Musings on the Kingdom (Lenora Rand)

This Blog post is a repost from Red Letter Christians written by Lenora Rand.

Lenora’s blog, Spiritual Suckitude, is about figuring out how to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, while working in corporate America and trying to get the laundry done. She is also co-founder of The Plural Guild. Check out her earthy, soulful writing and enjoy this short piece below.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3)

Lenora writes:

“I used to have a sort of idealized Disney-version of kids in my head. Then I had some. And I noticed that in their natural state, before us adults manage to fully “civilize” them, kids are crazy with questions, needy and rambunctious, don’t easily take “No” for an answer, feel everything deeply, hate unfairness and aren’t ashamed to yell about it, and basically live every second of every day until they pass out in blessed exhaustion. And if we’re like them, Jesus says, that’s how we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  That is actually heaven.”

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Going About…Doing Good

“You know…what has happened all over Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power [and Jesus] went about doing good and healing all those oppressed…for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38, NAB)

I’ve often realized that sometimes the sacred Scriptures get quite “dull” to me, and I think the reason is that for all the “this and that” over Scripture, it is and will always be a collection of stories about real people of people, and their interactions with each other and with God.

That is why I love the above mentioned Scripture; for it says that the love story of Jesus, and how he lived and what he did, was known all over Judea (so even back then ‘gossip’ and stories were afoot and the norm).

When I think about Jesus, I often forget or deny his humanness (back in the day that was a named heresy with punishment being excommunication and a hot party of one on a burning stake!).

Yes, Jesus was utterly and completely human, and he was filled with the Spirit and power. And what did he do with his Spirit-filled power: he used it to go about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed. Now, how many of us can say if we had “power” that this is what we would do? Be honest…

And when I look around at the self-proclaimed Christians, I am often left wondering and amazed at just how power hungry some God mongerers are. Wouldn’t it be grand if most of “Christendom” and the “true professed followers of Jesus” were known more for going around doing good and healing the oppressed rather than what most of Christians are known for now: gay bashing, gun-toting, reactionary close-mindedness, narcissistic self-help pedagogies promoting earthly riches. The list goes on…

Truly, I sometimes feel that if Jesus were alive today, we’d lock him out of our houses of worship: how dare he hang out with whores, drug addicts, money-launderers, and those people who smell funny and talk to themselves when they walk down the street.

Can you hear it? Just exactly who does this Jesus think he is? How dare him. Well, he’ll mess up my agenda. He’ll mess with my Constitutional Rights! He’ll come across as unpatriotic. He’ll offend the neighbors…

Blah, blah, blah. Damn right Jesus will mess with you! For going around doing good and healing the oppressed got Jesus killed! He did not win some local civic award, or the Nobel Prize, nor did he get 1 million hits on his YouTube viral video or have the most popular Facebook account.

He got strung up on a tree for following the leading of the Spirit and doing good and being with and healing the poor and oppressed. It is vital to remember that in the time of Jesus, much like today, the poor were maligned for being so because it was their fault; they had sinned or committed some heinous error that had caused God to punish and curse them.

Jesus screws all that screwy theology right to hell.

I’d like to be all pious and sanctimonious and say I want to be like Jesus. Well, I do, just without the cross. I do want to be filled with the Spirit and go about doing good and being a source of God’s healing for the oppressed. But I am afraid because those who love God and the poor often times suffer the same fate as the poor.

What will the stories be about me when I die? Will I be known for going about doing good? Will you be known about going around doing good? What legacy am I leaving?

The question is: am I out there going about doing good and healing those who are oppressed?

“Where’s the Proof?” (Kayla McClurg)

Advent Reading for December 15, 2013 ~ Matthew 11:2-11

Sermon by Kayla McClurg, Church of the Saviour, Washington, DC

In prison a person has time to ponder things. My friends who have spent time there say it isn’t surprising that people meet Jesus in prison simply because there is so much time, mindless miles of time, to be still and think. The wise ones use that time to ponder the depths of their lives and to ask questions and invite new answers. John has been put in prison. The authorities have tried to stifle him, but his disciples remain faithful and John remains their teacher. From his cell they carry a key question John has been pondering about Jesus: “Are you the one, or should we be waiting for another?”

Curiously, Jesus doesn’t say. He simply says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Look at the evidence, and come to your own conclusions. The evidence is this: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are standing on the shores of a new life, welcoming a boatload of good news. Is this the proof you were expecting from “the one who is to come,” or another?

You know the question, if you were arrested for following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Or would you get off scot free, innocent of having disturbed anyone with the good news? Would you be found guilty of living a converted life, of giving away freely what you have received? Could anyone accuse you of radical expressions of solidarity with the poor? Would the powers tremble at the ripples of your generosity?

John has been arrested for stirring up mercy and healing, for proclaiming another way, for inspiring people to submit to a higher-than-human authority. His imprisonment is meant to intimidate him and his followers—and especially to intimidate Jesus. The powers always resort to such foolishness. In reality, such a response does nothing but add fuel to the fire of the movement. Jesus and a growing band of disciples pick up where John left off. The mantle has been passed, and the momentum builds. The proof is at hand.

By: (Season and Scripture: ,

“Drugged into Submission” (Robert Farrar Capon)

This quote below by Robert Farrar Capon is quite appropoe, and we can allow the word “preacher” to speak for all followers of Jesus.  Stirring the pot…

“I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain.

The Church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God.

What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross-and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms. But preachers can’t be that naughty or brave unless they’re free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they won’t be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them…in Jesus. Ergo, the absolute indispensability of trust in Jesus’ passion. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone – and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness – they will be of very little use in the pulpit.”

Robert Farrar Capon, The Foolishness of Preaching

The Center & the Edge

The closer we get to the Center, the more God takes us to the edges.

The closer we get to our Center (the place where God dwells), the more we are drawn out of our comfort zones into a life of radical love.  The word radical comes from the Latin word ‘radix’ meaning ‘Root’ – so what we are drawn to is a Rooted Love and a Love Rooted in God.

The more we live from the Center, the deeper our roots become.  The deeper our roots become, the more we learn to trust the nature of God and his love.  The more we trust God and his love, the more we long and hunger to experience and share that Divine Love with all, especially those farthest from it.

The Triqueta - an Celtic Cross

The Triqueta – a Celtic Cross

The stronger our roots become, the stronger we become.  But this strength is not a power lording it over others, but the power to serve others deeply without losing or defining ourselves by such service.

That is my passion, that is my Center and my edge – called to the life of God as an earthy monk, a shepherd, a servant leader.  It is a calling as one who leads from within, from the Center, from God.

And the more Centered I become, the more radical my love becomes and the more radical my love becomes, the more I desire to serve the poorest, the despised, the broken – those at the edges of existence.

The closer I get to my Center, the more God takes me to the edge.

And the closer to the edge I get, the more I feel the itch of wings starting to grow and spread…so that leaping off this edge becomes sheer joy rather than fear.

I Dare You…

In matters of faith it may not be ‘biblical’ to do so, but I’m looking in the mirror as I write this realizing I need to dare myself, so I’m going to dare everyone.  And the reason why is that most of the time, the God I profess and the God I actually believe in are two different beings: the former is too small and the latter is sometimes just a God I give lip service to but do not always act like I believe.  I say I believe in Jesus but my actions sometimes betray those ‘beliefs.’  I am human and quite ordinary but God, well, God is Extraordinary.

So it is Double Dog Dare time (and remember the “Mirror Principle” counts here, namely the principle that states I’m really having a conversation with myself and God and you are simply ‘overhearing’ it):

  • I dare you to try and out give God.
  • I dare you to let God’s comforting and disturbing grace turn your life upside-down, and therefore right-side up.
  • I dare you to turn to prayer before turning to worry, fear, or panic.
  • I dare you to let go of every ‘small’ image you have of God and ask him to replace those ‘idols’ with the truth of just who God is.
  • I dare you to believe that emotions, circumstances and feelings do not determine all of what the truth is (but yes, they can help, guide and teach).
  • I dare you take God at his word – all of it.
  • I dare you to ask God to enlarge your ‘territory’ for his purposes.
  • I dare you to ask God to bless you so you can be a Blessing.
  • I dare you to pray ‘big’ for God is big and we can not out give God.
  • I dare you to ask God to use you in wonderful ways for his good pleasure and then make yourself available (and also put your seat belt on).
  • I dare you to pray everyday to be filled with God’s love and then to let him fill you.
  • I dare you to go and give away God’s amazing love, without discretion and with reckless abandon.
  • I dare you to surrender every aspect of your life to God and to truly let it all go…into his faithful, strong, and loving hands.
  • I dare you to dream God’s Dream and then be a part of it.

~ Supporting the Blog ~

My ultimate desire for The Earthy Monk is that it’s a catalyst for our movement towards God so we can all experience God’s love more deeply and grow in our ‘fleshing out’ of this Love in the world.  The Earthy Monk is the work God has given me and my desire is that it nurtures others closer to God and inspires us all to creating a kinder, more compassionate world.

I am asking for your prayers (and tell us how we can pray for you). I ask that you forward the blog to your friends, Facebook us, write to us.

And if you feel so led “Make a Donation” to help sustain the blog mission. 

Any amount is a blessing and will help.

My thanks and blessings to all this Sacred Season!

Advent Gift Ideas: Live the Good News

Follow the Nazarene closely (He set a pretty good example on how to live).

Pray often and even more so.  Pray for the people you love, and pray for the people you don’t love.

Don’t build a big church Because if we do, then we will need to protect it and use up time, taxes, and treasure to maintain it.  Instead of a building try Being Church – and rather than building a new building, start by sharing your life with people as they are, where they are and they will undoubtedly see Jesus.

Share the Good News.  For what Jesus did is indeed Good and truly Newsworthy.

Make serving the poor the Gospel mandate it is(instead of treating it like a superfluous add-on)…make charity and justice for the poor a personal, close-up thing and not a ‘program’ in the church.

Give relief to those who are suffering around you and those far away (for we are all in this together).

Visit the sick, the locked up and the shut in.

Sit with the dying…just be with them as they transition into the next part of life.

Comfort the broken, the bruised and the bereaved.

Be generous and lavish with those in need and do so with your time, your talents, your money, and your stuff.  Share your house with someone in need like a teenager in a bad situation or a person coming out of the system.  Share your car, your tools, your garage, your apartment, your books, etc., because we are merely stewards of what God has given us.

Be reckless in giving and receiving God’s grace, graciousness, love and mercy.

Practice hospitality and be hospitable to strangers and those different from you (not just your friends and family).

Love your neighborand yes, I do mean the one right next door, as well as the one down the street, across the country and across the world.

Live your life as a fully alive, aware human being Practice being real and transparent then watch people see Jesus in and through your unique personality.  No stuffed shirts, smug piousness or the need to be superior over people.

Love ‘sinners’ (because all of us are wounded)…and love all of them, not just the ones you feel most comfortable around.  Befriend sinners and people of other faiths, and don’t do it just for the sake of converting people.  Jesus loved all people – truly, madly and deeply – even those who walked away from, betrayed and killed him.  Jesus had no other motive but too love people into the Kingdom, so put down your Four Spiritual Laws, your tracts and your Bibles and start being real (and human) around people (you’ll be amazed at how much God’s love will flow from you).

Practice Common Grace (whether you are Calvinist or Catholic).  For all people are made in the image of God and God sustains everyone regardless of their faith or lack thereof (see Matthew 5:45, Acts 17:25-28, and James 1:17)

Practice common graciousness as well…don’t be a bully, smug, self-righteous or mean-spirited.  Just because we know the Truth does NOT mean we are the truth or always right.  Only Jesus is Lord and only he will judge on the last day, so save the judging for him and him alone.

The Upside Down Kingdom

Some disturbing words from Jesus the Messiah:

And many who are first shall be last…whomever would be the greatest among you shall be your servant…The first will be last and the last shall be first…Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…The Kingdom belongs to such as these [little children]…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom…Blessed are the [anawim1] for they will inherit the earth…you can not serve God and money…If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me…Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me…

I really need not write anything if you prayerfully read the above words of Jesus and just sit in silent contemplation of just how ‘upside-down’ Jesus’ words and his way really are. His words were radical then and they are just as radical now (radical coming from the Latin word, ‘radix’ meaning ‘root’).

Our world today, as in the days when the Nazarene walked the earth, might still mean right, the strong survive by way of a ‘survival of the fittest’ ethos, youth and beauty are still worshiped and pursued, our mortality is still feared and avoided and the poor are still demonized. But as we enter this Advent season, a time of year where we remember that God came to us as a helpless, naked baby born not in a posh neonatal ward but an ‘animal shelter’ I feel it is important to remind myself of the nature of the Kingdom of God: namely, that it is an upside-down Kingdom.

In a world where God is becoming irrelevant to a whole generation and an ever-increasingly secularized world, lost in the middle of this is a helpless Messiah lying in a stable held by an unwed teenage Hebrew girl who is left to wonder if the angelic messenger was foretelling the truth of this swaddling-clothed little wonder or if she is just ‘insane.’

From the beginning of his life to the ‘theme’ of his good news to his death on a cross abandoned by almost everyone, Jesus embodied the paradox of God’s grace and love in the Upside-down Kingdom ethos: the rich become poor, the poor become rich, the first are last, the last are first, those who live by the sword shall die by the sword…the list goes on. In God’s Kingdom, up is down, down is up…grace is given to the unrighteous and the righteous are judged quite harshly. This is not so good for modern-day marketing, is it?

Does this message of the Upside-down Kingdom resound throughout the majority of sermons and homilies coming throughout the world?

The Kingdom of heaven is indeed an upside-down kingdom. It is not the kingdom of America, or the Red Kingdom or the Blue Kingdom. It is a Kingdom where all who call upon the King become ‘naturalized’ citizens; and we who call ourselves citizens of this Kingdom are called to follow the law of the King of this realm. And that law is the law of love – a law that embraces the unlovable, the unlovely, the broken, the wounded, the addicted and the marginalized. It is a law that embraces both good citizens and ones who have broken the laws of any land.

So what better day than today – World AIDS Day – to remind myself of the Upside-down Mandate given to us by the wandering Nazarene. And we better be careful for just when we are not looking, his grace will turn our hearts and our worlds upside-down, and Spirit willing, hopefully our churches as well.

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1) Anawim is a word that is often mistranslated as meek but more accurately is a word that means the “lowly,” “the poor,” “the righteous poor,” or “the vulnerable.” From Steve Kimes, “Overall, anawim’ mean those who are outcast or persecuted and then seek God for justice and help.”

Rez Farm – a dream of God

Rez Farm will be an experiment in faith & community for ordinary people loving an extraordinary God. It will be a place and space for seekers, everyday radicals, the lost, the lonely, the broken, the beautiful, the marginalized, and the rejected.

Rez Farm, through the Spirit, will ‘flesh out’ God’s love and compassion as a living invitation to follow Jesus and to love people.

Rez Farm will be a place to “cultivate Resurrection” – a place for new beginnings, to give and find healing, to practice all the Works of Mercy.

Rez Farm is a dream of a community and a mountain retreat that is a mixture of a few different influences from people who have inspired us and are changing the world for God’s Kingdom. We will offer hospitality in the spirit of the Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality & Farms. We will embrace the inclusiveness of the L’Arche Community, and in time will offer retreats in the manner of Dayspring Retreat Center.

Rez Farm will be a safe haven for people to seek and share compassion, service, and healing through living, giving and receiving God’s ‘crazy’ love, messy grace & lavish mercy.

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Rez Farm is here to Cultivate Resurrection!

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A Word on the Name…

“REZ” is short for Resurrection (because through the resurrection of Jesus we can all find resurrection from our past); and for Reservation (as in “the rez”) – a place for the Tribe of Jesus to come find and give Resurrection.

“FARM” because as a noun,“Farm” means a tract of land, usually with a house, barn, silo, etc., on which crops and often livestock are raised for livelihood. But as a VERB, “Farm” means to cultivate (as in land and in our case Resurrection).

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Pray for Rez Farm!  Pray it comes to be as God’s Dream, pray for your part in it, pray with us and come be Tribe with us as God birth’s this Dream…

For more information contact Niles at earthymonk@gmail.com.