Meditations on freedom: spiritual and social

Freedom is what we do with what is done to us. — Jean-Paul Sartre

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. — Coco Chanel

When I discover who I am, I’ll be free. — Ralph Ellison

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories. — Margaret Atwood

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another. — Toni Morrison

Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free. — Thich Nhat Hanh

You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once. — Robert Heinlein

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. — David Foster Wallace

Songs about Freedom:


Freedom — Langston Hughes
Freedom will not come
Today, this year           
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear. 
I have as much right
As the other fellow has           
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land. 
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.           
Freedom           
Is a strong seed           
Planted           
In a great need.           
I live here, too.           
I want my freedom           
Just as you.   

MEDITATIONS on PERSONAL FREEDOM

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. ― Joe Klaas

The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you. — David Foster Wallace

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. — Soren Kierkegaard

No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it. — Paulo Coelho

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. — Virginia Woolf

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. — Sigmund Freud

He who has overcome his fears will truly be free. — Aristotle

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first. — Jim Morrison

Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls. — Anais Nin

True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline. — Mortimer Adler

But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ — John Steinbeck

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. — Mahatma Gandhi

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning. — Jean-Paul Sartre

REVOLUTIONARIES

If you want to rebel, rebel from inside the system.That’s much more powerful than rebelling outside the system. — Marie Lu

I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. — Toni Morrison

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves. — Abraham Lincoln

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. —Ronald Reagan

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw. — Nelson Mandela

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life. — Bob Marley

A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window. — Gilles Delueze

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. — William Faulkner

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. — Noam Chomsky

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. — Robert Heinlein

Being Good Doesn’t Make You Free. The Truth Makes You Free.  Nadia Bolz-Weber (full text)

… “You know that part at the beginning where we all say together that we’ve fractured relationships and done things we shouldn’t and stuff?” Uh…I answered…the confession? “Yeah! they said. That’s so amazing.”

There’s a trend in starting… to actually eliminate the confession and absolution in the liturgy because, well, it just makes people feel bad. And let’s be honest, it’s just a lot more appealing to go to a church that doesn’t make you feel bad.

And I guess there is some logic to that. I mean, if the point of religion is to teach us good from evil and how to choose the good, then who wants to start out each Sunday saying that you didn’t manage to pull that off. Again.

Of course no one can really be that good, which I guess is why there is also a long and rich Christian tradition which in Latin is called “totally faking it.” Also known as pretending to be good and nice and happy and successfully Christian.

… Jesus contrasts not good and evil, but truth and evil. We either do what is true or do what is evil.

I know that I myself will go to extraordinary lengths to fight the truth, especially truth about my shortcomings… One of the most common truths we avoid is about our motivations…

I was substituting being good for the Truth…

But truth comes to us and it changes us. It comes in the word of a sister, in the language of scripture spoken in a community, in the prayers of the people…

The light of truth is simply the only thing that scatters the darkness in ourselves and in the world because God doesn’t deal in deceit and denial and half-truths. Yes, encounters with Truth are hard and require you to step into something that feels like it might just crush you. But the instant is crushes you it also puts you back together into something real. Only the Gospel can do that.

The good news is not that you can possess the truth, but that the truth can possess you, making you real and making you free … perhaps for the first time. And as frightening as it might feel, as much as it might feel like it’s going to crush you, the light of the truth is something you can live in because the love of God has freed you and indeed every human being from the need to live in any lies. Step into the light. You’ll be fine. You’ll be real. And you’ll be free.

CAGED BIRDS
 
There is freedom
waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
― Erin Hanson 

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. — Charlotte Bronte

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down. — Toni Morrison

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure. — Stephen King


Caged Bird—  Maya Angelou
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky. 
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing. 
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom. 
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own 
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing. 
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

Of Old Sat Freedom on the Heights Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 Of old sat Freedom on the heights,
The thunders breaking at her feet:
Above her shook the starry lights:
She heard the torrents meet. 
There in her place she did rejoice,
Self-gather’d in her prophet-mind,
But fragments of her mighty voice
Came rolling on the wind. 
Then stept she down thro’ town and field
To mingle with the human race,
And part by part to men reveal’d
The fulness of her face— 
Grave mother of majestic works,
From her isle-altar gazing down,
Who, God-like, grasps the triple forks,
And, King-like, wears the crown: 
Her open eyes desire the truth.
The wisdom of a thousand years
Is in them. May perpetual youth
Keep dry their light from tears; 
That her fair form may stand and shine,
Make bright our days and light our dreams,
Turning to scorn with lips divine
The falsehood of extremes!

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! — Charlie Chaplin

Texts for Vigil: Maundy Thursday to Holy Friday

John 18-19
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
18 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”[a] Jesus replied, “I am he.”[b] Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus[c] said to them, “I am he,”[d] they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”[e] 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.[f] So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus before the High Priest
12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Peter Denies Jesus
15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

The High Priest Questions Jesus
19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Peter Denies Jesus Again
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Jesus before Pilate28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters.[g] It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters,[h] so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters[i] again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

Jesus Sentenced to Death
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
19 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3 They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He entered his headquarters[j] again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”
13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat[k] on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew[l] Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion of Jesus
So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew[m] is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth,[n] the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,[o] in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
“They divided my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”
25 And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows[p] that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

The Burial of Jesus
38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Hebrews 10:16-25
 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds,”
17 he also adds,
“I will remember[a] their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A Call to Persevere
19 Therefore, my friends,[b] since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Isaiah 52:12-53
12 For you shall not go out in haste,
    and you shall not go in flight;
for the Lord will go before you,
    and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
The Suffering Servant
13 See, my servant shall prosper;
    he shall be exalted and lifted up,
    and shall be very high.
14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him[a]
    —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of mortals—
15 so he shall startle[b] many nations;
    kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
    and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
53 Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering[c] and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces[d]
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb[e] with the rich,[f]
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.[g]
When you make his life an offering for sin,[h]
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11     Out of his anguish he shall see light;[i]
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one,[j] my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm 22
Plea for Deliverance from Suffering and Hostility: A Psalm of David.
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.
3 Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
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;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me,
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.
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;
15 my mouth[a] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;[b]
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
    O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my life[c] from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued[d] me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;[e]
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
    stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
    the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,[f]
    but heard when I[g] cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor[h] shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.[i]
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.
29 To him,[j] indeed, shall all who sleep in[k] the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.[l]
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and[m] proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

Holy Week Meditation: Wed, Mar 31

Text for Wednesday: John 13:21-32 Jesus Foretells His Betrayal

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”[a] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[b] 27 After he received the piece of bread,[c] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

Meditations on Trust & Betrayal

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corie ten Boom

Trust starts with truth and ends with truth. — Santosh Kalwar

Trust but verify. – Ronald Reagan

Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time. – Maya Angelou

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible. – Anton Chekhov

Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. – William P. Young

We’re paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple. – Harper Lee

People that have trust issues only need to look in the mirror. There they will meet the one person that will betray them the most. – Shannon Adler

Trust is built with consistency. – Lincoln Chafee

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him. – Booker T. Washington

Betrayal

“It was a mistake,” you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you. David Levithan

For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first. Suzanne Collins

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare. Brené Brown

To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal. You see, I could conceive death, but I could not conceive betrayal. Malcolm X

I’m not really sure why. But… do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don’t think so. That’s what makes the betrayal hurt so much – pain, frustration, anger… and I still loved … Brandon Sanderson

Commentary on Judas:

“One of the things that might set Judas apart from the rest of Jesus’s disciples is that Judas is not from Galilee. Jesus is from the northern part of Israel, or Roman Palestine. But [Judas’s] surname might be evidence that he’s from the southern part of the country, meaning he may be a little bit of an outsider.” — Robert Cargill Alternatively, others have suggested that the name Iscariot identified Judas with the Sicarii, or “dagger-men,” a group of Jewish rebels who opposed the Roman occupation and committed acts of terrorism circa A.D. 40-50 on behalf of their nationalist cause. But there’s nothing in the Bible to link Judas to the Sicarii, and they were known to be active only after his death. — History Channel

Judas was an ultimate tragedy—probably the greatest tragedy that ever lived. He is the perfect and prime example of what it means to have opportunity and then lose it. He becomes all the more terrible because of the glorious beginnings he had. Judas followed the same Christ as the others. For three years, day in and day out, he occupied himself with Jesus Christ. He saw the same miracles; heard the same words; performed some of the same ministries; was esteemed in the same way the other disciples were—yet he did not become what the others became. In fact, he became the very opposite. — John MacArthur

‘… when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot”.’ Jesus’ answer to Peter and John was really a final appeal of love to Judas. “The morsel” was a piece broken from some of the unleavened cakes that would be on the table as a part of the Passover feast. Also on the table would be a dish called cheshireth, filled with bitter herbs; vinegar; salt; and mashed fruit, consisting of dates, figs, raisins, and water—all mixed together into a pasty substance. They would eat it with the unleavened bread like a dip. It was very special for the host to dip a morsel into the cheshireth and give it to the guest of honor. And Jesus, kindly, in a gesture of love toward Judas, dipped the morsel and gave it to Judas, as if Judas were the guest of honor. One would think that all Jesus had done for Judas that night would have broken his heart, but it didn’t. Judas was an apostate. His heart was hardened, and nothing Jesus could do for him would break it. — John MacArthur

But the name “Judas” became synonymous with treachery in various languages, and Judas Iscariot would be portrayed in Western art and literature as the archetypal traitor and false friend. Dante’s Inferno famously doomed Judas to the lowest circle in Hell, while painters like Giotto and Caravaggio, among others, immortalized the traitorous “Judas kiss” in their iconic works. — History Channel

Alternate Perspective from Gospel of Judas (Gnostic Gospel, 280CE)

Jesus utters his most startling instruction … “For you will sacrifice the man who clothes me” … Judas will carry out the sacrifice that truly counts, the sacrifice that will result in salvation: He will sacrifice the physical body of Jesus, thus allowing Jesus to complete his mission. In this way, Judas does indeed become the greatest of the disciples… There is no mention of a trial, execution, or resurrection. The Gospel of Judas has related what it wanted to relate: The obedience of Judas and how that obedience assisted Jesus in fulfilling his salvific mission. Judas has been transformed from villain to hero, from traitor to saint.
     The Gospel of Judas makes a meaningful contribution to our understanding of second-century Christianity, especially with regard to the question of diversity. We have here what may be a very early exemplar of Sethian Gnosticism, a form of Gnosticism that may have roots in Jewish pessimism that emerged in the aftermath of the disastrous wars in 66-70 and 115-117.8
 
     It is highly unlikely that the Gospel of Judas preserves for us authentic, independent material, material that supplements our knowledge of Judas and his relationship to Jesus … dismisses the Gospel of Judas as having no value for understanding the historical Judas. — National Geographic

Meditations on Palm Sunday

The word endures. The Word endures. We who stand among the Palm Sunday crowds know that the Word will soon be beaten, mocked, and killed. We know, too, that that is not the end of the tale. — Jan Richardson

“Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna sanna sanna , ho sanna, hey sanna, Hey, hey JC, JC won’t you smile at me. …” — Webber and RiceJesus Christ Superstar (rock opera)

Songs


Blessing of Palms
This blessing
can be heard coming from a long way off.
This blessing is making its steady way
up the road toward you.
This blessing
blooms in the throats of women,
springs from the hearts of men,
tumbles out of the mouths of children.
This blessing
is stitched into the seams
of the cloaks that line the road,
etched into the branches
that trace the path,
echoes in the breathing
of the willing colt,
the click of the donkey’s hoof
against the stones.
Something is rising beneath this blessing.
Something will try to drown it out.
But this blessing
cannot be turned back, cannot be made to still its voice,
cannot cease to sing its praise
of the One who comes along the way it makes.
—Jan Richardson

Hosanna: Help Us!

The Hebrew word Halleluia means “praise the Lord;” Hosanna means “save us!” or “save!” The Palm Sunday crowd falsely assumed that Jesus would bring political liberation.— Steve Vredenburgh

We think of “Hosanna” as a shout of praise, but the basic meaning of this Hebrew word is “Help!” It is an SOS cry. That appears to be the way the first Palm Sunday crowd used it. Having heard of Jesus’ ability to feed an army with a school boy’s lunch and His recent accomplishment of bringing a dead Lazarus back to life, they were convinced He was a candidate for the monarchy. “Jesus, Help! Expel our hated Roman rulers. You be our King!” How disappointed they were when Jesus, after riding into the capitol city on the wave of the crowd’s enthusiasm, merely looked around and walked back out. — Merwin VanDoornik

But what I didn’t know until this week is what the word “hosanna” actually means.  All these years, I thought it meant some church-y version of “We adore you!” or “You rock!” or “Go, king!”  It doesn’t.  In Hebrew, it means something less adulatory and more desperate.  Less generous and more demanding.  It means, “Save now!”  — Debie Thomas

“Hosanna” 
does come from an old Hebrew phrase, but one that was less praise and more desperate plea. “Save now!” It was a phrase stripped of all pretense of politeness. “Help!” Its insistent cry was one reserved for royalty or divinity. “Deliver us! Don’t wait!” The people are either calling Jesus “king” or “God” or both. … My own mind is drawn today to Anne Lamott’s book, which you have heard us reference a few times: Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. In it, Lamott says that all prayers boil down to these three simple words: help, thanks, wow. And more often than not, these concepts overlap and run together. … I think a truly holy Hosanna can hold these three words together, this help, thanks, and wow. Hosanna cries for deliverance. It calls out in gratitude. And it gives voice to holy awe. — Marthame Sanders

By Which Gate? 

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan argue that two processions entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday two thousand years ago; Jesus’s was not the only Triumphal Entry.
    Every year during Passover — the Jewish festival that swelled Jerusalem’s population from its usual 50,000 to at least 200,000 — the Roman governor of Judea would ride up to Jerusalem from his coastal residence in the west.  He would come in all of his imperial majesty to remind the Jewish pilgrims that Rome demanded their complete loyalty, obedience, and submission.  The Jewish people could commemorate their ancient victory against Egypt and slavery if they wanted to.  But if they tried any real time resistance, they would be obliterated without a second thought. 
      As Pilate clanged and crashed his imperial way into Jerusalem from the west, Jesus approached from the east, looking (by contrast) ragtag and absurd.  Unlike the Roman emperor and his legions, who ruled by force, coercion, and terror, Jesus came defenseless and weaponless into his kingship.  Riding on a donkey, he all but cried aloud the bottom-line truth that his rule would have nothing to recommend it but love, humility, long-suffering, and sacrifice.  — Debie Thomas

The Rest of the Week

It seems reasonable to me that people choose to go from the Big Parade to the Empty Tomb and skip the stuff that makes them uncomfortable: stuff like how Jesus ate his last meal with the people he loved most, all of whom (perhaps like me) would betray abandon or deny him, that these friends (perhaps like me) couldn’t even stay awake while he prayed in the garden, that the crowd (perhaps like me) would strike and taunt him for not living up to their expectations, that the people would (perhaps like me) shout crucify him! And twist him a crown of thorns, that passersby would (perhaps like me) shout “for God’s sake, save yourself”.  Because we would save ourselves.  And the fact that Jesus got himself killed in a totally preventable way never once showing enough self-respect to fight back or get himself off that damned cross…well maybe he had it coming. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Five hundred years after that  … this story continues, the story of God’s decision to not hold back and watch to see what we might do on our own but instead to get involved, to take matters into the divine hands, to join God’s own self to us fully and completely so that we might live and die – and live again! – in hope and courage. That’s the story we tell, the story of this week’s dramatic reading, the story of God’s passionate and relentless quest to redeem each and all of us in love.  — David Lose

LENTEN PROGRAMS

MINDFULNESS for INTENTIONAL WELLBEING
with Anjali Rose
Sundays: Feb 28 & March 14
3-4:15pm • Zoom

The deacons at JCC have crafted this two-part series with Anjali Rose to provide a free self-care and mindfulness experience for our faith community. This experience is open to all. Friends and members welcome.

What is Mindfulness and how better might we use this technique to create well-being in our community and lives? 

During this Mindfulness for Intentional Well-being (2 part series),  Anjali Rose, MEd. 500 RYT, RMT will guide us in exploring the nuances of mindfulness, focusing on the subtle differences each of us can attain in creating awareness for healthy living.   Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment with openness and curiosity.

It has a variety of research-backed impacts, including reduction in stress, and improvements in job satisfaction, emotional regulation, and focus.Mindfulness is a state, a trait, and a practice.

Mindfulness can be thought of a “state,” a “trait” or a “practice.” You can have a moment of mindfulness, which is the state of your mind. You can also have a sustained experience that is more like a habit or strong tendency to be mindful, a trait. Or you can engage in a more intentional practice of mindfulness by using different forms, postures and activities, such as seated mindfulness meditation, mindful walking, and mindful eating. (Mindfulschools.org)

To join us on Sunday February 28 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and Sunday March 14 from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. to explore Mindfulness within this workshop series, simply register here.

A FATHER’S KADISH
Sun, March 21
4pm • Zoom
Event is free, registration will be required.

Documentary Screening and Q&A with
Artist/Potter Steve Branfman & Director Jen Kaplan.

Co-sponsored by Mt Washington Valley Chavurah & Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation

A Father’s Kaddish tells the story of how Steven Branfman used the art of pottery to help him work through his grief after the death of his 23-year-old son. The film is a potent and moving journey through the universal experience of loss, mourning and rebuilding a life. To learn more about the film, please visit: afatherskaddish.com.

Join us for a live Q & A with the director Jen Kaplan and the film’s featured artist, potter, instructor and subject Steven Branfman.


STUDY GROUP
The Walk by Adam Hamilton
Tuesdays during LENT

  • Zoom link and password required. Email the church for this information: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org
  • Join Sue Davidson for a bible study focused on The Walk by Adam Hamilton. It helps participants develop five spiritual practices that allow us to walk closer with God.
  • A few copies of this book will be available to borrow (sign them out please) as of Wed, Feb 17 at noon, inside the front doors, on the Lent-Easter library shelves.
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