Asking, seeking, knocking … beyond binaries and either/or scenarios … the door, the gate, the Way, the narrow path is love. Themes from Matthew 7.

This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not “what does it say?” but “what am I looking for?” I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” — Rachel Held Evans

Why are you knocking at every door? Go, knock at the door of your own heart. — Rumi

On the other hand, ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? — C.S. Lewis

The moment we begin to seek out love, love begins to seek us out. And to save us. — Paulo Coelho

Always the beautiful answer / who asks a more beautiful question. —e.e. Cummings

Contextually speaking, love is the narrow gate. — Jayson Bradley

We often remain exiles, left outside the rich world of the soul, simply because we are not ready. Our task is to refine our hearts and minds. There is so much blessing and beauty near us that is destined for us, and yet it cannot enter our lives because we are not ready to receive it. The handle is on the inside of the door; only we can open it. Our lack of readiness is often caused by blindness, fear, and lack of self-appreciation. When we are ready, we will be blessed. — John O’Donohue

SONGS about KNOCKING & ASKING:

Resource for more listening and studying: Podcast about Ask and You Will Receive (from BibleProject)


Blessing the Door — Jan Richardson (link to poem)

First let us say / a blessing
upon all who have / entered here before / us.

You can see the sign / of their passage / by the worn place
where their hand rested / on the doorframe
as they walked through, / the smooth sill
of the threshold / where they crossed.

Press your ear / to the door
for a moment before / you enter

and you will hear / their voices murmuring
words you cannot / quite make out
but know / are full of welcome.

On the other side / these ones who wait—
for you, / if you do not / know by now—
understand what / a blessing can do

how it appears like / nothing you expected

how it arrives as / visitor,
outrageous invitation, / child;

how it takes the form / of angel / or dream

how it comes / in words like
How can this be? / and lifted up the lowly;

how it sounds like / in the wilderness / prepare the way.

Those who wait / for you know
how the mark of / a true blessing
is that it will take you / where you did not / think to go.

Once through this door / there will be more:
more doors / more blessings
more who watch and / wait for you

but here / at this door of / beginning
the blessing cannot / be said without you.

So lay your palm / against the frame
that those before you / touched

place your feet / where others paused / in this entryway.

Say the thing that / you most need
and the door will / open wide

and by this word / the door is blessed
and by this word / the blessing is begun
from which / door by door
all the rest / will come.

Text from which we’re drawing this week’s themes: MATTHEW 7: 7-14

Ask, Seek, Knock
– ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’

‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’

The Golden Rule – In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’

The Narrow Gate –  ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’

REVELATION 3:20
 
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

COMMENTARY on ENTERING through the NARROW GATE

It’s a life long “finding,” of surrendering to the process of God at work in us. But WE choose that posture of surrender. We choose to open the gate and walk upon the narrow road. And really, what other choice is there to make? —Elisabeth Elliott (full article)

Do for others what you wish others would do for you. Do you want to be treated with respect? Respect others. Do you expect compassion and the benefit of the doubt? Extend it to others. Do you want to be served? Serve others. He then tells us this one principle sums up the entire Old Testament. … Contextually speaking, love is the narrow gate ... All the destruction, pain and turmoil in life comes from our inability to put others first. Love leads to life, both here and in the world to come. —Jayson Bradley, Patheos (full article)

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we’re examining, more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites, and sometimes forces, the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way…. This is when you need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening your controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” … In moments of insecurity and crisis, shoulds and oughts don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep yesses that carry us through. It’s that deeper something we are strongly for that allows us to wait it out. — Richard Rohr (full article)

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form, without filters, judgments, and commentaries. Now you see why it is so rare and, in fact, “the narrow road that few walk on” … The only way you can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing your own compulsive mental grids—your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything… When your mental judgmental grid and all its commentaries are placed aside, God finally has a chance to get through to you, because your pettiness is at last out of the way. Then Truth stands revealed! You will begin to recognize that we all carry the Divine Indwelling within us and we all carry it equally. That will change your theology, your politics, and your entire worldview. In fact, it is the very birth of the soul. — Richard Rohr (full article)

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside. — Rumi

ON KNOCKING at DOORS
 
If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you’re sure to wake someone up. — Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Go to your bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know. — William Shakespeare

Even when opportunity knocks, a man still has to get up off his seat and open the door. — Douglas MacArthur

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. — Proverb (attributed to Milton Berle)

A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks. — Oscar Wilde

The most sacred invitation that a person can extend to us is to invite us into their pain. But that means that we have to choose to knock on a door that we often prefer to pretend is not there. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Rain puts a hole in stone because of its constancy, not its force. Just keep knocking on doors until the right one opens — Joseph Gerber

Opportunity may knock only once but temptation leans on the door bell — Oprah Winfrey

The first time when I was organizing, I went out and started knocking on doors to see if people were registered to vote. I was a door knocker. I didn’t even have the confidence that I could register people, so I just was out there door knocking. That was my first experience. — Dolores Huerta

Guest House — Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

SEEKING

Love seeks only one thing: the good of the loved. It leaves all other secondary effects to take care of themselves. There, love is its own reward. — Thomas Merton

There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself. ― Lemony Snicket

I go to seek a Great Perhaps. That’s why I’m going. So I don’t have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.― John Green

And I shall seek you endlessly, for
I am a moth, and you’re my flame
Knowing that I’ll burn at your touch
I return, for you’re a fire; untamed …
― Zubair Ahsan

…there was no point in sighing after what I could not have. It only distracted me from what I did have. ― Robin Hobb

Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. ― Albert Camus

Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds — justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can’t go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner. ― Anne Rice

Thus Gotama [Buddha] walked toward the town to gather alms, and the two samanas recognized him solely by the perfection of his repose, by the calmness of his figure, in which there was no trace of seeking, desiring, imitating, or striving, only light and peace. ― Hermann Hesse

WHEN TRUTH KNOCKS: Buddhist Story

A young widower was devoted to his little son. But while he was away on business, the whole village was burned to the ground by bandits, who also kidnapped the little boy. When the father returned and found only ruins, he was utterly heartbroken. He thought that the charred remains of a little child were of his son, so he organized a full cremation, collected the ashes, and carried them with him always in a special bag.
     One day, his son managed to escape from the bandit kidnappers and made his way back to his home. In the meantime, his father had rebuilt the house. When the little boy arrived late one night, he knocked on the door. His father, kneeling at the altar he had made to memorialize his son called out, “Who’s there?”
     “It’s me, your son; please papa, let me in!”
     The father, still burdened by his grief thought this must be some wretched boy making fun of his grieving and shouted out, “Go away! Leave me alone! My son is dead!”
     The boy knocked again and again, calling for his father to open the door and let him in. The father, refusing to answer the door kept calling out, “Go away! Leave me alone!” And at last, the boy gave up and went away, never to return again.
     After he had told this story, the Buddha added: “If you cling to an idea as the unalterable truth, then when the truth comes and knocks on your door, you will not be able to open the door and accept it.”
Udana Sutta

COMMENTARY on KNOCKING & ASKING

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It seems to me that Jesus’ words are a clear directive. Ask, Jesus says. Seek. Knock.
     And then, if I’ve got this right, Jesus follows up a few verses later by saying that God will actually respond … To me. To you. To, oh, anyone who asks. And God will do it without discretion or conditions. Without caution or prudence. Without making a list first of who has a right to which truth or who will handle the answers the best.
     The revolutionary, almost subversive, thing about asking is that it goes beyond making it OK to have secret questions and inner doubts and gives us permission to raise our hands in God’s classroom with a “Pardon me, but I don’t get it.” Or “Really, God? Can you explain further?” Or “I just can’t bring myself to believe what the rest of your class is telling me.”
     I suspect … that we’re somehow expected to keep asking. Out loud. And to keep seeking. And to keep knocking …
     … questions fall out all over the place, raw and beautiful in their authenticity … making people uncomfortable – or giddy … the way we engage our conversations may be more important than our conclusions, for if we abandon love, kindness, forbearance and gentleness in favor of fear, self-righteousness and anger, what have we gained with a mere conclusion? And the second thing she said is I wonder if we trust Jesus to be enough?
     …. “What if the root word of aspiration isn’t only to aspire to? What if the root word of aspiration is also to aspirate? To expel or dislodge the things that make people choke? To tell a truth that is so wild and so free that it helps people learn to breathe? What if you’re called to be that kind of aspiration?” And I thought, by God, if this life is about helping people breathe, I can do that.
     Ask. Seek. Knock. Breathe.
     I used to prefer for God to live in a box. Neat and tidy. Quiet and nice. Now my life is full of questions. It’s messier and louder, more disruptive and fulfilling, than I imagined. And I? I can finally breathe. — Betth Woolsey (full article)

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?
     … He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ I know. Does that make it easier to understand?    
     … Of course it’s easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent — non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it frankly, we don’t ask for Him?
     … And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually come to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help … Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear. — C.S. Lewis (article)

Mystery is what happens to us when we allow life to evolve rather than having to make it happen all the time. It is the strange knock at the door, the sudden sight of an unceremoniously blooming flower, an afternoon in the yard, a day of riding the midtown bus. Just to see. Just to notice. Just to be there. There is something holy-making about simply presuming that what happens to us in any given day is sent to awaken our souls to something new: another smell, a different taste, a moment when we allow ourselves to lock eyes with a stranger, to smile a bit, to nod our heads in greeting. Who knows? Maybe one of those things will open us to the refreshing memory of pain, a poignant reminder of glory, a breathless moment of astonishment, a sense of the presence of God in life. — Sr Joan Chittister (full article)

ASKING

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. — Brene Brown

Ask for help. Not because you are weak. But because you want to remain strong. — Les Brown

I was looking for myself and asking everyone but myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. — Ralph Ellison

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change. — Warren Berger

Don’t be afraid to look again at everything you’ve ever believed … I believe the more we search, the more we delve into the human teachings about the nature and God of life, which are in fact are the teachings of all the great religions traditions, the closer we come to a mature understanding of the Godself … In other words, doubt, questions, drive us to look at how we ourselves need to grow in wisdom, age and grace.  The courage to face questions is the first step in that process. — Joan Chittister

Instead of anxiety about chasing a passion that you’re not even feeling, do something a lot simpler: Just follow your curiosity. — Elizabeth Gilbert

A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea. — John Anthony Ciardi

We live in the world our questions create. — David Cooperrider

Ask me not what I have, but what I am. — Heirnrich Heine

… Ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now? — James Allen

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. — Oprah Winfrey

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. — Deepak Chopra

To ask the right question is harder than to answer it. — Georg Cantor

Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner. In the Gospels Jesus asks many more questions than he answers. To be precise, Jesus asks 307 questions. He is asked 183 of which he only answers 3. Asking questions was central to Jesus’ life and teachings. In fact, for every question he answers directly he asks—literally—a hundred. Jesus is the Question considers the questions Jesus asks—what they tell us about Jesus and, more important, what our responses might say about what it means to follow Him. Through Jesus’ questions, he modeled the struggle, the wondering, the thinking it through that helps us draw closer to God and better understand, not just the answer, but ourselves, our process and ultimately why questions are among Jesus’ most profound gifts for a life of faith. — Martin Copenhaver

Meditations on building houses (and lives) on sand vs stones: stumbling blocks, cornerstones, keystones, living stones

MATTHEW 7: 24-28 – Hearers and Doers – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

How … bring forth a garden on hard stone? Become earth, that you may grow flowers of many colors. For you have been heart-breaking rock. Once, for the sake of experiment, be earth! — Rumi

Poet to Bigot — Langston Hughes
I have done so little / For you,
And you have done so little / For me,
That we have good reason / Never to agree.
I, however, / Have such meagre / Power,
Clutching at a / Moment,
While you control / An hour.
But your hour is / A stone.
My moment is / A flower.

And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. — Psalm 78:35

SONGS about Sand and Stones:


To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. — William Blake


Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground.
Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.
― Rumi


The Stones – Wendell Berry
I owned a slope full of stones.
Like buried pianos they lay in the ground,
shards of old sea-ledges, stumbling blocks
where the earth caught and kept them
dark, an old music mute in them
that my head keeps now I have dug them out.
I broke them where they slugged in the dark
cells, and lifted them up in pieces.
As I piled them in the light
I began their music. I heard their old lime
rouse in breath of song that had not left me.
I gave pain and weariness to their bearing out.
What bond have I made with the earth,
having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing
I have carried with me out of that day.
The stones have given me music
that figures for me their holes in the earth
and their long lying in them dark.
They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground,
and I must prepare a fitting silence.


Do Stones Feel?  — Mary Oliver

Do stones feel? Do they love their life?
Or does their patience drown out everything else?

When I walk on the beach I gather a few
white ones, dark ones, the multiple colors.
Don’t worry, I say, I’ll bring you back, and I do.

Is the tree as it rises delighted with its many
branches, each one like a poem?
Are the clouds glad to unburden their bundles of rain?

Most of the world says no, no, it’s not possible.
I refuse to think to such a conclusion.
Too terrible it would be, to be wrong.



The Book of Camp Branch (excerpt) — Wendell Berry

How much delight I’ve known
in navigating down the flow
by stepping stones, by sounding
stones, by words that are
stepping and sounding stones.

Going down stone by stone,
the song of the water changes,
changing the way I walk
which changes my thought
as I go. Stone to stone
the stream flows. Stone to stone
the walker goes. The words
stand stone still until
the flow moves them, changing
the sound – a new word –
a new place to step or stand.

COMMENTARY on PARABLE of BUILDING a HOUSE on ROCK vs SAND

The picture is not of two men deliberately selecting foundations, but it contrasts one who carefully chooses and prepares his foundation with one who builds at hap-hazard. This is more strongly brought out by Luke (Luke 6:48): “Who digged and went deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock” … — Vincent’s Word Studies (full artilcle)


In the practical order, we find our Original Goodness, the image of God that we are, when we can discover and own the faith, hope, and love deeply planted within us:

  • A trust in inner coherence itself. “It all means something!” (Faith)
  • A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
  • A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me. (Love)

… Being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) gives everyone an equal and inherent dignity. However, in every age and culture, we have seen regressions toward racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism, ableism, and classism. This pattern tells me that unless we see dignity as being given universally, objectively, and from the beginning by God, we humans will constantly think it is up to us to decide… For the planet and for all living beings to move forward, we can rely on nothing less than an inherent original goodness and a universally shared dignity. Only then can we build, because the foundation is strong, and is itself good. Surely this is what Jesus meant when he told us to “dig and dig deep, and build your house on rock” (Luke 6:48). When we start with yes (or a positive vision), we are more likely to proceed with generosity and hope, and we have a much greater chance of ending with an even bigger yes, which we would call “resurrection.” — Fr Richard Rohr (full article)


… what Jesus himself taught and spent most of his time doing: healing people, doing acts of justice and inclusion, embodying compassionate and nonviolent ways of living… Jesus was teaching an alternative wisdom that shakes the social order instead of upholding the conventional wisdom that maintains it. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is not about preserving the status quo! It’s about living here on earth as if the Reign of God has already begun (see Luke 17:21). In this Reign, the Sermon tells us, the poor are blessed, the hungry are filled, the grieving are filled with joy, and enemies are loved. — Fr Richard Rohr (full article)


As in all hilly countries, the streams of Galilee rush down the torrent-beds during the winter and early spring, sweep all before them, overflow their banks, and leave beds of alluvial deposit on either side. When summer comes their waters fail (comp. Jeremiah 15:18; Job 6:15), and what had seemed a goodly river is then a tract covered with debris of stones and sand. A stranger coming to build might be attracted by the ready-prepared level surface of the sand. It would be easier to build there instead of working upon the hard and rugged rock. But the people of the land would know and mock the folly of such a builder, and he would pass (our Lord’s words may possibly refer to something that had actually occurred) into a by-word of reproach. On such a house the winter torrent had swept down in its fury, and the storms had raged, and then the fair fabric, on which time and money had been expended, had given way, and fallen into a heap of ruins. Interpreting the parable in the connection in which our Lord has placed it, it is clear that the house is the general fabric of an outwardly religious life. “The rock” can be nothing else than the firm foundation of repentance and obedience, the assent of the will and affections as well as of the lips. The “sand” answers to the shifting, uncertain feelings which are with some men (the “foolish” ones of the parable) the only ground on which they act—love of praise, respect for custom, and the like. The “wind,” the “rain,” the “floods” hardly admit, unless by an unreal minuteness, of individual interpretation, but represent collectively the violence of persecution, of suffering, of temptations from without, beneath which all but the life which rests on the true foundation necessarily gives way. Such is obviously the primary meaning of the parable here, but, like most other parables, it has other meanings, which, though secondary, are yet suggestive and instructive, and are not unsanctioned by the analogy of our Lord’s teaching. (1.) Already He had bestowed upon one of His disciples the name of Cephas, Peter, the Rock, and in so doing had at least indicated the type of character represented by the “rock” upon which the wise man built. When He afterwards said, “Upon this rock will I build my Church,” He was speaking in the character of a wise Master-builder who saw in fervent faith and unhesitating obedience the ground-work on which the Christian society, which He designated as His kingdom, was to rest. — Ellicott’s Commentary (full artilcle)


Palestine was to a considerable extent a land of hills and mountains. Like other countries of that description, it was subject to sudden and violent rains. The Jordan, the principal stream, was annually swollen to a great extent, and became rapid and furious in its course. The streams which ran among the hills, whose channels might have been dry during some months of the year, became suddenly swollen with the rain, and would pour down impetuously into the plains below. Everything in the way of these torrents would be swept off. Even houses, erected within the reach of these sudden inundations, and especially if founded on sand or on any unsolid basis, would not stand before them. The rising, bursting stream would shake it to its foundation; the rapid torrent would gradually wash away its base; it would totter and fall. Rocks in that country were common, and it was easy to secure for their houses a solid foundation. No comparison could, to a Jew, have been more striking. So tempests, and storms of affliction and persecution, beat around the soul. Suddenly, when we think we are in safety, the heavens may be overcast, the storm may lower, and calamity may beat upon us. In a moment, health, friends, comforts may be gone. How desirable, then, to be possessed of something that the tempest cannot reach! Such is an interest in Christ, reliance on his promises, confidence in his protection, and a hope of heaven through his blood. Earthly calamities do not reach these; and, possessed of religion, all the storms and tempests of life may beat harmlessly around us. — Matthew Henry’s commentary (full artilcle)


The teacher explained how each thing in the lesson had a much deeper meaning …— Gwen Schnell

  • The house is much more than just a house! It is like our life and what we do with it.
  • The storm-wind, rain, and floods are like troubles or problems that come into our lives, maybe like temptations.
  • The strong rock is like Jesus. He helps us when we are having troubles, like the storm. Jesus helps stay strong and do the right thing and trust in Him.
  • The soft sand is like worldly things. It’s whatever you may trust in INSTEAD of Jesus. It’s not strong or reliable. You will not find the help you need to be strong and do the right thing if you trust in anything or anyone but Jesus.
  • The wise man was someone who listened to Jesus and obeyed Him, the foolish man was someone who did not.

LIVING STONES: Definition, Context, Commentary

The term living stones … is used as a metaphor to illustrate the secure and intimate relationship … with Jesus … — Gotquestions.org (full article)

The lively stone is us — all who belong to Jesus — and the Living Stone is Jesus. — Shari Abbott

Wherever, in any world, a soul, by free-willed obedience, catches the fire of God’s likeness, it is set into the growing walls, a living stone. — Phillips Brooks

As we come together, each of us a living stone, we are built into something greater through the power of Jesus Christ. We are special and important and Christ is alive in us and waiting for us to actually be a living stone. To take risks and live and breath everything through the power of Jesus Christ. — Ministry Matters (full article)

The “rock-stone” image imagery is common in Scripture. As Hillyer says, “There is, for example, the stumbling stone of Isaiah 8:14, the foundation stone of Isaiah 28:16, the parental rock of Isaiah 51:1f., the rejected but vindicated building stone of Psalm 118:22, the supernatural stone of Daniel 2:34 and the burdensome stone of Zechariah 12:3” (Norman Hillyer, “Rock-Stone Imagery in 1 Peter”, The Tyndale Bulletin, 22 [1971] 58). There is fair evidence that “Rock/Stone” was a messianic title among the Jews as well as among the Christians…  — Edwin Blum

Four Stones — Mary Oliver

On the beach, at dawn:
Four small stones clearly
Hugging each other.

How many kinds of love
Might there be in the world,
And how many formations might they make

And who am I ever
To imagine I could know
Such a marvelous business?

When the sun broke
It poured willingly its light
Over the stones

That did not move, not at all,
Just as, to its always generous term,
It shed its light on me,

My own body that loves,
Equally, to hug another body.

SAND: Definition, Context, Commentary

… a loose granular material that results from the disintegration of rocks, consists of particles smaller than gravel but coarser than silt, and is used in mortar, glass, abrasives, and foundry molds. — Merriam-Webster definition

Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. Sand has various compositions but is defined by its grain size. Sand grains are smaller than gravel and coarser than silt… Sand is a non-renewable resource over human timescales …— Wikipedia

We see God separating that which is holy apart, and setting it aside for himself in many places in Scripture. But conversely, the Hebrew word for sand, חול (chol), is the same as the word for “secular” or “ordinary” – that which is not set aside or holy… The dense dusty sand that hung over Israel was a good reminder of how sin and worldliness works:

  • It clouds our vision and brings short-sightedness
  • It chokes and suffocates life
  • It makes it difficult to move up and out

— One for Israel (full article)

  … sand and gravel resources are the second-largest resource extracted and traded by volume after water.  — United Nations (full article)

CORNERSTONE: Definition, Context, Commentary

The cornerstone of something is the basic part of it on which its existence, success, or truth depends. — Collins Dictionary

In relation to architecture, a cornerstone is traditionally the first stone laid for a structure, with all other stones laid in reference. A cornerstone marks the geographical location by orienting a building in a specific direction.Over the years, cornerstones have served a variety of purposes. As a means to preserve time, buildings have been marked with a numerical representation to remind people when the building was erected. This has given correlation to architecture and the design of the time. Additionally, cornerstones have become a strong symbol of a new era. They have indicated prosperity and opportunity—showing a sense of pride for what is possible at the time of construction. Cornerstones have also been turned into pieces of memorabilia, marking present buildings or denoting previously standing buildings. …
As the commemorative qualities of cornerstones have become recognized, the locations of craftsmanship have expanded to stones near or above the front door of a building. — New Studio Architecture (full article)

Since ancient times, builders have used cornerstones in their construction projects. A cornerstone was the principal stone, usually placed at the corner of an edifice, to guide the workers in their course. The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid, and the most carefully constructed of any in the edifice. The Bible describes Jesus as the cornerstone that His church would be built upon. He is foundational. Once the cornerstone was set, it became the basis for determining every measurement in the remaining construction; everything was aligned to it. As the cornerstone of the building of the church, Jesus is our standard of measure and alignment. — Gotquestions.org (full article)

A cornerstone (Greek: Άκρογωνιεîς, Latin: Primarii Lapidis) will sometimes be referred to as a “foundation-stone”, and is symbolic of Christ, whom the Apostle Paul referred to as the “head of the corner” and is the “Chief Cornerstone of the Church” (Ephesians 2:20) — Wikipedia

CAPSTONE or KEYSTONE: Definition, Context, Commentary

… it was the Roman civilization (1000 B.C.E. – 500 C.E.) that first began using a keystone (also called a capstone) in their arches. The keystone is the topmost stone in the arch. The one in the illustration on the right is exaggerated in size from what a normal keystone would be. The keystone helped to distribute the weight down the side supporting blocks (voussoir blocks) of the columns. With this design, the keystone is the “key” to supporting the arch, because if you remove the stone, the arch would collapse. — Ask a Biologist (full article)

Jesus is the keystone of creation; bringing order from non-order and providing a resolution for the problem of disorder introduced by sin. — RJS summarizing Jonathan Walton’s argument, Patheos.com (full article)

God next speaks of the “capstone” or “headstone.” Some people have assumed that this was a foundation stone, but it is not. God is speaking about finishing the temple, not starting it. This is not the cornerstone, which is installed in the foundation, but the finishing stone—the very last one set. It can also be called the gable stone or even the keystone that would finish an archway. It is a symbol of completion. In this case, it represents the Temple being sufficiently ready for God’s habitation. This ought to be clear. He is alluding to the preparation of the church for God’s Kingdom... their job of measuring the Temple, the altar, and the worshippers will be successful. They will be successful by”grace, grace”—double grace. Their work will be accomplished only by an extra measure of God’s grace.— Richard Ritenbaugh

Do not look only for the beautiful, water-polished stones that represent Christ’s abundant gifts and graces that He’s given you in the happy, simple, and easy times.  Look also for the rough-edged rocks, and even the huge boulders, that represent Christ’s presence, provision, and protection in the most difficult, trying, and troubling times of life. — Shari Abbott

STUMBLING BLOCK: Definition, Context, Commentary

  1 : an obstacle to progress 2 : an impediment to belief or understanding — Dictionary

During our step-work, every time we got to the fourth step—Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves—the women gave me a lot of pushback… They felt that … “what they’d done wrong” was the focus of many of their classes. It felt exhausting to them… It was not a punitive action… What if we can identify the thing that keeps us from enjoying life to its fullest? Can we look at this exercise as a diagnostic tool? … Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, writes, “If we take an honest look at the mistakes we’ve made, we’ll see that many of them were a reaction to an unnamed fear within us.” Twelve-steppers agree with that statement. We are told that our character defects (sin) are our instincts run amok… Once those fears have been identified, we have something on which to work. The goal of this work is reconnection…. — Jean Heaton, Noticing My Stumbling Blocks (full article)

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of anotherLet us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. — Paul’s Letter to Romans

Reflections on the ‘log & speck’ or ‘beam & mote’ – judging & non-judging. Themes from Matthew 7 out of the Sermon on the Mount. Humor through images.

Contain all human faces in your own without any judgment of them — Rumi

It is much more difficult to judge yourself than it is to judge others. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

What is love? Love is the absence of judgment. — Dalai Lama

To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly as he or she is. — Fred Rogers

There is no value-judgment more important to a man no factor more decisive in his psychological development and motivation than the estimate he passes on himself. — Nathaniel Branden

There are no truer choices than those made in crisis, choices made without judgment. — Daniel Wilson

The organ of perception acts more readily than judgment. — Leonardo Da Vinci

Well, pray if you like, only you’d do better to use your judgment. — Leo Tolstoy

If you want to help somebody, make sure you’re coming from a place of clarity and complete non-judgment; that way, you can begin to understand their journey, too. — Mary Lambert

Without compassion, we will never know anyone or anything, not even our own story. Too much judgment, too many ideas and attitudes will stand in the way of the fundamental principle that we are similar to, connected with, and part of everything else. — Deena Metzger

SONGS about Judging & Not-Judging:


And light is mingled with the gloom,
And joy with grief;
Divinest compensations come,
Through thorns of judgment mercies bloom In sweet relief.
— John Greenleaf Whittier


PRAYER
God of all races, nations, and religions,
You know that we cannot change others,
Nor can we change the past.
But we can change ourselves.
We can join You in changing our only
And common future where Love “reigns”
The same over all.
Help us not to say, “Lord, Lord” to any nationalist gods,
But to hear the One God of all the earth,
And to do God’s good thing for this One World.
— Fr Richard Rohr

WHAT’S IN YOUR EYE?

As I pondered these verses, so many questions came to my mind.

  • Why is it we can see the faults of others, but we can’t see our own faults?
  • Who is supposed to tell me what my logs are – my kids, my husband, my parents, You God?
  • And how is that done? Is there an appropriate way to show me my faults?
  • Is there an appropriate way to show others their faults?
  • How should I prepare myself to hear bad news about myself?
  • Why do I feel the need to judge others for their faults?
  • Where does humility come into play here?
  • What if I perceive another person is in danger? Is it alright to tell them what their speck is?
  • What if they have a “log” in their eye? Why doesn’t the Bible talk about getting a log out of other people’s lives – only specks?
  • How do I get the log out of my own eye?
  • Am I a hypocrite?
  • Have I ever really prayed for God to show me my log?
  • Do I really want to hear what He might say?
  • Why does Jesus say speck and log versus specks and logs?

As you can see, these 5 verses brought a lot more questions to my mind than there are verses.  And if I thought beyond the few minutes it took to come up with these questions, I could probably double the amount of questions that came quickly to the top of my head. — Patti Greene (full text: https://greenepastures.org/the-speck-and-the-log-matthew-71-5/)

… there’s all this stuff about the final judgment. You know what the final judgment is to me? It’s God dying on the cross and saying: forgive them; they know not what they’re doing. That’s an eternally valid statement to me. That is God’s judgment upon us. And so, to me, if God could bear that kind of suffering and only respond in forgiveness and love, that’s the God who is present in a devastating hurricane, in that room with an abused child. So to me, God has come into the world and is bearing that, not causing it. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

God’s freely given grace is a humiliation to the ego because free gifts say nothing about me. Only the soul can understand grace. The ego does not know how to receive things freely or without logic. It likes to be worthy and needs to understand in order to accept things as true. The ego prefers a worldview of scarcity or quid pro quo, where only the clever can win. That problem, and its overcoming, is at the very center of the Gospel plot line. It has always been overcome from God’s side. The only problem is getting us in on the process! That very inclusion of us is God’s humility, graciousness, and love. Only inside an economy of grace can we see that God wants free and willing partners. An economy of merit cannot process free love or free anything. “Not servants, but friends” (John 15:15) is God’s plan. Yet to this day, most Christians seem to prefer being servants. Divine friendship is just too much to imagine. — Fr. Richard Rohr (full article: https://cac.org/mercy-before-judgment-2016-01-24/)

Through Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the other world religions, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. If we are ready to reclaim the true meaning of “catholic,” which is “universal,” we must concentrate on including—as Jesus clearly did—instead of excluding—which he never did. The only thing Jesus excluded was exclusion itself… — Fr Richard Rohr (full article: https://cac.org/solidarity-instead-of-judgment-2020-09-20/)

JUDGMENT & NON-JUDGMENT

Be curious, not judgmental. — Walt Whitman

“How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event, God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy”—which is infinite! — Pope Francis

Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. ― Bryan Stevenson

Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them — Byron Katie

Such as every man is inwardly so he judgeth outwardly. — Thomas A Kempis

In its highest form, not judging is the ultimate act of forgiveness. ― John Kuypers

To celebrate someone else’s life, we need to find a way to look at it straight on, not from above with judgment or from below with envy. ― Sharon Salzberg

No one can occupy your generosity except you. Who can occupy your patience when impatience roars through you? Who except you can choose not to act with judgment when all of your thoughts are judgmental? Your life is yours to live, no matter how you choose to live it. When you do not think about how you intend to live it, it lives you. — Gary Zukav

The more you look into and understand yourself, the less judgmental you become of others. — Tariq Ramadan

But over time people break apart, no matter how enormous the love they feel for one another is, and it is through the breaking and the reconciliation, the love and the doubting of love, the judgment and then the coming together again, that we find our own identity and define our relationships.— Ann Patchett

Just as the sun shines on every soul, let your light of compassion shine on everyone irrespective of who they are and what they believe. ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Imagine learning at such a young age that your very appearance – your very identity – is enough to trigger such confusion and animosity. Imagine knowing that people will hate you for no reason other than you are who you are. —Thomas Beatie

Of course we need to accept ourselves as we are, but we can’t stop there. We also need to value ourselves enough make needed changes. ― Steve Goodier

f your knowledge teaches you not to rise above human weakness and misery and lead your fellow man on the right path, you are indeed a man of little worth and will remain such till Judgment Day. — Khalil Gibran

Mindfulness means moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. It is cultivated by refining our capacity to pay attention, intentionally, in the present moment, and then sustaining that attention over time as best we can. In the process, we become more in touch with our life as it is unfolding. — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Yes, I have my standpoint, but I try to follow the life of Christ and he was very non-judgmental. It’s not my position to judge. It’s God’s position to judge. — Donny Osmond

Recognizing our own mistakes helps us to empathize non-judgmentally with others and helps enable us to understand their issues. — Jay Woodman

I want to get comfortable with my insecurities until I am no longer insecure. I want to be comfortable in my skin so that I do not need to dump any of my discomfort onto someone else in the form of judgment. — Damien Rice

We experience it as kindness, giving, mercy, compassion, peace, joy, acceptance, non-judgment, joining, and intimacy. — Marianne Williamson

Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough. — Mary McLeod Bethune

When you force a man to act against his own choice and judgment, it’s his thinking that you want him to suspend. You want him to become a robot.— Ayn Rand

I am humanly unable to correct my negative self-image until I encounter a life-changing experience with non-judgmental love bestowed upon me by a Person whom I admire so much that to be unconditionally accepted by Him is to be born again. — Robert Schuller

Meditations on blindness and sight, perception and awareness: songs, prayers, poems and brief commentary on themes that rise up in John 9

I think we all suffer from acute blindness at times. Life is a constant journey of trying to open your eyes. I’m just beginning my journey, and my eyes aren’t fully open yet. — Olivia Thirlby

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind … — William Shakespeare

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart. — Pope John XXIII
Songs about ‘Blindness’:
Blind Leading the Blind by Mumford & Sons (rock)
Blind Fools by Megan Davies & Curtis Peoples (country)
I Am Free by Newsboys (Christian rock)
I Go Blind by Hootie & The Blowfish (rock)
I Wish I Were Blind by Bruce Springsteen (rock)
Seeing Blind by Niall Horan & Maren Morris (country)
Sky Blue by Peter Gabriel with Blind Boys of Alabama (ballad/gospel)
Blind Boy by Musical Youth (pop)
Loving Blind by Clint Smith (country)
Love Is Blind by David Coverdale/Whitesnake (rock)
Lord You’ve Been Good To Me by 5 Blind Boys (gospel)
He Saw It All by the Booth Brothers (Christian country)
If You Me To by Ginny Owens (Christian)
Live Music with Blind Boys of Alabama (gospel)
Blind Man by Aerosmith (rock)
Blind Love by Tom Waits (country)
You’re Blind by Run/DMC (rock/rap)
Blind by Dababy (rap – includes explicit lyrics/some cursing)

Songs about Sight & Seeing: My Father’s Eyes by Eric Clapton (rock)
Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedance Clearwater Revival (country/rock)
Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne (rock)
Look at Me by Sarah Vaughan (jazz/blues)
I Only Have Eyes for You by The Flamingos (rock/soul)
The Light In Your Eyes by LeAnn Rimes (country)
When I Look at the World by U2
I Look to You by Whitney Houston (rock)
The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra (jazz/big band)
Eyes Open by Taylor Swift (pop)
Close Your Eyes by Meghan Trainor (country)
Fresh Eyes by Andy Grammer (pop)
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel (rock ballad)
Don’t Close Your Eyes cover by Tim McGraw
In Another’s Eyes by Trisha Yearwood & Garth Brooks (country)
In My Daughter’s Eyes by Martina McBride
Sue Looks Good to Me by Alicia Keys (pop)
Look It Here by Public Enemy (rap)
Look Me In the Heart by Tina Turner (rock)
Look at Me Now by Kirk Franklin (rock/rap/gospel)
Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Frankie Valli (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Peaches & Herb & again Close Your Eyes The Five Keys (soul/rock)
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (rock ballad)
When I Look in Your Eyes by Firehouse (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Michael Buble (pop)
Close My Eyes Forever by Ozzy Osbourne & Lita Ford (rock ballad)
Take a Look at Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (pop ballad)
Angel Eyes by the Jeff Healey Band (rock)
My Eyes Have Seen You and I Looked at You by The Doors (rock)
Sight for Sore Eyes by Aerosmith (rock)
Look at Me Now by Charlies Puth (pop)
Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish
The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson (pop ballad)
The Eyes of a Woman by Journey (rock)

PRAYER by Richard Rohr
God of all Light and Truth, just make sure that I am not a blind man or woman.
Keep me humble and honest, and that will be more than enough work for you.

PRAYER by Nadia Bolz-Weber
God of desert prophets and unlikely messiahs, humble us.
Show us that there is more to see than what we look for.
More possibility. More love. More forgiveness …
Restore our sight so that we may see you in each other.

PRAYER by St Augustine
Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new.
Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out,
and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and
have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance,
and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you.
I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you.
You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.

At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions — John O’Donohue
What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
When could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations hd I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

RICHARD ROHR COMMENTARY   (from Center for Action & Contemplation)
Finally, the great theater-piece Gospel is about a man born blind. … We can only touch upon the surface here, but enough to point you beneath the surface, I hope. Let me list in quick succession the major themes so you cannot miss them: 

  • The “man born blind” is the archetype for all of us at the beginning of life’s journey.
  • The moral blame game as to why or who caused human suffering is a waste of time.
  • The man does not even ask to be healed. It is just offered and given.
  • Religious authorities are often more concerned about control and correct theology than actually healing people. They are presented as narrow and unloving people throughout the story.
  • Many people have their spiritual conclusions before the facts in front of them. He is a predefined “sinner” and has no credibility for them.
  • Belief in and love of Jesus come after the fact, subsequent to the healing. Perfect faith or motivation is not always a prerequisite for God’s action. Sometimes God does things for God’s own purposes.
  • Spirituality is about seeing. Sin is about blindness, or as Saint Gregory of Nyssa will say, “Sin is always a refusal to grow.”
  • The one who knows little, learns much (what we call “beginner’s mind”) and those who have all their answers already, learn nothing.

Doing as others told me, I was Blind.
Coming when others called me, I was Lost.
Then I left everyone, myself as well.
Then I found Everyone, Myself as well.
― Rumi

COMMENTARY on the STORY of the BLIND MAN

… Of the two choices, Jesus picked a third, unbinding sin from the body, deformity from purity.  Before sight was restored, God’s presence was invoked in this marginal space, this “inappropriate” body.  God’s presence was invoked within the blind man – within the “imperfect”, within the “other”.  And when his eyes were opened, God’s light came pouring out from this man, casting into stark relief the social and religious ideas that had kept him out for so long. — Eliza (UCC minister see full posting on her blog)

Jesus doesn’t ask the blind guy when he heals him what he’ll be looking at for the rest of his life. — Anne Lamott

It will make a weak man mighty. it will make a mighty man fall. It will fill your heart and hands or leave you with nothing at all. It’s the eyes for the blind and legs for the lame. It is the love for hate and pride for shame. That’s the power of the gospel. — Ben Harper

It was here in the midst of my own community of underside dwellers that I couldn’t help but begin to see the Gospel, the life-changing reality that God is not far off, but here among the brokenness of our lives. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

ON SEEING & BLINDNESS as STATES of SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION

It’s not like ‘I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Optimism does not mean being blind to the actual reality of a situation. It means maintaining a positive spirit to continue to seek a solution to any given problem. And it means recognizing that any given situation has many different aspects—positive as well as problematic. — Dalai Lama

We are only as blind as we want to be. ― Maya Angelou

Spirituality doesn’t mean a blind belief in a spiritual teaching. Spirituality is a practice that brings relief, communication, and transformation. Everyone needs a spiritual dimension in life. Without a spiritual dimension, it’s very challenging to be with the daily difficulties we all encounter. With a spiritual practice, you’re no longer afraid. Along with your physical body, you have a spiritual body. The practices of breathing, walking, concentration, and understanding can help you greatly in dealing with your emotions, in listening to and embracing your suffering, and in helping you to recognize and embrace the suffering of another person. If we have this capacity, then we can develop a real and lasting spiritual intimacy with ourselves and with others. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. — Ralph Ellison

Blindness is an unfortunate handicap but true vision does not require the eyes. — Helen Keller

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. — Mark Twain

Our very eyes, Are sometimes, like our judgments, blind. — William Shakespeare

There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments-and it is we alone who desecrate them by our blindness and lack of reverence. It is one sacred universe, and we are all a part of it. — Richard Rohr

Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know. — Ayn Rand

An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

NOBEL SPEECH (excerpt from FULL LECTURE) by Toni Morrison
“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures. “Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”
      In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.
     One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, “Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”
     She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”
Still she doesn’t answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.
     The old woman’s silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.
     Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. “I don’t know”, she says. “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”
     Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.
     For parading their power and her helplessness, the young visitors are reprimanded, told they are responsible not only for the act of mockery but also for the small bundle of life sacrificed to achieve its aims. The blind woman shifts attention away from assertions of power to the instrument through which that power is exercised…

I look at the worldLangston Hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space   
Assigned to me.
 
I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!
 
I look at my own body   
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent — John Milton

When I consider
how my light is spent,
Ere half my days,
in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent
which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless,
though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker,
and present
My true account,
lest he returning chide;
‘Doth God exact day-labour,
light denied?’
I fondly ask.
But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies,
‘God doth not need
Either man’s work
or his own gifts;
who best
Bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best.
His state
Is Kingly.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and
Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only
stand and wait.’

Reflecting on holistic choices: freedom, slavery, and fruits of the spirit from Paul’s letter to Galatians.

Allegories of slavery & freedom in sacred texts: liberating or problematic?

At the end of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. alludes to the apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. — Biblical Archeology Review

Prejudice, discrimination, resentment and violence are enemies that never die. Every generation must redream the dream to overcome these destructive forces. — Bill Tinsley

Community of the Spirit— Rumi

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street
and being the noise.
Drink all your passion
and be a disgrace.
Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.
Open your hands
if you want to be held.
Consider what you have been doing.
Why do you stay
with such a mean-spirited and dangerous partner?
For the security of having food.
Admit it.
Here is a better arrangement.
Give up this life,
and get a hundred new lives.
Sit down in this circle.
Quit acting like a wolf,
and feel the shepherd’s love filling you.
At night, your beloved wanders.
Do not take painkillers.
Tonight, no consolations.
And do not eat.
Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover’s mouth in yours.
You moan,
But she left me.
He left me.
Twenty more will come.
Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought.
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down
in always widening rings of being.


To the Holy Spirit — Wendell Berry

O Thou, far off and here,
 whole and broken,
Who in necessity and bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark,
 mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me
 Thy narrow gate.


Songs about Spirit (many cultural references, including Holy Spirit):


Learn more about Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:

Questions to consider:

  • What do you need to be freed from? What do you desire to be freed for?
  • Can you recall or focus on a moment when you have experienced liberation? What parts of yourself were affected: body, mind, spirit, emotions? What led to your experience of freedom?
  • If you could be a “new creation” … what would you imagine or claim for your transformed identity?
  • Which aspects of unhealthy living do you most struggle to bring back into balance? What does your spending tell you about which parts of your life may be out of balance? Galatians suggest some problem areas such as: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy,[drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
  • What fruits of the spirit do you already have? Which fruits of the spirit do you need or want more fully in your life? Galatians identifies them as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

NOTES on SLAVERY: Then and Now

  • Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true. — Nikole Hannah-Jones
  • Fellow Citizens … The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men … The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. — Frederick Douglass (full article on Douglass’ historic Independence Day Address)
  • Not only does birthright citizenship bestow upon us a privileged status that we haven’t earned; our nation’s unparalleled wealth and power, as well as our actual borders, lack a sturdy moral foundation. But for slavery, genocide and colonization, we would not be the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world — in fact, our nation would not even exist. This is not hyperbole; it’s history. — Michelle Alexander, None of Us Deserve Citizenship
  • … it feels to me like the urgency of the history of this struggle, of a struggle for genuine racial justice and equality in this country feels more alive right now, has more bite and teeth to it than it probably has in my lifetime. — Chris Hayes, Why Is This Happening?
  • Hundreds of thousands of Africans, both free and enslaved, aided the establishment and survival of colonies in the Americas and the New World. — History’s Slavery in America
  • However, many consider a significant starting point to slavery in America to be 1619 … some historians have estimated that 6 to 7 million enslaved people were imported to the New World. — History’s Slavery in America
  • Slavery itself was never widespread in the North, though many of the region’s businessmen grew rich on the slave trade and investments in southern plantations. — History’s Slavery in America
  • They were statesmen, patriots and heroes … I will unite with you to honor their memory … Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? … Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. … The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. … You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. — Frederick Douglass (full article on Douglass’ historic Independence Day Address)
  • And the thing about the history of all of this … it gets very sanitized. And the reason I think it gets sanitized is there is a kind of apology that is draped over all about it. Which is that, “Yes, it was bad back then, but they didn’t really know any better.” Do people feel like that was the message they got? Not that it was okay, right? But, they were creatures of their times. — Chris Hayes Why Is This Happening?
  • Though the U.S. Congress outlawed the African slave trade in 1808, the domestic trade flourished, and the enslaved population in the U.S. nearly tripled over the next 50 years. By 1860 it had reached nearly 4 million, with more than half living in the cotton-producing states of the South. — History’s Slavery in America
  • I think white Americans woke up … to the America that black folks have always lived in … “Oh, this isn’t the country I thought it was …” So there is this desire, I think, to excavate our history to understand how we got here … And when you studied history, then suddenly the architecture of the inequality is revealed, and it’s calming because then you say, “Oh, so this does actually make sense, but not for the reasons that we’re told.” And I think that is a similar thing that is now happening to white Americans and other nonblack Americans. — Nikole Hannah-Jones, Why Is This Happening?
  • Since 2010, when I published “The New Jim Crow” — which argued that a system of legal discrimination and segregation had been born again in this country because of the war on drugs and mass incarceration — there have been significant changes to drug policy, sentencing and re-entry … initiatives aimed at eliminating barriers … for formerly incarcerated people. — Michelle Alexander, The Newest Jim Crow. Full article.
  • … hopefully we can now see that Jim Crow was a less restrictive form of racial and social control, not a real alternative to racial caste systems. Similarly, if the goal is to end mass incarceration and mass criminalization, digital prisons are not an answer. They’re just another way of posing the question. — Michelle Alexander, The Newest Jim Crow. Full article.
  • Black people remain the most segregated people in America in every aspect of American life, we remain on the bottom of every social indicator of well being, us and Native Americans, the two groups who didn’t choose to be part of America. But other groups are clearly more fluid, right? The historian who wrote, “How the Irish Became White” died today, and he talks about how whiteness is fluid. How people who were Irish, who were Jewish, who were Italian, or Greek were at one time not considered white and then they became white, certain Latino groups are considered white. Even Asian Americans who, in the 1800s, were classified as not being able to be assimilated just like black people, often the laws were against black and Mongoloids, but now are considered a model minority … — Nikole Hannah-Jones Why Is This Happening?
  • Of course, it can be argued that virtually all modern nation-states were created through violence, exploitation and war. But we claim to be unlike most nation-states; indeed, we insist that we’re “exceptional.” We are the only nation that advertises itself as “a nation of immigrants” and the “land of the free”  …  our nation was birthed by a Declaration of Independence, a document that insists that “all men are created equal” with “certain inalienable rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” After centuries of struggle, including a Civil War, we now claim to understand that all people — not just propertied white men — are created equal with basic, inalienable human rights …  Even if we’re tempted to treat as irrelevant the circumstances of our nation’s founding, we cannot ignore the fact that our recent and current foreign policies, trade agreements and military adventures — including our global drug wars — have greatly contributed to the immigration crisis that our nation is now trying to solve through border walls and mass deportation. … challenging us to see immigrants not only as fully human, created equal, with certain inalienable rights but also morally entitled to far greater care, compassion and concern than we have managed to muster to date. — Michelle Alexander, None of Us Deserve Citizenship
  • Fortunately, a growing number of advocates are organizing to ensure that important reforms, such as ending cash bail, are not replaced with systems that view poor people and people of color as little more than commodities to be bought, sold, evaluated and managed for profit … If our goal is not a better system of mass criminalization, but instead the creation of safe, caring, thriving communities, then we ought to be heavily investing in quality schools, job creation, drug treatment and mental health care in the least advantaged communities rather than pouring billions into their high-tech management and control.— Michelle Alexander, The Newest Jim Crow. Full article.
  • The deeper question raised … how we ought to manage immigration in a manner that honors the dignity, humanity and legitimate interests of all concerned … Reaching for a radically more humane immigration system … does require a certain measure of humility on the part of those of us who have benefited from birthright citizenship. Rather than viewing immigrants as seeking something that we, Americans, have a moral right to withhold from them, we ought to begin by acknowledging that none of us who were born here did anything to deserve our citizenship, and yet all of us — no matter where we were born — deserve compassion and basic human rights. … our relationship to those who are fleeing poverty and violence is morally complex … — Michelle Alexander, None of Us Deserve Citizenship
  • Worldwide contemporary [21stc] slavery … refers to institutional slavery that continues to occur in present-day society. It can also be called forced labor and human trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization, a UN organization, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage. 1 in 4 of these people are children. Of those trapped in forced labor, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors.ilo.org

On Fruits of the Spirit

Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The fruit of the Spirit is fundamentally relational. Rather than originating with us, it flows to us from our union with Christ, and it flows beyond us to bring us into fellowship with others. The secret of this flow – and our unity with God and others – is humility. — Jerry Bridges

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. — Henri Nouwen No one ever said the fruit of the Spirit is relevance or impact or even revival. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—the sort of stuff that, let’s face it, doesn’t always sell. — Rachel Held Evans

Jesus offered the world full and final participation in his own very holistic teaching. Jesus spoke of true union at all levels: with oneself, with the neighbor, with the outsider, with the enemy, with nature, and—through all of these—with the Divine. … The spiritual question is this: Does one’s life give any evidence of an encounter with God? Does this encounter bring about in you any of the things that Paul describes as the “fruits” of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22)? Are you different from your surroundings, or do you reflect the predictable cultural values and biases of your group? — Richard Rohr

There is a great deal we never think of calling religion that is still fruit unto God, and garnered by Him in the harvest. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, patience, goodness. I affirm that if these fruits are found in any form, whether you show your patience as a woman nursing a fretful child, or as a man attending to the vexing detail of a business, or as a physician following the dark mazes of sickness, or as a mechanic fitting the joints and valves of a locomotive; being honest true besides, you bring forth truth unto God. — Edward Bulwer-Lytton Already the new [people] men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognizable: but others can be recognized. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours; stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognizable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of “religious people” which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other [people] men do, but they need you less … They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognized one of them, you will recognize the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognize one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of color, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. – C.S. Lewis

About “there is no longer slave or free” from Galatians

Our relation to God is not a ‘religious’ relationship to the highest, most powerful, and best Being imaginable, but our relation to God is a new life in ‘existence for others’ … — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last. — Martin Luther King

The inclusive vision incarnated in Jesus’ table fellowship is reflected in the shape of the Jesus movement itself. It was an inclusive movement, negating the boundaries of the purity system. — Marcus Borg

And in the Jesus business there is not male or female, jew or greek, slave or free, gay or straight, there is only one category of people: children of God. Which means nobody gets to be special and everybody gets to be loved.— Nadia Bolz-Weber

I believe patriarchy is a result of sin, and that followers of Jesus are to be champions of equality. I believe it is our calling, as imitators of Christ, to reflect God’s new vision for the world, initiated through Jesus Christ,  in which there is no hierarchy or power struggle between slave and free, Jew and Greek, male and female, for all are one in the family of God (Galatians 3:28) — Rachel Held Evans

So why does Paul put exactly these categories together? The three pairs that Paul includes in this verse all played a role in first-century conceptions of what an ideal world would look like. When imagining ideal or utopian communities, Paul’s contemporaries picture different peoples living together in one homogeneous group under one law—without ethnic distinction. They also imagine societies where people are not divided into households and families, but all live as “brothers,” as equals. Such communities could reject property, slavery, and marriage, since in the minds of first-century philosophers, doing away with possessions, slaves, and wives meant removing the major causes of social conflict. When Paul sums up the community of those who live “in Christ,” he uses categories that reflect such first-century ideals. — Karin Neutel

We also have been baptized in the one Spirit. But we are no freer than were the ancient Galatians from the bred-in-the-bone rivalry and competitiveness that can express itself religiously in any number of ways. Essential to the process of transformation in Christ is to see the ways in which we individually and communally fail to live out the spirit of love that fulfills the law of Christ. — Luke Timothy Johnson

RESOURCES:

  • Why Is This Happening? Examining slavery’s legacyNikole Hannah-Jones and Ibram X. Kendi with Chris Hayes (excerpt). Full article. Together they examine the 400 year legacy of slavery in America.
  • The Newest Jim Crow — Michelle Alexander: Full article.
  • None of Us Deserved Citizenship — Michelle Alexander: Full article
  • Slavery in America by History
  • 1619 Project Nikole Hannah-Jones
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