Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Wind and the Spirit

John 3:8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Here again,
Gone again,
And there it goes.
It makes the trees speak
And the waters ripple,
It tires the mountain
And crushes the land.
Gentle caresses
In the blowing of hair,
To wreak devastation
And despair.
Unharnessed forever and
Forever free,
The wind and the Spirit
Untarnished will be.

Into His Heart

As long as I do the inviting, I am the host.
The control is mine, the power is mine.
How can I ask him into my heart?
I cannot contain him.
Instead, let me be engulfed in him.
Swallowed whole.
Is that why he chose water?
At that moment, all control, all power is lost --
Helpless as I have always been but was too proud,
or busy, or foolish to even realize.
Mired in the cesspool of "self" control
but oblivious to my own predicament.
Here, suspended between heaven and earth
I surrender all control, I realize my own helplessness,
I make myself completely vulnerable.
I can do nothing.
But, I trust in his goodness, I trust his power to save,
and so I allow myself to be lost in him.
I accept the invitation of my host as he asks
me into his heart.
I let go, pour everything out,
and he fills me to overflowing.
He is in my heart.
I in him, and he in me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jesus Clears the Temple

Thanks to Bethany for taking a shot of the marker board for this drawing. I know it is difficult to see, but this was my gesture of the power and force that spread out in the temple as Jesus drove out money changers, birds and livestock. I imagine an almost whirlwind of destruction as Jesus restores some respect for what the temple was to represent--His Father's house.

Nicodemus Limerick and commentary

There once was a man, Nicodee
Who went for Jesus to see.
To explain born again,
Though he a grown man.
Ahh, Water and Spirit, "I see."

John 3:7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

9 "How can this be?"

Nicodemus didn't get it. I don't get it. What does this stuff mean? Believers are born of the Spirit. Can you not tell where they come from or where they are going? Are we invisible to the world? Again, what does this mean?

Nicodemus was approaching Jesus from outside. Jesus is trying to say the only way to understand the ways of God are to be born of God (by the water and the Spirit.) This is an understanding from Old Testament times: Ezekiel 36:25-37:14.

Sometimes I still feel like Nicodemus, I'm not in outright rebellion, I just seem to be on the outside looking in. It is difficult to change polarity. We humans are such physical creatures, that we have difficulty seeing beyond our physicality. Is there life beyond our world. We want to believe, but on our terms. God smiles and shakes his head, "No."

The more we struggle to know by our might, the deeper and more perilous the ocean of ignorance becomes. After the strain becomes to great, the internal stress to the point of overwhelming us, we must let go and trust, or turn and swim back home to more familiar surroundings. Once our flailing ceases and the sense of drowning seems inevitable, we are lifted up. Bouyancy takes over. We suddenly see the dry land and the way home--but not our old home. A new, more natural space in which we move almost effortlessly. Yes, that's where I go. Did I decide? No. But it is where I ought to be anyway. So natural. So appropriate. So why did I fight so long?

The Father is in control. He loves and cares for those who still pull away and think they can figure it all out. He loves those of us who have surrendered ourselves to the water and have been lifted out. Questions that we use to agonize over seem to be no questions at all. The answers obvious and clear point us in directions that those outside cannot even fathom. Jesus came to help us see that it is easier to live as the Father gives life, breath, wind, Spirit. Rise up at his command and have life in you.

So I can see where it came from and where it is going. I must continue to let the wind of the Spirit blow on my face, and through my hair. It is a fair wind, there is no need to turn back and seek shelter in dark spaces. The world outside is stale and unpredictable, but we know where we are going and who is leading us there. It is so simple a new born child can understand–it just is.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Monk Chronicles: John 2 Summary

Maybe that infernally blasted man is making me do these as a way of prolonging my torture. Well, it makes no difference, I still have to do them…

In the beginning, you changed water into wine.
In the end, you said to remember your blood through wine.
At the end, your blood was mixed with water.
In the beginning, a Samaritan woman asked you for water.
And now, I ask for that everlasting water.
I drink in remembrance of you that wine.
And I celebrate having been washed in your blood.

But I worry that I cannot carry your zeal
With me into this life, this body, this spirit.
Will I have the courage to ask you
Or the strength needed to take up my whip
And drive out those who profane your name?
Lord, let zeal for you consume me
And may I always believe in your name.

Brother Henrich
15 of October
This Year of our Lord 1507

The Monk Chronicles: John 1 Summary

That blasted man is making me do a summary poem for each chapter now! He says that it will help me pull more important things from the chapter, and that I will make a greater connection to what I read by doing this. Well, there nothing to do but force myself through this…

Jesus, is there a way I could know you upon sight?
To look upon your face, know that my faith is right?
Is there some magical, God-like thing
You do to know my soul’s inner being?
Or is it simply because you are the Lamb,
The Holy One before whom I stand?
Does your innocence and unearthly grace
Lend you the ability to look upon my sinful face?
How can you call me a true Christian,
When I’m the one living in dissension?
And then when I believe in you
Because of the belief you’ve shown in me,
You tell me that there is still much to see.

Brother Henrich
1 of October
This Year of our Lord 1507

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cana Miracle

I find it exhilarating and awe inspiring how the Spirit works in our lives. As I was reading this chapter in John, I had no idea how my drawing would be formed.
But I noticed, probably for the first time, that it talked about the six large water jars being containers that the Jews used for ceremonial washing purposes. Jesus used them to transform lives by taking the water and changing it into wine--symbolic of his blood that truly cleanses, not just ceremonially so. Also, the comment from the master of ceremonies about the good wine now versus the cheap wine before relates to the truth of Jesus compared to the traditions of the Jews coming before. Another thing I thought of was the idea that this miracle happened at a wedding--true transformation takes place at the wedding of the bridegroom (Jesus) and the bride (the Church).

In my drawing the six small empty circles represent the small thinking of the Jews and the six large wine colored circles represent the fullness of the blessings of God through Christ. The large circles also hint at the forms of red blood cells--symbolized by the wine in communion. There is a lot in this miracle. One of the other things we talked about in our study was that Jesus did this miracle as a service to the wedding party and he did it quietly, humbly and without fanfare. The disciples saw and believed. Can we go out and do the same? (Serve quietly, humbly and without fanfare?)

The Monk Chronicles: John 2

Well. That infernally blasted man has assigned me an entire chapter this week to make up for last week incompetence, as he called my hard work. But I’m not angry. Well, I’m not going to let him know that I am angry. I think that’s why he’s been haunting me, he is trying to break me of my anger. So if I just hide the fact that I am angry, he will leave me alone and my life can return to semi-normal. Of course, I still have to serve my continuing penances for the pot incidence, but that will pass with time. I might even be promoted to more than just an apprentice monk sometime this year if all goes well! That allows that I am able to bear under the pressure of all of the penances I have right now, of course. I’m getting so little sleep these days that I actually fell asleep while scrubbing pots last night, and they didn’t punish me for it because they felt sorry for me. Brother Fedor grumbled a little about my laziness, but Brother Michael stood up for me.

I had better keep this work short, I have to go muck out the stables again, Brother Franz blamed me when a whole pot of ink disappeared. I didn’t do it, but whenever anything goes wrong anymore, people blame me for it. That infernally blasted man was right there when I was punished, too, smirking his evil little grin. Brother Franz just passed, I’m so glad that he hasn’t caught on that I call the Abbot names. I fear the penance that I would receive then would never be served out in my lifetime, nor his. I think the Abbot realizes I call him names, though. Maybe that’s why he’s persecuting me.

No matter, whatever his reasons are, I still must complete this before I can move on. That infernally blasted man has assigned the whole of chapter two to me this week in the hope that I can come up with the “right questions” this time. What is that supposed to mean, the “right questions”? I thought there were no wrong questions, only stupid ones. That man has me grasping at straws again, with no real solution to the riddles he is posing. Maybe he is inferring that I’m not asking the questions that cut to the heart of the issue presented by the passages. That is the only thing that makes sense to me, anyways.

Well, in the light of that, I am going to look at the chapter in two parts so that my connections can be “meaningful”, just like that infernally blasted man wanted them to be. The first section talks about when Jesus changed water into wine. This is Jesus’ first miracle in John, and one of the many miracles recorded in John that aren’t recorded in the other gospel accounts. As odd as this is, I don’t think that it’s the important thing about this passage, and neither is the fact that it is the first in John. Elder Brother Georg would disagree with me on this, he argues the main significance about this passage is that it illustrates Jesus’ innocence because of the simplicity of the first miracle he does. I would rather not argue that, because we cannot be sure that this is the very first miracle he does. What if there were others before this one? I have asked Elder Brother Georg this very question, and he points to verse eleven as his answer. Now, I have no wish to argue with the author of this gospel, but couldn’t Jesus have done miraculous things before this? And this act was just the first public act? That would explain why his mother would come to him in the first place, asking him to alter the situation. But what is the purpose of this miracle, exactly? Brother Handel has told me time and time again that every miracle Jesus does has a specific, intended purpose. The overarching purpose is to further the Kingdom, of course, but how does this miracle achieve that exactly? I just don’t see any answer that make sense over any others in this case.

The second section of verses is about when Jesus clears out the Temple. This section is a little over my head; I mean I understand what Jesus is doing and why, but I just don’t understand why the sudden shift from a wedding banquet to this. Could it be an illustration of the concept that there is a time and place for everything? I don’t understand, yet again, anything that John is hinting at in this passage. Is he trying to illustrate Jesus’ passion for God? But then why the cryptic statement about destroying the temple and then the completely vague verse twenty-five. What is that about? Ooh, there goes that infernally blasted man! Can’t he just leave me alone? Oh, great, Brother Franz is calling my name. I wonder what I’m in trouble for this time. Time to go see, then go clean out the stables again. I wish I had never even heard of fire dust anymore. I truly didn’t mean to cause any harm, honest. But that infernally blasted man is determined to make me the most miserable wretch in God’s sight…

Brother Henrich
8 of October
This Year of our Lord 1507

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Water to Wine - A Reflection

It is striking that Jesus' first miracle took place at an event of celebration. There are several possible reasons as to why Jesus chose this time to perform his first miracle. Perhaps it was to help instill faith in his newly selected disciples -- John 2:11 tells us this was the result of the miracle. Perhaps he felt compassion for the new couple, wanting to spare embarrassment at what should have been a carefree event. I believe, though, there is another reason with consequences that are more far-reaching than that: He did it to validate mothers for all generations.

You see, ever since they turned 18, my children feel there is no reason they should listen to anything I say. They felt I had nothing I could teach them for several years before that, of course, but now they were 18 -- legally adults. Any suggestion I might make would be met with "that" look and the response, "I am over 18, Mom."

But think about it, why did Jesus change the water into wine? Because his mama wanted him to, that's why. And he was 30, mind you, a great deal beyond 18. And besides that, he was God Incarnate -- there really was nothing Mary knew that he didn't already know. Still he did it when he didn't really want to, just because she asked.

I wish I had come to this realization years ago. Do you think it will convince my kids?

John Chapter Two - Ruminations

This is nothing more than a brain dump, immediately after reading the selection. I think it might have been written purely for the last two lines.

Purposefully uninvolved,
But asked into His first exposure
That went unnoticed and unproclaimed,
He took up His mantle,
Consumed with zeal
And cleansed, through destruction
And lashes, the house of His Father.
Asked for authority
He told the truth but, misunderstood,
Was mocked.
There is more than one kind of temple;
To each their own.