Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Woman, Behold Your Son. Son, Behold Your Mother."

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.

I was surprised when I first learned that our word atonement is simply the combination “at-one-ment.” We tend to think of atonement as something God does with us or Jesus does for us or the Holy Spirit does inside us to join us to God. But these words of Jesus to his mother Mary, “Woman, behold your son,” and to his beloved disciple, “Son, behold your mother,” suggests the at-oneing is among us as well.

“Isn’t that nice that Jesus would provide for his mother in this way,” we might think. But what if we’re taking the story only at face value, a literal reading?

What if the intention of the story is to open our eyes that every woman should be valued as our mother and that every man should be cared for as the beloved disciple? What if the hope of the story is that we create family outside familiar criteria?

“Behold,” Jesus says, “behold!”

Behold the grieving mother. Behold the starving girl. Behold the sexually assaulted female. Behold the woman awaiting execution. Behold a female fetus about to be aborted for being the “wrong” gender. Imagine women in all kinds of suffering and imagine Jesus saying to us, “Child, behold your mother.”

Behold the abandoned son. Behold the uneducated boy. Behold the adolescent male in poverty. Behold the man being tortured. Behold the man unjustly imprisoned. Imagine men in all kinds of suffering and imagine Jesus saying to us, “Mother, behold your son.”

It’s not so far-fetched when we remember Jesus’ parable of final reckoning, “As much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it so to me.”

The spiritual life for Christians is about stretching our imaginations, wrapping our minds around the “new thing” that God is doing, opening our hearts to share our common wealth, seeing others as if for the first time, living “as if” Jesus is in charge.

Our spirituality is sterile if it’s just “me and Jesus” or just “me and God.” Spirituality becomes fertile if it’s “me and everyone and everything else.” Spiritual growth is possible only as our spirit expands to include all there is. Yes, we may focus, but we can’t forget that every body and every thing carries its own sacred value.

“Behold,” Jesus says, “behold!”

Yes, we may gaze at the cross and contemplate Jesus’ passion, but we may also look around at one another with his compassion. That too is at-one-ment.


For those who would like daily readings for this week of Lent, click here and scroll down to the end of “My Loneliness Led Me to God.”

Thanks be to God for the life, writings, ministry, and friendship of Malcolm Boyd. Our prayers are with his partner, Mark Thompson. Malcolm still runs with Jesus!
A post about Malcolm: Everybody Has a Story

Think about it:

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.

When leaving a comment on this blog, a URL is requested but not required to submit your response.

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, February 25, 2015

"Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise"

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.

“Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom,” sings the TaizĂ© chant. I often sing it as I drive to events in which this introvert is called upon to be an extrovert, this writer expected to speak or lead or counsel. It calms me, but it also reminds me who and what my work is all about. I believe I’m better at “selling” Jesus than myself. And God knows I have more inspiration to do so.

Of course “Jesus, remember me etc.” are the words of the “good” criminal who challenges the one who mocks Jesus as all three are crucified together. Jesus responds, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” What a comfort to hear this straight from Jesus!

But none of us have to be on a cross to hear these words. We could just be having a bad day. We could even be having a good day. Paradise is available in the here and now, not just the sky by and by.

“I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me,” the writer of Revelation  hears Jesus saying. This is a mystic’s vision. This was also the experience of everyday disciples on the road to Emmaus after the crucifixion.

Theologian Karl Rahner famously said that the Christian of the future will need to be a mystic. Being a mystic, then, is not “above our pay grade.”

To see beyond Jesus’ suffering, just as to see beyond our own, a hopeful vision is required. For the early Christians, that hopeful vision was to view Jesus’ sacrifice replacing the need for animal sacrifice, just as child sacrifice was replaced by animal sacrifice in the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Though these visions may not inspire us today, both could be considered theological advances of their eras. I explained this in detail in Coming Out as Sacrament. I also explained that both Roman and Jewish legal cultures of Jesus’ time expected a transgressor to offer some kind of expiation or sacrifice to make things right. This is the context for the understanding that Jesus served as that expiation.

Julian of Norwich believed that sin and evil had no “essence,” and that, rather than blaming us for sin, God pitied us for the pain it causes us.

Several times on this blog I’ve mentioned the crucifixion arousing in us that which at-ones us with God: compassion. Reading Julian I realize that the cross is equally an emblem of God’s compassion.

Contemplating a crucifix, she observes, “Thus I saw how Christ has compassion for us because of sin.” Translator Father John-Julian paraphrases Julian, “Christ en-joys the Passion, that is, submerges it in and converts it into joy.”

The cross represents a God who is sacrificially forgiving in reconciling the world.

Last week this blog reflected on Jesus’ first words from the cross, according to tradition, “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

In the case of the one crucified alongside Jesus asking to be remembered, Jesus goes beyond forgiveness to welcome him into his kingdom. That can happen for each of us in this moment. And how differently we will live, now that we are in paradise.



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

I will be speaking this coming Sunday, Mar. 1, at the Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church 11 a.m. service in Dahlonega, GA, followed by a free workshop on the mystic Evelyn Underhill, “Becoming What We Behold.”

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.

When leaving a comment on this blog, a URL is requested but not required to submit your response.

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, February 18, 2015

"Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do"

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.

Most of the people who do us wrong or hurt us or diminish us have no idea.

Leaders take us to war. Legislators fail to protect our rights or reduce support for needed programs. Churches exclude many of us. Strangers do not welcome us. The “powers that be” frequently benefit the rich, the privileged, the powerful, the “in-crowd,” the beautiful, the popular, even the unjust and infamous—the few rather than the many. Families and friends sometimes disappoint us or hurt us unknowingly. Colleagues and co-workers may overlook our good work or decent efforts. Competitiveness rules, rather than collegiality, collaboration, cooperation, and compromise.

And then there are all those intentional slights and “slings and arrows.”

Forgiveness is central to spiritual progress. To do other than forgive is spiritually crippling. Failing or refusing to forgive means being stuck on a cross, a permanent “martyr.”

Jesus saw that, I believe. He knew forgiveness was key to spiritual advancement. Resurrection only comes when we let go of all that holds us back, that keeps us down, that prevents us rising.

“Forgive seventy times seven” was perhaps Jesus’ single most helpful spiritual guidance. The prayer he taught his disciples implied that the forgiveness we offer is the forgiveness we get, whether debts, trespasses, or sins. Think older brother as well as prodigal son. Think unforgiving forgiven servant. Think turning the other cheek or going the extra mile.

Jesus taught that if, when offering our gift at the altar, we remember wronging someone, to leave the gift and first be reconciled. The mirror experience of that also seems true, that, when offering our gift, we remember someone wronging us, first forgive. Maybe that’s part of what’s behind that saying in second Corinthians, “God loves a cheerful giver.” How can we be cheerful when we don’t forgive?

From the cross: Jesus forgave the Roman Empire, and within four centuries, it embraced him. Jesus forgave Peter his denial, and Peter proclaimed his gospel, not only to fellow Jews but to Gentiles. Jesus forgave his disciples for abandoning him, and they told his stories. If religious leaders did in fact play a role in his execution at the hands of Rome, Jesus forgave them too. Jesus also forgave Judas, who repented but could not accept forgiveness.

Jesus healed the devastating paralysis, the unyielding blindness, the disfiguring leprosy, the debilitating fever of lacking mercy. And he healed it with grace.


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

Thanks be to God for the life, music, humor, and friendship of Ed McGee, for years our music leader and party organizer for the annual Kirkridge men’s retreat.

Posts relevant to Black History Month (U.S.):

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!

As we begin this blog’s fifth 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 this year, 2015.

When leaving a comment on this blog, a URL is requested but not required to submit your response.

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, February 11, 2015

"Nothing Soft about the Quest for a Significant Life"

Why I Write This Blog

As we enter this blog’s fifth 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 this year, 2015.

On this week’s fourth anniversary of the beginning of Progressive Christian Reflections, I am reminded that motivations are myriad for doing anything. “What’s my motivation?” actors ask to play a given scene, as if a single motivation suffices for any human action. We are more complex than that! (Read Dostoyevsky!) The reasons I’ve given in the past for writing these reflections still apply, but every week, actually every day, I find new reasons.

Today’s reason is being stunned and stumped by a cover essay in a recent New York Times Book Review entitled “Among the Disrupted” by Leon Wieseltier, a contributing editor for The Atlantic and recently resigned literary editor of The New Republic, which was “disrupted” by a new boss wanting to go digital.

I am stunned by insights I agree with and stumped by things in it I don’t quite understand. I have read it multiple times, each time underlining phrases and sentences that give me an “aha” moment or that I need to puzzle over. If I read it many more times, the whole essay will be underlined. (I can’t read without a pen in hand, btw!) It stirred controversy, judging by letters in response and an article in the Observer.

If I had to summarize it in 25 words or less, it’s about our contemporary confusion of technology with meaning. As the author suggests, “The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.”

Ridiculing “transhumanism,” the notion that computers and the internet “will carry us magnificently beyond our humanity” overcoming distinctions “between human and machine,” Wieseltier instead questions if we are just having another wave of posthumanism: 
The notion that the nonmaterial dimensions of life must be explained in terms of the material dimensions, and that nonscientific understandings must be translated into scientific understandings if they are to qualify as knowledge, is increasingly popular inside and outside the university, where the humanities are disparaged as soft and impractical and insufficiently new. 
The recently passed Charles Townes, the Nobel laureate physicist behind the maser and laser who was also awarded the 2005 Templeton Prize for contributing to our understanding of spirituality, “saw science and religion as compatible, saying there was little difference between a scientific revelation, like his maser brainstorm, and a religious one,” according to The New York Times. Quoting from a 1966 essay: 
Understanding the order of the universe and understanding the purpose in the universe are not identical, but they are not very far apart. 
The parallel in my field are those who study, research, and teach religion “objectively” outside any personal faith. We need such “engineers,” as long as we take what they say with a grain of salt, which, as I mentioned quoting Colossians a few weeks ago, means with “spiritual understanding.” Early Christian catechumens were taught the meaning of baptism and the Eucharist only after they had received those sacraments, because it was believed they could not comprehend what they had not first experienced. Spiritual understanding is an inside job.

Wieseltier asserts, “Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different.”

We live in an internet world “in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability. … Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements.”

Wieseltier’s solution is to “regard the devices as simply new means for old ends. … The new order will not relieve us of the old burdens, and the old pleasures, of erudition and interpretation. … Never mind the platforms. Our solemn responsibility is for the substance.”

His answer is a welcome of humanism and the humanities, concluding, “There is nothing soft about the quest for a significant life.”

I would add a welcome of spirituality and religion, also because there is nothing soft about a quest for a significant life.

Entertaining these concepts and welcoming this conversation are additional reasons I write this blog.



An early post describing initial reasons for writing this blog:

Consider visiting the first three blog posts:

Click below for listing of my posts on these additional sites (I am not paid for these, btw.):


The seven most visited posts on this blog:
(Numbers do not include subscribers and followers, currently nearly 500.)


When leaving a comment on this blog, a URL is requested by not required.

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.

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