Sunday, April 16, 2006

April 23, 2006 - Year B -Easter 2

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1 - 2:2
John 20:19-31

It is one thing to look toward what we might have in common as property. It is another thing to find ourselves in common regarding vision and hope.

As we follow along to find where we have our commonality it will be important to remember the differences that will help sharpen the similarities and keep them alive past any present moment of confluence.

A clue to us will be those points of humor where we recognize how silly we have been and how open the future continues to be.


  1. John 20:19-31

    Here is a reference to the humor of Jesus and Thomas. It is from Early Christian "Heresies" of the East. Later it is made safe by "imitating Christ" (an important insight for its time and still an important first step for many that keeps "twinning" within the institution).

    = = = = = = =

    . . . Like most spiritual communities, the relocated Jewish Christians suffered from factionalism. All they seemed to do was multiply and divide. One community went on to become the Ebionites, who became more and more legalistic until they finally died out in the fourth century.

    But much longer lived were the St. Thomas Christians, who after James' death, followed another of Jesus' brothers, Judas Thomas. Also known as "doubting Thomas," Judas Thomas was the author of the canonical epistle of Jude, and was the only one of Jesus' brothers who was also an apostle.

    But wait, there's more! Not only was Thomas Jesus' brother, but the writings of the Jewish Christians make it very clear that he was Jesus' TWIN brother! Of course that had to be covered up by the Pauline churches, as one could not have a virgin birth if Jesus was born as a twin--unless of course, Thomas was divine, too!

    Like other Jewish Christians, the Thomas school of Christianity attached no importance to Jesus' death, nor entertained any mythology regarding his miraculous birth. Instead, they focused directly on his teaching, believing that embedded in his koan-like proverbs were the secret of eternal life. Indeed, the Gospel of Thomas starts off by saying that whoever finds the secret to the sayings contained within would never die.

    For these Christians, Jesus is simply a teacher who had achieved unitive consciousness, and was keenly aware of his union with divinity. Through his teachings he tried to awaken his listeners from their spiritual slumbers and make them likewise aware of their unity with all things. According to them, Jesus did not teach anything about some coming kingdom or imminent apocalypse. Instead, when his disciples asked him when the kingdom would arrive with power, he answered them by saying, "The Kingdom of God is spread out upon the earth, and human beings simply do not see it." He also told them, "Do not listen to those who tell you the kingdom is in the sky, for then the birds of the air will precede you. Likewise do not pay any attention to those who say it is in the sea, for then the fish will get there before you do. Instead, the kingdom is inside you AND it is outside you."

    Now this is a great example of Jesus' humor, as no one that I know of ever said that the kingdom of God was in the ocean, but it also reveals his deeply mystical approach to religion. The kingdom is in all of us, and is all around us. We are surrounded by, filled with, bathed in God. Oneness is the primary theme in the Gospel of Thomas, and much like the Buddha, Jesus did not seem to think that it was something that could be taught, but only experienced by the disciple directly. According to Thomas, the goal for the disciple is to also be Jesus' twin; in other words to gain the unitive consciousness that Jesus enjoyed and thereby also become God's son or daughter.

    Now, this sounds so much like Buddhism that we have to ask--how did Jesus know this stuff? Contemporary bible scholars contend that he Gospel of Thomas is more reliable than any of the canonical Gospels, so this is not a question we can easily dismiss. Did he, as some contend, actually visit India as a child? Probably not, but we do know that there were Buddhist missionaries in Palestine in Jesus' time, so it is not unlikely that Jesus picked up a little Buddha with his regular diet of Moses, leading to not only his own enlightenment, but an amazing new school of Buddhist thought in Jewish guise.

    Now the St. Thomas Christians eventually died out in Syria, but inexplicably, they thrived in India. Probably it is because the Thomas school taught doctrines very similar to what was already known in India, and was more easily inculturated than Pauline forms of Christianity. The Thomas Christians in India, in fact, believe that Thomas himself brought the good news of the kingdom to their land.

    The tale is told that Gundaphorus, king of some province or other of India, wrote to Jesus and asked him to recommend an architect to build his palace.  Now, I wasn't aware--and maybe you weren't either--that Jesus of Nazareth was considered such an expert in exotic architecture that distant kings contacted him for referrals. But that is the tradition, anyway. So Jesus tells his brother to make the journey.

    Now this story is not as far-fetched as it sounds. The Mar Thoma Catholic Church in India traces its beginnings all the way back to the very first century, and it is their contention that it was indeed St. Thomas who first brought them the Gospel. Unfortunately not much is known about the early period of this church, since in the twelfth century the Portuguese made the first attempts to colonize India, and coerced the Mar Thoma church into compliance with Roman Catholic belief and practice, which had previously been completely alien to them. All of their ancient prayer books, sacramentaries, and theological writings were burned by the Portuguese, and today we are left with precious little evidence regarding the origins, theologies, and liturgies of the Mar Thoma Christians; a great loss not only for Christianity, but for historians of religion in general.  The Mar Thoma Christians still proudly proclaim Thomas as their founder, even though their distinctive theology has been denied them.

    What a story, huh? The Jewish Christians in general, and the Thomas Christians in particular are an important reminder that it is the victor who gets to write history, and sometimes the real pearls get lost among the sands of time.

  2. 1 John 1:1 - 2:21

    God is light.

    Let's be sure to change those light fixtures to keep us from stumbling. Have you considered the church to be a custodian? We are to spruce the place up and part of that is changing bulbs that light might shine.

    = = = = = = =

    A: Undetermined.
    Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved -- you can be a lightbulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday, August 19. Bring bulb of your choice and a covered dish.
    - - - - - - -
    A: Depends.
    One if it's an eco-kosher bulb that isn't going to be lit by electricity from nuclear power. Two, as long as a man and a woman rabbi have equal turns putting in the bulb. Three, one to change it, one to do a Buddhist mindfulness practice during the change, and one to document the paradigm shift in a best-selling book called "The Jew in the Lightbulb." Four, same as above plus an additional rabbi to study the psycho-halachic implications of such a change and then lead a retreat weekend on the experience.
    - - - - - - -
    A: Three.
    One to change the lightbulb, one NOT to change the lightbulb, and one to neither change nor not change the lightbulb.
    - - - - - - -
    What? Change the lightbulb?  My grandmother donated that lightbulb.
    - - - - - - -
    A: Two.
    One to screw it in and one to observe how the lightbulb itself symbolizes a single incandescent
    beacon of subjective reality in a netherworld of endless absurdity reaching out toward a cosmos of nothingness.
    - - - - - - -
    A: None.
    Who needs a lightbulb when you have an inner light?
    - - - - - - -
    A: One hundred and nine.
    Seven on the Lightbulb Task Force Sub-committee, who report to the twelve on the Lightbulb Task Force, appointed by the fifteen on the Trustee Board. Their recommendation is reviewed by the Finance Executive Committee of five, who place it on the agenda of the eighteen-member Finance Committee. If they approve, they bring a motion to the twenty-seven Member church Board, who appoint another twelve-member review committee. If they recommend that the Church Board proceed, a resolution is brought to the Congregational Business Meeting. They appoint another eight-member review committee. If their report to the next Congregational Business Meeting supports the changing of a lightbulb, and the Congregation votes in favor, the responsibility to carry out the lightbulb change is passed on to the Trustee Board, who in turn appoint a seven-member committee to find the best price in new lightbulbs. Their recommendation of which hardware is the best buy must then be reviewed by the
    twenty-three-member Ethics Committee to make certain that this hardware store has no connection to Disneyland. They report back to the Trustee Board who then commissions the Trustee in charge of the Janitor to ask him to make the change. By then the janitor discovers that one more lightbulb has burned out.
    - - - - - - - 
    How many times does it take for a pastor to change a light bulb?
    We don't know, everyone fell asleep while he was giving a sermon on it.
    - - - - - - -
    How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
    None. If God wants the light bulb to be changed, He will do it Himself.
    - - - - - - -
    How many in the "Church of Christ" does it take to change a light bulb?
    Where is the scriptural authority for a light bulb?
    - - - - - - -
    How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?
    One to change the bulb, and 16 million to boycott the maker of the old bulb for bringing darkness into the Church.
    - - - - - - -
    How many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb?
    None. The old one is complete and sufficient unto itself, and should not be changed according to the world's whims.

    Four. One to call the electrician, one to clear it with the vestry, and two to argue about how much better candles were.

    Five. One to screw in the new bulb and four to found an organization for the preservation of the old bulb.

    A whole synod. One to move that the bulb be changed while the others debate until the room spins.
    - - - - - - -
    How many United Church members (in Canada) does it take to change a light bulb?
    How dare you be so intolerant! So what if the light bulb HAS chosen an alternative light style?
    - - - - - - -
    How many Assmbly of God church members does it take to change a light bulb?
    Just one, he already has his hands in the air.
    - - - - - - -
    How many post-modernists does it take to change a lightbulb?
    Each and every one of us.
    - - - - - - -
    How many Bishops does it take to change a light bulb in the Lutheran church?
    It depends on whether or not the light bulb is already in historic succession.
    - - - - - - -
    How many Amish does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    What is a lightbulb?
    - - - - - - -
    How many Mennonites does it take to change a light bulb?
    10. One to change the bulb, five to cook and four to talk about how good the old light bulb is.
    - - - - - - -
    How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?
    - - - - - - -
    How many pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb?
    1 and 99 to cast out the spirit of darkness!!
    - - - - - - -
    Official United Methodist responses to the question,
    "How many United methodists does it take to change a light bulb?"


    "You can't change that light bulb! Harry Finnigan's family gave that as a memorial during the big merger."

    And or course, my favorite...
     This Statement was issued.
       "We neither affirm nor reject the use of a lightbulb. If you have found a lightbulb helpful in your journey, that is good. If one would wish, they could submit an original poem or interpretive dance about their lightbulb, or light source, or non-dark resource, for the annual lightbulb celebration, where a variety of light bulb traditions will be explored, including long-life, incandescent, three-way, and tinted, all of which are valid paths to luminescence."
    - - - - - - -
    How many choir directors does it take to change a light bulb?
    No one know. No one ever watches them!
    - - - - - - -
    How many Amish DITTCALB?
    "What's a light bulb?"
    - - - - - - -
    How many youth pastors DITTCALB?
    Youth pastors aren't around long enought for a light bulb to burn out .
    - - - - - - -
    How many European Roman Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?
    The Reverend Mother composes a homiliy for the occasion of the light bulb changing while the rest of the nuns raffle-off the old one.
    - - - - - - -
    Q: How many Southern Baptist does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: The whole congregation. The pastor sits back and does absolutely nothing regarding the work. A light bulb changing committee is formed to check into lightbulbs. Another committee is formed that actually goes about the changing of the bulb. The women of the church bring a potluck supper, and the deacons sit around and discuss how good the old lightbulb used to be.
    - - - - - - -
    How many worship leaders who use guitars does it take to change a light bulb?
    One. But soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.
    - - - - - - -
    How many neo-orthodox does it take to change a light bulb?
    No one knows. They can't tell the difference between light and darkness.
    - - - - - - -
    How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb?
    One. But for the message of light to continue, send in your donation today.
    - - - - - - -
    How many independent fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb?
    Only one, because any more might result in too much cooperation.
    - - - - - - -
    How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb?
    At least ten, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb exists. Even if they can agree upon the existence of the light bulb, they still might not change it, to keep from alienating those who might use other forms of light.
    - - - - - - -
    How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
    None. God has predestined when the light will be on. Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read the instructions and pray the light bulb will be one that has been chosen to be changed.

    = = = = = = = =

    Are you tired yet? Finally we come to say that God so loved the world that God sent Jesus as a light for the world. How many churches does it take to change Jesus from challenging prophet to comforting profiteer?

  3. Psalm 133

    "For there the Lord ordained a blessing, life forevermore."

    What is it that keeps life alive? "Humor is mankind's greatest blessing." [Mark Twain]

    Blessings Revisited

    May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warmly upon your face, and the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.

    This is an old Gaelic blessing often quoted. Many such classic blessings are inspirational and reflect the qualities of the folk represented. However, we can think of a lot of other blessings that might be more representative of the sort of good wishes we would like to have. While the traditional blessing is nice enough, as far as it goes, it just doesn't go far enough. So we are going to add a few more blessings of our own. . . just to be sure that the actual needs are all covered.

    May the wind at your back never mess up your hair,

    May the icy road not slide out from under your car,

    May your furnace be warm and your gas or electric bill low,

    May the snow fall soft upon the fields, but not upon your driveway,

    May your snow shovel not break and your salt supply be plentiful,

    May your car start in the morning and your door locks not be frozen,

    May the check out lines at the grocery store be short,

    May your credit be good and your credit card never exceed the limit,

    May your appliances never break down and your water pipes never freeze,

    May your medical tests all be negative and your attitude positive,

    May your zippers always zip and your buttons never fall off,

    May your clothes never get tight around the waist and may you never need to diet or exercise,

    May you always remember to let the dog outside for his potty time.

    May you remember to floss when you brush and to squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom,

    May you never run out of milk or bread in the middle of the week,

    May your coffee pot never be empty and your coffee canister always be full,

    May you always have clean underwear in the morning,

    May your children and grandchildren remember to flush,

    May you always be able to remember where you left the car keys,

    May your purchases all fit and never need to be returned,

    May you always be able to find a parking place at the mall,

    May the drive thru bank window never be closed and the teller machine never run out of money,

    May your hard drive never crash and your ISP never become disconnected,

    May your advice be appreciated and never ignored,

    May your feet never ache and your nose never run,

    And until we meet again, may God hold you in his hand, and if he sneezes, may he remember to use a handkerchief.

  4. Acts 4:32-35

    The shared wealth (commonwealth) was distributed to each as any had need.

    What a hoot! In our current state of capitalism this is the greatest of laughers. What could possibly be any more laughable a concept?

    Even though it can make a lot of sense it isn't within the arena of conversation. Taxes and tithes must be lowered (its a meme, a mantra). What we consider our part of the commonwealth must become smaller and smaller. Any surprise that our commonwealth of politeness, of mutual care, of inclusion of the weakest and the strangest is correspondingly smaller? Nope.

    Some economy jokes: Remember, they reveal something about ourselves and are not just about others.

    = = = = = = = =

    "Democrats were quick to point out that President Bush's budget creates a 1 trillion dollar deficit. The White House quickly responded with 'Hey, look over there, it's Saddam Hussein.'" —Craig Kilborn

    "President Bush says he has just one question for the American voters, 'Is the rich person you're working for better off now than they were four years ago?'" —Jay Leno

    "President Bush unveiled his new economic stimulus plan this week. It was reported that if the plan passes the president himself would save $44,000 in taxes, Dick Cheney would save $327,000, and you could afford to take the whole family down to Burger King to pick up job applications." —Tina Fey, on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update"

    "Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he is going to ask President Bush for help with the budget. What better way to deal with a $38 billion deficit than get advice from a guy that created a $450 billion deficit." —Jay Leno

    "President Bush's economic plan will create 2.5 million new jobs. The bad news, they are all for Iraqi soldiers." —Craig Kilborn

    A mathematician, an accountant and an economist apply for the same job.
    The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks "What do two plus two equal?" The mathematician replies "Four." The interviewer asks "Four, exactly?" The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says "Yes, four, exactly."
    Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The accountant says "On average, four - give or take ten percent, but on average, four."
    Then the interviewer calls in the economist and poses the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The economist gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says "What do you want it to equal?" 

    1. Economists are armed and dangerous: "Watch out for our invisible hands."
    2. Economists can supply it on demand.
    3. You can talk about money without every having to make any.
    4. You get to say "trickle down" with a straight face.
    5. Mick Jagger and Arnold Schwarzenegger both studied economics and look how they turned out.
    6. When you are in the unemployment line, at least you will know why you are there.
    7. If you rearrange the letters in "ECONOMICS", you get "COMIC NOSE".
    8. Although ethics teaches that virtue is its own reward, in economics we get taught that reward is its own virtue.
    9. When you get drunk, you can tell everyone that you are just researching the law of diminishing marginal utility.
    10. When you call 1-900-LUV-ECON and get Kandi Keynes, you will have something to talk about.

    An economist is a trained professional paid to guess wrong about the economy. An econometrician is a trained professional paid to use computers to guess wrong about the economy.

    Talk is cheap. Supply exceeds Demand. 

    I asked an economist for her phone number....and she gave me an estimate. 

    Q: How many economists does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: Eight. One to screw it in and seven to hold everything else constant. 

    An economist is someone who gets rich explaining others why they are poor.

    Economic forecasters assume everything, except responsibility.

    An economist returns to visit his old school. He's interested in the current exam questions and asks his old professor to show some. To his surprise they are exactly the same ones to which he had answered 10 years ago! When he asks about this the professor answers: "the questions are always the same - only the answers change!" 

    An economist is someone who sees something working in practice and asks whether it would work in principle.

    Q: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: Hell, you need a whole department of them just to prepare the research grant. 

    They say that Christopher Columbus was the first economist. When he left to discover America, he didn't know where he was going. When he got there he didn't know where he was. And it was all done on a government grant.

    Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, a practical economist, and an old drunk are walking down the street together when they simultaneously spot a hundred dollar bill. Who gets it? The old drunk, of course, the other three are mythological creatures. 

    A Harvard economist had a summer house in the Maine woods. Each summer he'd invite a different friend (no, that's not the punch line) to spend a week or two.
    On one occasion, he invited a Czechoslovakian to stay with him. They had a splendid time in the country - rising early and living in the great outdoors. Early one morning they went out to pick berries for their morning breakfast.
    As they went around the berry patch along came two huge bears. The economist dashed for cover. His friend wasn't so lucky and the male bear reached him and swallowed him whole.
    The economist ran back to his car, drove to town as fast has he could, and got the sheriff. The sheriff grabbed his rifle and dashed back to the berry patch with the economist.
    Sure enough, both bears were still there.
    "He's in THAT one!" cried the economist, pointing to the male.
    The sheriff looked at the bears, and without batting an eye, leveled his gun, took careful aim, and SHOT THE FEMALE.
    "Whatd'ya do that for?!" exclaimed the economist, "I said he was in the other!"
    "Yep," said the sheriff, "and would YOU believe a economist who told you that the Czech was in the Male?"

  5. 1 John 1:1 - 2:21

    If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.

    If we say,
    they are greedy, we are honest;
    they are lazy, we are hard-working; or
    they are alienated, we are authentic;
    we deceive ourselves.

    We are all of this and more.

    If we say we don't make distinctions that make us look good and someone else look bad, we deceive ourselves.

    The opportunity for deception of self and another is ever-present. The participation in same is all too tempting.

    There used to be a list of different ways of phrasing behavior that said one way would put one in a good light and if phrased differently would cast grave doubts upon another's motivation and action ["I'm careful with money; you're a tightwad"]. If anyone has such a list I would appreciate a reference to it.

  6. Thanks to the one who submitted the following additions to the differences between myself and yourself.

    I am assertive; you are aggressive.
    I am rigorous (or demanding); you are unreasonable.
    I am flexible; you are lax and undisciplined.
    I am sensitive; you are overly-emotional.
    I am in control of my emotions; you are unfeeling and cold.

    There is another form of this that goes:
    1st person: I am assertive
    2nd person: You are aggressive
    3rd person: He/She/It is an asshole

    Pooh is not just a silly old bear, we are silly old folk.

  7. John 20:19-31

    As the Jesus story winds down in John we hear parallels: "Peace be with you" and "Receive the Holy Spirit"; "God, through Christ, sends us forth" and "Forgive sins, retain sins." These remind us of parallelism with the beginning of Jesus' story: "In the beginning the word was Good/God" (peace, spirit) and "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (sent, take away).

    The peace of a good beginning is still present, receive it. Forgiving or retaining sins are not equal acts as there is a beginning bias toward forgiving.

    May our peaceful spirit lead us to repent our retention and sin no more, or, at the storyteller puts it:

    Once there was a painter who was very poor. When his parish church needed repainting the members of the congregation and the church elders got together and when bids were considered for the job, offered him the job because while his bid was not the lowest it was close and he was of their congregation. So the painter bought paint for the job and set to work. When he got about three quarters of the job finished it became apparent that he wouldn't have enough paint. Well his bid was about as low as he could go and so he decided to thin his paint some so that it would spread farther. Well he got about half of the remainder done and concluded that he would have to thin what he had left just a little and his paint would stretch to cover the whole church.

    Unfortunately, that night a terrible storm came to the town and when the painter was awakened by the crash of thunder he realized the thinned paint wouldn't stick to walls of he church and would be washed away. Well then the painter is panicked and he realizes that he has betrayed the trust put in him by his neighbors and that he will be shamed in front of everyone.

    As soon as the next day has dawned, he rushed out of the house to the church and sees all of the thinned paint covering the lawn in front of the church. Faced with humiliation and possible ruin of his business, he does what is only natural and falls down on his knees and prays.

    "God," he says, "please forgive me and help me to see the error of my ways." Just then the heavens open above him and he is bathed in a pearly radiance from above. A voice can be heard in the sudden stillness of the morning that rings as if it comes from Heaven itself. God speaks to the painter and says: "Repaint and thin no more!"

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