Lent 4B: Trading Snake Stories

bronze-snakeOLD TESTAMENT: Numbers 21: 4-9

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

This is truly one of the oddest passages in the Scripture. It’s probable that the only reason that it even shows up in our lectionary is because this week’s Gospel passage actually refers to it. Here we find the people of Israel in the wilderness. They have been delivered from their captivity and, once again, as they’ve done before, they are complaining, “murmuring” about how bad they have it. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt,” they cry to Moses, “to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water and we hate this miserable food that we do have.” (So, apparently, it wasn’t that they didn’t HAVE food; they just didn’t have what they wanted!) Now if you remember a similar occasion in the Book of Exodus, God hears the complaints of the people and rains down manna upon them.

But this time, God sends poisonous snakes. The Hebrew word is seraph, which could also be translated as fiery serpents or winged serpents. Whatever they are, I don’t think it’s a good thing, particularly when they are surrounding you and biting you. The serpents bite the people and many of the people die. So, the people come to Moses, full of remorse for complaining and they beg him to pray to God to make the snakes go away, as if Moses is some sort of divine snake handler. But in a curious, and certainly unexpected, move, God does not take the serpents away. Instead God sends a strange remedy. God tells Moses to make an image of a snake. Moses makes one out of bronze and, following the divine instructions, sets it on a pole. And, just as God told Moses, whenever a serpent would bite someone, that person could look at the bronze serpent and live.

Think about it, though. From the very beginning of Creation, the snake has slithered on its belly and eaten only dust without a word of complaint. What better character to rule over the people when they complain about the choice of food? The snake comes to teach humility and patience. Snakes demand our full attention. And in response to the plague of snakes, God gives the people a snake. It is a way of teaching them to look at their fears, to look at themselves, to look at those things that get in the way of life. It is a sight that brings fear and loathing and one that is truly hard to find God’s presence in it. This is a creature that has resigned itself to full surrender.

This is very interesting. God sends snakes to combat snakes; God does not destroy the snake as evil; instead God recreates the image of the snake. And centuries later…Jesus’ death is recreated into something that conquers our own and our lives are recreated into something that lasts for eternity. Snakes for snakes, death for death, life for life—it is a paradox.


The ancient rabbis equated both the primordial serpent and Satan himself with a force known as the “yetzer ha-ra.” This Hebrew expression is often translated as “the evil urge,” but this translation is dangerously misleading. According to the Jewish understanding, the good Lord implanted into every human being this yetzer ha-ra, a drive that combines features of ambition, greed and desire.

There is a myth found in the Talmud that relates how the Jewish sages, shortly after the Babylonian Captivity, were determined to put an end to this threat [of this adversary depicted as the serpent]. Encouraged by their recent success at eradicating the “urge” to worship idols (an urge that had been such a constant stumbling-block to earlier generations, but which no longer held any appreciable attraction to the Jews of their time), –these sages now felt (understandably) that they were “on a roll.” So they decided to seize the opportunity to capture and destroy the “yetzer ha-ra” itself. And they were successful. They caught the beast and bound it in chains, eagerly awaiting the moment when they would remove it from the world for all time. But soon strange reports started arriving: Nobody was showing up at work anymore. No one wanted to marry or raise families. The chickens were not laying eggs! Life had all but stopped.

Now these sages came to the realization that they had misunderstood the nature of this “evil urge.” For the drives represented in that faculty are essential for the proper functioning of humanity as God planned us to live our lives. The urge is not “evil” in any absolute sense, but only when it is allowed to trespass beyond its legitimate domain… [For instance], ambition can be an admirable quality when it is channeled towards spiritual creativity and service of humanity, but is a fiery scourge when it is twisted into unrestricted covetousness. It was this failure to set limits to the “yetzer ha-ra” that was represented by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This made the serpent a suitable instrument of divine punishment–but also of healing. The conclusion from all this is that our role as humans is not to eliminate the “serpent,” the yetzer ha-ra, but to keep it under control and direct it to a productive course. Jews believe that this is best done by following the values and way of life set down in the Torah. (Excerpt from “Brazen Serpents”, a sermon available at http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/Preaching/S970309_Serpent.html.)


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What do you think of the characterization of the snakes as humble and patient?
  3. So what is the snake on the pole supposed to do for us?
  4. So what does the midrash story mean for you? Do you think there is an “evil” in your life?
  5. So what, for you, does this say about the power of God in the world? In one’s life?



NEW TESTAMENT: Ephesians 2: 1-10

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

This is a typical “Reformation” passage. The author starts with a “before”. The three “before” characters are sin, Satan (the “power of the air”), and self. (The power of the air is a Greek reference. The Greeks believed that there was a space between the moon and the earth that was dominated by demonic activity. It’s just a way of thinking through the theology within their own understanding. Verse 4 begins the “after “ position. “But God who is rich in mercy…” The before, semi-dead state was never the way that we were supposed to be. We were made for greater things. God brings transformation through Christ.

The emphasis here is the shift from “before” to “after”; in other words, transformation. The agent of the change is God. We are playing a part in the change. This Scripture is a central tenet of the Christian faith. The writer emphasizes that we are saved by faith. But it is not an empty do-nothing faith. Good works, rather than being frantic acts to achieve a heavenly residence, are not transformed into the way we are supposed to live. They become the expressions of God in the world.

BUT the writer of this letter (who is more than likely not the Apostle Paul but rather a later follower or disciple of Paul’s) seems to be really focused on continuing this separation between this world and God, between the “sinful” world and God’s promise of grace and life. Paul had introduced the notion of being justified by grace through faith, the notion that God was a redemptive God, that it was a process by which we traversed the experience of this world and along the way encountered God. BUT, here, that word “saved” appears, as if it’s past tense, as if it is some badge of honor that we earn and wear as we continue to be forced to live in this sin-filled world in which we live. Somewhere along the way eschatology became realized, “already”, rather than something to which we look and live into.

Now keep in mind that this letter was probably written in the late first century. Jesus had come, died on the cross, and the Resurrection on which everything that is “Christian” is based had happened. And Jesus had promised to return. That had been imminent for Paul. BUT that hadn’t happened yet. The first century Christian followers (it still wasn’t “Christianity”, per se, the way we think of it today) were wondering if perhaps they had misunderstood, perhaps they had gotten the whole thing wrong. So the emphasis for the writer of Ephesians (as well as others), was a notion of echatology that had already happened, an emphasis on the crowned Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. And for those of us who are still mired in the throes of worldly evil and worldly despairs, there became a separation, a dualism that was put into place that pretty much exists even today. So many of us live in this world, burdened by sin, and hope against hope that God will swoop in and save us.

Really? Is that it? What happened to “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, BUT in order that the world might be saved through him.“? (But…but…but) God’s vision of the Kingdom of God is not to shun the world or even to rid us of all things worldly. God’s vision of the Kingdom of God is to recreate the world into what it is called to be–BUT the whole world, not the ones who follow the rules or the ones who are “good”, but everyone. So in this life of faith, we do not magically crossover to being “saved” from being “unsaved” and then sit back and wait for God to pluck us out of our miserable existence. Rather, we yield to new meanings and new circumstances as God recreates our lives into Life and brings about the fullness of the Kingdom of God throughout this wonderful created world in which we live.

That’s what Lent is about–new meanings and new circumstances. Maybe it’s about dropping the “but” in life. God created the life that each of us has. Why would God call us to leave it behind? Rather God is recreating it as we speak, bringing it into being, into the image that God envisions for it. You know, if we look at things with the eyes of a world where God is not, a world that waits for God to return, there is always a “but”; BUT if we look at all of Creation with the eyes of faith, with the eyes of those who believe in a God who came into our midst to show us how much we are loved, everything has an AND.


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What meaning does this “before” and “after” hold for you? Does that sound to much like an “event” of conversion, rather than a process?
  3. What does being “saved by faith” really mean for you?
  4. How would you describe faith?



GOSPEL: John 3: 14-21

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

Well, obviously, this passage begins with the reference to our snake story. This is followed by one of the most well-known passages. Scripture proclaims that God’s extravagant love for the world is a self-giving act of grace. But are God’s love for the world and God’s giving of the incarnate, crucified, resurrected Son limited to the part of the world that believes what God has done? John’s Gospel assures us that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

This Scripture begins at the last part of what is actually a response to a misunderstanding by Nicodemus. Jesus predicts the Passion, drawing on what would have been a familiar passage as an analogy. There are parallels between the two—“look at the serpent and live” and “believe in the Son of Man and live eternally”. There is also the familiar light / darkness language. To love darkness rather than light is disobedience. In this season of Lent, we consider our disobedience, our “dark” living. If, then, believing is the same as obedience, do we really believe?

The third verse of this passage, though, is, of course, the “elephant in the room”, so to speak. It’s on street corners and marquis, T-Shirts, football helmets, and sometimes painted on faces at sporting events. It is often taken as the quintessential “insider” verse, the badge of honor for the believing Christian. It is often interpreted as “God came; God came to save me and the rest of you are on your own.” But keep in mind that this Gospel was written later than the others. To be a follower of Christ, a person of The Way, was just downright hard. You were NOT an insider. You were part of a fledgling and sometimes persecuted minority that was just trying to hold it together. So, these words would have been words of encouragement, words of strength, a way of defining who they were as a Jewish minority. It was a way of reminding them why they were walking this difficult (and sometimes dangerous) path—because of the great Love of God. But in the hands of the 21st century Christian majority in our society, they become weapons. They turn into words of exclusion, designating who is “in” and who is “out”. Well, first of all, nowhere in the Gospel are we the ones called to make that determination. And secondly, look at the whole context of this Gospel by the writer known as John. It starts out with Creation. It talks about this great Love that is God. And it proclaims that God came into the world to save the world. So how did we interpret this that God had quit loving some of us?

The Truth (that’s with a capital T) reminds us that God offers us Life, that God, in effect, DID come into the world to save us—mostly, I would offer, from ourselves, from our misdirected greed, our disproportionately selfish ambition, and from our basic desires to be something other than the one who God has called us to be. God desires this for everyone. God really does want to save the world from the world. And so the Kingdom of God seems to us to sometimes be inching (or perhaps slithering!) in rather than pervading our world. I think that the world DOES need to somehow be moved to believe, DOES need to somehow begin to see itself anew. But that will never happen if the cross is raised as a weapon. SURELY, we get that it’s something other than that! Remember, God redeemed it. God took something so loathsome, so foreboding, so, for want of a better word, evil and turned it into Life. God is doing the same for the world. God loves the world so incredibly much that God would never leave us to our own devices (or even, thankfully, to those of who count ourselves as well-meaning believers!). Instead, God comes into the world and offers us life; indeed, loves us so much that God offers us recreation, redemption, and renewal. Don’t you think THAT’S the story? It’s not about who’s in or who’s out. It’s about Love. It’s a promise that there’s always more to the story than what we can see or fathom or paint on a sign. To say that we believe does not qualify us for membership; it leads us to The Way of Life.


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. How does this Scripture speak to you?
  3. How is this Scripture misused?
  4. Does the story that we read from the Old Testament shed (no pun intended!) any new light on the meaning of the Cross for you?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


There was, indeed, something I had missed about Christianity, and now all of a sudden I could see what it was. It was the Resurrection! How could I have been a church historian and a person of prayer who loved God and still not known that the most fundamental Christian reality is not the suffering of the cross but the life it brings?….The foundation of the universe for which God made us, to which God draws us, and in which God keeps us is not death but joy. (Roberta Bondi)


Surrender does not simply mean that I quit grieving what I do not have. It means that I surrender to new meanings and new circumstances, that I begin to think differently and to live somewhere that it totally elsewhere…Surrender is the crossover point of life. It distinguished who I was from who I have become. (Joan Chittister, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, p. 58-59)


It is well know that Christ consistently used the expression “follower.” He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for…Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. (Soren Kierkegaard, in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, p. 55-56)




The way to Jerusalem is cluttered with bits and pieces of our lives that fly up and cry out, wounding us as we try to keep upon this path that leads to Life.


Why didn’t somebody tell us that it would be so hard?


In the midst of the clutter, the children laugh and run after stars. Those of us who are wise will follow, for the children will be the first to kneel in Jerusalem.



(“The Way to Jerusalem is Cluttered”, from Kneeling in Jerusalem, by Ann Weems, p. 42)

Proper 11A: Climbing to the Edge


"Jacob's Dream", Adam Elsheimer, 1600
“Jacob’s Dream”, Adam Elsheimer, 1600

OLD TESTAMENT:  Genesis 28: 10-19a

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

This Old Testament text stands as one of the pillars of the Jacob story.  God transmits to him the ancestral promises, fulfilling the promise made to his father.  This is the first time that Jacob appears by himself, representing a new beginning for the larger story as well as for Jacob himself. Jacob has fled from his troubled family and the wrath of his brother, Esau.  In a way, he is also running away from himself and his own consequences.  And at his most vulnerable, God appears to him, not in judgment, but to confirm Jacob as the one who is chosen to carry on the promise.  He dreams that a ladder, or more than likely a stairway or ramp, extends from earth to heaven.  The Hebrew word is sullam, which is from the same root as “to cast up”, and so a ramp or a stairway probably makes more sense.

This stairway or ramp could be compared with those attached to temple towers throughout the ancient Near East, such as the Mesopotamian ziggurats.  These were land masses formed into temples through which it was believed the earth could touch heaven, the dwelling place of the gods.  Such structures provided an avenue of approach from the human sphere to the divine realm.  Priests or divine beings traversed up and down the stairway, providing communication between the two realms.  What this said was that earth was not merely left to its own devices and that heaven is not a remote self-contained realm for the gods.  The two are intertwined, a part of one another.

But the importance here is not the presence of these divine beings—they serve only to depict the connection between the two realms.  More importantly, Yahweh, the Lord, stands beside Jacob and speaks directly to him.  Upon awakening, Jacob realizes the importance of his dream and he proceeds to interpret its significance.  He recognizes that he has some new idea of who God is.  Jacob takes God’s promises and claims them as part of who he is. He anoints the stone as a pillar, bringing sacredness to that which is holy.

A.W. Tozer said that “the patriarch Jacob…saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.”  Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence.  But he knew it not.  That was his trouble, and it is ours.  [Persons] do not know that God is here.  What a difference it would make if they knew.”

Some of the Jewish midrash suggests that the ladder is intended to represent humanity.  Like the ladder, each of us is firmly planted on earth.  But deep within us is the capability of “reaching upward” (figuratively), doing God’s will, and becoming the one that God created us to be.  This rhythm of ascent and descent, ascent and descent throughout our lives is what allows us to search ourselves and connect with God.

John Wesley made the claim, along the same vein, that Christ is the ladder, with a foot on earth in his human nature and the top in heaven just as Christ was divine.  “A ladder stood on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.”

It is not that Jacob had no sense of God.  After all, the idea of YHWH, the God of Creation and calling had been drilled into his family from even before his Grandfather Abraham.  God was a part of his life.  But Jacob’s theophany, the full revealing of God to him, had to occur outside and away from what he knew.  And, finally, Jacob embraced God not just as the God of Abraham, but the God of Jacob, the God who rather than having merely a general relationship with Creation, chooses to relate intimately to each and everyone of God’s children.  Jacob’s eyes are opened to a wider vision of God than he possibly could have imagined before.  It was not in this specific place that Jacob encountered God; it was, rather, here that Jacob realized that God had been there all along.  In fact, Jacob doesn’t even have to climb the ladder.  He encounters God without DOING anything.  It was here that he probably realized all that he’d been missing.  Maybe that’s the point.  Maybe there’s nothing that we have to DO except see what we’ve been missing all along. 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What image of God does this story create for you?
  3. What, like Tozer said, keeps us from realizing that all-pervading Presence that is God in our lives?
  4. If we all have the capability of “reaching upward”, as the midrash contends, what keeps us from doing that?
  5. When do we most realize that God has been there all along? 


NEW TESTAMENT:  Romans 8: 12-25

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

This section of the epistle to the Romans offers a celebratory declaration of present Christian existence, rooted in God’s past action in Jesus Christ, assured of God’s future action for Christ’s people and for the whole world, and sustained in the present by the Spirit.  It is essentially the conclusion of Paul’s argument for Christian assurance, for the belief that those whom God justified, God also glorified.

Put very simply, Paul is contrasting two ways of living—the way that we are tempted to live in this world and the way that God calls us to live.  He plays with notions of slavery and freedom—slavery to the perils of this world or freedom in God through Christ.  Slavery meant fear.  Slavery meant having no rights of inheritance, no birthright.  Slavery means no hope.  Freedom, then, means to belong to a family and to have the rights to an inheritance.  We have been adopted by Christ and will share in the inheritance that God provides.

When we believe in God, we realize that we are children of God.  But this also means that we suffer with Christ.  But this, too, is part of God’s promise of the renewal of all of Creation.  It is a hope that we cannot see on our own but are rather empowered to see through the Spirit of God.  Here, there’s more to being a Christian than just knowing the right stuff and doing the right things.  To be Christian, you must open yourself up and invite God’s Spirit to enter your life.  It is not enough to be “spiritual and not religious” no matter how in vogue it may be today.  Inviting God’s spirit to enter one’s life, becoming heirs of God’s Spirit, inheriting this Spirit of Pentecost, if you will, is the way that you will be glorified through Christ in God.  It’s that simple.

In an excerpt from a sermon entitled “Are You Saved”, Amy Miracle (how cool would that be to be Reverend Miracle?) says:

Frederick Buechner put it this way: “No matter who you are and what you’ve done, God wants you on his side. There is nothing you have to do or be. It’s on the house. It goes with the territory.”

That is the claim of scripture and the claim of the Christian tradition but we never seem to believe it. Surely there must be a catch, some book I need to read, some technique of prayer you need to master. There must be some minimum standard. How could salvation be available to absolutely everyone?

In her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes, “when I was six or seven years old … I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find… For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street…. Then I would take a piece of chalk and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passerby who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe.”

Salvation is like that. And the death and resurrection of Jesus is the arrow that points the way to this free gift. The very fact that salvation is free might be a problem. (From “Are You Saved?, by Rev. Amy Miracle, available at http://covenantnetwork.org/sermon&papers/miracle-04.html, accessed 11 July, 2011)

As the passage says, the “whole of Creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.”  Boy, you’re not kidding!  War, hunger, homelessness, elitism, sexism, racism…pick your “ism”…and an American Congress that thinks it’s more patriotic to insist on one’s own way than to do what would be best for most of the American people and a good part of the world.  But change can be painful.  That’s what Paul was trying to say.  We try to hold on to what we know, to what we can control, to what makes us comfortable.  But God has a different vision for us.  Change is hard.  But remember what happens when the pain subsides?  New life…You just have to let go of whatever it is that you are holding onto.  And be patient…when the time is right, it will happen.  When the time is right, we will finally realize that that for which we had hoped was there all along.

1)      What meaning does this passage hold for you?

2)      What does the “adoption” language mean to you?

3)      What images of God does this bring about for you?

4)      What image of salvation does that bring about for you?

5)      What vision of hope does this give you?

6)      What difficulty do we have with patience when it comes to our faith?


GOSPEL:  Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

The first parable in this reading is then followed by an allegorical interpretation of it in later verses.  Between these two sections are two other parables that we do not read as part of today’s lectionary.

The Parable of the Weeds probably comes from Matthew’s own experience within the church.  Essentially, it admits that the world, our family, and even our church is not always a trustworthy place.  When the master in the parable forbids the servants to go and weed out the field, this is not to be interpreted as a call to passivity in the face of evil.  It is not a divine command to ignore injustice in the world, violence in society, or wrong in the church.  It is a realistic reminder that the servants do not have the ability to get rid of all the weeds and that sometimes attempts to pluck up weeds cause more harm than good.  But the parable contains the promise that, in the wisdom of God, the weeds will ultimately be destroyed.  Evil is temporary.  The good endures.  The parable, so, leads to a place of joy and hope.

The word here for the “weeds” is the Greek, zizania, which refers to wild grasses, such as darnel or cockle, that closely resembled wheat—so close, in fact, that it was difficult to tell it apart from the fruitful wheat until it reached full maturity and just didn’t produce or act like wheat.

Keep in mind that the parables were not intended to be about the church or individuals but, rather about the Kingdom of God.  The parables speak of the final victory of the kingdom despite all appearances, and they challenge the church to respond to their message rather than find in them its guarantee of its own success.

Perhaps there were some sort of overzealous weeders in the writer Matthew’s community that prompted the inclusion of this parable.  And by trying to rid the community of the perceived “evil”, they were also destroying the good.  But we can’t help here but ask the usual question:  “Why does this all-good and all-gracious God allow evil to survive?”  Essentially, Jesus is saying, “don’t worry about it.”  It is not humanity that is chosen to discern and pluck away the evil from the good.  God will handle it; it is part of that vision that God holds.  After all, wasn’t God’s vision to redeem ALL of Creation?  And when we humans become over-zealous, how are we so sure that what we are “plucking” IS actually the weeds?  What if we are plucking good, honest, but not-yet-matured wheat?  (Which is why it is probably not meant to be up to us to discern what is “evil” and what is not.)

So instead of trying to figure out what’s wrong with the world and fixing it, our job is to get on with the mission that Jesus gave us—proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is coming into its fullness and all of Creation with it.  And, similar to the way we read last week’s parable, what if, rather than the wheat, we view our lives as the “field”.  We try to clean up our lives, to live as good, righteous people.  But, sure enough, those pesky weeds keep popping up unexpectedly.  Maybe the whole point is not to rid ourselves of the weeds, but to look to God when we get drowned out by them.  Maybe God is actually working on them to transform them into what they are supposed to be.

Here’s an excerpt from Richard Rohr, in the book, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (p. 42, 51-52):


…When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation.  We avoid God who works in the darkness—where we are not in control!  Maybe that is the secret…

Jesus pushes it back to the edge.  Can you even see the image of Christ in the least of the brothers and sisters?  He uses that as his only description of the final judgment.  Nothing about commandments, nothing about church attendance, nothing about papal infallibility:  simply a matter of our ability to see.  Can we see Christ in the least of the brothers and sisters?  Can we see Christ in the people, the nobodies who can’t play our game of success?  They smell.  They’re a nuisance.  They’re on welfare.  They are a drain on our tax money.  If we can, then we are really seeing.

He pushes it even further than that.  He says we have to love and recognize the divine image even in our enemies.  He teaches what they thought a religious leader could never demand of his followers:  love of the enemy.  Logically that makes no sense.  Soulfully it makes absolute sense, because in terms of the soul, it really is all or nothing.  Either we see the divine image in all created things or we don’t see it at all.  Once we see it, we’re trapped.  We see it once and the circle keeps moving out.  If we still try to exclude some:  sick people, blacks, people on welfare, gays (or whomever we’ve decided to hate), we’re not there.  We don’t understand.  If the world is a temple, then our enemies are sacred, too.  The ability to respect the outsider is probably the litmus test of true seeing.  It doesn’t even stop with human beings and enemies and the least of the brothers and sisters.  It moves to frogs and pansies and weeds.  Everything becomes enchanting.  One God, one world, one truth, one suffering, and one love.  All we can do is participate.  


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. Why is it so difficult for us to just let those things that we perceive as “evil” exist?  Why is it so difficult for us to accept that they exist at all in the midst of God’s Creation?
  3. How do you relate to the notion of your life being the “field”?
  4. What do you think of Rohr’s notion that everything becomes enchanting when we really see the way we’re supposed to see?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty…this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)


Tell us, Poet, what do you do?

I praise.  But the deadly and the monstrous things, how can you bear them?

I praise.  But what is nameless, what is anonymous, how can you call upon it?

I praise.  What right have you to be true in every disguise, behind every mask?

I praise.  How is it that the calm and the violent things like star and storm know you for their own?

Because I praise.  (Raine Maria Rilke, 1875-1926)


We must not try to reduce evil to good by seeking compensations or justifications for evil.  We must love God through the evil that occurs, solely because everything that actually occurs is real and behind all reality stands God.  Some realities are more or less transparent; others are completely opaque; but God is behind all of them, without distinction.  It is for us simply to keep our eyes turned toward the point where [God] is, whether we can see [God] or not. (Simone Weil, 1909-1943) 



For neither is there any god besides you,    whose care is for all people, For your strength is the source of righteousness,    and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all. For you show your strength when people doubt    the completeness of your power,    and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it. Although you are sovereign in strength,    you judge with mildness,    and with great forbearance you govern us;    for you have power to act whenever you choose. Through such works you have taught your people    that the righteous must be kind,    and you have filled your children with good hope,    because you give repentance for sins.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 12: 13, 16-19