Monday, September 29, 2014

The Grammar of God

Tests:  Exodus 17:1-7   ; Philippians 2: 1-11

Warning: This sermon will map out some biblical concepts of God in ways that may not immediately seem practical. But our concepts of God shape who we become. We cannot be better than the god we serve. Lest the self-identified and much-loved atheists among us feel exempt from this exploration, I suggest that whatever you hold up as most worthy of your life IS, for the purposes of this sermon, your God. 

Warning: The former English teacher in me will make a brief appearance in this sermon. 

So to kill all expectations you might have had for a riveting sermon, let’s note the prepositions in today’s scriptures—a start to understanding biblical depictions of God. You remember prepositions, don’t you? Those everyday words that show relatedness? (Children offer some examples of prepositions.) I can use prepositions to tell you about my glasses when I tell you they are on me or above me or beside me. These preposition show how one thing relates to another.

We learn one biblical concept of God when we read in Exodus 15 that God is WITH Moses, and travels as a cloud ABOVE the people and goes BEFORE them to a source of water. The people experienced God’s presence with them, above them, before them. Prepositions reveal this tradition’s understanding of the way God relates to humanity.

Earlier in the book of Exodus, we learned that this same God initially self-identified to Moses as a God OF certain other persons: “the God OF Abraham, the God OF Isaac, and the God OF Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). 

This God of Prepositions is therefore a God of relatedness. But the relationships vary. God might be over us or all around us or before us or beside us. What would be your favorite preposition to express your experience of God? Why do you prefer this preposition for your relationship to God or your understanding of God?


So one way we express what is sacred to us and worthy of our lives is through the language of relationship. But let’s extend that idea. Jewish philosopher Martin Buber believed we know God through relatedness. We grasp reality only through some relationship to some thing or some one. God-- Ultimate Reality, the realest of the real, the Ground of All  Being-- can be grasped only through relatedness. In fact, God is the inbetweenness of you and me. Something sacred happens when you and I are rightly related. God is not some third party to our relationship; rather, God is what flows between us. When scripture speaks of God AS love (I John 4:8), God is neither the subject nor object of love but is the action of love. God is not the ONE who loves; God is the love between us.

God might also be the love within us—to pursue now another preposition. In the Christ poem we read in Philippians, God is IN us. More specifically, the God we have experienced in Christ is in us. God is more obviously in us when we “let the same mind be in [us] that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). This is quite a different way of imagining the sacred and our relationship to it: the divine not as out there but in here. For Paul, the God we see in Jesus is the indwelling, incarnational, immanent, intimate, inner God. Because his followers saw God IN Jesus, they could imagine God’s light, that divine force, within themselves as well.

Perhaps the God Within, in contrast with the God Out There, was a God humanity could posit only at a later stage of religion’s evolution. Even in our own individual spiritual development, we probably came late to this idea of the God Within. Long after we had been praying to the God Way Above, long after we had reverenced a God Far Beyond Us, we timidly considered the divine within. It has taken me a long time to accept the image of God WITHIN me. How about you?  Is that idea something that comes easily to you? Why or why not?


If Jesus had indeed made this evolutionary leap and lived fully as one made “in the image of God,” then we followers of Jesus can likewise claim our innate sacredness while also, like Jesus, “in humility [we] regard others as better than [our]selves” and “look not to [our] own interest, but to the interest of others” (Phil. 2: 4). The God Within is a challenging metaphor. Especially for our youngest children.

Although my childhood Sunday school teachers often said that Jesus lived in our hearts, child development experts caution against sharing that metaphor with very young children. Children can be overly literal. Take just a moment to picture a literal image of Jesus living in your heart and you’ll understand how that phrase can confuse or even disturb some little ones.But how important it is to teach children that their lives are precious and sacred!

The God Within is both a simple and sophisticated idea. A religion—or an individual –usually reaches that metaphor after a long period of cultural evolution or personal maturation. In contrast, the remote and anthropomorphic God developed early. The God Above Who Lives in the Clouds and Controls Earth's Events existed in our minds long before the God Within could be conceived.

Fortunately, the rich Judeo-Christian tradition accommodates the paradox that God is both within us and far beyond us.

Remember that in Moses’s earliest God encounter the concept of God who is finite complements the concept of the God who can’t be pinned down by any description.  Moses hears God speaking from a burning bush in words that are audible and highly specific. This is a god of the particular, a God communicating very specifically, a God manifest in the material world. But when Moses asks for the name of God, God reveals almost nothing about the divine identity. The deity dressed like a shrub replies cryptically, “I Am.” No prepositions in this epiphany. No action verbs. Because the divine is named simply “I Am,” the sacred might be understood as Is-ness itself. God is what is. Panentheism we might name that theology today.

In Jesus the Christ we encounter both a particular person (the historical Jesus) and an irreducible mystery (the Christ Event). The Jesus of history shows us a self-limiting God entering space and time. He “emptied himself” to be “born in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7). But the Christ of faith that animated the life of Jesus behaves more like a force or energy that continues to transform individuals and cultures to this day. The Jesus of the Gospels was a flesh-and-blood human who died. But in the language of faith we can say that his luminous life in some way continued past his death, and down through the centuries the Christ enlightened and transformed others who experienced that still-vital spirit. 

Christian theology put together the God out there with the God in here. The resulting Christian paradox described God as both immanent and transcendent: God is at once intimately familiar and completely unfathomable. To me, a healthy Christian spirituality sees the sacred as both far beyond us and within us. But in our daily lives we may move back and forth between these ideas of the divine, depending on our needs.

Having pulled together key biblical notions about God from today’s readings, I want to get more practical. Let’s examine not only what it means to have the mind of Christ but also what it means for a faith community like ours and for Christians in general to SHARE the mind of Christ. For Star Trek fans like me, sharing the mind of Christ sounds like becoming part of the terrifying Borg collective. Is Paul’s beautiful hymn about the Christ in Philippians a directive to give up freedom of thought?

Not at all. Philippians 2 is not an appeal for uniform thinking. When Paul says, “Let this thinking (phroneite in the Greek) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” Paul is not against independent opinions. Michael Joseph Brown explains that phronesis was a “practical wisdom in ancient philosophy” that emphasized “a way of being” in the world. (Sound familiar, you followers of The Way?) The Apostle Paul was calling for a shared outlook or “disposition towards the world.” *

Paul was not dictating doctrines to the church members. However, for the Philippian church to be united, they needed to follow Christ’s example of an humble mindset and a commitment for the common good.  Unity—not uniformity—was Paul’s point.  Having the mind of Christ meant they were to adopt a way of life in which they would look not “to [their] own individual interests but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Warning to liberals: Paul did not think PC thinking would hold the community together. 

Warning to conservatives: Paul did not think a faith community could be bound together and enlivened by enforced doctrine.

Paul believed that Jesus modeled for us a communal way of being that puts others first. In this kind of community you and I can experience the God we see in Christ Jesus—and in one another. In this kind of community we can think independently but work together for the common good. How different our world would be if all shared that commitment, if all bowed their knee, so to speak, to the one who humbled himself and whose mindset put others first.

Have you noticed I usually sign my weekly updates (emailed when the technology gods are smiling!) with a closing signature that is some variation on “In Christ”:  In Christ’s hope, In Christ’s service,  In Christ’s peace. I do so to remind myself—if not you—of a spiritual discipline that adopts Christ’s mindset, Jesus’s way of being in the world. Being “in Christ” lets us think independently but work collectively toward the common good.

Here’s a final word about the grammar of today’s scriptures. Some of my former students assumed that grammar was all about memorizing the parts of speech and observing the rules of formal English usage. But grammar is not really about rules that bind us; it’s a system that facilitates expression and connection. When the church shares the mind of Christ—the immensity of the Cosmic Christ—our way of being in this universe opens us up to a fullness of our human potential. God’s grammar/system is not about rules. Sharing the mind of Christ connects us to one another, to the humble Jesus, and to Ultimate Reality that is a Grammar of Grace.

* Brown, Michael Joseph. "Commentary on Philippians 2: 1-13" in Working Preaching, 1 June 2014. ( ).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


On third Sundays our service is contemplative. This week’s service included a guided meditation and culminated in an opportunity to visit various prayer stations. In solidarity with those participating in the Climate March in New York on this day, we heard in the Hebrew Bible lection God’s command that we “gather enough” for each day, a caution against greed, waste, acquisitiveness, and carelessness of the earth’s resources. See below the guided meditation followed by a description of our 4 prayer stations.

Guided Meditation that follows Exodus 16: 2-15                                    
2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

Moses’s congregation fled into the wilderness, the place of wildness, of testing and danger, the place where the new and unexpected happens. And though the Israelites had been recently rescued from bondage to Pharaoh, they faced new dangers. So they engaged in one of my favorite pastimes: complaining. 

Change is a key provoker of complaint. We react badly when we must leave the old ways behind. Even when the old ways are going to lead to our death, we complain about giving them up—giving up gas guzzling modes of transportation, reducing our use of fossil fuels, finding new forms of energy. 

It’s okay to complain about these significant challenges. The Israelites found themselves without food in the hostile desert. We find ourselves now without clean and renewable energy sources on a warming planet. Many of us are angry we must retool in order to survive into earth’s future. Although there remain a few voices denying climate chance, the vast majority of scientists concur that human activities have altered our climate. Understandably, we are complaining. The biblical stories assure us that God hears our complaints. The Psalms are filled with angry songs of complaint that were part of the early liturgy of the Israelites. Complaining is one way of praying. You’ll have the chance to pray that way at one of our prayer stations later. But we can’t stop there. Pause now to consider the difference between a whine and a protest.  How can you move from whining to protesting to problem-solving about a global injustice—or a personal challenge?


3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots (pots of meat) and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Verse 3 reminds me how cynical we can be when, as a group, we find ourselves in a challenging new situation—and ascribe to a leader or others evil intentions. Sometimes the prophets who name the “inconvenient truths” are hated. The extremists made the preposterous accusation that Moses and Aaron intentionally led them out to die of hunger. Let’s give thanks for those who have named societal ills that others wanted to ignore or deny.


4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

The word I need to hear in verse 4 is ENOUGH. God promises Moses there will be ENOUGH bread from heaven. On this Sunday when thousands are marching in NYC to raise awareness of climate change, I want us to pause over the word ENOUGH. Our climate has changed, in part, because we are not satisfied with enough. People with whom we share this planet are hungry. They are living out in the food-scarce wilderness. But we have been taught to acquire more and more. If you’re like me, you sometimes continue eating food on your plate after you’ve taken in enough nourishment to fuel you for that day. But in today’s story we see the sacred way of living is to know when we have enough. This is not a Gospel of prosperity. Nor is it a religion of scarcity. It’s the Good News of enoughness. God gave the Israelites food for the day. They were not to store up more than a day’s supply. Probably Jesus had this story of daily manna in mind when he taught his followers to pray by asking God to give them their “daily bread.” Think how much freer we’d be if we could live one day at a time.

I admit it’s hard for me to know when I’ve had enough. I eat more, spend more, do more than needed. Pause while we do a spiritual inventory. Do you have ENOUGH . . . clothes? And before you answer—think about what’s in your closet compared to the belongings of refugees fleeing hostilities in Central America, the Middle East, Africa elsewhere.  Do you have ENOUGH food . . . enough shelter . . . and by “enough” let’s use the “bread of heaven standard—enough for today. Can you live trustingly, taking one day at a time?  


Friends, isn’t it our inability to recognize and appreciate the enoughness in our lives that has led us to climate change? We’ve exploited our natural resources so heedlessly that our planet is now groaning from our excesses—particularly our excessive use of fossil fuels. This iconic story of sacred provisions and generous care remind us to appreciate and care for what we have. We return to the story:

5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”

In God’s economy, there are times to prepare for long-term needs.  There must be Sabbath time for rest, for instance. Rest for the planet. Rest for the people. One reason we come here weekly is to carve out some time away from our usual mode of getting and spending. Here we sort out our priorities. Here we find others who share our commitments. Here we try to define ourselves less by our possessions.

 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but” against the Lord. 9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ 10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12“I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“ 13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

Notice that God works through nature—through the quails, the dew.  If we disregard the natural world, we may miss a deeply spiritual encounter.  The sacred is often transmitted and perceived through the natural world.  But let’s not thank God for the beauty of nature in some empty cliché. Let’s also pay attention the wisdom of nature and take responsibility for the healing of the earth.

In SILENCE we consider our unity with everything on this planet.  If we can truly appreciate our connectedness with all creation, we will usher in the fullness of God's realm that Jesus preached.
1st Prayer Station: Complaining
Complaining is easy. But the Bible’s Israelites made it an art—and a deeply spiritual practice. Of the 150 Psalms in our Bible, about 65 can be categorized as psalms of complaint or lament. Since these songs were used regularly in the early liturgy of the Hebrew people, we know that complaining to God was part of the worship life of our spiritual ancestors.  Below are a few excerpts from just one of the complaint psalms, Psalm 22:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

6 But I am a worm, and not human;
 scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me; 
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

14 I am poured out like water, 
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; 
it is melted within my breast;
You are invited to write a complaint prayer. It could be a simple sentence. For example: “I’m tired of people cutting me off in traffic.” Or you could imitate the poetic parallelism the above psalm uses. That means you’d write a statement expressing your complaint or anguish and follow it with another parallel statement that says the same idea but in different words. If you would like the pastor to read your complaint aloud later, place your complaint face down on the table. Feel free to write more than one complaint prayer.

2nd Prayer Station: Contemplating
Select one item from the natural world that “speaks” to you about “enoughness”—a flower, a seashell, a pine cone, etc. Take it with you to your seat for now. Let it continue to speak to you about vastness, depth, fullness, hardiness, endurance, or abundance. What does this aspect of nature teach you?  Why is it important for a healthy planet and healthy persons to grasp that our planetary and personal resources are abundant but not inexhaustible? 

3rd Prayer Station:  Giving
Often people think of prayer as a way to get something for themselves.  But what if prayer is about the inner work we do to become lovingly generous? You are invited to give your offering today to practice the spiritual art of enoughness. If you are not able to give financially today, think of other ways you can give generously from your life, trusting there is enough for you.

4th Prayer Station:  Receiving
God continues to “rain bread from heaven”(Exodus 16:4). Early Christians understood the stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes in light of the story of God providing manna in the wilderness for the people Moses led. Jesus, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, is often compared to Moses. Like manna, the bread of heaven that reappears at Christ’s table each week reminds us of God’s loving care. As we recall the story of Jesus’s life, death, and life again, let us also remember this bread from heaven tastes like Love, which we’ve seen most clearly in the life of Jesus. Take, eat.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Freed From Enslaving Stories

Text:  Exodus 14: 10-31: 15: 20-21.

What stories have your parents or grandparents told you about themselves and other family members? Which of these stories have you told—will you tell—to a younger generation? I want to share two of my family stories—and I want you to remember I’m telling these as they were told to me.

From my father’s side of the family there’s the story of Great-Great-Uncle Jason Guice, a major in the Confederate army and a minor war hero. The first generation of Guices in Barbour County, Alabama, he and his brothers fought courageously in the “War Between the States.” Jason was seriously wounded five times in five different battles. One hand was shot off, requiring amputation at the elbow. Each time he was patched up, he went back into the fray. He was not only brave and loyal to the Confederacy; he was also gentlemanly. Once when capturing a Yankee general, Great-Great-Uncle Jason was so “courteous” to his prisoner—and here I’m quoting from a published history of the event—the Northern general removed his gloves and presented Jason Guice with the general’s prized “buckskin gauntlets.” I used to imagine a chivalric Uncle Jason accepting them with a noble nod.

From my mother I heard stories about her mother’s kindnesses to the poor black sharecroppers on the family farm located on land now part of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. On my grandparents’ farm during the Great Depression, my grandmother made ends meet for her husband and eight young children. Everyone loved Dee Da, the name an older cousin gave my grandmother. Less than five-feet-tall and shy of ninety pounds of inexhaustible energy, she was always eager to add another guest to her bounteous dinner table. During the Depression, she and my grandfather owned land and little more. Yet Dee Da would share medicine and food with the tenants when their children were sick. She’d cook huge midday meals for all the farmhands—family and hired workers alike. My mother always mentioned, with admiring emphasis, that her mother invited the black workers to come inside to eat—well, to sit on the porch to eat—and she served them the exact same meal she served her family. I got the impression other farm families weren’t so gracious.

These two family stories and many others were passed down to my generation so we’d know what kind of stock we came from and what was expected of us.  Both paternal and maternal stories were told with uncritical pride. But I could not simply pass along these stories to my child. Not without critical commentary. Did you hear parts of the stories that demand an editorial comment?

My ancestors inherited an assumption that white folks were superior to black folks. My family stories extolled a Civil War hero defending the Southern way of life—when that way of life was built on the slave system. My family stories admired a caring matriarch—but her selflessness and humility were measured by her concern for people her culture believed were beneath her. Racism and classism and sexism are unspoken realities in these stories and other stories as I received them. So I retell them in ways that make explicit the blindspots.

Similarly, we inherit stories from our religious tradition.  We can still see God at work through these stories even as we acknowledge that the biblical stories were first told by people trapped or enslaved by limited understandings of the world. As are we. We are blind now to things that our grandchildren will one day see clearly. As the Preamble to the United Church of Christ Constitution states, we affirm “the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.”  Each generation is responsible for making “this faith its own.” The Still Speaking God calls us to honor Christian scripture while hearing it afresh in our ever-changing contexts. I’ll squander a rich heritage if I’m too arrogant to appreciate my grandmother’s wisdom and goodness. But I’ll shirk my responsibility if I accept her generation’s prejudices unthinkingly.

Today we are sharing a 3000-year-old story with Open Table’s children. This story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea is a key story within the larger and ever-expanding Christian Story. Whenever the church passes down a sacred story, we need to say three things to the next generation:  1) We believe this God-breathed story tells us something about the God we love and serve.  2) This story also tells us about the people who first told the story. 3) And this story tells us something about ourselves.

The story of Moses leading his people to freedom lives today because we continue to witness the Liberating Spirit at work in this world: breaking the bonds of victims of sexual trafficking or domestic violence, inspiring laborers who want fair wages and safe working conditions, releasing people from enslaving addictions, rescuing those trapped in harmful relationships, calling others to resist tyrants and end bigotry and dispel ignorance.

Yet the story of Moses also depicts God murdering Pharaoh’s army in order to “gain glory” (Ex. 14:18).  What kind of violent and glory-crazed personality is this?  How can a people who follow such a god not adopt their god’s violent tactics and tribalism? Like those wonderful old family stories with a troubling undercurrent of prejudice, biblical stories, too, reveal the narrow worldviews of the original storytellers.

Scholars believe this violent tale was originally told as “the struggle between YHWH . . . and the gods of Egypt (Jenks 77).  “The myth of the victory of the gods of land and agriculture over the primeval sea-monster . . . [was] domesticated to celebrate Israel’s conviction that her existence is nothing less than an act of God” (78). Certainly we understand the appeal today’s violent Bible reading had for the powerless who first told the story—and for disempowered people down through the ages, like the enslaved Africans brought to this country many centuries later. We recognize the hope Moses’s God offered them and why they needed a god who clearly sided with the slaves. Scholars believe that Miriam’s song gloating over the dead Egyptians (Ex. 15:20-21) is one of the oldest passages in the Bible.

Unfortunately, history tells us that the oppressed can turn into the oppressors; the persecuted can become persecutors, the excluded may try to exclude. A case in point: Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, pastor and author, recently reported that an online directory of gay-friendly churches had excluded her church because her church’s website didn’t provide evidence that they were orthodox enough. 

When asked to prove that her LGBT-friendly church was a “real” Christian church, she replied:We don’t really do a doctrinal ‘sniff test’ on people. Instead, we ask that they affirm the only creed Jesus ever affirmed, which is one of love for self and others and a dedication to service in the world.”
The folks in charge of responded that following Jesus’ teachings of love and service” was not sufficient proof that her church was Christian.

Candace’s response: “This infuriates me. As a member of a group of people who have been excluded, denied membership and generally shunned by Christian churches around the globe, to be summarily dismissed by a website that is supposedly set up to help LGBT people find accepting places to worship shows just how far the LGBT community has strayed from our own commitment to welcome everyone. Apparently, we cannot even make room at the table for everyone in our own community if their doctrines don’t smell right (

It so happens that I had registered Open Table for this directory of welcoming churches some months ago. Apparently we passed the sniff test; I’m not sure how. But after reading Candace’s article, I wrote the organization and politely asked them to remove Open Table from the directory. I explained we are proudly LGBTQ-affirming, but we don’t require a doctrinal test for membership. Last I checked they’d not removed us from the directory.

Friends, let’s be careful how we introduce our children to Moses’s war god. Years ago one of my nephews was tormenting his older brother. When the older boy had had enough, he went on the offensive while shouting a phrase he thought he was quoting correctly from the Bible:  “Vengeance is mine; praise the Lord!” Vengeance becomes an easier option when we think it’s the way God operates.

Vengeance can trap individuals and nations in cycles of violence as powerful as Pharaoh’s bondage. Think about the Iraqi quicksand our country has stepped into. With every violent action we take, we find ourselves more and more mired in a moral and political mess.

We bear a responsibility for the ways we tell our stories. Real liberation contributes to full liberation for all.

To illustrate how unexamined worldviews affect our readings of Bible stories like this one, biblical scholar Gregory Jenks tells about a trip he made to Egypt and his participation one day “in the celebration of a Eucharist in the corner of a hotel lobby on the shores of the Suez Canal. Not surprisingly,” he relates, “whoever was responsible for the selection of the reading for that service chose the account of crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and the Israelites in Exodus 14. We were to make a similar journey later that morning, although we would travel in a bus across the sea by a tunnel. As I listened to the Bible passage with its account of the dead bodies of the Egyptians strewn on the shore, I became aware of our context—an Egyptian hotel, staffed by Egyptians. Suddenly, ‘Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore’ (Exodus 14:30) seemed grossly inappropriate, and it has remained so for me ever since” (Jenks 37).

But for me the Eucharist is the very picture of the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. We prepare for this meal by speaking words of peace to all who gather. We approach the Table as equals—free before God.  From the beginning this meal symbolized a radical leveling of social hierarchy.  At the Lord’s Table no one was labeled slave or free. At this meal all are free people remembering Jesus’s supper—which he ate in memory of Moses’s last meal in Egypt. But after his Passover supper, Jesus lost his liberty. Refusing to respond with violence, Jesus accepted temporary restrictions on his bodily freedom—so that his Spirit could remain free of violence.  Here’s the core story we tell our children each Sunday: in Jesus we are free. And we learn this story of Jesus’ betrayal, death, and resurrection by entering this story ourselves, week after week, enacting it even when we don’t understand it—to live and give God’s liberty.

Jesus, show us how to live as freely as you did.  Though arrested and nailed to a cross, you never lost your liberty.

Jenks, Gregory C.   The Once and Future Bible: An Introduction to the Bible for Religious Progressives. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011.