Three items that caught my eye today to pass along this midweek:
1. Jesus – One of the top current nonfiction bestsellers is called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. As the title suggests, it is one scholar’s effort to detail the historical setting in which Jesus lived – Roman occupied Palestine in the first century. As the title also suggests, the author believes Jesus to best be characterized as a zealot, a political subversive. This is not a new claim, but the book is generating a lot of interest. Reza Aslan is a scholar of religion who happens to be Muslim, which, unfortunately, has been a source of criticism, but has also elevated the book’s profile. Among the many areas it touches on, the book affirms the historicity of Jesus’ crucifixion – which is actually denied by Islamic teaching, and challenges the literal virgin birth – a traditional Christian teaching. I have not read the book, but have found THIS REVIEW on Huffington Post by Biblical scholar Greg Carey to be helpful.
2. Vets – Pages 44-46 of the August issue of The Mennonite magazine contain an article titled, “Why military veterans become pacifists,” with the subheading: “Julie Putnam Hart draws conclusions after interviewing 115 former soldiers.” If the name sounds familiar it’s because it is. The article details research done by CMC’s Julie Hart, and in the print edition lists Austin K, also of CMC, as one of the interviewees. The article names four primary catalysts for the transformation of prowar soldiers to antiwar veterans: the experience of combat itself; a sense of betrayal by the US government, military, or a particular leader; religious conviction; and education/study. The article goes on to name the important role the church can play in supporting vets, witnessing to nonviolent alternatives for social justice, and providing a nonjudgment presence to all people, veterans and their families and friends, involved in the traumas of war. Wonderful to see the voices of CMC folks contributing to the wider church discussion.
3. Tree – This week a beautiful Japanese Maple was planted on the church grounds, on the bank along Oakland Park Avenue, in memory of CMCer Don W. Enjoy it now and in all seasons.
For the last number of years Abbie and I have become more involved in growing, harvesting, and preserving our own food – or food that family or friends have grown. We had chickens in our backyard in Cincinnati that through some miracle consistently turned our food scraps we would feed them into delicious eggs. But when we put our Cincinnati house on the market we hid our coop in a neighboring garage and planted grass seed over our garden. Didn’t want to scare off any potential buyers.
This year has been one long transition, and we’re on the home stretch. We’re doing work on the house this week, packing up belongings from Cincinnati on Friday, and moving in here on Saturday. The pre-occupation with the details of the transition have put me totally out of touch with the growing season this summer. A few days ago my mom brought me some freshly picked blueberries and I said ‘Oh, I guess it’s blueberry season.’ Lettuce and cucumbers and other veggies from gardens are showing up in meals and I’m thinking, ‘Oh yeah, these things are growing right now.’
Transitions are hard work, and it’s completely refreshing to think that out there, in God’s green earth, things are growing without any effort of my own. Seeds have been planted, the sun is shining, the rain is falling, and growth happens. And it tastes really good.
I’m looking forward to getting settled enough to be able to get back in rhythm with the gifts of the seasons, but for now it’s a beautiful thing to marvel that even if I’m completely oblivious to it, the earth keeps turning, the seasons keep unfolding, the earth produces wealth, and we are sustained, despite ourselves.
There’s been a lot of focus on breath this week at church. Vacation Bible School is in full swing with the theme, “Breathe in, God gives life.” We’ve talked about how the Hebrew word for breath – ruakh – is the same word translated Spirit and wind. Scriptures so far have included the breath of life in Genesis 2 in God’s humorous, and profound, formula for making a person (Dirt + Breath = Human). We’ve talked about Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, and the impossible hope of breath giving life where there was no life. Yesterday we looked at the disciples crossing of the stormy sea and Peter’s willingness to get out of the boat to meet Jesus on the waters. Here the wind/spirit/breath is the cause not of peace, but turmoil and trial and, ultimately, a deepening of faith. We’ve talked about how prayer is as accessible as breathing in – and breathing out. I hope the kids are having as much fun as the adults.
That Spirit and breath are integrally connected in the biblical imagination is a great gift of our tradition. For us Spirit can often feel abstract, ethereal, out of reach. Breath, on the other hand, is close – not just out there, but in our bodies, moving through us. For the ancients they are both connected, as that which cannot be seen but is vital to life – made visible through its effects.
We are Spirit people, breath people, young and old. The breath of life channels through these bodies we’ve been given, enlivening thought and action, reminding us that we are connected to everything that breathes in this spirited creation.