Edition: March 16, 2015
The Paradox of Prayer: A Pilgrimage
By Bill Newcott, AARP The Magazine, February/March 2015
This reporter looks at pray in the lives of a variety of believers across the country. He encounters Christina Levasheff who tells the story of her two year old, Judson, who died of Krabbe disease. She and her husband, Drake, a Christian theologian, and a host of friends, relatives and a vast network of other believers prayed for Judson’s healing. November 7, 2007 Judson died. Christina tells Bill, “I still believe in the power of prayer. I’m conflicted, I’m angry, and I hurt. I tell God, ‘I don’t know how to reconcile what I’m felling with who you say you are.’ But I still believe God wants us to meet him where we are.”
Newcott says, “It is that paradox of prayer—the belief that there is power even in prayer that seems to sail off into some cosmic dead letter file—that comforts and confounds believers and skeptics alike.”
Reflecting on his parting from Christina, Bill says, “So we stood there, the two of us, two people who'd felt let down by prayer, who struggled to understand the meaning of it, yet who just could not bring themselves to give it up. And maybe that's the greatest power of prayer: It winds around our world like a billion skeins of scarlet ribbon, binding people who have never met, linking cultures that otherwise have no hope of understanding one another — and then it shoots heavenward like a spiritual supernova, joining all of humanity in an instinctive reach for eternity.”
Read Here (Be sure to watch the video!)
You Don’t Know Jack! . . . about Lent
What is Lent? What are the three practices the Church suggests we do during Lent based on the teachings of Jesus? Why do Catholics eat fish on Fridays and why is it called "Good" Friday, anyway? Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, is once again hitting the streets, this time on Ash Wednesday near St. Patrick's Catheldral. View video.
Commemorating Selma’s 50 Years Later
“In March 1965, a nonviolent protest about voting rights for African Americans turned tragic when police attacked demonstrators on what would come to be called ‘Bloody Sunday.’ On March 9, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. asked faith leaders to join him for a second march in support of equal rights for black voters. A young Methodist pastor in Boston heard his call and soon found himself in the middle of history. Like so many, the Rev. Gil Caldwell can never forget that event 50 years ago.”
Richard Rohr on Interpreting Scripture
By Fr. Richard Rohr
I think the very best key by which a Christian can interpret Scripture is to interpret Scripture the way that Jesus did!
First of all, Jesus approached the Hebrew Scriptures with the assumption that God had been speaking to humanity through an entire history of dialogue with his people Israel. (The universal message always begins with a very concrete situation or what has been called "the scandal of the particular.") Jesus heard the voice of God inside of one concrete context, exactly as we all must do. But he also had the added advantage of the Jewish practice of midrash. Midrash is a way of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, questioning and imagining a multitude of interpretations possible. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader, instead of closing down the possibility of being changed by latching onto one final, closed, and forever certain interpretation.
Unlike Christianity's post-Reformation and post-Enlightenment approach to Scripture, midrash does not look for the one and only interpretation. Jewish commentaries on Scripture invariably say, "It could mean this, and it could mean that, and let's think about it this way for a while?" This open-horizon approach was still in vogue for most of the first 1300 years of Christianity, where as many as six levels of interpretation and numerous levels of truth were perceived in any one Scripture text. We have actually gone backward with the recent and childish notion of "biblical inerrancy," where the one inerrant interpretation always just happens to be mine!
Pope Francis is returning us to the much older and more mature Tradition in his notion of a "hierarchy of truths" (Joy of the Gospel). Not all truths are created equal, or of equal importance. Something might be true merely on a psychological level or a historical level or a mythological level. For some sad and illogical reason, fundamentalists think the historical level is the "truest" one. "Did it really happen just that way?" That is actually one of the least fruitful levels of meaning. Even if it did happen just that way, our capacity to understand even that truth is still filtered through our own cultural and personal biases, which are largely unconscious. There is no such thing as a value-free interpretation of anything. It does not exist on this earth, but only in the perfect mind of God.
Jesus is presented in the Gospels as a classic wisdom teacher. The four Evangelists allow him to draw from the wisdom of other traditions (e.g., Luke 16:19, the story of the "Rich Man and Lazarus" is a retelling of a common Egyptian and Mid-Eastern story), and also to create his own stories, which we waste time trying to prove if they "really" happened just that way. Jesus did not actually quote the Hebrew Scriptures very much, but when he did, he clearly took liberties with them! For example, in John 10:34, Jesus says to the Jews, "You are gods!" This is hardly the meaning of Psalm 82:6, which he is referring to. If we really want to follow his lead, we must begin with Jesus' assumption that a loving God is trying to communicate with us, and even through each little story, verse, or parable. I think that is what Jesus means by blessing "purity of heart" and that these are the ones who will "see God" (Matthew 5:8). If you don't interpret a text with a pre-existing condition of faith and love, your egocentricity, your agenda, and your anger can always be presumed to be in charge, and you will interpret the Bible in whichever way you want.
Jesus selectively emphasizes the texts that reveal his God as good, faithful, inclusive, and merciful, and he creates stories--and concrete healing events--to communicate that very point, such as The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, and The Publican and the Pharisee. Each of these stories and healings are true on many different levels. That is exactly what makes them inspired stories! Jesus consistently ignored passages that reveal his God to be punitive, exclusionary, imperialistic, small, or tribal. Such a biased reading, which is to share in the chosen biases of Jesus, will be endlessly fruitful and life-giving for the individual and for all the world. For the "dirty hearted," the merciful passages will just be something to ignore or argue about, and the punitive passages will be marked with a florescent high-lighter. Pope Francis insists that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths, and everything falls apart whenever mercy is displaced by anything else.
Adapted from Hierarchy of Truths: Jesus' Use of Scripture
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The Program in Pastoral Care and Counseling encourages the spiritual formation of our pastors believing a strong spiritual base is the greatest resource a church leader can possess. It helps us weather the many storms of ministry and deepens the incredible joys ministry provides. Following is a list of Spiritual Directors in our area. We encourage you to take advantage of this rich resource. This listing will appear in each edition of our bi-monthly webpage updates and new names and contact information will be provided as we learn of them and have permission to include them. If you are a director or know of a director that is not included here please let us know.
Debbie Baker - firstname.lastname@example.org
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DIY Dharma (Spiritual Practice): You Have Everything You Need
By JUDY LIEF
Here are 14 very helpful hints about establishing and maintaining a meditation practice. Please translate from the Buddhist to our Christian tradition. The 14 helpful hints.
How to Sleep Better: Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
“How you feel during your waking hours hinges greatly on how well you sleep. Similarly, the cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine. Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to the quality of your nightly rest.
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