Caught Between Two – Desiring to See Beyond

This coming Sunday marks the fifth Sunday of our Great 100 Day Retreat and Festival on our way to a new Pentecost. And the text is familiar to many – a father with two sons and the younger one asking for and squandering his inheritance. Then he returns to his parent who extends more than mercy while his older brother is seemingly resentful of his father’s generosity and compassion.

Two pieces change our reflection from the usual. Through the Quadratos lens – we understand that this parable is one about our maturing in service. Second – since it is placed deep within our communal retreat – we also know it is intended to serve a reflection and examination of “us” – and our willingness to be servants to each other and all.

Think of the text as an “opera” where each character speaks to a part of us – individually and together. Who in you and amongst us acts the wise, compassionate and generous parent? Who acts like a total free and impulsive spirit? Who acts rule bound and burdened by responsibility? What is the tenor of your “discussion” between free spirit and rule bound?

This parable deepens us in the Transfiguration text that opened our Great 100 Days. Here we have the younger and older on either side of the Christ. We might consider how we each and collectively need to keep our eyes and heart on the Christ’s compassion and generosity. Otherwise we fall into a trap that moves us away from Love – impulsive living only for today – or becoming rule bound expecting an overburdened sense of responsibility to be rewarded.

How has this opera played in your heart, your marriage, your family and of course your spiritual community?

Thoughts, sharings, reflections – yes, no and maybe are welcome here.

Line from our communal prayer for this week: “…and to thirst for Truth beyond what we believe.”

For those in sermon/homily prep – recall that each of these Sunday texts refer to the Sunday text in Cycle A. This Sunday in Cycle A is about inner blindness and the Legal Ones (Pharisee) who do not thirst to see beyond their own belief system.

Return to Reflections

It has been a long sojourn since the last Quadratos reflection. There are three reasons – a need for our Quadratos bloggers to put energy into other areas, Alexander’s varied internet challenges as he lives in New Zealand and Australia, and then his 60 day pilgrimage walking the ancient Camino. He covered some 1100 km or about 700 miles beginning at St. Jean Pied de Port in France, crossing Spain to Santiago de Compestella, and ending at the sacred stones of Muxia on Spain’s Atlantic coast.

Today Alexander is again between New Zealand (Auckland) and Australia (Melbourne) – where if visa issues resolve – he may live and work over the next few years. Also he is posting about every other day on the Quadratos Facebook page. His posts are a series of short reflections on these days Christians call Lent. However, he is reflecting on these days through Quadratos not through the Jesus Story we have known it. Another way of saying this – he is reflecting on theosis rather than atonement perspectives. Theosis is the belief that we are made in the image and likeness of God and each of us is in a gradual process of being made ever more into that likeness. We would you to “Like” the Quadratos Facebook page and join the conversation.

And if you have are in the neighborhood, have frequent flyer miles or are just ready to take the next step in Christian prayer-join us for a Quadratos expression of Easter. Last week of March near Auckland and repeated the first week of May in Melbourne. See Calendar page for details.

When Grace Lurches (Mark 11:1-11 & John 12:12-16)

Praying Mark’s approach to the impending passion with a small group last week yielded an eye-opening “A hah!” There are four very different flavors to the texts read over the different years on Palm Sunday, each with its own tone and tasks. When Lent is prayed as the annual retreat of the beloved community, the stories of this Sunday carry us through the gate where we face – again – our own death in our own Jerusalem. This particular one is the death that awaits us through the experience of pathless suffering epitomized by Mark.

Here’s some of what we noticed followed by possible reflections for a community on the 6th Sunday of its annual retreat:

In Mark’s version the Christ is no longer straddling the two animals of Matthew’s first movement (a donkey and a foal, perhaps representing the splitting impossibility of riding both the old vehicle and the new at the same time). The invitation presented by Matthew is for the community to turn from the old vehicles that have allowed goodness to blossom and to undertake a journey on an untried vehicle with an unknown destination. The one thing known is that the road leads to Jerusalem; the ‘gate’ to the new life is through death. In a felt way, the long struggle of Mark is the process of letting go into the death of what was.

To the outer eye this part of the journey is strikingly ungraceful, something like we see in Mark when Jesus the Christ enters Jerusalem riding “a colt that has never been ridden.” One member of our group who spent her summers working at a horse camp makes the point that an untried colt is a wild animal — jumpy, anxious, unpredictable, and given to bucking. Put someone on it and people around it shouting and waving things and you have a circus. This ride was anything but stately. The point is that the ‘new way’ emerging from the death of the old has no tried and true elegance or easy grace of the sort that comes when we’ve done a thing countless times and know how to do it well. In this movement grace lurches.

What’s important is that the journey be undertaken, regardless. Mark’s story has a detail missing in any other Palm Sunday text: “They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street.” Remember, Mark’s Roman community is the one living in fear of the knock on the door that will announce tearing choices to be made. If you are discovered to be Christian, you and your family will be taken to Nero’s circus and killed by wild animals as entertainment. Or you can betray the faith and the community that gives you life by naming another family who will go to their death. Either way is sure death; the first death is physical and the second is a living death that is both spiritual and social. Mark 8:35 was real for this community: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

It would be tempting to hide in terror behind locked doors trying to stave off the moment of reckoning. But this untried colt of Palm Sunday is near a door, outside in the street. Hiding in fear is no salvation. Come out into the public street and face your terror and your death because this is the way to life. Ride this untried Way, as graceless as it may appear, in trust that it is the Way to Life. Christ leads the way.

Another detail unique to Mark is what happens upon Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem. Nothing much! “Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Rather than building to the expected crescendo, the action peters out.

It’s resonant with the slowed down pace of the second path which I often liken to swimming in taffy. It can seem like there’s a lot of jerky uncoordinated movement, something like riding an unbroken colt, followed by a general sense of  vagueness. Why are we here? What now? Unlike Matthew and Luke when action is closer at hand, it takes awhile to build to a cleansing of the temple.

The wonderful counterpoint read on this Sunday is in John’s account which comes on the heels of the raising of Lazarus. There is not a lot of story line; just the response of the people to the one whose reputation precedes him. The Christ of the Cosmos, the living Breath from the time before time simply responds to what is welling up in the people. He finds himself a young donkey to ride and sits on it, heading into his personal death unafraid. He’s unruffled and in charge. It’s a grounding, hopeful reminder of whose great Pattern it is we walk, something the disciples didn’t see and remember until much later. The Good News is that the Living Breath of the Holy is breathing the whole pattern in the times we’re aware and the times we’re stumbling along. It’s not all up to us.

Possible reflection questions for a community in Mark:

  1. How do we as community hold our own times of lurching along without knowing where we’re going or how to get there?  (Are we trying to force a level of orderliness that isn’t right for the time, i.e. a strategic planning process for the future when the task is to ride an untried colt ungracefully into our own death together?)
  2. What is our collective response to the ‘nothing much’ moments when there’s uncoordinated movement followed by a general sense of vagueness and maybe even let down?  Does it signal to us  that there’s something wrong (that needs to be fixed) or can we hold the possibility that such times may be part of a necessary season?  How do we consciously work with and through the seasons of not-knowing and vagueness along the second path?
  3. What does “facing our own death together” look like? Do we hide behind closed doors trying to stave off notice? Are we able to come out into the “public” street with one another, becoming visible with who we are, what we know and what we don’t know?
  4. How are we trying to “save our life” and what is the cost?  How are we riding into losing our life and what does that look like?


Being Loosened from Constriction and Fear

We have arrived at the fifth week of our retreat focusing on renewing our relationships with each other, our community and our communion with Spirit/God. As we reflect on this Sunday’s text, remember it is given to us as a prayer meditation that our relationships and community life might be a more vital and expansive – ever growing with Spirit’s radiance and wisdom.

As we are re-discovering these weeks as the community retreat – remind yourself that each of these Sunday’s is about the prayer of self-emptying and noticing where in our thinking/feeling each of us is caught/attached rather than spacious and freely bending toward harmony and relatedness. Week by week we of the retreat, we seek to still and empty our minds. To move in this direction, we pull back from discussing world, cultural and even church events/issues. The retreat is an emptying from these contents. In the early Church – the retreat began with the bishop laying down the Crosier. Might we think again on this fifth Sunday of our retreat – what Crosier do I still need to lay down so that the community may be more one, more vital, more in harmony?

As you read the text, remember that John’s use of the term “world” is better translated as “less awareness or unreflective action.” Also recall that each instance in John that refers to “Jesus” or “I Am” is not a reference primarily to the Jesus of history, but rather to – Logos/Christ/One Breath/Dynamic Breathing of God – that has always been – even before the beginning of time.

Also recall that the core pattern of the retreat is the sequence of texts found in the Year of Matthew/Year A. This Sunday’s text continues the imagery from the Raising of Lazarus and its impact of calling us to be a person and a community of less fear and constriction. As you read the text through this lens, what are your reflections? We would love to hear from you.

Our prayer for the fifth week:
O Breath of Our Oneness, by your grace, may we receive every loosening of our thoughts, feelings and attitudes – from constriction and fear.

John 12:20-33
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

To See Our Own Blindnesses

We have arrived at the fourth week of our retreat focusing on renewing our relationships with each other, our community and our communion with Spirit/God. And our text for reflection this week is one that has been so badly interpreted that the words out of context have wounded, enslaved and actually led to murder in the name of God. As we reflect on this text, remember it is given to us as a prayer meditation that we might be a more vital, expansive and growing community filled with Spirit’s radiance and wisdom.

Below is the traditional (NRSV) translation of this Sunday’s gospel text. Scroll further down and you will find my Quadratos translation.

If so moved, take this contemporary translation into the heart of your community, whether it be the intimacy of two or hundreds.

Our prayer for this fourth week of retreat:
O Breath of Our Oneness – give us the grace of true vision, so that we might see our own blindnesses and have the courage to grow in The Way (attitude and action) of Your One Breath.

How might our prayer that we see our own blindnesses to Spirit and to each other, change and expand our relationships with each other and with Spirit?

4th Sunday of Community Retreat: Gospel Text – John 3:14-21
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Quadratos translation as understood by Alexander:
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must God’s Breath be lifted up, that whoever believes in the God’s dynamic breathing may know eternal life beyond the life just in time. For God so loved our lesser awareness that God gave God’s very breath that everyone who believes in the one Breath that fills the Cosmos may not perish in time but may know eternal life. Indeed, God did not send The Christ – the full manifestation of God’s Breathing – into lesser awareness to condemn our unawareness, but in order that our lesser awareness might expand through God’s breathing. Those who believe in God’s breath are not condemned to live just in time. But those who do not know of Spirit and timelessness are condemned already, because they do not know God’s Breath. And this is the judgment, that expansion-radiance has come into our lesser awareness, and people loved unawareness rather than expansion because their deeds were unreflective. For all who are unreflective hate transformation-expansion and do not choose to live in The Way of God’s Breathing so that their attitudes/actions may not be raised to awareness. But those who do what is true come to the dynamic expansion of God’s breathing, so that it may be clearly seen that their life expands in the manner of God’s breathing”