Richard's Food for Thought

Knowledge Is Food For the Soul-Plato

Food for Thought-Reflections on 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13 (David, Nathan, and the Death of Uriah) — July 31, 2015

Food for Thought-Reflections on 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13 (David, Nathan, and the Death of Uriah)

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It can all go horribly wrong very quickly. If there’s one lesson to take away from the story of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba it is this: the God’s plans are delicate. Why do I say this? Because David’s encounter with Uriah reveals that the most fragile human actions can derail years of divine planning and action. In one fell swoop, David has undone God’s vision for Israel, David’s leadership of Israel, and his integrity as the leader of the nation All of which seemed set in stone as part of God’s immutable plan just a few verses before.

It’s not supposed to work that way. We’re told God’s plans are as solid as the Great Wall of China. If God has a vision for you and your life, you can count on it being fulfilled. Hundreds of memes says as much across various social media platforms every day. Yet David, a man after God’s own heart, is able to undo everything that God had envisioned for David’s life. Clearly, there are connections between what we term as “God’s will” and our own actions which we’ve don’t like to make or discuss. Are God’s purposes and plans all they’re cracked up to be or do they hinge more on our participation that we’d like to admit? By putting all the emphasis on the strength on immutability of God’s plan, do we let ourselves off the hook? If something goes wrong, do we then create a convenient person to blame, the one who set us up with these expectations in the first place, God? I think so.

None of us are in any position to pass judgment on David’s relationship with God. David’s actions were reprehensible and led to the death of an innocent man. We know what David did was wrong. We’ve all been in the wrong, in one form or another. Perhaps not to the extreme which David felt, but we’ve been there. My question is what lies beyond that sense of wrongness. Beyond the wrong lies the relationship with God. David’s lies in tatters. David is David and we can’t change that reality. However, he’s in a place we don’t want to be and cannot rightly judge because of the unique nature of his relationship with God.

I do not want to judge David’s relationship with God. It is God’s relationship with David which troubles me. So much time, money, and effort has been invested in making David into the person and leader he has become. David has an understanding of morality, scripture, and his place in Israelite history. Despite his flawed humanity and penchant for brutality, he is the anointed one of Israel. David is a messiah. This doesn’t matter. Sinful David, the all too human Messiah, is too much for the God who placed him on Saul’s throne. Uriah’s death is the beginning of the end of David, King of Israel. God turn his back on his chosen as quickly as he has anointed him. God says, “I am making trouble come against you from inside your own family. Before you very eyes, I will take your wives away and give them to your friend and he will have sex with your wives in broad daylight.”

That’s brutal. It’s pornographic. That’s unnecessarily profane. You do realize 2 Samuel 12:11 (quoted above) is a description of divinely ordained rape. This makes me extremely uncomfortable.  To tell you the truth, it makes me more than a little sick to my stomach to think this is how God (the creator of the universe) is pictured as punishing his beloved.  I don’t want the God I worship ever being OK with rape, at any time, in any form.  That’s one heck of a way to treat the anointed one of Israel and his family. No hint of forgiveness, no sense of reconciliation, no sense of anything other than total public and abject humiliation.  So I guess two wrongs do make a right?  Is that what God is telling us here?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of sleeping with a strange woman and sending her husband off to die. I condemn David’s actions with every fiber of my being. However, God’s public shaming of David is way over the top, out of line, humiliating, gross, disgusting, and not very, what’s the word, Christian.

Calling Them Like I See Them,

Richard

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 31st, 2015 —

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 31st, 2015

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1. How did you do with your gratitude points? Pick three new things today. Try making this a habit. Two days ago, I talked about releasing things that may be holding you back. Yesterday we looked at gratitude for things already present in our lives. Are there things we need to pick up? As we let go of negative emotions are there things like humility, patience, and gentleness we need to pick up and embrace? Release something negative and replace it with something positive.

2. No one makes good decisions when they are physically or emotionally starved. If our emotions (our mental state) are malnourished we’re going to go after psychological junk food and make bad decisions. Setting ourselves up for healthy emotions is like going to the grocery store on a full stomach. You make better decisions and buy only what you need. One way to do this is to surround ourselves with people who bring out our best.

3. Words shape our beliefs and actions. Think about the words you use today and how the land on the ears of the people around you.

4. Metaphors can tell a great story or distract us from saying what we really mean. Communicate for a day with as few metaphors as possible.

5. If you can empower someone else to be better, do better, or feel better you can do the same for yourself.

Food for Thought-Rev. Richard’s Sermon Buzzword Bingo — July 30, 2015
Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 30th, 2015 —

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 30th, 2015

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1. Start with some specific gratitude. Write down three things for which you’re grateful. What, in your life, at this moment, are your grateful for? Put that down on paper.

2. Look at those words and let the words look at you.

3. Why are you grateful for those three things? What is about those three things, that if removed, your life wouldn’t be as rich full as you see it today? Think about those answers in your mind.

4. On your list of three gratitude points, pick one with which to engage today. If you are grateful for something, can you acknowledge that gratitude beyond writing down on a piece of paper?

5. Write down three ways you might engage with one of the areas of your life that fuels your sense of gratitude today.

Food for Thought-The Therapeutic Architecture of My Office — July 29, 2015

Food for Thought-The Therapeutic Architecture of My Office

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Come and take a seat,
In the place,
Well prepared,
By the window,
Near the tree,
This is here,
For you,
and your spouse to be,
To see each other,
While I look beneath,
The tiny fissures,
Between the smiles,
Where you’d rather,
Not be bothered,
About things,
Not printed, placed,
Or even sold,
Instead,
We shall speak of love,
And emotions old,
And confront,
Questions lingering,
round the northwest corner,
Of your soul,
Why are we here?
Why do we love?

In these moments,
Fleeting and mere,
Ask them now,
For the demands of life,
Stalk us in ways,
We know not how.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 29th, 2015 —
Food for Thought-Surround Yourself With Those Who Bring Out the Best In You — July 28, 2015
Food for Thought-Do One More Trick Jesus, Please? —

Food for Thought-Do One More Trick Jesus, Please?

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Jesus isn’t in danger of becoming a commodity. Jesus is a commodity. He is bought and sold on the closed market of religious ideology. Only the specially trained brokers and traders decide what he’s really worth or who might receive shipments. At the close of business each day, someone arbitrarily decides, the memes are posted, and we told this is who Jesus is today. However, I’m not speaking about our own day and time. Jesus is a marketable product shipped for sale around the world each day.  This is the religious landscape we inhabit.  No, the story I want to tell isn’t solely about the phenomena of turning Jesus into whatever we want him to be whenever we want him to do something for us.

Despite what we believe, we didn’t create this modern narrative.  There is a different story, where this idea of a commercialized Savior took hold, grew, and spread during the earliest days of Jesus’ ministry. If we want to understand why we see Jesus as a religious totem, a cosmic snow globe to shake and solve our problems on demand, John’s gospel provides a window on the origins of the misunderstandings at the heart of how we view Jesus today.

Jesus has done the unthinkable. With no resources, budget, or long term plan to “do it again”, he’s fed 5000 people. The people who witnessed the unimaginable act of love are dumbfounded. They do not know how to respond to the gift or the man who made it possible. The question words flood their minds. Why would anyone give anything so valuable away for free? Why would someone with the ability to feed people not monetize that skill for his personal, financial, or even political gain?

Somewhere down the line, the “how” question is asked. How did he do it? How did Jesus take nothing and make something? Was it a magic trick? Was it a miracle? When I read John’s gospel, it is as if the “how” is taken for granted. This may be because they witnessed the miracle first hand. In the first century, “how” wasn’t a big deal. One might argue these crowds were used to miracles and miracle workers. It is the “why” or the implied “why” questions which seem more important. Why did you do this, what does this mean for the bigger picture, and what are you going to do about the bigger picture? Surely, if someone can turn multiply a tiny number of loaves and fishes, political, social, and economic liberation ought to be easy.

Having bread, the ability to eat, equals freedom. If you can eat you can move, you can fight back, you have strength. This is why one person in the crowd draws the obvious parallel between Moses’ role in feeding the Israelites manna from heaven and the liberation of Israel itself. Here’s where things start to go awry. Jesus is talking about freedom; a liberation on multiple levels. We, like those ancient Israelites, have a one track mind when it comes to liberation. Some assembly may be required and we want Jesus to provide all the tools. If we decide the assembly is complete, we walk away, under the allusion we are free while never realizing we’re worshiping things instead of believing in a God.

As the conversation unfolds, it’s clear to Jesus (and the reader) that the people interacting with him are looking for a formula. Now that they’ve got Jesus, they want to press him. “Release the formula for the spiritual widget,” they ask. Tell us what we must do, what is required of us. Boil it down to something, nice, simple, smooth and easy; like a product on a shelf. Give us the recipe to your bread, that’s all we want, and we’ll believe in you.

Now, it’s really gone off the tracks. Jesus’ actions are linked to their belief in his identity, mission, and purpose. We’re not going to believe in you unless you give us what we want, unless you give us a product we like and think we need. They will not believe in Jesus unless he does something they determine is worthy of their belief. We would never do that, would we? The United Methodist Church or its people would never set a challenge for Jesus, a hoop to jump through, and say our faith in Jesus (and our institution) is dependent on how Jesus meets our expectations of what we think we deserve? Do this Jesus or else? Or else, we might schism, people might get mad and leave, and many might become righteously indignant. Or else these ideas built on your teachings may be so corrupted as to be unrecognizable from the movement you intended?

At the climax of “A Few Good Men”, Colonel Nathan Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) is being cross-examined by the brash Navy lawyer, Lt. Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise). In their final heated exchange, Lt. Kaffee is waiting for Col. Jessup to answer a question. Once Jessup begins to answer, he closes his remarks with these words, “I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to.”  Like Lt. Kaffee, we want the truth.  I’m not sure we can handle the truth.

In the back of my mind, when Jesus is pressed by the product shoppers for one more “more miraculous sign”, I can hear Colonel Jessup’s words in Jesus’ mouth. “I don’t give a damn what miraculous sign you think you’re entitled to.” We’re so busy looking for signs and being amazed by testimonies that we’ve forgotten how to believe in the beauty of belief itself.

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 28th, 2015 —

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 28th, 2015

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1. You’re not alone. Though you may feel alone, you can find support for what’s going wrong and right in your life. Help is matter of asking.

2. If you need to be alone, find a deserted place make some mental space to listen.

3. Try to open a door for someone, say “bless you”, let others go ahead of you, or commit to other tangible acts of giving everyone the intangible gift of respect. What we make the mental commitment to act upon in public will shape our spiritual values.

4. How can our lives, as we take our tangible actions and intangible thoughts (i.e. respect, empathy) be combined to ultimately reflect those things for which we are thankful?

5. Are the most important things in our lives determined by our own choices someone else making a choice on your behalf?

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 27th, 2015 — July 27, 2015

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 27th, 2015

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1. Expect to encounter the divine in the lives of others.

2. Giving away love, joy, or kindness are things done not for tangible benefits. They are the most valuable things we own which others need to receive without condition.

3. Find some shade and allow the day to sink in.

4. Pick three small stones. Each stone represents something you need to let go of. Cast them into a body of water, throw them into the woods, do something to let these things go.  Repeat this each day if needed.

5. Awareness is more than looking both ways when you cross the street. It is an understanding that your life impacts the lives of others on multiple levels.

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