Archive for the ‘Forty-Fourth Bundle’ Category

JOHN 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

We are told that this revelatory sign of feeding the multitude happened when “the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.” Put that together with the parallels between the First and New Testaments, of the provision of food in the wilderness (manna and quail/loaves and fish) and the deliverance through/over the water (Sea of Reeds/Sea of Galilee), and what you’ve got is a clear identification of Jesus as the New Moses. Jesus has come for our freedom, the writer is saying, and what we are set free from is ignorance, ego, and the fear of death. How these three conditions of our spiritual slavery fit and fuse together can be summarized as follows.

The price of self-consciousness (ego) is a gradual and somewhat anxious separation from the maternal reality. Through time we are gathering to ourselves greater degrees of control, autonomy, and individuality. These are not bad in themselves; in fact, they are necessary to the progress of our personal development as human beings. As the shadow side to all the gains and benefits of a healthy sense of self, however, we become increasingly aware of our vulnerability, our exposure to the erosions of mortality.

As our anxiety intensifies we try to compensate by attaching ourselves to whatever we hope will bring us security and happiness. It may be wealth and possessions, success and power, codependent relationships, or the afterlife rewards of religion. In the end we can no longer see through the knots and tangles of our attachments to the real truth of our existence.

Jesus came to emancipate us from this enslaved condition. By the path of love, we are enabled to rise into the light of truth and enjoy a life authentic and free. Love, Light, and Life: the three great themes of John’s Gospel.

JOHN 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Miracles are dangerous because the lead us to believe that God acts through the suspension of physical laws, interrupting the cause-and-effect chain of events that we take to be ordinary and natural. Thus our words ‘extraordinary’ and ‘supernatural’ for naming the miraculous. The problem with this explanation is that it drains the miraculous from what is, in fact, not an ordinary universe at all!

But when we come across accounts of the miraculous in the scriptures and folklore of religion, our responsibility is to ask more than whether or not this really happened. The writer of the Fourth Gospel acknowledges the critical importance of this ‘something more’ when he refers to the miracles of Jesus as “signs” – things or events that point beyond themselves for their full value and meaning. We can get hung up in a debate over the scientific accuracy of this account, or we can follow the indication of the sign itself. What is it really saying? Where is this miraculous feeding of five thousand directing our meditation?

The writer is drawing a parallel between the New Testament prophet-messiah Jesus and the  First Testament (the so-called ‘Old’ Testament) prophet-messiah Moses, under whose leadership the exodus community had been liberated from slavery in Egypt. In that earlier era also, God had provided miraculous meals in the desert.

EPHESIANS 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The supreme revelation in Jesus was love – pure and simple. He not only talked about it and proclaimed its redemptive power in human affairs, but he also demonstrated this radical love of God in his way of life. Jesus didn’t point to some place outside the ordinary world in his reference to God, but instead reached into the human heart for the awakening of faith – faith as one’s trusting release to the gracious ground of being itself.

And while he often talked of God as a separately existing and vertically transcendent being, the enlightened reader will recognize in his theology a prevalence of metaphor, stretching and bending language in service of a Truth that cannot be named. For Jesus God was the real author, actor, and inspiration behind his words and deeds. He wasn’t delivering a message from somewhere else, but was rather serving as an agency of divine revelation, as the Word made flesh (John 1:14).

The metaphor of resurrection symbolizes what happens when we “die to self” and “live as Christ”: this same love that animated the body and voice of Jesus, and that shined through with such purity and power from his cross, now surges through us and fills us with “all the fullness of God.” This is a mystery beyond explanation. Stories can invite, symbols can suggest, and metaphors can draw your vision past the limits of language, but in the end you must experience it for yourself.

Only then will you know God.

EPHESIANS 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The theologian Paul Tillich said that “God does not exist, for there is no such ‘thing’ as God.” To exist is to “stand out” (ex-istere) from the ground of pure being that underlies the universe and to be subject to time’s decay. If you’re looking for God out there somewhere among the temporal forms of existence, your search will be in vain and, at best, will only turn up an idol or two.

Look instead through the dark glass of your own interior life, to the mysterious place where the roots of your existence reach deep and terminate in the divine ground of being that is your true source and support. It is this inward mystical awareness of being “rooted and grounded in love” that so many today are lacking, as the practical atheists they are.

To “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and “to be filled with all the fullness of God” is clearly something that lies in another dimension altogether from that of church membership and religious orthodoxy. This is not something that can be gained by Sunday School instruction or recited before the elders of the church. Rather it is an inner awakening, a revelation received in the way of a deep realization. Since we are immersed and anchored in the divine reality already, the invitation of our spiritual life is to die to the separate self (ego) that struts and rules the day, and be raised in the experience the author of Colossians (Col 1:27) names “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”

Faith is not finding God outside yourself, but finding your true self in God.

PSALM 14

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
    there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread,
    and do not call upon the Lord?

There they shall be in great terror,
    for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

Perhaps, in light of our recent reflections on the episode of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11, we should rephrase this as: “The fool says in his heart, ‘I am king. I can do what I want!'” We don’t mean to identify David permanently with his fall to temptation for Bathsheba, but the plot of his fateful romance with the lady next door reveals an atheism that is much more common and insidious than the dogmatic variety. It’s the kind one frequently finds in religious circles, of all places, where Jesus confronted them with the name ‘hypocrites’ – practical atheists.

Practical atheists are often hand-on-the-heart believers, but who live as if God didn’t exist. They confess the creeds of tradition with tears in their eyes, but then return to their real lives as abusers, cheats, and scoundrels after church lets out. God is to them little more than the ghost in the sanctuary, certainly not the Spirit of Life.

The “company of the righteous” in this psalm, then, is not simply any ol’ congregation of church-goers. Your average church or temple congregation is likely to contain a preponderance of practical atheists – a greater concentration of hypocrites than you are likely to find anywhere on earth at any given time. The truly righteous (not the self-righteous) are those who live with a sense that the God of Love is looking out through their eyes and touching the world with their hands.

2 SAMUEL 11:1-15

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day,13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

When Bathsheba the mistress discovered she was pregnant by David, she informed him of it. That’s when David’s strategy for self-defense kicked into high gear. He brought Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, home from the battlefront and told him to go to his house and “wash his feet” – a Hebraic euphemism for having sexual intercourse. His hope was that Bathsheba’s pregnancy would be attributed to Uriah’s lucky leave of absence, and that he would get off the hook.

When Uriah refused to have sexual relations with his wife – for it was the time of battle and his compatriots were risking their lives in the field – David got him drunk and tried again, but to no avail. Uriah’s commitment was wholeheartedly to the crown, even as the crown was destroying his home.

As if that weren’t enough, inclination and opportunity intersected one more time and David made arrangements for Uriah to be struck down in battle. Perhaps he was thinking that with Uriah eliminated as a possible witness for the prosecution, he could then foster the ‘leave of absence’ theory for Bathsheba’s motherly state. (Then again, there were those servants who had been with Uriah on each occasion of David’s attempted cover-up.) His window of opportunity for honesty and repentance was quickly closing. Observe the coiling fate of a desperate man!

2 SAMUEL 11:1-15

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day,13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

In his book Awaken the Leader Within, Bill Perkins defines temptation as having the inclination to sin and the opportunity to sin – at the same time. Inclination refers to the inner urge, the tendency, the itch to do something we know isn’t right and good. Opportunity is what the environment brings around or opens up to us at a particular moment in time.

You may have the inclination toward sin – doing what alienates you from the constancy of God’s grace and from the higher reaches of well-being – but no opportunity. In that case, it will likely remain a mere fantasy. (This is not altogether innocent, as Jesus taught, for all kinds of trouble are born out of the runaway fantasies of the human heart.) If, on the other hand, the opportunity comes around but you have no desire for its realization, temptation will pass you by, probably unrecognized. But when the two coincide, watch out!

With her husband away in battle, the sight of the bathing Bathsheba from King David’s palace roof was only an opportunity for him. It was the subsequent arousal of his lust for her that made it into a temptation. Still, even at the precise moment, when the fantasies had begun forming in David’s mind, he could have listened to his conscience and closed the blinds. Instead, he followed the lure of impulse. After all, he was king!