Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit"

Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You have been invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week. This is the final installment of the series.

As I read again the words surrounding this final exclamation from Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, I am struck with awe. “The sun’s light failed…darkness came over the whole land from noon to three…Jesus crying with a loud voice…he breathed his last… ‘surely this man was righteous’ praised the Roman centurion…the crowds returned home beating their breasts…the women remained watching from a distance.”

Executions are horrible scenes. And witnessing a person we dearly love pass the edge of life can feel like falling off a cliff ourselves.

The traditional final words of Jesus were the words that inspired his whole life. That seventh saying of Jesus on the cross, with its seven words, another quotation from the liturgy, the psalms, expresses trust—“into your hands,” purpose—“I commit,” and offering—“my spirit.” This is the beginning and conclusion of every prayer, every just act, every compassionate act, whether we say it or not:

“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

It’s a recognition of something greater than us, greater than our needs for survival, reputation, and power—the very temptations Jesus faced in his forty day fast after his baptism, the period Lent commemorates.

It’s an affirmation that we live for meaning, communion, and compassion. A spirituality that doesn’t provide these three elements leaves us wandering in the wilderness.

A God who offers these values is worthy of our trust, our life’s purpose, and daily offering of our spirits. In other words, our faith, hope, and love.

“Into your hands I commit my spirit” is not just a transitional affirmation, it is a transformational affirmation.

This is not a once-in-a-lifetime conversion but a daily lifting of the cross of those who suffer personally, politically, economically, environmentally, and spiritually.

The Greek word pneuma is used for both spirit and breath.  Only recently has it been pointed out to me that in Matthew’s version of Jesus “breathing his last,” the word is not possessive, as in “gives up his spirit.” Rather, Jesus “releases the Spirit,” indicating an immediate Pentecost, manifested in Matthew by the tearing of the curtain veiling the temple’s holy of holies, earthquakes, the opening of tombs, and the resurrection of some saints.

The Greek word translated “release” can also mean “forgive,” as in being released from debt. Jesus’ first words from the cross, “Forgive them,” is now incarnated in his final action.

As in many a horrific event, there is more meaning in the crucifixion than meets the eye for those with faith, hope, and love.



For those who would like daily readings for the remaining days of Holy Week, click here and scroll down to the end of “Jesus Preaches in the Temple.”

Enter “Easter” in the search box on the blog’s upper left corner for additional readings for Easter. Here are three of them:



Please support this blog ministry by clicking here or mailing to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232 USA, designating “Progressive Christian Reflections” in the memo area of your check or money order. Thank you!

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by readers’ donations. It is an authorized Emerging Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination welcoming seekers as well as believers. This year, I offer a signed gift copy of my book, Communion of Life: Meditations for the New Millennium, to each one who donates $100 or more (at once or in installments) over the course of 2015.

Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"It Is Finished"

Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You are invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week.

Not to demean the abject nature of Jesus’ final words, according to John—but how nice to be able to say, “It is finished.”

I have often written that, in the spiritual life, there is no finish line. And that believing you’re done or that you’ve arrived is spiritually dangerous. Lillian Hellman’s memoir title, An Unfinished Woman, is more realistic. (Though given the way Hellman apparently tended to fictionalize her own life, she may have been referring to a future version of her life events!)

Personally I fantasize about being able to say “I’m done” and go off to lie on a beach of a tropical island with a full library and an open bar.

You might say, “in your dreams!” but even my dreams will not let me rest in peace. In one speech I gave during what author and friend Mary Ann Woodruff has humorously christened my “legacy tour,” I said: 
If my dreams are any indication, I have much unfinished business with the church as well as with my colleagues in the LGBT movement; also with the organizations and congregations I have served. I’m hoping this opportunity to talk about the meaning of the movement might be an occasion to exorcise some of the demons and heal some of the wounds inflicted by the friction between what I consider a movement of the Holy Spirit—perhaps even an uprising of the Holy Spirit—and the inertia inherent in any longstanding institution, such as the church. 
More than sixty longtime Presbyterian catalysts of change on LGBT inclusion will gather next month at Stony Point, New York, to compare such notes at “Rock Stars and Prophets” following the recent denominational approval of same-gender marriage.

In recent months I have revisited almost every significant venue of my “uncommon calling” in my dreams. Sometimes I am welcomed back with grace and gratitude, more often with reservations and resistance. I’ve also revisited every place I’ve lived and all my significant relationships with people, partners, and relatives—again, with mixed results. It reminds me of those cartoon images of a character’s life passing before his/her eyes while falling off a cliff. I’m not dying, at least not in any way we aren’t all “dying.” I’m aging, and looking back on a life sometimes well-lived and sometimes not so well-lived. Many of you either share that experience or will share that experience.

If we can claim Jesus as a “Christian,” which may be a stretch, he was the first Christian interim or transitional minister. In three short years he revolutionized the way we view power, privilege, tradition, government, religion, spirituality, ourselves, and God. In the Gospels’ telling of the story, he lived and breathed and taught the common spiritual wealth we have from God. But he also sacrificed for it: he risked his well-being, his family, his religion, his very life, and he did so with grace, forgiveness, generosity, resistance, and love—above all else, love.

And that love has never finished.



For those who would like daily readings for this week of Lent, click here and scroll down to the end of “The Double Feature.”

My book, The Final Deadline: What Death Has Taught Me about Life was mentioned in a current column by Kay Campbell.

Please support this blog ministry by clicking here or mailing to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232 USA, designating “Progressive Christian Reflections” in the memo area of your check or money order. Thank you!

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by readers’ donations. It is an authorized Emerging Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination welcoming seekers as well as believers. This year, I offer a signed gift copy of my book, Communion of Life: Meditations for the New Millennium, to each one who donates $100 or more (at once or in installments) over the course of 2015.

Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"I Thirst"

Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You are invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week.

When we carry bottles of water with us everywhere, run water from the tap to rinse a dish, or make a cup of coffee or tea, it’s a challenge to wrap our minds around a concept of thirst. Obviously I am speaking to the minority of the world’s population, for whom such conveniences are commonplace, the most probable readers of this blog. Maybe our “contemplation” of thirst will prompt our action environmentally and politically on behalf of those with limited access to unpolluted water. “Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” will be rewarded, Jesus said.

Forty years in the wilderness seeking the Promised Land or forty days in the wilderness discerning the Commonwealth of God would have made thirst a frequent companion.

The Hebrews complained to Moses, Moses kvetched to God, and water was provided from solid rock. In his hunger, Jesus was tempted to turn rocks into bread, and responded that we don’t live by bread alone, but by God’s word to us.

But what was his temptation when thirsty?  Are we missing a fourth temptation? A convenient oasis, perhaps, or rain, if only he would bow to “the powers that be”?

Did Jesus long for the plentiful waters of his baptism, which had initiated this trek into the wild? We too know what it’s like for our baptism to wear thin in the real world.

How would Jesus have answered? Maybe quoting Yahweh from Isaiah 55? “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters… For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish what I purpose.”

Or his own beatitude in Matthew 5? “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be filled.” Or, “happy are those who hunger and thirst for saving justice, they shall be satisfied.”

Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for water, and offered her “living water,” which is water from a stream moving beneath the surface of the ground, thus living, and of course also implies something deeper than earthly needs.

Jesus’ supplication “I thirst” was true on the surface, the well-being of his body, but maybe was more, a confession of his spirit, like that of the Psalmist: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?”

The writer of this psalm (42-43) was prevented from going to the house of God and laments, “As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’ … Why must I walk around mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy?” In his ministry and on the cross, Jesus endured wounds that went deeper than Roman torture and execution.

Every day in the paper and on the news, in our neighborhoods and in our cities, we witness those who thirst physically, spiritually, grieving oppression, prevented from entering houses of God.

“I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”



For those who would like daily readings for this week of Lent, click here and scroll down to the end of “A Single Unified Force.”

Please support this blog ministry by clicking here or mailing to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232 USA, designating “Progressive Christian Reflections” in the memo area of your check or money order. Thank you! This year, I offer a signed gift copy of my book, Communion of Life: Meditations for the New Millennium, to each one who donates $100 or more (at once or in installments) over the course of 2015.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by readers’ donations. It is an authorized Emerging Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination welcoming seekers as well as believers.

Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?"

Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You are invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week.

A misrendering of Jesus’ quote from Psalm 22 unveils for me the deeper theological nature of this question. One list of Jesus’ last words renders this “My God, my God, have you forsaken me?” which is very different from asking why God has forsaken him. “Have you forsaken me?” might merely suggest doubt in God’s presence. To ask why implies an awareness of God’s absence and a desire for a rationale. The plaintive tone in the repetition “my God, my God” suggests existential, spiritual dread.

One traditional answer is that Jesus bore our sins on the cross. If that is so, one could imagine Jesus so disfigured by sin that he is unrecognizable or unwelcome even to God. This is such a simplistic plot that it could serve a dramatic episode on TV, like a parent who fails to recognize her or his child after a tragic accident or a drug addiction. But surely we think more of God than that! The women disciples gathered at the cross still recognized their rabbi and were the first to “welcome” him off that cross.

Rather, it suggests to me the necessity of God’s absence to experience God’s presence. There is much in the spiritual tradition to suggest a “dark night of the soul” for many we now regard as mystics. And biblically, the empty wildernesses of the ancient Hebrews and of Jesus’ temptations proved opportune for discerning their spirituality. In Jesus’ case, he discerned that his survival, his credibility, and his power could only come from God. These were the same lessons learned by his Hebrew ancestors.

Much of our lives are given over to things from which God seems absent, which makes our intentional prayer lives potentially rich with God’s presence. And the deeper our prayer lives, the more noticeable God’s presence in everyday, ordinary things, even our suffering.

But I would say also that, the deeper our prayer lives, the more noticeable God’s absence may be in religious, even spiritual things, including our prayer times, especially when facing trials and temptation.

The psalm Jesus quotes cannot be said to end happily, but it does end hopefully, and I’ve heard preachers suggest that’s why Jesus quotes it, expressing hope in past deliverance, and ultimately expecting, if not rescue, at least that the psalmist and Jesus may prove a witness to future generations.

That may very well be, but I think such a resolution detracts from the immediate and overwhelming terror and anguish in Jesus’ outcry.



For those who would like daily readings for this week of Lent, click here and scroll down to the end of “Bill Maher’s Fundamentalism.”

Please support this blog ministry by clicking here or mailing to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232 USA, designating “Progressive Christian Reflections” in the memo area of your check or money order. Thank you! This year, I offer a signed gift copy of my book, Communion of Life: Meditations for the New Millennium, to each one who donates $100 or more (at once or in installments) over the course of 2015.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by readers’ donations. It is an authorized Emerging Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination welcoming seekers as well as believers.

Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.