Monday, January 28, 2013

Cain

I'm reading Cain: A Novel by José Saramago. It was a Christmas gift from a former teacher of English literature. I've managed, with my schedule, to get through four chapters and I already like it. So far, I find it very sensible.

I have always looked askance at the theological explanations of why God chose Abel's sacrifice of animal flesh and rejected Cain's sacrifice of the fruits of the earth. The assumption is he was miserly in his offering. There is no such evidence in the scripture:

"Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4:2b-5)

My own theology is reflected in the novel Cain. There is a marvelous verbal exchange between God and Cain in the novel, in which God says he was testing Cain and Cain failed the test, and Cain says that God knew Cain would kill his brother and did nothing to stop it and what kind of a god does that in order to test someone else this god is no better than all the other gods around so God shares in the responsibility for the murder of Abel. And God agrees.

The failure of God to accept Cain's sacrifice is shameful. It reflects the capriciousness of the gods of the peoples who lived around where the Hebrew people lived and wandered. I won't have it. It is the capricious God who "tests" Abraham by requiring him to sacrifice his son Isaac. That God stops the sacrifice doesn't make the testing okay. So, too, with Job, who God allows the satan to strip of his children, his flocks, his health and everything but his scolding wife, in order that the satan might prove to God that no one loves God without having gotten something in return for that love. God's answer to Job's demand that God give an account of God's actions is even more outrageous than the original insult - Who are you to question me? Did you make the universe? - That is no answer at all. A god like this, that does not apologize for using humans as toys, is no god at all.

There is, in fact, no good reason to worship the god we have inherited from the Jews, who we call God with an upper case g. And yet I do. I do indeed pray for the needs of others. I also rage at God when I believe God to have failed to care for God's creations. I hope for miracles, and at the same time I ask for one, I do not believe it will happen, because I know God has better things to do, and worse things to fix, than mine. Christians who refer to themselves as Bible-believing, as if I do not believe because of the Bible, say it is my failure to believe I will get that for which I ask that sinks my prayer from the start.

So why is it that so often, even though I don't get what I ask, I do get some sign that God is present, even if it's only that a redtailed hawk has perched on top of the cross on the tip of the steeple? And why is it that, even though I have just said in my prayer that being present with us in our suffering is not enough we need results NOW and you God are a feckless THUG this is people's lives you're playing around with DO SOMETHING NOW!!! , why is it that still I get that sign of presence and it is, after all, enough?

I do believe that God accepts ultimate responsibility for everything. Because God has given us the choice between good and not so good and even evil, and chooses much of the time not to intervene, God bears ultimate responsibility. And once, only once that I know of, though maybe more than that, when I had been praying for a good result from a commission sitting in judgment on my future, and I was accepting that even though the Holy Spirit might do no more than whisper in their ears but might even shout in their ears in my favor and I would have to accept that they still had the free will to deny me, one night I said to the Spirit, ENOUGH!!! Shout and shout and shout in their ears and damn their free will, take it away from them, just this once!

And heresy of heresies, the tide turned.

We each think we know God, from fundamentalists of every religion to spiritual-but-not-religious types to atheists, we each think we know God. We know nothing.

As a Christian I know only this: a child was born. He was named Jesus. He did and said wonderful and amazing things and people followed him. He loved and cared for the loveless and the outcast; so far as I can tell, this is true. I believe he also loved his detractors, enemies and opponents but they wouldn't let him. His love for them did not make him any less angry at their hardness of heart and deafness of ear and blindness of spirit. He believed God meant all people to be set free, not just those who kept the laws. He died for that belief. And God did nothing to stop it and God took no vengeance for it. But the curve of history tends toward justice. (Sorry - I do not remember who said that, and I may have it wrong a bit, but not the intent of it.) And God's idea of justice is perverse, if we are to believe the scriptures on this, and I do.

God's justice is the resurrection. We kill a child of God. And instead of striking us all dead, which we deserve, God raises the child from the dead, and promises everyone the very same kind of justice.

Now what do you make of that?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Online dating and SVU

So I'm watching an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The SVU deals with sex crimes and this episode is about a serial killer who actually courts his victims and gets to know them before he rapes and kills them.

It's the last commercial break before the close of the episode and the first commercial is for Match.com. Now I ask you, what was Match.com thinking? My first thought as the commercial scrolled through, first date, first fight, first kiss and the visuals related to these stages was those women in the SVU episode being courted, having their first fight, etc.

YUCK! Not good.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Visitor

Well, Mako the pitbull/lab mix is here for his second weekend visit in a row since the long Thanksgiving holiday.

I have video of how the two are getting along in the same house, which Xena, Warrior Labmix Princess of Norwalk, owns. Here's the first one. Xena is on the bed. Mako is on her dog bed on the floor. There's a second one to come later. Mako is here until Monday morning.

video


Meanwhile, today I experienced a wonderful custom of the Spanish speaking people I serve: the anniversary memorial service for a loved one who has died. I was pretty anxious about it because while Padre Eddie was celebrant, I was preacher. But it turned out I said all the right things, my translation was fine, and my pronunciation was spot on.

And most miraculous of all, Eddie and I had no idea how we were going to do the music. I was prepared to play the piano for some of it but I didn't have all of it. Then, another visitor - MJ, formerly musician at a famous church in NYC. She volunteered to play and she did a spectacular job. The family were over the moon.

So, so far a good weekend. Tomorrow: the annual presentation of the budget approved by the Vestry, to whoever shows up an hour before the English service. And following the service, Practicing Prayer, always a highlight of my month.

May God bless and keep us all, today and tomorrow and the next day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Red sky in morning...

This morning's sky at the horizon, just before dawn, was impossibly red. I've never seen such a shade outside of photoshop. Ten minutes later it was staining the whole sky! I went to take a photo but it had already been diluted to something approaching normal, and the fastest "camera" I could get to was my iPad mini, and the picture wasn't worth it.

Isn't it just the truth, that those things we most want to hold onto flee from being possessed?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Women's Christmas

I have discovered the tradition, mostly Irish, of Women's Christmas: Epiphany being the time when women took the day off from making everyone happy and caring for everything.

Here is a link to a Jan L. Richardson site that just might be helpful. I will speak more fully and regularly about this Women's Christmas on my retreat blog, Julian House Retreats.

For now, as a clergy woman, I am recognizing a tiredness normal to this time of year. In a year when Lent will begin so soon after Christmas and Epiphany - Ash Wednesday, February 13 - I pledge to myself to take these few weeks in between to take that pilgrimage within, to sort through where I want to be and go, where I might go, who I might be, and just to rest. To stop, and rest. And maybe stand outside or walk about once in awhile for not purpose at all.

I hope you enjoy Jan. I have read her book Night Visions every day from the Monday before Christmas through the week after Epiphany for, oh, I guess 14 or 15 years now. It inspired me to, every year, to a piece of art and/or write each day as part of my daily devotions during that time of year.

One place in the Women's Christmas pilgrimage I want to go is to extend that spiritual practice to all the year round. Pray for me, if you will.