The Only Argument Jesus Ever Lost

J. Barrett Lee:

Today’s sermon from North Church

Originally posted on North Church:


Image from Wikimedia Commons

This is a passage that can be very difficult to understand. It helps to look closely at some of the geographic details in the text and think about what they would mean to a Jewish person in the time of Christ.

First of all, let’s look at where Jesus and his disciples are located as the curtain goes up: they are “the district of Tyre and Sidon”. That’s Gentile territory: non-Jewish people, different language, different culture, different religion. They are outside their comfort zone, beyond the pale of ordinary experience, behind enemy lines in unfamiliar territory. If this were the Wizard of Oz, this would be the part where Dorothy says, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Let’s go a little deeper down the rabbit hole, shall we? While Jesus is in this unknown territory, he is approached by a woman with a problem. And…

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Whole Making

“To follow Christ is to be engaged in such a way that one’s stance of being in the world is unitive not divisive. Eucharistic life sacramentalizes the vocation of whole-making by offering one’s life for the sake of drawing together that which is divided. Eucharist is bread being broken and eaten for the hungry of the world. It is the food that gives strength to make every stranger beloved, the “yes” of our lives to God’s mysterious cruciform love.”

-Ilia Delio, The Emergent Christ, p.67

First Steps

Looking into my eyes,
they could speak no more,
except to say, “Speak no more.”

But how can I keep from speaking what I have seen and heard?

Debate cannot convince.
Threats do not cajole.
Controversy will not be contained.

You know whose friend I am.

Even now,
the hand is stretching out:
your healing is stalking you.

This gathering place will be shaken.


For the feast of St. Joseph

I ask for what remains:
torn, tattered
leftovers of power’s playtime,
the broken-open
body of a mouse
after the cat has had her fun.

I ask for what no one wants:
dashed hopes,
the possum
who never made it
to the other side.

I ask for what offends:
fragrance of death,
the skunk who stank
for three days
after being run down.

I ask for these things:
What harm could it do?
You have no use for them anymore.
Let me unburden you of
this nuisance.

This stumbling block,
which the builders rejected,
will be the head of the corner
in an altar of undressed stones.

I know what power
lies under the earth.
I have seen the heart of heaven
in the bowels of hell.

This is the secret
I carried with me
from Arimathea to Glastonbury.

Learn it
and you too
will hear the harrowing.

The Contemplative Companion for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Originally posted on Contemplative Christianity:

“When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”  – Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21

Beholding Kings Bay this late July morning. It’s calm and still.  A mystical fog.

Suddenly, I can’t even see the Bay immediately in front of me.

It reveals to me the mystery of life, and in the silence, it’s as if the Spirit says:

Be in this moment. I’m with you. Live into the unknown. Feel underneath the unseen.

We bear the Name of Love in our hearts through every shrouded day until the light of unexpected miracles reveals the Way.

Just now sunlight is shifting through this shrouded Kings Bay, and  I can see again.

I’m with you.

 © 2014 The Contemplative Companion  

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St. Bernard of Clairvaux on Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself


‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.

And this is right: for the one who shares our nature should share our love, itself the fruit of nature. Wherefore if people find it a burden, I will not say only to relieve their brother or sister’s needs, but to minister to their pleasures, let them mortify those same affections in themselves, lest they become transgressors. They may cherish themselves as tenderly as they choose, if only they remember to show the same indulgence to their neighbors. This is the curb of temperance imposed on you, O mortal, by the law of life and conscience, lest you should follow your own lusts to destruction, or become enslaved by those passions which are the enemies of your true welfare. Far better divide your enjoyments with your neighbor than with these enemies. And if, after the counsel of the son of Sirach, you go not after your desires but refrain yourself from your appetites (Ecclus. 18.30); if according to the apostolic precept having food and raiment you are therewith content (I Tim. 6.8), then you will find it easy to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and to divide with your neighbors what you have refused to your own desires. A temperate and righteous love practices self-denial in order to minister to a brother or sister’s necessity. So our selfish love grows truly social, when it includes our neighbors in its circle.

But if you are reduced to want by such benevolence, what then? What indeed, except to pray with all confidence unto the One who gives to all people liberally and upbraids not (James 1.5), who opens the divine hand and fills all things living with plenty (Ps. 145.16). For doubtless the One that gives to most people more than they need will not fail you as to the necessaries of life, even as God has promised: Seek the Kingdom of God, and all those things shall be added unto you’ (Luke 12.31). God freely promises all things needful to those who deny themselves for love of their neighbors; and to bear the yoke of modesty and sobriety, rather than to let sin reign in our mortal body (Rom. 6.12), that is indeed to seek the Kingdom of God and to implore God’s aid against the tyranny of sin. It is surely justice to share our natural gifts with those who share our nature.

from On Loving God, Chapter 8

A Midwestern Thunderstorm

I did not know
when I arrived
that the nothing
surrounding everything
would be my favorite part
of the landscape

the pressure lifts
the sky
coming alive
giving life

a traumatic birth
groaning in expectation

water wind fire
all at once
sacred symbols

open font

I dip my finger
sign of the cross
enter into silence

open heart
spirit fills

I am dipped
some said it thundered