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.