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  • karen horst cobb: March 2007

    Friday, March 30, 2007

    Meditation: More than a Knock at the Door

    Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
    Revelation 3: 20-22

    Among the first pages of many Bibles we find the familiar picture of Jesus standing at a small arched wooden door . It has a square peephole with iron bars and no handle on the outside. Jesus fist is raised as if in the act of knocking. He looms large in comparison to the small shadowed doorway. The sepia tones and His flowing robes tell a gentle story but the strange hidden doorway with encroaching vines suggests that when inside there might be some discomfort for the occupant. Perhaps this intimidating picture is misleading.

    This picture has often been used for evangelism and accompanied by the “sinners prayer” in tracts and pamphlets. A picture’s worth a thousand words they say. Those of us who came to Jesus as children have been influenced by this picture much more than we realize. At the very least it is only one dimension and focuses on the knocking. So what happens when Jesus knocks and we invite him in? That is the real conversion.

    Do we seat him in a straight backed chair in the entryway where he waits until Sunday morning or do we invite him all the way in? Does he loom large and intimidating at our table as he does outside the door in this artist’s mind? Does He dominate and control or is he our humble friend who loves everything about us? Do we try to impress him with a fancy meal and tidy house or do we embrace him even in our most cluttered closets and grimy places? Do we freely reveal all of ourselves to him or try to fool him with false piety?

    Jesus is not just knocking in this verse he is calling out to us also. We recognize his voice and welcome him in because he is our friend. He promises he will “sup” with us. This word is a humble word referring to a simple meal with small bites and sips. Nothing fancy just a relaxed lingering humble time of sharing. Far from the invading force many have ascribed to him, he is to be a resident in all the places of our hearts. We walk with him in all that we do and in each thing which we face. He says that when we overcome we relate to him as he overcame and passed on to heaven. We share these common experiences.

    Hearing the knock on the door and hearing his voice calling to us is just the beginning. Then we begin to know him more and more. We adopt his ideas and his way of life. He does not come in and take over our home and use our things, he comes to minister to us and to serve just as he ministered to and served those he found walking in Galilee or by the seaside. We are changed by love and acceptance. This transforms us with a desire to impact our world for good. By this transformation the world is transformed.

    During the worship at the National Cathedral on March 16th we were again and again reminded to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” In this passage in Revelation the Spirit is saying go beyond just answering the door and embrace the meaning of Christ in every area of our lives, in our communities and in our world as we learn what it means to overcome the darkness and destructive powers of the world as Jesus overcame.

    Prayer: We knew it was you who was knocking at the door of each of our hearts. We heard your voice and opened the door. Teach us more and more what it means to live with you as our friend as you relax at our table and reside in all the places of our hearts. Enlarge our compassion of love and service as we lean from your example. Amen

    Action: Meditate on how you depict Jesus knocking at your door? How does it differ from the classic picture we grew up with? What is your response to the knock? Consider what it means to sup with Jesus and think about the purpose of the church to which he is speaking. What is the Spirit saying to the churches? Open your door and share a meal in worship and service. Here is a link to one group which is exploring this form of spiritual community. http://www.emu.edu/seminary/index.html

    Among the first pages of many Bibles we find the familiar picture of Jesus standing at a small arched wooden door. It has a square peephole with iron bars and no handle on the outside. Jesus fist is raised as if in the act of knocking. He looms large in comparison to the small shadowed doorway. The sepia tones and His flowing robes tell a gentle story but the strange hidden doorway with encroaching vines suggests that when inside there might be some discomfort for the occupant. The lily on the ground reminds us of death and funerals and seems the antithesis of our classical images of the grim reaper who will one day come for us. Perhaps this covertly intimidating picture of an unenlightened time in history is misleading.

    meaning that "Dine"- that's why I used the old language version) I don't know what theologians might say about this.

    I just finished this weeks meditation. Clearly this one is to life long Christians but you might enjoy it anyway.

    Meditation: Send Me

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here I am. Send Me!" - Isaiah 6:8

    The snow was already falling and the bus was parked in front of the church when we arrived. It would be a seven hour drive to Washington DC where we would worship with other peaceful Christians and walk the four miles to the White House to make a very public witness for the teachings of Jesus.

    As the other peace travelers boarded the bus, the driver was receiving reports from truckers and bus drivers on the CB. His reports were increasingly getting worse. We were told that the roads were icing up faster than the road crews could deal with them at the reports from Breezwood Pa were bad.

    Our trip was organized by Joanne Lehman of Kidron Ohio. More than once during the trip I heard her say “here am I send me” as she explained to people how she came to organize the bus trip. When all of those who intended to come had found a seat, the driver asked her to make a decision abut proceeding in light of the weather. Those who boarded the bus did not show any signs of being deterred by the weather and there was little question about what to do. We went to Washington as planned.

    We made friends, as people usually do who share a common adventure. Some on the bus were in their late seventies. They had stories of traveling to Washington during the Vietnam war for the same reasons and in similar circumstances. I came to think about them as members of VFP ( veterans of foreign peace) Our driver was an older man whom I correctly guessed served in the military. I asked how he felt about taking a bus load of “Christian peaceniks” to Washington.
    His only response was “ it’s a good thing you folks are doing but it won’t do a lick of good… the government will do exactly what it wants anyway.” I was sure most agreed with his pragmatic assessment but I tried to explain why we were going.

    “We do not do the right thing because we think it will make a difference but simply because it is what we are called to do.” We collectively say “here am I send me” That is the idea I tried to convey to him. I had thoughts about how each of us who chose to go on the trip were willing to take personal risk but our driver was just following orders. What responsibility do we have for our bus driver while we serve the Lord? Yes when we answer the call “here am I send me” things are not always clear cut.

    We got to the National Cathedral just as the service was starting. There was little time to take in the massive gothic structure. The service was powerful as we heard from a US soldier, a young Iraqi, and a women in Baghdad. Many were moved by the words of an Abu Ghraib Detainee juxtaposed with the gospel of Matthew which recounts the torture of Christ. Pain is pain and torture is torture. There is no denying that.

    We filed out of the cathedral and lit our candles. We began the four mile walk to the White House in blowing snow and fierce winds. The weather drew us closer together as we each know in our hearts that in some way we had answered the call with “Here am I send me.”
    It required constant vigilance not to get separated from our group during the trek to the White House so it was a relief when we arrived. The windows were dark. Clearly no one was home.
    We sang and prayed.

    Some had planned to stop and pray in front of the White House knowing it was illegal. We said our good byes. We prayerfully sang and prayed Dona Nobis Pacem( Give us Peace) as they filed past us. They knew they faced a long night. In this solemn moment I could not help think about the martyrs of the early church and the reformation who went with the same spirit to their death. Would we be willing to make that sacrifice?

    The Christian Peace Witness for Iraq was just one of the innumerable Christian Peace Witnesses through out history. Even thought it required air travel from my home in New Mexico to my sisters house in Ohio and then a 7 hour bus ride on treacherous roads I will do it all again and again and again not because it will certainly change the hearts of government officials but because it is part of “the call. “We have just begun to sing God’s praise here in our time on the earth and it all starts with the simple response “here am I send me.”

    Prayer: With great love and service we are honored to answer the call with “here am I send me.”
    Action: re-commit your life to answer the call with “Here am I send me.” Listen to the still small voice and be faithful.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Article: It's Time for Reform

    Violent Christians do not represent the face of Christ to the world! There are many who share this belief. We do not have paid lobbyists, vast hours of radio and television airtime or personal friendships with the president. What we do have is a passion for community. The time has come to reclaim the meaning of Christ’s message We will be gathering on March 16th at the National Cathedral and walking to the White House. Thousands of us will embrace the White House in a large circle. We are proclaiming the “Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.”

    Several years ago when the war cries were sounded Jerry Falwell demonstrated how corrupt Christianity has become. He said “ you’ve go to kill the terrorists before the killing stops…if it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” This in no way resembles the teachings of Jesus but serves the goals of Empire by rallying the masses to war. Many of us are refusing to join the Christian war party and want reform.

    Popular evangelists preach the “prosperity gospel” of money and power. The mega-church movements teach that Christians are to come to power and will rule the world as they hold themselves up as good seek the punishment of those they declare are evil. Rather than teaching compassion and grace, they lead followers to the economic theories of the free market and capitalism and glorify the empire’s conquests through military force.

    The most influential Christian leaders today have joined John Hagee in Christians United for Israel . Hagee calls religious leaders “America’s Generals” and views the European Union as the anti-Christ. Just like the Christian leaders of the 1st millennium who served the empire of Constantine, these leaders are betting on the end times. They are anxious for the battle of Armageddon and serve the goals of worldly empire following nuclear war.

    The Church serves the powerful empire and the empire serves the powerful Church. They share common goals. Both are hoping to gain more wealth, power and influence. There are many Christians in America however, who despise this modern form of state sponsored militarized Christianity and we are coming together on March 16th.

    The cycle of military state sponsored Christianity and the reclaiming of peaceful Christianity continues century after century. There is always a remnant who remain faithful to the gospel of love. We often remember the causalities of war but the causalities of peace are most often forgotten. But, it is Christian Martyrs of the past who have encouraged and taught us what it means to love as Christ loved. We are nearing the peak of the this cycle of corruption and reform. We will reclaim the real message of Jesus once again. The message of Jesus is love in the face of fear. We are the face of Christ on the earth today.

    Much like Martin Luther and the radical reformers of the middle ages the “new age” Christian reformers will do the equivalent of nailing our thesis to the door the National Cathedral. A church or a cathedral should never be the place to pray for the destruction of others and to bless the dropping of bombs. Join us as we stand up on March 16th.

    The thesis I want to post on the door of our nation’s cathedral are the following:

    Kindness and generosity are the characteristics of Christ
    One cannot kill for Jesus,
    The new Jerusalem is not real estate
    Jesus did not teach capitalism
    The free market is not the “good news”
    Punishment does not save
    The word of God is not a book
    One honest person can impact more than a multitude
    Comfort is not our birthright

    It is time to reform and to reclaim Christianity! Join us- http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.cpw&item=cpw_main

    Friday, March 09, 2007

    Meditation: God's Just Love Theory

    There is a way which seemeth right unto a man but, the end thereof are the ways of death . Proverbs 14:12

    If a criminal broke into your home and was threatening your children don’t you think God would want you to protect them and shoot the intruder? This scenario is a “way which seemeth right unto a man.” It is the kind of thinking that is expanded to our communities and to our nation. It was the way which seemed right to St. Augustine when he created the widely accepted “Just war theory. “ The truth of the gospel reveals that “Just war theory” is - just a war theory.

    Many decide life and death issues by applying the human nature argument. They reason “after all it’s just human nature…it’s just common sense.“ We are counseled however that this way (which seems right) leads to death. When we seek peace and pursue it, the end is life. So how do we respond to militant Christians who are driving our national and foreign policies? How do we speak to the fears they reveal in their philosophies and theologies? And most importantly, how do we clearly and unmistakably show the way which leads to life?

    The unwise have accepted the false premise that there are only two possible ways of responding to violence. Some are quick in turning to the way which seems right to man. When faced with either becoming a victim or a perpetrator they choose to become the perpetrator. Jesus provides a better way, a creative way, a way which looks at the underlying cause of sin. Jesus responds to fear with love and teaches us to do the same.

    Responding to violence with more violence multiplies the enemies. When an Iraqi is killed often several of their family members and friends strengthen their resolve to avenge the death. It is the same for each US soldier who is killed. The friends, family and countryman are embolden and can more easily justify the violence even to the point of nuclear war. In the end “enemies” on both sides are created faster than they can be destroyed. There is no end only cycles of increased and decreased violence. War is a way which seemeth right unto men but the ways thereof lead to death.

    Even in individual instances of violence such as a home intruder or violence in our communities there is always a better way than meeting that violence with more violence. The human way is to label people as evil to justify violence against them. This was the emotion George Bush was trying to elicit in the public when he spoke of the “axis of evil.” When a nation or a people can be depicted as unusually “evil“, “good” people can be manipulated to violence against them. The “good” people triumphing over the “bad” people is a way which “seems right to a man but the end thereof leads to death.”

    We can not offer a theory of just violence to neatly apply to dangerous situations. Instead we rely on the love of Christ and his love of the human family through us to respond to physical threats. In the end we know that this love we contain is a treasure stored in fragile earthen vessels and may one day be spilled out. There have been many more casualties of war then there have been casualties of peace.

    Prayer: Lord of life and love we constantly recommit our lives to your ways. Let us not rely on the way which seemeth right in our own minds but to seek peace and purse it in all situations.

    Action: Make your plans to join us on march 16th at the National Cathedral to witness for peace and walk to the White House. Many communities have arranged for busses to make travel easier. Car pool with others as we come together. We are the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. If we remain silent and invisible who will show the face of Christ to our world?

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Meditation: All That Can be Shaken

    Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire” Hebrews 12:28

    Christianity is under investigation. Months ago the intriguing novel “The De Vinci Code” was at the top of the best sellers list and more recently the movie gained a lot of media attention. This week the morning news reported that the remains of Jesus were exhumed from an ancient tomb. Also found there were the bones of Mary Magdalene and a young child named Judah who is believed to be the son of Jesus. Main stream theologians refute the “evidence.” Rather than nervously reciting the Christian confession of faith we can continue to live out the teachings of Jesus in confidence, unshaken.

    It seems that all that can be shaken is being shaken. Television and radio commentators discuss what it means for Christianity if the scientists are correct. They imagine either the destruction of the Christian faith or willful dismissal of scientific evidence. These are not the only ways of responding. The church (committed believers) can have a firm foundation which can not be shaken. As long as we live out the words and teachings of Jesus he remains alive.

    The shaking which is occurring within the church is shaking away all that is not eternal. Like dry bones in dusty graves much theology is lifeless and fragile. Those who have focused on Christian magic for salvation can easily be devastated by scientific and historical investigation. When we focus on the words, teachings and example of Jesus we remain unshaken. No matter what “evidence” arises we can know the truth of living the sermon on the mount and continue to impact the world for good.

    There is no evidence which can dissuade us from what we experience and what we see demonstrated in our lives. Just because we now know the physics of a rainbow does not mean it is not a promise or a reminder of God’s love. As followers of the teachings of Jesus we never need to fear the questions or respond defensively. Those who focus on the magical Jesus tend to become defensive and fearful of scientific investigation. But we know and have evidence that Jesus is alive on the earth today. He is alive in us.

    Jesus was never to be part of religious craft to conjure up an eternal spell. Instead, he taught and demonstrated character traits which save. He is the son of God and he explained that we are his brothers and sisters if we live by his principles of love, compassion and surrender.
    No matter whose dry bones are found in the desert we know that Jesus is alive. His spirit is a consuming fire which transforms the heart and his example lived out today transforms the world.

    Prayer: We worship the meaning of your word with reverence and awe knowing that you are the consuming passionate fire. As that which can be shaken is shaken, let us remain secure in the wisdom of your loving words.

    Action: Make plans to join with us on March 16th in Washington to demonstrate to the world that we believe Jesus is alive and his teachings are as needed to day as they were when he addressed the Sanhedrin.