Sunday, April 23, 2017

2nd Easter 2017, Inside and Outside

2nd Easter
John 20: 19-29

On the evening of the first day after the Sabbath, the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the authorities. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said,
Duccio, Maestra Altar
“Peace be with you!”
And while he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
Full of joy the disciples recognized the Lord. And again, he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

And when he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive Holy Spirit through which the world will receive healing. From now on you shall work in human destinies with spiritual power so that they shall have the strength to wrest themselves free from the load of sin, and at the same time to bear the consequences of their offences.”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not there with them when Jesus came. Later the disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he replied, “If I do not see in his hand the marks of the nails, and do not put my finger in the place where the nails were, and place my hand in his side, I cannot believe it.”

Eight days later, the disciples were again gathered in the inner room and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Stretch out your finger and see my hands, and stretch out your hand and put it into my side. Be not rigid in your heart, but rather feel and trust in my power in your heart.”

Then Thomas said to him, “You are the Lord of my soul; you are the God whom I serve.”

And Jesus said to him, “Have you found my power in yourself because you have seen me? Blessed are those who find my power in their hearts, even when their eye does not yet see me.”

2nd Easter
April 23, 2017
John 20: 19-29

If I were to say that there is a big red thing hovering above the altar, you would naturally look to see it. Unless you could see it yourself, your natural reaction would be disbelief; and perhaps you might begin to distrust my sanity! For our perceptions are based on what we can see, hear, taste, touch.

Thomas questions whether what his fellows report could be real. Like us, he needs to verify it with his own experience. And Christ rewards his healthy skepticism. 'Stretch out your finger and see, stretch out your hand and put it inside,' He says. 'Trust in my power in your own heart.'

Christ asks Thomas, asks all of us, to stretch out our powers of perception, to expand the ways in which we see, hear, touch. This expansion is to move in both directions: outward, toward the world, and inward, toward the faculties of the heart. We are to begin to perceive beyond the merely material sensory world. We are to expand our awareness, open ourselves to other levels of being.

These levels are both higher and deeper. They are both within the world and within us. For Christ and His Healing Spirit of Love is here, now, on the earth. It is planted as a seed within our hearts, for us to nourish and grow. He gives us the strength to grapple with our old habitual ways of seeing, our rigidity of heart. He gives us the strength to bear and work creatively with our destiny.

Finding Christ's power within our hearts gives us the trust and peace that moves us beyond our ordinary way of understanding. Through Christ, worlds open up.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, 2017, Weaving Fires of Fate

Easter Sunday 
Mark 16: 1-18

And when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb just as the sun was rising. And they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tombAnd looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back—and it was very large.

Mileseva Monastery
And they went into the tomb. There they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clad in a white robe; and they were beside themselves with amazement. And he said to them, “Do not be startled; you seek Jesus of Nazareth the Crucified One. He is risen; He is not here; see, there is the place where they laid Him [his body]. But go, and say to his disciples and Peter “He will lead you to Galilee. There you will see Him as He promised you.”

And they went out and fled from the tomb in great haste, for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and being awestruck, they were unable to say anything to anyone about what they had experienced.

When He had risen early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene from whom He had driven out seven demons. And she went and told those who had walked with Him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, their hearts could not grasp it.

After this, He appeared in another form to two of them on the way as they were walking over the fields. And they went back and told the rest, but they could not open their hearts to their words either.

Afterwards, He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were celebrating the meal. He reproached them for their lack of openness and for their hardness of heart because they had not wanted to believe those who had seen Him, the Risen One.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the new message from the realm of the angels to the whole of creation. Whoever unites his heart with it  [believes] and is immersed in me [baptized] will attain the salvation. But whoever closes himself against it does not let the power of selflessness into his heart [does not let the power of My Self into his heart] will meet his downfall. And spiritual powers [these signs] will stand by those who unite themselves with it and will attend their path [believe]: Through the power of my being [in my name] they will drive out demons; they will speak a new language; serpents they will make upright, and poisons they are given to drink will not harm them. They will lay their hands on the sick, and give healing forces to them.

Easter Sunday
April 16, 2017
Mark 16: 1-18

Even if they are beautiful, stones are lifeless. The only change they are capable of is turning into dust. They symbolize what is hardened and dead, inert. Living things, by contrast, are capable of a thousand transformations.

There are such stony, deadened elements in our own nature – the mineral element in our bodies; the old habits of mind and body that no longer serve; the protective shells around our hearts.

The women at the grave ask, "Who will roll away the stone for us?" It is their intention to set aside what is lifeless. And in answer, they see that it has been done. They see an angel, a Son of Life, sitting on the right side – the active side – of the tomb. For from that moment, death is no longer inert. Death has become a portal into something transformative, something living. It has become a portal into a new kind of life.

Christ's transformative power inhabits death. It gives us the strength to overcome the deadened parts of ourselves - our useless habits, our hardened hearts. With Him, we can overcome the death-dealing forces in us. With Him, we can learn to speak a new language, a language of uprightness and healing; a language of love.

We each have our own angel, sitting beside the grave of our heart; all we need to do is to set an intention, set the intention toward what is living and transforming, and ask our ever-active angel, devoted to Christ:

You, my heavenly friend, my Angel
You who've accompanied me to the earth,
And you who will accompany me through the gates
of death . . .
Do not cease to enlighten me, to strengthen me, to counsel me,
So that from the weaving fires of fate,
I may emerge a stronger vessel of destiny
and more and more learn to fill myself
with the meaning of God's World goals . . . *

* "Guardian Angel Meditation", Ernst Karl Plachner, (not Rudolf Steiner)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday 2017, Fire of Life

Holy Week, Good Friday

John 19: 1-15

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and threw a purple cloak around him, walked up to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him in the face.

And again, Pilate went out to them and said, “Behold, thus I bring him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.

And Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And Pilate said to them, “Behold, the man!” [Behold, this is Man!]

When the chief priests and the Temple attendants saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Then Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

Then the Jewish leaders replied, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he has made himself a Son of God.”

When Pilate heard these words, he was even more alarmed, and again he went into the courthouse and said to Jesus, “From where have you received your mission?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

Then Pilate said to him, “You will not speak with me? Do you not know that I have the power to release you and also to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would not have power over me unless it had been given to you on high. Therefore, the greater burden of destiny falls upon him who handed me over to you.”

From then on, Pilate tried to set him free. But the people shouted, “If you release him, you are no longer a friend of Caesar, for everyone who makes himself a king is against Caesar.”

When he heard these words, Pilate led Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat in the place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. I was the day of the preparation of the Passover Festival, about midday. And he said to the people, “Behold, this is your King.” But they shouted, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!”

Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?”

And the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Holy Week, Good Friday
April 14, 2017
John 19: 1-15

Salvador Dali
Holy Week is the arduous and inexorable march toward Christ Jesus's death. And we have finally arrived. On the cross, Christ feels the approaching darkness. He knows that he has accomplished the final step, the final descent into Jesus's human body, into Jesus's very bones. The astringency of the vinegar is the final pull, the final consolidation. He has fully entered the bones at whose very marrow the fire of the new life of the blood is burning. It has been accomplished, he says, and breathes out his spirit.
It is as though, having gone as deeply as he can, he crosses the null-point, a threshold into the very realm of creative life. His pure life's blood seeps into the earth. His strong spirit-life is breathed out into the atmosphere. And then his body, bones unbroken, wrapped in its own weight of healing herbs, is given over to the earth. He continues his descent, into the earth's blood, its rivers, into its bones, the minerals. The earth becomes his new body.
The gospel hints at a tender process that continues after His death, for it says that the tomb, cut out of the rock, is new, fresh. And the tomb lies in a garden.
Bernhard Eyb
Christ entered the realm of life through the gateway of dying. He entered, alive, into death's own realm. There he assembles a whole new human bodily form in which all can live who have united themselves with him.

In the funeral service of The Christian Community, Christ says, I am the new birth in death. I am life in dying. Through him, because of him, with him, we, too, can remain alive when crossing through the gateway of death.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

4th Passiontide 2017, Palm Sunday, Light Bends

4th Passiontide
Palm Sunday
Matthew 21: 1-11

And they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage by the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus sent two disciples ahead and said to them, “Go to the village which you see before you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there and her foal with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will let you take them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

Entry IntoThe City, John August Swanson
‘Say to the daughter of Zion,
Behold, your king comes to you in majesty.
Gentle is He, and He rides on a donkey and on a foal of the beast of burden.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the foal, placed their garments on them, and Jesus sat on them.
Many out of the large crowd spread their clothes on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of them and followed Him shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the Name and Power of the Lord!
Hosannah in the highest! [Sing to Him in the highest heights!]

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is he?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

4th Passiontide
Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017
Matthew 21: 1-11

Ninetta Sombart, Entry into Jerusalem
The sun rises in the east, climbs to its noonday zenith, and descends to disappear in the west. In the morning it will rise again, once again shedding light and stimulating life.

Elements of our lives, too, follow the same pattern. Our work, our relationships, have their dawn, their zenith, and also their setting. We are delighted with beginnings, happy at their zenith. But we may grieve the decline, finding it hard to let go at the dusk.

Christ Jesus's life follows a similar pattern. Today, on Palm Sunday, his life is in decline. With praise, the crowds dimly perceive the glories of the setting of the Christ-Sun. Darkness will increase. In a few days, the same people will demand his death.

But that is not the end of the story. He will rise again as the dawn of a new era. Those who love Him will be comforted and strengthened. For the sun does not cease to exist upon setting; it continues to shine as the center of our universe. So, too, is Christ ever present to us now, on the earth, though our face may be turned away from Him and our awareness of Him clouded. He is the Day that no night darkens. He is deathless Life and the Light of our spirits, here and now. As the poet said:

Light leaps out of its star
everywhere in straight lines
bending only
out of its love
for matter.*

*Unknown. Attributed to Einstein.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

3rd Passiontide 2017, Either/Or

3rd Passiontide
Woman Taken in Adultery, Rembrandt, wikicommons

John 8: 1-12

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives; but as soon as day dawned he was already in the Temple court, where the people flocked to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees led in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand in the middle, and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” They said this only as a trap, in order finally to have a reason for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write something in the earth with his finger. When they kept on pressing him with questions, he stood up and said to them, “Whoever among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her.” And again, he bent down and wrote in the earth.

When they heard this, their conscience began to stir within them, and they went out, one after the other, beginning with the eldest. And only Jesus was left and the woman who stood in the middle. Jesus stood up, and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one passed judgment on you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I judge you,” Jesus declared. “Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

And Jesus began to speak to them again: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light in which there is life.”

3rd Passiontide
John 8: 1-12

St. Albans
In the beginning, God gave a command to Adam, the law-abiding masculine side of the human being. Humans were not to eat of the fruit of knowledge without dire consequences. Eve, the curious, open feminine side of the human, in innocence, grasped the fruit and ate. For already in Paradise, God had allowed the tempter to approach the human.

In today's reading, we hear of the further evolution of this ancient human motif. The boundary-breaking, forward-moving feminine side of the human is given a death sentence as punishment for breaking the law. This punishment is to be meted out by the so-called law-abiding masculine element.

Artist Unknown 
Yet Christ rises above this problematic either-or, black or white antagonism. Though He clearly discerns, He does not judge. He gives the feminine, forward-moving side of the human being the strength to observe out of herself the appropriateness of boundaries. And neither does he judge our punitive masculine side. Rather, by writing in the earth, he leads us to understand that we all have sinned. His unspoken command to our masculine side is that wise empathy is more important, more fruitful, more life-giving than judgment. For wise empathy leads us out of the finality of death into the living future.

All of our sins are written into the earth. But Christ Himself has taken on the earth as His Living Body. Thus, our sins are sins against Him, which He nonetheless absorbs and transforms into a way forward. Through Him, working with Him, we can find the way into God's light, His life, His love.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2nd Passiontide 2017, Wakened Ear

2nd Passiontide
Ivan Aivasovsky, Wikimedia
March 26, 2017
John 6: 16 - 26

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off over the sea for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the sea; and they were terrified. But he said to them, "I AM, have no fear." Now when they wanted to take him into the boat, immediately the boat was at the land, at the place where they wanted to go.

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"

Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, the truth I say to you: You are seeking me not because you saw signs of spiritual power, but because you ate of the bread and were satisfied.

2nd Passiontide
March 26, 2017
John 6: 16 - 26

We are in rough waters. The wind of events are howling; the seas of emotions are running high. We are making efforts toward our goals, but are being pushed back. Fear is rising.

This is the moment when our hearts can call on our awareness of the spirit. We know that there is an over-arching divine consciousness. Our awareness of the spirit becomes a Presence; it can itself be terrifying at first. But in compassion, the Presence says: Fear not. I AM. And immediately we are at our goal. We find the ground under our feet. We experience calm trust and the radiance of love. For we 'have eaten of the bread and were satisfied.' (John 6:26)

The heart’s song did not sound in vain,
for many now can hear again
the word of angels: Do not fear!
New light and sound in us appear
for strengthened heart and wakened ear.*

*Lent Song, German folk song, translation from Camphill

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

1st Passiontide 2017,

1st Passiontide
March 19, 2017
Luke 11: 29-35

Queen of Sheba, Metropolitan Museum
And as the crowds increased, Jesus began to speak. “The men of this generation are strangers to their true being. They look for signs and outer proofs of the spirit, but none other will be given to them but the sign of Jonah. For just as once Jonah shared the experience of the spirit with the inhabitants of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man share the experience of the spirit with this present generation. The Queen of the South will rise in the time of great crisis and decision against the men of this present generation and judge them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. But know this: here is more than Solomon.

The inhabitants of Nineveh will rise up in the days of crisis and decision against the men of this present generation and will pronounce judgment over them. For they changed their ways after the proclamation of Jonah. But know this; here is more than Jonah.

No one lights a light and then puts it in a hidden place or under a vessel, but rather sets it on a lamp stand, so that all may see the light shining.

The light of your body is your eye. When your eye looks at the world clearly and impartially, the processes of your whole body will be inwardly filled with light. If, however, the eye’s desire sees the world separated from the spirit, darkness will pour itself into you.

Protect yourself that the light does not become darkness in you.
If your body is now filled with light, so that it no longer takes part in darkness, everything will be completely illuminated, so that, with lightning brightness, the light irradiates you completely from within.

First Passiontide
March 19, 2017
Luke 11: 29-35

In growing darkness, our perceptions change. As light fades, shadowy figures may emerge. In darkness fears arise and we can become disoriented. We may bump into things and ourselves grow dark with anger.

Our perception of the state of the world has changed. Shadowy figures abound. We may be afraid for the future and not know how to orient ourselves.

Bernhard Eyb
The gospel reading gives us a hint: we are to look at the world clearly and impartially. We are not to let our perceptions be clouded, neither by a desire for sweetness and light, nor for power. Rather we are to see the world as going through one of its cycles, like the rhythm of day and night. We are to look for the light of the good spirits of human progress. We are to see clearly the light of spiritual guidance, the working of Christ and his angels, shining amid the darkness of the times.

And we are to protect our relationship to this light, take it into ourselves. Then this light will shine forth from us out into the world, as trust in the greater powers of the good, as hope, and as love. In the words of Wendell Berry:

. . . remember:
when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he gives a light, divine

though it is also human.
When a man of peace is killed
by a man of war, he gives a light.

You do not have to walk in darkness.
If you will have the courage for love,
you may walk in light.  It will be

the light of those who have suffered
for peace.  It will be
your light.*

Wendell Berry, "To my granddaughters who visited the Holocaust Museum on the day of the burial of Yitzhak Rabin", in A Timbered Choir