Food for Thought-I’m Not Sure I Want to Be Washed Whiter Than Snow

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After witnessing the epic winter weather across the United States and two recent snow events here in North Carolina, I have meditated upon the words of Psalm 51:7. The Psalmist writes, “Purge me with hyssop; and I shall be made clean, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” For Christians, there is an obvious allusion within those words to Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. However, it is helpful to remember, these are not Jesus’ words. In the opening chapter of Isaiah, the Lord says (in an appeal to the reason of the Israelite people), he has a desire to prevent the further destruction of Israel. “Though your sins are like scarlet,” says God, “they will be white as snow. If they are as red as crimson, they will become like wool. If you agree and obey.” Context matters. This passage has nothing to do with the salvation of humanity or Jesus of Nazareth. It does have everything to do with the imminent deportation with the Israelite nation to Babylon. God will square them with Babylon; not their sins with the cosmos. That’s not the issue.

Jesus never uses the word “snow”. The word was used to describe his apparel at his ascension in Matthew’s gospel. John recycles Isaiah’s prophecy and adapts it to early Christian apocalyptic thought in the Book of Revelation. That’s the sum total of snow in the New Testament. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, made no mention of our bloody sins being washed away. Shedding and washing are two completely different words in New Testament Greek.  Washing sounds folksy and like something you can imagine your grandmother doing.  Someone “shedding” blood sounds like a man who was taken out to a Roman Imperial black site and executed on political charges.  As a result, if Jesus never talked about our sins becoming as white as snow (as a result of his sacrificial shedding of blood). So why do we keep pushing this image?  Is it because of the sanguine obsessions of late 19th century hymn writers?  Because it’s not in the New Testament. It’s not something attributable to Jesus of Nazareth.  Call me crazy, but I put a priority on doing things Jesus did, not stuff  we make up and then later pretend he did or said.

I don’t want to be washed white as fresh snow. I don’t think Jesus wants me washed as white as the wind driven snow on a George Winston CD cover. Jesus needs me dirty, tarnished, muddy, and filthy. Because this is who Jesus has called me to serve, love, and live among. The people who can’t go inside, make chili, post pictures on Facebook, haven’t showered in days, have no one to love them, can’t afford their Lorazepam, the people who are broken and no one wants to sully themselves by stopping to look at the dirty mess by the side of the road. Because if you’re looking at them, how can you praise God for all the great things God has done for you, how blessed you’ve been, and how grateful you are that you are clean.

Lord, I beg you. Keep me dirty and muddy and free from unsound scriptural metaphors about snow.  I need my sins to make me a better Christian.

Food for Thought-Morning Prayer for the 1st Sunday of Lent (B)

You have come alongside us for the Lenten journey. These are early days. We do not fully understand the destination. Jerusalem is both a memory and a dream. In the early hours before dawn, the air is cool and the sky remains dark. What we do see is obscured by our own fear. Help us to progress forward this day. May we trust when we do not see. May we seek when the path is dark. May we proclaim when there is no one to hear. In this place and moment, we light your light. We proclaim your word. You church is here, on our journey, in this sacred space. Consecrate our time, our words, and the world around us so that we may worship you in safety and peace. Bless those who are sick, grieving, hungry, cold, and ailing among this community and beyond. May we go to them as ministers of grace and mercy who carry the reality of healing and hope. Into brokenness of our lives, sand the jagged edges of emotions that stop us from truly living in community and journeying with others. Forgive us for seeking to live beyond hope.
For all that we are, you are more than we imagine,

Amen

Food for Thought-Ideas On What to Give Up For Lent

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1. Give up the idea of Hell
2. Give up on the idea of a angry, wrathful God
3. Walk away from any prejudices you have
4. Give up the idea that God is a God of guilt
5. Take on the idea that God is a God who forgives
6. Fast from the idea of judging others
7. Pray for ISIS
8. Read John 8:1-8
9. Give up on trying to please God by forced sacrifice
10. Give up on Lent, do this because you want to

Food for Thought-On the Death of My Coptic Brothers

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My Monophysite soul,
A Methodist reality,
Bound to a Coptic past,
Before schisms and councils,
When faith was chanted,
In liturgical rhythms,
Through the desert night,
Listening to Psalms,
Telling the story,
Of people here,
Of believers there,
Who rely
On your forgiveness,
When we die,
For those who kill,
And we who survive.

-Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-The Transfiguration

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A Poem on The Feast of the Transfiguration

In the liturgy of the day,
Our Lord is transfigured,
Will my life my transformed,
Overshadowed by the light,
Like the apostles,
Who have journeyed before?
Hear me now,
As I call.
Upon my knees,
Through clouds,
Unable to see,
The glory that surrounds me.

-Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Opening Prayer for Transfiguration Sunday

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God of Mountains and Valleys,

You have called us to journey with you up the mountain. As we climb the rough side of our own history, we wait for the transformation of our lives. All the while, we remain woefully unaware that you have already transfigured our souls and reshaped our priorities. The path we took up is not the trail we take down. Our world will be different on the other side. The witness of the mountain is found in the love we share down in the valley. The story of the summit is reflected in the light we bring to those living in the cold and dark. May the dialect spoken in the sweet mountain conversations with Jesus become a language shared and understood by all.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen

Richard Bryant