conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Posts Tagged ‘kenosis

Jesus Epiphany: “Get Your Ass Up There”

with 2 comments

No. Literally.

Wait. How did you read that headline?

Well, it’s not a direct quote, but it’s close.01192014-012-651x651

I come from a tradition where we tend to spiritualize what we read in the Bible. If the Bible talks about a woman’s wet dream (Song of Songs 5.5) we take it as some spiritual reference to her deepest emotions (Keil and Delitzsch) versus the sensual event the writer poetically described. If the writer waxes eloquent about his lover’s breasts—and the rest of her (Song of Songs 7), we look for a way the text could not possibly mean what it seems to plainly say. Because that would be too embarrassing. And this: did the writer take a break from his program of mortification of the flesh? Come, man. Get with it!

I’ve been discussing this over at The Pietist Schoolman (Sects & Sex), where the learned bloggers have schooled me on reading the passages from a “bride-mysticism” perspective

In fact, the Bible is a pretty earthy set of documents. It is full of sensual surprises right alongside descriptions and stories and accounts that soar into the heavens. That’s why it remains such interesting reading. And—you’ll likely agree—there are all sorts of ways to read things.

But in this quasi-quote from my headline, Jesus literally told his disciples to go ahead into the town and take someone’s donkey. Sort of like shoplifting only without the shop:

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,

“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. (Matthew 21.1-7)

The Eastern Orthodox folks peg January 19 as Epiphany, which was a celebration of God becoming human. This notion of God becoming human is a central wonder to the entire faith.

Human as in earthy (born in a stable, after all), with sensual impulses and sweat and tears and stink.

But human. And God.

I find it hard to look away from the story–it beckons me to consider where it leads.


Image credit: DeAnn Desilets via Lenscratch

Written by kirkistan

January 19, 2014 at 9:43 am

Better Listening in 2014

leave a comment »

Wonder + Bigger + Spark


Robert Kennedy Funeral train, Harmans, MD, 1968

Three attitudes that can help us listen better in 2014:

1. Regain a sense of wonder. It’s easy to pose as world-weary: our culture rewards the cynic and pessimist as more experienced. But let’s remember the fun of being with people who have a sense of wonder. It’s why we take young kids to see Santa or fireworks or midnight mass or sunrise service: they have the capacity to take it in without the baggage and doubts that come from years of living. It’s a capacity to believe and it need not be lost forever. I still cannot quite believe our Toyota—or any car—runs at negative 13 degrees (Fahrenheit). Slow down to savor the cold, or the taste of Mrs. Kirkistan’s stew or fresh bread, or the smart thing your spouse or colleague just said—all these inch us back toward wonder. And that is where we belong: amazed at the life around us, listening to eagerly take it all in.
2. This thing is bigger than me. In a week or so I’ll start teaching a professional writing class at a local Christian college. One supporting thought I return to again and again is a theological notion that giving ourselves away pays far more dividends than hoarding and habitual self-focus. It’s a thought that pivots around the old notion of kenosis or self-emptying. There are some great ancient texts that work this out and it never fails to open a set of productive thoughts for me, especially when it comes to the task and opportunity of writing. Two take-aways:

  1. It’s quite possible, and even likely, that I learn more about myself by serving others and focusing on others’ needs than I do constantly obsessing over my own needs and wants.
  2. Listening becomes like a tasty meal when I start to wake to the needs and opportunities around me.

This is a message I need to hear all the time. I constantly forget this.

3. See the spark in another person. No one likes the notion that we may have responsibility for a complete stranger, but there is an undeniable pang when you see the homeless person on the corner with the sign. That pang means you are still human (Congratulations!). This notion also has theological roots in the old idea of hospitality to a stranger. That pang moves us to do something—or perhaps we hide from it. Either way, the pang is there. Those moments of recognition occur all day long and they are a call to honor and, yes, listen to, the humans around us. It starts by acknowledging the names of the people in our meeting and moves out from there.

If we grew in listening this year, interesting and possibly amazing things would happen.


Image credit: Paul Fusco via MPD

Written by kirkistan

January 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

%d bloggers like this: