Category Archives: Seminary of the Southwest

Rushing to Learn

book stack

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Matriculation Evensong

Christ Chapel

Seminary of the Southwest

August 29, 2017

 

In our reading we have heard famous words of instruction given to both Israel and to the early church.

These words of instruction about how to live righteously in the eyes of God were given to communities just beginning to form themselves, grasping for some kind of understanding of who they were together.

Here at Seminary of the Southwest we come back together as a community every year around this time.

And as we do we are reforming ourselves.

Members of the community have left upon graduation and others, you present here, have arrived to join this community.

And living together as community, we discover all the gifts and talents and values that we bring to our common life.

As you come to know me, you will discover that one of my passions is fostering healthy relations between Jews and Christians.

One of the things I most appreciate about Judaism is the great value it places on study.

While those studying for ordination here at Southwest might think that three years of study is a long time, you should know that your peers in rabbinical school are often in school for twice as long.

Our passage from Deuteronomy seeks to teach Israel what it means to belong to God.

And it does this by instructing the Israelites to teach their children the things God has done for them.

Inspired by the Jewish commitment to study, I sought out what prior generations of Jews said about our reading.

I turned to one of the greatest Jewish commentator on the Bible, a scholar named Rashi, who lived in medieval France in the 11th century.

There I found some insights about what it means to learn.

Deuteronomy 6:6 says “Keep these words I am commanding you today in your heart.”

The word “today” captures Rashi’s attention.

He says this word “today” means that the words of Torah, the instructions of God to Israel, are not antiquated but have an immediacy to them.

Indeed, people ought to rush to the words of Torah in the present time, he says, as if they were something brand new.

I love this image of rushing to learn something.

I love this idea that the ancient texts we study or the time-tested best practices we are trained in can be for us as learners something brand new, something to be excited about.

Even more, Rashi says that when one discusses Torah to others, it should be with urgency, with the sense that everything depended on communicating its meaning.

What things are you going to learn here that will fill you with urgency?

What is it you are going to learn about the Bible, or theology, or the mind, or inter-personal relations, that will so fill you that you will want to teach it to someone else with urgency?

So Rashi tells us important things about learning:

Learning is something we ought to rush towards.

The knowledge we gain is something we should want to urgently tell others.

And with this I am reminded of another rabbinic teaching.

The rabbis debated what it meant to say that human being are made in the image and likeness of God.

They decided it did not mean that we look like God or have all the attributes that God has.

Instead it means that we are able to reason and to create.

And we do so located in this material world in the context of our overlapping relationships.

When we learn together in community we are learning to hone and develop the image of God that we were created in.

When we learn from and teach others we together are participating in the tremendous blessings that God has bestowed upon us.

So my hope for you at the beginning of your time at Seminary of the Southwest is that in this place you become one who rushes to learn; one who urgently shares new knowledge with others; and, above all, one who learns what it is to be made in the image and likeness of God.

 

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Into the Night

darkness-door

Wednesday of Holy Week

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 70

John 13:21-32

 

Our gospel reading brings us right to the edge of the drama of the Triduum.

It is the night of the arrest of Jesus.

He is at table with his disciples and he predicts that one of them will soon betray him.

Jesus hands the bread to Judas, the one he knows will betray him.

The gospel reads:

“So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” (John 13:30-31).

“It was night.”

Judas slips out into the darkness of the world on his mission to betray Jesus.

And at that very moment, Jesus declares, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.”

This declaration is one of the most powerful and sublime elements of John’s Gospel.

At one of the very darkest moments of human history, somehow God is glorified.

 

I am captured by the image of first Judas and then Jesus plunging into the night.

For Judas, like for us, it is a headlong fall into our destruction.

We all have had moments when we find ourselves going out into the night.

For some of us, the night stands for the tragedies that mark our lives.

The deaths, the transgressions, the abuses, the betrayals.

I also am thinking of the dark moments of our common life.

The terrorist attacks in Brussels.

The racism and xenophobia erupting in our politics.

The crushing burdens of poverty and injustice.

It can feel like we are all plunging into the night.

It can feel like we are at the darkest hour.

 

And yet Jesus declares that at this darkest hour is when he will be glorified and the Father with him.

We stand on the cusp, waiting for this to be revealed.

The revelation of who Jesus truly is depends on his plunging into the night we find ourselves in.

When Jesus goes out from his last meal and into the night on his walk to Gethsemane, we can grasp the full meaning of John 3:19:

“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.”

The events of Holy Week puts into relief the darkness this world reveals.

 

Like the disciples, we can become scattered when the evil of this world strikes, when night falls.

But we can also turn to the example of the beloved disciple.

Imagine resting up against the chest of Jesus.

Imagine the security and the love you would feel nestled there.

Imagine choosing to be like the Beloved Disciple who stays close to the heart of Jesus.

And in that choice he too is plunged into the darkness of this world.

He is brought to the foot of the cross and to the grave.

He is there when darkness swallows everything up.

 

If you choose to be like the Beloved Disciple will stand at the foot of the cross and weep.

But you will realize that when it seems that death has swallowed everything up in its night, the light of Christ breaks forth.

So abide in the gathering darkness, close to the heart of Jesus, and do not fear stepping into the night.

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Washing

Maundy Thursday

April 2, 2015

Christ Church Chapel

Seminary of the Southwest

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You don’t see Jesus get up and took off his robe.

You are too busy trying to make sense of the table set before you.

It is Passover.

But there is no Passover meal set out on the table.

There is no lamb — just some bread and other simple food.

It is only after a few minutes that you look around.

You notice Jesus is not with you.

You turn your head from where you are reclining along the banquet table.

You see him in the corner.

There he is with his robe off and filling a bowl with some water.

You watch him go over and start washing the feet of Andrew and then Philip.

But you all had your feet washed already before you sat down to eat.

The servant boy who had done it now is fumbling around, thinking he must have missed something.

He rushes over to do his work again, but Jesus kindly turns him back.

Simon Peter pulls his feet in when Jesus turns to him next.

But Jesus says, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

And then you realize this is not about your feet, dirty or clean.

He is showing you that you have been made clean.

Clean of everything — inside and out — but only if you let Jesus be this close to you, gently washing and wiping your feet.

When he washes the feet of Judas, you see the tender look Jesus gives Judas as he looks deep into his eyes, while caressing his feet in those towels.

And you see Judas turn his face away, unable to hold his gaze.

When Jesus finishes and takes his place back at the table, he tells all of you that you should wash the feet of one another.

Just as he has for Andrew and Philip and Peter and Judas and you.

Thinking back on it, you know that you could not have washed the feet of Judas.

To do it would have meant forgiving him and loving him.

And you think what Judas did was unforgivable

But Jesus did wash the feet of Judas and when he did it, he loved him.

Looking back on it all, you realize this is what he meant when he told you his new command was to love one another
The next day, after a terrible night, you will stand there at the cross.

You again will see Jesus without his robe.

But this time it will not be carefully folded on a stool.

Now it is in a pile at the foot of a soldier.

And again on that next day, you also see a washing bowl next to Jesus.

But this time it will not be to wash your feet but so you that you can wash his body.

And when you are done with that sad and silent work, you will turn and wash the feet of the one next to you.

And it is then that you will know that Jesus truly has come from God.

And that he has returned to God.

And you will pick up the bowl and go back to the room where you have all gathered and you will wait.

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