The Prince of Peace and Our So-called Rightshttps://eirenicole.com/wp-content/uploads/Prince-of-Peace-and-Rights-scaled.jpg25601707NicoleNicolehttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/59c708336b44c55aa93e8059ae098e96?s=96&d=monsterid&r=pg
We just happen to be taking three days’ vacation in Glenwood Springs right now, but our two adult kids are home. The parking lot behind Lakewood’s Hyatt House is the Target pick-up location wherein we can be found far more frequently than I care to admit. It is a weighty thought experiment: that instead of delaying our Target pickup order until today, my daughter went Monday afternoon as she intended, and the shooter decided to turn his gun southward rather than northwesterly. Of course, this did not happen. I thank God that it didn’t. Yet, this kind of musing always forces me to meditate on what it is, exactly, that I believe about God’s direct providence. God wasn’t any less present at the Sol Tribe or Lucky 13 Tattoo Parlors than any other location along the shooter’s route, including the Target pickup lot. And that is precisely it, isn’t it—that God is present whenever and wherever we gather breath. And it is here that by pondering the what-ifs we gather also a sense of being present in the drama, present to the reality, entering the reality of the dead and their loved-ones. And participation in that space-time, in the spirit-to-Spirit-to-spirit communion of prayer then becomes actionable: Intercession. Powerful. Provident. Perennial.
It is also in this eternal space that all that divides us, the politicized or guilt-producing or straight up selfish, hateful attitudes have the potential to be suspended….
Bad Theology Killshttps://eirenicole.com/wp-content/uploads/Bad-Theology-Kills.jpg20481365NicoleNicolehttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/59c708336b44c55aa93e8059ae098e96?s=96&d=monsterid&r=pg
Bad theology kills. We are shaped by our theology. Whatever it is that any of us believes or disbelieves about god—any god—informs behavior, relationships, community governance, power differentials—and who gets to decide. Each set of beliefs shared by any community lays the groundwork for who can curate the crucial tenets included in that set of beliefs (usually collated into a central written form), and who are deemed incapable. And once this discrete knowledge-bearer(s) is ordained for the position, all (legitimate) interpretive work, the terms of adherence to this theory of the divine and the consequences of not, are determined by this individual or limited set of overseers placed there by the very belief system they are given to superintend. Entrenched. Fixed. Immutable.
Walk With Him: a Lamenthttps://eirenicole.com/wp-content/uploads/walk-with-him.jpg25501700NicoleNicolehttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/59c708336b44c55aa93e8059ae098e96?s=96&d=monsterid&r=pg
When I have to ask my kid whether he is afraid when he goes to school or out in neighborhood, just because he’s Asian… I lament.
When I have conversation after conversation with my son in 3rd grade and 6th grade and every day in small-town-northern-Illinois, and today, about what it feels like to be called names, slurs typically ascribed to other ethnic Asian groups because, to the uninformed or monochromatic-social-experience ‘all Asians look alike’… I lament.
When I preach about how Jesus came to show us how much God loves us *all* and that we are made to follow in the same way calling out injustices, examples of when humankind choose hate toward a group of humans based on how they look or speak or love—*over* love… and someone in the congregation sneers… as my teenaged son, faithful, sits in the front row… my heart breaks in a billion pieces… and I lament.
Love your babies; love someone else’s toohttps://eirenicole.com/wp-content/uploads/free-trey-sam.jpeg21582172NicoleNicolehttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/59c708336b44c55aa93e8059ae098e96?s=96&d=monsterid&r=pg
May we love our neighbor’s babies as our own – and continue creating, imagining, challenging, working toward a more perfect union where all are free to fully grow as the image and likeness of God. Pursue love, right-making: the fight is a good one.
A woman writes an article for Christianity Today. About Jesus.
She uses imagery that suggests Jesus is a woman, and black. She receives hate mail and death threats.
Because she writes an article in Christianity Today suggesting Jesus might be anything other than a white man.
God. Is not.
And never will be.
A white man.
Self-Educate to Amelioratehttps://eirenicole.com/wp-content/uploads/Self-Educate-to-Ameliorate.jpg10801080NicoleNicolehttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/59c708336b44c55aa93e8059ae098e96?s=96&d=monsterid&r=pg
If I say that I follow Jesus, I have a responsibility to stand with the oppressed. The first step is to self-educate.
God designated the times, gave us enough space, so we’d search, find God – though God is always near. Through time, across cultures, we find God, are finding God together.
It is not a one-person show. It is not a one-denomination’s show. It is not for a single entity to decide who God is because it takes millennia and worlds of discovery to even begin to know this God. Still, this God is not unknown, unknowable. Just unfathomable.
The unknown god is known to the people of Athens because God is in our very breath! We breathe the Spirit of God. It is because God is not enshrined, not a piece of wood, not high above – beyond anything we know or experience (sure, God extends beyond anything we can even conceive. Still.) God. Is. Near.
Indeed, It is IN God we exist.
We have as the essence of our being, in the power that made death absolutely inert – nothing – we are held within the very bosom of – the Holy Trinity. And this Triune God Is Love. Encircles us. Holds us together – In Love. All of us. This same God. This same Love. Encircles ALL of us!
We breathe the Spirit of God. God, Who is Love lives IN us, and we are enclosed IN God, and we share the same Spirit, contained within the same God. This God Who is love. Encircling us. Empowering us. How do we live like we believe this in this time of pandemic?
Art of Peacehttps://eirenicole.com/wp-content/uploads/AoP1.jpg20501920NicoleNicolehttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/59c708336b44c55aa93e8059ae098e96?s=96&d=monsterid&r=pg
Jesus heals the royal official’s son and the paralytic to coax their faith, walk them through the process, inviting them into the movements of belief; called them to participate with him (make peace of their relationship) in the healing – to believe …“in Jesus as God’s Word Made Flesh—God’s embodied sacramental presence tent-pitched in the world so that those who believe in him are empowered to become ‘children of God.’”
The two men who both experience Jesus’ healing power, do what they’re told. And in that process, in the doing, they are healed. It is a physical, bodily action, enacting their faith that Jesus’ command elicits. Not to prove himself, to perform a sign, wonders, but tease out the faith he knew these two individuals held, germinating within. No one else would be able to see that but Jesus. Just as I could not see whether my seed was germinating – but, in faith (desperate, on the brink of humiliation before my Trustees) I nudged the mulch and continued caring for them.
The way of peace is not inert – it is active. To walk in the way of peace, faith is a prerequisite. It absolutely does not look the same from one person to the next.
The paralytic had to actually try and stand up. The official had to 1st notice Jesus, then perform an act below his social station, 3rd, follow Jesus’ command by starting home believing his son will be healed, and finally confirm the healing occurred when Jesus spoke those words of healing. It didn’t happen all at once. It was a process.
And what happens? Peace is brought to his home – they ALL believe! because this royal official came to his senses, moved with Jesus through the process of belief.
It’s always process, evolving – creative. And isn’t that what healing is all about? Recreating that which is ailing?: the body, a relationship, a system?
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant”… bit by bit, or it might blind us to ALL the truth. What is the truth Jesus is calling you to today? How is Jesus coaxing you to relationship, to move in faith along the way of Peace? To what creative process is your spirit germinating, ready to press aside the bits that attempt to suffocate, but persist, so full of life, potential blooms, ready to flourish?
Art of Contemplationhttps://eirenicole.com/wp-content/uploads/AoC1.jpg20501920NicoleNicolehttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/59c708336b44c55aa93e8059ae098e96?s=96&d=monsterid&r=pg
Lent is a little bit like the pregnancy-birth process. It is a time of waiting, growing something important inside. A mother I needed a partner to take months paying attention to my breathing, my movements; notice signs of distress, to encourage with images of riding the wave of each contraction, and feel the distress each time I believes I would be crushed, drown under the force of it. Practicing contemplating all that is me – the one growing our child within – we grow to know each other more deeply, intimately, and trust each other in/for the process.
In silence and contemplation, we find the space to recreate perspective, so Judgement is no longer something we need fear, but an invitation to discernment, “a growing awareness of how God engages us.” It’s all about our relationships.
In today’s reading, Jesus encounters another woman. This time a stranger, and a Samaritan, and pulling water from the well at mid-day (avoiding the usual times a woman should), whom he ought never approach, let alone accept a drink. And he says, “woman….”
In the case of his mother, they knew each other. Taking a moment of silence, a bit of time to come to her senses, Jesus’ respectful, intimate call for her attention was more than enough.
For the woman at the well, more time was needed. She had an impressive amount of information about worship practices. Like Nicodemus – though certainly not as elaborate – she was well taught the promise of a Messiah to come. She was open to belief, but needed more time contemplating this possibility. Time with Jesus. Talking with others. Testing her faith: “Could he be?”
The woman at the well is unnamed and unknown to Jesus on meeting. When Jesus says, “Woman…” gunē, in the vocative, direct, as if already in relationship, she pauses (as Mary did at the wedding) and then she opens her soul to Jesus. The respect and dignity he offers this woman by addressing her with this word elicits a trust, a hint of the kind of relationship she tried so hard to find – and failed – in her 5 previous marriages and current partner.
She opens her soul to Jesus and is delighted, giddy with the revelation of what relationship is meant to be like – to be known and to be loved. To be loved in the knowing.
To believe this, to understand and experience a reality of relating with God through Christ in the Spirit, we absolutely must first come to our sense. Be still. Be silent. And contemplate. Accept this profound love by being known; know in the loving.
May you contemplate your relationship with Jesus this week. Open your soul to Jesus. Be known and loved; love and know in return. And ride the waves of such exposure that threaten to crush, drown under the force of it.