Bumper Car Wisdom

bumpercars1I went to Six Flags yesterday.  Rode the bumper cars and many roller coasters.  Now, at some point in the last year or so, my body has made the transition from “anything goes” to “you’re not as young as you used to be.” I’m not going to get into that here, but suffice to say, walking out of the bumper cars, I had a flash of insight into ancient wisdom: in seeking to harm others, so do I harm myself.

When you think about it, the bumper cars are a pretty good metaphor for certain aspects of dealing with others.  On several occasions I found myself trying to plow full-steam into someone – my wife, a friend, someone I don’t even know – only to find that the resulting impact is just as much of a jolt to me as it was intended to be toward the other.  Whether the metaphor works or not depends on whether one is willing to accept that this two-way impact occurs for not only physical collisions, but emotional and spiritual as well.

Good things in small packages

I know I was touched by God Incarnate this morning.  It was awesome.

Today we had a special healing service after the two usual ones at church.  There was laying on of hands, anointing with oil and some good praying and music.  I played and sang a couple chants on piano.  It was free-flowing and simple, leisurely yet concise.  It was rather unlike our usual weekly white Protestant fare, in which church is a more individual endeavor (though not nearly as personal).

Since I was playing piano, I did not go forward to be anointed with oil during the healing service, but I wanted to be anointed afterward.  Those who had helped officiate (a pastor and a few ‘Ministers of Care’) were scattered about the room,  so I turned to the closest other person, a short, cute kid certainly no more than 4 years old.  I called him over and said, “I didn’t get any oil for my head during the service.  Would you help me?”  He nodded.

I picked up one of the bowls of oil and handed it to him, kneeling down to his level.  He dipped his left index finger into the oil and slowly, deliberately traced it down my forehead – then across, in order to complete the cross.

His mom then came over and helped him say a prayer for me.  She told me he really likes church.  I told her, maybe he’ll end up getting stuck here too.  I hope someday, particularly if he does end up going into ministry, I can find him and tell him this story.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  I’ve been exploring the idea that Jesus is, among other things, an ongoing, at-any-moment manifestation of God Incarnate, one who shows up in others (and maybe even me? Whoa…) from time to time.  Today, I’m convinced that Jesus showed up personally to me and blessed me at the hands of this awesome little kid.  Thanks, Ethan!

Through the eyes of the Canaanite Woman

Matthew 15:21-28, the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, is one of the more troubling passages of the Bible for me:

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it was merely the disciples who responded to this woman without hospitality.  These warm friends of Jesus were so often mistaken when it came to bringing others into the fold.  But Jesus’ own words (insults!) and actions here seem very out of step with much of the rest of Jesus’ approach towards those on the margins.  In preparing for this reflection, I really felt compelled to try and listen to the forgotten voice of this courageous and tenacious woman, based on what is described in the text. Unfortunately, her own words and experience are unfortunately left up to our guesswork at this point, so what follows is my own guess as to what this might have looked like… Read the rest of this entry »

The Call of Dag Gadowl

 

SUNSET OVER MORTON BAY BRISBANE AUSTRALIA AT LOW TIDEHaving only recently arrived at seminary, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be follow God’s call. Yesterday, I had a story-telling class in which I offered an unconventional perspective of a familiar story about a call from God…

It was three in the morning when the LORD called out to me.

Dag Gadowl…

Dag Gadowl…

Dag Gadowl!

Yes? This is Dag Gadowl…who is this? What do you want from me?

Dag Gadowl…

Who is this? Is this the LORD?

Dag Gadowl!

I remembered that when God calls, even when it’s late, the best response is: “Speak LORD, your servant listens.”

But what I actually said was, “It’s three in the morning! Please come back another time.”

Read the rest of this entry »