Faith versus Works

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James 2:14-26


The Sheep and the Goats

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Matthew 25: 31-46


The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
They will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not unto temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.



Why Not Be Changed Into Fire?

One day Abbot Lot came to his teacher, Abbot Joseph, and said, "Father, as best as I am able, I keep my little fast, my little rule, my little prayer. But it's not enough. And father, as best as I am able, I keep my meditation and my contemplative silence and I strive to cleanse my heart of all unnecessary desires. But it's not enough. I still haven't found what I seek. Father, what shall I do?

In reply, Abbot Joseph, the Elder, rose up and stretched out his hands to the heavens and his fingers became like ten burning lamps and he said "Why not be totally changed into fire?"

Litany of Resistance

With governments that kill… …we will not comply. With the theology of empire… …we will not comply. With the business of militarism… …we will not comply. With the hoarding of riches …we will not comply. With the dissemination of fear …we will not comply. But today we pledge our allegiance to the kingdom of God… …we pledge allegiance. To the peace that is not like Rome’s… …we pledge allegiance. To the Gospel of enemy love …we pledge allegiance. To the poor and the broken… …we pledge allegiance….

Easter Sunday

Blue Gal over at Street Prophets is asking people to participate in blog against theocracy this Easter weekend, so that's what I had intended to do today. 

I've been thinking a lot about Jesus' death, especially for someone who isn't Christian. And it occurred to me that Jesus was a victim of theocracy. Bear in mind that this is coming from someone who doesn't believe that Jesus was sent to die for our sins. I see his crucifixion as a state-sanctioned murder of someone who preached a radically liberal message of inclusivity and threatened established authority, both religious and state. Although, if Jesus were merely a victim, he wouldn't mean much to me. The Romans executed thousands. It was the way that Jesus unflinchingly lived his values of radical love and inclusivity, in the face of overwhelming power, that makes him a "first amongst equals" - fully human, and also fully divine.

I digress.... Some may question the claim that 1st century Jerusalem was a theocracy. After all, the political power was Rome whereas the religious power was the Temple high priests. While Herod may have been installed by the Romans (Marc Anthony), the Temple priests surely were not. But Herod and the Priests had entered into a cozy deal with Rome. In exchange for some amount of autonomy (and ability to collect wealth), sacrifices were offered in the Temple on behalf of Rome and the Emperor twice a day. The net result was the perception that the God of the Jews endorsed the legitimacy of Roman power.

Thus, religious authoritarian structure was supported by the state and in turn supported the state. This mutually beneficial arrangement assured that no one would be looking out for the welfare of the people. Until Jesus. And as he threatened this unholy alliance, he had to be done away with.

One of the main purposes of the "Church" is to bear witness against the injustices of authority. This is what the Jewish prophets did, bearing witness against Egyptian pharaohs and even Jewish kings. No one was beyond accountability. But the "Church" cannot hold the State accountable if its livelihood is dependent upon the State.

This was one of the primary concerns of our Founding Fathers as they carefully crafted the system of checks and balances intended to keep tyrannies in check. Many people now, see the separation of church and state as ensuring "freedom from religion." They see religion as the tyrant that the 1st amendment protects them from. But the original intent of the wall of separation was "freedom of religion," protecting religion's ability to be an independent voice of conscience, against the State if need be. Either way you look at it, separation protects everyone.

Holy Saturday

Btw, Happy Purim, Happy Holi, and Happy Norooz!

I'm told that the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is called Holy Saturday.  It seems more like "Holely Saturday" to me, as in something is missing.  From the despair of Good Friday to the exultations of Easter Sunday, what happens in the in-between time?  Caught between death and rebirth, Saturday almost seems like a time to sleep.  A time to rest and dream.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that there was a resurrection - whether bodily or spiritually or (to phrase it in the language of Buddhism) somehow the collection of aggregates known to us as Jesus of Nazareth continued on in some way.  (Certainly, that much seems to be the case, doesn't it?)  Assuming there was a resurrection, my question is: did Jesus even want to be resurrected?  Maybe when he was in the garden pleading with God to "take this cup from me" he wasn't just talking about the impending crucifixion but also the resurrection.  Maybe Jesus was tired and wanted to sleep.

As he lay in the cool, dark tomb, did he take refuge in oblivion?

But we who were left behind, we couldn't be satisfied with his dying for us, paying the ultimate price for his love for us.  Earning a respite.  There was no comfort in that for us, we who still fear death.  So we dragged him out of death by our sheer will, held him up as a shining example, made him our intercessor for the entire world.  Congratulations, we've given you eternal life.  Now you can be our savior forevermore.  

I don't really know where I'm going with all this.  I'm just thinking that maybe Jesus was tired and wanted to sleep.  Did anyone ever ask him what he wanted?

Of course, we don't always get what we want, often not.  And in a world as broken as ours, we may want to rest and not have that luxury.  Maybe the time between 3 pm on Friday and sunrise on Sunday was all Jesus got.  I hope he made the most of it.

Good Friday

In some ways, Good Friday was a day like any other day. Around noon time I made my way over to Silver Spring to have lunch with my friend, Kat. While it's been longer than we would have liked since our last lunch, this was not an unusual thing.

But as we sat in Panera catching up, we became aware of a ruckus outside. A mob of people were walking by the big glass windows, dressed in robes. Some male youth in Roman costumes with large, plastic, golden swords. Some others in plainer, earthen colored robes. I had to explain to Kat that they were re-enacting the Stations of the Cross. And the youth didn't seem to quite have it down, because while the Stations of the Cross is supposed to be a somber time in which to reflect upon the pain and humiliation that Jesus suffered leading up to his crucifixion, these boisterous kids in costumes were acting like it was a carnival. The contrast was quite amusing.

But as we continued to watch the crowd go by, the youth were replaced by older participants, and the mood grew much more somber. Kat remarked how you could literally see the atmosphere change. The sky seemed to darken.

The Stations of the Cross. Jesus' suffering for us.

Tonight I attended my church's annual Tenebrae service. Tenebrae means "shadows" in Latin, and the service consisted of readings from the Passion story leading up to Jesus' death. As the service progresses, the lights grow dimmer and dimmer. Finally, we shuffle up for communion (the only time its done at All Souls), and then out into the night in silence. Whether or not one believes that Jesus was God, and I do not, it is a powerful service. A time to reflect on pain, and fear, and betrayal, and the brokenness of our world.

I sorrowed as Bill read about Jesus alone in the garden, fearful, and not even his closest friends would stay awake to comfort him. I wept when Delabian read about Peter's betrayal, thinking of the times when I had not stood up when I should have. Jesus would likely have died no matter what, but his suffering would have been lessened had he not experienced betrayal and abandonment by his friends.

I have caused that kind of suffering myself, in many smaller ways. Surely I have sinned and need to be brought back into communion again. Tonight was the first time I ever thought of Good Friday as a time of atonement, like Yom Kippur, not for original sin, but for the sins of betrayal and abandonment.

The communion of which we partook should have been that opportunity for coming back into community. But I did not find it particularly meaningful. We went thru the motions of communion, coming out of the Christian tradition, but without an articulated UU theology which would have tied it to the experience of grief and remorse.

I do not believe that Jesus died to atone for my sins. We as UUs do not call the bread his flesh, nor the grape juice his blood. So what then does the communion represent? Maybe Easter will shed some light.

Going to the deep waters of the Lord's Prayer

Going to the deep waters of the Lord's Prayer

By Shawn Koester (as Kwana Rosca)

Delivered at the First UU Church in Second Life

On Thursday, December 13th, 2007

My sermon today will focus on our relationship as UUs with the Lord's Prayer. I recognize for a lot of you that hearing about Christian tradition, or anything related to the life and teachings of Jesus may open some wounds left by those who seek to do damage. But alas this important prayer is still useful. Lets break it down word by word.

Our Father

Jesus, in his ministry sought to bring Judaism back to its prophetic stances in the tradition of Isaiah, Elijah, and the rest and in manifesting divine love. In prayer, as a itinerant rabbi, and loyal Jew saw God as directly relational, and affectionately called God "Abba" roughly translated means "Daddy" or Papa. By having Our in front indicated that God rather than being the God of one tradition, or one set of people was the source of us all. Also this first line points to God being a parent like figure who seeks to correct us, rather than to judge or damn and a God that is not exclusively male. As to put any label, or sex, or name to the eternal one would limit our perception of the imperceptible

Hallowed be thy name. Hallowing the holy one's name(s) is if anything else, an act of making sacred the Spirit. As not to use the divine name to injure or mistreat

Thy kingdom come. This line is a bit more difficult than the others as thy kingdom come often implies a reign when God will destroy others, and uplift others. And that is contrary, I believe to the divine character, and the God who Jesus had deep communion with what this line means is in scripture, Jesus teaches that heaven, or the Kingdom of God is not in a far off place, but the realm of God is within, and all around us. It is the realm of wholeness when the least among us will be able to have a voice, and be treated as worthy, a time when forgiveness, mercy, and love prevails that the welcome table includes all or in the words of Amos, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream"

Thy will be done. Thy will be done is that often in our lives we get caught in the rut, and follow actions and decisions that are contrary to our best selves, and embracing a higher call. When Jesus was being executed at the hands of an oppressive empire for his heretical stands he said, "Your will be done, not mine" that we are to trust our conscience, our still small voice

On earth as it is in heaven that in following the call of the divine, and conscience we hope to bring about the divine will on earth as things are in the whole of creation

Give us this day our daily bread. This refers back to the time of Jewish enslavement in Egypt, and their eventual liberation. As there was not enough bread, that they hoped in God to provide them bread for sustenance. Unfortunately, we cannot just wait on God to act but we must the arms through which those who hunger, and those out on the streets will be able to have to be filled

and lead us not into temptation. This is kind of self-explanatory but this line evokes that we'll be stronger than what challenges us, and will have the strength to endure

But deliver us from evil is the deliverance of evil by challenging unjust structures, and having the strength of will to ensure liberation for all

Forgiving debts, as we forgive others is important in the struggle towards reconciliation. Often it is hard to forgive when others have harmed us, because for many of us we would like to see them get their just deserts. So by forgiving, we must be able to reconcile with ourselves before we ask forgiveness in the eyes of the eternal. Jesus and the other wisdom teachers have freely forgiven that that have harmed them, and so was deemed radical to those in power

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. This refers to back to the principles for which Jesus died, and to the God he was serving.

May we have the courage to forgive others, to love and to act freely in the name of justice and healing. Amen and Namaste.

Christian Holidays

Note that the size of the rows does not correspond to length of time.

Starting on the Sunday nearest Nov 30th and observed for four Sundays until Dec 24th

Advent is the beginning of the Christian worship year. Christians prepare for the birth of Christ by lighting of advent candles, displaying wreaths, and observing special ceremonies. Advent also anticipates the coming again to earth of Jesus Christ.

12 days from Dec 25th until Jan 6th

Christmas (Dec 25th) - Celebration of Mary giving birth to Jesus.

Epiphany (Jan 6th) - Feast commemorating the adoration of the new-born Jesus by the Three Magi or Wise Men.

ordinary time
Jan 7th until the beginning of Lent

Candlemas (Feb 2nd) - Celebration of the presentation of young Jesus in the temple. New beginnings are recognized. Candles are lighted.

40 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday

Ash Wednesday (40 days before Easter, which is tied to Passover)  - Fast day to begin Lent.  Ashes are marked on worshippers as a sign of penitence.  A time of purification by self-reflection, peace-making, reparation for harm done, and helping those in need. 

Annunciation Day (March 25th) - Feast commemorating Archangel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary the coming birth of Jesus, and her assenting to conceive the child.

Holy Week
from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday

Palm Sunday - Feast marking Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Marks the start of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday - Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, gave them bread and wine in what is now known as the Last Supper, and told of the Holy Spirit who would come after him. It is usually observed with the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Good Friday - Fast day to mourn the torture and killing of Jesus by the Roman authorities, and to contemplate the sacrifice made for the liberation of all.

50 days from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday

Easter/Pascha (observance is tied to Passover) - Celebration of Jesus' resurrection, the triumph of life over death.

Walpurgis/May Day (May 1st) - Feast of Saint Walpurga. Spring festival exactly six months from All Hallows Eve.

Ascension Day (6th Thurs after Easter) - Feast marking Jesus' ascension into Heaven, marking his departure from earth after the resurrection.

Pentecost (7th Sunday after Easter)- Feast celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit, upon the disciples of Jesus.

ordinary time
from Pentecost until Advent

Saint John's Day/Midsummer (June 24th) - Feast day of Saint John the Baptist. Summer festival six months before Christmas.

Lammas (August 1st) - Celebration observed by placing bread baked from first harvest on the altar.

Michaelmas (Sept 29th) - Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. In medieval England, Michaelmas marked the ending and beginning of the husbandman's year

Hallowmas (Oct 31st - Nov 2nd) - A time to remember the dead.


Subscribe to Christianity

Forum Activity

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
Mon, 06/16/2014 - 07:09
Tue, 10/01/2013 - 22:01

Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative