Sunday, August 13, 2017

Naming the sin and demon of white supremacy


White supremacy is a sin, in fact, America's original sin. The country was built on, and it's initial wealth created through, the land theft and genocide of one race, and the chattel enslavement of another. It is white supremacy that allows the murderer of Philando Castile [and many like him] to go scott-free, even though the whole world saw his murder on video.

The Bible teaches us to confess our sins; not just sin in general, but specific sins; if I commit adultery, I confess adultery; if I commit theft, I confess theft.

This country has to come to terms with it's history of white supremacy and racism. There is no healing for us, Black, White, Indigenous, or Asian, unless we name our national sin and confess it.

It's a dodge to simply subsume white supremacy under "hate" or "bigotry" or "sin" (even though it is sourced in all those things) without naming it specifically. If we can't name it, we can't repent and be healed.

In order to exorcise a demon, you must name the demon; the demon manifesting at this moment is White Supremacy.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Honoring the Christian Faith of Haile Selassie on the 125th Anniversary of His Birth

Blessed Earthstrong to the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God, Defender of the faith. Today, 23 July, 2017, is the 125th Birthday of His Imperial Majesty. On our blog, we honor H.I.M. as "Defender of the Faith." The Emperor had a deep and abiding love for our Lord Eyesus Kristos, and for the Holy Scriptures. His Imperial Majesty demonstrates his Christian faith by 1) His Daily Practice 2) His deep and abiding faith 3) His love of Eyesus Kristos, our Lord and God, and desire to evangelize others 4) His devotion to the Holy Bible and it's message.


1) His Imperial Majesty did not just pay formal lip-service to the Christian Faith. He was a devout practicioner, who was very disciplined in his daily prayers and practices. On our sidebar (on the upper right side panel of our blog), we post the following tribute from an Anglo-Catholic priest:

"The late Emperor spent many hours daily in traditional Prayer Books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. He would have been saturated with the Apostolic teaching and spirit. Bishop Paulos Mar Gregorios spent enough time at the great Emperor's court to observe these habits and wrote about them. I was surprised at the devotion of His Imperial Majesty, and I hope to achieve similar heights of spiritual life...."

2) The Emperor speaks of how his deep and abiding faith has sustained him:
"There are many instances in my life where the belief in The Almighty and the Christian Faith have sustained me, times of troubles and difficulties. No matter what may befall a human being he can always succeed in overcoming it in time if he has the strength of faith and praise to God, for inevitably He comes to the assistance of those that believe in him and those that through their work live an exemplary life."

3) His Imperial Majesty was devoted to our Lord Eyesus Kristos, and believed in evangelizing other of the Good News of Kristos:

“I know I am saved , not by anything that is of character or work of the human heart, but by the blood of Jesus alone.” (African Challenge Magazine, Nov 1960) His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie the 1st, the Last King of Kings of Ethiopia.

“The love shown by our God to mankind should constrain all of us who are followers and disciples of Christ, to do all in our power to see to it that the message of salvation is carried to those of our fellows for whom Christ our Savior was sacrificed but who have not had the benefit of hearing the good news.”

4) Finally, His Imperial Majesty was devoted to the Holy Bible and it's message:

"From early childhood I was taught to appreciate the Bible and my love for it increases with the passage of time. All through my troubles I have found it a cause of infinite comfort.

 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11.28)' who can resist an invitation so full of compassion?

 I have the highest respect for the Bible as a whole...We find that in all the periods of the Old Testament, in the time of Patriarchs, Kings, and Prophets, great miracles were done. On the other hand, the time in which Our Lord HIM-self gave the command to go to all the world and to preach is also of high value. Then, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,- the four gospels in which the sayings of our Lord are recorded- are pillars for all men on the earth. Therefore the Bible should not be cut into portions.

Because of this personal experience in the goodness of the Bible, I was resolved that all my countrymen should also share its great blessing and that by reading the Bible they should find truth for themselves. Therefore, I caused a new translation to be made from our ancient language into the language which the old and the young understood and spoke.

Today man sees all his hopes and aspirations crumbling before him. He is perplexed and knows not whither he is drifting. But he must realise that the Bible is his refuge, and the rallying point for all humanity. In it man will find the solution of his present difficulties and guidance for his future action, and unless he accepts with clear conscience the Bible and its great Message, he cannot hope for salvation. For my part I glory in the Bible."

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Sources: Decision Magazine, Africa; the famous "Bible Speech" in H.I.M.'s address on literacy to the United Nations; and his interview with Dr. Oswald Hoffman, December 25, 1968, on the Lutheran Hour

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cubicle Wall of Saints


On my cubicle at work, saints and some of my spiritual heroes- Clockwise, starting at the top/middle: Armenian Martyrs; Our LORD Jesus Christ (Ethiopian Icon); His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, panel of Haile Selassie, Abune Yesehaq, & Bob Marley; St. Sharbel (Maronite); Dr. George Lamsa, Translator of the Peshitta Scriptures; Bede Griffiths, O.S.B., and Spiritual writer and director of the Shantivanam Asrham in India.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jesus and the Older Testament, the Word of God


Jesus and Torah, the Word of God

Jesus tells his co-religionists in John chapter 5: “Examine the scriptures; in them you trust that you have eternal life; and even they testify concerning me. Yet you will not come to me, that you might have life everlasting.” - John 5.39,40.

Jesus tells them that belief in the Sacred Scriptures proceeds faith in Him (See  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” - Romans 10.17.

Jesus hits on this theme several times in the Gospels:

In the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31), Jesus concludes by saying, “Abraham said to him, If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe even if a man should rise from the dead.” - Luke 16.31.

In his debate with his co-religionists in John chapter 5, Jesus says:

“For if you had believed in Moses, you would also have believed in me; for Moses wrote concerning me. If you do not believe his writings, how then can you believe my words?” - John 5.46,47.

It is important for Christians to not take these passages above as condemnation of the Jews, as often very tragically has been done. Rather, Jesus’s words are an admonition for all to believe the Word of God. Saint Paul tells Timothy, in the classic text on the inspiration of the Scriptures:

“knowing that you have learned from your childhood the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All scripture written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness; So that God’s people may become complete, thoroughly perfected for every good work.” - 2 Timothy 3.15-17.

Remember, in the passage above, Paul is only referring to the Older Testament. The Older Testament was THE Bible for the first Christians.

Jesus makes parallel statements about the eternal nature of the Word of God, both in the Older Testament and in His teaching.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to weaken the law or the prophets; I have not come to weaken, but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, Until heaven and earth pass away, not even one yoth [Yoth is the smallest letter in Aramaic and Hebrew.] or a dash shall pass away from the law until all of it is fulfilled.” - Matthew 5.17,18.
But Jesus also makes the same claim for His own teaching: "Even heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away." - Matthew 24.35.

The disciple of Christ must be dedicated to studying the whole Scripture, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." - 2 Timothy 2.15 KJV.  Again, the passage just quoted refers to the Older Testament.

Finally, the one who studies the Word of God must not only read and study it, but do it.

“While he was on the way, a man came running and fell on his knees and asked him, saying, O good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit life eternal? Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good? There is no one who is good except the one God. You know the commandments? Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not murder, Do not bear false witness, Do not oppress, Honor your father and mother....” - Mark 10.17-19.

We should not assume that Jesus is merely being rhetorical or ironic here; He is in fact telling the young man that these are the requirements for everlasting life. He will of course, go on tell the young man that he must sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, in order to be perfect; but we must not kid ourselves that obedience to the commandments is optional. Jesus warns us "It is not everyone who merely says to me, My Lord, my Lord, who will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven." - Matthew 7.21; (see also Psalm 62.12; Matthew 16.27; John 5.29; Romans 2.6-11; James 2.14-26; Revelation 20.12 & 21.14) .

Jesus admonished His disciples to obey the Word, both written (the Scriptures) and Living (Himself). He is the Word made flesh:

"So the Word became flesh and blood, and lived for awhile among us, abounding in blessing and truth, and we saw the honor God had given Him, such as an only son receives from his father." - John 1.14 Goodspeed.  


Unless otherwise indicated, the Bible passages above are from the Lamsa translation of the Peshitta Scriptures.

The Three Prime Languages of the Sacred Scriptures


"There was also an inscription which was written over him, in Greek and Roman and Hebrew, [Aramaic, the language of the Jews.] THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." - Luke 23.38.




The picture above features three of my favorite Bible versions/editions, the Orthodox Study Bible, the Lamsa translation of the Peshitta (my daily reading Bible as of late), and the Confraternity version New Testament (the 1941 modern revision of the Rheims N.T., translated from the Latin).

They represent three main languages the ancient Scriptures were dispersed in: Aramaic (represented by my Lamsa Bible), Greek (represented by my Orthodox Study Bible), and Latin (represented by my Confraternity Bible). The Eastern Churches- the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syrian and Indian Orthodox Churches, the Chaldean and Maronite Catholic Churches, all have the Peshitta (Aramaic for true, and straight) as their traditional Bible text. The Greek-speaking Churches have the Byzantine or Traditional Greek text for the New Testament, and the Septuagint Greek text for the Older Testament. The Western Catholic Church’s traditional text is the Latin Vulgate, as translated by Saint Jerome.

My Preference

I think it is very significant that Mar Eshoo Mashikkah (Our LORD  Jesus Christ), had posted in writing by Pilate on His cross, “King of the Jews” in these three languages. For He is the Living Word of God, He is the Torah and the Scriptures embodied.

Lately my daily reading Bible has been Lamsa’s translation of the Peshitta. Aramaic is the the language of Our LORD. The Churches of the East received the Scriptures primarily through the Aramaic translation, the Peshitta:

"With reference to....the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision."
Mar Eshai Shimun
by Grace, Catholicos Patriarch of the East
April 5, 1957

Bede Griffiths, the great mystic, theologian, and abbot, and one of my spiritual heroes, has this to say on the primacy of the Aramaic for the Gospels:"the first Gospels themselves are translations into Greek from the original Aramaic, interpreting the original message in the light of a new situation, yet always remaining faithful to the original mystery." - Return to the Centre, page 73.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Other Eastern Churches- from the Christian Century

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians outside of St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa. Photo © David Stanley via Creative Commons license.


This article, at least as of this writing, is not behind a pay wall. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syrian, and Malankara (Syrian Orthodox in India).
 

Read the whole Christian Century article here: The Other Eastern Churches

Excerpt:
"Chalcedon was widely rejected in those ancient Eastern churches that had the best claim to direct continuity from the apostolic age...Although the Orientals still reject Chalcedon, differences between the various communions have faded dramatically over time. In their liturgical and devotional life, these churches still have an immense amount in common with the Orthodox. Even on key theological issues, tensions have diminished enormously. Over the past century, productive conversations between Chalce­donian and Oriental communions have shown how slight were the actual differences between the two sides and how misleading were the stereotypes each side once had of the other...Much of the ancient disagreement was technical, semantic, and symbolic."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

From My Facebook Page: Done with religious arguments

From now on, I am removing religious fear-based and certain religious arguments from my wall. My wall is not a democracy, I am not going to waste my precious time arguing with people on Facebook. I am not going to defriend people necessarily, I like people I sometimes (often!) disagree with. So if you are still willing to be my friend when I remove your comment, I am glad for that.

But I am sick of religious bullsh*t and I will tell you right now the godliest, most Christ-like person i know is a gay, communist atheist (So maybe I will entertain your arguments if you can demonstrate you are as saintly as he is).

As for me, my teachers are His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, George Lamsa, and Bede Griffiths (and a couple of his followers). I am content and happy with that, I seek an ancient way and the Reign of God within. I cheer others on their path, whatever they have chosen.

One more thing- when we read the Bible, older and newer testaments, we should make ourselves the bad guys in the story, not other people. We are the Pharisees, We are the Levites and Priests who step over the man beaten and robbed by bandits. We are the ones who tear down our barns and build new ones to store the grain we hoard.

So I am not judging you, if I remove your comment. I just don't have time for arguing with people.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Remember the Suffering Christians of the Near East, and Study Their Ancient Heritage

My reading on my day off today. Christians in the Near East are part of communities that go all the way back to the Apostolic age. They include the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Church of the East. Their Scriptures and liturgies are the most ancient in the world. I am studying both the Western Syrian Church tradition, represented by the Syrian Orthodox and Catholic Maronite Churches, and the Eastern Syrian Church tradition, represented by the Assyrian Church of the East and Chaldean Catholic Church.

Today, Christians in Iraq and Syria are suffering true persecution, and are even in danger of having their communities wiped out. The Christians being persecuted include Greek Orthodox and Catholic Christians as well. The Coptic Christians in Egypt, who are also Oriental Orthodox Christians, are experiencing acute persecution at this time as well.

This week, ICE rounded up and arrested Assyrian Christians in Michigan for deportation. This deplorable act by an administration that promised to protect these communities.

This is a heritage that needs to be preserved and celebrated, and should be studied by all Christians. I get really angry when certain American evangelicals treat these Christians as though they were not Christians. These Christians are our elder brothers and sisters and faith. We should study and see that we conform to their tradition, theology and liturgy.. We owe it to them to pray for them and to advocate for them, and we owe it to ourselves to familiarize ourselves with this most ancient, authentic, Semitic tradition of Christianity.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My Three Spiritual Heroes

A friend of mine from church recently said of me that I am one who studies "ancient orders." This seeking of the Ancient Way is has led me to follow these three of my spiritual heroes.
 From left to right:

1) Bede Griffiths, an Oxford-educated Benedictine Monk who led the Shantivanam Christian Ashram in India, incorporating the Rule of St. Benedict, the Syrian Rite, and Hindu modes of prayer and symbolism. Bede was a great teacher, and a leader in of ecumenical dialog, especially between Christianity and Hinduism. He has inspired me to recognize the Eternal Word and the Kingdom of God within us, and to cultivate a spirit of prayer and meditation. The symbol underneath his picture is the Cross from Shantivanam, which is the cross with the OM symbol on it.

2) His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I, of the House of Solomon, Emperor of Ethiopia and Defender of the Faith. He preached Jesus Christ, promoted the Bible, and was devout in his own practice of the Ethiopian Orthodox Hours of Prayer and Scripture reading. He has inspired me to value the throne of David, and devout prayer and scripture reading. I was led to study His Imperial Majesty's teachings from my interest in the Rastafarian Movement and the music of Bob Marley. The symbol underneath his picture is the Lion of Judah.

3) George M. Lamsa, Assyrian immigrant to the United States, and translator of the complete Bible from Aramaic into English. His translation is my daily reading Bible and has inspired me to value the Aramaic and Semitic origins of Christianity.
The symbol underneath his picture is the Aramaic symbol of the Holy Trinity, which is often featured on editions of his Bible translation.

I value the writings and teaching of these three saints and prophets, for they have inspired me to seek Allaha and to a greater devotion to Mar Eshoo Mashikkah (Our LORD Jesus Christ).

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Brother John Martin Sahajananda's Fully Human, Fully Divine- The Vedic Vision and the Vision of Christ

Brother John Martin Sahajananda, a Benedictine Calmodolese Monk, disciple of Bede Griffiths, and one of the spiritual directors at the ShantivanamChristian Ashram in India, has written a very engaging short book with a long title, Fully Human, Fully Divine: Integral Dynamic Monotheism(A Meeting Place Between the Vedic Vision and the Vision of Christ).

The book was published in 2014. I have been a very avid reader of Brother Martin's books. I first discovered his writing when I saw and purchased his book, You are the Light:Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus, and then his next book, Hindu Christ: Jesus' Message through Eastern Eyes.

In all of Brother Marin's books, he seeks to find where Christianity and Hinduism meet. He is one of the leading exponents of Christian-Hindu dialogue. His father was a Hindu, and his mother was a Christian. He became a Catholic monk, and joined the Shantivanam Ashram and was discipled by Bede Griffiths, the great Catholic spiritual teacher and writer.

Over the three books I have read (Brother Martin has a couple of others), he has been developing his notion of non-dualistic truth in the Gospels and teachings of Jesus. In his book, Hindu Christ, he examines three aspects of Jesus' experience of God:

1) Dualistic: ("the Father is greater than I")
2) Qualified Non-Dualism ("I am in the Father and the Father is in Me")
3) Non-Dualism ("I and the Father are One").

We too, can relate to God in all three ways, and there is an ebb and flow between our dualistic and non-dualistic experiences of God.

In this book, Fully Human, Fully Divine, he explores the meeting place of the Vedic Vision and the Vision of Christ. He gives us an overview of the Upanishad's and Bhagavad Gita, and the Gospel, and provides a brief theological history of Hindu theologians and saints who had dualistic, qualified non-dualistic, and non-dualistic theologies. There are also several other hybrid and paradoxical views too, represented in Hindu Theology.

Brother Martin asserts that Hinduism is monotheistic, that even with all the millions of deities in popular religion, there is only One Reality without a second. Different deities are avatars or archetypes of the One God, who is the Ground of Being.

Brother Martin places Hindusim in the "Wisdom" tradition of world religions, along with Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism. He places Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, in the group of "Prophetic Monotheistic Religions."

Brother Marin explores the relationship of both types of religious traditions, and notes that the Wisdom tradition emphasizes our Spiritual ascent and oneness with Reality, and that the Prophetic religious traditions, our responsibility not only to love God but to love our neighbor and to work for social transformation.

Brother Martin explains that Integrated Dynamic Monotheism blends the truth of these two broad faith traditions, so that we understand ourselves as one with God but also one with our neighbor, who are our brothers and sisters. There is a harmony between prayer and contemplation, and social action.

Brother Marin explains how the different paths of Yoga- Jnana Yoga (Wisdom, associated with Meditation and study of Scriptures), and Bhakti Yoga (devotion to the Deity), and Karma Yoga (good deeds and social action, but done in detachment), can be integrated in our spiritual practice so that we may achieve Self-Realization but also help to transform the world.

Brother Martin's books are a breath of fresh air. It is a good thing to read and learn from a person who has a deep spiritual practice of their own, and has engaged in respectful dialogue with other faith traditions. I am not interested in polemics as much as the pursuit of God.

I had a professor in undergrad who was a Jungian analyst, and also, a Unitarian minister. He came up with a formula for this integrated way:"Contemplation + awareness = liberation (spiritual and social). I recommend Brother Martin's books for anyone seeking to know their true Self in God and others.









 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Trump's Executive Order: At the Pinnacle of the Temple, Selling One's Soul for Wordly Power

I do not celebrate President Trump's executive order allowing churches to endorse candidates. Church leaders, already adept at milking guilt out of people, can now bully people into voting "the right way." What bigger hammer does one have than to threaten people's eternal soul if they don't tow a church's party line? What a potential for spiritual abuse. Church leaders who are gleeful have succumbed to the Devil's temptation at the pinnacle of the temple. Churches are selling their soul to celebrate this new executive order.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Haile Selassie, Icon of Christ


On my cubicle wall at work, I have the portrait shown here of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia. Haile Selassie was a descendant of King David and King Solomon. One of his titles was Defender of the Faith. He was known to be a devout follow of Our LORD Jesus Christ, who prayed the hours of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, and who promoted Biblical literacy and saw to it that the Bible was translated in the language of his people. For me, His Imperial Majesty is an Icon of Our LORD Jesus Christ. I find that his picture on my wall at my office gives me a sense of serenity as I go about my work. I am inspired to greater devotion to Our LORD Jesus Christ. I am reminded of His Imperial Majesty's comment on Our LORD's saying recorded in Matthew 11.28: " 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;' who can resist an invitation so full of compassion?"



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THE KING shall rejoice in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! 2 Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withheld the request of his lips. 3 For thou hast blessed him beforehand with the blessings of goodness; thou hast set a precious crown on his head. 4 He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. 5 His glory is great in thy salvation; honor and majesty hast thou bestowed upon him. 6 For thou hast made him most blessed for ever; thou hast made him joyful in gladness with thy countenance. 7 For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved. 8 Your hand shall overcome all your enemies; your right hand shall overcome those that hate you. 9 You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of your wrath; the LORD shall consume them in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them. 10 Their fruit shall you destroy from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of men. 11 For they have planned evil against you; they conceived a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform. 12 For you shall place a scar on them; and you shall make ready your array against their faces. 13 Be thou exalted, O LORD, in thine own strength; so will we sing and praise thy power.


- Psalm 21

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Looking East

Bede Griffiths, offering the Holy Qurbana
 "And there's a God-sized hunger underneath the laughing and the rage
In the absence of light
And the deepening night
Where I wait for the sun
Looking east..."


- Jackson Browne, Looking East


One of my social media friends recently asked me why I have been so interested in His Imperial Majesty, and Ethiopian Christianity.

My friends who know me well can attest for the last 20-25 years, I have had an eye toward the East- the Eastern Christian Churches, but also as an orthodox Christian influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton, Buddhist thought, Vendanta and the Bhagavad Gita.

As Jackson Browne says in his lyrics above, I have a "God-sized hunger," that I look East to fulfill. 
Whether it is the teachings of His Imperial Majesty, and the heritage of the Kebra Nagast, or  the sublime teachings of Bede Griffiths, my spiritual hero, or my passionate interest in the Aramaic Scriptural tradition, popularized by George M. Lamsa, or the fusion of Orthodox and liberation theology by the great Indian Archbishop, Geervarghese Mar Osthathios-  I find my self looking East always. My prayer life as of late, and my reading of the scriptures, are grounded in an Eastern and Semitic point of view.


These days in America, where our democratic republic is turning into a fascist-kleptocracy, and the churches here have willing submitted to a Babylonian captivity, baptizing the ideology of the oligarchs, I look to alternative expressions of understanding the Christ- alternative, yet, much more ancient, and original to its Source.

I seek to find the True Self in the Ancient Way. 

Jackson Browne – Looking East Lyrics

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Resurrection Affirms Creation

When Jesus surrendered his life on the cross, he brought to fulfillment this movement of the human soul; he accomplished the total surrender of man to God, of the human to the divine; he achieved the final death of self to this world and raised to eternal life in the resurrection. This is the one movement which was accomplished on the cross. The other movement is the descent of the divine into this world, the movement of incarnation. From the beginning of creation the Spirit has been communicating itself to matter. -Bede Griffiths, Return to the Centre, page 89.

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Christianity does not deny the world, creation, or matter - for "thy immortal spirit is in all things." Wisdom of Solomon 12.1.

I was contemplating during Mass this morning, as the priest sermonized the sufferings of the Christ before His resurrection, that God not only experienced suffering, but new what it was like to be a human in our earthy existence. He would have cleansed himself with his left hand, for example, like not only people of his time did, but as many people in the world do now.

I contemplated the divine humility in not only becoming man, but in live in creation.

This demonstrated the value of creation, why we have sacraments of Bread and Wine, and Water and oil, why we care about the poor and human suffering, why we seek to heal and to try and preserve the natural environment and maintain its inhabitability.

Christianity represents a world and life-affirming spirituality. The Word created the universe by the Spirit, and inhabits it fully. We are ourselves are temples of God.

- Lance


Friday, April 14, 2017

For Good Friday- Haile Selassie on the Crucifixion of Jesus

"When He sacrificed himself at Golgotha for the atonement of our sin, He prayed with His last breath for the forgiveness of those who had tortured Him saying, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do'. Shame on those of us who are Christians and do not follow the way of the Savior of the World, whose life was filled with kindness, humility, and martyrdom! If we lived by the laws he gave us and were worthy of being called Christian, peace would have reigned on this earth." 

- His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, December 25, 1937*
 
Now there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother’s sister and Mary of Cleopas and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing, he said to his mother, Woman, behold your son! Then he said to the disciple, Behold your mother!And from that very hour the disciple took her with him. After these things Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished; and that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, I thirst. Now there was a pitcher full of vinegar placed there; so they filled a sponge with vinegar and put it on the point of a reed and placed it on his mouth. When Jesus drank the vinegar, he said, It is fulfilled; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. - St. John 19.25-30 


*I want to thank Haile Iyesus for originally posting this quote on Facebook. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Word Manifests the Unmanifested One

"The Word of God is that Truth Itself, that eternal Reality, coming forth from the Father, the Abyss of Being, the unmanifested One, and communicating the bliss of being, the bliss of love. In Jesus of Nazareth that Word became flesh, manifesting the Father in a human form, communicating the Spirit to His disciples."

- Bede Griffiths, Return to the Centre, page 58.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Does it Mean to Say that the Scriptures are Faithful?

"Because of the oppression of the poor and the groans of the needy, now will I arise, says the LORD; and I will bring salvation openly. The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on earth, they are purified seven times."Psalm 12.5,6 Lamsa
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What does it really mean if we say God, or the Sacred Scriptures, are faithful?

Back in the 1980’s, when I was in my twenties, I was a fundamentalist. I took all of the Bible completely literally, regardless of context.

One of the verses used to proof-text biblical verbal inerrancy was Psalm 12.6, “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on earth, they are purified seven times.” I remember this verse being used to proof text plenary and verbal inerrancy in books and tracts back then. I remember one in particular that Keith Greene’s Last Day Ministries put out, about  a Russian Mathematician, who supposedly used math to prove that the Biblical text was absolutely perfect.

But what I did not read, or pay attention to myself, was the verse proceeding it, Psalm 12.5: “Because of the oppression of the poor and the groans of the needy, now will I arise, says the LORD; and I will bring salvation openly.” So when the Psalmist goes on to say, “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on earth, they are purified seven times,” the Psalmist is proclaiming God’s faithfulness to the poor and oppressed, not making a scientific statement about the Bible being perfect or inerrant. This aspect of the Psalm, this context for verse 6, was never mentioned in the conservative Christian literature I read.

Notice also “salvation,” as rendered by Lamsa, is not about the afterlife in this context, but about liberation of the oppressed. In the Hebrew Bible, "salvation" is mostly about deliverance in this life.

The Bible has a lot to say about liberation for the poor and the oppressed. Charity is praiseworthy, but not sufficient, for people who claim to follow the Torah (teaching) of God in Scripture.

The Bible’s faithfulness and reliability does not consist in the doctrine of inerrancy, (which judges the Bible’s message by external, rationalistic criteria), but God’s faithfulness to us, especially those on the margins, the poor and oppressed, and in God’s teaching on righteousness and justice. This is a Word we want to take heed to in this time when our leaders want to protect only the power, and leave the vulnerable destitute.


    -   Lance

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Honoring the Subversive Legacy of the Revd. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Woe unto you! for ye build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them." - Luke 11.47 ASV

Today is the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

People of all political stripes seek to honor King or to claim him. Dr. King is honored in our nation largely for his role in the civil rights movement. There is no doubt that his prophetic ministry help lead to the advancement of civil rights for African-Americans, and that therefore, he is rightfully an icon for the African-American community.

Dr. Martin Luther King also spoke on behalf of workers, and against the Vietnam War. When he was assassinated, he was in Memphis supporting a garbage worker's strike. He gave a famous speech against the Vietnam War in 1967. Dr. King was subversive of the American Imperialist system.  He prophetically denounced the oppression of people of color and the working class. He spoke against the imperial actions of the United States in South East Asia and elsewhere. He even on a few occasions referred to himself as a "democratic socialist."

So as we remember and honor Dr. King, let us not domesticate him. Let us remember how radical his advocacy of African-American Civil rights really was at the time. Let us not take it for granted. His dream is still not fulfilled. There is still systemic racism in our society. Let us remember this, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pulling back the Justice Department from investigating police departments that have had issues with shooting unarmed black folk.

Let us remember, at a time when unions are being busted and workers are losing wages, benefits and striking rights, and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are vulnerable to cuts with the current administration and congress, that Dr. King was for economic justice, rights for workers, and unions.

Let us remember at a time, when we have engaged in two imperialist wars, and have had a policy of torture and indefinite internment, that Dr. King was against imperialist aggression and the Vietnam war. He would be against our actions in Yemen and Syria.

Dr. King still speaks, his work is not done.


Read Martin Luther King Jr.s Speech on the Vietnam War here.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

George Lamsa Lecture and Radio Programs online

Over the last two days, I have been listening to lectures and radio broadcasts of George Lamsa, the Assyrian Bible translator.  John H. Boone, a social-media friend of mine, and the director of the Aramaic Bible Center of Southeast Texas, has painstakingly digitized reel-to-reel recordings of Dr. Lamsa and  posted them on Soundcloud. https://soundcloud.com/john-h-boone . I thank John for his devotion and hard work.

These lectures and broadcasts are very interesting and enjoyable.

Dr. George Lamsa was an Assyrian who was born in Iran, and was raised in the Nestorian Church and taught by their priests.  Lamsa translated the entire Bible from the Peshitta, the Aramaic Text. His translation is formally known as the Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text, and less formally as the LAMSA Bible. Lamsa also wrote several commentaries and devotional books.

The Lamsa Bible has been my favorite as of late, and my daily Reading Bible. The Peshitta is the standard Syriac Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition: the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Maronites, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.. These Christians claim the original Scriptures were written in Aramaic and given to the Church by the Apostles:.

"With reference to your letter concerning Lamsa's translation of the Aramaic Bible, and the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision."   -  Mar Eshai Shimun, Catholicos Patriarch of the Church of the East

Dr. Lamsa's devout personality is very evident in these broadcasts.

He elevates the words of Christ over the words of St. Paul, he says “Christ is my Savior,” and that Paul is “a man” and is wrong about some things (women in particular, he disagrees with Paul that women should “remain silent”).

He mentions that Unity Church is publishing some of his materials. He seems to have been popular in the Mind Science Churches.

He mentions certain discrepancies between the Aramaic text and the Masoretic texts. One I found very interesting is that God is not angry; Lamsa cites Psalm 7.11 from the Aramaic, “yea, He [God] is not angry every day,” vs the Masoretic text “God is angry with the wicked every day."

Dr. Lamsa seems to have a problem with faith alone, at least the way American Protestants express it. He goes on a tangent criticizing American Protestant understanding of believing in Christ. He says that all the Protestants tell him “you just believe in Christ, you don’t have to do anything,” and he says, “we have to act on our faith in Christ.” He seems to hear the Protestants as saying that we don’t do anything. I agree with Dr. Lamsa. I do not believe we can "earn" our salvation, but faith calls for commitment, for even the "devils believe, and tremble."

He praises the Anglicans and Episcopalians for his formal and Western education, both in Iran when he was a boy, where the Archbishop of Canterbury had a school, and later on at Virginia Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church.

Dr. Lamsa is very much a mystic; he says instead of seminaries, we should have schools for prophets and mystics. He believes that Moses and Abraham really saw and spoke with God.

I have recently read Dr. Lamsa's biography and his book on the history of the Assyrian Christians. I greatly enjoy his translation of the Scriptures. He is a spiritual giant. 







Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Haile Selassie on Spreading the Gospel



“The love shown by our God to mankind should constrain all of us who are followers and disciples of Christ, to do all in our power to see to it that the message of salvation is carried to those of our fellows for whom Christ our Savior was sacrificed but who have not had the benefit of hearing the good news.” 

- His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I