Monday, April 27, 2015

The LORD loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 97:10

It seems like there are a lot of statements like this in the Psalter. Basically, it says that the good guys are protected and loved and the rest of us fall into the hand of the wicked. That doesn’t seem to bother God too much. 

If you don’t make the grade… Well, too bad.

What about all those people in Nepal, where the mountains melted? Did they just not hate evil quite enough? Not faithful enough? And, of course, I flashed back to that little tembler we had in Mandalay that time. It was a small earthquake, but I was in that scary building. I really thought that might be the end of me. I remember making myself walk down by the moat for a long, long time and when I sat down I was still shaking. Maybe I was not faithful enough. Maybe I was spared on account of somebody else’s faithfulness. Who even knows about these things?

And Nepal is not even the most up-to-the-minute travesty which God failed to rescue anybody from. In the time between the quake and the time you read this there will have been countless violations of people who, I guess, were not quite faithful enough, should have hated evil a little more.

Let’s face it, it is just impossible to find any favour with this God. We are as abandoned as Jesus on the cross, tossed out into space and by the mercy of gravity caught by the Sun. Yes, gravity has more mercy than God. It really is enough to make you want to give up the whole enterprise. 

See me squirming in the hand of the wicked. 

This is why I wish the lectionary writers would place the Psalm LAST instead of first. Often it leaves me with questions which I don’t really want to confront because they might be too hard, maybe I am not smart enough to figure it out, or I might not like the answer. So today I’ll just take the other option and bitch about it. I know that the one thing Jesus would not want me to do is nothing. 

We can see that in the second story in today’s gospel reading. It’s the story of the fellow who showed up to schul with a lame arm. The Pharisees were watching Jesus to see what he’d do. You know how some people are always hoping you’ll mess up. That’s what the Pharisees were doing. But, our man Jesus doesn’t care. He’s cool when he says, “So, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” And I guarantee you there was utter and complete silence in the room. See, the habit had been to just ignore such things, to do nothing. But Jesus didn’t give that as an option. Obviously no Jew is going to say that it’s lawful to do harm, so that one’s out too. Jesus' only option is to take some action. Being Jesus, and all, he healed the man. I am not Jesus and I have never healed anybody. But what I learn from this reading is that I do not have the option of ignoring people’s needs.  I have to keep alert. See the need.

One time I gave some money to a panhandler in Washington DC and the guy I was with said something like, “Hey, he didn’t ask your for money.” And that was true enough. He was just sitting there, actually. He did not ask. But, honest to fuck… do we have to have a gold engraved invitation before we can see the needs around us? It was pretty clear that the man could use some money, that he was out there with that in mind. That he did not ask me specifically is beside the point. I don’t think that the man in today’s story sought out Jesus either. But Jesus is not blind. He can see that the man is lame. He knows that it is within his power to heal him. Duh.

I wonder about the needs around here. In my classroom, on the lane, across the desk. It's hard to see when you're busy, or distracted, or don't care.

But, inaction… it’s just not an option.

I like the other story for today too. It’s the one where Jesus proclaims himself lord of the Sabbath. He and some of his friends were walking through a field on a fine shabbat day. I guess they got a little snacky because they did what many of us have done; they snapped off a head of grain and began to chew on it.  Well, you just know those Pharisees were around.  And I like the Pharisees, I do. But some of them were real dicks. Anyway, they confronted Jesus on this illegal behavior and Jesus responded by comparing himself to David who also behaved illegally in regard to what he ate.  This is a pretty unrepentant position.  And then Jesus basically says, “Never mind the law. I am not even going to talk to you about it. I am lord of the Sabbath.” It’s no wonder he later got arrested. 

But, look again, it’s not just I am lord of the Sabbath. He says, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” I bet that’s an important juxtaposition. That’s a brilliant little statement, actually. In just a few words Jesus explains that he is both the hope and the fulfillment! 

You have to understand that Shabbat is the cornerstone of the covenant.  Don’t pay any attention to the charlatans going around shouting about their SABBATH. They are the same ones who don’t know what Shalom means. Just ignore them.

Shabbat reminds us of our first full day with God when having been created we were invited into God’s holy rest. This is how we know that Shabbat is not just a chance to rest up from the week past. Adam and Eve didn’t have anything to rest up from, after all. We enter into Shabbat because that is where we belong. It’s as simple as that. 

Jesus is saying, “I am Lord of the Sabbath… the place where you belong is the place where I am lord. “ 

I am pretty sure the Pharisees weren’t happy with that answer, but they didn’t arrest Jesus. Not that day, anyway.

So, in these readings we can learn a couple things about what Shabbat looks like under the Jesus Covenant:

  • Needs are seen
  • People are healed
  • Doing nothing is not an option
  • Legality is not the issue

For me?

  • I have to keep alert. 
  • Look for needs. 
  • Do what I can.
  • The law be damned.

I was in a study group one time where we took turns reading from the holy texts of our various traditions. This was really a remarkable group, looking back on it. Anyway one woman brought a quote from Paramhansa Yogananda about keeping your body and your mind fit and ready for God realization.  She talked about God realization a lot and had an unusual fascination with Indian gurus who had gone to the west. There are more of them than you might guess too. Anyway, during her talk a friend of mine passed me a note which said, “Don’t eat much, you never know when you’re going to be arrested,” and she has seen the inside of Insein Prison, so she knows.  It’s the same thing. Keep ready for God realization. You never know when the Kingdom may come! Keep ready.  Do what you can. The law be damned in our cause. Keep fit. Keep your belly empty. You never know when you might be arrested. Keep ready.

Pray for the students in Burma, my Rohyngia, everybody in Nepal, and the whole bloody world which has been abandoned to the hand of the wicked. 

It is either the 22nd or the 23rd day of the Omer. So far, I have remembered to make my count every day. At half-way to Shavuot where are we? Feeling abandoned. I really do wonder about the whole thing. But I am going to keep counting. It’s what I can do. It’s not much, but I can do that. It’s the one thing that I can be faithful to. It’s important to be faithful to something, even a small thing.

Spring is in full swing now. I’ll post some pictures later. But I can see this morning that the flowers are bigger and bunchier now than they were just a few days ago when I took the pictures.  I think I’ll pack away my coats. Or, probably just give them away. I hope to be somewhere warmer next winter.

You may remember that one of my neighbors has some fish tanks in his patio area. Well, something happened in one of the tanks and all the fish died. We were all sad. I was surprised at how tender he was about it. You would not take him for a sensitive man.  

I am still delighted by my ukulele lessons. I am not very good, but don’t feel that my inability should be an impediment to enjoying myself. I have never been overly obsessed with achievement, though. Ask my disappointed parents.  

I went to the Shanghai Hotel And Restaurant Supply store the other day. You all would not believe this place. They have everything from No Smoking signs to gorgeous copper cookware. I didn't go down every single aisle. The THREE HOURS I scheduled for my visit just didn't allow it. I picked up a couple things I needed/wanted, but I looked at lots of other stuff. There's some kitchen gear out there! I shopped the industrial blenders pretty heavily, as well as the modular kitchen systems... starting at only two thousand US.  My best purchase was a proper griddle so pancakes are in my future!

 I know I have not had a kabbalah number entry since Yud. That means we've missed both 18 and 20, and those are both big numbers. But 40 and 50 are coming up, and 30 is a good one too. And they are basically the decade number plus one through ten. Actually, all the numbers are good ones. It really is, though, getting too complicated for me to even think about too much, much less explain. I think this is the point when I tell you to see your rabbi because I'm out. What I know, I know pretty good. But there is so very much I don't know. You just wouldn't believe! Even I don't know all the things I don't know. And that's why we love religion, isn't it? It just never ends.

The truth is that I retreat into number mysticism and the merkaba when I don't want to think about other things. It's an escape. A fun escape, and pretty harmless, but it keeps me from more important and present matters. Gotta keep alert.

Have a fun day everybody.

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