Jesus’ Death was not God’s Need

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Palm/Passion Sunday, 2016

 “Naturally one can develop a theology that no longer has the somber cross at its center.  Such an attempt deserves criticism not because it bids farewell to Christianity as it has been, but because it turns aside from reality, in the midst of which stands the cross.” Dorothee Solle

 Today is Palm/Passion Sunday, the first day of Holy Week.  This week before Easter offers those of us who seek to follow Jesus the opportunity to reflect on the events of the last week of his life:  Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as he travels toward the city; the palm procession and the people proclaiming him king; the direct action of overturning the tables of the money changers in the Temple; the cruel plot against him by the authorities; the Last Supper; his prayerful struggle with God; his arrest, abandonment, betrayal, torture, crucifixion, death; the grief of his mother, followers, and friends; the sadness and seeming futility of it all; the shadow of death.

But why would we want to go there?  Why focus on the story of the cross?  Why not go directly from joy to joy, from Palm Sunday (minus the passion) to Easter?   Wouldn’t it be healthier to simply use positive thinking to realize our human potential, to try (once again) to do whatever we want to do and be whatever we want to be?

That may work for some people, but not for me.  I have found that facing the pain of life is necessary in order to find both joy and personal transformation.  I’m not saying that Christianity is the only way to find God or to find meaning in life.  There are an infinite number of ways to experience the divine.  But for Christians the story of the cross is central.

This story has often been interpreted in a way that makes God responsible for Jesus’ death, as if God needed Jesus to die in order to set things right.  According to this “sacrificial model” of the atonement, human sin has thrown the universe out of balance, and that the only way to balance out God’s judgment with God’s love was by the sacrifice of Jesus.  In other words, God needed Jesus to die in order to forgive individual sinners and save them from hell.  This is a popular form of Christian belief, especially among conservatives.  But it’s not mine.

Here are two verses of a hymn from my colleague and friend, Dan Damon that offers a different view of the atonement:

Jesus’ death was not God’s need,

but to offer grace;

anger did not make him bleed for the human race.

Jesus’ life and what he taught

more than any creed,

this the gift God’s joy has brought;

this love’s only need…

 

Bless the stones that cry aloud

as the prince rides by;

bless the humble and the proud who return to cry.

Jesus was not born to die

but to show the way;

Christ invites us each to try

living what we pray.

For me, the story of Jesus’ suffering and death in some way sums up the suffering and injustice of our world, in ancient times but also today.  The Powers that rule the world today still target “subversives” who seek to transform the world in the direction of compassion and justice for the marginalized, as Jesus did.  But the ruling Powers do not have the last word.  I continue to trust in “the One who, by the power at work within us, is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or even imagine.”(Ephesians 3:20)  In the profound suffering and widespread dying of our world today, I continue to live in the hope of resurrection and the transformation of our world.

See the video of a previous Palm/Passion Sunday reflection by Sharon here:  Speaking Peace on Palm/Passion Sunday.     Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.   Go to  Dan Damon’s website to see or order his hymns.

 

Repenting for Drone Warfare

 

Charges have been dropped against those of us who have been demonstrating against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base.  I had been summoned to appear in federal court on March 8 with thirteen others for crossing onto Beale in an act of nonviolent resistance to US drone attacks.  Here is a video of me speaking about the links between the US military and climate change after crossing the line onto the base last December.

Beale is in Northern California, just 45 minutes from my front door.  It is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones, which maim and kill thousands of civilians, including children, thousands of miles away.  Meanwhile, our “pilots” sit in their air-conditioned computer rooms, in safety.  This is the perfect metaphor for US imperialism today.

How does this look to people around the world?  Drones help terrorists recruit more terrorists, creating an unending cycle of violence.

How does it look to God?  Surely God weeps–for the drone victims and for the drone pilots with PTSD.  “Surely God has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

I weep, too, for the children and families and for this country that largely supports drone warfare, in spite of its immorality.  As a follower of the Prince of Peace, I must publicly decry such violence, or stand as complicit myself.

In this season of Lent, I repent for my participation in the system of global domination, from which I benefit as a US citizen.  I repent for the extraordinary harm caused by our drones and other advanced weapons.  I relinquish all claims of privilege and cast my lot with the poor, oppressed, and vulnerable of the earth, as Jesus did.

We’ll be back at Beale on Monday and Tuesday, on March 7 and 8, this time with Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.  Go to the Occupy Beale Facebook page event for details.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

See other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations

There’s Still Time

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Winter Garden

It’s a beautiful day, with a light rain following last night’s storm.  The winter veggies and daffodils are happy, the fruit trees are happy, the birds, squirrels, and frogs are delighted.  Sunny days will return soon, and it looks like we’ll have a glorious spring after the first real winter in years.

I’m grateful.  I’m grateful for any weather, really, and for life itself.  I’m glad there’s still time—time for us as humans, even here in the United States, to come back to ourselves, to remember what it means to be human, dependent upon the Spirit for life, breath, and all things and interdependent with the rest of the natural world.  There’s still time for us to interrupt the insanity that has possessed us as a culture, that has led us to believe that current conditions are “normal,” even though all the warning (and warming) signs of economic, social, and environmental collapse are plain to anyone who has eyes to see.

How then shall we live?  I hope to play a small part in the hope for a “great turning,” for a transition to the other peaceful, just, and life-sustaining world that I know is possible.

It’s not time to give up.  It’s not time to simply provide hospice for the earth—that time could come, but it’s not now.  It’s not time to escape into our own private, personal worlds.  It’s time to awaken.  It will take many people from many different life experiences and ways of seeing the world, awakening 1) to what is at stake, 2) to what our responsibility is to the earth and the future, 3) what the alternatives are to the current path we are on, and 4) what we can do together about it.  Each of us can go deep within ourselves and cultivate courage in resisting the harm of the dominant institutions and systems of our day and to practice persistence in working for global transformation.

As I enjoy the rain and look toward spring, I know that God is alive and magic is afoot.  I am confident that there is still time for the change that needs to come.  I, for one, pray and act for “God’s kin-dom to come and God’s (loving) will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Frog Chorus on Ash Wednesday

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I got up early, starting my day out on the deck under the stars.  The frog chorus was loud, now that there’s been rain.  I know that frogs and other amphibians are most at risk of extinction due to climate change.  It feels so reassuring to hear them singing so heartily.  The frogs are still here.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is a day of prayer and fasting, a day to remember Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, and my own.  A day to share with others in a service of ashes, to remember our mortality and to repent for the sin of the world.  Later, Guari and I will read T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday,” as we do every year.

This poem brilliantly portrays the dual Lenten focus on repentance and acceptance of our mortality. It expresses a sense of dust and ashes, of hopelessness, of powerlessness to change. These feelings resonate with many people facing the pain and challenges of the world today. But then, in the poem, surprisingly:

The lost heart quickens and rejoices

for the lost lilac and the lost sea voices

and the weak spirit quickens to rebel

for the bent goldenrod and the lost sea smell

quickens to recover the cry of quail

and the whirling plover.

The earth has the power to call us back to life, through the divine Spirit that moves through creation. In some mysterious way, the earth can provide us with an antidote to despair and can renew our spiritual connection with what is deepest within our souls. It is our context, our “ground of being,” through which the Spirit touches us, reminding us of what is real and important, who we are, and with whom we are connected.

Teach us to sit still,

even among these rocks,

our peace in His will.

And even among these rocks,

Sister, Mother, and spirit of the river, spirit of the sea

Suffer me not to be separated,

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Observing  Ash Wednesday opens my heart and gives solace to my soul.  The frog chorus calls me back to life.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costly Hope: This Changes Everything

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“Love will save this place.”  From This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein.

Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate, is a hard read.  But it is so important and timely that I will be leading a five-session study and discussion on this groundbreaking book (see details below).  It will begin on April 6, the Monday after Easter, an appropriate time to begin discussing a book that gives hope that we human beings will be able to rise to this historic occasion and address the root causes of climate change and related injustices before the ultimate catastrophe of runaway climate change is upon us.

The catch?  This book does not lend itself to optimism.  It fosters what I call “costly hope.”  The book pushes us toward facing our global situation squarely and refusing to take refuge in false hopes that will allow us to stay comfortable as we are.

A friend who has started reading admits that she is becoming discouraged as she reads.  And it’s true—the first section of the book, “Bad Timing,” points out the grave challenges we face on a warming world and makes clear that the profit-based global economic system that is accelerating greenhouse gas emissions cannot provide a solution that will save us.

This sounds, at first, like very bad news.  Part II, “Magical Thinking,” goes on to expose the false hopes for addressing climate change that have gotten us nowhere.  The very things that we had hoped would save us are revealed as too little, too late.

More bad news—but wait!  Facing the reality of our situation is actually a healthy place to be.  It is like coming out of denial and hitting bottom, ready for a new approach grounded in true hope for both personal and systemic transformation.

This is a fitting message for this Easter Season.  It is a bit like dying and being reborn, like entering the darkness in order to glimpse the dawning of the light.  It is costly hope because it requires us to change.  As the title of the book says, “This changes everything.”

The last section of the book, “Starting Anyway,” is an astounding proclamation of hope and a call to hopeful action.  So much is already taking place that is hopeful, and it is not based on the market, or on corporate partnerships, or on “Big Green” environmental groups, or on government action.  Rather, this hope is being built upon successful grassroots struggles that impact everything (“this changes everything”), including actions at the top.  Hope that “another world is possible” is not a top-down process, but emerges from the bottom up, from people who are invested in the lives of their communities and are committed to leaving a flourishing world to future generations.  “Love will save this place.”

This is not a summary of the book—just a challenge to read it and consider what changes you can make to your current world view and way of life.  It helps to be able to talk things out with others who are also going through a transformative process, so feel free to join us.  This changes everything.

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Community Book Study on This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein, Sponsored by the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition 

The Nevada County Climate Change Coalition is sponsoring a 5-session book study on This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein.   The study will be led by Sharon Delgado, a climate change educator, and is open to all.  Each session will include a presentation summarizing the themes of each chapter, with small group and open discussion by those who are reading the book.  The study will be held on the following Mondays at 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Nevada City United Methodist Church, 433 Broad Street, Nevada City:

 April 6- (pages 1-94) Introduction and Part One:  Bad Timing (Chapters 1 and 2)

April 13- (pages 96-187)  Part One:  Bad Timing (Chapters 3, 4, 5)

May 4- (pages 189-290) Part Two:    Magical Thinking (Chapters 6,7,8)

May 18– (pages 291-387) Part Three:  Starting Anyway (Chapters 9,10,11)

June 1- (Pages 388-466) Part Three:  Starting Anyway (Chapters 12,13); Conclusion 

Please RSVP if you plan to participate by “joining” this Facebook event at the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition website:  https://www.facebook.com/events/790583357657274/ or by contacting Sharon or by email at thischangeseverything@earth-justice.org. 

Book study organizers encourage participants to purchase copies of This Changes Everything from local book dealers:  The Book Seller (272-2131) or Harmony Books (265-9564), well before the first meeting.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  Her other blog postings about climate change can be found here.