• Income Tax Day by Walter Brueggemann

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    Income Tax Day
    Walter Brueggemann

    On this day of internal revenue
    some of us are paid up,
    some of us owe,
    some of us await a refund,
    some of us have no income to tax.

    But all of us are taxed,
    by war,
    by violence,
    by anxiety,
    by deathliness.

    And Caesar never gives any deep tax relief.

    We render to Caesar. . .
    to some it feels like a grab,
    to some it is clearly a war tax,
    to some — some few —
    it is a way to contribute to the common good.

    In any case we are haunted
    by what we render to Caesar,
    by what we might render to you,
    by the way we invest our wealth and our lives,
    when what you ask is an “easy yoke”:
    to do justice
    to love mercy
    to walk humbly with you.

    Give us courage for your easy burden, so to live untaxed lives.
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  • A More Christlike God

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    A More Christlike God
    Brian Zahnd

    What is God like? What an enormous question. For those of us who believe that God is somehow at the foundation of existence, meaning, and self-understanding, it’s an all-important question. So how shall we answer? Our options are endless. Human inquiry into the divine has produced a vast pantheon of gods — from Ares to Zeus. Of course, the Christian will have an instinct to look to the Bible for the definition of God. I understand this instinct and in one sense it is correct; but it may not yield as clear an answer as we think. Even while speaking of the “God of the Bible” we can cobble together whatever vision of God we choose from its disparate images. That we do this mostly unconsciously doesn’t help matters. Even if we restrict our inquiry into the nature of God to the Bible, we are likely to find just the kind of God that we want to find. If we want a God of peace, he’s there. If we want a God of war, he’s there. If we want a compassionate God, he’s there. If we want a vindictive God, he’s there. If we want an egalitarian God, he’s there. If we want an ethnocentric God, he’s there. If we want a God demanding blood sacrifice, he’s there. If we want a God abolishing blood sacrifice, he’s there. Sometimes the Bible is like a Rorschach test — it reveals more about the reader than the eternal I AM.
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  • Easter Monday

    Anastasis_at_Chora

    Easter Monday
    Brian Zahnd

    The risen Christ is not one who has come back from the dead. The risen Christ is the One who has gone through death and opened the door to the new world beyond death.

    The risen Christ is not one who has wrestled free from the clutches of death to return to the land over which death still holds sway. The risen Christ is the One who has passed all the way through the black hole of Hades into the world of light and life where death cannot go.

    Lazarus is a man who came back from the dead…only to die again. Christ is not a mere survivor of Sheol. Christ is the Conqueror of Sheol who has trampled down death by death.

    Christ was raised on the third day. Lazarus on the fourth. But that doesn’t mean Lazarus is one up on Christ. Oh, no! Lazarus merely came back from the grave…but still a subject to the tyranny of death. Christ went all the way through the grave…and emerged as the Vanquisher of death.
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  • Jesus Died for Us…Not for God

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    Jesus Died for Us…Not for God
    Brian Zahnd

    “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” –The Apostle Peter, Acts 3:15

    Golgotha is where the great crimes of humanity — pride, rivalry, blame, violence, domination, war, and empire — are dragged into the searing light of divine judgment. At Golgotha we see the system of human organization that we blithely call “civilization” for what it is: an axis of power enforced by violence so corrupt that it is capable of murdering God in the name of what we call truth, justice, and liberty.

    Golgotha is also the place where the love of God achieves its greatest expression. As Jesus is lynched in the name of religious truth and imperial justice he expresses the heart of God as he pleads for the pardon of his executioners. At the cross we discover that the God revealed in Christ would rather die in the name of love than kill in the name of freedom. Our savior is Jesus Christ, not William Wallace.

    The cross is both hideous and glorious, simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It’s as hideous as human sin and as glorious as divine love. It is a collision of sin and grace. But it is not a contest of equals. In the end love and beauty win. We call it Easter.
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  • A Christian Perspective On the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    Jerusalem

    Here’s a guest post from Peri. -BZ

    A Christian Perspective On the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    by Peri Zahnd

    There can’t be a holier place than the Holy Land, can there? We first visited the land of the Bible nearly twenty years ago, and it was a life-changing trip, 1996. Brian and I had gone on a Christian pilgrimage trip while we were in the midst of building our sanctuary and church building here at Word of Life. This building program that had stretched on for nearly two years had turned into a nightmare. We had given all our savings to the building program, and could never have even considered the trip if complete strangers had not arranged to have our way fully paid.

    The trip was a surprise gift that came right out of heaven, a chance for a true rest from the relentless stress. From the very first day we were somehow able to forget everything we had left behind. (Even our three boys!) We both went asking God to speak to us and renew our hope — to do something special for us. And he did. I remember walking through the woods of the northern Galilee to an archaeological site that was being excavated — the ruins of the ancient city of Dan, the northernmost point of the land to which Abraham had been called. Archaeologists had found the gate, the four thousand year old gate of that ancient walled city and had exposed it to view. I stood in awe, looking right at the very stones that the Patriarch Abraham had walked on when he first set foot in the land of the Canaanites, the Promised Land.

    Something deep inside me shifted when I saw that gate. My perspective changed. I had always believed in Abraham, I believed the Bible, I believed it was possible to walk by faith and do by the help of God what we could not accomplish on our own. But when I saw that gate, I somehow knew it more deeply than ever before. Four thousand years ago, a man had heard the voice of God deep in his soul, and in obedience to that voice had somehow taken the world to a new place. Much more than the astronaut Neil Armstrong, his was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The ability to know and interact with God in a new way, the way of faith. The man Abraham emerged from the pages of a book and I perceived his humanity, that he was subject to the same limitations as I was but somehow transcended them. He was real. And he lived and walked by faith. Abraham, by faith, did what he was called to do, and somehow, by faith, Brian and I would do what we were called to do. Brian had his own moment of divine connection on the trip. That’s his story, not mine to tell here, but the bottom line was that we would return back home and finish this building to the glory of God. We left with a resurrected hope that we would and could walk with God, and God would help us. And we did, and He did. So help me God!
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  • Peace Donkey On Palm Sunday

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    Peace Donkey On Palm Sunday
    Blind Man At The Gate

    The king approaches on Palm Sunday
    Forsaking the glorious war horse
    To ride a ridiculous peace donkey

    Gentle as the wings of a dove
    Inaugurating the reign of love

    Conquerors come with hubris, blood, and violence
    Riding stallions of famine, war, and pestilence
    (They tell me Genghis Khan murdered all of ten million)

    The Prince of Peace comes without breaking a bruised reed
    Swords are now for plowing, spears are now for pruning
    (I’ll tell you for a fact, Jesus of Nazareth killed nary a one)

    If Hosanna praises rocket’s red glare: Weep over Jerusalem!
    If Hosanna acclaims kingdom come: Let the rocks cry out!

    BZ
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  • War Is…

    Syria (2012)
    War Is…
    Blind Man at the Gate

    War is stupid.
    War is wrong.
    War is impatience.
    War is song…
    Made silent.

    War is hate.
    War is haste.
    War is rape.
    War is waste…
    Of precious life.

    War is murder.
    War is money.
    War is pride.
    War is profit…
    Woe the profiteers!

    War is old.
    War is told.
    War is gold.
    War is sold…
    To remorseful buyers.

    War is swords.
    War is tanks.
    War is bombs.
    War is banks…
    Of filthy lucre.

    War is Auschwitz.
    War is Hiroshima.
    War is Nagasaki.
    War is humanity…
    Hanging by a string.

    War is Hell.
    War is Hades.
    War is Sheol.
    War is Gehenna…
    Valley of the dead.

    War is seen.
    War is obscene.
    War is famed.
    War is declaimed…
    By the Christ.

    War is named.
    War is shamed.
    War is sham.
    War is banned…
    By the cross.

    War is ancient.
    War is always.
    War is ever.
    War is over…
    If you want it.

    War is Cain.
    War is cruel.
    War is crucifixion
    War is cancelled…
    With resurrection.
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  • Love Never Ends: A Meditation

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    Love Never Ends: A Meditation
    Brian Zahnd

    Why is there something instead of nothing?
    The only answer I can imagine is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God…
    But why would God say, “Let there be light” and initiate Creation?
    The only answer I can imagine is God is love.

    What is light? God’s love in the form of photons.
    What is water? A liquid expression of God’s love.
    What is a mountain? God’s love in granite, so much older than human sorrow.
    What is a tree? God’s love growing up from the ground.
    What is a bull moose? God’s love sporting spectacular antlers.
    What is a whale? Fifty tons of God’s love swimming in the ocean.

    As we learn to see Creation as goodness flowing from God’s own love—
    We begin to see the sacredness of all things.
    As Dylan and Dostoevsky say, in every grain of sand.
    All of creation is a gift — a gift flowing from the self-giving love of God.

    Why is there light and oceans and trees and moose and whales and every grain of sand?
    Because God is love — love seeking expression in self-giving creativity.
    Unless we understand this we’ll misunderstand everything and misspend our lives.
    In our misunderstanding and misspent lives we harm Creation—
    Including our sisters and brothers, all of whom bear the image of God.
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  • What If Jesus Addressed Congress?

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    What If Jesus Addressed Congress?
    Brian Zahnd

    The cross is shock therapy for a world addicted to solving its problems through violence. The cross shocks us into the devastating realization that our system of violence murdered God! The things hidden from the foundation of the world have now been revealed. The cross shames our ancient foundation of violence. The cross strips naked the principalities and powers. The cross tears down the façade of glory that we use to hide the bodies of slain victims.

    In the light of the cross, we are to realize that if what we have built on Cain’s foundation is capable of murdering the Son of God, then whole edifice needs to come down. In the light of the cross, our war anthems lose their luster. But this throws us into a crisis. What other alternatives are there? How else are we to arrange the world? The alternative is what Jesus is offering us when he told us that the kingdom of God is at hand. God’s way of arranging the world around love and forgiveness is within reach. If we only dare to reach out for it, we can have it. But we are so afraid. We’re not sure we can risk it. It’s so hard for us to let go of the sword and take the hand of the Crucified One. It’s so hard for us to really believe in Jesus.

    The crowd never believes in Jesus. Only the little flock that accepts its vulnerability can believe in Jesus. If you tell those rushing to war that their hatred of enemies and their plan for the organized killing of enemies is evil, the crowd will hate you. War is sacred. It lies beyond critique. To critique it is blasphemy. The crowd hates blasphemy. The crowd wants to kill blasphemers. The crowd knows that the criticism of their violence is blasphemy because they know their cause is just. They believe it. And from their perspective their cause is just. They can prove it. Both sides can prove it. Always.

    Achilles knew his cause was just and that it was perfectly legitimate to drag Hector’s body from his chariot in front of the gates of Troy in a show of grotesque triumphalism. It’s the same grotesque impulse that causes modern soldiers to pose for gruesome photos with the bodies of dead enemies. It’s literally the way of the world. But it’s not the way of the new world founded by Jesus. Jesus is not the warrior king the world is accustomed to. Jesus is not the Jewish Achilles. Jesus refused to be the violent Messiah Israel longed for. Jesus did not kill Pilate and drag the governor’s body behind his chariot. Jesus did not pose triumphantly over the dead bodies of slain Roman soldiers. Instead it was Jesus who hung naked on a tree after being put to death through a state-sponsored execution. Jesus founded his kingdom in solidarity with brutalized victims. This is the gospel, but it’s hard for us to believe in a Jesus who would rather die than kill his enemies. It’s harder yet to believe in a Jesus who calls us to take up our own cross, follow him, and be willing to die rather than kill our enemies.
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