin;
Love me; follow me; for even now it is not too late.
Always I have walked with you to the depth of your hell;
Your stone is placed, but why think you I have sealed your fate?”

Yes, God, yes. Take me as I am and wrap me in your arms,
My sin is great, yet I surely know now your love is greater.
I repent, I kneel at your feet, remove my demons’ charms;
renew my heart, cleanse my mind, crucify my life of deceit.
I bow in obedience to your will;
but Lord, why would you want to save me from this tomb of defeat?

“I gave my beloved Son to you, allowed him to suffer on the cross,
abandoned him to the wrath of all that is despicable and wicked.
He alone suffered the weight of my punishing albatross,
whereby you and all who believe shall be spared eternal damnation.
The price has been paid; His blood was shed for you on Calvary;
can you now believe my love for you has no limitation?”

My stone has been rolled away;
my love for my Jesus has resurrected.
Rescued from the gates of hell where demons play;
entombed in debauchery and depravation, yet made whole.
Untombed, made alive, forgiven, redeemed;
Satan, “Were you watching, did you see that stone roll?”
AMEN

HE IS RISEN

smiley-face-2Luke 24:1-8New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Has Risen

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

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1 Corinthians 15:54-55New International Version (NIV)

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[a]

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[b]

 

WERE YOU THERE?

BEACH

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Were you there,
did you see it,
the cross, the nails, the soldiers?
Were you there?
He called himself the Way:
the truth, the life.
They mocked him,
tortured him,
nailed him to a cross.

Sign said ‘King of the Jews’,
they did not believe then,
why should we believe now?
Were you there to see it?
Did you talk to Mary…..
or John or Peter,
see Jesus on the road to Emmaus,
witness his ascension?
How do you know?

Were you there?
Did you see what I saw?
In spirit we witnessed,
in spirit we collaborated
to murder God’s messenger.
We did not defend or shield
as the soldiers raised him.
Did you weep,
did your turn your head away?

Jesus – my conscience, my spirit, my soul.
The world did not know him,
does not believe him,
mocks and ridicules him,
says he doesn’t exist,
wants to crucify him.
Where will I be?
At the foot of his cross watching
or nailed with him to the crossbar?

O, Supreme God, save us from ourselves.
Give us faith,
fill us with trust,
let us revere the unseen,
show us the Way.
Nail our doubts
to the cross,
crucify our unbelief.
Let us be redeemed.

“……I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [Matthew 17:20]