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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Sermon on the Mount, Tenth

I did not finish the Sermon on the Mount before Christmas time arrived. I've added the tag Sm.Mt. that you can click on to read the rest of my reflections on the topic. I left off just before Jesus' riff that is either existentialist or an answer to existentialism. I'm talking about Matthew 6:19-34. Here are some excerpts:
I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
. . . .
do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
According to Wikipedia (because I'm too lazy to go read Kierkegaard), In Repetition, Kierkegaard's literary character Young Man laments:
How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it and why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn't it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?
I think Jesus' answer is don't worry so much. You like the birds are here to experience life. And to the planners and rationale thinkers, Jesus seems to be saying you're missing the boat too. It is all about the now.

This may be a selective reading of the passage. I understand the kingdom of heaven to mean participation in the eternal kingdom that was present in Jesus' day and is present still, that is living in the Way. So, when the passage for today's consideration says,
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I take that to mean worrying about how much money is a waste of time, you should worry about the present joy you have in living the good life. One could read this as a promise for future reward for the faithful.

What do you think? Is Jesus telling the listeners to follow him for future benefit? Doesn't that seem inconsistent with the passage about today & tomorrow?

Friday, January 04, 2008

More Than A True Story

First off, the post that I wrote under "A True Story" is a genuine expression of the concerns currently filling my mind and heart. It is also a thoughtful reflection on the values that I have developed over my life and the source of those values. Finally, it is fashioned around a week "at home" when reflection on these was a natural outgrowth of my time there.

Some of the changes I made to the factual events were sort of literary vehicles. I put things in an order moving backward in time so that I finished with the most fundamental value. Some of the changes were a result of my audience; if I was telling the story to my kids I would say "Grandpa," but on the blog, it makes sense to refer to him as JimI.

Some of the other alterations were to add emphasis: Like listing the names of others who were touched by cancer, like only describing the conversations that exemplified my experience in a place, and by identifying the location of my prior experience rather than the location of the meeting.

Finally, I would expect that no one felt betrayed to read the corrections. When you read the first story you knew it was stylized. Also, by only including the proper names Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John you might have suspected that I intended to connect the story back to a discussion of the Gospels.

So, imagine my children reading this story after my death. Imagine them arguing about my visit to Oakwood saying that there is no restaurant in Oakwood and one of them remembers me saying I never went back there. Taking the story as overly factual--as testimony rather than testimonial--is the smallest problem. The larger problem would be that they would be missing the point of the story.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just in from Iowa: Praise Jesus!

Maybe an exaggeration, but I can't help but notice the first winners this year also have the top rating on BeliefNet's God-o-meter. Do you think this means we are on our way to theocracy? Here is an alternative reading: Americas like hope. Consider the following elections Carter/Ford; Reagan/Carter; Reagan/Mondale; Clinton/Bush; Clinton/Dole; Bush/Kerry. I would suggest that in each of these elections, the deciding factor was the candidate with the hopeful outlook and vision won, even when the "hopeful" vision was repulsive to me like military domination. Is it possible that it isn't exactly their expressions of faith, but their expressions of hopefulness, which just happens to be an expression of faith for them?

Or it could be coincidence. There are so few elections it is easy over generalize, and soon enough Giuliani will start winning by scaring the living daylights out of people.

A True Story?

I have the following confessions to make about the last post:

1. My father, the person with whom I made these trips, has never gone by "JimI".
2. I met Matt & Co. at the Giordano's in SW Chicago, not Evanston.
3. I met John at a Steak & Shake in W Lafayette, not Oakwood.
4. I visited the family twice, once before going to Chicago and once after, both visits were before I saw John.
5. There is no way hugging accounted for 25% of my time visiting with the family.
6. In both parenthetical remarks, I really have no idea if anyone but me was thinking of those people.

I also made some significant omissions in the last post:

1. I visited Matt & Beth. I visited with Beth as much as I did with Matt.
2. In additions to politics & science we talked about selecting schools for our children and what Beth would do once their youngest started first grade and about the origins of Waldorf versus Montessori methods.
3. The family in first parenthesis should have been referred to as "Luke and Susan's" family.
4. My mother went with us on both visits to the family.
5. The family in the second parenthesis should have also included Danny.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A True Story

Before beginning my new year, I went home.

JimI and I first went back to Evanston. There we met Matthew. We discussed politics and science, carefully parsing the issues of the day. Dad teased Matthew’s very bright and well-behaved children, and they maintained their poise. We only touched on Dad’s cancer briefly. (We remembered without mentioning Luke’s family.) It was good to remember my time in Evanston where I learned to love knowledge.

Next, JimI and I went back to Oakwood. There we met John. We talked about the fun times and the rough times we spent together in Oakwood. John has now divorced, but he sees his courageous and independent children often. I guess my brother has been calling John late at night—something John recognized as a heart felt albeit annoying reaching out. Through all of it, John smiled and laughed. Not ironic or mournful smiles either, but genuine, joy-filled expressions. It was good to remember my time in Oakwood where I learned to have fun in the face of hardship.

Finally JimI and I went back to Indianapolis. There we met the family. My grandmother’s heart problems were on everyone’s mind that night. (We remembered without mentioning Mark's family.) But, it didn't prevent the volume from rising in the room as high energy children ran about. It didn’t prevent a tremendous swell of belly laughs and cursing in response to adults harassing each other. By the time we hugged everyone hello and hugged everyone good bye, we spent a quarter of the night doing nothing but hugging. It was good to remember my time in Indianapolis where I learned that I was loved.