God hates who?

(Today I repost something that I wrote for this Sunday in 2010. Today’s Gospel story about Zacchaeus is one of my favorites.)

There is a group of people, a worship community actually, that goes around from city to city, town to town, even leaving the country to go abroad to preach their message of God.  You might see them in certain cities, near schools, in parks. Very, very often they show up at military funerals.

It is hard for me to even use them as the launchpad for this post, so I won’t call them by name or link to them. Their signature sign and chant might point out to you who they are – and even then, I present you with a parody of their sign.

Do you find it hard to conceive of God hating anyone or anything? It seems antithetical to all that our Church teaches us about the Lord. And even if God was displeased, do you think that God would encourage us to call people names?

In the first reading this week, from the Book of Wisdom, we hear this (emphasis mine):

For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

Yes, God loves all things that are and loathes nothing that God has made. Our God is a lover of souls and God’s imperishable spirit is in all things.

All things.  That is the inherent dignity of each and every human person… No matter what.

In the second reading, a letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul offers the reminder:

…not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.

God hates who?

Again, so many claims can be made in the name of God, but we can’t be thrown off or alarmed by what is not of God. Yet we are given so many conflicting messages about how we are rejected by this all gracious and loving God that is is hard to not be “shaken out of (y)our minds” at times.

Of course God reaches out to us and through Jesus Christ offers us new life. And yes, response to that outreach makes some demands upon us to conform to the life Jesus gives us. The love of God is not conditional and it is very hard for most of us to really internalize and appropriate that in an integrated way. The only condition is that we respond and be transformed. God’s love is always there, our choice to be in that love is our own condition.

God hates who?

Earlier today I watched a video by Father James Martin, SJ.

In this video, Fr. Martin was reminding our LGBT brothers and sisters, who feel very rejected by organized religion in general, and whose lives may be at risk, that we are all beloved. I liked that in this video he said that Jesus was “always inviting people into community.” That’s kind of where we are headed with today’s Gospel.

In today’s Gospel from Luke we are treated to a compelling parable about Jesus and Zacchaeus. It seems that Zacchaeus was not just any tax collector. He lived in Jericho, a pretty rough and tumble town by many accounts, and he was one of the most reviled tax collectors there. That is quite a designation, the most hated of those who are hated. Not only did he collect taxes, he was quite wealthy himself, perhaps because he was collecting some taxes of his own. He seemed to serve not only the occupier, Rome, but also himself as he skimmed off the top. Who knows exactly what happened – what we know is that he was a real outsider.

Now it appears that he was short and as such, he had to climb up a sycamore tree in order to even see Jesus that day. An aside, Fr. Pat mentioned this in his homily – the prophet Amos was the dresser of Sycamore trees and Amos brought a message of repentance. In any event, Zacchaeus did seem determined to see Jesus, so he scrambled up that tree. And Jesus – being Jesus – did not say “God hates tax collectors,” nor did he wave any signs. No, he simply looked up at the right moment and said,

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.” 

This is not a casual “let’s get together” remark but an imperative. Jesus says he must stay at Zacchaeus house. Now people are unhappy because not only is Z an unpopular guy, he is thought of as a real sinner.

God hates who?

Here is Jesus – calling Zacchaeus by name and insisting that he stay at Zacchaeus house.  That’s a pretty big deal and not done lightly – God knows your name, you have been called by name.

God hates who?

Of course, the good people of Jericho – you know, the ones that follow all the rules – are scandalized…. Once again Jesus does the unthinkable, he calls the outcast into the light. Imagine that, instead of Jesus going to the most upstanding citizen’s house he does the opposite by interacting with the man that Jericho loves to hate by getting him out of that tree.

After scrambling down the tree, Zacchaues does what? He makes good. His transformation is set into motion. He offers restitution and fourfold restitution at that. Can you imagine Bernie Madoff or someone like that saying that not only would he repay the people that he frauded, but pay them back at four times the rate?

Jesus is glad to point out what this means:

And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

This man too is a descendant of Abraham. Jesus has come to seek and to save what was lost and once again, Jesus has done so.

God hates who?

Perhaps the next time we are about to revile someone – a relative, a friend, a neighbor, a politician, a societal outcast, a person of a different orientation, a person of a different faith or of no faith at all, we should stop and consider the parable Zacchaeus.

And then we might know that it is Jesus calling our name, asking us to come down quickly, demanding to stay at our house, asking us to be transformed.

Zacchaeus stands for anyone who we might believe God hates. And God clearly hates no one.

What Do These Videos Have in Common? An Advent Rant of Sorts.

Typically I am busy writing about all things spiritual, especially at this time of year. However, due to over-busy-ness, not feeling well and assorted other things, I am just not posting as much. It is hard to step back but I am learning something about my limits. This is a good thing, but a challenge.

Today I found these two videos. Well, I watched one of them the other day. At first glance, they do not seem related at all. One is haunting and the other is funny. However, I think that both are actually haunting in the end.

The first video is from Bjork and called Prayer of the Heart.

I found it on the Facebook page of Janine Economides, who blogs at Daily Exegesis. Janine says that this is in Greek, Coptic and English. I could work out the Greek and of course the English, glad to know about the Coptic. I am reminded of the unity in diversity that is at the heart of the Trinity.

Somehow, for me today, crying out “O Adonai!” and crying out “God have mercy” are the sounds of my longing. The light is coming as we end this 3rd week of Advent and head into the final week. Come Lord Jesus, please and have mercy upon me.

This other video switches gears – a pretty Jesus-y thing if you ask me. It was on Facebook and elsewhere last week.  Lindy on Facebook and Brother Dan at Dating God, among others, posted it. Jesus was always turning things on their end and using what he had at hand to do so. It is from Stephen Colbert and I have to tell you, initially the title of it had turned me off a bit. This is why being judgmental is a problem – what might we keep out?

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:368914
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog March to Keep Fear Alive

You see, I really truly find it loathsome when Jesus is identified with any political party. Momentarily I forgot the irony factor, I guess and did not watch the video. Well that and I was busy. In any case, Colbert is not saying that Jesus is truly a liberal Dem, but he says some really important things. These things are also a prayer of the heart.

Stephen Colbert appears to know more theology than most people. He, ever in the role of court jester,  sharing challenging truth through humor, says so many things in this piece. I think he makes his point well.

Of course it feels good to people both on the left and on the right to claim Jesus for their camp. However, even just a little analysis shows the flaws in that; Jesus was not here to mediate politics but rather to redeem humanity. Which he did, politics aside. He catered not to the Romans or to the established religious hierarchy of his time.

That said, Jesus was very clear about the essence of unqualified and unconditional love and charity and that does sort of trump all other matters. And it would make him more like a Democ… well, you know.

I read a quote the other day, from John Kenneth Galbraith, who said, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” 

Isn’t that what we all try to do? Get busy on the proof?

However, what are we called to do is change. Whoever we are, whatever our stand. Christianity, change, transformation. What proof?

The act of change in and of itself is the proof. That might be why so few of us are capable of it. I know I have a record of epic (to use a word my stepdaughter coined) fail-ization.

That is the prayer of the heart, to cry out to God for mercy. That is the point of giving without limit. To change.

It is that simple.

Change. Transformation. Hope.

Be born in us this coming season. Please. Again and again and again.

You May Say That I’m A Dreamer, But I’m Not The Only One

I left this as a comment on Lisa’s blog, but I reprint it here too. Where were you when John Lennon died? What do you remember?  Here is another thread, from the New York Times.

I was in a bar on the Upper East Side of NYC. I had recently turned 23 and I felt very adult. I was there with my boss and one of our clients. My boss was about 34, he seemed so old to me! The client was in his 50′s but very handsome, suave and had a mad, sexy voice. We had all been out to dinner and then went for some drinks.

It was one of those bars, ubiquitous at the time, brass rails, ferns and lots of well-dressed people, all on the prowl. Men in 3 piece suits and with moustaches, women with hungry eyes and sunken cheeks. I think my eyes were that, my cheeks- not so much. I can tell you that I was wearing a teal dress with a multi-colored teal belt that was woven. There was a slit on the side and my thigh showed through. Mad sexy.

The two guys were getting drunk and I was bored and thinking that I better get in a cab and get to Grand Central. They decided to play pool – another ever-present symbol in these bars. I was alone at the bar, feeling slightly sorry for myself and like I did not belong.

Monday night football was on but I was not really watching. Then the special report came on – John Lennon was shot! I ran over to the guys, but they were drunk now for real and playing pool. They did not care. No one seemed to care, save a handful of us misfits who sat at the bar, where we were now getting free drinks from shocked and saddened Irish bartender.

I felt so sad and so raw but I could not exactly identify why. I kept thinking of a kid that I had worked with during HS and college who was obsessed with Lennon and wondering where he was and how he was taking this all. And I kept wondering who would shoot John Lennon and why.

By time I came out of my gin-infused tv watching I had realized that I missed the last train. Now I had to admit to myself that not only was I a misfit, but that I lived at home. I had to (gulp) call my mother and say I wasn’t coming home. She was pretty pissed off- to hear this and to be woken up at 2am.

I went over to the now very drunk boss and client. The client wanted me to go to his hotel room with him. Suddenly I felt revulsion – how did he not feel this pain of Lennon’s death? How could he think of sex? I also suddenly did not feel as old and adult as I had when we strode in there a few hours earlier.

My boss got very protective and took me to his apartment. I remember being shocked that he was the big sales manager but his bed was a mattress on the floor, just like college. Complete with milk crate night stand! He let me sleep in his bed and he took the sofa, but I couldn’t sleep. I listened to WNEW-FM and cried.

Many images were shattered that night, many.

The next day I felt overtired and shameful, showing up at work, looking a bit disheveled and wearing the teal dress again.

And John Lennon was dead.